Dr. Pamela Smith & Tereza Fonda of Calmparent.net: “Balance your hormones”

A balanced diet and daily exercise are key components to maintaining a healthy weight and feeling our best. But for some people, no matter how well they eat or how much they exercise, the weight stays the same or continues to climb. Losing the last few pounds and keeping them off is a common phenomenon […]

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A balanced diet and daily exercise are key components to maintaining a healthy weight and feeling our best. But for some people, no matter how well they eat or how much they exercise, the weight stays the same or continues to climb. Losing the last few pounds and keeping them off is a common phenomenon often caused by a hormonal imbalance in the body! Any form of hormonal imbalance will sabotage your efforts to lose weight no matter how much you exercise or restrict calories and junk foods. This is because our hormones direct our body’s responses and metabolism. They are our chemical messengers that manage everything from mood, metabolism, appetite, cravings, and even where you store your fat.

So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it back. Not only is yo-yo dieting unhealthy, it is also demoralizing and makes us feel like giving up. What exactly do we have to do to achieve a healthy body weight and to stick with it forever?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently” we are interviewing health and wellness professionals who can share lessons from their research and experience about how to do this.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Pamela Smith, ND and Tereza Fonda.

Dr. Pamela Smith, ND is a functional Naturopathic Physician with a family practice focused on integrative health. Her medical practice includes treatment and support for digestive health issues, hormone balancing, and weight loss. Dr. Pam combines science-based natural medicine with conventional medical therapeutics to support a balanced and preventative lifestyle. She has worked at various Ayurveda and Medical Clinics throughout the world. Dr. Pam and Tereza Fonda, B.A., LL.B., are co-creators of Calmparent.net which creates freedom for parents through family health and wellness. They are the co-authors of Thriving with Your New Baby.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory? What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

We’ve both been passionate about health and wellness for as long as we can remember! We’ve known each other for over 20 years and had very different journeys before collaborating on Calmparent.net. This integrative health site is dedicated to simplifying life for parents so you can focus on what matters most to you.

We’re so inspired by our community each and every day! We collaborate with other doctors, certified health and wellness care experts, and parents to synthesize the collective wisdom of those who have been through it all before. Our integrative approach focuses on the mental, physical and emotional health and wellbeing for all ages. Making informed decisions for your health and your family’s health is important.

Health has always been everything for us. We were raised in small neighboring cities in B.C., Canada, which has always been a haven for health and quality of life. Over the years, we’ve each had personal experiences supporting friends, family, and clients with health ailments. These experiences along with becoming parents and juggling all the things, made us realize the importance of living a balanced and preventative lifestyle. Optimizing family health and wellness helps create freedom.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

We’re so grateful for all of the people in our amazing community, including the experts and parents. It’s incredibly inspiring to see families thrive, especially those that have benefited from using our Calm Baby Sleep Routine™, and those who pay it forward and contribute to other families thriving.

Being a part of Julie Solomon’s SHINE coaching program has really helped us take our business to the next level and to better support our community. She has helped us get clear on our purpose, messaging and strategy, to best serve our community and confidently grow our business. We’re grateful for Julie’s resources, motivation, and dedication showing up for her community. She truly leads by example.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

We’ve sure learned a lot since going live on our site in 2014. Mostly, about the importance of self-care while balancing family with busy careers and a side hustle!

Looking back, we were so unnecessarily nervous about publishing our first blog post and going live on our launches. We put way too much stress, energy and focus on it — everyone flows in and out of their own personal balance — and there have been a few times over the years where we’ve had to remind ourselves about setting priorities and boundaries.

Our biggest lessons learned have been to not to sweat the small stuff, and focus on what matters most. Also, it’s important to trust your intuition, know that your purposes matters to the world, and that time really is an illusion!

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

The quote “Pay the farmer now, or the doctor later” really resonates with us. It speaks for itself, but really gleans light on why a proactive approach to integrative health and wellness is so important.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re excited to have just launched our Calm Baby Sleep Course™. The stats on parent sleep deprivation are terrible, especially for Mothers. For so long we were supporting parents 1:1 with our sleep routine but now we can support so many more with our online resources!

We can imagine a world where all parents can live the life of their dreams with kids. Starting by transitioning into parenthood more seamlessly, and without prolonged sleep deprivation.

You can learn more about the backstory on our site, but it was a lot to go back to work full time as a lawyer 12 weeks after childbirth with baby #1, and care for a toddler and husband with cancer with baby #2 (both babies exclusively drinking breast milk for the first 6 months). After seeing the impact of the life-changing baby feeding and sleep routine both personally and with other parents, we know how important it is to share these amazing resources to help parents and families thrive!

On our site there’s a free baby sleep routine, as well as a customizable feeding and sleep tracking chart, to help give parents more predictability with their baby during the day and at night. But the program helps you gently transition baby to sleep through the night 10+ hours uninterrupted at 12 weeks without having to worry about tears, and no sleep training required later on. Plus, it includes all the baby health 101 info and all the tips for overcoming the day to day challenges like teething, gas, diaper rash, dry skin, etc.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?

Dr. Pam has been in the health and wellness industry for over 20 years and has been a functional naturopathic doctor for almost 10 years, and has worked at various Ayurveda and Medical Clinics throughout the world. We rolled out our health and wellness site in 2014 but were compiling all the must-know family health tips and information for many years before that.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?

Everyone has a unique body, so it’s important to remember that everyone will have a unique way of calculating a healthy body weight. This can be defined as the weight an individual maintains that reduces their risk of weight-based diseases and where the individual feels comfortable and confident with how they look and feel.

How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight” or what is “too underweight”?

Using tools like Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist/hip circumference can provide insight for a person to learn if they are within range of a healthy body weight compared to a set of standards. When weight exceeds or goes well below the standard based on their height, this could mean they are possibly under-weight or overweight. There are many limitations to using BMI alone to calculate ideal weight. For example, when a person has low body fat and a high degree of muscle, they will be categorized as overweight. Including waist circumference can add more insight. As a reference, men who have waist circumferences greater than 40 inches, and women who have waist circumferences greater than 35 inches, are at higher risk of many chronic diseases because of excess abdominal fat around vital organs.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?

There are many reasons why maintaining a healthy body weight is so important. There is a direct link between obesity, many chronic diseases, and overall mortality. These diseases include insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and fatty liver. In our society, there is an emphasis on the harms that being overweight bring; however, being underweight also leads to many health complications including a high risk of death (nearly double the risk of death compared to being obese when a person is severely underweight). Other issues with being underweight include nutritional deficiencies, increased risk of osteoporosis, and issues with hormones including infertility.

In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?

When people look and feel their best, their confidence shines through and influences many aspects of their lives. One aspect is on energy levels — the right nutrition and exercise dramatically improves energy. Another is sleep quality — commonly, an individual with a healthy body weight will not experience conditions like sleep apnea which has a dramatic influence on how well a person sleeps at night and therefore feels throughout the day. Lastly, hormone balance — our fat cells store and secrete hormones like estrogen, which can create issues in both men and women influencing fertility, skin health, and mood.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently?”. If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just about looking good or fitting into your favorite outfit, it can actually increase your longevity. Extra weight around your abdomen specifically can be harmful to your overall health (it’s worse than carrying it on your hips or thighs!).

If you’re finding it impossible to lose the extra weight or keep it off despite regular exercise and healthy eating, your hormones may be the problem.

Here are some helpful strategies to maintain or obtain your ideal weight.

1. Consume a high protein breakfast.

Eating breakfast will kick start your metabolism in the morning, enabling you to burn more calories throughout the day and maintain your energy levels.

Breakfast should contain 20–30 grams of protein as protein stabilizes blood sugar, reduces hunger and keeps you fuller longer. Cold pressed juices and green smoothies are a great way to get a serving of protein and vegetables.

Examples of protein sources include: eggs (1 = ~6 grams), hemp-hearts (3 tbsp = ~11g), plain Greek yogurt (1/4c = 9g), quinoa (1/2c = 11g), and vegan protein powders (12–25g per serving).

2. Try narrowing your meal window.

Our bodies spend most of the day digesting the food we eat. The idea behind intermittent fasting, or time restricted eating, is to give our bodies a break from the digestive process to concentrate on healing. It can also help you lose weight initially, and reduces your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

There are many different ways to incorporate intermittent fasting into your daily regime. For some it may be a daily plan where you only consume calories for 8–12 hours while others may find more benefit with 1–3 times per week consuming calories for 6–8 hours.

Individuals who are hypoglycemic, diabetic or pregnant (or breastfeeding) should avoid any type of calorie restriction until blood sugar or insulin levels are regulated.

3. Understand the real importance of exercise.

Exercise is very important for so many aspects of our lives. There are many studies on how it helps to improve mood, sleep quality and burn calories.

Frequent dieting without exercise will cause the “set point” phenomenon where after a few days of restricted caloric intake, the body adjusts by lowering the base metabolic rate, permitting a more efficient use of calories. This biological defense mechanism makes losing weight while dieting progressively more difficult.

We have posts on our site about how much exercise you should get as an adult, as well as the amount of exercise children should have each day.

4. Reduce your stress levels!

Although people perceive stressors differently, the actual physiological effect that stress plays on our bodies is exactly the same. The physiological stress response is similar between running away from a bear and rushing to pick up the kids from all of their events at opposite sides of the city!

Chronically high stress levels expose our body to our stress hormone cortisol. One of the negative results of prolonged increased levels of cortisol includes increased appetite and cravings for quick energy foods high in carbohydrates and sugar. These are the exact foods to avoid or limit when weight loss is a goal.

Ways of reducing stress are highly individual but may include: exercise, meditation, breath work, yoga, and creating healthy boundaries in your life.

5. Balance your hormones (the real reason why you may be having trouble losing or keeping off the last few unwanted pounds).

A balanced diet and daily exercise are key components to maintaining a healthy weight and feeling our best. But for some people, no matter how well they eat or how much they exercise, the weight stays the same or continues to climb. Losing the last few pounds and keeping them off is a common phenomenon often caused by a hormonal imbalance in the body! Any form of hormonal imbalance will sabotage your efforts to lose weight no matter how much you exercise or restrict calories and junk foods. This is because our hormones direct our body’s responses and metabolism. They are our chemical messengers that manage everything from mood, metabolism, appetite, cravings, and even where you store your fat.

So if you’re having trouble losing the last few unwanted pounds, consider asking your healthcare provider about the role hormones may be playing, including: your sex hormones, thyroid, adrenal hormones including cortisol levels, and the hormones related to blood sugar control.

Identifying your specific hormone imbalances could be the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and to understanding why it seems impossible to lose those last few pounds. Ways to help balance blood sugar levels and improve your mood can be found on out site but your naturopathic physician can help discover if a hormonal imbalance is the underlying cause of your weight gain.

The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person who loses weight maintain that permanently and sustainably?

When a balance of a healthy diet and exercise routine are not working to maintain a healthy weight, there are two areas to look deeper. The first is your emotional connections with food, your body, and weight. Second, how your genetic makeup could be an influence. For some people, the minute they deviate from their diet they will gain weight and some do not genetically code satiety hormones very well (without support) — types of challenges that can make it difficult to avoid overeating and may sabotage efforts made to maintain a healthy weight. Working with a knowledgeable practitioner to tailor an approach according to our genetic makeup can make a big difference and help prevent yo-yo dieting.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

It might come as a surprise that one of the biggest mistakes is not getting enough of the right calories. Restricting calories may lead to initially losing weight; however, it typically is not sustainable and encourages the body to hold on to fat for energy. Calculating a person’s metabolic rate (BMR) and activity level can provide helpful insight to how many calories per day a person should aim for. But it’s still important to keep in mind that calories from nutrient dense foods will provide more satiety and sustainable energy compared to foods that are considered to be empty calories. Some ideas for protein sources are listed above.

How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Barriers to integrating healthy habits will vary from person to person. However, emotional eating and perceived time constraints are two common blockages to prevent integrating healthy strategies. Many people have emotional triggers that lead to binge eating and high sugar comfort foods. Another big one is the perception of “not enough time”. For some, it’s easier to grab pre-made, low nutrient, packaged foods which in the long run may decrease energy and actually cost us more time (and money!). To make long lasting changes for the betterment of our health, we have to be ready and have good support. Seeing some positive changes in the first few weeks gives us the motivation to continue on with healthier daily habits.

On the flip side, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?

Start slowly and target one habit change at a time. For most people, going all in can sometimes cause us to jump in then right back out. Commit for 21 days or 60 if you’re able, so it develops into a habit that lasts. Mark dates on a calendar to visually see progress and track goals. Also, having an accountability partner or timeline can help stay on track and reach goals. It’s often easier to be accountable to someone else than ourselves.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

We’re creating a “movement” with a Calmparent.net to changes the way people think about parenting, and to help parents and families thrive. Our goal is to simplify life, and create freedom for parents, so they can focus on what matters most to them. Parents deserve to live the life of their dreams with kids, and seamlessly transitions into parenthood. This includes a more proactive and integrative approach to health/wellness for parents and their families. And sharing the collective wisdom of experienced parents and experts to make life easier for those that come after us. This benefits parents and their families, our communities, and ultimately the world.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Jessica Alba and Arianna Huffington, two amazing women that our values are aligned with. Both are incredible role models as Mothers and thought leaders, fulfilling their passions, and each maintaining their own unique sense of balance. We love Honest Company products (especially the baby diapers!), and the ethical consumerism Jessica has created with her brand. Arianna has been pivotal for helping people thrive and highlighting the importance of sleep, both of which are cornerstones of Calm Parent — we quoted her in our book!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Check out our resources on Calmparent.net.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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