Dr. SEA: Thank you for taking up time to reach out to our readers. Dr. Albert Enow Takem, you currently live and work in the USA although your journey through medicine didn’t begin there. Please tell our readers more about yourself.
Dr. Takem: I was born and raised in Cameroon. After completing my studies at the university of Yaounde, I then moved to Italy where I went to medical school at the university of Bologna. After medical school I relocated to the United States where I completed my residency at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens,New York. I am certified in Internal Medicine by the American Board of Internal Medicine. I am the medical director and founder of Dr Takem’s Weight Loss and Wellness in Chevy Chase Maryland.
Dr. SEA: You mentioned your weight loss program which was inspired by your personal story. Do you mind going into that?
Dr. Takem: Well it all started in 2004 when I moved to the USA from Italy. I weighed 171 pounds (78 kg) at the time and was pretty lean. My weight progressively increased and I attribute that to poor eating habits. By the time I was done with residency and started working in June 2012, I weighed a whopping 226 pounds (103 kg). I was suffering from high blood pressure and taking two blood pressure medications. However, my blood pressure was still uncontrolled and a third one was being considered. In March 2013 I suffered a life threatening side effect of one of the blood pressure medicines called Angioedema which thank God I survived. That was the turning point for me. I began my weight loss journey and lost 26 pounds (11 kg) in six weeks. Due to my weight loss I was able to get off my medications .I haven’t needed any blood pressure medications for two years.
Thanks to my personal journey, I was able to regain control of my health and it is this same passion I bring to my patients, in order to free them from the burden of medications and complications of obesity.
You can see a video that tells the story,including not so flattering pictures of my former self: https://youtu.be/IC-0SYvBurY
Dr. SEA: How would you define wellness
Dr. Takem: I define wellness as a state of mental and physical balance characterized by the absence of disease or the presence of well controlled chronic conditions.
Dr. SEA: What are the pillars of the Dr.Takem’s Weightloss ?
Dr. Takem: My guiding philosophy is Calorie Consciousness and Optimal Nutrition and its fundamental pillars are:
- Know what you eat: optimal nutrition
- Know what you burn: optimal physical activity
- Learn to say No!: optimal behaviour
Dr. SEA: Could you highlight the effects of overweight on general health
Dr. Takem: People with excess weight are more prone to developing heart attacks,strokes,diabetes, high cholesterol,certain cancers like post menopausal breast cancer,colon cancer, arthritis and that’s just to name a few.
Dr. SEA: There are not many weight loss programs which focus on African-Caribbean cuisine. What difference is your program making as concerns this and how do you compare to BirthOrderPlus diet?
Dr. Takem: This is very true and happens for a few reasons. In my opinion there are two main reasons why this happens:
- Untrue myths we believe: most African/Caribbeans as well as other ethnic minorities view the idea of losing weight as something foreign and suitable only for westerners. We believe you cannot eat our ethnic cuisines and still lose weight. Nothing could be further away from the truth. Our diets consist of the same food groups like western diets: protein,carbohydrates,fats,fiber,fruits,vegetables. The main difference lies in the recipes.
- Weight loss programs primarily rely on a standard American diet or closely related diets like the Mediterranean diet which obviously are very different from our diets. However it has never been easier to lose weight while eating our ethnic diets. I educate my patients from ethnic minorities how to eat these same foods and lose weight. It takes time and effort but very achievable. I have lost a total of 40 pounds (18kg ) eating primarily Cameroonian staples and anyone can do the same. I also like Jamaican foods like oxtail and eat those often.
- The key is to understand how to eat an ethnic balanced meal with the specific goal of losing weight and wellness and this where I focus my nutrition education. Calorie consciousness is a fundamental for any weight loss plan,be it American,Caribbean or African.
Dr. SEA: Physical activity is one of your pillars. How soon and fast should an overweight person take up sports?
Dr. Takem: The answer really depends on their state of health and overall fitness level. In my clinic I run a test called a VO2 on every patient and this helps me determine their fitness level. Based on results from the VO2 test, the patient will receive an exercise prescription. My exercise physiologist then creates safe workout plans which they are able to do and progressively improve their fitness level.
However, I do understand not everyone has access to this level of service. The best thing to do is to start out slow and know exactly why you are exercising. Is it to lose weight or is it to be heart healthy? The results vary widely based on your specific goals. If your audience is interested,I wrote a blog post about the benefits of exercise.
Dr. SEA: What exercises would you recommend in the beginning and later to maintain good results.
Dr. Takem: Physical activity can be either aerobic activity or resistance training. Aerobic activity commonly known as cardio is always the best in terms of weight loss and wellness. With cardio you burn more calories as compared to resistance training and you also improve your cardiovascular fitness which makes you live well and longer. Stick to walking or running on the treadmill,use the elliptical or Stair Master. Most importantly,find a workout regimen or machine you enjoy and know you can stick with. Resistance training,also known as strength training is important to build muscle and strengthen bones. Start with light weights and gradually increase the weights as your strength improves. I recommend 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week and 3 days of strength training. For cardio,pay attention to the level of difficulty of the exercise. As a simple rule,you should be able to carry on a short conversation while walking or jogging but not sing during the exercise.
Dr. SEA: How important is an individual’s medical history when considering such programs?
Dr. Takem: It is of extreme importance which is why physician supervised weight loss programs are growing in popularity. This is even more important if you have problems like high blood pressure,diabetes or heart disease. When you lose weight your medications may have to be adjusted. This is also important when considering starting an exercise program because underlying medical conditions can be adversely affected. Always check with your doctor prior to starting the program.
Dr. SEA: How important is the BMI in such weight loss programs and overall health
Dr. Takem: BMI is a key indicator of wellness. The American Medical Association recently declared Obesity i.e is BMI greater than 30 to be a chronic disease. Another key factor is longevity. Studies have shown that If your BMI is between 18 and 25 you have an 80% chance of making it to age 70. If your BMI is greater than 35 you have a 60% chance. If greater than 40 you have a 50% chance which is basically a coin toss.
Dr. Takem: Yo-yo effect which in medical jargon is called weight cycling is simply a person who alternates periodically through periods of unintentional weight gain followed by intentional weight loss. To date there are really no studies that have shown a harmful effect on overall wellness beyond the risks inherent in excess weight. However it can be a huge psychological blow and may lead people to despair. People who tried repeatedly and failed to maintain the weight lost may just give up and think excess weight is just a part of their lives. We sometimes wonder “how did this person allow themselves to get to 200 kg of body weight?”. For many of these folks this is how it starts.
Dr. SEA: Initial weight loss is generally easier than maintaining the target figures. What tips can you give our readers on how to maintain results
Dr. Takem: You are right,weight loss is the easiest part of the equation and about 90% of people do gain weight again. However if you remember anything from this interview I want it to be these two tips. I think these are the most fundamental in weight maintenance:
- Establish a daily calorie budget
- Keep an accurate diary of how much you eat daily and how much you burn off in physical activity.
Weight maintenance is an active process and not a passive one. You have to be proactive and avoid the landmines ready to blow up your hard earned success.
Dr. SEA: Do we have unhealthy weight loss diets out there?
Dr. Takem: Yes there are many and would require a lengthy discussion. Suffice to say any good weight loss diet should prioritize health over results. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. However I have an upcoming series of blog posts where I will be discussing the most popular diets out there. Your readers can subscribe to my newsletter to receive this directly to their inbox.
Dr. SEA: What are two most successful stories of your program
Dr. Takem: The first is someone who signed up to the program from Douala,Cameroon. Her friends know her as Nams. She has chronicled her journey on her facebook page. Lafleur Nams Profiles | Facebook. You can see her amazing transformation there. She has lost 45 pounds(20 kg) this far living in Cameroon.
The second is a Cameroonian pharmacist in Dallas Texas. Her name is Kawa Monie and she wanted to lose 15-20 pounds for her mother’s wedding. Her diet is mainly Cameroonian too and she lost the weight and has been able to maintain it. You can view a video of her testimonial here KAWA’S VIDEO where she tells her story in her own words.
Dr. SEA: How can our readers participate in your program?
Dr. Takem: There are several ways: First,If you live in the Washington D.C metro area you can come visit my clinic at 8401 Connecticut avenue, suite 102,Chevy Chase MD 20852.
Secondly, we have an online program for people who are far away and as you see, both Kawa and Nams were successful.
Thirdly, I am writing a book about weight loss called Intentional Weight Loss. It is designed for anyone who has tried to lose weight through fad diets,cleanse programs and other quick fix programs and failed. I teach my readers how to institute changes in their diet,exercise and lifestyle with consistency to achieve permanent weight loss. I explain how you can still eat the foods you love and are accustomed too and still lose weight.
Last but not least you can follow us on twitter, facebook, instagram, google+ for a daily dose of weight loss and wellness tips. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to receive my blog posts twice a week.
Good luck and I hope 2016 is the year you achieve your wellness goals.
Dr. SEA: Thank you once more for enriching our readers.