Adopt new habits to lose weight safely

Q: I’m on a weight loss diet, and my friend keeps warning me about the risks I’m taking. That seems nuts since being overweight is what’s really risky. Are there dangers to losing weight?

A: Achieving and maintaining a normal weight is not risky — it’s essential for improved health. But … and there is always a but … crash dieting or yo-yo dieting, well, that’s a whole ’nother story. Weight loss should be done by adopting new habits for a lifetime, not following extreme or rigid diets that virtually guarantee failure.

  Research on “The Biggest Loser” contestants showed that extreme dieting slows metabolism far more and for a longer time than ever realized. And a meta-analysis of studies found dieters regain over half of what they lose within two years.

  Crash dieters can lose muscle strength and develop a slowed heart rate, electrolyte imbalances, decreased oxygen utilization, restricted brain power and depression. They also throw their leptin (I’m full), ghrelin (I’m hungry) and insulin hormones off-balance making weight regain even more likely. In the extreme, you can see hair loss, sleep disturbances and disruption or complete stopping of the menstrual cycle.

  As for yo-yo dieting: One study found that it doubles the risk of heart attack, stroke and death for folks with heart disease. And repeated failure to reach a weight goal is strongly associated with developing a binge eating disorder.

Better choice: A slow, effective change in your nutrition and physical activity patterns.

  Give up (permanently) one unhealthy food a month for six months: soda one month, french fries the next, then red meat, full-fat dairy, processed meats, and sugar-added foods and beverages. That’ll give you room for fatty fish, skinless poultry, five to nine servings of fruits and veggies a day, 100 percent whole grains and legumes.

  Start walking, headed to 10,000 steps daily or the equivalent. Add in aerobics, cycling, swimming and two days a week of strength training. Just move it and move it often.

You can lose weight safely — and with lasting benefits to your health and happiness.

Q: My doctor told me I have gastroparesis and it is a result of my diabetes, which I have had for 15 years. What is it and how can I manage it?

Janice J., Lansing, Mich.

A: Gastroparesis is a digestive tract disorder that results from nerve damage associated with chronically high glucose levels. Folks with obesity are 10 times more likely to report symptoms of gastroparesis, and about 30 percent of folks with Type 2 diabetes develop the condition. That’s because excess blood sugar damages the vagus nerve, which starts at the brainstem and runs through the abdomen, carrying signals back and forth between your digestive system and the brain. When damage happens, the flow of gastric acid is reduced and there’s a lack of messages telling your stomach to move food down into the intestines. Food sits, undigested, in the tummy, causing erratic glucose levels, making your diabetes even harder to control and putting you at risk for very high or low blood sugar levels. It also triggers abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

When gastroparesis is not diabetes-related (but it usually is), it can result from Parkinson’s, acid reflux disease, viral infection or kidney problems. To ease the symptoms, you should avoid raw and high-fiber foods; fatty foods like dairy, fried foods and red and processed meats; and carbonated beverages. Treatments beyond lifestyle adjustments and strict control of blood sugar may involve surgery for folks who have a dysfunctional pyloric valve that acts as the “doorway” that separates stomach contents from the small intestine. A gastro peroral endoscopic myotomy or G-POEM may provide relief for up to a year. There also are many off-label or experimental medications that are being looked at. You and your doctor can go to to discover clinical trials and more info on possible prescription approaches. You should be able to find some relief from symptoms.

Contact Drs. Oz and Roizen at

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