So I just finished the book : The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss by Jason Fung, MD after it was recommended, and I heard an interview with the author on a podcast I was listening to the other day.
It was a good book with plenty of references to scientific studies, well- documented with sources for each study at the end of the book.
Basically, we have 2 forms of energy for our body to burn – glucose which is stored in the liver and fat which is stored all over our body. The glucose in the liver is really easy to use and readily available, the fat is harder to access. and it turns out that it is not easily accessed in the presence of insulin. The main hormone which regulates which type of energy our body uses is insulin. Insulin is released whenever we eat, even if we only taste it without swallowing. Insulin is also released when we are under stress and when we are not getting enough sleep.
Insulin regulates blood sugar or glucose so that we always have the proper glucose range in our blood. It turns out that the idea of blood sugar leading to weight gain is only part of the story- blood sugar leads to increased insulin, but it is not the blood sugar that directly leads to fat storage. Insulin, basically controls the blood sugar in the body, and if there is too much, that blood sugar is turned directly into fat via insulin. This is why artificial sweeteners don’t result in weight loss – even though they don’t raise blood sugar levels – they still raise insulin. The body then releases insulin it doesn’t actually need which then results in weight gain.
Here is the author explaining a lot of the basics that are in his book in case you don’t want to read my entire synopsis:
The book cites several studies which show that insulin does in fact cause weight gain. It is even known among people with a certain kind of diabetic condition that if they don’t take as much insulin as required, they will lose weight, and sometimes people do that against the direction of their doctors.
The body will also release insulin in times of stress and sleep deprivation in response to the stress hormone, cortisol. This gives us the energy we need to run away from danger like lions. But when we don’t expend that energy that was created for us to run away from the lions, then all that extra energy turns to fat. The same process happens when we aren’t getting enough good quality sleep.
All this extra insulin then results in weight gain, and it is often around our middles. The body will also work hard to maintain its set point. That set point is often higher than what we want it to be. And finally, our bodies start to develop insulin sensitivities and resistance – which means that our bodies get so accustomed to higher amounts of insulin that it requires even more insulin to get our blood sugars to the proper levels. The body will prioritize health of the blood, heart and brain over a few extra fat cells- so it’s easy to see why it happens the way it does.
The solution is to have periods of time where insulin levels can drop to nothing, giving the body a chance to recover and repair other systems. This is done through fasting. There have been several studies showing how effective different fasting protocols are for healing various ailments, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
Fasting has been a part of life for most religions and cultures throughout time – Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Ancient Greeks to name a few. Our bodies are built for periods of fasting and feasting, we are well adapted to change in the food supply. This book cites several studies which support that idea as well.
So if we don’t have a lot of weight to lose, we need to give our bodies at least 12 hours a day of a fasting period so that it can finish digesting and do all the bodily functions it needs to keep us healthy and strong. It is also recommended that we eat 3 meals a day with no snacks. This helps our bodies have more insulin free periods of time during the day. If we have a lot of weight to lose, or if we are dealing with any kind of ailment, fasting can be a great tool to give our bodies time to recover, repair and heal.
There are several fasting protocols we can use. It’s not recommended to fast without water, it’s helpful to stay hydrated when you are fasting. Liquids that have been found to be supportive on a fast are water, coffee, tea particularly green tea, herbal teas, and bone broth. It is fine to squeeze a lemon in your water when fasting and it is fine to take supplements but it’s not required. It is also fine to exercise as usual.
It may take time to get used to fasting, and the book has an FAQ section addressing different issues people may have with fasting. A schedule of alternating days has found to be effective for weight loss over time. We can either fast all 3 meals on one day and then eat 3 meals the following day for a 36 hour protocol. For a 24 hour alternate day protocol we can eat one meal one day and then 3 meals the next day. And then of course, if you feel up to it, you can fast for up to 5 days, any longer should be done under medical supervision.
Ultimately there are a few factors that contribute to weight gain and weight loss – What we eat, when we eat, our stress levels and our sleep quality.
Stress and sleep deprivation cause weight gain- it’s important to sleep 7 -9 hours each night and to actively work against stress with exercise, yoga, meditation, etc. We don’t do well with processed foods- we need to eat whole foods and definitely cut back on processed sugars and sweeteners. We need to have periods of fasting when our body can heal and recover. And of course stay hydrated and spend quality time with loved ones.
So that is the short summary of the entire book. But I recommend reading it if you really want to understand the science and the studies behind the theory. I have also read his other book, The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended – I will probably go over it again now that I’ve got this one down. I have tried intermittent fasting when following the 131 Method with limited success in the past. (I’ll post about that experience sometime) But with the knowledge of the science behind it all which I gained from reading this book, I think I am ready to give it a try again.
I will post my results in 4 weeks and again in 8 weeks. I’m starting tomorrow! Wish me luck!
The important thing is to learn, keep trying and to not lose hope!
To your health!!