Secretes To Success, by Dr. Robert Fortino

I try to drink as much water as possible, trying to consume about 3 to 4 liters in the course of a day. With this come many runs to the powder room. That could be a problem when there is car travel and commuting in the course of the day. One such particular ride from parts unknown, I found the extreme need to use the facilities. I stopped at a well established fast food chain restaurant and quickly found the appropriate accommodations. When I was finished, I walked out to the main area and stopped to look. What I noticed was people. They are just going about their day, enjoying lunch, and conversing about the particulars of their lives. It was busier today due to school being closed for spring break. I often find myself observing people where ever I go. The main observation for me is the health and fitness aspect of people. We are not winning any awards. Now, I am not judging. I am not being mean, but I am simply pointing out the fact that we just are not as healthy today as we were 40-50 years ago. The obesity rate for New Jersey children is about 24%, and for adults it is about 26%. New Jersey is ranked 48 out of 51 for obesity overall. However, the numbers are close for all states. Nearly 40% of adults aged 40-50 are obese. About 30 % of adults aged 20-39 are obese, and about 35% of people older than 60 are obese. Statistics from the USDA from 1950 to 1960 showed that 33% of adults were just “overweight” and about 10% where clinically obese. Stats from the 1970’s showed that 4% of children under 11 years old and 6% of teens were obese. What happened? We have better fitness trends, better medicine innovations, computers, high tech gadgets and more discoveries today than during the 1950’s. But we are not as healthy. Today, we are focused on eating low fat and low calories. This is not working. By 2030 there will be nearly 500 million people being treated for Diabetes.

When someone comes to me for weight loss advice, the one thing that I find that is very common is to get that person to understand that there is a problem with what they are eating. They do know that they have gained weight, and their clothes are not fitting so well. I often get the remark, “I don’t know why I weigh so much, because I really don’t eat a lot”. It is just not normal to be 5 foot something and weigh in at 200 pounds. The problem is “recognition”. We must recognize that there is a problem. What we are eating is the main culprit. A common comment from my patients is “I had my doctor check my thyroid to see if it was sluggish”. Studies show that the thyroid may play less than 2% of the time as the culprit on gaining weight.   Menopause also can be a problem, but not in the way you think. I do see many women who have hit that milestone in their lives, and want to blame it on the “Hormones”. The weight just seemed to come on with “The Change”.

Today, we are distracted with raising kids, working, going to school, and providing “service” to others while placing ourselves last. Now, you finally have time to concentrate on yourself and you noticed that you gained so much weight, you have a different wardrobe, and you have no energy or patience for anything or anyone. Where do you start? This is all part of the process of recognition. Most of the problem lies in what we eat. We tend to consume calorie dense foods. Refined carbohydrates mostly. We live minute to minute. We are stressed, and sleep deprived. This combination goes on for YEARS, but it is unrecognized, until you come to see me. Then, I point this out, and you receive your “LIGHTBULB MOMENT”. Now we have to fix it. What we eat provides the foundation for energy and metabolism, and the body needs “FOOD” for the main energy source. Our body is remarkable at metabolizing food into small single molecules of sugar. If there is no sugar to burn, your body will make it from some other substrate like muscle, (amino acids) or fat. For the most part, we are very well fed, so the body has no problem converting stores of sugar, (glycogen), into a readily usable substrate to be metabolized. The main key in getting sugar into cells for metabolism is the hormone insulin. The problem that has become epidemic is “Insulin Resistance”. Insulin resistance is a state in which a given concentration of insulin is associated with a subnormal glucose response. The food we are consuming today is the main culprit. Our insulin cannot metabolize all the refined sugar we consume. We are consuming processed carbohydrates from fast foods, microwaveable meals, breads, wheat, and junk foods. This is taxing our insulin response, (pancreas), and making it inefficient. The result: A new wardrobe, or BIG BELLIES.

We are also “UNPREPARED” for our nutritional needs, and often use the easiest forms of food, PROCESSED CARBOHYDRATES. If you eat the right food, your body will metabolize it efficiently, and you will avoid insulin resistance and have less rebound hunger. So, be prepared for your hunger. Think simple. Eat foods that you HUNT AND GATHER. Eat foods that you PULL OFF A VINE, OR PULL FROM THE GROUND. These are “NUTRIENT DENSE” foods. These foods will control your appetite. Also, you will be “satisfied” with fewer calories. Your appetite is something that you created. You created these crazy, erratic eating patterns with calorie dense foods that cause rebound hunger. They cause your insulin levels to rise and drop repetitively. We call the process of rising and falling “FLUX”. This constant rise and drop of insulin leads to a resistant flux. This will eventually produce an inefficient insulin response. With an inefficient insulin response the excess sugar will be stored as FAT. You are now feeding the beast inside you, and your body “EXPECTS” food to come at a certain time, and in a certain quantity. This is repeated over and over FOR YEARS! You now have more fat around your waist line.  You must change, and your body may not like it. Stick to the right foods, and in a few days your body will thank you. Consuming protein in the form of meats, fish, foul, dairy, and plants is a great way to control appetite. Plants are wonderful to consume. They have the ability to control the insulin response and also control appetite. Protein foods are NUTRIENT DENSE foods. These foods are broken down into simple sugars and used for metabolism. Bring simple foods with you to work or school. Hard boiled eggs, fruit, avocado, or a vegetable smoothie shake. These foods will keep without refrigeration. You can also use a protein shake supplement. If you are prepared with the right foods, you will make better choices. These foods keep your insulin response more efficient and level. This is an important process for “FAT BURNING”.

Let’s clarify the sugar in fruit. Fruit is also a NUTRIENT DENSE food. Fruit has a wonderful natural sugar called FRUCTOSE. What makes this sugar so magical is its ability to be metabolized directly by the liver without the aid or need of insulin. Basically, fruit does not cause insulin resistance, because the “sugar” load (fructose), is small in concentration to the fruit itself. So, the amount of fructose in a piece of fruit compared to its mass is very low. Fruit becomes a very valuable food in maintaining nutrition and curbing hunger. When we eat carbohydrates such as wheat, starch, flour, or refined sugars (high fructose corn syrup), our insulin response may be inefficient to handle the sugar load. This process is generally repeated may times over, day after day, and leads to “Insulin Resistance”. Eventually, you will probably gain weight.

There are many medical studies performed on diabetic patients that demonstrated that reducing carbohydrate intake leads to improved glycemic (blood sugar) control. So, the process of eating to control your insulin response does not lay in calorie restriction, but CARBOHYDRATE RESTRICTION. Reduce carbohydrates, not calories, to lose weight.   Eat simple foods, proteins, fruits and vegetables.

Now that brings us to another component, FAT. You should not follow a LOW FAT DIET; you should follow a LOW CARBOHYDRATE DIET. Fat does not make you fat. You need fat. Fats are “Energy Dense” foods. We get more than twice the energy out of a gram of fat than we do from carbohydrates or proteins. But, I am not talking about the man-made fats from fast food, or hydrogenated fats. I mean the fats from fish, meats, eggs, and olive oil. These are important for making hormones and cell structures in our body. You do not want to eat margarine, you want butter. You do not want low fat Greek Yogurt, you want full fat yogurt. The egg is the most perfect food. Eat the white for the protein and the yoke for the fat soluble vitamins and cholesterol. Leaving out the yoke deprives your body of the necessary fat soluble vitamins. You are not going to blow your cholesterol through the roof.   You are not going to give yourself a heart attack. Studies show that certain cultures (Mediterranean) that consume monounsaturated fats have less obesity, heart disease, and better longevity. There are 3 basic fats that are in food: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The ratios of these fats in foods vary in meats, fish, oils, and nuts. The classic “OLIVE OIL” is mostly monounsaturated fat, although, it does have some saturated and polyunsaturated fat as well. So, the moral is: Do not to be afraid to eat good fat. What you really want to restrict is carbohydrates in the form of wheat, flour and refined sugars. These carbohydrates make up breads, cereals, pastry, oatmeal, noodles, wraps, chips, snack foods, candies, soda, fruit drinks, pastas, salad dressing, bagel, cookies, and many “HEALTH FOODS”. You must read your ingredients and food labels. Be informed about what goes hand to mouth. Eliminating the wheat and refined sugars improves your glycemic control through improved insulin sensitivity. Wheat has been shown to cause autoimmunity, inflammation, and addiction. “Two slices of whole wheat bread can raise your blood sugar more than two tablespoons of table sugar”. (Read WHEATBELLY by Dr. William Davis). When you eliminate refined carbohydrates from your diet and consume a healthy balance of plants and proteins, your insulin response becomes more efficient. You will use less insulin to metabolize these foods, and the result will essentially be improved fat metabolism, and a better wardrobe.

To enhance the fat burning process, make your muscles move! Lifting weights improves muscle energy expenditure, and improves insulin response and glycemic control. It also improves bone density and hedges off osteoporosis, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression and a whole lot more medical problems. This leads to a leaner physique and better clothes. Our metabolism is really a function of our lean body mass, our MUSCLES. As we get older and less active your muscles basically shrink. You are not exercising so your muscles only need to be strong enough to complete your daily tasks. The more active your muscles are, the more efficient your metabolism will be. The recovery from a weight lifting session takes about 2-3 days, depending on your level of experience and muscle

density. This has a metabolic effect to enhance fat burning more so than aerobic (treadmill) training. So, 20 minutes of weight training is better than an hour on the treadmill. You will not become Arnold Scharzenegger with a few sessions of pumping iron, but you should not be afraid to train like a warrior!

Lastly, one really powerful way of reducing the body’s need for insulin is FASTING. Fasting has been proven to improve immunity, improve glycemic control, and reduce the body’s inflammatory response set off by carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are addictive and can attack the same brain centers as cocaine addiction. That is why so many of us have a “withdraw” effect when we go cold turkey from carbohydrates. You can even practice intermittent fasting. This is a simple technique that will allow you to detach from many of your eating habits. Intermittent fasting is simple. The first step is to pick a time that you want to start. Most people do this around the sleep cycle. Stop all eating at 7 p.m., and fast throughout the night. Hopefully you are sleeping most of the night. Continue to fast the next day until about noon. This gives you about 12-14 hours of a fast. Then resume your noon time meal as usual. The fasting seems to “reset” your insulin levels and your body will naturally burn fat as energy substrate. You may drink as much water as you want while fasting. Do this 3 days in a row with 2 days off. Repeat this cycle.

In summary, change can be very difficult. Recognition of your problem and the ability to make a change can be a challenge. You will find it hard to detach from certain behaviors. However, when you see the positive results, you will be more motivated. The late and great Arthur Ashe said “One important key to success is self confidence; and the key to self confidence is PREPARATION”. He meant plan and prepare, but couple that with practice and patience. Do not leave home without the proper food. When you food shop, only buy foods that “God Put On This Earth”, meaning eat foods that you can say you pulled out of the ground or pulled off the vine. Read all your food labels and get to know how many calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fats are in the food that you are eating. “Have Boundaries”. Again, avoid the refined sugars. Keep your carbohydrates low; say less than 40 grams per day. All the information and data you need to calculate this is on your food labels. The internet has so much information as well. Educate yourself on the foods that you are eating. “Exercise!” Incorporate exercise in your life. Build your muscles. Put down your electronic device and turn off your television. Walk, jump rope, do push-ups, do sit-ups, or ride a bike; take a martial arts class, study yoga, swim, or lift weights. Get your body in shape. Start slow but keep moving. There are many ways to become a Warrior. Find yours! This will require some hard work. It will not be handed to you on a silver tray. You will have to work for it, but it will be the most rewarding experience you will do. Don’t you deserve better?!