Hi. I’m Todd, and I’m a loser – of weight and chronic diseases, that is! After years of struggling with metabolic syndrome, I discovered that much of what I believed to be true about the role diet and exercise plays in weight control was dead wrong. More importantly, I learned that the low-fat/high-carbohydrate diet I’d been following in order to control my blood pressure, cholesterol and weight was actually sabotaging my success and exacerbating those conditions, while also placing me at risk of diabetes and heart disease!
My low-fat viewpoint was altered with a simple statement from my doctor during a routine exam, “you’re insulin resistant and carbohydrate intolerant“. This simple declaration started my understanding of what it means to be metabolically “broken” and what needs to be done to fix it and restore good health.
Rather than repeating the usual litany of eating less, exercising more and avoiding fat and salt, my doctor recommended that I avoid eating carbohydrates and adopt a diet high in fat and moderate in protein. After years of being told fat was my enemy and the reason my cholesterol was so high (even though I ate very little fat) and that to lose weight you had to eat fewer calories than you expended, this recommendation was a hard pill to swallow. However, as I researched various eating styles (low-carb, Primal, Paleo), I realized there were flaws in what we understand as “the facts” around nutrition and weight management.
“The trouble with the science of obesity as it has been practiced for the last sixty years is that it begins with a hypothesis… Fat people are fat because they eat too much or exercise too little, and nothing more ultimately need be said.” – Taubes, Gary. Good Calories, Bad Calories
My research started me on a journey to understand carbohydrate intolerance, lipophilia and how my body uses hormones, specifically insulin and leptin, to determine whether to store the calories I consume as fat or use it as energy. Through ongoing research, I’m learning more about a number of alternative theories and practices that challenge everything I had come to understand about the role that calories, metabolism, diet and exercise play in my overall health.
There are however, some consistent themes:
- Eat real food – avoid processed/packaged foods and eat what tens of thousands of years of evolution has influenced our bodies to ingest: Plants and animals
- Exercise less – yes, I said less. Evolution uniquely adapted us to be walkers, occasional sprinters and to do heavy lifting from time to time. Follow an exercise plan that emphases these facets and avoid spending your life at the gym
- Calories don’t count but sometimes they do – eating real food allows you to eat without restriction but it is also possible to take in too much energy, which can have damaging effects to your body if you can’t readily use it. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat.
- Sugar in any form is bad for you – and totally pervasive in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Say it with me, sugar is bad. Artificial sweeteners may yet prove to be sugar’s henchmen, so use them sparingly and pay attention to how they make you feel (I find one type of artificial sweeter makes me hungrier than when I don’t use it).
- Weight management is a complex, highly regulated metabolic system in our bodies – this system is largely controlled and influenced by hormones. When the system is not functioning as it should, it impacts almost every gene that is easily broken when we don’t eat real foods. I believe it is always possible to repair metabolic damage to some degree and positively influence even “bad genes” to a significant degree through the foods you choose eat.
- We are still learning – there are still many studies needed and many theories to prove. This may require us to surrender what we currently believe to be healthy eating practices – just like we’re surrendering the 30 year old notions of what constitutes a “healthy diet”.
I hope you’ll join me on this fascinating journey to discover ways we can be healthier, leaner and stave off “diseases of civilization” so common in Americans today. The evidence strongly suggests this can be accomplished simply by eating foods which our bodies have been ultimately adapted to consume and use for energy.