Tag: Calorie Restriction

Calories Count, But Don’t Count Calories

Calories Count, But Don’t Count Calories

How do you lose weight without slowing down your metabolism or losing your mind?

Gone are the days of low fat and calorie restriction…right? Are they? I’m not so sure.

If you are low carb you totally don’t have to worry about calories, right? Wait, is that true? I’m so confused.

If you ask people about either of these subjects I can promise you will receive different responses and they will be all across the board. You will likely become quite confused and left wondering “now what?”

Calories are a tricky thing. The first thing to understand is that the way your body metabolizes a calorie will be different than how it works for your best friend or neighbor and it’s dependent upon many things. In fact, this also is different for your own body in your 20s versus your 40s, etc.

Let’s put age and genetics aside for a moment. What factors impact our metabolisms that we have control over?

Body composition, meaning your body fat % compared with muscle and skeletal mass. Clearly the more muscle and less fat you have going on, the higher your metabolism will be. Good motivation to get to lifting weights or doing some functional fitness using your bodyweight!

Thyroid levels. I go into detail on which labs to have run here, but what you need to understand is that if your doctor checks your TSH only or your TSH and Free T4, that is NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION!! We need TSH, Free t4, Free T3 and Thyroid Antibodies (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies [TPOAb] and Thyroglobulin Antibodies [TgAb]) at the very minimum for thyroid labs (yes there are more numbers involved!). Go read that article I linked above because it will also explain how your doctor might look at your labs and say “you’re fine” when you don’t feel fine and it’s because YOU’RE NOT! You need to understand this stuff if you are going to be able to advocate for yourself!

Hormone Balance. This is another one that I dive into more here. but what you need to understand is that the relationship between estrogen and progesterone is extremely important at any age. AND what you need to know is which is higher than the other? If your progesterone is lower than your estrogen, there’s a problem. Even if both hormones are low, If you have more estrogen than progesterone you will experience symptoms of ESTROGEN DOMINANCE which will mimic low thyroid hormone. A couple of these symptoms are slow metabolism and weight gain around the hips and thighs (is this sounding about right?).

Toxic (tox-sick) Load. Yes, our bodies are beautifully designed to detox continually through our skin, digestive system, liver, kidneys, endocrine system and respiratory system; HOWEVER, the culture in which we live in is inundated with toxins through food, electronics, chemicals in our cleaning supplies, scented “everything”, plastics, stress (it’s a toxin), makeup, body products, detergents, etc. Our bodies are OVERLOADED! When this happens, the scale (literally and figuratively) will tip in the wrong direction because toxins store in fat! In addition, the high toxin burden creates systemic inflammation which is part of the whole paradigm when it comes to our hormones, thyroid, adrenals and therefore metabolism.

Now that we have that snapshot of some of the big ones that impact our metabolism, let’s throw another one in there, and it happens to be the topic of this post. CALORIES RESTRICTION.

Calories, while they DO matter, clearly are not a black and white “thing”. We could line 5 people up and all 5 will burn the same food differently, even if they are the same “size”, and that is dependent upon the factors outlined above. What your body needs will be different than mine, for sure. So it really doesn’t make sense to follow some program that is generalized, right? My first word of advice with this is to track what you eat for a few days, being super honest, and then reduce your caloric intake by even just a couple of hundred and go from there.

Here is what we want to avoid: I see many people start to follow some kind of plan (and I am sorry but these plans often include food you have to purchase from them that is just FULL OF CHEMICALS [speaking of toxic]) and they tend to be SUPER low in calorie. Usually it’s around 1200 and below.

Here is the typical scenario:
Let’s call our person Daisy (name of my dog!). Daisy signs up for a weight loss program and is super excited because of all the amazing testimonials she has seen and heard about. She gets all of her products (which cost hundreds of dollars. It was a stretch for her, but she’s sick and tired of…well…being sick and tired, and overweight). She feels super hungry the first few days because they have her at 900 calories and those calories go fast! However, she’s determined and likes that she doesn’t have to plan the food…she just opens a package and there you go! She had a hard time with energy and focus for the first few days because of her low calories but she’s already lost 7 pounds so she’s jazzed and committed to this amazing program.

Fast forward: Daisy ended up losing 13 pounds over just two weeks which was amazing! But things just kind of STOPPED. The scale wouldn’t budge. So, she decided to lower her calories just a tiny bit more and add some HIIT (high intensity interval training) classes in to burn more calories. Thankfully, the scale started moving again! Slower now, but she expected that because “they say” you lose mostly water weight at first.

Once again, however, the scale stalled. Daisy was starting to feel bummed, her energy wasn’t where she had hoped it would be and she could swear her hair was getting thinner.

What’s going on??

According to Dr. Westin Childs, “calorie reduction, especially in hypothyroid patients, will result in the combination of ‘metabolic adaptation’ and ‘thyroid damage’”. What this means is that your body (which is freaking smart) will detect this calorie restriction and interpret as “danger”. From there it will change things up within the metabolism in order to adjust so that the body can do more important things for survival (it is far less concerned with our weight than we are!).

Think of the thermostat in your house…it’s just like this. Your body is designed to regulate itself well, so when things change, it will adjust so that it can reach that state of equilibrium once again. We just don’t always like it!

This is something that people need to take seriously. The way your body reaches that state of equilibrium again is by doing things like lowering the free T3 (this is our active thyroid hormone…we don’t want it to lower!). Or it will raise the reverse T3 which is the hormone that is produced when stress is detected and, unfortunately it will attach to T3 receptor sites but it is inactive, so it is basically blocking those receptor sites from receiving the active thyroid hormone it needs.

Your TSH might not reflect a change at all, or maybe just slightly, therefore if your doctor tests your thyroid and that’s the number he’s most concerned with (SO typical…sadly), he will send you on your merry way with a pat on the back telling you “it sucks getting old”, or something equally helpful.

From here you will go home and “recommit” to your program! You are going to exercise more and harder and eat less or try a different diet altogether! In fact, this is stuff your doctor may have encouraged. In reality, your body is in distress and going “harder” at this will cause the situation to get even worse. Down the road, you will give up because you can’t possibly eat less or exercise more and what’s the point anyway? So, you start eating your “regular” diet again and you could swear you are gaining weight faster. It’s like you just look at food and the scale goes up.

You’re not crazy; your metabolism has slowed down and so the whole scenario is going to be a tough one now.

Big sigh.

If this is you, please know that the very most important thing to focus on now, if you want your body to respond well again, is to send messages to it that it is NOT in danger. You are NOT starving it. It is NOT being over stressed with too much exercise.

This doesn’t mean start eating dozens of donuts and watching hours and hours of TV in the name of selfcare. What it means is easing up, having a balanced approach, and getting some help.

It’s a good idea to know where your thyroid levels are. It’s a good idea to know where your sex hormones are at as well. If you have any imbalances going on in these areas, your body will have a very hard time with weight loss, you will struggle with energy, brain fog, motivation, moods, digestion, sleep, and all the things.

Do I recommend KETO?

Maybe, maybe not. This would require some assessment to see if this fits your lifestyle (it is a commitment) as well as to determine if your body is too stressed to try something like this at the moment. Most importantly if your thyroid is low or adrenals are out of whack you can absolutely do KETO, but it needs to be modified.

Confused? I don’t think this is the kind of advice most people want from a health coach. I mean, where do you go from here? This is not an easy answer, as you should know from reading the above. It all takes a very individual approach.

Please do reach out if you are in this position and feel stuck. I am here to help. I offer free consultations via the phone so we can hash some things out and see if there are some things I can help with. Please head here to my calendar to schedule a consult or simply email me at jess@healthwithjess.com

Now, consider having a healthy snack and going on a gentle walk! <3

My Doctor Says My Thyroid is “Normal” But I Just Don’t Feel Right

My Doctor Says My Thyroid is “Normal” but I Just Don’t Feel Right

The first thing I want to say here is that you always need to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. If you feel OFF or “not right”, that is far more important than any lab test or what any doctor will try to tell you. YOU know YOUR body and if it doesn’t feel right, there is a reason for that!

Here is a typical scenario: you start gaining weight, or just can’t lose extra weight; you might notice your hair is thinning; energy levels are low; perhaps you notice your eyebrows thinning; you might have some pretty good brain fog…. So you increase your exercise and lower your calories but it only makes the whole thing worse. You then go to the doctor because you know enough about thyroid to think it might be what is at play here. You go into your doctor and are sent home discouraged. Your doctor says you are “fine”. So, what happened?

It starts with what lab numbers are actually tested. When you go into your mainstream medical practitioner and have your labs run for thyroid, they will always order TSH and *sometimes* they will throw T4 in there. TSH is the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone that is sent out by the pituitary gland in your brain when it detects you need more thyroid hormone for energy and overall metabolism. What happens then? The pituitary releases TSH and all is well, right? Nope.

Your TSH travels to the thyroid gland and binds to receptors there that signal the T4 to be released. Now you are feeling good and energy levels are where they should be! ….actually….NO. ONE MORE STEP has to occur. Your T4 has to be converted to T3 by an enzymatic process before you will actually feel any benefit as T4 is really only like a messenger (it is INACTIVE). T3 is the active thyroid hormone that gives you what you need (this is the gas that gives you energy)!

Ok let’s pause here and think about this. If T3 is the active hormone, why aren’t doctors concerned about your T3 level?

Without going into any theories as to why this is the case (and it IS the case for most mainstream practitioners), just understand this: you NEED to know what your free T3 level is at (free T3 because that is the “unbound” form of T3 that is actually in action in your body). If your doctor tells you they will NOT order a full thyroid panel that includes free T3 (which is very likely to happen and they might give you any number of reasons why that are NOT VALID) you need to A) be assertive and insist that you have the full panel run, B) find a new doctor or C) order your test yourself. You can order your own test here. (It is very easy [I have done it] and relatively inexpensive. You go to the lab near you that you will be connected with via this website once you order your test and your results are emailed to you.)

Another important part of the full thyroid panel is Reverse T3. Reverse T3 (RT3) is inactive like T4; but it will bind to receptor sites meant for T3 and therefore hijack the system, therefore not allowing you to receive the benefits of the active thyroid hormone, T3.

***PLEASE NOTE: chronic calorie restriction and reducing carbs TOO low will raise RT3 (I love the ketogenic protocol, but you can absolutely be very low carb without causing this problem. You need to listen to your body’s signals and if there is resistance, restricting carbs further is NOT the answer!). Chronic stress will also raise RT3 levels!***

Lastly, it is also imperative that you check your thyroid antibody levels checked. I would argue these might be the MOST important to test. Why?

Thyroid antibodies There are two main types of thyroid antibodies. Here is some great information from Amy Meyers, MD, “Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb) attack an enzyme used to synthesize thyroid hormones and are commonly elevated in both Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease patients. Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb), attack thyroglobulin, which your thyroid uses to produce its hormones. These are typically elevated in Hashimoto’s patients.”

A little known fact is that over 90% of hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is simply inflammation in your body leading to an attack on the thyroid. It is clearly VERY common and yet people do not realize this. The importance of knowing this is that you can then take steps to reduce systemic inflammation in your body and bring your antibody numbers down, therefore protecting the thyroid.

Full thyroid panel to request:
Free T4
Free T3
Reverse T3
Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb)
Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb)

Once you have your thyroid panel run, your doctor could look at it (even this full panel) and tell you that you are “within range” and therefore, “fine” and send you home; but you might still feel like there’s a problem. Here’s why:

The thyroid ranges mainstream medicine uses come from an average of actual patient labs run. What does this mean? It means the ranges you are given are based on those with thyroid problems. They are very broad ranges because they consider these numbers “normal”. However, I do not want to be compared to “normal” ranges that represent people with thyroid disorders. I want to know where my labs should be if I am at a healthy, “optimal” level. Here is a general guide from Amy Myers MD:

TSH 1-2 UIU/ML or lower (Armour or compounded T3 can artificially suppress TSH)
FT4 >1.1 NG/DL
FT3 > 3.2 PG/ML
RT3 less than a 10:1 ratio RT3:FT3
TPO – TgAb – < 4 IU/ML or negative Knowing ALL of your thyroid numbers and comparing them to OPTIMAL ranges versus “standard ranges” will change how you approach your thyroid condition and can lead you to the ROOT CAUSE of the issue so that you can treat the actual problem and potentially reverse the issue!