WEIGHT: Loss & Gain During Covid

Many of you tell me about weight gain and weight loss during these last 2 years of Covid…data show us that about 50% of Americans gained and close to 35% lost weight during quarantine. Here are a few general comments.  For specific programs and testing, always work with a qualified health care practitioner. 

During quarantine, I lost a lot of weight…closing my on- street business in Brentwood, CA cut down on my external stimuli and social interaction extremely!  And I did not travel. Once working from home, and eating alone, I found my body was not interested in dinner anymore.  This was not necessarily a bad thing, research show us our bodies may not need food after sundown (read the NYT best seller “What to Eat When” by Michael F. Roizen, MD and Michael Curtain, MD) but as my weight dropped, I bought a food journal and consciously increased my calories.  I was also going through some intense detox of heavy metals, especially toxic copper, and this made me feel like I had no appetite for many months as toxic copper affects the appetite part of the brain (all anorexics have high toxic copper and I can’t wait for eating disorders clinics to start testing for toxic copper!) So in order to gain weight, I had to approach my body from a more schooled perspective.   

Whether you want to lose or gain weight it takes a bit of effort.

Here are a few tips:

1.Protein: Under 60 years of age? Then you need to eat .66 grams of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. If you are over 60 years of age or weigh more than 175 pounds (79.5 kg) you need 1-1.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight. Of course these ratios may change, for example, if you are in the throws of symptoms from a disease or you are a performance athlete.

For most people, this works out to 5-6 ounces of animal protein daily for under 60 years of age and 9-10 ounces daily for over sixty or if you weigh over 175 pounds. (Protein can include organic nuts. Do not exceed 4 ounces of nuts in a day, and consider using nut butters for easier digestion.) For vegans and vegetarians, this is about 40-50 grams of protein from pressure- cooked beans, legumes, or organic protein powders (be sure your organic protein powders are also sourced to be free from heavy metals and mold). For vegetarians, this protein can include eggs, too. Always choose grass finished, pastured, and certified organic proteins when eating at home. Choose organic when eating out, too, if possible. Mainstream studies in a recent JAMA (Journal of the America Medical Association) show that eating certified organic food makes a huge difference in people’s longevity. And that, for the first time in history, mortality increases if increasing non-organic fruits and vegetables on a Mediterranean diet. The quality of our food has declined a lot in the last 10 years. And in the last 77 years, since 1955, the amounts of pesticide, fungicide, insecticide, phthalate, micro plastic, GMOs, poisonous fertilizers, toxic metals, EMFs, molds, and other toxins has dramatically increased far beyond what our bodies can handle. The last 77 years have burdened the human body more than it’s ever been burdened in the millions of years before! So yes, “certified organic” and “mold -and-toxic- metal -free” matters whenever you can make that choice. (Watch Mark Ruffalo’s movie “Dark Waters” if you’d like a good story that portrays this increase in poisonous toxins since the 1950s.)

2.Hydrate: Up to an ounce of water per pound of body weight.  

Your body cannot survive without at least 1/2 ounce of water per pound of body weight.  So if you weigh 120 pounds, you will drink at least 7 1/2 cups pure water.  Add in another 2+ cups if you exercise, detox or do sauna. Better yet, if you are an adult, simply drink 10+  glasses or more per day.  Detox, exercise, sauna, toxic burden, and other factors make hydrating more essential than ever. Don’t slug it all at once.  Keep a plastic-free bottle with you throughout the day to hydrate all day long. Hydrating also assists with weight loss.  Studies show that if you are dehydrated, your body holds on to fat to compensate.

3.What are the best ratios of nutrients?  We are all different, but  something like this may work:  

High quality carbs: 30-35% (Consume ample vegetables of many colors and eat good carbs like yams, sweet potatoes, & quinoa. Careful with fruit, a cup of berries daily is good. Limit fruit juice to 1/3 or 3 oz. per day maximum.)

Good fats: 45-50%

Protein: 15-20%

This may need to be modified for specific conditions.  For example, if you have high LPS ( lipopolysaccharide) levels or if you carry the APOE4 gene, we know that your fat intake needs to be much lower. Or is you have PCOS, you need to eat ketogenically, with higher fat, far fewer carbs and no grains. Work with me or another qualified nutritional practitioner to tweak your diet for your body.

4.Exercise. Do something you like at least 1/2 hour 5 days a week.  Walking counts.  So does dancing. I walk 4 miles at a  stretch 3x a week and twice weekly I do advanced Pilates and light weights for 70 minutes. I also stretch up to 20 minutes five days a week.  I don’t miss going to the gym,I quit during Covid. Maybe I will go back, but not right now.  Be careful with swimming, as continual exposure to chlorine is harmful. Also, swimming will not build bone density since it is not a weight bearing exercise. 

5.Sleep: 7-9 hours per night.  Even one night’s disruption can throw your body off. Make your bedroom dark at night.  Turn off all devices.

6.Avoid sugar, gluten, charred foods, artificial sweeteners, and avoid nightshades (tomato, eggplant, goji berries, etc.) if you have an autoimmune condition. Skip inflammatory food (all grains, legumes, and dairy have the potential to inflame you,so be cautious with them or skip them completely until you do the Vibrant Laboratories microchip blood tests with me to find out exactly to what foods you are reacting). Skip or limit “clean” alcohol to twice weekly. Always avoid eggs if you aren’t feeling great. After avoiding eggs for 3 months you can try adding back in yolks only and see how you feel for a month.  And then the egg whites, which are generally more problematic. (Eggs are the third most common reactive food in the world.) Eliminate flour completely from your diet, it is inflammatory and unnecessary. Always do the Vibrant Labs microchip food sensitivity and allergy blood testing with me, Vibrant tests for all four of your immunoglobulins (IgE, IgG, IgM and IgA). Then you will get a perfect and reliable map for your body for all foods and additives! Vibrant tests are almost 100% accurate, in contrast to our allergist’s office, where they can only use an old fashioned blood culture and/or pin prick skin test for one immunoglobulin (IgE) and the accuracy is 43-74% at the very best!

7.Do TRE.  All functional medicine practitioners encourage TRE of some sort.  This is based on science. The gentlest Time Restricted Eating (TRE) is eating your food in a 12 hour window and fasting for 12 hours. So if you eat breakfast at 7a.m. and finish dinner by 7p.m., this gives your body 12 hours to detox, take out the cellular trash, rest from digestion, turn its attention to self cleaning.  Twelve hours is the absolute minimum. Water, herbal tea, prescription meds, a tablespoon of MCT oil, or a couple of supplements during the fasting time are okay.  I practice TRE as 8/16, so my feeding window is 8 hours during the day and then I fast for 16 hours. For example, my breakfast is at 9a.m and then I’m finishing supper at 5p.m. This works well for me while working from home alone.  Dr. Dale Bredesen, the world’s foremost Alzheimer’s expert, as well as many other functional MDs I work with, insist on at least a 12 hour window. It may be better to work up to 14, 15, 16 hours fasting gradually.  It took me a few years to find 8/16 easy and to feel its benefits.

Our bodies were never designed to eat continually or to have 3 meals a day! Dr. David Sinclair, a teacher of mine from Harvard, and one of the leading longevity and genetics researchers in the world (read his NYTTimes best seller “Lifespan”), says no human over 30 years of age needs 3 meals a day!  Give your body a break from constant digestion, let it do its self repair. The two main processes of self repair in the body are called glymphacation (the brain cleanses itself) and autophagy (the body’s cells clean themselves).  Neither process can be carried out in the cells while the body is digesting food. For millions of years the body evolved to take care of itself during food scarcity, over- feeding is so hard on the body and contributes to inflammation and disease. “Over feeding” refers as much to eating too frequently as it does to eating too much. The body has not evolved to handle frequent eating. It needs beneficial longer breaks to clean itself cellularly. 

In addition, always try to give you body 3 hours between eating and bedtime. Start slow…Dr. Bredesen asks all his patients to do TRE and be food-free for 3 hours before bed starting with just 2 days a week and to increase this to 7 days a week over time. (If you work the night shift, adjust this to night time eating and do your fasting during the day.)

8.Calories: yes, calories matter, but as a frame, not as the main focus.  To gain weight , you could raise your intake to 3,500-5,000 calories using the above ratios (#3.). To lose weight start at 1400 calories. Add in more if you are losing too quickly or drop down to fewer calories IF you are not losing weight after 2 weeks. Choose carefully: we all know that an ounce of dark chocolate and a pound of broccoli both contain 160 calories but each has a dramatically different effect on the body.  Losing or gaining weight is work, a job, a day- by- day effort. Find a nutritional practitioner if it’s too much to handle alone and keep a food journal to guide you. There is plenty of information online to teach you how to count calories and portion your fats, carbs, and protein. For example, since carbohydrates and proteins each have a value of 4 calories per gram and fats have a value of 9 calories per gram, you could use a breakdown like this:

1,400 calories = 115.5 grams carbohydrate/  73.1 grams fat/ 55 grams protein

4,000 calories = 330    grams carbohydrate/208.8 grams fat/150 grams protein (what I used to gain 10 pounds)

Eat with a calculator, food scale, and food journal in your own kitchen if you are a numbers geek or need to get an idea of what these values look like as real food. Fortunately there are many apps that give you the nutritional values of foods.  I know the nutritional value of almost every food in the world, I’ve been doing this work for 37 years, but in case I need it, I use the free “Calorie King” app on my iPhone.

9. Just a quick note about fiber and fermentation:  if you are eating 7-9 cups of colored veggies, mushrooms, berries (a cup a day of berries is okay), alliums like onions, and including both above -the- ground veggies (AGV) and below -the- ground veggies (BGV), you will get enough fiber.  I eat about 50 grams of net fiber per day.  Our ancestors got at least 100 grams of fiber a day, but don’t try that, your body isn’t used to it!  And always include some fermented foods, from 1-6 servings a day, to feed your good gut bugs(microbiome): kimchi, sauerkraut, natto, homemade or freshly made unsweetened coconut or hemp yoghurt in glass jars, fermented black garlic, etc. Do not eat foods fermented in vinegar, they won’t have the probiotics and nutrients your gut needs.  For thousands of years every culture on the planet has had their specific forms of ferments.  As world cultures blend, we’ve been able to integrate many ferments into a long list to choose from. Note that if you have specific conditions like histamine reactions or candida, then you will not like fermented foods and need to address certain underlying conditions before eating them. 

9. Supplement.  One reason I still teach HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) is to be able to supplement clients at an accurate foundational level. Forget about free offers on Instagram to hair test, I’m talking about the real deal, the science developed at the University of Chicago in the 1940s during atomic studies, which also included studies of the interstitial spaces of the hair shaft. This method of testing has been updated decade after decade. You can read about it on my website at www.vhHealth.com  Each tab on that website (except for one) is devoted to HTMA. It took me years of study and apprenticeship to learn and certify in this field. I still like it and use it on myself.

Without hair testing, one hormone you can test with your conventional MD is Vitamin D-3. Be sure your level is between 50-80 ng/ml.  Unfortunately, insurance companies still use a level in the 20s that was used for World War II soldiers to test them for resistance to scurvy.  For robust immunity today, you must be at least 50ng/ml. (My Vit-D3 is currently at 80.  I take 5,000 mg every morning based on my quarterly testing.) A lifeguard sitting in the sun all summer may be as high as 120 ng/ml.  For immunity, get your Vit-D3 blood tested every 3 months. The Vibrant Labs blood test is one of the best, but this is a level that your insurance will cover, too, with your conventional MD. (In all the studies I’ve read, from Stanford to Harvard, not one Covid patient with a Vit D level of at least 50ng/ml died. Why don’t we have a Vit D-3 mandate in this country alongside of any other mandate?!!!)

9.Be gentle with yourself. Weight adjustment is not just calories in and calories out. Heavy metals detox, insulin resistance, thyroid, viruses, GMOs, poisonous fertilizers, emotional stress, low mineral levels in your cells, years of burn out, dehydration,  and a thousand other factors can interfere with your body’s ability to gain or lose weight.  Be your own Sherlock Holmes, work with me or another qualified professional, get accurate testing, move, rest, hydrate, choose organic when possible and stay in it for the long haul.  You can do this!

In good health,

Amahl (Van)


Functional Medicine Health Coach
Nutritional Therapist: NB & CGP


Instagram: vh_Health


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