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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why You Get Fat – And What To Do About It – Part V

There are no secrets

In Part I of Why You Get Fat, I discussed the issues with and history of the calories in calories out and eat less exercise more mantras of fat loss, Part II of Why You Get Fat was dedicated to dispelling the myth that the answer to fat loss is cutting calories, Part III of Why You Get Fat showed that exercise alone isn’t the answer and Part IV of Why You Get Fat explained the real reasons people get fat.  

If you haven’t done so already, I would suggest you go back and read the previous posts in the series before reading this fifth and final post that explains what you really need to do if you want to lose fat permanently.

Let me just preface this post by saying there is no magic, secret solution to fat loss.  Rather, there are straightforward, science based, eating and lifestyle focused strategies that will work.  They aren’t overnight, lose 10lbs quickly gimmicks and they require a willingness to make significant, some may say drastic, changes to long-standing habits.  And like any other change, these changes may cause discomfort, social rejection and feelings of isolation.  If you aren’t willing to stand up for yourself and what is good for you and your health you might as well forget about embarking on these changes.  I don’t say these things to discourage you, but rather to be open and honest about what really is required and what you’re likely to face when making these changes.  As you already know, anything that is worth doing requires sacrifice and hard work – fat loss is no different.  Read on and prepare yourself to make a life-changing transformation that will give you a new found energy and zeal for living.

After reading this series of posts, the message should be clear, it’s what you eat that makes the biggest difference in determining whether you are lean or fat.  While your predisposition to being fat is beyond your control, what you must understand is that your behavior sets that predisposition into action.  You can’t just give the genetics excuse and pretend your behavior doesn’t play a critical role.  With that in mind lets discuss, in more detail, what it is you should eat if you want to achieve or maintain a lean and healthy weight throughout your life.

don't eat these if you want to lose fat

 As I’ve mentioned before, if you want to be lean and healthy you need to largely ignore most mainstream dietary advice.  This includes the nutrition information propagated by the mainstream media, and a vast majority of dietitians, fitness gurus, nutritionists and physicians.  They may be well meaning, but the information they have is outdated and has been proven an epic fail by years of solid research and real world results.  If you want more details I suggest you buy and read WhyWe Get Fat – And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes.  I know this premise may seem counter intuitive, but it’s true.  Mainstream dietary information is the foundation upon which many multi-billion dollar industries are built and thus will be held out as truth as long as the money keeps flowing.  It’s kind of like the Bay Bridge project, finally coming to completion after dragging on for years, once you’re this far into it by way of money, time and image it’s virtually impossible to go back…it’s just too inconvenient.  The take home point is you need to be willing to ignore popular opinion, learn the truth, go against the grain, and let go of old ideas and practices that have no merit.  This is the starting point, if you can take this first step the rest becomes much simpler and easier to implement.

ignore popular opinion

After deciding to set conventional wisdom aside, the next focus has to be on understanding which foods have the greatest effect on your blood sugar and insulin levels, as these are the most fattening.  Remember insulin is the primary fat regulation hormone and drives fat storage in your body.  If you can keep your insulin levels under control you’re one step closer to losing fat.  The foods that cause rapid insulin increase and fat accumulation are the quick digesting carbohydrates such as all refined flour products, liquid carbs and starches.  I feel your sadness already, many of your favorite foods gone - remember, I didn’t say this would be easy.  In fact, as you become resistant to insulin (and thus have high blood levels of insulin), which results when you eat more carbohydrates than your body can handle, as evidenced by the accumulation of body fat and other symptoms of metabolic syndrome (high bp, low energy, high cholesterol etc.), you will begin to crave the very foods that make you fat.  This is because the excess insulin tells the body to store everything and burn excess blood sugar, even when there isn’t any available…so you look to eat these quick digesting carbs to satisfy these “needs”.  The fact that the fattening carbs are the ones you crave is not something new, just something you’ve likely not heard if you get your nutrition information from mainstream “authorities”.

While some carbs cause you to get fat, like those mentioned above, others like green leafy vegetables typically don’t present these same problems.  They take much longer to break down and absorb, thus leaving blood sugar levels much more stable.  Fruit on the other hand, has a lesser effect on blood sugar than starch, but presents it’s own unique issues.  It’s the way in which fruit is processed that causes the problem.  Fructose (fruit sugar) is processed mostly in the liver and thus has no immediate effect on blood sugar.  However, due to the significantly greater amounts of fructose today’s diets contain – primarily from high-fructose corn syrup and the over consumption of fruit itself - the liver gets overwhelmed.  The liver then turns much of the fructose into fat for storage in fat tissue, and over time stores fat in the liver itself.  This then causes your muscle tissue to become insulin resistant through a domino effect triggered by the liver cells’ insulin resistance.  And as I always tell people, if you need to lose fat, for at least the first 2 weeks you need to absolutely cut out all fruit.

fruit and fat loss don't go together

You may be thinking at this point that this is crazy…fruit is good for me, well remember step 1 – forget about conventional nutrition propaganda.  And what about other carbohydrates?  Don’t I need whole grains and fiber blah blah blah…again remember step 1.  These mantras that you’ve been indoctrinated with are not based on facts, but instead on politics, money and people seeing things the way they want to see them.  For those of you eager to see the evidence that refutes these popular notions (read Wheat Belly by William Davis MD for a thorough explanation on the problems with grains) here are some things to consider.

The populations around the world that have a relatively high proportion of carbohydrates in their diet, historically eat very little refined sugar, they limit the quantities of fattening carbohydrate they consume, and their genetics allow them to eat more carbohydrates than most.  Unfortunately for most people, modern lifestyles and genetics don’t allow them the luxury of eating significant amounts of carbohydrates, at least if they want to stay lean.  The advice, to avoid fattening carbohydrates, was commonplace up through the medical literature of the 1960’s and in books, reports and conferences up through the early 70’s.  The conflict began when people started thinking of obesity as an eating disorder caused by people eating too much, and when health officials began believing dietary fat caused heart disease.  These beliefs couldn’t be conveniently reconciled with certain carbohydrates being fattening and thus the train wreck of obesity, diabetes and heart disease began. 

eat this to be lean and healthy

Historically speaking the trend in dietary advice over the past 30 years is a far cry from what humans ate over most of history.  That is, humans ate as much animal food as possible, and some ate virtually no plants.  Why?  Because they either weren’t readily available (think fruits, they’re only available naturally during a short season in certain areas), or they were hard to eat…a lot of vegetables are not easy to eat or digest if you don’t first cook them.  People were focused on survival in historic cultures, thus they ate the foods that delivered the most bang for their buck so to speak.  You have to eat many times more plants to get the same nutrition that’s available in much smaller portions of meat.  And if eating fruits and vegetables is so critical to health, then how was it that carnivorous populations didn’t have modern health issues while the vegetarian societies had plenty of cancer?  Because it’s not the meat and fat that’s the problem, it’s the modern refined carbohydrate foods that are…this includes modern fruit, which is much more readily available and sweeter than it once was. 

Even though the above information is widely available to those who really look, there are still many skeptics…particularly in the medical field.  This is quite interesting, as I’ve stated before, given the lack of nutritional coursework in medical school curricula.  Never the less, there are 3 primary arguments against low carbohydrate diets.  You may even be a proponent of one of them. 

Here they are…

First is the argument that attempts to prop up the eat less exercise more calories in calories out nonsense I’ve already gone through in previous posts in this series.  This one says low carb diets don’t work because they can’t possibly cause weight loss without having you eat less and/or exercise.  You should have already expunged this idea from your mind because it has been proven wrong over and over again and has no basis in reality, end of discussion.


Secondly, people argue that they can’t be healthy because they restrict a whole category of nutrients, violating the hypothesis that you must eat a balanced diet from all major food groups.  With the fact clearly established that refined and concentrated forms of quick digesting carbohydrates cause us to become fat this argument makes no sense.  They clearly cause negative consequences so why would you want to include them.  It’s like saying you should try running out in front of traffic each day so that you have a balance of different activities in your life…this is ridiculous as is the assumption that because a particular food item is available you should be sure to include it in your eating.  Especially because, as I mentioned, there were native populations that ate virtually no fruits or vegetables but were still very healthy.  There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, just because your brain will burn carbs for fuel doesn’t mean it has to do so.  In actuality, researchers have shown that the brain and central nervous system function better on ketones made by the liver when carbs are not in the diet.

You do not need these

Now the third and final argument - that low carb diets are high fat diets that cause heart disease by raising cholesterol.  There have been many books written on why the fat, cholesterol, heart disease idea is a lot of baloney.  This idea comes out of science from the 60’s and 70’s that falls apart when looked at in light of more recent science and research.  Without getting into too much detail, I may need to do another post on this topic, how can a high carbohydrate diet that makes us fat be heart healthy while a diet that restricts carbohydrates and makes us lean give us heart disease?  This makes no sense given the reality that obesity, particularly fat above the waist, goes hand in hand with heart disease.  In actuality high levels of insulin, which promotes fattening, is the cause of heart disease and this results from eating a diet too high in the wrong type of carbohydrates for your individual genetics.  One interesting thing to note are the consistent results that have come from recent research that compares the effect on weight, heart disease and diabetes risk factors of eating very low carbohydrate, high fat and protein diets with the low fat low calorie diet recommended by the American Heart Association.  This research revealed that the low carb high fat diet is not dangerous and in fact improved risk factors as much or more than the high carb low fat diet.

Matter the Most!

In summation, it should be clear that controlling your insulin levels by reducing the carbohydrates that quickly raise your blood sugar is critical to fat loss.  Does controlling carbs guarantee you will lose fat to the degree you like? No.  There are many other things involved, genetics, other hormones and lifestyle.  So instead of a magic bullet, it’s a starting point on a journey toward health and an ideal weight for you.  Along with controlling your carbohydrate intake you need to get adequate sleep (no, 5-6 hours is not enough…more like 8-9, especially if you’ve thrashed your body for years burning the candle at both ends).  If you refuse to go to bed at a reasonable hour, then your hormones will be screwed up and losing fat, especially around the middle, will be virtually impossible…unfortunately this is reality.  If you get your food right, get your sleep right and you still can’t lose fat you may need to get all your hormone levels tested by a functional medicine doctor and beyond that you may have to look at chemical and heavy medical toxicity – which can block fat loss.  In future posts, I will discuss some of these factors in more detail.  

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And for those who disagree, here's food for thought, I once heard a very knowledgeable fitness professional say to someone who wanted to argue and disagree about how to get in shape - "lets both take off our clothes and then we'll discuss who is right and who is wrong."  


tom davis said...

Thankyou for this thought provoking information, I work hard at living and being healthy, but lately and at the age of 57,I have been getting seemingly poor and sometimes even negative results from my diet.I am very active both at work and during my time off. Sudden low energy levels then gradually increasing levels and leveling off later in the day, cause me to think my blood sugar levels are out of whack due to fast burning carbs in my diet. Plus lately I cant seem to lose weight,and in fact have gained some. Im looking forward to restructuring my diet in the light of these blogs and noticing the results or lack thereof in my weight(fat) loss and energy levels.

Mark said...

You're welcome Tom! Keep me updated on your progress.

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