“Lose weight without exercise.” “Rev Your Metabolism and Watch the Pounds Melt Away.” When exercise and portion control don’t seem to be moving the scale (or the pudge), it is tempting to look to a vitamin or supplements for weight loss.
Marketers know this, and advertisements for effortless weight loss are everywhere. But advertisements don’t answer the two most important questions we need to be asking.
Do They Work? Are They Safe?
The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Not all products are equal. Some are definitely unsafe, others seem to be quite safe, and some are safe and effective, especially when combined with lifestyle changes.
Let’s begin by looking at some products that you most certainly don’t want on your shelves or in your body. Then we’ll look at some that might be good choices for healthy and lean living.
What to Avoid
There are some that are definitely unsafe. Ephedra, banned in the US by the Food and Drug Administration since 2004, is a nervous system stimulant that can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and death.
Avoid weight loss supplements that list ephedra (ephedrine), ma huang, bitter orange, synephrine, hydroxy cut, fen-phen, Fenfluramine, Phentermine, Rimonabant, Phenytoin, Phenolphthalein, or Sibutramine on the label. Check out the harmful effects of diet pills here.
Even more alarming are the reports of weight loss supplements that contain illegal substances or prescription drugs that aren’t listed on the label. These are particularly dangerous because there is no way of knowing what you are getting.
The FDA maintains a list of tainted weight loss products. These are products that have been tested and have been found to contain unsafe and/or illegal substances that are not on the label. Before taking a supplement, it is a good idea to make sure it isn’t on this list!
Since the FDA cannot test every new product on the market, watch out for claims like magic weight loss, no exercise necessary, lose while you sleep, or anything that defies the laws of science.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Learn to be sleuth for those code words that probably mean they are sneaking something into the supplement that shouldn’t be there.
With all the warnings and horror stories about weight loss supplements, are there any that are safe?
Weight Loss Supplements and Techniques
Yes, there are safe weight loss supplements. Check out this article for an overview of why these weight loss supplements actually work (safely!).
- Plexus Slim ™
- Green tea extract
- Mindful eating
- Trim Healthy Mama
Those are supplements and techniques that are targeted for weight loss. And although weight loss is important, lets step back and look at the bigger picture.
Choosing Vitamins and Supplements for Health
A healthy body will not be obese.
But if you work on becoming healthier, weight loss is almost a side effect, although a very welcome one!
Instead of focusing on weight loss, let’s look at what you need to be healthy. Not all supplements that help with weight loss are marketed for weight loss.
Here are some vitamin and mineral supplements that may be needed for a healthier—and eventually leaner—you.
Whole foods-based multivitamin. Because most of us aren’t getting adequate nutrients from our food, a high-quality multivitamin can make a big difference in overall health and wellbeing.
Intensive farming practices have depleted farmland in some places, which means that even if you are eating a plant-rich diet, the plants themselves don’t have as many nutrients as they should, so a multivitamin makes great sense.
But don’t fall for a cheap dollar store variety. You get what you pay for, and getting good quality is SOOO worth it.
Calcium magnesium supplement. When we hear “calcium”, most of us think “bone health.” And while that is true, the reality is a lot more complex and amazing.
Calcium and magnesium are cations (molecules with a positive electrical charge) that are essential for transmission of electrical signals in your muscles and in your nervous system.
In practical terms, that means you need calcium and magnesium so your heart can beat, your brain can think, and your muscles can move. Again, look for good quality, and choose calcium citrate for better absorption. Although the carbonate form is cheaper, your body can’t do much with it, so save your pennies for the good stuff.
Vitamin B complex. Not everyone needs B complex, especially if you are getting plenty of leafy greens and grass-fed beef.
But for anyone who has issues with nervous tics, neuropathy (pins and needles sensations), or depression or other mood disorders, a good quality Vitamin B complex (not just B12 or another isolated B vitamin) can work wonders.
Omega 3 supplement (fish oil is the most common source). Essential fatty acids are a crucial part of good nutrition. The two most common, and best studied, are omega 3 and omega 6.
In a healthy, balanced diet that is built on real food (not the imitation, highly processed, food-like substances that are so common in the Standard American Diet), omega 3 and omega 6 are in balance.
However, for most us, we are getting a lot more omega 6’s than omega 3, and that imbalance leads to inflammation, weight gain, sluggish gut activity, brain fog, and other issues linked to inflammation.
Since you are likely already getting plenty of omega 6’s in your diet, supplementing with omega 3’s can help restore the correct ratio, reduce inflammation, promote health, and increase weight loss. As an added benefit, you may be able to think more clearly.
Health Tip of The Day
That’s a win for sure! Best source for omega 3’s (in supplement form) is a good quality fish oil that is cold processed. Heat destroys some of the omega 3s, so spend the extra cash for cold-pressed oil.
Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid). Vitamin C is an essential nutrient. Lack of vitamin C caused the infamous scurvy on board sailing ships in previous centuries. Sailors became weak and sickly on a diet of hardtack and salt pork, because fresh fruit and vegetables would run out or spoil after months at sea.
While scurvy isn’t common today, especially in developed countries, lack of vitamin C can cause a host of less obvious troubles. Pure ascorbic acid (available in powder form to mix into any drink) is the best choice for knocking down inflammation. If that isn’t your style, capsules and gummies also work, but be aware of the increased sugar content.
Chromium Picolinate . Although evidence remains mixed, there is some indication that supplementing with low doses of the essential mineral Chromium picolinate can help with weight loss. High doses sometimes cause organ damage.
Remember the Basics
Keep in mind the ugly truth of weight loss, though. There are really only two things most people need to do to lose weight. 1). Eat less. 2). Move more.
That means you will need to find ways to eat less. The good news is that simply by eating real food (the non-processed, fruits and vegetables kind) you will begin experiencing fewer cravings and more normal appetite.
Other easy tips include using smaller plates and bowls (so that you serve yourself smaller portions), and always eating salad first (which fills your stomach, increases fiber intake, and bumps up the antioxidants, phytochemicals and other good stuff to make you feel better and less hungry).
Exercise is the other key to effective weight loss. Be intentional about building in none-exercise activity time as well, especially if you are not very physically active.
Examples include parking at the back of the lot and walking to the door, taking the stairs, going for a walk, playing frisbee in the park, or strolling through the local fair. Be creative and have fun!
Recruit a friend or family member to join you at the gym, in the pool, or on the track. Try different forms of exercise, like rock climbing or weightlifting. Make sure to do some stretches before and after to prevent some of the pain and soreness (ask me how I know!).
Stay hydrated and (as much as possible) have fun. Accept that there will be days when the only fun is the relief of being done and getting through. That’s okay; it is called “exercise” for a reason.
Celebrate the small wins, like recognizing that although you are still worn out after a run, you are now going twice as far as when you started, or you can now do a lift correctly, or picking up your son or daughter is easier than it used to be.
Oh, and one final tip on the exercise piece. Muscle weighs more than the same mass of fat. That means that, especially for those who are very out of shape, you may not lose any weight when you start working out.
Instead of looking at the scale, measure your waist and celebrate those wins. As more fat tissue turns into muscle tissue, eventually the scale will begin to move too. Sometimes building muscle mass has to come first.
Putting It All Together
For sustained healthy weight loss, choose one or two to begin doing right now. Add more every week or two.
If something doesn’t work for you, pitch it, and try something else. Everybody’s body works a bit differently, and things that are crazy amazing for me may be a dud for you. Accept it and keep going to find what works for you.
Aim for lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Ask yourself if you can be happy doing this for the next five years, ten years, fifteen years. Can you see this change becoming part of a sustainable and healthy lifestyle? If so, then dive in.
Enjoy the journey, and drop your comments, questions, or tips below. Be Well!