In my business the most common question I get asked is “what can I do to lose weight”? The simple answer, with diet and exercise most people can manage their weight. As consumers we are bombarded with the latest fads for weight loss, yet weight management starts with healthy behaviors. In our food obsessed culture, the biggest challenge we face is fitting healthy behaviors into our lifestyle. These include our daily habits; our approaches to celebrations, holidays, vacations; managing stressful situations, illnesses and tragedies, and dealing with the barrage of low fat and designer diet foods in our society.
Is there a natural supplement to help you lose weight? As a trainer, I often see clients who are looking for a jump start or an easy way to lose weight and often hear comments such as “Nothing seems to work”, “why does it take so long”, “I read about this herb or pill in a magazine”. I recently sat down with an herbalist to get some answers for this and related questions and here’s what she said, “ There is no magic bullet for weight loss.” Kate Sammons, M.S. is an herbalist in Baltimore, MD. Here is an excerpt on our conversation about dispelling some of the myths about herbs and their relationship to weight loss.
Herbalism is the field of studying herbs for use by individuals to support our dietary systems. Herbalists have been around forever, though it’s not always easy to find one in certain parts of the country. An herbalist makes herbal recommendations, often tailored to the individual, to support someone’s health and well-being. Most herbalists take a holistic approach and make dietary and lifestyle recommendations as well. Many people choose to seek an herbalist as an additional way to cure or find solutions for problems or illnesses.
Can herbs cure my problem?
“Herbs by themselves without other dietary and lifestyle modifications are unlikely to cure a chronic illnesses or manage a disease” confirms Kate. “Often times, there is an underlying issue or host of issues and habits that contribute to challenges in managing your weight. With this in mind, herbs can serve as a useful compliment to other methods for healthier living or for those seeking to improve their quality of life”.
Are there herbs that are good for everyone?
“Yes, there are some common herbs that are good for just about everyone”, Kate tells me. “However, many herbs are more specific to the individual which is why you do not see a blanket recommendation in the mainstream for a specific ailment or end result. For instance, certain herbs are traditionally classified as “bitters” due to their taste. This flavor is wonderful for improving digestion. Different bitter herbs work in slightly different ways, have different qualities, strengths, and other unrelated effects. That’s why it’s best to seek personalized recommendations for herbs so that they are best suited to you.”
In many cases herbs can help both with the symptoms of a condition and its underlying causes. For example, if someone is making major lifestyle changes and is finding it harder than usual to sleep at night, herbs may ease the transition by modulating the stress response, promoting relaxation and better sleep.
So is there something I can take for weight loss?
“There is no herb that I know of that you can take safely and lose weight without making other changes in your life”, states Kate. “Nutrition and exercise are the foundation of any weight loss routine. Herbs may be supportive to your goals, and can help remove some of the stumbling blocks and challenges in managing your weight”.
- They can help you to wake up in the morning, or give you a pick-me-up in the afternoon so you have the energy to go for that run.
- They can help you to calm down when stressed and lower cortisol levels, which, left unchecked, contribute to abdominal adiposity.
- They can help you to sleep better at night so that you can enjoy a natural growth hormone surge without exercise, a hormone that in effect gives the calorie burning effects of a workout while you sleep.
- They can help with sugar cravings and the sensation of low blood sugar that leads to anything-at-hand food binges.
Herbs can be a huge help to effective weight loss, but again, how they can be supportive depends on the individual’s needs. Next month, I will continue my conversation with Kate, as we look at how specific herbs can support your nutrition and exercise goals.