Did you know that September was Fruits & Veggies month?
Did you know you can give your body fat-burning instructions? Dr. Brooke Kalanick, N.D., MS, Lac, knows. She is co-author of the book Ultimate You, a body makeover plan that uses cutting-edge training and eating strategies to set up the optimal fat-burning environment in your body. (Her co-author, Joe Dowdell, created the 4-phase fitness plan in Ultimate You, as well as this month's Tone Up for a Two-Piece workout.) We chatted by email with Dr. Brooke about her hormone-focused approach to weight loss, and about the secrets of life-long metabolism mastery.
Women's Health: In Ultimate You you write "in order to lose fat one should focus less on calories and more on the way food effect's one's hormones." Why are hormones so critical to weight loss?
Brooke Kalanick: Food is more than calories; it contains information, or a message, for your body. One hundred calories of baked potato gives you 100 calories of energy, but its high carb load triggers the hormone insulin, sending the message to your body to store fat. One hundred calories of chicken breast sends the message to burn fat, by triggering a hormone called glucagon.
And it goes beyond the commonly talked about metabolic hormones like insulin. Our sex hormones have profound effects on our amount of body fat, as well as where we store it, and this is overlooked in most nutrition advice. Simply look at a man and a woman's body shape and you'll see the effects of the sex hormones on our physique. Estrogen for example, fills out our hips, giving us a feminine shape, but when it's dominating a woman's hormonal landscape [estrogen] can make it very hard to shed fat—particularly from trouble spots like the hips and thighs.
The real trick of it all is that all of these hormones work together; no one is good nor bad, nor should be singled out--but instead all orchestrated in a symphony where everyone's in harmony. Ultimate You tries to teach women about all of the hormones affecting their physique—without being a crash course in biochemistry, but in a practical way that helps them set things back in balance.WH: Should a person get their hormone levels checked before starting to eat as outlined in your book?
BK: It's definitely not necessary; we provide lots of questionnaires that help the reader use their own symptoms as a guide to target specific hormones. Testing can be useful. However in some cases, such as with female hormones, disruption is often not detected on standard lab testing. Consider that a blood test is a snapshot of a woman's hormonal landscape—and what we really need to see is the entire movie. Same is true with stress hormones like cortisol.
So other testing—such as salivary testing—over the course of a month with female hormones or throughout an entire day for adrenal hormones (also stress hormones)—are much more useful. To get this type of testing find a doctor that practices functional medicine (functionalmedicine.org ornaturopathic.org). However if you suspect you are insulin resistant, having your MD run what's called a fasting insulin along with your fasting blood sugar via a simple blood test can be useful. I consider a fasting insulin test result above 5 to show insulin resistance (which is lower than the standard reference range). Thyroid function is also seen on blood tests. We provide a list of all the tests necessary to see the full hormone picture in Phase 4 ofUltimate You. If you suspect you have a thyroid issue, testing is a great idea and to get all of the information; ask your doctor to run all of those tests we list.
WH: You offer a suggested week of menus in the book, but not a day-by-day eating plan. Why not?
BK: Ultimate You is not a diet, but rather a lifestyle. It is about empowerment and education. Diet books that lay out a day-by-day eating plan can set up the reader for failure later. When the book's over and there's no one telling you what to eat every day, people find themselves back to their old habits. I encourage all of my patients, and the readers ofUltimate You, to take the time to understand what makes up a meal: fibrous veggies, lean protein, healthy fat, and—if desired—an optimal starchy carb in your prescribed amount (phase 2 of Ultimate You helps you find your carb tipping point). When they understand the what and the why, they can look at dozens of meal ideas and easily substitute other veggies or proteins they prefer. So, not only do they get to eat foods they enjoy more, but they learn how to create meals for themselves for the long term.
We gave two different week-long menus as guidelines for women who feel they need that type of structure to get started, and we included a large recipe appendix as well. The recipes in Ultimate You can be easily modified and that taste great – so you can feel good feeding your family or guests, and no one will feel like they are on a "diet".
WH: What's the single most powerful step one can take toward optimizing one's metabolism?
BK: Manage your stress. It might sound crazy as we consider stress to be "calorie free," right? But in our modern world we are so inundated with stress and "busy-ness" that our sleep, appetite and cravings are all out of whack, making it much harder to make better food choices, and much easier to create a fat-storing, vs. a fat-burning, situation in our bodies.
Stress hormones have one main job: get your blood sugar up (it goes back to an ancient survival mechanism where stress meant your body needed fuel—sugar—to either run from a predator or fight it, or survive a long winter without food, etc). In our modern world our stresses don't need so much fuel; they usually happen sitting at our desks or stuck in traffic, but the mechanism is the same. Unrelenting, repetitive stress turns on fat storage and it triggers cravings for fatty and sugary foods—making the choice to eat the veggie omelet for breakfast over the doughnut a battle of wills.
Our life stressors sometimes feel beyond our control, but some stresses are well within our control. Eating breakfast religiously (one that includes protein, veggies, and some healthy fats) and getting on a meal schedule of eating every 3 - 4 hours avoids any added stress and fat-storing hormone release.
WH: Naturopathic physicians receive a rigorous and deep education in nutrition. What aspects of your training were most helpful in designing theUltimate You eating guidelines?
BK: During our first of four years in Naturopathic medical school we learn the foundations of Naturopathic medicine: first, do no harm; be a teacher and guide to the patient; treat the cause treat the whole person; aid in prevention and support the body's natural ability to heal itself (this is called the vis medicatrix naturae in naturopathic medicine, known as Qi orPrahna in other forms of medicine).
Those principles become the framework for treating any patient or condition.
So, excess weight, for instance, is not the issue, it's the symptom—telling us something internal is off. When it comes to helping someone shed fat I look at why they are having trouble getting or staying lean in the first place: is it digestion, stress, female hormones, brain chemistry, food allergies, heavy metals, mental roadblocks, etc? And I treat that—the cause. Of course, it may be more than one of those things, so it's important to treat the whole person. By working in the hormone realm I'm always helping patients get healthier as well as get leaner, thus preventing future health issues. A very disheartening stat is that 95% of people who lose weight fail to keep it off, so it's crucial to get those underlying factors set right so people can have lasting success and health. It's a lofty goal, but I would hope any women who follows Ultimate You would never need another "diet book" again.
WH: What dieting myth would you most like to dispel?
BK: That simply eating more "flat belly foods" or "fat torching antioxidant rich berries" is the best way to shed fat. I see so many women who are loading up on whole grains for fiber, fruit or "superfruit" juices for antioxidants, and eating handfuls of organic nuts every day for those healthy fats. And they are gaining weight, their skin is breaking out, and they are totally confused and frustrated! Many of these healthy foods pack a big carb punch that can send a women's insulin through the roof.
Food is medicine and as an ND (Naturopathic Doctor) I certainly love a diet rich in plant nutrients; I also encourage the consumption of healthy fats like nuts and avocado. But it's important to be clear on the goal when you are making dietary choices. If the goal is to increase antioxidants, then, yes, more fruit is a good way to go. If the goal is fat loss, then 1 - 2 fruits per day is the limit for most women. Nuts are great fats, but they are also a great way to rack up calories, ¼ cup of nuts or 2 tsp nuts a couple times per day will give better fat- burning results.
Finally, when you think fiber, think veggies, not grains! For fat loss, veggie fiber gives you all the satiating, healthy digestion-promoting fiber without the carb load. So while a healthy diet might not be the best fat-burning diet, the Ultimate You fat burning diet is most definitely a health diet—so, it's win win.
WH: Are there any favorite foods or eating tips of your own that didn't make it into the book?
BK: We certainly tried to cover it all in Ultimate You! It's quite long for a book of its kind. We did dedicate an entire chapter to prepping for the ultimate you, and I think that's the most important, yet often overlooked, part of weight loss. It's easy to show someone the hormonally-balanced, fat-burning, and tasty Ultimate You nutrition plan, but if they can't follow it, it's useless.
Most everyone does great right out of the gate; they are motivated and excited, they really rock it . . .for about 3 - 4 weeks. Then life happens again—that same life that created a body they weren't satisfied with in the first place.
It takes time, money, and energy to be healthy—and it takes time, money, and energy to be sick and unhealthy. Take the time to get clear on why you want to lose weight and change your body. The reason better be a good one (one worth getting up early to workout for, one worth skipping cocktails with the girls for, one worth spending a little more on high quality foods for)! Get clear, commit to that goal, get your life set up to support that goal. Fat loss requires being a little more strict for a period of time, then you get to loosen the reigns and find where your livable diet is. Knowing it is "just for now" takes away that restricted feeling most women have when they are trying to lose weight. Put some resources towards getting ready for your new healthy lifestyle, get support if you need it, and take the time to get set up for success.
Come by and see us today for a consultation so we can get you on the right track for LIFE!