If Your Weight Loss Plan Isn't Working You Might Be Eating for the Wrong Body Type
A quick look around in a public area will reinforce your knowledge that we aren’t all alike. So why do we try a one-size-fits-all diet plan when trying to lose weight? Understanding your body type will help you choose the right foods and the right exercise for you.
The Body Type Diet has been introduced in the book “The 7 Principles of Fat Burning” by Dr. Eric Berg DC, founder of the Berg Institute for Health and Wellness. He notes that although genetics plays a large role in our tendency to gain weight in certain areas, hormones play a part too. His claim is that you can better control these hormones and maximize your metabolism to burn more calories and ultimately weigh less.
The hormonal system as a whole is clinically known as the endocrine system. This system influences almost every cell, organ and function of our bodies, including regulating mood, growth and development and metabolism. The foundation of the endocrine system are the hormones – chemical messengers that transfer information and instructions from one set of cells to another - and the glands, a group of cells that produces and secretes these chemicals. The major glands of the endocrine system include the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands, pineal body, and the reproductive glands.
When we think of body types, we think of “apple”-shaped people – who tend to gain weight around the midsection – and “pear”-shapes that carry fat in the hips and thighs. There are also those who seemingly eat large amounts of food but never seem to gain a pound and are shaped more like a “rectangle” with hip, waist and shoulder sections relatively similar sizes.
Dr. Berg doesn’t base his body types on just outward appearance. His four body types also include factors such as sluggishness, depression, insomnia, anxiety, and chronic problems such as high blood pressure and asthma.
• The Adrenal Body Type. In this body type, there is excess accumulation of fat in the belly largely due to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, known to contribute to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.. The more stress you have, the greater the tendency to store fat. Dr. Berg notes that this is the most challenging body type because of the hormonal imbalance. People with the Adrenal Body Type tend to crave chocolate and eat more often for energy just to get through the day. Unfortunately, the excess causes even more weight gain.
• The Liver Body Type. This is most common in men, but women do have this type of body as well. You may notice a “pot belly” where there is excess weight in the abdomen (as opposed to the sagging midsection seen in the Adrenal Body Type) but thin legs. Dr. Berg theorizes that this is due to accumulated toxins in the liver. The Liver Type tends to crave deep fried foods, so they often have higher cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
• The Ovary Body Type. Hip and belly fat, say Dr. Berg, is due to an excess of estrogen. In addition to “saddlebag” thighs, the person carries fat in the lower stomach and the buttocks. The excess fat causes a cycle in which the more you have, the more estrogen is created and therefore more fat is stored. The Ovary type tends to crave creamy and dairy foods.
• The Thyroid Body Type. If you tend to gain weight all over, you may have the Thyroid Body Type due to a stubborn or slowed metabolism. The thyroid gland produces thyroxine and triiodothyronine which control the rate at which cells burn fuels from food to produce energy. These folks also tend to notice other factors of a sluggish thyroid such as hair loss and brittle nails. Quick energy sources are often craved so energy will spike and then crash – causing chronic fatigue and depression.
Diet for Your Body Type
Dr. Berg has prescribed a diet and exercise plan for each specific body type, but he offers some general advice to trigger fat-burning. First and foremost, he states, you need to work on getting healthy before you try to lose weight. Remember that poor diet habits, a sedentary lifestyle, and inadequate sleep all add up to more than just a few extra pounds. These also stress your body organs and worsen any chronic condition you may have. While most diets have you focused on “Losing 10 pounds in 10 days,” you should first focus on cleaning up your bad habits.
• The most important trigger for storing fat is sugar, says Dr. Berg. Sugar triggers the release of the hormone insulin which converts the sugar glucose into its storage form – adipose tissue. Eliminate sugary foods from the diet, as well as refined grains. Unfortunately, Dr. Berg also recommends avoiding whole-wheat grains and certain starchy vegetables. Nutrition experts do not recommend cutting these foods out entirely, but recognizing that most of us tend to eat too much as we aren’t sure of the appropriate serving size. Three to six servings at ½ cup each meets the needs of most adults.
• It is well documented that most of us do not eat enough vegetables. These nutrient-dense, yet low-calorie, foods are full of vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals needed for the body. They are also high in fiber which helps you to feel full on less food. Dr. Berg recommends raw over cooked, however, as most of us still have difficulty getting enough in the first place, just focusing on increasing quantity will go a long way in improving the overall diet.
• Protein is an important nutrient for maintaining muscle mass which helps promote fat-burning, even during sleep. But do not fall into the trap of eating 12 ounce steaks for each meal. Excess protein can trigger insulin production just as do refined carbohydrate. Appropriately, Dr. Berg advises against “refined proteins” such as energy bars and protein shakes. We should focus on eating real, natural foods such as lean meats and fish, nuts, seeds, eggs and low-fat dairy. Don’t forget that vegetable foods contain protein as well such as soy and dried beans, so one does not have to be a meat-eater to obtain the appropriate level of protein.
• Fats have long been taboo according to most weight loss plans, until the low-carb diets started the claim that fat didn’t matter. In fact, all nutrients matter but overly stressing one over another can throw nutrition off balance. Fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, flax and olive oils and other unsaturated fats are recommended over saturated fats from fatty meats or trans fats from processed foods. Remember that fats are slower to digest so including them in an overall healthy meal plan can help you stay satisfied between meals, reducing cravings and overeating.
Dr. Berg also recommends against skipping meals, overly restricting calories, drinking alcohol and caffeine, and consuming chemicals such as preservatives, food dyes, pesticides and the like. These “toxins” are removed during the first phase of the diet as you clean up your bad eating habits.
Exercise for Your Body Type
Remember, first, that daily physical activity is good for overall health, not just weight loss. Getting in 30 minutes a day should become a life-long habit, not one you do until you reach your goal weight. That being said, you must also remember that exercise cannot take the place of a healthy diet either. Dr. Berg notes that it takes 1 hour of golfing (walking and carrying clubs instead of using a golf cart) to burn off just a few teaspoons of Thousand Island dressing.
Exercise should include a well-rounded fitness program. You will not lose belly fat doing ab crunches alone. Include cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise and resistance (strength-training) exercise.
Aerobic exercise burns more calories in a session, and also reduces stress. Strength-training builds muscle which will produce more of a long-term calorie burn, even when the body is at rest. Remember with exercise that you will not likely see immediate weight loss. Although the old saying “one pound of fat weighs more than one pound of muscle” isn’t exactly true (one pound equals one pound no matter what!), when your body fat is reduced and your muscles are built up, you will appear thinner because muscle is more compact than fat.
A Dietitian’s Review
Overall, from the review of Dr. Berg’s website which details his diet and exercise plan, most of his advice is based on nutritionally sound research, except in the few cases I have pointed out. Removing processed foods that contain preservatives and artificial ingredients and increasing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are the basis for any good diet plan. Lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthy fats are also recommended to be incorporated into the plan.
However, the “Detox Phase” of the diet can be cumbersome to follow and is similar to most popular diet books. As with other plans, it is designed to “cure cravings” and “enhance the body’s ability to utilize hormones.” For example, he recommends fruit (except apples) should only be eaten at night because of how fast they break down and turn into sugar. Again, taking a healthy approach to the diet and working on bad habits one step at a time is what has been found to be most successful in first, restoring health to the body and second, promoting successful weight loss.
Dr. Berg does encourage the use of his “Super Nutrients” supplement. While I do tend to recommend a general multivitamin when restricting calories, improving the diet through healthy and varied choices of foods should be enough to meet most people’s needs.