Controversy ensued early last year when President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Regina M. Benjamin to serve as the nation’s 18th surgeon general. It’s a highly prestigious position for any respected physician because you are looked at as America’s top doctor (sorry Dr. Oz, it ain’t you!). The U.S. Surgeon General sets the tone for public health policy and becomes the face for those decisions–and therein was the problem for the 52-year old Dr. Benjamin. As you can see from the photo posted to the left, she is overweight. The argument from the skeptics of this nomination stated that she was unqualified to hold the position of surgeon general because of her weight since we are currently facing an obesity epidemic and we need an example for Americans to follow. But with grace and honor, Dr. Benjamin dismissed what she described as “hurtful” criticisms stating that although she weighs more than she’d like, being fit and healthy is “more than just a dress size.” She added that because of her own struggles she is able to understand the plight of what upwards of two-thirds of Americans are dealing with. I can certainly relate to this as I’ve written about quite often as an encouragement to others who are trying to get a handle on their weight. The good news is that livin’ la vida low-carb has indeed made me healthy by all measurable metabolic markers despite the extra pounds. That’s the solace I find in my chosen diet plan.
One of my readers who is a medical professional specializing in obesity wrote to me recently sharing quite openly of her frustration and struggle to shed the pounds. Although she helps literally thousands of patients find their path to weight loss success, she’s been unable to make it happen for herself. She poured her heart and soul out looking for answers to her weight problem after literally exhausting everything she knows to make it happen for herself. Like Dr. Benjamin and myself, she’s looking for the answers to why she’s dealing with extra pounds despite seeming to do everything correctly.
Here’s what she wrote:
I am a 31 year old female struggling to find balance and lose weight. I own a very large health and wellness clinic and I counsel tons of patients on how to lose weight and get healthy. I just can’t figure it out for myself!
I currently weigh 140 pounds, am 5’5″ and fairly athletic. I divorced my husband after 6 years of marriage a couple of years ago. My whole routine changed at that time and I started eating very low (400) calories many days. I am embarrassed to say I lost my period for two years doing this! With covering myself in work and my business, I started controlling stress by controlling food! Prior to my divorce I weighed 128 pounds.
Trying to fix this mess, I have consistently eaten 1200 calories/day for four months. I eat between 30-140g carbs/day now. Weekdays may be lower with 1500-2200 calorie days on the weekend. I lift weights and do 20 minutes of high intensity cardio 3x/week. My weight will not budge. My current MD suggested I not exercise at all right now.
What can I do? I am afraid if I add more exercise I will create too much of a calorie deficit! If I add calories then I’ll gain. I am so unhappy at this weight and I feel it’s holding me back. Please help!!!!
How many of us have had thoughts like these during our weight loss efforts? I’d venture to say just about everyone reading this has at some point or another questioned what they’re doing to produce weight loss–myself included. It can be incredibly frustrating, especially for someone who helps others with this struggle like my reader. I’m sure it can be a challenge working through it yourself knowing we are all different and respond to different things.
It sounds like her issue isn’t so much with calories as much as it us the QUALITY of the calories she is consuming along with what the food is doing to her insulin levels. I believe this is the #1 issue she should be concerned with based on what we know about the role carbohydrates play in raising insulin levels and the way increased insulin levels control fat accumulation. Getting the insulin under control by restricting her carbohydrate intake should be her main priority in reeling in her diet to see optimal results.
As you know, dietary fat is the best quality calorie macronutrient you consume because it satiates and tastes good. Saturated fats like butter, coconut oil, eggs, full fat meats and cheeses, avocados, nuts and seeds and more will comprise most of your caloric intake up to 70% of calories. And the good news is there is very little impact on insulin levels when you eat fat. Plus, in the absence of carbohydrates in your diet, dietary fat becomes your top fuel source.
Adding in moderate amounts of protein to that makes it a veritable 1-2 power-packed punch of healthy nutrition. Protein is usually included with most natural fat sources like eggs and meat, for example. Avoiding lean proteins such as chicken and turkey to prevent overconsumption of protein which can spike insulin levels and slow weight loss because of gluconeogenesis is a must!
Finally, carbohydrates should be keep to a minimum during weight loss mode to maximize the impact. Green leafy and non-starchy veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower are the staple of your diet to no more than 30g carbs daily. This will put your body in the best possible position to keep insulin minimized so you can shed pounds. If you’re consuming too many carbs, then your body must use them for energy FIRST before fat loss can commence.
Most importantly about high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb eating is your health markers will dramatically improve. Blood sugar and insulin control, higher HDL, lower triglycerides, reduced blood pressure, increased size of LDL particles, and more await you. The weight loss will come as a pleasant side effect if you commit to eating this nutrient-dense real foods dietary plan that worked for our early ancestors to make them vibrant and healthy.
If you need help beginning a routine like this, then check out my “Get Started” page for helpful links and tips to make the transition to a healthy low-carb lifestyle change. YOU CAN DO THIS!!! The key is to find a plan that will work for you, follow that plan exactly as prescribed and then keep doing that plan for the rest of your life. If you do that and are happy with what you are doing, then you can’t help but be successful.
As I’ve said many times before, too often we put the focus on weight loss almost exclusively when there’s so much more to health than that. Sure, it’d be fabulous if we could all attain the look we desire for our bodies and many people could certainly make that happen for themselves with some basic changes in their diet and exercise routine. But others of us will bust our tails nutritionally and physically just to keep ourselves from ballooning up to morbid obesity again.
No, I’m not at a perfect weight on my 6’3″ body currently, but I’m a whole heckuva lot better off than I was at 410 pounds at the beginning of 2004. Low-carb hasn’t failed me–it’s saved my life from what was a certain life of chronic disease and likely premature death. That ain’t happening for me now because I’ve chosen to be healthy through my diet choices. And the same applies to my bariatric physician reader as well as our Surgeon General who care enough about this to do something pro-active to make it happen. Whether they ever reach their so-called “ideal weight” or not isn’t as important as remaining engaged in the journey to be as healthy as they can possibly be. There’s a lesson in that for all of us.