Decoding Nutrition: an Interview with Dr. Lori Shemek


We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t outrun a bad diet!” The truth is, nutrition is fundamental to good health and often overlooked by people because they’re too busy, don’t know how to cook, and don’t know where to begin. Coupled with exercise, good nutrition is crucial to achieving total health. Our founder Samir Becic sat down with Dr. Lori Shemek to discuss the ins and outs of healthy nutrition and how it affects our brains, our weights, and more importantly, our immune systems.

Dr. Shemek is such a wealth of knowledge that we split up our exclusive interview with her into two parts: this one focusing on nutrition, and another highlighting the wellness industry.

“Especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are clearly seeing how a healthy lifestyle is not only recommended but is immensely important to strengthen our immune system. It has been shown that obese and unhealthy individuals have severe symptoms with a much higher death rate. Thank you, Dr. Lori Shemek for your never-ending commitment towards a healthier and fitter America” says HFR founder Samir Becic.

Lori Shemek is well known as a pioneer in creating global awareness of low-level inflammation and how it is the underlying cause of most illness, disease, faster aging, and weight gain. She has been sending out the message about inflammation long before it was a buzzword. Dr. Lori has uncovered the pathway to the core cause of weight: inflamed fat cells that not only promote unwanted excess weight gain and belly fat but poor health as well.

Lori Shemek is a Nutrition and Weight Loss expert, a best-selling author, and specializes in weight loss resistance. She has helped many people to once and for all…lose weight and feel better fast. Dr. Shemek is an award-winning, bestselling author of How To Fight FATflammation!The Ketogenic KeyBeginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting and Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! The Huffington Post has recognized Dr. Shemek twice as one of the Top 16 Health and Fitness Experts, and as one of the Top 35 Diet and Nutrition Experts. She is frequently featured on national TV shows and radio shows.

Here is the exclusive interview:

Samir: Give me three things that you, as an accomplished nutritionist, would suggest to Americans to better their health? 

Dr. Shemek: I think the first thing I would do is have people eliminate sugar and these certain oils that I was talking about earlier with you. So I would eliminate sugar and have them eliminate these very processed industrialized oils such as canola, corn, vegetable, and soy. There is so much research out there showing how harmful they are to cellular health. Our cell membrane is made up of the types of fats that we ingest and these fats are industrial, highly processed, and inflammatory- which means that it’s compromising the whole cell itself. When that happens, we become unhealthy, we’re more vulnerable to cancer, and weight gain, and hunger, and cravings, and the list goes on and on… So those are two things I would do immediately, and then the third thing is to get people to move their bodies because if you don’t move your body it’s south in terms of health. So when you stop the ingestion of sugar, you are optimizing your health just with that alone. You stop those that I mentioned- that’s even more important actually than sugar- and you’re automatically creating a healthier cell. And then, when you move- the body’s designed to move- if you could incorporate just those three things, that will seriously take you far in terms of optimizing your health. 

Samir: What you put in your body is enormously important. Tell me the worst junk foods that you would tell Americans to eliminate?

Dr. Shemek: It’s all bad, it’s all really bad for you. I’m going to go with anything that has sugar in it. I would definitely also say anything deep-fried would be the worst for your body- like french fries, potato chips, fried chicken… those kinds of foods. They’re fried in hot oil, they’re cooked in hot oil, and this oil is creating aldehydes and all sorts of noxious chemicals that actually set off a chain reaction of inflammation in the body immediately. You’re promoting faster aging, heart disease- all the things that we were told promoted heart disease are actually these oils and sugar. When you heat oil, it changes the nature and structure of the fat. That fat becomes a part of your cellular membrane and your health just spirals downward. 

Samir: What is the difference between gluten-free and gluten-friendly? 

Dr. Shemek: They’re both pretty much the same because if it’s gluten-friendly, that means you know you’re ingesting something that isn’t going to set off that inflammatory gluten response. Gluten-free means there’s no gluten at all… but that doesn’t mean that they’re healthy foods. It just means that there isn’t any gluten. 

Samir: There is a lot of confusion with food labels and terms. What are some to look out for?

Dr. Shemek: I think what happens is, a lot of people get confused when they hear the word organic or they see organic on a product, they think it’s healthy, they think “oh it’s okay.” I always say that one of the actions to take, no matter what, is to read the ingredient list. Read the labels because that’s the only way you’re going to lose weight and optimize health. So back to your question, you know gluten-free that’s a buzzword, organic is a buzzword, keto is now a buzzword, and there are so many unhealthy keto products. I was looking at a keto pizza at Whole Doods the other day, I went “oh really,” so I looked and it had 54 grams of carbohydrates in one slice- that is not keto! But because they made it with cauliflower crust, then they can say it’s keto. They actually can’t say that, but they did, and it’s misleading for so many people. It’s also very interesting how for example if people eat bread, they might purchase whole wheat bread thinking that’s a really healthy choice, when in fact, that bread can raise your blood sugar by as much as two tablespoons of sugar. That’s why I say: you have to read the labels! 

Samir: What are the best foods for people to improve their skin? To have more vibrant, elastic, younger-looking skin with fewer wrinkles?

Dr. Shemek: There are quite a few things… your skin reflects what’s going on on the inside of your body, so we go back to that sugar again and when you ingest sugar, you’re creating a biochemical reaction called glycation. It’s when sugar and proteins come together and denature the structure of the tissue within our body- not just on our skin causing wrinkles and sagging skin, but the tissue on the inside of the body as well. So it’s really important to stay away from sugar- eliminate it! I used to be addicted to sugar when I was in my 20s and when I stopped, it was one of the best things I ever did. You don’t have to be chained to that horrible ingredient, I used chromium picolinate which is a mineral most people are deficient in, and it really helps you. By the third day, you really don’t crave sugar… hardly at all, so it’s very beneficial. So number one: eliminate sugar. The other one is obviously water because it hydrates and plumps the skin. Those who don’t hydrate enough have older looking skin than those who do. The other thing is eating an antioxidant, polyphenol-rich diet because again we go back to the cell. If the skin cells are happy with all the nutrients they need, they do what they’re supposed to do and you’re gonna have beautiful skin, fewer wrinkles, less sagging. We all get older, but we don’t have to- we can slow aging. But water is always my number one tip that I give people in terms of a healthy lifestyle because water hydrates your body, allows your muscles to perform better, helps take the toxins out of your body, and makes your skin look better. 

Samir: Drinking water is enormously important to human health. Can you please tell us a little bit about how water impacts our digestive system and metabolism? 

Dr. Shemek: We need to stay ahead of dehydration, even mild dehydration. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already two percent dehydrated. Staying hydrated bumps up weight loss and it boosts your metabolism thirty percent for a couple of hours after you ingest a glass of water- that’s huge! Now imagine if we did that consistently throughout the day, and drank water throughout the day, our metabolism would be optimized. Water helps rid the body of toxins and it brings nutrients to the cell, it also stops hunger and cravings. Mildly dehydrated people have no idea that it’s the reason behind their knee pain, joint pain, and headaches. Next time you feel tired, stop and think about drinking a glass of water… because when we don’t have enough fluid in our system, cellular function slows down and so does our metabolism which leads to weight gain. Dehydration is also why you feel tired, have foggy thinking, and you gain weight. Many athletes have problems with their joints because they don’t drink enough water. A lot of people don’t realize that it actually protects you from illness and disease! People will say “oh our body has a thirst detector and we don’t need to drink water until we’re thirsty” but I beg to differ because they have done studies that show that yes, you do need to drink water to optimize your health unless you want to slug through the day. My grandmother was a perfect example- she hated water, she just would not drink it, she would drink juice right, but she was always mildly dehydrated and not healthy.

Samir: I always tell people if they want nutrition information, they should go to you, Dr. Shemek. You’re one of the leading experts in America when it comes to nutrition. You even have four best-selling books on how to fight inflammation- can you please elaborate on how inflammation affects our health and metabolism?

Dr.Shemek: So quickly…the good kind is called acute inflammation and we need it to heal- even though it feels uncomfortable. It’s swollen, it’s black and blue, it stings, but it’s necessary to stay alive, it’s a repair mechanism and it’s an immune response within the body. The type of inflammation that we now know is the core underlying cause of most illnesses, diseases, faster aging, and weight gain is called silent or chronic inflammation. There is also another type of inflammation that is called fat cell inflammation which I call “Fatflammation” and named my book after. This silent inflammation occurs within the fat cell- although the fat cell is a different entity, it’s our largest endocrine organ. Many people don’t know that the cells in our body emit a trickle of inflammatory molecules and this leads to heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, obesity, the list literally goes on and on… If we can keep inflammation low, then we can slow aging, we can stay lean and become leaner, and we can create optimal health and have protection against illness and disease. We’ve seen with COVID, that problems due to underlying health conditions are all inflammation-related, and so that’s why we need to keep it low. We can do that with diet: drinking water keeps inflammation away, supplementation is very effective as well, and exercise promotes an anti-inflammatory response within the body. We have our own endogenous antioxidants that are promoted when we move and that’s why I think movement is so important for people who want to stay healthy! Fat cell inflammation is another silent inflammation and provoked by the type of diet we choose to eat. The highly processed standard American diet with those seed oils and industrially processed oils I was referring to earlier create a compound arachidonic acid that gets stored within the fat cell and this promotes an inflammatory response. The fat cell doesn’t like it being stored there, so it begins to send out a trickle of inflammatory molecules 24/7 and this slows down the metabolism leading to weight gain. That’s why when we choose to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, our life changes: our moods change, our brain health changes, everything changes! 

Samir: I am familiar with inflammation in the body from when I did my experiment of living six weeks as a morbidly obese person by wearing a 200-lbs iron suit from morning until night.

Dr. Shemk: I remember that was amazing, oh my gosh, I felt that was truly astounding- you ran with the weights, too, didn’t you? 

Samir: I ran seven marathons in 8 weeks with a weighted vest equivalent to 73.5 pounds to motivate obese Americans to be a bit more mobile. But this particular six-week experiment was meant for me to understand obesity. When I was wearing the 200 pounds weighted suit, I was depressed- even though I knew underneath that metal I had muscle with 8% body fat. Just the pressure from the weight on my brain made it hard for me to function in addition to being sore all the time.

Dr. Shemek: Yeah, it does affect you. I had Drew Manning on my show recently, and he purposely gained 70 pounds- he’s done it twice now purposely- just so that he can empathize with people who are obese. Then he loses it to show them it can be done, but during the time he gains all that weight, he says it’s horrible. He actually got divorced this last time because of what he was going through, his personality changed, his inflammatory markers skyrocketed, it’s terrible, but it does happen.

Samir: It definitely affects your brain in such a negative way, that afterward when you come out of it, you feel more empathy towards people that are obese. It’s not like that they’re just lazy… they genuinely don’t have a good quality of life. Your other book is the Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting– let’s talk about that. 

Dr. Shemek: Yeah so my book the Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting just takes the reader very quickly on how to do it properly, because if you don’t prepare yourself for not eating, then you’re not going to do it again. It’s one of the healthiest, best tools you can use to optimize your health… the average American is ingesting 300 grams of carbohydrates a day which is a staggering amount of carbohydrates! So when you go from that amount of food to not eating, immediately, that’s not going to work out very well for you. What you do is prepare yourself to do that- the book is really beneficial at quickly helping you do that. Fasting is good because it promotes a couple of things: it gets rid of dead and dying cells that are just hanging around- they refuse to die, and they just hang around causing mischief and inflammation because the other cells think something’s going on and something’s wrong in the body. They’re called senescent cells or zombie cells because they just never go away. Science is now working on getting rid of these senescent cells which they’ve been able to do it with quercetin and a prescription medication effectively- but you don’t want to do that. Quercetin is is a compound from onions that not very bioavailable which is why it doesn’t work as effectively… but with intermittent fasting, you are naturally getting to get rid of all those senescent cells without having to take anything. The other thing that happens is called autophagy, and it cleans out the cells- it’s like cellular housekeeping, so all the old aged parts of the cell, the gunk that’s in there, everything gets used, up picked out, or remodeled into different types of proteins for the cell. Those are two very important components of intermittent fasting… not to mention that you’re creating optimal gut health because the digestive tract is getting to rest, it’s not having to do anything at all except tend to cleaning up cellular health! Brain health is increased- BDNF within the brain is promoted which is very good for memory and all sorts of wonderful things. Weight loss occurs for many people, and there’s research out there that shows that the types of foods you eat aren’t as much an issue with intermittent fasting as it is with other types of diets. If you’re fasting and your diet is not that great, you’re still gonna get the benefits. That being said, I don’t recommend eating unhealthy food, no matter what. 

Samir: One of my personal favorite fasts is when I don’t eat anything for 16 hours and eat for 8. 

Dr. Shemek: That’s the 16-8 protocol for intermittent fasting. I always recommend people start out with just delaying their breakfast an hour… so if you don’t eat during the night, you sleep eight hours, delay your breakfast for another hour, you get nine hours of fasting. Then, when you feel confident with that, you delay it another hour… until you get to 16 hours of not eating. The longer you fast, the more benefits accrue within the cell. Autophagy is really strong the longer you fast. 

Samir: I did it for two months to see if I had any decreased power but it didn’t happen. Actually, my power stayed the same, my strength, strength endurance, and my cardiovascular shape were exactly the same, and I felt more rested and had more energy. Now let’s discuss Fire-Up Your Fat Burn!

Dr. Shemek: That was my first book and all my books are about anti-inflammation. My first book is a very easy read. It touches on inflammation the importance of it because I’ve been trying to get the public to understand how vital and crucial it is for them to keep that inflammation low. When you do that, you optimize your health! It is a quick introduction to inflammation and includes recipes that guide the reader on how to quickly start reducing inflammation. You can start doing it right now by just having a cup of tea- that will begin to reverse inflammation in the body and cellular inflammation. 

Samir: In the past seven-eight months we are seeing that the most serious complications with contracting COVID-19 are in people who are obese and have an unhealthy lifestyle. What is your message to those millions of Americans who are obese and contract the virus? 

Dr. Shemek: First of all, don’t be depressed about it, don’t be scared, just be careful. Begin to slowly boost and promote immune support for yourself, start eating an anti-inflammatory diet, move your body in any way you can every day… and once you start doing that, you will be reversing inflammation- you’re stabilizing blood sugar, you’re keeping glucose lower, you’re promoting muscle mass. Our muscles are a great depository for glucose, that’s where it’s stored, so the more muscle you have, the healthier you, because chances are your blood sugar is going to be balanced. Once we start exercising, we become insulin sensitive but start small, small choices add up every single day… have that cup of tea, have some berries, eat an anti-inflammatory diet with lots of leafy greens, wild salmon for the omega-3s, and get those polyphenols in. When you ingest omega-3s, you’re stopping that inflammatory response, and the polyphenols and antioxidants from the vegetables are going to repair the tissue damage within the body. 

Samir: What are the three foods you would recommend to people looking to boost their immune systems? 

Dr. Shemek: I know a lot of people don’t like avocado, but if you like avocado, you’re in luck! All you have to do is slice it open add that to your diet- that is an incredibly healthy fat. Remember I said that the cell membrane is made up of the types of fats we ingest, well that’s one of them. And then add some olive oil, it has been shown to be very protective of that cell membrane where our optimal health is. It’s that very tiny thin membrane that determines whether we’re healthy or not. Definitely get your omega-3s in, your antioxidant-rich teas, your polyphenol-rich teas, and coffee is extremely healthy for you. If you’re fasting, coffee and tea boost more autophagy, which again is that cellular house cleaning. Drinking water is anti-inflammatory and in my book I have recipes. My last book, The Ketogenic Key has about 40 pages of super easy recipes that are very low carb. It has a ketogenic diet in there but the point is of the book is ketosis- that is where it’s at in terms of optimizing cellular health as well. When you switch your primary source of fuel from glucose to fat, you’re going to be utilizing ketones that are created in the liver. That’s a clean-burning fuel that has really profound benefits on your health, your weight, your skin, and every aspect of your body. There are other ways to get into ketosis other than the ketogenic diet- there is intermittent fasting, which we just talked about, there is exercise, which we also brought up, and then there’s exogenous ketones or supplementation with ketones. Those will get you into ketosis within half an hour, so if you don’t like the ketogenic diet, the book shows you different ways to do it.

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