September 11, 2020

Dr. Fung's basic priciples as I see them

Before I get into my explanation of the self focused experiment and what I am doing in it, I thought it would be good to summarize the basic principles the Dr. Fung details in his book, The Obesity Code. This is not an outline of his book, but more how I understood it. I do recommend getting and reading The Obesity Code, even if you are not obese. It isn't a diet. It is a better understanding of how the body works and if you are healthy and would like to stay that way, it will help you a lot. If you are obese, it will help you understand why and what you can do about it.

Overall, the biggest principle that he states over and over is that "Insulin makes you fat." That isn't really the best way to describe it in my view, but it gets his point across pretty well. Basically, insulin and how the body produces, uses, and reacts to insulin determines metabolic health. If you are fat, it is because of your body's insulin condition. If you want to change it, you have to change your insulin production and response. Insulin is supposed to spike a few times a day, and stay low the rest of the time. Insulin resistance happens when that pattern is disrupted by high insulin for longer periods of time, resulting in obesity. 

So, the first principle is:

  • Understanding insulin is the key to understanding and treating obesity. Insulin resistance is what causes obesity (and type 2 diabetes).
Secondly, the next principle is that if you reduce your calories, your body reduces it's calorie burn. All calories are not equal, since different types of calories has a different affect on insulin levels. Our body will revert to it's set point based on how it responds to insulin. Our body will change all sorts of things about how it works to maintain that set point, including reducing our brain function level.

Second principle:
  • Reduced calories eaten results in fewer calories burned. Calorie restriction doesn't result in long term weight loss because the body adapts to maintain it's set point.
The third principle is very related to the second principle. Increasing exercise will not increase total calories burned, it will just shift where your body burns them. While it is true, it can result in short term weigh loss, it will hit that same set point, and will eventually revert to it. Most often, increasing deliberate exercise will result in less energy expenditure in other parts of our days.
  • Increased exercise will only shift when, where, and how calories are burned. 
The forth principle is about the other major weight impacting mechanism besides insulin, which is cortisol. If you are more stressed or get poor sleep, it impacts your cortisol, which impacts both fat storage and insulin. These are things you can do something about, so do them.
  • Cortisol impacts obesity and insulin, so do what you can to keep it at healthy levels by getting good sleep and reducing stress.
The fifth principle is the first one that shows how to make improvements. Basically, it shows what a healthy insulin (and eating) pattern looks like. Insulin spikes when a meal is eaten, but goes back to very low levels between meals, with a very long (fasting) period between dinner and breakfast (including during sleep). If insulin is low for all those in between periods, insulin resistance is avoided. This means we should not snack. Period. We need enough calories during our meals to sustain a healthy level of functioning, but we should only eat during meals.
  • Only eating at mealtimes results in a healthy insulin spike pattern.
The sixth principle is that not all calories are created equal. This is basically the very principle that my nutritionist uses as the basis for her whole nutrition recommendation to me. Processed foods, particularly sugars and carbs, create more unhealthy insulin spikes that take longer for the body to regulate and results in higher glucose levels in the blood. There are also many other benefits that Dr. Fung documents about natural healthy foods.
  • Eating processed foods and high sugar and carb foods results in many bad insulin affecting processes and effects in the body.
A large percentage of determining factors as to why some people are obese are genetic and not based on diet and exercise. We can only change what we can change. A lot what makes some fat people fat is not under our control, but we should change those things that we can control.
  • While many of the causes of obesity are out of our control, we should do what we can with what we can control.
For those who already have insulin resistance, lowering that insulin resistance will take changing many things in their lives. One key approach is fasting. The human body does really well with fasting, even for extending periods of time. Dr. Fung details what happens in the body with different length fasts. If you only follow a healthy mealtime eating pattern, it will help your body not develop more insulin resistance, but to greatly reduce existing insulin resistance, fasting is one of the most effective tools.
  • Fasting is a major key to reduce insulin resistance. The body under normal circumstances handles fasting very well.

There are other less significant principles that Dr. Fung illustrates in his book, but these are the major ones that come to mind right now.

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