Long rant about health and diet:
This is something I don’t normally talk about–my health, and health issues, but I’m a bit focused on it as of late.
So, I have one chronic health issue (Hashimoto disease) therefore I do a bit (a lot) of research on the best methods of management and healing physiological damage that potentially might occur. I’ve been pretty successful, in fact.
I’ve always maintained a balanced diet and exercised regularly, but like a lot of chicks, I struggle to keep my weight where I want it.
However, in researching my own disorder I’ve often been led down rabit holes of medical papers, long boring PDFs from colleges and research centers, and I’m starting to come to a conclusion, completely unrelated to Hashimoto: I’m starting to believe that everything common knowledge has taught us about losing weight, and maintaining a healthy body weight, might be wrong.
According to the things I’ve been reading (I will link source below) a lot of what we see as sound health advice, is just wive’s tales–commonly accepted myths. Some of which make people sicker, not healthier.
Like, every Buzzfeed or Cosmo-health article titled, “20 Ways to Slim Down for the Summer” or “Get Fit Following These 10 Simple Lifestyle Changes” is utter bullshit when compared to actual data. In people’s defence, those bulletpoint article are easy to read, however if you note the sources I have linked at the bottom of this page, they are more tedious to digest…but often have a more accurate picture.
Somethings I’m starting to think might be myths based on my own study:
Myth 1– If you want to lose weight, you have to exercise.
Except, I’ve found like dozens of studies, spanning decades, that all show no significant body weight difference between those who diet and exercise and those who just diet. In fact, if you don’t diet and the just exercise, there is no slowing in the rate at which people put on weight. You still get fat. You can be fat AND physically fit in many ways. You can be fat AND strong. You can be fat AND run a marathon.
(However, exercise has a myriad of health benefits, and everyone should exercise, regardless of weight-loss. And increase in muscle mass does increase metabolic rate over a period of time. So do it anyways.)
Myth 2– You need to reduce calories in order to lose weight.
Except, it would seem calorie restriction only works for short term weight-loss, and sucks for long-term. Calorie restriction causes a slowing of the metabolism.
Example: if you reduce your daily calorie intake from 2000 cals to 1500 cals you will lose weight in the short term, but eventually your body with become more efficient at living off of the 1500 cals by slowing your metabolic rate, and you will have to reduce your calories AGAIN in order to continue losing weight. You’ll just keep hitting those platues. Calorie restriction also leads to yo-yoing in most studied.
There have actually been several studies done on Biggest Loser contestants, which showed that the show’s weight-loss platform leaves a significant percentage of contestants gaining all or more of the weight back. And it isn’t just simply an issue of them returning to their old lifestyles, but a percentage of past contestants showed signs of significant metabolic damage. One contestant’s metabolic rate dropped to <800 cals per day at rest. Imagine having to eat less than 800 cals a day just to not be obese, and still being fat and sick despite all that hard work…that sucks!
Myth 3– If you don’t eat regularly, you’ll go into “starvation-mode” and slow your metabolism.
But, “starvation-mode” only occurs when people go like a week(depending on the individual) taking in 0 calories. This happens in order to keep your body alive during prolonged periods without food. And, every study on starvation has showed that people’s metabolic rates generally go back to normal once the person breaks the fast. So, literally getting stranded in the woods for 2 weeks without food does less damage to your overall metabolic rate than extreme, prolonged calorie restriction.
Myth 4– If you’re going to lose weight, do it slowly at about 1 to 2 pound a week.
Except, all studies comparing those who lost weight gradually to those who lost weight rapidly, have shown that those who lost weight rapidly kept the weight off longer, and yo-yo’ed less than those who lost it slowly. The people who lost weight rapidly also had higher resting metabolic rates. (To stub-out another myth about rapid weight-loss: Slow weight-loss also has shown no definable benefits in helping people reduce excess skin from weight-loss, only marginally. The only real factor in excess skin seems to be genetic. Some people have higher elasticity than others, simply put.)
If fact, if you are morbidly obese, the quicker you shed pounds, the better for your longevity.
Myth 5– Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Butttt…this common saying stemmed from JUST ONE study…in the 50s…done on school children. And it didn’t measure bodyweight. It measured academic performance. So, breakfast is the most important meal of the day for children under 12, if you want them to do well on tests. Children 13 to 17 actually get brain fog from breakfast and do worse.
However, there have been studies on skipping breakfast in adult women, that have shown that if women push their first meal of the day back to 11am, they have an average 14% INCREASE in metabolic rate. This number increases to 20% if they don’t restrict their normal calories, but instead just eat their last meal of the day no later than 7pm. (Forcing their bodies into an intermittent fasting state.)
Myth 6– A calorie is a calorie
Just no. A 1000 cals of cake and a 1000 cals of broccoli will have a significant different reaction on you, metabolically. One triggers an extreme insulin response, the other is mostly insoluble fiber.
Myth 7– If you want to increase your metabolism, eat 6 small meals throughout the day.
Except, there has NEVER been a single clinical study on this theory. It’s all anecdotal. If people are losing weight eating 6 times a day, there is no way of knowing that it’s because of metabolism increase, because (again) it’s never been studied. No bloodwork has ever been done to confirm this. Thus, it’s pseudo science to claim it raises metabolism without any data to prove it.
Myth 8– When I exercise, I’m burning fat!
No, you’re burning glycogen. Your body has two storage systems: glycogen and fat cells. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles and the most easily accessed energy source. You have to burn through it before your body touches fat cells. The only way to burn fat in exercise is to either exert yourself to burn through that glycogen quicker, or exercise in a fasted state (before your first meal of the day. It takes 6 to 8 hours without food for your body to work through glycogen stores)…which makes a lot of people lightheaded until they get used to it. This has also been shown to reduce blood pressure. (However, exercising in a fasted state is not recommended for people with certain health conditions like diabetes, low blood sugar, etc. )
Meaning, you can’t burn ANY fat on your body so long as you have glycogen stores. You have to use them up, then let your body live off of fat to lose fat.
Myth 9– If I skip a meal, I’ll lose muscle mass.
There is no evidence that your body eats your muscles for energy in any significant way outside of true starvation (no food for 6 days or longer, depending on the person. Even in this case, your body will autophagy first, taking energy from fat cells, then dead or damaged cells before touching vital tissues like muscles or organs. )
So, if you miss a meal, you won’t lose your gains, bro. In fact, Mr. Universe contestants regularly partake in intermittent fasting (fasting of no longer than 16 hours; 8 of which they are sleeping) to increase muscle definition and tone. While you won’t suffer muscle loss if you skip a meal, you will see an increase in ketone levels, and a rise in human growth hormone…all of which leads to fat burning, insulin sensitization (the opposite of insulin resistance, the thing that causes type 2 diabetes), and greater elasticity of muscle fibers.
Myth 10–People who are thin exercise more and eat less than fat people.
Except, that’s not true. Naturally thin people on average exercise less, and consume 10% more calories on average than their “dieting” fat friends. What they do do more of than overweight people: sleep. Thin people get way more sleep than overweight people on average, which contributes to more stable hormone levels. They also on average have less chronic stress, and less chronic pain.
Which brings me to my conclusion:
Fat shaming is stupid, and uneducated. Chronic Obesity is not a symptom of laziness. 3/4 of America is overweight or obese. 3/4 of America is NOT just morally decrepit. You can’t will yourself into better health, but that’s what we tell overweight people they need to do.
Stop treating Chronic Obesity as a failure of virtue and start treating it for what it is: a health issue.
I’m sick of watching overweight friends cry and hate themselves for “just not being disciplined enough” to get healthy. Extreme dieting and exercise attacks the symptom of Chronic Obesity(the physical fat), not it’s cause. It’s like getting shot and putting a bandage over the wound. You stopped the bleeding, but, fuck! there’s still a bullet in there!
You can attack the physical fat, but there is still something making you sick that caused the fat gain.
(And…not all fatness is created equal. Midsection fat is deadly, carrying extra weight in your bottom leads to a longer life. Having fat isn’t unhealthy, it’s where you’re fat is that determines if you are at some health risk.)
What causes, and ultimately might cure uhealthy fat accumulation:
From what I’ve been reading, consistently, there is a consensus that Chronic Obesity is diet and lifestyle habit related…but, not in regards to not cutting calories enough or exercising hard enough, like we are all taught.
Chronic Obesity instead is primarily hormonal.
In clinical studies, the one thing all overweight people had in common was that they had varying degrees of insulin resistance. What did all thin people have in common? Insulin sensitivity.
Meaning: if you give a thin person a 200 cal cookie, and a fat person a 200 cal cookie, the fat person’s body releases on average 4 times the amount of insulin just to metabolize that one cookie into the body’s cells than the thin person. The body’s cells have insulin resistance, and are inefficient at metabolizing calories. (Yes, calories…not just sugar. Apparently it is another misconception that insulin is just for sugar. Protein and fat also triggers an insulin response, just at a lower degree, fat being the weakest. A high fat diet for diabetics has actually been shown to be just as bad as a high sugar diet in increasing insulin resistance.)
And, guess which hormone is the leading hormone that triggers your body to store energy as fat??? Yup, insulin.
Insulin is so very useful, versatile and needed for bodily function…however, studies show that the more insulin one releases into the body, the more fat cells are retained. Lower the insulin levels, lower the amount of fat cells that are being retained.
There was a study in the 19-teens done with children with juvenile diabetes (type one diabetes, where the pancreas can no longer create adequate amounts of insulin, or none at all.) This was before injectable insulin, where diabetes was a death sentence. The study followed the children to determine what exactly caused death in type 1 diabetes.
The conclusion: emaciation.
They couldn’t keep on body weight, and died.
We need insulin to convert micronutrients into our blood stream!
But what happens when we get too much of it in our blood stream, like in the case of insulin resistance? Every study on this I’ve found says the person gains weight.
Insulin resistance is like any other chemical resistance.
Say you have to take painkillers for chronic pain. Eventually you will become resistant to a small dose, and have to up the dose to get the same effect. If you do this with insulin it eventually leads to type 2 diabetes–complete and utter insulin resistance. Then you might have to inject even more insulin into your body to not die…which, unfortunately leads to more weight gain. (Shitty cycle.)
There have been a few studies where they control people’s insulin levels, not by calorie restricting them, but by carefully orchestrating the feeding patterns and glucose levels of the foods they were given. This forced the body to go longer durations without releasing insulin, which leads to weight loss…without an increase in exercise or strict calorie control. Their hormones started to act like that of a thin person. Their insulin sensitivity doubled in less than 2 months in one study, meaning they needed less insulin to metabolize their foods.
Just like a painkiller. If you become resistant to its effects, go longer and longer stretches without taking it, and you will rebuild your sensitivity to the drug.
So, what I’ve decided based upon this information:
I’m going to follow a plan to lower insulin response, like that of the studies. I’m not going to cut calories (I maintain 1600-1800 cals a day… higher than most calorie restricting diets), I’m not going to exercise more (I already exercise 4 to 5 days a week). I’m just going to keep my blood sugar lower for longer periods of time through intermittent fasting(won’t have breakfast until 11, stop eating at 7pm in order to give my pancreas a 16 hour break each day), and avoid processed sugars, and heavily fatty meals, that are known to cause huge spikes in insulin.
But, other than that, my diet is staying the same, as recommended by my doctor: plant-based.
We’ll see if a calorie truly is just a calorie, or if how and when one eats a calorie matters.