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I read a lot. I also have read a lot on obesity, low carb, paleo, diet du jour etc. But the book I am reading now, The Obesity code, is teaching me a lot of things I did not know. It isn’t a self-help, how to, diet book. It’s mainly facts backed by research laid out in an easy-to-read compelling manner. I would highly recommend it if you would like to learn more. It’s making me question several of the things that I have been doing, such as cutting calories too low, protein shakes, fake sugar, etc.
He cites multiple studies that show that a 30% reduction in calories will result in a more than 30% reduction in basal metabolic rate. In other words the less you eat, the less your body needs. Often referred to as Adaptive Thermogenesis, this is yet another instance of how our bodies develop compensatory mechanisms to cope with adverse situations.
This would explain why so many of us are struggling with weight gain on very low calories. His main premise is calories don’t cause weight gain, insulin does. Most of the strategies center around how to control high insulin, and insulin resistance. He emphasizes not just what you eat (whole foods, no sugar, no processed foods etc.) but also when you eat. Fasting plays an important role in increasing insulin sensitivity, and he has several recommendations around how and why to incorporate this into your life.
Although I track and am thoughtful about what I eat, after reading this book, the issues I have identified for myself are:
- Continual low calories with no fluctuation allowing for metabolic adaptation at undesirable levels. I think I will try to increase calories slowly, 100 calories per week, and see if that helps re-set my body a little. This video explains it rather well. I’ve done this years ago and it did help me, so perhaps it’s time to try again.
- Too drastic a cut in calories leaving nowhere to go. No matter how many times we are told to not cut calories too much, I think we all do cut a lot, especially after surgery.
- Use of fake sugars that raise insulin even more than real sugar. I suspected they weren’t good for you, but I didn’t realize they raised insulin. One surprising thing I learned is that just because a particular food doesn’t raise your blood sugar (low glycemic index), doesn’t mean it’s won’t raise your insulin. I’d always thought the two were connected but they aren’t always so. This is why Agave nectar can be marketed as low GI, and while it doesn’t raise blood sugar, apparently it does raise insulin, which is where the problem lies.
- Use of highly processed whey protein which raises insulin. All these years after surgery, I’m still relying on the occasional shake or bar to meet my macros or eat on the run. I think it’s time to quit doing that and revert to real food almost all the time.
- I wonder if I’m fasting too consistently. I usually fast daily for 14-16 hours, and from what I’m reading, I wonder if it wouldn’t help to mix things up a bit, and fast alternate days, or only 2 days a week.
- Snacking even if planned snacking. He exhorts 3 meals, no snacks which intuitively I know will work better for me. At firsts, we have to snack because we can’t eat too much at any one meal, and it become a bit of a habit to eat 5-6 small meals. As our stomachs hold more though, I really don’t see the value of it. The more often we eat, the longer we have insulin in our bloodstream, and we all know: you are either feasting and not burning fat, or you are fasting and burning fat. So fewer meals make more sense in maintenance.
- Occasional longer fasts. For some of us who are insulin resistant and have been so for a while, or have been overweight for a while, we may benefit from longer fasts. So I think I will inch my way toward one or two 24-hour fasts and see how I feel. I’m a little intimidated at not being able to do it, so I might start with the 5:2 method to ease into it. I did about 600 calories yesterday and was fine. In fact, I’m struggling to force myself to eat this morning.
All in all I found the Obesity Code to be immensely helpful and educational and I highly recommend it for those seeking to learn more. I have also enjoyed reading Dr. Jason Fung’s blog, especially his series of lectures on Fasting.
If you guys have other books to recommend, I’d love to hear about them.