Weekend Watching: Explaining the Obesity Epidemic

The following video presentation by one of my Health Sherpas, Dr. Jason Fung, provides one of the most succinct explanations for why we have an epidemic of obesity in the United States, Canada and other western countries.

We knew the causes of obesity, and how to treat it, 150 years ago. For the next 100 years after that it wasn’t very common.

Fifty years ago hardly anyone went to the gym to work out, and only maniacs went running.

And yet obesity, at least by today’s standards, was non-existent.

Since then obesity has more than tripled, as has the prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

This video explains how it happened.

We didn’t get fat because we were lazy or lacked willpower.

We didn’t get fat because we failed to follow the experts’ dietary advice.

We got fat because we did follow their advice.

If you’re like me, learning this will probably make you at least a little bit angry.

We’ve been part of a giant dietary experiment for the last 50 years, with little evidence to support the official government recommendations.

Since then, the evidence against the dietary guidelines has been piling up.

Dr. Fung cites the studies and brings the evidence.

You need to watch this:

By doing essentially the opposite of the U.S. dietary guidelines, my wife Lisa and I have reclaimed our health. I’m 60 lbs. lighter than I was at my peak, and Lisa’s down at least 50 lbs.

On May 19, 2020 I weighed in at 208.8 lbs, my first time below my goal weight of 210, and the least I had weighed since President Reagan’s first term.

I’ve been below my goal weight for more than 10 months, and this morning I was at 204.6.

And yet the “experts” tell us that sustained weight loss isn’t achievable.

That all diets eventually fail.

That’s as wrong as the dietary advice that got us into this problem in the first place.

Lisa and I are living proof that a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet can lead to sustained weight loss, and Rebecca Williams has had a similar experience. John Bishop has made most of his progress with intermittent fasting, and he’s experimenting with low-carb now, too.

Through sharing our stories online, we’ve helped others get started on their journeys too.

My point (and Dr. Fung’s): If you’re struggling with overweight or obesity, it isn’t because you’re lazy or lack willpower.

We didn’t overcome our weight issues because of our superior virtue or willpower.

We learned some basic lessons about metabolism that made losing weight a lot easier. You can read all about it through the posts on My Health Journey.

If you’re at least a little interested in how you might be able to do this, too, check out my #BodyBabySteps page, where I’ve mapped out the shortcuts I would take if I were starting this over again.

Or if I were you.

If you scrolled past it without hitting play, I hope you’ll at least take time now to watch the video of Dr. Fung.

From a health perspective, it would be among the best investments of your time I can imagine.

To get these updates on a regular basis you can subscribe by email, or follow me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where I’ll also be posting links.

If you find this information helpful I hope you’ll share it on your social channels using the buttons below.

Start the #3DayCancerPreventionFast in Ketosis

Yesterday I shared the results of my #3DayCancerPreventionFast that allowed coffee with a bit of cream, as compared with a previous water-only version of the same fast.

Despite having two tablespoons of heavy whipping cream in my morning coffee, twice each day, I achieved 27 hours of Glucose Ketone Index (GKI) <1, and at least 85 hours of GKI<3.

Results were close to what I did with water-only, and my different exercise pattern explained some of the lag in getting to my GKI targets.

My wife Lisa did the same fast, and her results were even better:

She had GKI<1, the highest therapeutic level, for 60 hours, and has had GKI<3 for about 100 hours as I write this.

As my daughter-in-law would say, Lisa smashed my face!

Note also the significant difference between her results on the coffee and cream version of the fast as compared with the water only.

Some key observations:

  • Her GKI was much higher at the start of the water-only fast. This was because her last meal before that fast was taco salad with chips, along with two cinnamon rolls with frosting.
  • In the coffee and cream fast, by contrast, she was in nutritional ketosis from the start, and was below 3 on the GKI at just 16 hours, a full 10 yours earlier than on the water fast. She reached GKI<1 at 25 hours, almost a full day ahead of what she had done in January on the water-only fast.
  • The big lesson here is that coming into a fast already in ketosis dramatically improves the results, to the point that even with up to four tablespoons of cream per day her readings were far better than those when she started a water-only fast from a high-carb state.

Importantly, we supplemented magnesium and sea salt daily throughout the fast to keep electrolytes in balance, and broke the fast with a small meal of scrambled eggs, bacon, cream cheese and guacamole to prevent refeeding syndrome.

Lisa and I both found this fast immeasurably easier than a water-only fast, both because of the taste of cream and also because we didn’t get the caffeine-withdrawal headaches.

We may try a black-coffee version of the fast sometime, but with results like this that are relatively easy I think including a little cream will be our standard practice for the preventive fasting.

Check out My Health Journey for the full story of our health improvements, and my #BodyBabySteps for an approach to how I would do it if I were starting today, based on what I’ve learned.

To get these updates on a regular basis you can subscribe by email, or follow me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where I’ll also be posting links.

If you find this information helpful I hope you’ll share it on your social channels using the buttons below.

#3DayCancerPreventionFast: Water-Only vs. Coffee with Cream

I have undertaken several extended fasts for cancer prevention, and in January Lisa joined me for our first joint #3DayCancerPreventionFast.

Because we wanted to ensure that we were reaching the optimal therapeutic level of ketosis, we did a water-only fast that first time.

To gauge the fast’s effectiveness, we took blood glucose and ketone measurements several times each day using our Keto-Mojo meters, which provided a Glucose Ketone Index (GKI) score.

On a Standard American Diet (SAD), ketones are essentially nonexistent because glucose levels are high, and therefore insulin levels also are elevated. The liver produces ketones from fatty acids in the bloodstream, but this only happens when insulin levels are low enough to allow fat cells to release the fatty acids.

Professor Thomas Seyfried developed the GKI score to compare the levels of glucose and ketones in the bloodstream. A GKI less than 3 is considered a high level of therapeutic ketosis, while the highest level is <1, which is what Seyfried seeks to achieve in studies treating cancer patients.

Since Lisa and I are seeking to prevent cancer instead of treating it, we decided to set two GKI targets on our #3DayCancerPreventionFast:

  • At least 72 hours with GKI<3 (High Level)
  • At least 24 hours with GKI<1 (Highest Level)

In our January water-only fast we easily met those goals, as I had 44 hours of GKI below 1 and more than 70 hours below 3.

Lisa and I completed another three-day fast on Tuesday, but this time we allowed ourselves coffee with two tablespoons of cream, twice per day.

If we could make this accommodation while still reaching our GKI targets, this would make our monthly three-day fast much easier.

Here’s a graph of my GKI values for the water-only fast (blue line) as compared with the coffee + cream fast (green line):

One additional difference between the two fasts is that the first time I did an intense cardiovascular workout at about the 18-hour mark, while for the second I ran two miles when I was 26 hours in to the fast.

Both had the effect of raising blood sugar levels in the short term, breaking down liver glycogen in the first instance and through gluconeogenesis in the second, while also burning some of the ketones I was already generating.

Because I burned the ketones during my run they were no longer in my bloodstream, which temporarily boosted my GKI. This meant that in the second fast I was delayed by about 7 hours in getting below 3 GKI.

Still, I reached a GKI of 3 at the 36-hour mark, and stayed well below it for the next 64 hours. (In fact, my GKI this morning was 1.5, so I’ve had 76 hours so far in high-level therapeutic ketosis, and I had 27 hours below 1.)

Here’s a comparison of my ketone levels over the course of both fasts. Another key difference is that this time I went into the fast with higher ketone levels.

Three Lessons and a Caveat:

  • Lessson 1: It’s good to start a fast already in dietary ketosis. For this week’s fast I was at GKI of 4, while I was at 15.3 when I started the water-only fast in January.
  • Lesson 2: Intense cardio the morning after beginning a fast is better than doing it later in the afternoon. It burns through liver glycogen and accelerates progress of the fast.
  • Lesson 3: Starting in ketosis and having a small amount of cream with coffee made this fast pretty easy. I really wasn’t very hungry, and I didn’t have caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
  • Caveat: I don’t know that GKI<1 for 24 hours and GKI<3 for 72 hours are the right targets. Given the purpose of our fast, to accelerate autophagy in healthy cells and to put serious stress on (and hopefully kill) any cancer cells by depriving them of glucose, those seem reasonable to me. If you think different targets are appropriate, I’d like to hear your reasons in the comments below.

What’s next? When we do this again in April, I will plan to be sure I’m well into dietary ketosis as I’m starting the fast, and will do the intense cardio exercise early on the first morning.

Tomorrow I’ll share Lisa’s experiences in the two versions of the #3DayCancerPreventionFast.

To get these updates on a regular basis you can subscribe by email, or follow me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, where I’ll also be posting links.

Check out My Health Journey for the full story of our health improvements, and my #BodyBabySteps for an approach to how I would do it if I were starting today, based on what I’ve learned.

The Accidental Fast

For the last few months, Lisa and I have been coaching and encouraging some friends who had seen the results of her weight loss journey and mine.

We have a few separate text message threads going with different friends. This enables us to support and advise them, while also creating a shared diary of our experience together.

One couple started about three months ago by cutting sugar, limiting carbs and also adding alternate-day fasting.

The core #BodyBabySteps stuff.

They’re doing really well: he’s lost 26.2 pounds and she’s lost 14.4, or 8.8 and 4.8 pounds per month respectively.

It hasn’t always been easy, but she had a pretty amazing and encouraging breakthrough a little over a week ago which showed just how much progress she has made.

Not only or even mainly in weight loss, but in her reorientation toward food.

After hitting something of a plateau, she decided to try going for a longer fast than what has become her customary 24 hours. By waiting to break her fast until the next morning, she could stretch to 36 hours.

But as it turned out, she was busy in the morning and didn’t get to eat until about 2:30 p.m. So her fast ended up being…

47 hours!

Then just a couple of days later, she forgot she had meetings until 8 p.m., and so added an “accidental” 36-hour fast closely following her nearly two-day fast.

Three months ago she would not have believed this was possible.

She also was amazed that at the end of a 36-hour fast she would have such “great clarity and energy.”

The alternate-day fasting, eating dinner to satiety every evening but skipping breakfast and lunch on alternate days, helped her to overcome a habit of unthinking late-night eating.

As she has become fat-adapted and also more mindful of the importance of a narrower eating window, she stumbled into two fasts that were both longer than what she had planned.

At some point, when he and she have reached their goals, we’ll have an online “coming out” party for them, complete with before and after photos and their whole story.

They’ll join John Bishop and Rebecca Williams among those sharing their stories here.

And because we will have their in-the-moment observations from our coaching text thread, they’ll be really encouraging for others who are considering committing to the health journey.

But for now, I’ll just refer to them by their personal pronouns.

If you have questions about keto or fasting, feel free to ask in the comments below or in my social feeds on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn.

If you have a story you’re willing to share to help inspire others, send me an email.

Understanding Insulin Resistance

Ben Bikman Ph.D. is the author of Why We Get Sick: The Hidden Epidemic at the Root of Most Chronic Disease—and How to Fight It.

That hidden epidemic he describes is insulin resistance, sometimes called metabolic syndrome, which raises the risk of a host of diseases, from cardiovascular diseases, to various cancers and even Alzheimer’s.

If any three of the following five are true of you, you have metabolic syndrome:

  • Large Waist (> 40 inches for men, >35 inches for women) measured at the belly button
  • Blood pressure >130/85 mmHg
  • Fasting glucose >100 mg/dL
  • High blood Triglycerides (>150 mg/dL)
  • Low HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol (<40 mg/dL for men, <50 mg/dL for women)

More than a third of U.S. adults, and nearly half of those age 60 or older, have metabolic syndrome. And 88% have at least one of the metabolic syndrome factors, putting them on the path toward it.

But as Dr. Bikman relates in the video below, starting at about the 16:00 mark, the news is actually worse than that.

For many years, even as you’re becoming increasingly insulin resistant, blood glucose can stay in a normal range because your pancreas is still producing enough insulin to keep up.

Until it can’t.

High insulin levels are themselves bad for you. It isn’t just high blood sugar that does damage. Too much insulin does, too.

Dr. Bikman suggests that’s why we should pay more attention to insulin levels than blood glucose.

Measuring blood ketones is a good proxy for insulin levels. If you’re producing ketones, you don’t have abnormally high insulin levels and therefore aren’t developing insulin resistance.

Watching this two-year old video in December is why I took the plunge and got the Keto-Mojo glucose/ ketone meter.

Rewatching this video again yesterday made me want to listen again to the Audible version of Why We Get Sick, which I first heard last July when it was published.

I hope you’ll watch this video and also get some version of his book, because both will increase your understanding of the science of chronic disease.

He’s one of my Health Sherpas and I hope he’ll be one of yours.

When you understand the mechanisms behind so many of the diseases that plague our society, it provides great motivation for the changes needed to reverse them.

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn or subscribe by email

And if you’re ready to get started yourself, use my #BodyBabySteps.