Kyra Fowler is back with us today to finish her post from last week. She’s packed this blog full of awesome information. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions! Thank you Kyra for spending the last two weeks with us here on “The Wellness Doc” blog. Next week, Dr. Green will join us and discuss exercise. Until then Kyra writes …

WARNING: this post is a little longer than most but really could change the course of your weight loss journey if you are experiencing frustration and failed attempts!!! Also essential for an overall understanding of HOW we should eat and why carbohydrates are truly NOT our best friend, even for those who are not desiring to lose weight, but just get healthier!

Ok, so last week we made the conclusion that there just might be more to the story than calories in vs. calories out. We discussed the idea that the kind and quality of calories consumed may in fact be more import than the number of calories consumed. We also established that hormones play a role in both weight gain and weight loss, and we started the discussion on the hormone INSULIN. Insulin levels are a KEY player in our weight loss journey and our journey towards overall health and wellness, so let’s tackle insulin’s role in the story, and get to the bottom of maximizing our metabolism and getting lifelong results (while also becoming lean, mean, fighting machines).

Here is a little “carbohydrate/insulin 101” lesson to get us started! When carbohydrates are consumed they are broken down to sugar in the body. Carbohydrates include, bread, rice, and pasta (both white and wheat), potatoes, corn, chips, cookies, candy and other sweets, granola bars, cereals, pretzels, popcorn, and fruit juice (this is not an exhaustive list but a few examples). Carbohydrates can also be found in fruits, vegetables, and legumes and these options are generally a much healthier choice. Once carbohydrates are consumed, the hormone insulin is released from the pancreas. Its main role is to remove the sugar from the blood stream and transport it to places in the body to either be used for energy or stored. Unfortunately, not many of these carbohydrates are actually utilized for fuel. The majority of Americans consume far more carbohydrates than necessary. In fact, surprisingly, there is no such thing as an ESSENTIAL carbohydrate! Meaning, we can actually live without any! Pretty crazy huh!? We cannot sustain life without protein or fat, but we CAN sustain life without carbs (we are not recommending 0 carbs, but this idea is important to keep in mind as we go forward). Actually, our body will begin to burn and utilize fat for fuel instead of the carbohydrates when they are only minimal in our diet!! Sounds good to me! The carbohydrates that are not burned up are either stored in the liver (which can cause fatty liver), or packaged into triglycerides (a number you will see on your cholesterol panel). These triglycerides are then stored in fat cells, primarily belly fat. Overtime, this continued over consumption of carbohydrates and fat storage lead us into a state of insulin resistance. Meaning, more insulin is required by the pancreas to keep our blood sugar stable and normal than it used to. Insulin in normal amounts is not dangerous; however, large amounts of insulin secretion work against someone who is trying to lose weight. Large amounts of insulin cause increased hunger, fat storage, and water and salt retention, as well as increased cholesterol production from the liver! Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success to me!! It becomes a vicious cycle! IF we are hungry, we eat! If our fat is being locked up in storage, we are unable to burn it away, and as we retain more water and salt, we may begin to experience high blood pressure, swelling of hands, and feet, and abdominal bloating!

Carbs are addicting! The more we eat, the more we crave! Studies have shown us that they work on the same areas of the brain as narcotics! The more carbohydrates consumed the more insulin released. When we begin to have high levels of insulin in response to a lifestyle of over consuming carbohydrates, we are one step closer to developing multiple metabolic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity!

Knowing this, consider a 1600 calorie diet (I am picking this number randomly) of “low cal” and/or processed or prepackaged foods, such as Special K cereal, OJ, 100 calorie granola bars, “whole wheat” pasta, popcorn, pretzels, baked chips, Subway sandwiches (with lots of bread!), and brown rice, as opposed to a 1600 calorie diet of fish, chicken, grass-fed beef, green veggies, nuts, eggs, avocados, nut butters, dairy, and low glycemic (low sugar containing) fruits; such as berries. In the first example, the calories consumed are predominantly from carbohydrates, which in turn will trigger the hormone insulin and put your body into fat storage and hunger mode, again, not a recipe for success! Whereas the second example, containing lots of healthy fats and a moderate amount of protein and minimal unprocessed carbs (coming primarily from fruits and veggies) will lower your insulin level and allow those fat stores to be burned up, while also feeling full and satisfied!!! If there is one thing I have learned in the past 4 years of doing wellness counseling, if someone stays hungry, they will never maintain their lifestyle change! By decreasing your carbohydrates and increasing the healthy fats in your diet you will increase the amount of leptin (a hormone that tells your brain you are full) and find yourself fuller faster, craving less, and experiencing more energy than you have felt in years!

Start NOW by cutting back those carbohydrates, eliminating breads, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes, junk foods, sweets, sugary beverages, chips, and other processed foods that come in boxes (including FAKE fats such as margarine and vegetable oil). Instead start choosing foods from the outside isles such as turkey, chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, olive or coconut oil, real butter, LOTS of green veggies, low sugar fruits such as berries and peaches, unsweetened almond or coconut milk, and of course lots of WATER!! You will be amazed how much better you feel when your body is finally receiving the RIGHT KIND of fuel!!! Bye-bye days of calorie counting, hello healthy living and carb control!

● If you desire to learn more please view the attached document on the Dos and Donts of healthy eating! This is a great place to get started. Any of our wellness providers (NPs or PAs) would LOVE to sit down with you individually and walk you through your lab numbers, carb number recommendations, and practical lifestyle changes to guide you to a healthier YOU! Away from more and more medications and TOWARDS more energy, improved QUALITY of life and overall health and well-being, and of course thinner waistlines _ Please see our contact information to set up an appt.

● Also, we have just completed an 8 week DVD series called, VitalSigns LIVE! This series will be released for purchase in the next couple of weeks! It includes weekly nutritional advice that goes into far more detail than allowed on our wellness blog. It provides weekly workout videos, a grocery store tour, tons of educational material, and guidelines for carbohydrate limits in specific populations to produce best results! If interested please contact us at VitalSigns or Trinity Medical Assoc.

● For best weight loss results and overall metabolic health, an insulin goal of < 10 is optimal (with exception of growing children without metabolic complications). Insulin levels are NOT a standard lab drawn at most physicals but can be requested and is a simple blood test. Insulin may show elevation long before our blood sugar does, so it’s a great early marker for pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other cardiovascular risks.