Book Review: The Obesity Code

I finished reading The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung on Monday. First things first – it is extremely readable, while still bringing the science. I blasted through it in record time, because I just didn’t want to put it down. Page after page of “a-ha” moments for me kept me glued to the book.

The thesis he lays out makes so much sense that I found myself wondering if it made too much sense. Like, I’ve been through the weight loss roller coaster before so many times, that I found myself trying to remember if I’d felt this same sense of “OMG EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE NOW” when reading other weight loss books. Because who hasn’t felt they’d found the answer before? Didn’t the Zone, South Beach, Atkins, Grapefruit Diet, Low-Fat Diet, VLCDs, pH Balance, Low Carb, and Grain-Free Diets all make so much sense before eventually being debunked or just not working?

Dr. Fung lines ’em up and shoots ’em down. He lays out in the first half of the book why all the methods people have been using to control their weight since the middle of the 20th century have not worked – particularly that classic we all know and love: Eat Less, Move More. He reviews the science and studies that prove they don’t work over the years. He shows that the USDA Food Pyramid has been an unmitigated disaster from the first year it was introduced – the whole country is in an obesity crisis and all the usual advice we’ve been getting is doing nothing to stem that tide. So if we know what doesn’t work, what will?

The premise of The Obesity Code is that the body’s control mechanism for set weight is hormonal, not caloric, and the main hormones that control your weight are insulin and cortisol. In order to allow them to do their job, you have to be aware of how they work and what they do.

The biggest Eureka! moment for me was when I put it down and realized that even though I thought I’d tried everything, there was one thing I hadn’t actually tried: JUST NOT FUCKING EATING. Total revelation right there. His guidelines are that in order for the insulin cycle to work, you have to not be stuffing your face every 2-3 hours (and thereby demanding a constant insulin response), which is the program I’ve been following for years and years (while watching my weight climb and climb). I particularly love where he shows a list of diet industry advice that is basically admonitions to eat this, eat that, eat those, eat, eat, eat…and then points out, hey, you don’t lose weight by eating. Try not eating constantly, FFS.

The other part of the equation is to cut out refined carbs and sweets. I don’t eat a lot of those, but there are a few changes I can certainly make. On the flip side: eat all the fat you want, it doesn’t provoke an insulin response. That’s a trade I’m willing to make. Avocados, sour cream, olive oil – here I come!

The other big revelation: He puts forth the first believable argument I’ve ever seen for cutting out artificial sweeteners. See, all the other arguments around are based upon nothing but conjecture and faulty science without rigorous studies to back them up. His argument is based upon actual, testable, verifiable facts. That’s something I can work with.

Also his system requires no calorie counting whatsoever. Wow! I haven’t been this excited about experimenting on my body in years. The only weak point I found is that he doesn’t really say anything about what you do once you’ve readjusted your system by following his advice and, presumably, losing some weight. The book lays out a pretty clear guide for how to lose weight, but doesn’t say much about what’s after that. I’m guessing it’s just a matter of tweaking things until you find the right balance, but it’s not really covered.

Bottom line: I’m willing to give it a try. I finished the book Monday mid-morning. That very day I started by cutting out snacks between meals, artificial sweeteners, and processed food. Tuesday I did a 24-hour fast with absolutely no ill effects – as promised, I had plenty of energy for my workout and daily routine. This morning I’ve started my day with a modified version of my usual breakfast, cutting out sugar from my oatmeal (replacing it with a cut up banana instead) and Splenda from my coffee. I plan on having no snacks between meals today, and upping the fat content in the meals I do eat.

I’m going to do this for a week and see how it goes. Will report back. If you’re intrigued by what I’ve written, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. For me, it explains a lot of the questions and issues that have come up over the years about my body and obesity. Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, I think this book is a really fascinating read and introduces concepts that are worth entertaining.

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8 Responses to “Book Review: The Obesity Code”

  1. Trystan Says:

    That is FASCINATING. I may have to read this bec y’know, science. The only thing that worries me is any kind of fast – that’s a migraine trigger for me (I’ve tried for Ramadan, just sunrise to sunset, & it’s all brain pain).

    • Laina Says:

      It’s always been a migraine trigger for me too, so I as very wary, but I didn’t get a migraine yesterday fasting! I think it’s a matter of, if you’ve changed what you’re eating to non-refined sugar and carbs, your insulin won’t freak out and then migraine? Honestly I’m just talking out my ass here, I have no idea why I didn’t get a migraine because I was braced for one all day long but I was fine. Anyway, the book is super engrossing and there’s lots of ideas one can implement from it (if so inclined) without fasting for a full day. It was totally refreshing to see a doctor debunking all these ideas we’ve been told for decades were the right thing when they clearly were NOT WORKING for the public at large.

    • Laina Says:

      It’s always been a migraine trigger for me too, so I was very wary, but I didn’t get a migraine yesterday fasting! I think it’s a matter of, if you’ve changed what you’re eating to non-refined sugar and carbs, your insulin won’t freak out and then migraine? Honestly I’m just talking out my ass here, I have no idea why I didn’t get a migraine because I was braced for one all day long but I was fine. Anyway, the book is super engrossing and there’s lots of ideas one can implement from it (if so inclined) without fasting for a full day. It was totally refreshing to see a doctor debunking all these ideas we’ve been told for decades were the right thing when they clearly were NOT WORKING for the public at large.

  2. woodlandwhimsy Says:

    I may have to read this book! I used to fast regularly, but haven’t been lately. It may be time to get back to it. I don’t do artificial sweeteners and do very little refined sugar already. I am a bit of a fruit junkie though.

  3. Sharon Says:

    I just finished the book too. I did really make a lot of sense, though he has some controversial opinions (like not eating numerous small meals, not having a substantial breakfast, etc.). I’ll be interested in how your week goes, and plan to implement some of his suggestions myself.

  4. Laurie Cavanaugh Says:

    Interesting! This advice goes along largely with the low-carb theory that reducing your insulin response helps you lose weight. I had read (in the Atkins books and info) that saccharine and Nutrasweet provoke an insulin response but Splenda doesn’t. I guess this Dr. has a different take.

  5. Laurie Cavanaugh Says:

    Ok, I read the book. There is a large percentage of the first few chapters that I could skim, because he is rather redundant, but it is good info. Oddly, he didn’t go so deeply into the science of ketosis. I had read a ton about this while doing Atkins, so I understand how it works. What was mind-blowing about this book for me was, as indicated above, the revelation that blood glucose levels and blood insulin levels are *not the same thing*. Now I want to see a chart of insulin reactions to food that parallels the glycemic index. Hmm, I wonder if Google can help me here… 🙂 I’m going to start implementing his recommendations too, and will be in contact with you about it! Thanks for the book review!

  6. Minitata, Ailz, Crafty Ailz and others Says:

    I really like this post, you’ve encompassed The Obesity Code beautifully. I’d already found Dr Fung on dietdoctor.com and started watching his videos before his books came out. I find that I keep on returning to them – have you read his Complete Guide to Fasting? Another eye opener. I’m losing weight – gone from obese to nearly normal weight – and reversed my type 2 diabetes. He’s taught me a lot and released me from a lot of worries about diabetic complications. I just wish other doctors would catch up.


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