It was an accomplishment for me not to eat anything yesterday. It took 36 trips around the sun, or approx 13,000 experiences of the Earth spinning in full for me to challenge myself to do that.
“Why did you not eat? You are being reckless.”
Long term body weight
He quotes that the average American puts on 600g of body fat on average each year. It’s such an incremental change, that it’s easy to overlook the effect of that after, say, 60 years of adulthood (that’s 36kg of fat).
The crux of the matter is the amount of time our bodies spend in or out of a “higher insulin” mode. Look at the Irish in the 1950s, they were monching on those potatoes but obesity (and so diabetes, Alzheimers, and related chronic diseases that seem to come under the term metabolic syndrome) didn’t seem to be a social issue (although surely there were overweight people). They probably had a couple of meals a day, a cup of tae, and that’s about it. No munchies at the telly.
Fung’s argument is that persistent periods of years and decades with surplus insulin in your bloodstream (that is, your body disposing of glucose in your blood, which is absolutely natural when you eat) leads to insulin resistance, and insulin resistance (a gradual phenomenon) in turn leads to obesity. He argues that changes in societal eating patterns, to eating more often during the day has been a big culprit in this (see the chart on this article for more details).
From my understanding, excess body weight is a symptom of metabolic syndrome, which has been linked to a variety of diseases like obesity, Alzheimers, cancers and indeed Type 2 diabetes.
He argues that the level of insulin resistance can determine your long term body “set” weight.
How do you drop the level insulin resistance? Through periods of being in lower-insulin mode (sleep helps every one of us achieve that as it normally stops us eating). Any food produces some insulin response (even the smell of food does, I’ve read before). So the quickest way to reach a lower-insulin mode is to not eat. Keto diets seem to produce a large chunk of the same response, but not eating is most effective. Fat-rich diets like keto seem to be a good companion to not eating.
In summary, in Fung’s perspective of the world, two general behaviours can help if you are any bit overweight:
- What you eat: he first recommends to avoid added sugar, since it has a unique property of raising your insulin levels both immediately and in the medium term. After that it’s a matter of dialling down on the worst offenders (bread, pasta). He goes into more detail of things that could have a beneficial effect including fibre, fermented dairy and vinegar.
- When you eat: the ancient practice of sometimes not eating. Pairing feast and famine. This was obviously a very strong tradition once in Ireland: Dé Céadaoin (Wednesday) means “The First Fast” and Dé hAoine (Friday) means “The Day of the Fast”. This has a key difference with low-calorie dieting: in low calorie dieting, your body strives to burn less energy so you’re burning less calories, but in not eating your body is allowed to switch over to burning fat stores (if you allow for your body to adjust to this mode over time, intermittently). Since every food produces some insulin response, it’s just not good enough to choose the “low fat yoghurt”.
Also see: 28 days without coffee