Dr. Lori Shemek Psychology of Optimum Health
Dr. Lori Shemek
Jonathan: Hey everyone Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast very cool show for you today. We have a very unique guest. Her history today and her story is incredibly intriguing to me and how she got to where she is today and how that influenced her approach. I’m very curious to unpack that story with you and here’s what I’m talking about.
She’s got a doctorate in psychology which is really neat. She spent years working as a case work therapist and a vice president of Family Outreach, which is a Non-profit Organization For The Prevention Of Child Abuse and Neglect. Now she’s taking that and she’s working more much with nutrition, much more with inflammation, much more how nutrition, inflammation and the food you eat work together.
She is a life coach and a counsellor that is integrating all of this formal training, this social work, this nutrition passion. She’s a really friendly smiley lady. I said you know let’s get Dr. Lori Shemek on the show to share that really cool journey. Dr. Lori welcome to the show.
Dr. Lori Shemek: Introduction
Dr. Lori: Hi Jonathan thank you very much. It’s an honour to be here as you know, I appreciate it.
Jonathan: Dr. Lori just to get started can you please take us through your story that what led you up to today because it’s not the typical path.
Dr. Lori: Right. No it isn’t. Well let’s see I can go back to when I was, you know it all started as it does for most of us in our childhood and I remember my mother being sick most of my childhood and she was just, she’s was a beautiful woman. She was a model and very young when she got married and she was very young when she had me, just 19 years old. So as her life went on and after I was born she had two more children. Her lifestyle choices created an unhealthy life for her.
I remember as a young girl walking into her room, her bedroom and seeing her just lying there suffering from one thing or another and always wondering you know when thinking intuitively knowing that she could make different choices but she didn’t. So she was very overweight, she smoked heavily, she ate poor foods and in fact she wouldn’t let us eat those foods. So she was eating things like coffee cake, sugar and lots of sugar in her coffee, you know how goes.
So as time went on she became less able to take care of us and I actually took over taking care of my two younger brothers. Her health actually spiralled downward as time went on and this whole time, you know she’s a single mother of three young children. As you know a young girl I was always looking to, I was always reading medical journals or books or nutrition even as a very young child. She would walk by and just shake her head you know there she goes again.
I remember one day she bought a bottle of vitamins and she put it on her dresser. I remember every day I would walk into her room and check to see if she had taken a vitamin. Well she never did and that vitamin bottle just sat there on that dresser for a long time and I continued to look for a while but eventually I stopped looking. One day at the very young age of 36 she passed away and left three young children without anywhere to go really.
So that was my moment in my life because I knew that she could have made different choices and it spurred a career choice in me at that point it was psychology. After I graduated I went to College and got my doctorate in psychology and started counselling. My personality is like the helping profession. We all have this we want to help people to get better. During my time with my clients at Family Outreach I actually started creating nutritional customized analysis for my clients.
I was actually doing this for friends, family friends and people of people you know and it changed the way they behaved, my clients behaved. It changed their focus, how they viewed their life, their self-esteem even their children. Here they are they’re making healthier nutritional choices and their children were not crazy like they were before running around misbehaving. Things were better for them and so I one day decided that my true love was helping people and health. I decided to combine the two and that is why I do what I do. So my mother bless her heart she’s the one who motivated me in that way.
Jonathan: Dr. Lori I so appreciate you sharing this story. I can imagine it’s a little difficult to share. I didn’t even actually realize the depths of the challenges you faced and there’s two things that I wanted to focus on from that story. The first is what strikes me the most is it would have been very easy for you in your circumstance, like my impression based on the work I see you doing is that you took that experience and you said never again, not for me and not for anyone else.
Dr. Lori: Exactly.
Jonathan: But it would have been very easy for you to say poor me and to continue that cycle but rather you did what Stephen Covey calls become a transition person. You said I’m gonna take this negative circumstance and I’m gonna use it to ensure that it never happens to anyone else to the best of my ability. What do you think, since you experienced it personally, some people take the path of never again and some people take the path of poor me?
Dr. Lori: I think it’s how open you are to the experience, how you look at all facets of an experience because I was looking at my mother really even through young eyes objectively and you know thinking here I am as her daughter trying to live a healthier life seeing her make these unhealthy choices. Part of it I believe is something that’s within us that’s not given to us.
It’s something that we are able to see because there are you know my brother on the other hand was just the opposite, he was the poor me and I think it’ s just the ability. I also think it has a lot to do with childhood resilience. People who are resilient as children tend to fare better in life and make better decisions. Not that I’ve made the best decisions in my whole life but it helped over all.
Jonathan: Dr. Lori do you, in your training as a psychologist and as a counsellor, are there things that an individual can do, because I’m thinking of disability to transcend circumstance and then to “use” not necessarily to our advantage but it in some ways if someone who goes through what you went through and then can show like look I transcended this that’s a powerful example.
In some ways you were given an opportunity which you then took and now inspire others with and especially when it comes to health. We’ve all heard individuals who have breast cancer and they live through it and that inspires us because they transcended something. Is there something we can do if we’re in a position of ill health or significant overweight where we can start to see that almost as an opportunity because if you drop a hundred pounds healthfully you’re gonna inspire some people.
Dr. Lori: Oh yes absolutely.
Jonathan: So how do we shift that mind-set from I’m a victim to I have an opportunity to not only change my life but to change others as well?
Dr. Lori: Well I like to look at and I don’t know, this is a very broad topic but we now know that we have 90% control of the outcome of our health genetically. Speaking from a mind-set point of view even though it’s a physical point of view, we actually do have control of our gene expression. That includes the thoughts of think and the outcome of our health whether positive or negative.
Going back to the person for example whose a hundred pounds overweight or any obstacle you may encounter, one small tiny step at a time is the way to go because it instils not just confidence but it instils also motivation as well.
Jonathan: It also seems like there must be a virtuous cycle there where when you on Monday you can say I did this and I succeeded and then on Tuesday I did this and I succeeded. Then you start to have a bunch of references that help you to believe that you can be successful moving forward.
Dr. Lori: Right. I like to tell my clients that weight loss is just a number in the end because a lot of people focus on that but I’d like to get them to focus on the journey of it. I know the word journey has been over used a lot but it really is a path you’re on. If you look at it as a day by day as opposed to that end result because let’s face it we Americans love everything done immediately.
It has to be done now. Any type of weight loss, any obstacle and that includes myself. If I have a project that I need to do I take tiny steps toward the completion of that goal or overcoming that obstacle for example.
Jonathan: It also seems infinitely more focused on the long term which seems so important because it really in the area of weight loss and health it doesn’t seem like the issue is “weight loss.” Almost everyone I’ve ever met has lost weight at some point in time. The issue is long term health and fitness.
Dr. Lori: Yes, I lost audio.
Jonathan: Oh sorry, can you hear me now?
Dr. Lori: Yes.
Jonathan: Sorry what’s the last thing you heard?
Dr. Lori: Nothing.
Jonathan: No problem. Let me just take a quick note here about where in the audio this dropped off because then I’ll fix it, here we go. Lori the other thing that seems key here is these small step approach seems infinitely more focused on the long term because it seems like everyone’s lost weight at some point in time. The issue is not losing weight temporarily, it’s being healthy and staying fit long term.
Dr. Lori: Yes it’s about consistency. Truly I like to hammer on this one home a lot. It’s about valuing yourself really. If you value yourself, if you feel that you are worthwhile enough to have optimal health then you will take the steps necessary because if you think about it, even though you know for example that that candy bar is not good for you but you eat it anyway, that means then that you’re not valuing you, your health enough to take that small step, to take a small step. So it’s all about self-worth in the end. It really is.
Jonathan: Dr. Lori I’m encouraged also, I’m curious if you saw or this is a motivation for you in the area of helping people to just live better. There’s so many things in life that we have really no control over. For our professional pursuits, if you are like athletic, there’s a bunch of politics, other people have to do things, we depend on other people. Like at the candy bar example you just gave, at the end of the day, I cannot think of anything that we have more control over in this world than how we move our own body and what we put in our mouths. That seems to be the one thing or one of the few things we actually do have control over.
Dr. Lori: It’s also to about knowledge. Yes we have control but we also have to have the knowledge about, for example there is a vast difference in the way the body metabolizes a candy, a hundred calorie candy bar for example versus a hundred calorie of broccoli. It’s really about knowledge, putting it all together. I like to make sure that people are really knowledgeable and educated in terms of nutrition because then they can make the best choices.
Jonathan: Dr. Lori what have you seen to be the biggest obstacles in your, that’s always been my experience people say well isn’t this just a worldwide problem and I say no. No mother gives her child cigarettes. Why? Because she knows they’re bad for her child. So what are the biggest information barriers you’ve seen in your practice?
Dr. Lori: I believe it’s the media and the food manufacturers because you look at sugar for example it’s in almost every product and people, we now know, recent research has shown that sugar is literally addictive, as addictive as morphine or cocaine. People are like I can’t get off sugar it’s so addictive. Well we all knew, you and I knew this years ago that it was an actual addiction. Well they confirmed that and people are paying attention to sugar.
This is the problem is the food manufacturers, they knew this and so they’re waiting, they’re standing there waiting for you to buy this product, whatever it is and so it’s a big money business. Sugar is highly addictive, highly inflammatory, white flour and even the complex carbs as well.
Jonathan: Dr. Lori do you see there being a, because you started going down that path, like once we acknowledge that sugar has these consequences on the body, it’s impossible to not acknowledge that for example a slice of whole wheat bread actually does more of that than two tablespoons of sugar even though it’s “whole wheat”.
Dr. Lori: Exactly. For example flour tortillas, Mexican flour tortillas have a lower glycaemic index than whole wheat bread. You think whole wheat bread oh that’s healthy, that has fibre in it, it’s a whole grain. Well it’s different because whole wheat bread doesn’t have much fat in it but the flour tortilla does. Anytime you add fat to anything, any food you’re slowing down the waste is metabolized in the body. You’re slowing down that sugar released in the body.
I like to tell my clients that, they say well what’s better for me is it you know, I always eat they say fat free frozen yogurt and I always say stay away from that. If you’re gonna have ice cream at all have the real stuff because its full of fat and the gastric emptying is much slower.
Jonathan: Dr. Lori does that excite you as much as it excites me? The reason I say that is because health has got to be enjoyable, it’s got to be something we can enjoy. Historically this low fat mythology has led us down the path of believing that all we can eat is cabbage soup and celery sticks if we’re to be healthy. If we are free to eat high quality carbohydrate and high quality fat, high quality protein, just high quality it seems infinitely doable.
Dr. Lori: Yes it is and like I said before education is key so you don’t want to eat a lot ice cream and you don’t want to eat a lot of flour tortillas. The thing about it is, I always say you can incorporate foods into your diet that are not considered healthy. You’re right, the fat, the low fat craze is still amongst us. Seriously 90% of the population is afraid of fat and fat is our friend, healthy fat is our friend.
Jonathan: Not to mention the satisfying. In fact you gave that you gave the example of that yogurt where if you’re gonna eat the yogurt, the one with the fat you finished eating it, okay yeah that was good, alright yeah. Whereas you eat the other kind and you’re like that’s kind of hollow.
Dr. Lori: For example this morning I ate half of an avocado. Now most people would shudder in horror at that. I’m slim, I am not over weight and I do that all the time and yes you can have fat. But it’s more important I would say overall to reduce the carbohydrates in the diet to a degree. Focus less on carbs, more on protein and other types of carbohydrates like fruits and veggies, especially veggies.
Jonathan: Absolutely we love vegetables over here. You were drawn to this path because you noticed that when people did this moving away from the starches and sugars and moving more towards nutrients dense foods that they literally change their mind it seems in addition to changing their body.
Dr. Lori: It absolutely does. You know because we’re not getting the blood sugar spikes with the carb focused diet. Too many people are addicted to carbs, too many people their plate is mostly carbs. So what’s happening even with the complex whole grain carbs, your blood sugar spikes super high and then it drops fast. Much like throwing a ball high up into the air and watching it fall rapidly to the ground.
That’s inflammation in action and you’re triggering insulin excessively and when that happens the cells begin to ignore insulin a little bit. If it keeps happening you’ll have some serious issues down the road. The blood sugar spiking and dropping is really a problem for people because it makes you hungry and insulin like and it’s triggering, and insulin likes to store fat and it likes to keep it there. Good old insulin.
Jonathan: Good old insulin. Well Dr. Lori I know you’re a huge, not fan but you’re a huge fan of combating inflammation. What’s next for you on this journey of mental health, physical health and anti- inflammatory counselling?
Dr. Lori: Well I am in the process of writing another book. My first book Fire up Your Fat Burn is all about losing weight and its relationship to inflammation. My next book is coming out and it will be called Fat Flammation and it’s the direct connection between weight gain and low level inflammation and how to stop it, reverse it.
Jonathan: Oh can you give us, obviously don’t give away the farm here but can you give us a little hint at what that connection is?
Dr. Lori: Yes that connection is low level inflammation. When we reduce, reverse this type of inflammation weight just melts off. It’s going to be full of tips and tricks and strategies and something easy for people to apply.
Jonathan: Dr. Lori I am very much looking forward to that it sounds a lot like all over here in terms of this metabolic clog. Where when we can just get out of our metabolism’s way for a lack of a better term, slim can become simple interestingly enough.
Dr. Lori: I love that.
Jonathan: Well Dr. Lori thank you so much for joining us today it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Dr. Lori: Thank you Jonathan it was an honour. Thank you.
Jonathan: Listeners I hope you enjoyed this wonderful conversation as much as I did. Today’s guest again is Dr. Lori Shemek. You can learn more about her at her website which is dlshealthworks.com. That’s D as in dog, L as in llama, S as in Samuel, healthworks.com. Dr. Lori Shemek and remember this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better.