Success Story

Weight Loss or Health Gain: Which Comes First?

By Richard Labaki


(RenYou) “I felt encouraged to contact you, because I have been told that you’re not the typical ‘eat cucumbers for lunch and lettuce for dinner’ type of therapist,” says the half German half Lebanese lady during our first meeting.  “I love gourmet cuisine and I want to enjoy tasty food – caloric restriction is definitely not for me!”  At the time, Hania Senno had just given birth to her daughter and was eager to get back in shape.  My first response was that she came to the right place; I do believe in eating nutritious and tasty food and I disapprove the notion of starving oneself in order to get fit.  However, I don’t take on cases whose sole intention is weight loss.  My prime focus as a therapist has always been to improve health through natural means.  And ultimately, a healthy lifestyle would lead to improved physical shape.  But first and foremost, my mission is to boost well-being.  “I love what I am hearing; let’s get down to it then,” she responds assertively.  

As I have always done in the past, I treat each case differently for there is no cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all solution.  Every individual is a unique case, harboring a distinct set of genetic predispositions and health challenges.  Initial tests uncovered various issues that needed to be addressed; most notable was chronic inflammation.  There were also neurotransmitter imbalances that contributed to poor memory, impaired focus and less-than-optimal mood.  But I assured Hania that all these problems could be and will be resolved through a well-devised nutritional plan. Natural supplements would be added to the mix in order to enhance further the healing process.  Luckily, she had already resumed working out (hiring a personal trainer to help in improving her body composition and toning the muscles.) 

Unknown to many, chronic inflammation is a major contributor to health problems and accelerated aging.  And this is why it has been dubbed the “silent killer”.  Under normal circumstances, inflammation plays an important role in the body, helping in the defense against invaders like microbes and assisting in the healing process in the wake of injuries.  It is only when inflammation becomes chronic that it turns ugly.  And this happens mainly due to various reasons including, high blood sugar, consuming the wrong kinds of dietary fats and simply being overweight.  And guess what happens when you suffer chronic inflammation: It becomes harder for your body to shed body-fat!    

Ten days after our initial meeting, Hania began on the customized program that I gave her.  Not only was she allowed many of the foods she loved, but also she started savoring foods she had previously believed to be unhealthy and thus avoided.  “Are you sure I can eat avocado, coconut oil and raw nuts on daily basis?  I always hear that such foods make you fat,” she kept wondering.  “I will give you a refund if you add one cm to your waist,” I kept easing her anxiety.  And it wasn’t long before positive signs started surfacing.  The bloating and digestive discomfort began to subside.  A couple of weeks later, sleep patterns and energy levels were improving.  But what surprised me the most is the level of commitment Hania has been demonstrating for over a year now – something I seldom witness in people trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle.       

Many have this false concept about healthy living.  To them, it means following a diet for only a short period in order to lose some weight or to detoxify the body.  But this is a distorted perspective.  Healthy living is about trying your best to eat clean for most part of the week and for the rest of your life.  You cannot expect to be healthy doing a single month of healthy eating followed by eating badly for 11 months – it simply doesn’t work that way!  If this is what you’ve been doing then do yourself a favor and stop wasting your time.  Only when you decide that your health is your main priority and that you should start implementing healthy habits on daily basis would this work. 

And this is a lesson Hania learned and embraced wholeheartedly.  So how far did she make it into the program, you might wonder.  Well let’s put it this way, she now flaunts an almost visible six-pack abs!  Still not impressed?  You should be, for this mother of three is in her early forties.  If she can do it, you could too.  So instead of thinking that you need to lose weight to be in good health, you should think the other way around: Be healthy and the body-fat will drop.

Slowly but Surely: one woman's path to reclaiming health, energy and vitality

  • Name: Tatiana L.
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Dubai
Ancient Forest by .Summit., on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  .Summit. 

(RenYou) Tatiana’s main purpose was to burn excess body-fat; a goal she shared with almost every other woman I have come across in my lifetime and in my practice.  But for an amateur athlete who has been highly active all her life, an expanding waistline was a sight too much to comprehend – let alone bear.  She just couldn’t wrap her head around the notion that despite the active lifestyle, her body started going the opposite direction at one point.  It just didn’t make sense!  Why, despite my constant exercising does my weight keep increasing, she lamented.  

But the weight issue was not the only problem.  Tatiana complained about her lack of energy, and she was experiencing poor mood.  This in turn was negatively affecting her outlook on life; productivity both in her personal and professional life suffered heavily.  In other words, the problem was spilling over into other areas of her life; it was no longer just an issue of physical appearance.  Tatiana understood that something needed to be done, and fast.    

“I want to lose weight, but I also want to regain my zest for life,” she told me, after we were introduced through mutual friends.  “And I don’t want to follow a fad diet to lose weight only to regain the kilos and more after a while – this has happened to me far too many times in the past – not to mention the fact that ‘diets’ drain me both physically and psychologically.  I simply want to increase my energy while better managing my weight.”

I knew there and then that the two of us could collaborate and achieve the desired results.  Unlike many others, she properly understood the facts and knew the right direction to take.  After conducting various tests over multiple sessions, I concluded that several elements were contributing to her physical and psychological issues. 

The first problem was false eating habits.  For too long now, the media has been wrongfully ingraining in people’s mind that counting calories is the path to losing weight and attaining health.  But not only is this doctrine false and impractical, it could also be counterproductive both in terms of weight management and overall health.  I explained to Tatiana that not all calories are created equal.  A calorie from processed foods like breads, cakes and corn flakes is very different from a calorie of an avocado or an almond – totally different effects on the health and body.

Her test results also revealed that she is suffering from something called insulin resistance – a condition whereby the body becomes unable to handle and process blood sugar properly.  Insulin resistance, in addition to wreaking havoc on the body, makes it very difficult for the person to lose weight.  And guess what contributes to this condition?  A diet rich in processed foods and unhealthy sugars is one of the contributors to this problem.  The assessment sessions also revealed a myriad of other conditions like hypothyroidism (clumsy thyroid which affects the metabolism and health in general) and certain nutrient deficiencies. 

So to properly address Tatiana’s problems in terms of weight management, mood and energy, the program had to factor in all the imbalances in her body.  And this could only be done by recommending proper food choices and eating habits, certain high-grade supplements and specific lifestyle habits – all this to create a foundation over which health and improved physical appearance could flourish. 

Tatiana believed in the program right from the start and her firm commitment reflects that. Initially, her physical measurements progressed slowly, but we are now beginning to see significant improvements.  So far five centimetres from around the hips and four centimetres from around the waist have been lost.  And the centimetres lost never returned – unlike when a person tries to lose weight drastically following a fad or crash diet.  Most importantly, Tatiana’s energy reserves have been filling up slowly but surely.  Currently, she is back to being highly active again – surfing once a week, in addition to engaging in high intensity interval training sessions and various other activities. 

With every cm she drops around the waist, Tatiana looks more radiant and has more energy than she ever had before.  And now she understands that the road to vitality is not a straight line from the bottom to the top.  It is, in fact, an oscillating journey that continues to go up despite the occasional lows. 

Richard Labaki