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.

Great news everybody!

The NIH did a rigorous study to determine whether low-carb or low-fat were better for weight loss!

*big sigh*

They got results that, for now, this time, seem reasonable and scientifically based. I find it annoying and frustrating every time one of these new studies comes out and the media descends on it like hungry coyotes. The truth of weight loss isn’t a fad or a trick or a secret. Truly, the final sentence of the article is the real heart of the matter:

“The takeaway: The most important part of dieting isn’t necessarily the kind of diet you chose when it comes to low-carb vs. low-fat, it’s whether you stick to it.”

Over the years I’ve been maintaining and the many fads I’ve seen come and go, this is the only truth I know. Find something you like and can stick to. Rock on with your bad self.

I’ll try just about anything…once

As I mentioned a while back, I’d been trying the 5/2 program for a couple of months. I really liked many aspects of it: I liked the mindfulness of the fasting days, I liked the ability to eat more freely on the non-fasting days, I liked that I lost a few pounds even without exercising. Granted, there may have been some other factors to consider in those pounds I dropped: My stress levels had dropped due to being on a leave from work for the month of September. I’d recently started a regimen of Topomax nightly for prevention of migraines, which is a drug that frequently has a side effect of minor weight loss. But, all that aside, I felt like the 5/2 program was something that was a net positive overall.

I’ve stopped doing it anyway though, and I’ll tell you why. I recently took a look at my migraine log (which I have to keep for my doctor, as when you are on a medication regimen to prevent them they like to have an idea of whether or not it’s working) and found that the one or two migraines I’ve been getting per week lately have been falling on Tuesdays or Thursdays almost exclusively.

The Topomax I take nightly to prevent migraines dropped the headaches from 5-7 a week to 1-2 a week, but the 1-2 I was getting each week were almost exactly correlating to the fasting days. Hmmm…thought I. Perhaps I should not be participating in an eating program that appears to also be functioning in my life as a migraine trigger. So that’s that. Now I can look forward to other, completely random triggers for my migraines!

Off I go to continue using my body as a kamikaze experiment in nutrition and dietary behavior..!

Couple of interesting articles

I just don’t have anything new to add lately. I’ve written up all my methods and thoughts previously and I stick by them, but when I find something new and thought-provoking, I link it here. Here are two such articles:

Overweight Teens Typically Eat Less Than Normal-Weight Peers. I could have told you that when I was an overweight teen. I could have told you that any goddamned day of my teen years. If anybody had asked. Anyway, my takeaway quote from the article for people try to help a struggling teen is, “Be sympathetic. Overweight children reported eating fewer calories, and to lose weight, these kids have to eat even less. It’s probably even harder for them to lose weight than we give them credit for.” It is.

The 5:2 Diet: can it help you lose weight and live longer? I ran across this article last month and I’ve been giving it a try. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been trying two fast days per week, not because I think it will help me lose weight but because I was curious how it would work out for me. It turns out, I like how it makes me feel, I like the mindfulness of it, and I like that it helps me to maintain my weight and it works to balance out any excesses on my normal eating days. So far, I’m really digging it. I eat normally, I even indulge a little 5 days a week, and Tuesdays and Thursday (they shift around as needed, if something comes up, but usually Tuesdays and Thursdays) I fast. So far, I like it.


Link Round Up: Diet Pills, Olympians, Ice Cream and More!

Yeah, yeah, I heard about the new weight loss pill on the market. Go read about it if you’re into that sort of thing, but bottom line is that this thing, for all it’s side effects, helped people lose 5% of their starting weight in trials. Who is that supposed to impress?? Also not covered in any of the media hoopla: Will the weight stay off once you go off the drug? Oh…’s not covered because the answer surely can only be: NO. Pshaw, I say!

In better news, athletes come in all shapes and sizes. Sadly, not all of them get lucrative sponsorship deals.

Health (but not necessarily weight) related news: Let’s add a little dirt to our diets!

It’s summer! Time for ice cream! If you gotta do it, here’s a list of some frozen treats that aren’t so bad.

And finally: Everybody’s got a song inside them!  So get yourself a record deal. Go on.

Wednesday Weight Loss Links

Here’s an article that I liked: Diet Crutches: What Works, What Doesn’t  What I like is that they actually got most of these right. So much of the weight loss information floating around on the web is just plain wrong (or pointless), so I wasn’t expecting much but this one mostly hits the nail on the head (and the ones they’re only partially right on don’t really do any damage).

I contrast that with this, which is absolute, pointless fluff I came across recently: 4 Ways to Fool Yourself into Lasting Weight Loss  Serious waste of time. None of the four things here even approach getting at the reality of lasting weight loss. If you follow all of these you will soon conclude that losing weight is impossible.

And here’s a ranking of commercial diet plans by the (possibly credible but not listed) “panel of experts” that US News and World Report consulted: Best Weight-Loss Diets Please note for the record that this is a listing of commercially-available diets. They don’t even touch medically-monitored diets which are highly recommended (and highly successful) for people with larger amounts of weight to lose.

And here’s an article about avoiding the wrong way to lose weight:  Use tools safely to keep body parts attached. (ok, I’ll admit I only included that one because I thought the headline was funny)

Nose Tube Diet

That almost sounds like a song title. Alas, it’s not. It’s the basic subject of a recent story that’s been making the rounds lately and inspiring a lot of other stories:  The K-E Diet: Brides-to-Be Using Feeding Tubes to Rapidly Shed Pounds

My initial reaction was disgust. Who would go to such extremes? Who would pay so much money to look like a freak? Who would walk around looking like somebody who is morbidly ill for several weeks just to lose a few pounds? Also – why not just buy a dress that fits you now, instead of insisting on getting to a lower size?

Here I am, blogging away about weight management and how any program you’ll stick to is the best one but this may just be…a bridge too far.

But when I take a few minutes to look at it logically, I really don’t have a leg to stand on here, do I? The basic premise of the Nose Tube Diet is that it gives you 800 calories per day and you don’t have to make any decisions on what to eat. You’re guaranteed to lose weight. The part that’s off-putting is the nose-tube. That makes it more like a medical procedure, which puts a lot of people off.

But I did the HMR decision-free diet to lose my last 100 pounds, wherein you are restricted to shakes, entrees, and bars for however long it takes to get to your goal weight. The minimum caloric intake each day for me was 500 but I usually came in around 800 while I was on the program. The Nose Tube Diet just changes the delivery mechanism -instead of making the shakes and drinking them, the calories are delivered directly to the stomach via an icky nose tube.

Let’s compare:

  • program administered under a doctor’s supervision.
  • side effects are bad breath and constipation.
  • have to carry your food everywhere with you.

Check, check, and check. The only difference is delivery mechanism. So while I am extremely sad that our society has given women the message that the only thing that is important about them is their weight, and that looking perfect is more important than their happiness or intellect, I can’t logically criticize this particular program. Other than it’s gross.