Fasting in the Fat Lane

“Obesity in children” by Joe_13 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Last weekend I read a couple of books that I found particularly interesting as someone who has been obese from middle childhood:

In the former, Dr. Fung discusses why he thinks obesity has continued to get worse in spite of billions upon billions of dollars spent promoting healthier diets (and he does not believe the answer is just “people are slobs.”) He describes a series of social changes wrought by government and corporate (but I repeat myself) entities that practically guarantee people will fail to lose weight, and cites what sound like many very convincing studies as to how the government- and corporate-sanctioned high-carbohydrate diet, coupled with the move to eat more often, drive elevated insulin levels and resulting insulin resistance to set your body’s weight-thermostat ‘up.’

His is not a reductionist view of obesity, and in The Obesity Code he gives no simple answers. Dr. Fung paints a pretty damning picture of our health professionals, who would rather we be fat, unhappy, and unhealthy than admit they were wrong about the effects of dietary fat and carbohydrates. Toward the end of the book he gives a few recommendations, including sleep and fasting.

Now, I have fasted unintentionally my entire life, and I don’t just mean during sleep. During elementary and high school years, I would simply not be hungry for breakfast while at home and the lunches I was served were unappetizing, so I quite often went without food until I got home. I was doing a total fast of maybe about 18 hours, five days a week, September through June. Why did I still gain weight? After reading Dr. Fung’s book, I believe I have the answers:

  • I was still eating over a six hour period, from the time I got home until bedtime, constantly keeping my insulin in a ‘fed’ state which raises insulin resistance;
  • I was still eating a great deal of carbohydrates, which spike insulin more;
  • and I was under a great deal of stress, which releases cortisol, which raises insulin, which in turns causes obesity.
“Obesity Campaign Poster” by Pressbound is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

So, I am doing certain things to make fasting more effective this time around (the low-carb, high-fat diet plan I lost 80 pounds on discourages fasting, so I largely stopped skipping meals for the last several years. Now if only much of the weight had not come back.) First, on workdays (I work Monday through Thursday) I fast for 23 hours, skipping breakfast and lunch and eating dinner over the course of no more than an hour. Second, I am trying to cut out some of the low-glycemic-index carbs that have crept back into our diet–interestingly, just because something does not effect blood sugar (or does not much) does not mean it does not effect insulin, and for fat reduction insulin is the more important number. Third, I have cut out the vast majority of the stevia sweetener in my diet, most of which was in homemade drinks, as this has an insulin spike similar to sugar (despite not changing blood sugar.)

I am hoping to have luck with this, since on its face it makes more sense than most weight loss plans do, and it accords with tradition (and Tradition.) Dr. Fung is a nephrologist by training, and started a clinic to help with weight loss only because so many of his clients were dying from weight problems, and he wanted to treat the underlying cause rather than just prescribing insulin to cause yet another diabetic to gain even more weight.

The second book, which includes Dr. Fung as a contributor, is more anecdotal about life that includes fasting, how to do it, what it is like, and how it helps. I liked The Obesity Code more, but this book does help give you ideas. I checked both books out from the local library (though I will be purchasing The Obesity Code), and I think that is a great way to get access the Life in the Fasting Lane. By its very nature, as a more personal and personal-value driven book on obesity and fasting, I think the latter is less interesting. Still, they are both worth your time to read if you have any weight- or insulin-driven problems.

The Obesity Code: * * * * *

Life in the Fasting Lane: * * *

(Ratings are out of 5 stars.)

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