Is Weight Loss Success in Your Genes?
Two Naturopathic Doctors take a different approach to help others shed pounds
Right now, half of Americans admit they’d love to shed a few pounds in the New Year. If you’re one of them, it might be as simple as getting in touch with your genes, receiving a little help from a handful of nutrients or even adding a hormone. Two doctors with Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic have been using all three as tools to help their patients trim down and improve their health.
“Instead of playing a guessing game and trying 15 different diets, you can know that this is what your body needs and you can work on that,” says Dr. Kaila Sellars, ND.
To boil down a body’s propensity to lose weight, Sellars will often start with the “Find Why” DNA test. It helps pinpoint the five known “obesity genes” that can help shed some light on what kind of food and exercise a person’s body prefers. She’ll also run a Body Impedance Analysis (BIA), which measures a person’s percentage of muscle and fat as well as how many calories a person needs to maintain his or her current weight a.k.a. basal metabolic rate.
It’s well known that genetics play a role in people’s metabolism, but hearing there were accessible tools to help decipher the best path to weight loss was fascinating to me. That’s why I decided to take both programs for a test drive.
FINDING MY WHY
The past year has not been kind to my health. In the fall of 2020, my family got the Covid virus and while we recovered, I became what’s called a “Covid long hauler,” suffering from some scary and troubling symptoms over the course of about nine months. When it came to my weight, my thyroid function went haywire and within two weeks, I had packed on 15 pounds. Exercise didn’t get rid of it. Cutting calories didn’t either.
After swabbing my cheek to send off for DNA analysis, I discovered that I have three out of the five genes that make a person susceptible to weight gain. The test revealed that my body apparently prefers a high protein diet and does better with five small meals a day to keep my blood sugar steady. When it comes to exercise, it burns fat best when cardio and strength training are a part of the same workout.
GAME CHANGING HORMONE
For the past two decades, Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic has been helping those wanting to lose weight with the help of hCG, a pregnancy hormone that the medical world discovered helps with weight loss as well.
“In pregnancy, it’s in very high levels. We are using miniscule amounts of hCG for weight loss,” says Dr. Melissa Manda, ND. “Basically, hCG sends messages to parts of the brain to change how your body metabolizes stored fat.” Instead of getting fat from food, hCG shifts the body’s metabolism to use its own stored fat leading to a half-pound to a pound of weight loss each day on the program.
“This is really ideal for that person who does eat pretty well,” Manda says. “They exercise. They stay hydrated. They are doing all of those healthy things and still having trouble losing that last 20 to 30 pounds.”
The program has also been a game changer for those with quite a bit of weight to lose.
“Losing 100 pounds could take years and years and years,” Manda says. “We can use this as a jumping off point to continue to develop good lifestyle habits. It’s thought of as an alternative to gastric bypass to help a person gain momentum in terms of weight loss.”
Manda adds that the program isn’t ideal for those with uncontrolled diabetes or a history of certain cancers. That’s why everyone who wants to try the program needs a comprehensive medical intake before they’re given the green light to move forward.
On paper, the program sounds severe. A person in the program not only administers shots of hCG daily for either 23 or 40 days but logs every calorie, making sure not to exceed 500 calories. Foods are restricted to a short list of vegetables and proteins. Carbohydrates come from a twice daily apple or handful of strawberries. There’s no oil or fats in the program so that the hormone can trigger the use of a person’s stored fat. For exercise, a half hour walk daily is all you need.
“When I check in with people, they tell me they aren’t hungry, their energy is good and often better than it was,” Manda says, adding that hCG naturally keeps hunger at bay. “We also don’t see a loss of strength or stamina. People feel clear and energized, which is generally what we see when their metabolism switches to fat burning.” The program, she says, essentially resets your metabolism.
For me, I did have very minor hunger cravings, especially during the first few days as the hCG was settling into my system. As the days moved on, the food choices proved to be the biggest challenge. The vegetables weren’t my favorite (greens, celery, cabbage, radishes, plus tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and asparagus). You could use seasonings but no sugar, Stevia only. I found myself putting apple cider vinegar on every salad mixed with a little Stevia and water. By day 12, it was tough to stomach. Having said all of that, I lost 14 pounds easily in 21 days. It’s safe to say I’d do it all over again.
“For some, it is a really helpful time to step back and look at what is your relationship with food,” Manda says.
Manda says she’s seen an average of 12 pounds lost on the 21-day program and upwards of 30 on the 40-day program. She’s watched many — thanks to a healthier lifestyle — keep the weight off for years.
“For some folks who have really struggled throughout their life with maintaining a healthy weight and weren’t able to feel good or exercise the way they want to,” Manda says, “this can really be a game changer.”
TURNING TO MIC
If strict and quick isn’t your speed, Dr. Sellars has championed using lipotropic injections to help move the needle on weight loss.
“These nutrients really help how your body is processing weight loss,” Sellars says. “The nutrients aren’t doing anything on their own but are supporting your body’s processes.”
The injection, known as MIC, consists of Methionine, Inositol, Choline, vitamin B-12 and L-Carnitine. It’s a mix of amino acids and vitamins that help with everything from the breakdown of fat to proper liver function. Sellars administers the injection either once or twice a week into the muscle. When paired with a calorie deficit, it’s meant to ignite a person’s metabolism and keep fat burning efficiently.
“Calorie deprivation is the root of all weight loss,” Sellars says. Based on your basal metabolic rate, she encourages a deficit of about 500 calories a day. If you don’t get it by cutting calories, she says you’ll need to burn it through exercise with a goal to lose one pound per week.
“This program is designed to be slow and steady weight loss so that you keep it off,” Sellars says. “It’s a true lifestyle change. If you are looking to lose 20 pounds in a month, this is not the program for you.”
This program was a breeze for me. I logged every calorie on the app called My Fitness Pal and then made sure I worked out to create a calorie deficit. My energy was good, which is typical, and, like many on the program, that helped keep my motivation high.
If you ask Sellars, writing down everything you eat is critical to making permanent lifestyle changes.
“It puts into perspective that some foods you’re eating might not be friendly calorie-wise. A piece of pizza has 400 calories? Well, if you want to eat pizza, you can still lose weight but you are going to have to adjust a lot of other things just to have one slice,” Dr. Sellars says.
Following this program on the heels of a 21-day hCG plan kept my metabolism stoked. In the first two weeks of MIC, I lost 4 pounds. By the end of my journey, I was down ___. After 18 years trying to get to my ideal weight, I finally crossed the finish line.
“It’s a lot of lifestyle coaching,” Sellars says. “How are you doing with the diet. How are you sleeping? Do you have barriers to making good choices? What are they? Maybe we can help with that.”
At the end of the program, Sellars conducts another BIA scan to see how a person’s body fat percentage changed. She says it’s empowering to see what a little hard work and dedication can deliver.
“After the injection portion is over, you aren’t just let go,” she says. “We can follow up as often as you need. We want to give you the tools so that you can make those healthy decisions for the rest of your life.”
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE TYPES OF WEIGHT LOSS, visit yncnaturally.com or call the Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic at center(406) 259-5096.