Why we are fat
The food industry wants us to believe that we are getting more and more overweight because we eat too much and exercise too little. This position takes the responsibility off of them and puts it squarely on us! Sadly, many of us have fallen victim to believing this fiction.
What is far closer to the truth is that our diet has changed dramatically over the past 50-60 years. Instead of eating scheduled meals of real, whole food and allowing our bodies to reset through a 12 hour, minimum, fast while we sleep, we have been told to eat steadily throughout the day, meals that are ridiculously high in carbohydrate and low in fat. Add to this the massive increase in production of processed food (-like substances), which are full of toxins and added sugars, and what you get is, well, exactly where we are, fat and sick.
The long and the short of it is, excess carbs and not fat, are responsible for the increase in weight gain and illness. Excessive carb consumption causes chronically high blood sugar, which, in turn, causes chronically high insulin. Insulin is both an inflammatory and fat storage hormone that tells the body to store unused calories as fat.
Obesity is not a case of simple calories in and calories out as we’ve been lead to believe. The reason is simple. Food is much more than just energy. Food is information in the forms of macro and micronutrients. This means that the way our body responds to consuming 100 calories of soda vs. 100 calories of broccoli is vastly different. In this example, the soda will cause a spike in blood sugar, that causes an appropriate insulin response that ultimately causes inflammation and stores unused calories. Meanwhile, eating the broccoli will slow digestion, does not cause a large increase in sugar and feeds our good gut bacteria, all at the same time!
Obesity is not the result of merely consuming too many calories. It simply doesn’t make sense.
The problem with calorie restriction
Let’s talk a little about a few of the problems with caloric restriction. The problems include, but are certainly not limited to the following.
- It is hard! When you focus on eating less calories but do not address the type of food you are consuming, you experience fluctuations in blood sugar that make you irritable and leave you feeling drained!
- Your body adjusts your base metabolism down to account for the reduction in caloric intake. Therefore you are burning fewer calories. What’s the point?
- You never feel satiated which means that you are thinking of your next meal...always! Trying to lose weight this way is not sustainable.
- This approach incorrectly leads one to think that strenuous exercise is also needed (so more calories are burned). Keep in mind, however, that as your metabolism slows down (because you are essentially starving yourself), you get less and less fat burning benefit from strenuous activity. That is not to say that exercise is bad. Exercise is good for many reasons, but losing weight is not one of them.
We have been made to believe that we are getting fatter and fatter because of not having the willpower to eat less and exercise more. That is BS! The problem is that we’ve, inadvertently, been lead down a path of consuming high carbohydrate and processed food that has resulted in a sugar addiction, all while being told that dietary fat is bad. We need to get back to eating as we were meant to. That is, low carb/high fat diets for much of the year, peppered with periods of fasting.
Why ketogenic diets work
Ketogenic or low carb/high fat diets work because they allow your body to turn on and optimize its ability to burn fat for fuel, in the absence of sugar. Because you are not eating a lot of carbs your blood sugar stays stable, keeping your insulin low. Lower insulin means less inflammation but it also allows for stored fat to leave their comfy fat cell homes to be used for energy. It’s all about the insulin!
So here’s the cool thing. One might think you need to worry about eating too many calories given that a gram of fat is worth 9 calories vs. 4 in a gram of carbs or protein, but you do not!
Because blood sugar is stable, you do not have the incessant thoughts about where your next meal is going to come from. You are satiated! It is incredibly liberating to eat only when you are hungry, which is far less often than when you are a sugar burner. This because eating ketogenically resets your hunger hormone, ghrelin so you feel full when you actually are full.
To read more about the Ketogenic Diet, visit my article Improve focus, boost mood and lose weight through Diet & Nutrition.
What is intermittent fasting?
Once upon a time, we ate three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast was typically at 7am with dinner no later than 6pm. In between, we usually didn’t eat, excepting a special occasion. The time between dinner and breakfast, the next morning, was about 12-13 hours. This is a fast.
For thousands of years, our species has fasted in one way or another. The Greeks made a habit of fasting to realize the incredible mental clarity benefits it produces. Many religions fast throughout the year (Christianity, Hindu, Judaism, Islam), also for increased mental clarity purposes but more as a means of cleansing oneself. Fasting is not a new practice.
There are many types of fasting from intermittent (<24 hrs) to longer fasts (24-48 hrs) to extended fasts (>48 hrs). For the purposes of this discussion, we will talk about shorter fasts.
Intermittent fasts (IF), generally, last between 16 and 20 hours. While there are many people that will do a water only IF, it is common to drink high fat bone broth and Bulletproof coffee to help satiate you during the fasting period.
My IF typically last 16-18 hours. I’ve always been a late eater so I typically begin my fast at 9pm. If I need a “snack”, I will warm up some bone broth that night. In the morning I drink 1-2 cups of Bulletproof coffee then break my fast sometime between 1-3pm. That gives me an eating window of 1-9pm (8 hrs), during which I usually eat two meals.
Benefits of Fasting
IF has several benefits.
- Lowers inflammation
- Reduces insulin resistance
- Is good for your brain
- Induces various cellular repair processes
- Burns through your sugar stores allowing your liver to make ketones to serve as fuel
- Forces your body into a temporary state of ketosis (fat burning), resulting in weight loss
- Protects muscle. When you are using fat for fuel, there is no pathway to converting protein (muscle) to energy
- Resets hunger hormone (ghrelin)
- Human growth hormone (HGH) goes up, preserving your muscle, enhancing your ability to heal fractures, promoting weight loss, strengthening bones, and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease
Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore provide a great argument as to why Intermittent Fasting is an effective weight loss plan. They discuss it’s many benefits and give you a little “How to” in this interview by Allan Misner. Enjoy!
If you are looking to improve your health and lose weight, then I strongly recommend you consider intermittent fasting as a regular part of your routine. There is a reason fasting has been around for thousands of years. It works!
To get first class support on your journey to intermittent fasting, get a copy of Jason and Jimmy’s book The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting.
Well friends, it’s time to go. I hope I have served you well.
Until next time, be curious!
*Remember to check with a healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, including the introduction of supplements.