Facts about cholesterol, calories, and dieting itself, overturn false beliefs about weight loss and what we know about getting healthy
Almost everyone has tried a “diet plan”, which is generally unsustainable (and often unsafe), or yields only temporary results.
If you pay close attention to weight loss ads, or online articles and videos, you’ll notice that many of them make you think that you MUST lose weight to feel better or improve your health. This includes everything from gaining more control over diabetes or even your cardiovascular health.
Using functional medicine, I’m going to show you a way to “flip the script” on the traditional medical model that rarely prioritizes getting healthy, and which fuels a set of false beliefs about your body, the food you eat, and why.
A main goal of mine will be to help you lose weight in a way that reduces the pressure or “need” to lose weight in the first place. To do that, let’s flip the internal dialogue to this: I get healthy to lose weight! This mindset shift can make all the difference in the world.
This mindset shift involves recognizing 3 competing false beliefs about weight loss, questioning these false beliefs using actual facts, and then giving you the new mindset. Once you have the new mindset, you will begin to shift your thinking about how to lose weight.
# 1: Embrace the “Have To Lose Weight” Mindset
Too many of us falsely believe we have to lose weight first, and after that will feel better about ourselves, and then will work on getting healthy. This error in critical judgment about “the why of weight loss” is pervasive thanks to a whole lot of media messaging around the ills of being overweight.
Fact – Many factors, including the build up of toxins and our inability to detoxify actually cause our bodies to hold onto weight. Things like poor sleep and inflammation will further affect our immune system health and hormones regardless of how we eat or whether we workout, and so on. Without first addressing these as root causes for unwanted weight, our bodies cannot ditch the unwanted pounds.
Truth – Ditching the “Have to lose weight” mindset itself and embracing a “health first” approach is the better pathway to not only lasting and permanent change in weight, but also to a healthier mental outlook throughout the process.
# 2: Believe In the Fallacy Of Calorie Counts
Another ingrained message has to do with counting calories, which I believe in part has something to do with how we all fundamentally grasp that when we starve ourselves (or we’re sick with something like the flu), we lose weight. And that’s not all. It’s well known that populations around the world that suffer in starvation suffer with all kinds of diseases of nutrient deficiency, developmental delays, and so forth.
More to the point, many of us (including dieticians and health coaches of all stripes) believe that to lose weight we have to spend a lot of time counting calories, restricting calorie intake, meal planning, and limiting food choices.
Worse, because of sneaky marketing tactics that attempt to take advantage of our insecurities surrounding weight, we are led to believe that we can achieve lifelong success with a miracle-cure supplement, or quick and easy weight loss surgery.
Fact – A low-calorie food is not necessarily a healthy food, and even weight loss surgery still requires healthy habits and a healing mindset going into and coming out of it; plus, fad supplements are not lasting and often are loaded with additives and stimulants.
Truth – Ditching the “calorie in, calorie out” mindset, or even chasing down a miracle supplement or cure, and becoming alert to the body and brain’s “stress physiology” instead—-how it metabolizes the food we eat for energy— is how we start to turn the ship around when it comes to weight loss.
# 3: Indoctrinated to the Low Fat, High Cholesterol Myth
Regarding health, the most damaging of all the false beliefs has to do with the demonization of cholesterol to the degree that patients will seek to lower it beyond what is healthy. These patients are taught to believe that above all else, they have to eat low-fat and avoid cholesterol because both of these are bad. And while many of these patients can be quite skinny, many suffer the effects of insulin resistance such as brain fog and cloudy thinking.
Fact – Neither fat nor cholesterol is bad; in fact, cholesterol is a “molecule of life” that is necessary for brain function, cellular health, and adequate hormone production. Plus, low-fat has led to high blood sugar and lack of glucose control at the root of weight gain, insulin resistance, low energy & fatigue, brain fog, and so on. Quality dietary fats are, in fact, “essential”, comprising the very structure of our cells and the protective covering for our nervous system.
Truth – Ditching the “low-fat” and “low-cholesterol” myths and instead prioritizing the health benefits of both, (while also looking at how our bodies process protein, fat & carbs) is good for hormone health and better brain.
|Traditional Mindset||Functional Mindset|
|Lose weight to get healthy||Get healthy to lose weight|
|Calorie in, calorie out||Nutrient dense “whole” foods|
|Cholesterol is bad||Sugar is the worst|
Weight Loss Is An Energy Game
Whether it’s weight gain or even weight loss that is a concern, both are reflective of whether you’re in positive or negative energy. Meaning, the basic requirement of food is to make energy for our bodies to use.
Sure, things like thyroid hormones also participate in metabolism. But it’s the process of converting food (and oxygen) into “energy” that will determine our weight excess . Energy excess=weight excess.
|Eating “fat” causes weight gain, or fat (e.g. “low fat” and fat free)||Excess “energy” is stored as fat|
Cholesterol Is Your Friend
Cholesterol is made in the liver. Your liver will actually make cholesterol when it is being restricted from the diet. How could it be bad? In the traditional model, cholesterol is at the root of heart disease, which is why more and more people are placed on statin medications each year.
The statistics don’t support that model. Instead, the reality is that
- Inflammation is at the root of heart disease (and the body uses cholesterol to repair tissues that are being otherwise destroyed by immune system health run amok); and,
- Cholesterol is how our bodies make all the hormones in our bodies. In fact, cholesterol is the parent hormone that sits “at the precipice” of all hormone production whether for survival or reproduction
|Cholesterol is something you eat that causes heart disease||Cholesterol is something made in the body that is essential to life (and health)|
|Cholesterol at or close to zero is ideal, if impossible||Cholesterol has a healthy, functional range that (when to low) affects hormones and mitochondria|
Functional medicine is an exciting new approach to health that turns an outdated belief system about our bodies and our brains on its head. These are the same mindset shifts I’ve instilled in my own patients over the past 30+ years – including my own brother, who lost 25 pounds by ditching his own false beliefs about his body and medicine, and implementing a “health-first”, functional medicine approach.
Dr. Douglas J. Pucci, Founder, Get Well Now, is a functional medicine pioneer and Bergen County’s Face of Functional Medicine. He was honored to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ 2020 Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition.