Inside The Core Balance Diet — An Interview With Author Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

by Donna Poulin, Practice Manager at Women to Women

For many years I’ve been witness to Marcelle Pick helping women through various changes in their lives. Weight gain – and weight loss resistance – affects women so greatly. The image they see in the mirror, the way additional weight affects energy and zest for life, the self doubt and internal negative talk it creates – all of these affect women in such a profound way and often can detract from their joy and joyfulness in life. When women explore solutions they are flooded with options – which can then seem overwhelming – after all, which choice is the right one?

Over the years many, many diets have moved in an out of fashion – Weight Watchers, The Zone, The Atkins Diet, The Fat Flush Diet, The Grapefruit Diet, The South Beach Diet.. and on and on. Sometimes women find a diet that works for them in the short term, but many will talk about finding a plan that will work permanently. After all, who wants to eat grapefruit three times a day forever?

I recently talked with Marcelle about her first book, The Core Balance Diet – and she shared some great insights and profound perspectives on the causes of stubborn weight gain and the obstacles to weight loss.

Donna Poulin: One of the differences I see in The Core Balance Diet is that you encourage women to get to know their bodies through the use of health assessments – can you tell us why this information is important to helping women lose weight?

Marcelle Pick: The Core Balance Diet was written to help women identify the imbalance or imbalances which are creating the obstacle to weight loss. I have found that many women have simply accepted certain symptoms as being the norm in life – symptoms which may be uncomfortable or misunderstood. By taking the time to answer these specific assessments, the reader starts to understand what is really going on for her. Once an imbalance is identified, the reader can jump right in and start learning more about diet and lifestyle changes and about what may be causing the imbalance. Once an imbalance is addressed, the reader can expect great things to happen – including shedding unwanted pounds!

DP: You’ve talked with some many women about weight loss – what is the one message you’d like to pass onto your readers before they even open your book?

MP: That’s an easy one! A weight loss program cannot and should not be designed as a ‘one size fits all’ program – we’re all biochemically different! Every woman has had different life experiences that make her unique. Issues around weight are much more complicated than some popular diet fads indicate – especially if we want weight loss to last. The way a woman eats should be a way of life which supports her individual needs – not a diet plan that last for 30 days.

DP: Would you tell us a little about how The Core Balance Diet will help women lose weight?

MP: I designed The Core Balance Diet to help women look at the unique core differences –and to help them identify their metabolic basis for emotional imbalances. This individualized approach helps identify the imbalances that are most likely interrupting the body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. I’ve included a detailed food plan for each imbalance, including simple and easy recipes. We know that our food choices speak to our jeans AND our genes. Different foods send different information to our genes, but so can our environment and our thoughts. I’ve also included reading and exercises on how our internal environment – our thoughts – as well as how our physical environment can impact us.

So The Core Balance Diet takes an individualized approach, first by looking at your emotional and physical well-being to define the core imbalances most likely interrupting your body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight, and then by offering a functional approach to heal the imbalances and encouraging the best foods for your metabolic make-up.

DP: For years and years women have heard that you have to eat less and exercise more –would you comment on how The Core Balance Diet is different?

MP: I first noticed this rule didn’t work when I was 19 — I enrolled in Weight Watchers, and everyone around me was weighing and measuring everything, but I also noticed everyone was cheating all the time! I was weighing and measuring everything, too, and not cheating at all — I mean, I was picture-perfect. But I still only lost a quarter-pound here, or gained a quarter-pound there. I thought, what’s wrong here? I’m doing everything right! Ultimately, I found my problem was that I was gluten-sensitive, and that had a lot to do with why I wasn’t losing any weight.

My experience has shown me that all calories aren’t equal – you need foods that will talk to your body – one hundred calories of sugar sends different information to your cells than 100 calories of spinach and chicken! And…if you’re sensitive to gluten and you eat 100 calories of bread, you’ll start a domino effect of negative messages throughout your body. There can be many roadblocks for a woman losing weight, and by identifying these obstacles we provide the opportunity for raised awareness on what foods are healthful and helpful to weight loss.

DP: There’s been so much controversy in the past about including fats in a the diet – for years women have been told to limit their fat intake.

MP: Fat is critically important to keep our bodies functioning. It helps maintain our brain tissue, our nerves and our cell membranes – and it’s the precursor to our sex hormones! Without fat, our bodies can’t function – let alone lose weight!

DP: Many women correlate fat intake with high cholesterol and heart health.

MP: The Core Balance Diet is not high in saturated fats – it emphasizes high quality proteins, healthy fats and oils and phytonutrient rich foods. Together all of these affect cell signaling and actually decrease the changes of inflammatory related conditions like insulin resistance, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and even heart disease. There’s so much research now showing how heart healthy good fats are!

DP: Carbohydrates have been both in and out of favor in the past years – some diets scream low carbohydrates are best, others, like Atkins, are in favor of almost no carbohydrates. In looking through your menu plans, you have included carbohydrates – can you tell us about that?

MP: We need carbohydrates for energy. Our brains can only use carbs for fuel, so without carbohydrates we have a problem. I recommend limiting carbohydrates to 16 per meal and 7 per snack – and combining carbohydrates with protein to keep blood sugars stable.

The Core Balance Diet is really about the quality of foods you choose, with emphasis on healthy fats, lean proteins, unrefined carbohydrates and micronutrient rich fruits and vegetables.

DP: Everyone has heard that fruits and vegetables will make us healthier – you talk about this in your book and encourage readers to try new vegetables and incorporate them into their eating plan every day. Why is that?

MP: Here again we have the concept of food as information. Thousands upon thousands of phytonutrients in colorful fruits and vegetables have been identified to date. And they have been shown to work with the body’s cell-signaling pathways to influence gene expression in countless beneficial ways — most of which we have yet to discover. We do know these genes are then responsible for turning on detoxifying enzymes, which help program cell death for cells in our bodies that have “gone wrong” (helpful in prevention of cancer), and they can have anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative effects (also helpful in prevention of cancer).

We’ve also seen how the fiber in fruits and veggies helps to prevent weight gain. And this is partly due to the way fiber can lower the glycemic index of our meals. Just by adding a vegetable we can slow down the way glucose is used and stored in the body. So I always say plant-based foods speak to our genes and our jeans!

DP: One of the phrases I found most intriguing in The Core Balance Diet is “Your issues are in your tissues.” Wow! This really made me think about the emotional issues that can act as barriers to weight loss. Would you share more information about this?

MP: Absolutely! Here’s what Caroline Myss says in Anatomy of the Spirit – “Our biography becomes our biology.” Or, to paraphrase, “Our issues are in our tissues!” It’s something I’ve seen all along in practice, and even though there are studies now to back this up, many practitioners simply weren’t trained or lack the time to make these connections.

Back in 1998 a famous study called the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study evaluated the effect of traumatic childhood events on health risk behavior and disease. The researchers found that compared to those who had none, those with negative childhood exposure had a 1.4– to 1.6-fold increase in physical inactivity and obesity, along with many other medical problems. So we know our life stories affect our bodies.

In a study published in 2009, the authors concluded that overeating may serve to repair negative moods in the short-term. Well, yeah, of course it does! Food is love for many of us. And I think most women have had first-hand experience with this – I wrote an article on emotional eating, for those who want to explore the issue more.

There’s also an editorial I read recently, by a Dutch scientist who concluded that behavioral factors have more to do with weight loss than what we eat, and cognition and emotions have a huge impact on that behavior.

So science is finally catching on to this idea. But let me give you a real life example of how emotions can affect weight. I have a patient , who is probably 100 pounds overweight. She’s stunningly attractive and wants desperately to lose this weight. So we talked for a while, and one of the things that came out in our conversation was that when she was growing up her mother was always saying things like, “You shouldn’t eat that,” or “You shouldn’t wear that,” or “That’s going to make you fat.” So her response was to always get seconds — especially when her mother was around! This behavior was so deeply embedded that she didn’t realize that every time she ate, she was essentially reacting against her mother. Once she became aware of this, she could see hope for change. So we simply can’t ignore these emotions around eating.

DP: Your perspective on exercise was so refreshing for me to read! Many women must have read the same article I did recently – about exercising one hour a day for the rest of my life just to maintain weight! Talk about adding stress….. Please tell us more about your perspective on exercise.

MP: There is practically nothing bad we can say about exercise, except perhaps for one precaution: please don’t allow your exercise routine, or lack of one, to become another stressor in your life. Exercise is so beneficial to us because it is a stress reliever, not a stress producer.

Let’s start with just that one benefit: we know from research that exercise enhances mood. And if it did only that, it would be wonderful. But its effects are additive and cumulative, and integral to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. It can prevent insulin resistance and diabetes by boosting our cell’s sensitivity to insulin, a very good thing for any woman wanting to heal metabolic imbalance. Studies have also shown how exercise can reduce abdominal fat — even without dieting! — and when we put the two together, the benefits compound one another to assure long-term success.

But we don’t have to knock ourselves out with exercise. The trick is to make it fun, make it something you look forward to. Find a way to move your body that you love, and don’t be afraid to experiment!

If you don’t have a lot of time, “bursting” is a great way to challenge your body without spending hours at the gym. The idea behind bursting is that you want to quickly bring yourself to an extreme and back again several times during your work out. During a burst, your breathing may be so heavy that it’s hard to talk. Stay at this level for 20-30 seconds at first and work up to 1 minute. I like this concept because you can reap the benefits of an intense work out in only 20 minutes and it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise your doing!

DP: What words would you like to leave our readers today with?

MP: The bottom line is that women are so tired of being told, “If you would just cut back on one more meal…,” or “If you would just work out more….” This all translates into “You’re just not doing good enough!” I’ve found that most women really are doing well — they’re eating regularly, they’re exercising regularly, but their extra weight is just not budging. We want to reassure women that it’s not that they’re not doing a “good enough” job. You’re doing a great job! But something is up here — something is out of balance. Your body is smart enough to come to a place of balance — once we give it the support it needs. This book is for all those women who have been trying to do well but still feel stuck.