By Dr. Olga Cortez, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. Cross Roads Hormonal Health & Wellness
I’ve been asked by folks time and time again, “How are you so thin? What do you do? What’s your secret?” Well to be honest, I have lots of them. So, I thought that I would take the time to share how I lost weight over the course of several years. This is really a summary of what I have learned about weight loss after going to many conferences, seminars and webinars.
Basically, I’ve figured out that weight loss is much more complicated than a simple calories in, versus calories out equation. For those folks who diet and exercise and can’t lose weight; It’s not just lack of discipline. There is much more.
So I’ll start back in my 20s and move forward. As I learned more and I knew better, I did better.
So, let’s back up to age 20. I’m going to UNT, studying pre-med and engaged to the man that I would marry and remain married to. And I liked to eat. A lot. For real. At my heaviest I was 220 lbs on a 5’6” frame and honestly, looking back, I’m shocked that I wasn’t heavier. Once I decided to lose weight, I joined Jenny Craig. Over the course of 11 months, I slimmed down to 140 lbs. And I did it the old-fashioned way: CALORIE RESTRICTING. Nothing fancy. I just ate less over time and my weight went down. To be honest I wasn’t even exercising at this point. That came later in the journey.
So life went along pretty well for me once I trained myself how to eat. I went to medical school, then decided to be an OB/GYN. After residency I returned to Denton to open my practice. One of the most common questions that I got from patients was about weight loss and how to lose weight. Unfortunately, in medical school, this really isn’t taught. Consequently, you see quite a few overweight and obese doctors. I decided that I wanted to be trained in this, so I joined a group called the Center for Medical Weight Loss. They train physicians on how to counsel patients to lose weight. The formula was simple: decrease caloric intake using protein bars and protein shakes. If the patient didn’t want these options, then start appetite suppressants. So that’s what I did. I had a few patients find great success, but I also had patients with little to no success. Now these patients were calorie restricting, mind you, and exercising, just not losing weight. So what was I missing?
In one of the weight loss lectures that I went to early on in my training, food intolerances were mentioned as an afterthought. “Oh, and if you have someone who can’t lose weight have, them checked for food intolerances.” So I looked into this and got an account with a lab called ALCAT, which tests for food intolerances.
Now food intolerances are different from food allergies. I like to use the example of myself and my daughter, Grace who is allergic to peanuts. If she eats a peanut she has a full anaphylactic reaction including itching, hives and throat swelling. Scary stuff. Her immune system is activated in a way to cause this reaction. Well that activation is not an on/off switch. It’s a gradient. If you eat a certain food that you are intolerant to, it can still cause a reaction that is much less severe than my daughter’s reaction. And if you eat that food consistently over time, the chronic activation causes different issues in different people.
So, to use myself as an example: My ALCAT test revealed that I have severe food intolerances to tomatoes, coffee, tea, salmon, mint, pecans and coconut. Before I eliminated these foods from my diet, I had migraine headaches at least once a month. Now I rarely have them. In addition it’s much easier for me to keep weight off. Prior to cutting these foods out, if I had a tomato for example, I didn’t notice any immediate consequences. However, by cutting tomatoes out of my diet, it has made a huge difference in my energy level and overall health.
I have had many patients test themselves for food intolerances, cut out those foods that they tested positive for, and they then lose weight easily. So, I figured out another piece of the puzzle.
At this point I’m in my mid 30s and keeping my weight off was not as easy as it once was. So I had my thyroid checked. Like most people, this means just checking a TSH level. And it was normal. However, I was tired all the time, cold all the time, and my nails were super brittle.
I was then blessed to be trained in hormone optimization and thyroid optimization with the company BioTE. I was able to run a full thyroid panel on myself and discovered that I would benefit from thyroid supplementation. Since I have been on this supplementation, my hair and nails have stopped breaking and I’m not cold all the time. So yet another piece of the puzzle.
You may have noticed at this point that I STILL have not mentioned exercise. This is because I wasn’t exercising. Why not? Because I was tired all the time. I was working, raising three kids, delivering babies, burning the candle at both ends. You know, the normal American Mom. So I didn’t think that my constant fatigue was anything out of the ordinary…until I got my hormones tested. It turns out that I was off balance; Low in testosterone and estrogen. I then start using bio-identical hormones in pellet form and my life was completely changed. I honestly cannot say enough about the benefits of having hormone replacement therapy. It’s awesome. My energy level is great. Once my hormones were in balance, again, my weight was easier to maintain. And with the extra energy, I had the drive to exercise.
So, I won’t spend too much time on exercise here because I’m not an expert. Not even close. There are entire professions that focus on this and I won’t claim to have the magic equation, but I will tell you this. People ask me all the time “What should I do for exercise?” And my answer is “You should do what you will ACTUALLY do”. Do something you like; that you get excited about. Because if you don’t love it, then you won’t do it. It’s as simple as that.
I am a weight lifter. I have been for 6 years. And I love it. I work-out an hour each day. I realize that this may not be feasible for everyone. So do what you can do. Do what works for you.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other thing and that is supplements. I take a ton of vitamins every day. I won’t go into all of that in this article because, to be honest, vitamins are an entire article unto themselves that I will be writing about soon. However suffice to say, you need supplements. I know that they are a hassle to take, but you need them. Sorry.
ONE LAST THING
Ok the LAST thing – I have patients that have done everything that I have listed above and they still do not lose weight. If you think this is you, make an appointment in our office – because I will tell you – THERE ARE A LOT OF Y’ALL OUT THERE. And there are answers. It usually involves a lot of blood work, but we can get you those answers – and you will be able to lose weight.
Please call our office at 940-365-3030.
I look forward to helping you achieve your health and wellness goals!