Life – as we are all experiencing right now – can bring us many tough phases, and – when every next step seems like things are only getting worse – it can make or break a person. But Rachel Scheer has kept her courage while dealing with many extreme challenges throughout her life. She grew up in a dysfunctional home with her father who was mentally ill. Eventually, with hard work and dedication, she achieved her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. Rachel then became a successful fitness model and bikini competitor with a worldwide reputation. She gained millions of eyes through social media and her career path seemed unobstructed.
However, the tragedies of life continued to hinder her and suddenly she began to suffer from debilitating gut issues. After many false diagnoses and one doctor even suggesting the removal of her entire large intestine, Rachel decided to take her health into her own hands. Using her knowledge in nutrition and dietetics Rachel decided to become an expert on gut health and became certified in functional medicine through the Kalish Institute. “Using a functional approach and focusing on the health of the gut microbiome saved my life,” says Scheer. “All disease begins and ends in the gut, so rather than putting a ‘band-aid’ over an issue with medications/drugs/surgery, we need to get to the root cause and that’s where functional medicine comes in. My gut issues came from a bacteria imbalance or gut dysbiosis, and once I was able to address that through diet, stress, supplements, and lifestyle changes I was able to heal my body and avoid surgery.”
This life-altering experience motivated Rachel to start her own functional medicine nutrition practice so she could help others get to the root cause of their health issues. She explains why eating less and exercising more doesn’t work for sustainable weight loss.
You’ve heard it time and time again: To lose weight simply eat less and exercise more. In theory, this makes sense. In fact, science has shown that to lose weight, you need to be burning more calories than you consume. Calorie intake and expenditure definitely matter, but they are not the whole story. Yet, the food industry tells us the same thing: all calories are created the same and will have the same effect on your body. The 100 calories snack packs of Oreos are the same as 100 calories of blueberries or nuts.
If weight-loss relies solely on willpower – eating less and working out more – then why is it that we are currently experiencing such an obesity epidemic as a society? Are we all just lazy and lacking discipline? The implication that we are all lazy, eat too much and won’t exercise is in my view, harmful, cruel, and misleading. It perpetuates a harmful myth that literally kills millions from chronic disease. It implies that a diet of 1,800 calories of soda is the same as 1,800 calories of broccoli or almonds. It is the foundation of almost every weight-loss program – just eat less and exercise more. How is that working out for you?
Processed and inflammatory foods, including refined carbohydrates, sugar, industrial seed oils and vegetable oils are the problem. Consumption of industrial seed oils, the highly processed oils extracted from soybeans, corn rapeseeds (the source of canola oil), cottonseeds, and safflower oil has risen dramatically between the beginning and end of the 20th century. In fact, Americans now get almost 20% of their calories from a single food source – soybean oil – with almost 9% of all calories coming from omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory fatty acids and the rising rates of obesity and chronic diseases due to inflammation are a result of this increased consumption, says a paper in the journal >Nutrients.
Sugar and processed grains, such as white bread, cereals, and baked goods are calorie dense and nutrient poor. They also spike insulin. Insulin is the “granddaddy of anabolic hormones.” Basically, when you eat a lot of processed and refined carbohydrates, like that scone or muffin from Starbucks, it causes a surge of insulin that will trigger your fat cells to soak up the calories. But there are not enough calories and nutrients in this food to provide the body with the energy it needs. The brain recognizes the discrepancy and triggers a release of the hunger hormone ghrelin, making us want to eat more and more, and the cycle continues, explains a paper in >Missouri Medicine.
Quality over quantity
The food we eat is more than just energy but information and instructions that literally control almost every function of your body – including your hormones, appetite, brain chemistry, immune system, gene, expression, and even your mycobiome with every single bite. The quality of the information matters more than the quantity. The composition of the food you eat is what matters, most. With this in mind, here are the seven steps to better health and more sustainable weight loss efforts.
Pull the sugar
A diet full of empty calories and quickly absorbed sugar, liquid sugar calories, and refined carbohydrates – all of which convert to sugar – creates high insulin levels, eventually leading to insulin resistance. Among the many problems of chronically high insulin levels include inflammation, high blood pressure, poor sex drive, increased risk of cancer, and depression. Cutting out sugar is in my opinion the most important thing you can do to aid weight loss.
Stock up on whole, unprocessed foods
Whole, unprocessed foods balance your blood sugar, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and improve your liver detoxification to prevent or reverse insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Choose a rich variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, plenty of omega-3 fats, coconut butter and olive oil, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Whole, real foods turn on all the right gene messages, promote a healthy metabolism, reverse insulin resistance, and prevent aging and age-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Get the right nutrients
Supplements make your cells more sensitive to insulin and more effective at metabolizing sugar and fat. Combined with the right diet and lifestyle modifications, they can help you balance blood sugar and reverse or prevent diabetes. At the very minimum, I recommend*:
- A high-quality multivitamin and mineral
- 1-2g of omega-3 fatty acids
- 1,000-2,000 IU vitamin D3
- A high-quality probiotic
Get the right exercise
You needn’t spend hours at a gym to get exercise’s benefits. Even a 30-minute walk can help. Vigorous is the key for effective exercise that helps balance blood sugar and lower insulin levels, explains a paper in >The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Get your heart rate up to 70 – 80% of its maximum capacity for 60 minutes, up to six times a week. Step it up a few notches with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training as well.
Get sufficient sleep
Lack of sleep or poor sleep damages your metabolism, spikes sugar and carb cravings, makes you eat more, and increases your risk for numerous diseases including metabolic syndrome. One study in >The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism among healthy subjects found even a partial night’s poor sleep could induce insulin resistance. That’s why you must prioritize sleep so you get eight hours of solid, uninterrupted shuteye every night. Create a sleep ritual that includes herbal therapies, creating total darkness and quiet.
Control stress levels
In the face of chronic stress, our levels of insulin, cortisol, and inflammatory compounds called cytokines all increase. This drives the relentless metabolic dysfunction that leads to weight gain and insulin resistance. The links between stress, weight gain, mental disorders, and blood sugar imbalances show that managing stress becomes a critical component of obesity and diabetes management. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can learn to control it. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, massage, laughing, and dancing are among the best ways to manage your stress response.
Measure to improve
Research shows that people who track their results lose twice as much weight and do twice as well. Begin by getting a journal to track your progress. That could be as simple as a pad of paper, a notebook, a spreadsheet in your computer, or whatever is convenient and works for you. Now, what should you track? In addition to what you eat, you’ll want to get a baseline of all measurements: your weight, waist size, body mass index (BMI), and blood pressure (optional). Many people become inspired when they see their results on paper.
Instead of counting every calorie that crosses our lips and exercising yourself to burnout, we should be focusing more on the quality of the food we are eating, the type of exercise, and our daily habits. If you just try to eat less and exercise more, most people will lose the battle every time.