Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Thoughts on Weight Loss Supplements

"Aluminum Pill Busters" by Lynn Greyling
In my weight loss class, we looked over a handout about what supplements work and don't work. Many products claim that they help you lose weight, but most have inconclusive evidence or can be dangerous. I've thought of listing all the supplements, but that's an exhaustive list. You can check out weight loss supplement facts here. I'll mention a few supplements.

Research Supplement from Credible Sources

If you have questions about a supplement, look at the scientific evidence and not the advertisements and anecdotal evidence. Find credible studies not funded by the seller. Second, make sure the supplement is safe. Find out more information about products on websites like the National Institute of HealthNSF International, or US Pharmocopeia. I tend to use WebMD. Use your best judgment.

One man I knew lost weight on fen-phen, but had a heart attack soon after. Fen-phen causes regurgitation in the heart valves for a small amount of people. Is that what happened to this man? Maybe. So, I'm wary about even FDA approved drugs because they may be pulled like Fen-phen.

Some Evidence Category

The some evidence category has capsaicin, green tea, and psyllium. I looked up capsaicin and it's naturally in hot peppers. Just eat chili peppers if you can stand the heartburn.

"White Cup of  a Green Tea" by Petr Kratochvil
When I taught English in China, I was occasionally served green tea and I tried a green tea popsicle (weird). But I was hesitant about green tea because of my religious health guide. Drinking tea is a sometimes fuzzy area among my congregation because we accept many herbal teas as beneficial, but most consider tea from the tea plant--white, black, oolong, and green--as against the health guide (see this article). The official religious website only mentions "tea" and "herbal tea" but not specific teas from the tea plant. Using my own judgment, I choose to avoid green tea.

After seeing psyllium on the list, I started taking psyllium fiber, just your regular fiber. I believe it may have helped me lose a pound or two, but I also reduced my stress those two weeks. It's supposed to help you feel fuller, but I still benefit from the regulating effects of fiber. (I refuse to take laxatives because I've seen a friend suffer from the aftereffects of anorexia/bulimia.)

Inconsistent Evidence

Under inconsistent evidence, I only recognize caffeine, ginseng, and St. John's Wort. The others are chromium, hydorxycitric acid, pyruvate, and linoleic acid.

I avoid large amounts of caffeine and only ingest some from chocolate and an occasional cola. It messes with my sleep rhythm and bipolar. The Mayo Clinic recommends under 500 mg a day for adults. Besides, energy drinks with high caffeine and other stimulants cause some teenagers heart palpitations, strokes, seizures, and sudden death (Source).

I took St. John's Wort in my late teens to relieve depression, but I didn't know it actually made my undiagnosed bipolar worse. It increased my hypomania and suicidal thoughts. St. John's Wort isn't for me.

UNSAFE But Effective

Bitter orange, ephedrine, Ma Huang (Ephedra) have strong evidence for weight loss, but are NOT recommended. Some people have had heart attacks, strokes, or died using weight loss supplements containing these ingredients. It's unclear if it may have been a combination of ingredients as the cause. Ma Huang causes mood problems. Why take the risk?

FDA Approved Supplements

There are a few FDA approved weight loss supplements, but most require a prescription. Essentially, they are a last resort if diet and exercise alone don't work. Orlistat blocks fat absorption and the others are appetite suppressants. Follow the links for more information. These drugs include:

Save Money--Don't Take Any

Weight loss supplements cost money and only some actually work or are safe. Might as well save money and work on other areas to improve weight loss first:

  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Social support
  • Mental health
  • Food tracking
  • Portion control
  • Physical activity
If you've addressed all these areas, then your doctor or dietitian may recommend weight loss supplements. If you take a supplement like fiber or drink green tea anyway, then it doesn't cost you more money.

I sometimes feel desperate about losing weight, but I'm not addressing some of my other issues such as stress, sleep, and physical activity. Right now I'm concentrating on sleep, reducing stress, eating fruits and vegetables, and being more active. I'll see where my journey takes me.

Have you taken any supplements and what happened for you? Any other thoughts?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Two-ish Pounds Gone!

I started my program seven weeks ago at 232 lbs; the next week at 234 (heavy clothes and pizza binge?); then slightly above 232 two weeks ago. Last night I weighed in at 230.5! I had concentrated the past two weeks on reducing stress and thinking of 3 good things before night time. I wrote about the stress management class on my mental health blog here.

Since one of my stresses is my weight, I only weighed myself once between meetings. I wasn't perfect with eating, but better than usual. I only did two regular exercise sessions during the two weeks and housework (mowing, mopping, vacuuming). So this approach to reduce stress worked versus being strict about exercise and diet. Stress and lack of sleep are a large contributing factor to my current weight gain of 15 lbs this spring and summer.

As a result of my weight gain, I had to buy bigger clothes two weeks ago. Sometimes I enjoy shopping for new clothes, but not this last time. I flashed my plumber's crack because my shirts and pants were too small. I hope too many people haven't shunned me for this reason. My fat has stretched the sides of my bras to their breaking point. TMI. Okay, the bras are six years old.

I wandered through the clearance racks at Walmart for 2X shirts and pants. I made a big pile and whittled it down before trying some on. Then I whittled it further after trying them on. Then I tried several sizes of bras. Too tight or too big. Finally, I walked away with several shirts, one pair of capris, one pair of pants, one swim bottom, and two bras.When I lined up at the check out line, I saw more t-shirts. I grabbed two 3X shirts and put back one shirt. Each item cost $9 or less. Yea, I was being frugal, but I still spent over $50. Gaining weight is not cheap.

Now I'm happy I have clothes that fit--except the 3X shirts are too wide for my shoulders. They cover my backside!