Interview With Dr. Lori L. Shemek, PhD


HFR is on a quest to find the best information and most qualified experts in health and fitness in order to educate the public on healthy lifestyle. We found one in Dr. Lori Shemek, who is one of the foremost experts in the field of weight loss and nutrition. Her groundbreaking research on the relation between inflammation and weight gain has led to a rethinking of the American diet, and is profiled in her acclaimed book, How To Fight FATflammation! HFR founder Samir Becic has a great deal of respect for Dr. Shemek and her work, and was glad to have the chance to interview her for our readers. The two have worked together in the past, united in their desire to increase health and eliminate obesity.

Here is the Dr. Lori L. Shemek interview:

When did you first get interested in nutrition and weight loss?

From the time I was a child I was interested in health and it was not unusual to see me reading anything health related as a young girl. However, my mother was constantly ill, smoked heavily and was very overweight. I knew intuitively that my mother’s choices were not healthy for her. My mother sadly, died at the very young age of 36 leaving behind 3 young children with nowhere to go. Our choices affect not just us..but others as well.

As a Health Coach, what is the area your clients most often struggle with when trying to start living a healthy life?

Most people want to create the best health, weight and life possible. My clients are very motivated and the reason they are motivated to work with me. However, innately, many do not feel that they deserve to have the best health, the best weight. They are very inspired in the beginning and then the motivation wanes. I always remind them to go back to their ‘why’ and ask themselves why they wanted weight loss or better health in the first place. I remind them that they deserve to have the best in life and all they need to do is to recognize that. Once they do, they are off and running with success. Create mindfulness by asking oneself ‘Is this food or behavior going to help me or hinder me?’ Asking questions of ourselves is a powerful tool to successful transformation.

Your research finds low-level inflammation is responsible for aging and disease. What do you mean by low-level inflammation, and what causes it?

Inflammation is an immune system response. We need acute inflammation or what I refer to as ‘loud inflammation’ because you know it’s there; such as a sprained ankle, head cold or a cut on the finger, because it helps us heal. Yes, it is uncomfortable, swollen, and painful, but without acute inflammation we would not be alive. However, sometimes things become out of control with our immune system and a type of inflammation develops called silent inflammation or low-level inflammation. Silent inflammation is the core cause of most illness, disease, faster aging and weight gain. Its very name suggests trouble because it is silent – unlike acute inflammation. 75% of all Americans have silent inflammation and do not realize it. Diet, lack of exercise and other lifestyle choices, contribute markedly to silent inflammation.

Low-level or silent inflammation is a low-grade, chronic and systemic condition that is silently damaging tissues (including fat cell inflammation) and increasing risk of disease while contributing to a variety of health issues – including packing on the pounds.

So the old mantra “calories in, calories out” isn’t really true? How does it work?

The ‘calories in, calories out’ mantra is based on old inaccurate science from the 1950s.  We now know, through decades of substantive and excellent research, that it is the quality of the food and not the quantity, so much, that matters most. There is a vast difference in the way the body metabolizes a 100 calorie candy bar vs. 100 calories of broccoli. Why?  The candy bar creates low-level inflammation in the body (including the fat cells) due to the sugar and other refined ingredients. The broccoli, however, contains phytochemicals that reverses fat cell inflammation and promotes cellular health that results in optimal health and weight loss. Diet sodas are an example of a widely-used product that has zero calories, yet promotes weight gain, hunger and cravings.

What are anti-inflammatory foods everyone should have in their pantry?

Planning and preparation are key to weight loss and optimal health success. You are a product of your environment – that includes the foods you surround yourself with. Always assume that what you buy at the grocery store will go in your mouth. So that Chunky Monkey ice cream you have in the freezer will be eaten. Opt to surround yourself with foods that will nourish you from the inside out: nuts, seeds (such as chia seeds), nut butters; canned/fresh wild salmon or sardines; all veggies and leafy greens; low-sugar fruits such as berries, apples, kiwi; legumes such as lentils; healthy cooking oils such as coconut oil (boosts metabolism by 30%), olive oil, macadamia nut oil (#1 anti-inflammatory oil); bone broth; grass-fed/pastured meats, poultry, eggs and dairy (yogurt without sugar); sprouted breads/wraps/English muffins; whole grain crackers, root chips, Keep a variety of frozen veggies and berries on hand for cooking and/or smoothies.

And what are the inflammatory foods that should be banished from the diet? start. The average American ingests an enormous amount of sugar: 156 lbs of sugar a year. This is a staggering statistic. Most of the sugar, however, is hidden in foods such as whole wheat bread (many whole wheat breads have added sugar), ketchup, store-bought salad dressings and many other foods.

Eliminate the following foods from your diet: Sugar (candy, desserts), white flour foods (all refined grains such as cake, cookies, white bread, tortillas), soda and diet soda; all junk or processed foods; trans fat or hydrogenated fat; foods high in omega 6 fats( such as corn oil, vegetable oil, canola oil or grain-fed meat and artificial sweeteners need to be avoided for weight loss or optimal health to happen.

What are the three worst foods someone trying to lose weight could eat?

If I had to choose just three:  

Sugar. Sugar added to products such as cookies, cereals, cakes and candy.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup.  This is the most inflammatory sweetener and found in sodas and other sweet processed items.

Refined foods, such as white flour products such as bagels, white bread, tortillas or white rice.

What role does sugar play in weight gain? 

Sugar is inflammatory. This refined, processed ‘food’ creates cellular inflammation including fat cell inflammation that promotes fat storage. It triggers the fat storing hormone insulin that doesn’t just store fat, but likes to keep it there too and this means resistant weight gain.

Sugar also prevents the liver from doing its job optimally. The liver is our #1 fat-burning organ and becomes congested with sugar and fat due to poor food choices. This is where much of the weight frustration originates. If we take care of our liver, our liver will take care of us with regard to optimal health and weight loss.

The average American ingests 27 teaspoons of sugar a day of added sugar. The food manufacturers know people are addicted to sugar and add it to most foods such as ketchup, salad, chicken broth, dressings, whole wheat bread and much more. It is important to look at nutrition information to determine if you are ingesting sugar. It is important to be a sugar detective by looking at the ingredient list before you buy.

Besides fitness and nutrition, how do you advise your clients to live healthy lifestyle?

Reducing stress and getting more sleep are crucial to optimal health and weight loss; both are  common triggers for weight gain. When we have chronic stress or lack of sleep in our lives, a complex trigger of chemical reactions takes place, such as the hormone cortisol triggered.  Cortisol promotes fat storage – especially belly fat which is the most inflammatory fat of all.

Deep breathing with the 4-7-8 technique, stops the stress response in its tracks. Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. You can do this anywhere – even while driving. Exercise helps with insomnia and is the #1 stress reduction technique.

You are an excellent motivator. How do you inspire people to lead a healthy lifestyle?

When we understand that we are deserving of optimal health and when we take action (no matter how small) that moves us forward or toward success, we reap the benefits. Getting off the path (such as over- indulging in that chunky monkey ice cream in the freezer) is simply another action.  The solution is to immediately get back on track, focus and move forward. Many times people throw their hands up in the air and decide that they can’t do this or it isn’t  supposed to happen for them…nothing could be further from the truth.  Making the commitment that no matter what, you will get back on track immediately.  This commitment changes everything and creates success.  It is the choices we make that dictate the life we live.

What was it like being the Houston Texans Cheerleader Nutrition Expert? 

It was such a great experience to help them achieve not just lean bodies, but optimal health as well. It was a gratifying experience in that many of them, despite how young, understood and appreciated the implications of poor food or drink choices – such as the enormous amount of energy drinks or soda, for example, that they were drinking and its health consequences. Each person’s health choice, whether a part of a family or a cheerleading squad, adds powerfully to the  ultimate overall success of that family or team.

So how do we end the obesity epidemic in America? 

Obesity in America is a multi-faceted epidemic. However, the foundation to creating global and success here in America is education.  For example, many people are simply not aware of the types of ingredients or foods that cause weight gain or poor health. Food manufacturers add cheap ingredients, such as sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or oils high in omega 6 fat, that are ubiquitous in the general, conventional food supply. For example, the word is out that whole wheat bread is healthy.  However, the vast majority of people do not realize that the bulk of this type of bread sold, is high in sugar..enough sugar to raise your blood sugar as much as two tablespoons of sugar. So it is imperative that education is a primary goal. Increasing activity level, reducing chronic stress levels, improving sleep quality, supplement use –  where needed, water intake and more are all crucial to weight loss success.

Can you tell us about one of your client’s success stories?

I have a client that when we first started weighed 408 lbs. He was a big man, an unhappy, grumpy man and I don’t blame him. He was in pain, he had severe foot pain, and he hobbled when he walked, he had terrible joint pain, he had diabetes, he had atherosclerosis, he had a breathing machine at night and he had spent his entire life trying to lose weight without success.

I immediately put him on the FATflammation Free Plan and I received a call from him about one week later and he said he could not believe how much better he felt. His joint pain had lessened, his foot pain was less severe, and he slept through the night for the first time in years and generally felt so much better.  

He is now a lean 190 lbs., he is off all medications, he is pain-free and living a quality life.

It doesn’t take long to change your health; it just takes knowing what to do, planning, preparation and the ultimate action => consistency.

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