The Obesity Code
Friday, January 08, 2021
A few years ago, my doctor recommended that I read The Obesity Code, by Dr. Jason Fung. I dutifully checked it out, but was instantly turned off by the hyperbole and the overbearing "everybody else is wrong!" tone.
But I decided to give it another shot because my doctor and I had discussed the puzzle of why, after you've been overweight for years, you can lose weight but always put it back on, and then some. True, true, true. I lose weight easily, but I regain just as quickly. It's as if my body conspires against me. I do most things right, I eat healthy overall, and I'm active, but it's not enough. I'd like to understand what's going on, and of course I'd like to break out of that cycle and maintain a healthy weight for a change. She finds value in this book, so I picked it up again.
The message is that insulin resistance, not calories or glucose levels or fat or carbs per se is what causes weight gain and leads to diabetes (which I don't have, but it's common in my family on both sides). I still hate how it's written--the hyperbole, no useful charts or graphics, a tone I find flippant, some conclusions based on what I feel are flimsy or inappropriate premises.
But it has some very good points about avoiding added sugar, choosing only whole grains rather than processed and refined, and getting adequate fiber and natural dietary fat every day. I agree that fats and carbohydrates are not created equal. Fruit is healthier than fruit juice, sugary soda, or candy, largely because it includes fiber, which is protective and reduces insulin levels. Natural fats, even saturated animal fats and butter, are far healthier than chemically-created fats. All foods raise insulin levels temporarily, but dietary fat raises it the least. And dietary cholesterol had been proven again and again to not raise cholesterol in the heart and arteries. Our bodies make cholesterol on their own, no matter what.
And above all, not snacking. Furthermore, not eating when you're not actually hungry, in order to let insulin levels drop. Fung says it's perfectly okay to skip breakfast if you aren't hungry--in fact, it's beneficial. I am a devoted, long-time daily breakfast eater, but it makes sense to me.
I don't know if I buy taking a tablespoon of vinegar every day--the author doesn't even try to prove that it works, just points to correlation studies, after ripping other correlation studies to shreds for lacking proof of causation.
He's also very vague about how much is enough. He does recommend 20% protein daily, no more, which matches SparkPeople's numbers. I naturally seem to eat 50% carbs, 30% fat and 20% protein. So for me, it's just a matter of where those nutrients come from. And when.
The upshot is, this is the Mediterranean Diet, with an emphasis on sourcing food. He cautions against going low-fat or low-calorie, due to the importance of fat and adequate calories in maintaining a good metabolism. Limiting calories a couple times a week with a 16:8 or 5:2 fast method is okay, however.
The author points out that all diets work, initially, in that people lose weight at first. But all diets fail--people gain the weight back. The key, he thinks, is keeping blood insulin levels from remaining elevated all the time--he believes that's what raises our body set-weight, to where, after shedding pounds for a while, our bodies make every effort to return to our previous heavier weight.
Could be: the jury is out on that, and will be for a while. But this seems like an approach I can sustain in the long run, much more easily than low fat or reduced calories.
Have you read the book? I'd be curious what you thought of it, and if you found it useful.