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Feature Stories

Fear No Scale

Dr. Bo says five phases and four elements

are the key to losing weight and keeping it off

Fat. It’s The Enemy, especially this time of year, amid resolutions, self-improvement plans and the inability to see your feet. Yet despite our national obsession with dieting, The Enemy is winning. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a third of American adults are overweight and another third are obese. Why are most diets doomed to failure? For Isaac Schulman, the director of Dr. Bo’s Diet Center in Hewlett, the reason is pretty straightforward.

“The problem is that all [of the usual diet programs] address some short-term weight loss, which is just a symptom,” says Schulman. “It doesn’t address the core issue: How did the person get overweight?”

We’ve all seen the ads for Dr. Bo’s program, and wondered if it’s for real, or if it’s just another kooky, extreme pound-shedding regimen. After all, the promise is pretty impressive: “Lose up to 30 lbs. in 30 days…and keep it off for good!”

But as Schulman points out, this program is based on common sense and medical experience.

The namesake of Schulman’s company, Dr. Bo Rosenblat, saw the problem firsthand while working in emergency medicine in Florida. Again and again he encountered morbidly obese patients suffering from cardiac arrest and ending up on their deathbed. Had their weight been addressed earlier, many would have lived another 40 years. It was the kind of preventable scenario that led Dr. Rosenblat to go on fellowships and perform the research that led to the protocol for Dr. Bo’s Diet Center, which got its start in Pembroke Pines, FL, five years ago. By September 2010, the diet center had expanded north to the main office in Hewlett, a smaller one in Manhattan and a newly opened Manhasset location (516-284-8248; www.drbosdiet.com).

The success of Dr. Bo’s Diet Center can be traced to the notion that there are four elements in structuring a diet plan—type, portion, preparation and schedule.

Type – The right types of foods that cover all of the basic food groups are crucial to ensure that your body gets key vitamins, minerals and energy to function in a healthy way.

Portion – The amount you eat should be based on your unique caloric budget, which is the energy needed in one day to function.

Preparation – The way food is cooked or served can trigger certain sensitivities to certain high-glycemic foods, creating insulin spikes that differ from patient to patient.

Schedule – You’ll burn calories differently if you eat at regularly scheduled times for breakfast (within two hours of waking up), lunch (between noon and 2 p.m.) and dinner (between 5 and 7 p.m.). A meal eaten right before bedtime is more difficult to metabolize since the body exerts 60 percent less energy than when you’re awake.

While many diet programs require participants to purchase food, shakes or supplements, clients of Dr. Bo’s Diet Center use a 16-month program broken into five phases of varying lengths.

It starts with a two-day introductory phase. Although counter-intuitive, during this time, patients load up on high-fat foods to provide reserves of energy during the first few days of the diet when the body is adapting.

If phase one (Loading), is getting ready for the journey, then the 38-day second phase (Jumpstart and Foundation), is the difficult, shock-and-awe part of the program. It’s here where rapid and safe weight-loss occurs, according to Schulman, who says patients generally lose between a half to a pound and a half per day during the first 20 to 40 days. During this time, the body’s physiological foundation is prepared through detoxing from certain foods and substances and incorporating a schedule of eating. This rapid weight loss also fortifies the psyche against the rigors of dieting.

“Holidays, vacations and going out to eat are all environmental challenges,” says Schulman. “If you’re, say, three weeks into this journey, you’re working very hard and the feeling of being deprived exists no matter what protocol you’re on.”

“But let’s say go to a wedding or party and there’s a smorgasbord of food that looks delicious. If you’re down a total of six pounds and you need to lose 60 pounds, you think the journey is too long, too hard and not going to work, so you might as well give up. But if at that same point, you’re down 15 or 20 pounds, all of a sudden 30 seconds of pleasure is not worth undoing three weeks of hard work [and substantial] weight loss.”

The four-to-six week third phase (Metabolic), recalibrates your metabolism by letting you eat moderate portions of foods you enjoy without gaining weight. Options are gradually increased in a controlled, strategic manner while weight loss continues, says Schulman.

The fourth phase is another four-to-six-week step (Nutritional), and education is at the heart of it. The four dietary elements and how they interact are underscored. You get tips to avoid dietary pitfalls, such as using a buffet setup at holidays and serving food on smaller plates. The message is clear: you don’t need to diet forever to maintain a healthy weight forever. It’s also during this time when a full profile is developed.

“This includes a lot of information—a person’s age, gender, body fat, BMI [body-mass index], occupational activity level, sleep schedule, exercise routines,” says Schulman. “We’re going to compare that and put all of that data, including the basal metabolic rate, which is established using a calorimeter. [The patient] breathes into it and the instrument measures the carbon dioxide and oxygen in the bloodstream and establishes the person’s unique basal metabolic rate.”

The final phase (Maintenance) is six visits across 52 weeks. During this time, as you face the cycles of the year—holidays and seasons—you learn to use your unique real-world diet plan. Patients are weaned off the program by spacing visits further apart while resisting the urge to fall back into bad habits.

The program has allowed thousands of patients to succeed, says Schulman. Among them is Hal (who asked that we not use his use his last name). Starting at 213 lbs., he eventually lost 46.4 lbs.

“On my wedding day nearly 23 years ago I weighed 175 lbs. I am now at 166 lbs., and it’s off forever. People are amazed. I look amazing and feel even more amazing,” he said in a testimonial letter. “I’m off my blood- pressure medications, cut my cholesterol meds in half and am the envy of my (middle-aged) peer group. Dr. Bo...Your program works.”

Regardless of the diet plan, Schulman insists that living a healthy lifestyle while enjoying foods you like in moderation can be achieved with the right mindset.

“In addition to having goals that are realistic and having realistic finite periods to appropriately reach those goals, you ultimately need to prepare yourself for the long-term, which is the reality that you’re going to lose that focus over time,” he said. “That’s why it’s not just about treating the symptom. Because the symptom goes away and the source still exists, then you end up going back to your old ways.”