A Modern Approach to Weight Loss

With the nation getting ever fatter and the burden this will have on our health and economy, the government and health care professionals alike are desperate for a modern approach to weight loss. But there are so many different diet books and weight loss programmes on the market and so much conflicting information in the press that it can sometimes be quite confusing about what to do.

The basic premise of eating slightly less (calories) and exercising more does hold some truth and many people will lose weight by being more mindful about what they eat and drink and by exercising a little more. But this is far from a modern approach to weight loss and can often be too simplistic for many people who “diet and exercise” but who still can’t lose weight.

The basics for effective weight loss

There are four basic “rules” to weight loss that go beyond simply eating less and exercising more:

Stop smoking

As simple as it sounds a modern approach to weight loss is to stop smoking. Stopping smoking can be one of the best decisions you make to improve your health as it is associated with cancer, especially cancers of the mouth, oesophagus and lungs and it accelerates aging.

There is some evidence to suggest that if you quit smoking you are more likely to put on weight – and this may be because nicotine acts as an appetite suppressant / or you just tend to eat something when you would have had a cigarette – but this certainly doesn’t mean that you should smoke to lose weight. But there is other research that refutes this claim.

In fact researchers have shown that females who smoke 10 cigarettes a day as teenagers are more likely to be overweight as adults, this trend didn’t apply to males in this study, but in young males smoking tends to accompany alcohol and alcohol as we will see also contributes to obesity.

Reduce and modify alcohol intake

Alcohol contains an abundance of calories that often don’t get accounted for when you are trying to lose weight. However a modern approach to weight loss is to modify your alcohol intake rather then quit all together.

Consider that a pint of beer may contain up to 400 calories and simply drinking 4 or 5 pints on a night out may give you your calorie requirement for the whole day, it’s easy to see why excess alcohol can make you fat.

Beers and spirits are also made from wheat which is a common food intolerance that can cause gastrointestinal inflammation, intestinal permeability and immune sensitivity causing symptoms such as IBS, constipation or diarrhoea (but more on this later).

Epidemiological research has shown that drinking alcohol in moderation is however beneficial to our health, but what do they mean as “in moderation”? I would interpret this as one glass of wine a day (it doesn’t have to be everyday either – especially if you are trying to lose weight) and certainly don’t give yourself the excuse of drinking all 7 glasses on a Friday night because you have abstained for the rest of the week as this will just add a whole bunch of calories to your day and play havoc with your blood sugar and insulin regulation.

The best wines to drink are organic as the grapes haven’t been sprayed with pesticides, but also try and pick wines rich in a compound called resveratrol which has many health benefits. These include pinot, merlot and all Spanish wines.


There is no doubt that exercise can help you lose weight and that not doing any exercise can contribute to you being fat. But there are many types of exercise – yoga, Pilates, bootcamps, running, lifting weights or simply walking the dog – and you need to find what is right for you.

From an evolutionary perspective we are designed to be highly active, not designed to sit at desks all day and drive or take the bus everywhere we go. We can get a good idea of how much activity we need to get each day by looking at isolated indigenous communities that still live a very basic lifestyle. It is estimated that these communities may “exercise” in terms of hunt, gather, clean, build shelter, play etc… up to 5 hours a day which seems quite a lot and certainly a lot more than modern Westernised humans get – but just think they get 19 hours a day to sleep, eat, relax and have fun. Wouldn’t that be great?

Most people think that “cardio” be it running, or using the rower or the cross trainer in the gym is the best way to lose weight, and there is no doubt that doing some cardio can help. But a modern approach to weight loss includes the need to build muscle as well and this involves doing some resistance training. As with cardio, resistance training comes in different forms, be it using your body weight, using a TRX or a Swiss ball, kettle bells, dumbbells or resistance machines. I think that all of these things can be used for effective weight loss and they will certainly add variety to your exercise regimen, but the true secret to success is to change things often to prevent your body from adapting. This might take the form of doing cardio for a month, then using TRX or Swiss balls for a month, then doing Pilates or boxing for a month then doing some weight training – just keep changing things up.

The other secret to success, and this hold true for success in any other industry or in life, is that you need to work hard at what you are doing. If you go to the gym and sit on one of the bikes watching the TV or reading a book you are not working hard enough to get results.

Eat a low glycemic load diet

This is a modern approach to weight loss that involves consuming healthy protein (such as meat, fish, seafood, poultry and eggs) and fats (such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, oily fish and coconut oil) with low glycemic load fruits, vegetables, grain and legumes.

The glycemic load is a system of classifying carbohydrate containing foods by how quickly the carbohydrate is released into the blood stream. The GL system scores foods as low GL that are less than 10, moderate GL that are 11-20 and high GL as anything over 20.

It is beyond the scope of this article to outline the GL of all carbohydrate containing foods, but a general rule is that thin skinned fruits such as berries, apples, pears and plums and green leafy vegetables are all low GL. Things like potatoes, bread and whole grains are moderate GL and all processed foods such as sugar, sweats, chocolates and white grains are high GL. This may be a bit of an over simplification but you will certainly start losing weight if you eat mainly low GL food, a little moderate GL food and no high GL foods.

Advanced topics for weight loss

There are many people who will follow this advice and who still struggle to lose weight. If you are one of these people you’ll need to think about the following four contributing factors for a truly a modern approach to weight loss:

Gut microbiota

Inside each of us are trillions of cells of bacteria, with up to 2 kg of bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract known as the gut microbiota. It is believed that the bacterial cells inhabiting our gut outnumber the cells that make up our own body by a magnitude of 10:1! Are you really who you think you are?

High fat low fibre diets alter the gut microbiota leading to an environment that creates lowered gastrointestinal (GI) colonisation of healthy bifidobacteria, this in turn leads to GI inflammation, intestinal permeability and the leakage of lipopolysacchardies (LPS) into the blood stream. It has been shown that LPS creates an immune response in the body that increases the storage of fat, creates inflammation and decreases insulin sensitivity. All of this contributes to being overweight.

If, however, you take prebiotic fibre and probiotics such as bifidobacteria this decreases the releases of LPS into the blood improving insulin sensitivity, decreasing inflammation, decreasing fat storage and decreasing appetite. Simply taking a probiotic supplement and eating prebiotic foods is a modern approach to weight loss that can help you.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is only really obtained by direct exposure to sunlight. Over 3000 genes are affected by vitamin D and beyond the role vitamin D plays in bone and immune health it plays a huge roll in cell signalling and cell differentiation. We know from research that vitamin D deficiency negatively affects insulin sensitivity / glucose tolerance and leads to type 2 diabetes and type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight.

So a modern approach to weight loss is something as simple as making sure your vitamin D levels are up to par. This can help improve insulin sensitivity and aid having optimum body composition. You can ask your doctor for 25(O-H)D3 test and supplement accordingly based on the results. A baseline of 2000-500IU is a good place to start.


Methylation is a process that happens in many body tissues such as the brain, the liver, the lungs and the heart. It is a set of chemical reactions that turns methionine into something called SAMe. The process requires amongst other things B12, folic acid and B6. Due to our unique genetic make up some of us require much more of these B vitamins than others and if we are deficient we get a build up of homocysteine in the blood. People who have higher homocysteine in their blood are much more likely to suffer from all manner of diseases as well as be overweight.

Research done in rats shows that the rats that are hypomethylators (low in B vitamins or have a genetic fault requiring higher levels of B vitamins) are overweight and obese. You can have your homocysteine measured by a simple home blood test kit available from York Test, after which you can supplement with the active forms of B12, folic acid and B6, which is truly a modern approach to weight loss.


Thousands of chemicals have been released in to our environment in the past 50 years, many with no knowledge about they will affect human physiology. They range from plastics such as dioxins and phthalates, to pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides as well as heavy metals. Many of these chemicals have an oestrogenic effect in our body and have been termed obesogens by functional medicine experts.

These chemicals basically screw up human physiology causing DNA damage, depleting and displacing nutrients from the body, altering cellular communication and energy production and placing a toxic burden on the body.

Identifying and eliminating these toxins is beyond the scope of this article but you can reduce your exposure to these chemicals by buying organic food. Bob Rakowski, a modern approach to weight loss expert states that if you are not buying organic food you are contributing to an industry that is poisoning every man, women and child on this planet.

You can also filter your water and change your personal care products to ones free from parabens. Eating broccoli, cabbage, kale, watercress, onions and leeks can also support the liver detoxifying these chemicals.