Dr. Pankaj Vij

Pankaj Vij, MD, FACP, is the author of Turbo Metabolism. As a doctor of internal medicine, he has helped thousands of patients lose weight, manage chronic health conditions, and improve their physical fitness. Board certified in internal medicine and obesity medicine, Dr. Vij has been practicing medicine since 1997. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit him online at http://www.doctorvij.com.

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Tell us about the title of your book Turbo Metabolism.

Life is about energy and metabolism is energy flow. Turbo Metabolism empowers readers to have optimal energy flow so that they can make the best of our time here. It is all about having optimal energy flow throughout the body so there is no reason for toxic accumulation.

What is metabolic syndrome and what diseases does it cause?

Metabolic syndrome is a condition of impaired energy flow, which is caused by a cluster of risk factors that have excess belly fat, or extra fat around the vital organs, at its core. When excess body fat around the waist combines with other risk factors like increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes increases exponentially.

You say that chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes are reversible. What are the essential lifestyle ingredients for making that happen?

These metabolic diseases are caused by man-made conditions. They are a byproduct of our unhealthy, modern lifestyle. They can be reversed by creating the conditions in which humans have been thriving for thousands of years — eating a nutrient dense plant rich diet of unprocessed food, staying physically active, having emotional resilience and meaningful social connections, and making quiet time to de-stress and sleep a priority.

Your book offers a holistic approach to healing from diabetes, heart disease, and other metabolic disease. Tell us more about the connection between mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Turbo Metabolism is about lifestyle choices and lifestyle choices are made at the level of the mind, the soul and the spirit. Healing must start on a level that is much higher upstream than the physical level. Lifestyle choices are all about emotional resilience, mental wellbeing, meaningful social connections and support. One cannot heal the body without first healing the mind, the soul and the spirit. Behavior follows cognition. The mind and body are intimately connected

In Turbo Metabolism, you say that the typical American diet might be the modern-day equivalent of the Trojan Horse. Please explain what you mean by that.

The standard western diet could have been designed by a terrorist organization motivated to wipe out modern civilization. We are being poisoned with an excess of refined sugar, unhealthy fat, and animal protein, along with thousands of synthetic chemicals that are being added to our diet to enhance taste, texture, or shelf life without any attention to the health effects that this may have.

Here’s a quote from your book, “When you change your mind-set, you can develop the motivation and ability to change your destiny.” What advice would you offer to those who are having a hard time finding the willpower to start a new habit and/or break an old one.

Everything starts with mindset. We cannot accomplish any change without having a strong reason to change. That’s the why. I like to meet people where they are by suggesting they start with small bite-size pieces of change. Once they start to see some results and how those results can help them get to their destination (which is their own unique why), the what, where, who, and when fall into place to align with the why.

Can you give me specific examples of 2 or 3 different “why’s” that have inspired your patients to stick with the Turbo Metabolism program over the years?

Phil did it for his family. His twin daughters were teenagers when he had a heart attack. After that, he lost 30 pounds and kept it off so he could see them grow-up (one became a marketing exec and the other, a psychologist) and dance at their weddings.

Nina’s “why” was her dream to climb Mt Kilimanjaro with her grandson. She reversed her diabetes and lost 48 pounds while she trained for the climb over a 3-year period. She wants to do Mt. Everest next.

Sam was devastated when he lost his son in an accident. He resolved to become healthy for his 12-year old daughter and recently ran and finished the San Francisco marathon with her, around the time she graduated from college.

You say that Turbo Metabolism is about story, state, and strategy. Tell us more.

To paraphrase Tony Robbins, story is the internal dialogue/narrative we tell about our lives. State is about our physical, mental, emotional condition. Strategy is our action plan. Our story and state need to be in the right place before we can execute on strategy. This goes back to the idea of mobilizing emotional and spiritual resources before taking physical action.

You share the acronym FAST in the book as a strategy for learning new skills. Please explain.

Learning Coach Jim Kwik introduced me to the acronym FAST, which stands for:

Forget what you think you know and start with a fresh state.
Active learning. Make learning interactive and participatory (not from rote memory)
State. Be in the right state of mind — calm, relaxed, and open.
Teach. We learn and own knowledge the best when we teach it to someone else

How long does it take to create a new habit and what advice would you offer to someone who is having a hard time starting one?

I have often heard the number twenty-one days given, but in actuality it takes at least two months or sixty days to ingrain a new habit. My advice would be to start with small bite-size changes that you can piggyback onto existing habits. Set yourself up for success in your environment by doing things like keeping healthy foods in your kitchen, getting your workout clothes ready the night before, and/or keeping your floss on the bathroom counter. It’s also important to harness the resources of your social support network. Emotional buy in and environmental support can make or break the process.

You say that lean muscle mass is the single-most-important of metabolism that is within our control. Why is weight resistance training such an important thing for us to be doing?

Resistance training is the most critical and neglected component of exercise and lean muscle mass is the single most important component of metabolism that we can influence. People with more lean muscle mass have better posture, are less likely to fall, live longer, look better, and most importantly, for the purposes of Turbo Metabolism, they burn more fat even at rest because muscles burn fat. People with more lean mass can give in to the temptation to eat off plan occasionally and still burn it off!

What is the problem with the “standard American diet” that is largely comprised of processed, manufactured, food?

The problem with a diet composed of processed, manufactured food is that the body does not even recognize this diet as food at all. The purpose of food is not only to provide energy, but also to create biochemical signals in the body that relate to the quality of our health. The standard American diet diminishes both and turns on signals of disease instead of health.

What is your best advice regarding meal timing and frequency?

A lot research is happening with regards to meal timing and frequency. The body is designed to have periods of fasting cycling with periods of feeding. Thus, if we can time our meals to create sufficient fasting periods in between feedings, the body has a chance to go into fat burning mode. One way to do this would be to restrict our eating to an 8-hour window between 9 AM and 5 PM. thus fasting for the remaining 16 hours from 5 PM until 9 AM the next day

What role does water play in Turbo Metabolism and how much water should we drink in a day?

We often mistake thirst for hunger. Therefore, drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day is a good rule of thumb. So if you weigh 200 pounds, you would drink 100 ounces of water a day. Also, having a tall glass of water before grabbing a snack is an effective way to mindfully gauge hunger.

What are some of the biggest exercise errors that people make?

Here are the three most common exercises errors:

#1 – Missing out on resistance exercise by doing cardio only.
#2 — Not adjusting the frequency and intensity of workouts to stay progressively challenged
#3 – Not committing to a time and place to make sure exercise happens every day.

Tell us biological effects of stress and what we can do about it.

Unrelenting and unmanaged stress keeps us in fight or flight mode, which makes it difficult to move into to “rest, digest, and growth mode.” It is impossible to make life-changing decisions and to maintain healthy habits when we are in this state of overwhelm. Also, on the biological level, unmanaged stress secretes stress hormones like cortisol that make us hungrier (even if we have enough fat stores), which can lead to weight gain.

You have a whole chapter about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. How much sleep do we need and what advice do you offer to those suffering from insomnia?

Sleep is another neglected master lever of health. In our modern 24 / 7 lifestyle we have come up with the notion that sleep is a waste of time. Evolutionarily speaking, we would not still have kept the need to sleep one third of our lives if it was not critical for appetite regulation, memory consolidation, creativity and overall wellbeing.

The amount of sleep needed is unique to each individual although the average is about 8.5 hours.
Most of insomnia can be treated with changing the unhealthy behaviors that created it such as: eating a large meal late at night; bright lights whether from light bulbs or from screens; alcohol; and the lack of relaxing evening routines.

February 13, 2018 • Health & Well Being • Paperback & eBook • 304 pages
Price: $16.95 • ISBN 978-1-60868-498-4