Cracking the Obesity Code

Everyone knows how to lose weight: Make sure that your calories “in” are less than your calories “out”, right?


According to The Obesity Code by Jason Fung most of our concepts about weight gain and obesity are incorrect. And the obesity explosion over the last few decades reflect this. More people are trying to watch what they eat and exercise but they are still gaining weight.

Calories “in” vs calories “out” isn’t what makes us fat. Insulin and insulin resistance makes us fat. It’s a hormonal problem, not a will power problem.

We need insulin. It converts food into energy (glucose), but only a small amount gets converted for immediate use and then the rest gets converted into fat for later use.

The problem is that we never use the stored fat for energy.  We keep eating and producing insulin and converting the excess into fat.  But we never stop eating long enough for the body to need to access the fat stores.

Instead of worrying about how much we eat, we should be focusing on what we eat and when we eat.

All foods, not just carbohydrates, stimulate insulin production.  Thus all foods can cause weight gain. It’s important to reduce your consumption of added sugars and refined grains.  Moderate your consumption of proteins — North Americans tend to be overnourished when it comes to protein.  Increase your consumption of natural fats (i.e. unrefined olive oil) and protective factors like fiber (from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, etc.) and vinegar.

Fung thinks that long term dieting is futile because the body goes into homeostasis.  After an initial weight loss, plateau occurs and is often followed by more weight gain, as the body tries to reset itself to its set weight.  To break the process of creating too much insulin and excess fat, we need to have periods of time where we aren’t eating so that the body can convert some of the fat stores into energy.  That’s where the idea of Intermittent Fasting comes in.

Why not just eat less, instead of fasting intermittently?  If you eat less, the body adapts and can go into “starvation mode” where it slows down your metabolism.  When you don’t eat, the body converts the stored fat into energy.  The “intermittent” component of the fasting ensures that you don’t go into “starvation” mode.

The human body is well adapted for dealing with the absence of food.  When we were hunter gathers, we spent a good part of our day or days, looking for food; so, our body had to be able to function on an empty stomach.

I found the book to be an easy read and enjoyed it.  Fung uses analogies that help make the science more understandable and there is considerable reference to previous studies to back up his arguments.  At times his tone can be a bit sarcastic, but it’s easy to feel that way when you understand that our current misconceptions about weight gain are caused by faulty science and conjecture.

Although one of the big take aways is to encourage people to fast intermittently, he does stress that there isn’t a single cause to weight gain nor is there a single element to weight loss.  What we eat and when we eat are important, as well as other factors like stress reduction and proper sleep.

If you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to lose weight, I recommend you read the book and crack the Obesity Code!


© 2019 Peter Gruner

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