One Small Change Could Help You Start Losing Weight Today

Claudia Stack

Photo by Liam Johnson on Unsplash

Please note: This article presents research findings and reflections on an individual experience, but is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Always consult your doctor before starting a weight loss program or adding dietary supplements.

Here it is, the end of January. Hopefully you haven’t abandoned any resolutions you may have made to improve your health. For many of us, losing weight would benefit our health. Fortunately, the amount you lose doesn’t have to be drastic to create positive changes in your health.

This article shares a few facts about weight loss, and reveals a simple change that I made that helped me finally start to lose weight after many unsuccessful efforts.

Harvard Medical School reported in April, 2020 that losing even 5% of body weight can have significant health benefits. That means that a 200 pound person would only have to lose 10 pounds to have a good chance of attaining the following health benefits (as reported by the Harvard article linked above):

Reduced heartburn. Extra pounds put pressure on your stomach, which can force stomach acid to reflux up into the esophagus and cause the fiery discomfort of heartburn...losing weight relieves pressure and tamps down heartburn.
Reduced knee pain. Each additional pound you carry places about 4 pounds of stress on the knee joints.
Reduced blood pressure. The risk for developing high blood pressure triples for adults with excess weight. But each pound of weight loss can lead to a one-point drop in both the upper (systolic) and lower (diastolic) numbers in your blood pressure measurement.
Reduced diabetes risk. Weight gain is a powerful risk factor for developing diabetes.
Better sexual function. There is some evidence that overweight and obesity reduce sexual function, and that regaining a healthy weight improves it.
Improved sleep. People who carry excess weight can have obstructive sleep apnea, a condition of poor quality sleep characterized by many pauses in breathing throughout the night. "Weight loss often reduces the sleep apnea, and sleep becomes more restorative," Dr. Stanford says.
Extra energy. The more weight you gain, the harder your body has to work to move.

That all sounds good, but how can you get on a path that leads to a loss of 5% of your body weight? Especially with winter weather and the pandemic keeping us inside more, it may seem daunting.

A review published in Vox last year of 60 research studies concluded that “The evidence is now clear: Exercise is excellent for health; it’s just not that important for weight loss. So don't expect to lose a lot of weight by ramping up physical activity alone.”

So increasing exercise has many health benefits, but exercising alone is unlikely to lead to significant weight gain. Changing one’s diet has a much greater impact on weight, although, as Dr. Donald Hensrud notes in this Mayo Clinic article:

“If you lose weight by crash dieting or by drastically restricting yourself to 400 to 800 calories a day, you're more likely to regain weight quickly, often within six months after you stop dieting.”

It might seem that people who want to lose weight are caught in an impossible dilemma. While diet holds the key to losing weight, cutting calories too drastically can actually have the opposite of the intended effect over the long term. As CNN reported in 2010, extreme diets can also harm your health in various ways.

In thinking about all of this in relation to myself and my younger son, who is 18, I became determined to find another approach that would improve our chances of healthy weight loss. While my husband and older son both have a very lean body type and can eat whatever they want without gaining too much weight, my younger son and I have always been a bit 'fluffier.'

What is frustrating is that, as a family, we generally eat whole foods. We don’t drink soda, and we keep chickens for fresh eggs and grow some of our vegetables. In doing so, we are already avoiding the common pitfalls of eating processed food and drinking sugary drinks. Processed foods and excess sugar leads not only to weight gain, but also to excess inflammation and other health risks.

Pre-pandemic, my son used to do a vigorous cross training workout three times per week at a local gym, while I would walk on an inclined treadmill and lift weights. We also stay active outdoors, because we have to care for our livestock.

Our gym closed due to the pandemic and we are home most of the time now, but we do walk every day and use our tread climber. That is why I focused on finding an additional weight loss tool, because our diet is generally good, and we are already fairly active.

In doing research, I learned that an article published in the February 2020 journal The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition presented a meta-analysis of 62 studies and found that adding viscous (soluble) fiber, such as psyllium (which is in Metamucil and similar supplements), can significantly help weight loss efforts. The study concluded that:

“Dietary viscous fiber modestly yet significantly improved body weight and other parameters of adiposity independently of calorie restriction...Greater reductions in body weight were observed in overweight individuals and those with diabetes and metabolic syndrome. “

In other words, adding viscous (soluble) fiber each day helped people to lose weight whether or not they reduced their calories. In addition, this effect was greater for those individuals who were overweight, diabetic, or suffered from metabolic syndrome.

While both soluble and insoluble fiber are found in many foods, I decided to supplement the soluble fiber we get daily. At first, I mixed Metamucil or a generic equivalent psyllium product in water or orange juice each morning, but we didn’t always like to drink the sludgy liquid that resulted.

However, since it is that sludge formed by the viscous fiber becoming a gel that actually gives you the weight loss benefits, I didn’t want to give up taking the psyllium. I found that you can buy capsules of psyllium either as a brand name or as a generic. These capsules are modestly priced and deliver the soluble fiber straight to your digestive tract, where it forms a gel. The bottle I have recommends 20 capsules per day, but we have seen good results with 10 per day (5 in the morning, 5 in the evening).

A month into our personal experiment with adding psyllium fiber two times daily, I am pleased to say I have lost three pounds and my son has lost 5 pounds. I think the fact that the weight loss is gradual makes it more likely to be sustained. The fiber may have had the effect of reducing our appetites, although we did not consciously reduce our calories, or it may have improved the health of our gut biome, which appears to improve metabolic regulation according to a 2020 meta-analysis of 16 studies.

While you should always consult your doctor before starting a weight loss program or taking dietary supplements, I wanted to share this personal story in case it may help you. I am optimistic that continuing this one small addition to our daily routine will allow us to achieve a weight loss of at least 5%, and hopefully more.

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I am an educator and filmmaker. My documentary films on historic African American schools have screened at film festivals, colleges, libraries, and other venues. In Fall, 2017 I completed SHARECROP and SHARECROP: DELTA COTTON, documentaries that showcase oral history of the South’s “forgotten farmers.” These films have screened at festivals in major cities including London, Atlanta, Detroit.


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