The Truth about Diets and Weight Loss: An Interview with Dr. John

Editor’s Note: Everywhere you look, there’s an ad, magazine cover, or commercial telling you what the new hotness is in diet secrets and workouts. It can be confusing and honestly . . . how do you know what to believe? Don’t let the smiling, skinny people in the ads convince you; you need someone you can trust. That’s why I asked Dr. John Oertle some questions about diets, weight loss, and how you as a teen should approach your health. He’s an awesome, Catholic doctor who’s passionate about sharing the truth about the wonderful body God gave each of us. Enjoy! – Christina Mead

1. How can a teen know if they need to lose weight?

Obesity and being overweight is technically defined by a person's Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measurement calculated by utilizing an individual's weight and height. A normal BMI is within the range from 18.5 to 24.9. BMI is not always accurate for calculating if someone is a good weight because it does not actually calculate % body fat. This is because not all bodily tissue weighs the same for instance muscle is more dense than fat so someone may have a higher BMI and still be healthy because of a high muscle to fat ratio. It is important to seek out a professional opinion if you have questions regarding your individual healthy weight. This can be important especially if there is a medical reason as to why someone does not have an appropriate BMI.

Focusing on weight sometimes becomes addicting. I think it is important often time not to focus on weight loss but rather on being as healthy as we possibly can. In focusing on being healthy we don't run the risk of obsessing about the scale but rather on living a lifestyle that is fun, energy giving, and allows you to be the very best God created you to be.

Weight loss should never be the focus of a treatment plan. Eating healthy and healthy living should always be the goal. Weight loss is never something someone just does once and is done. Fad diets are very indicative of this. Being healthy which includes a healthy weight is a change in lifestyle. If being healthy is not a priority then it should be.

2. What is the best way to lose weight? Do you need a certain product or DVD series?

I can guarantee that the next fad diet will not be the best way to lose weight. Living a healthy life and losing and maintaining a healthy weight is a lifestyle. The best way to have a healthy weight is…

  1. Eliminate Sugar and Limit Starchy Carbohydrates: Sugars and starches in the body promote a cascade metabolic pathways to store calories instead of utilizing them. Eliminating sugar and reducing starchy carbohydrates allows individuals to lose weight naturally and increases energy.
  2. Exercise: Exercise is very important to provide an active metabolism, promote calorie utilization, and increase energy. It also assists with detoxification by promoting lymphatic drainage and encourages mood regulation by the release of endorphins and decreases stress. Increasing metabolism and energy, detoxifying, being happy, and decreasing stress all promote weight loss and increase quality of life.
  3. Eat Protein and Non-Starchy Vegetables: Protein and non-starchy vegetables promote calorie utilization. These calories are filled with beneficial constituents that promote health and well being. Protein also promotes satiety without causing a storage of calories to fat. Calorie restrictive diets are too often promoted as being the only thing that matters to lose weight. Calorie restriction is only a small part of a bigger picture. I feel it is far more important to focus on what you are eating then how much. When your diet consists of proteins and non-starchy vegetables it brings satiety and one is not left starving. This is why it is able to be maintained throughout the course of life instead of just a couple of weeks during a fad diet.
  4. Small Meals Throughout the Day (Don't Skip Meals): I have treated many patients who thought the best way to lose weight was to not eat and skip regular meals. They find that with not eating, the weight just stays on, and eventually hunger sets in, and empty calories are eventually eaten. I encourage small meals to be eaten throughout the day. This increases metabolism and promotes calories being eaten to be utilized. Also it is important to not eat 3 hours before going to bed because this promotes calorie storage and sluggish metabolism.

3. What is a healthy amount of weight to lose per week?

I can't stress enough . . . don't focus on weight. Focus on health. You can lose too much weight in a short period. I don't promote it because there are side effects with rapid weight loss and also it is more likely for individuals to gain the weight right back and sometimes gain more weight back when they lose it very rapidly.

4. How can we have a healthy attitude about food instead of feeling guilty for eating sweets or pizza?

Food plays a very important role in our lives. So many of my great memories focus around food, whether it be the Eucharist, family dinners, dates with my wife, hanging out with friends, or the school wide food fight that was in my cafeteria in high school. There is a community aspect to eating food. Food sustains our lives. God has created food and should be considered as a gift. This is why the tradition of giving thanks to the Lord before a meal has endured throughout centuries. God also created our bodies as a gift. It is important for us to be good stewards of our bodies. Food is a good thing, but like many things in life too much of a good thing is not always good. This is why it is important to practice temperance. 'For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control' (2 Timothy 1:7).

5. Is soda bad for you?

Yes. People think that to lose weight they can just drink 'diet soda.' In a recent study individuals were placed in two groups, a group that were instructed to only drink diet soda, and another group that was instructed to only drink regular soda. The individuals weight was checked at the beginning of the study and at the end. The group that drank regular soda was found to have gained a lot of weight, however the group of individuals that drank diet soda gained more weight than those that drank the regular soda. The study concluded that it was the artificial sweeteners that created a chemical addition to sweet that cause the individuals to crave sweets and carbs therefore gaining more weight. In a healthy life there really is no reason to have soda on a regular basis.

6. What about gluten? Should everyone be “gluten free”?

Most people do better on a gluten free diet. They feel more energy, have clearer thinking, lose weight, and have less overall inflammation. There is a large spectrum of variability when it comes to the severity of symptoms that gluten causes for each individual. Being 'gluten free' is a big commitment to implement. For many the benefits outweigh the costs associated with being gluten free. Finding a physician that understands gluten intolerances can be helpful to find out if symptoms are related to gluten sensitivities and further testing can be performed to further identify it or other food sensitivities.

7. Is there anything else you’d like to tell a teen about weight loss, dieting, and health?

The decisions that are made in high school and college are the habits that will stay with you for the rest of your life. As Catholics we are pro-life and it is important to value our own so we can be prepared to live the best life that God calls you to.

-Dr. John C. Oertle NMD

**Dieting should not be something taken lightly. Please consult the advice of your medical professional to evaluate your individual circumstance before partaking in any weight loss or exercise program.