There are a number of paths to take to lose weight: reduce calorie intake, cut carbs, cut fat, paleo, keto, Atkins’, South Beach, Wheat Belly, etc. There are ups and downs to each pathway. Cutting calories, for instance, typically yields near-term weight loss but long-term weight regain due to the reduction in metabolic rate that results when you reduce calorie intake. You can slash carbs to near-zero while increasing fat intake and achieve ketosis, but the disruption in bowel flora and lack of prebiotic fibers lead, over time, to metabolic and intestinal distortions such as increased triglycerides and blood sugar after the initial drop, constipation, and dysbiosis.
But let’s put that all aside for a moment. One issue is crystal-clear, even though it is not considered in this jumble of diet conversations: To achieve weight loss and, more importantly, genuine health, more than diet needs to be pursued. Losing 40 pounds by whatever means, for instance, does not necessarily mean that your fatty liver will reverse. It does not necessarily mean that osteoporosis, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, or migraine headaches will revert back to normal. Even largely weight-dependent health conditions such as type 2 diabetes or hypertension do not always return to normal with weight loss alone.
Weight loss in overweight people is indeed a powerful component of a program to return to slenderness and health—but it is not enough.
If the diet you follow only talks about food choices, calories, fats, or moving more, then it is incomplete. Diet alone, no matter how strict or meticulous, can NOT:
- Fully correct dysbiosis, disrupted bowel flora, that is now the rule in modern people. It certainly cannot reverse the exceptionally common small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO, or small intestinal fungal overgrowth, SIFO that now plague tens of millions of people in the U.S. alone
- Correct vitamin D deficiency—The implications of uncorrected vitamin D deficiency are huge and are not corrected by, say, reducing carb intake.
- Correct magnesium deficiency—Magnesium deficiency caused by relying on water filtration, methods used by modern agriculture, and grain consumption cannot be corrected by diet alone.
- Reverse endocrine disruption—Some forms of endocrine disruption can be reversed with weight loss. Loss of visceral abdominal fat, for instance, can reduce abnormally high testosterone in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, or reduce abnormally high estrogen and increase testosterone in males. But disrupted thyroid health that is exceptionally common in modern people is not reversed with weight loss. Nor can weight loss provide iodine, an essential trace mineral that many people lack.
- Boost oxytocin levels—that maintains youthful skin, immunity, healing, and sex hormone status. Restoring Lactobacillus reuteri can accomplish this, however.
- Reduce homocysteine levels—A healthier diet can indeed reduce blood levels of homocysteine, a marker of risk for heart disease, stroke, depression, and cancer, but is often not enough, especially in people with specific genetic variants (e.g., MTHFR C677T). But tipping bowel flora composition away from an overabundance of Firmicutes in favor of B-vitamin producing species such Faecalobacterium prausnitzii and non-pathogenic E. coli strains reduce homocysteine levels the way they were supposed to be reduced, via a natural symbiotic relationship between humans and bowel microbes. (I shall be discussing this issue in greater detail in future.)
- Reverse irreversible damage inflicted by prior diet and health habits—If poor prior eating habits, inflammation, and glycation led to atrial fibrillation, for instance, weight loss alone is not the solution. Or if exposure to toxic industrial chemicals via hand sanitizer or non-stick cookware damaged your thyroid gland, losing weight will not repair a damaged thyroid.
You get the picture. This is among the reasons I cringe when people declare that they are following this or that diet. Losing weight is indeed a terrific goal. But isn’t losing weight while restoring magnificent health an even better goal?
This is precisely why the Wheat Belly lifestyle, as articulated in the Wheat Belly Total Health and Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox books details the additional strategies we incorporate after diet. Or, if you are a newcomer to these ideas and desire an intensive and in-depth experience to learn how to accomplish weight loss combined with magnificent health, sign up for my Wheat Belly Weight Loss Secrets Workshop for $149, discounted to $99 for Wheat Belly Blog members. (A promo code will be emailed in future to paid members.)