Episode 315 – The Obesity Code – Who’s the Biggest Culprit

Written by Jonathan

I just finished reading the Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung and as the title suggests this book is about obesity, more or less how it happens, the nuances around it and what you can do about. It’s a long book, but it’s not a heavy read and although he covers a lot of very well researched scientific concepts that can get complicated, he’s very good at relaying the information in a palpable, interesting and slightly humorous way, which is the reason I prefer this book over other similar books I’ve read. Today I want to cover the main point of the book or the biggest take away that I think is the most important so that even if you don’t read the book you can still understand it’s version of why obesity happens and you can still apply some of the concepts and principles to your life and that principle is the most important component of weight loss is not calories in vs. calories out it’s the hormone levels in your body, specifically insulin and cortisol and how they function in your body to store fat. He sites some major studies, showing the limitations of portion control and of course portion control is also known as calorie control can and does work, but only to a point and not usually in a sustainable way. He also talks about diets that are incredibly high in calories, but because the foods in that diet do not increase the amount of insulin your body produces then those calories do not get stored in or on your body as efficiently or at all as fat. If we look at Type 1 diabetics they are living proof of this. Type 1 diabetes is the type of diabetes where your body stops producing insulin, if your body stops producing insulin then the food you’re eating can’t be taken into your cells as energy. So your blood sugar goes up incredibly high and instead of your cells using all this energy your kidneys work overtime to filter it. Eventually your body starts to cannibalize itself no matter how much you eat. If this goes untreated for long enough all your muscle and fat would waste away until your kidneys failed and you would die, a literal skeleton of your former self. That sounds much more ominous than I intended, but it’s the truth.

Needless to say insulin is important and essential, however most people that follow a standard North American or Western European diet eat in a way that promotes the overproduction of insulin, which leads to insulin resistance and obesity.

How do we decrease insulin resistance or in other words how do we train our bodies to be more effective at using the smallest amount possible. Simply put, it starts with the food choices we make so our body produces less insulin in the first place and it’s about the activities we choose to do so our body is more efficient at using that smaller amount of insulin, let’s start with the food.

Up until this point of the book I hadn’t heard anything new, but this is where things got really interesting for me: the types of foods that cause your insulin to go up. Of course we have the biggest culprit of all leading the charge – sugar, but not just any sugar, sugars that are found in processed carbohydrates are bad especially those containing high fructose corn syrup these include, bread even multigrain, pasta, cookies cakes, candy all the things that are processed come in a bag and most people know they shouldn’t be eating, but still eat anyways. This isn’t in the book, but it’s how I look at it. I don’t know how many of you have been to a Las Vegas or a casino, but when you walk in you see will see hundreds and sometimes thousands of slot machines all with bright lights, all very attractive and fun to look at with promises of massive jackpots, payouts and of course are the easiest to play, but anyone who is at all familiar with gambling knows that slot machines have the lowest probability of paying out, out of all the games you could play and that’s why they need the brightest lights with the biggest false promises. Refined carbohydrates are the exact same way they make the biggest false promises, in fact I would even venture to call most of them outright lies, anyways enough of that rant.

Here’s the first interesting food one for me that protein also increases your body’s production of insulin even though it has a much smaller effect on blood sugar levels in most people. This means if you’re over consuming protein, it’s going to give you an insulin burst which is going to lead to fat being stored on your body. I also just finished reading Proteinaholic by Dr. Garth Davis where he said the exact same thing, so most people should be not nearly as worried about protein they just need enough, which for most people will be between 1 and 1.5g per kg of body weight per day or between 50g and 150g total, but probably about 75g for most people.

This brings us to the third and the most surprising one of all, at least for me. Artificial sweeteners carry no calories or almost no calories and have virtually no effect on your blood sugar, but they increase your insulin response. Infact according to Dr. Fung’s research the insulin response from artificial sweeteners is almost identical to sugar and they may be the biggest offenders of all because most people think it’s fine because there’s no sugar or hardly any calories in it. Diet and sugar free are not labels that give you a license to consume them, if they have artificial sweeteners regardless of what the packaging says. For a quick reference, just think, is this a slot machine food and if it is you shouldn’t eat it.

Now that we know the big 3 types of foods that should be avoided let’s take a look at how to increase your insulin sensitivity. In order for your body to go through an insulin reset you need to go through long periods of time where your body doesn’t have any insulin spikes making the cells adapt to better utilize the insulin you produce, according to Dr. Fung the best way to do this is through intermittent fasting, where you go through long periods of time of not eating any food, or you only give yourself a small window to eat food in, I think the most palpable version of this for most people is to give yourself an 8 hour window in a day where you can only consume food within that time frame, for many people a good protocol would be eating only from 10:00am until 6:00pm everyday as an example. This would give your body a chance to reset, if you combine this with eating whole vegetables,fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains like oatmeal, I mean the kind you buy in the ugly bag, not the sweetened one that comes in a coloured box and is ready to eat in 30 seconds, root vegetables like beets and sweet potatoes, a moderate amount of protein from sources like eggs, fish especially wild, grass fed beef and free range chickens and then high fat foods like avocado, nuts and seeds then your insulin response will become unstoppable in the good way.

He only briefly talks about exercise, which is unfortunate, because I think exercise is also a great way to increase the insulin sensitivity of your cells, but I think most people will have an easier time not eating for 16 hours a day then they will exercising at a moderate to high intensity for 30 to 45 minutes a day and it’s probably why that’s the protocol he chooses to promote, as well exercising can often lead to the overeating of food, either as a reward or the fact that you’re burning more calories makes you hungry and your body is just trying to balance itself out nudging you to eat a bit more.

Well that’s the ‘skinny’ on The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung and yes that pun was intended.

I definitely recommend this book to you because there are many more eye opening things in it that we didn’t even touch on here, but if you choose not to read it I think it could be summed up like this, eat real food, mostly plants, a little bit of protein, not too much and do it in an 8 hour window because hey even your cells needs a little bit of sensitive time to keep their flame burning.



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