Monday, April 28, 2014

Great TED talk and my thoughts on it

The other day on a weight loss forum, someone brought up this TED talk. It aired when I was "off the wagon", so I never saw it, so I'm grateful to have had someone point it out.

Watch it here: Peter Attia: Is the Obesity Crisis Hiding a Bigger Problem?  It's only 15 minutes long and worth the listen. The blip about the talk says this:

As a young surgeon, Peter Attia felt contempt for a patient with diabetes. She was overweight, he thought, and thus responsible for the fact that she needed a foot amputation. But years later, Attia received an unpleasant medical surprise that led him to wonder: is our understanding of diabetes right? Could the precursors to diabetes cause obesity, and not the other way around? A look at how assumptions may be leading us to wage the wrong medical war.
Like in a lot of cases, it took until he had a problem before he started to understand that maybe there was more to this.

In the talk he doesn't say anything about diet and what to do to help with the precursors to diabetes, but that maybe our thoughts of, "people get fat because they eat too much and move too little" is too simplistic. Maybe the question should be "why do people eat too much and move too little?" And, "Is there something that leads to people eating too much?" And, "Is there something biologically leading some people to eating more than they should and to not exercise when they know they should?" It's a reversal of common thought. Which problem comes first?

It's an interesting topic because I often wonder how not all Americans are overweight. I mean really. We have food EVERYWHERE. Abundances of it nearly everywhere. Food companies have perfected flavors to tantalize our palette.  The chips are just salty enough without being too salty, etc. They have learned that we love fat and salt and sugar. Fat has fallen out of favor (and that is a major part of flavor), so they took out the fat and added more salt and more sugar to tempt our taste buds. They might even be able to say it's lower calorie with the fat removed as it might be less calories with the sugar added than with the fat added. Lower calorie? People LOVE that! They'll eat more! Back to this in a minute.

And food is CHEAP. Ok, we may not think all food is cheap, but really? Most foods, junk foods, are pretty darn cheap. I can pick up a box of macaroni and cheese for less than a buck and spend less than a buck more to make it at home. A $2 meal for two. That is CHEAP. A package of Oreos is often on sale for $2, etc.

Besides food being cheap, there are events and parties all the time - birthday parties, bridal and baby showers, festivals, carnivals and holidays. Our holidays are even expanding - we have Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, etc. Throw in Pi Day and Dr. Seuss' birthday and there's more reasons to eat more food!

I have NOTHING against food. I love food. I just made a very high calorie and very  high fat cake for a baby shower yesterday. Food is great! Food is part of life and celebration and has been forever and ever and always will be... but we have too much of it!

So then why aren't we all fat? Seriously? Why is not every single American fat? Ok... some of us exercise. Some of us have manual labor jobs, but some people have a pretty easy time of not overeating. They don't have problems with just saying, "I've had enough." And all I can think is, "Wow! How do you do that? I've almost never had enough!"

My husband is like that. He will have a singe square of chocolate. He still has Christmas candy from his stocking for crying out loud! He's only eaten a couple small things from his Easter basket. Most of the time the kids grab his stuff before he has a chance to finish it. He'll take a slice of Easter bread. That's it.  One slice. There is nothing compelling him to take more.  I used to be in awe of that... until I learned to the be same - but by eating completely differently (more on that in a minute too).

What I can see then is that some people have better "control" than others. Some people don't eat too much because they are better at stopping themselves from overeating. But do they have better "in control" brain muscles? Or is it that their brains/bodies don't get the signal of EAT THIS (in not so subliminal) messages? As much as some other people? Is it simply easier for some people to stop eating and to keep from eating because their brains aren't as MEAN and TRICKY as to make them want to eat more?  Is it really about who has better control? or who has lucky genes to help them be in better control? Maybe, just maybe, when these people, like my husband, say, "I've had enough" they really mean it? Unlike when I used to say it and to say it, but I really want MORE and MORE and MORE!!!! Can that be?

So, back to the food companies adding more sugar to food when they took out the fat and how this made us fatter. There were studies that too much fat, especially saturated fat was bad for you. It was bad for your heart. It was bad for cholesterol. Just stay away from fats. Well, yogurt without fat tastes bland. So... let's up the sugar content because sugar tastes good. Even if we didn't add sugar, by taking out the fat, we are leaving just the sugars and protein (take milk as an example) and then all our body is processing in that food is sugar and protein without the fat. That makes our insulin spike and since the food was less filling without the fat, we get hungrier faster and therefore eat sooner and more often, and laced with more sugar to keep our sugar levels high. See the article on milk.

What is happening is that more and more people are walking around with raised blood sugar levels with our way of eating low fat, but higher sugar diets. Sugar digest quickly. Insulin spikes and then crashes, making us hungry... and hungry for more sugar. Eating more sugar is making people obese and lazy and here is how.

This is from the transcript of the Peter Attia Ted Talk at minute five:

Now, most researchers believe obesity is the cause of insulin resistance. Logically, then, if you want to treat insulin resistance, you get people to lose weight, right? You treat the obesity. But what if we have it backwards? What if obesity isn't the cause of insulin resistance at all? In fact, what if it's a symptom of a much deeper problem, the tip of a proverbial iceberg? I know it sounds crazy because we're obviously in the midst of an obesity epidemic, but hear me out. What if obesity is a coping mechanism for a far more sinister problem going on underneath the cell? I'm not suggesting that obesity is benign, but what I am suggesting is it may be the lesser of two metabolic evils.
You can think of insulin resistance as the reduced capacity of ourselves to partition fuel, as I alluded to a moment ago, taking those calories that we take in and burning some appropriately and storing some appropriately. When we become insulin-resistant, the homeostasis in that balance deviates from this state. So now, when insulin says to a cell, I want you to burn more energy than the cell considers safe, the cell, in effect, says, "No thanks, I'd actually rather store this energy." And because fat cells are actually missing most of the complex cellular machinery found in other cells, it's probably the safest place to store it. So for many of us, about 75 million Americans, the appropriate response to insulin resistance may actually be to store it as fat, not the reverse, getting insulin resistance in response to getting fat.
Now, I'm not a scientist and I'm not going to get all deep into the science humbo jumbo of eating because I don't even get it all and don't need to. What I want? I want to not be hungry all the time and I want to have energy. I want to be able to resist the temptation of overeating and what that has meant for me is to avoid most carbohydrates and to eat enough protein and fat. Fat especially.

In general though what is means is that many people who have insulin resistance need to reduce the amount of insulin released into the blood stream to keep from getting fat. They need this to keep these messages from entering the brain to eat more food and to be a couch potato - especially sugary foods.

After listening to the TED Talk, I looked up Peter Attia. Guess how he eats? High fat, high protein with much fewer carbs. I love his explanation of how he eats to keep his body 'in check' and how his wife can eat differently to stay in check- because of how they hit the genetic lottery in how their body processes sugar. Please read. This is from Peter Attia's website.

I saw it now with this recent regain I had. Yes, overeating led to me gaining weight and being less physically active. There is no doubt about that. But what led to the overeating and being more lazy? The sugars did. I let them back into my life when I got depressed and then the insulin hormone took over. And I watched myself, almost like an out of body experience get more and more and more out of control with wanting more and more and more food. And almost all of it sugar, sugar, sugar. And I gained quickly as guess what? My body is also really good at storing fat in response to the insulin hormone making me eat more carbs and wanting me to slow down (ie. be more lazy) to store more fat.

That's why I gained 20 pounds in a month when we were in Croatia two summers ago - despite walking, despite hiking, despite swimming daily. As soon as we got there I saw I would have a hard time avoiding carbs. So, my diet changed and I saw as the month went by that towards the end I was sneaking cookies as my ability to deny the carb monster diminished and my desire to swim more and hike more diminished too. No one else went through this. When we got back from vacation my mother in law lost weight and she ate more on vacation than at home because she wanted to indulge in all the foods she doesn't normally find in the states. My husband didn't gain or lose and he ate more than normally, and I gained 20 pounds. Some of it was glycogen stores, but most of it wasn't. I never took all that weight off again. It took me months and months to whittle down some of it - from one month of eating lots of carbs. And it was hard to get back on track. The insulin hormone is very convincing in telling my body to eat more and move less. I just have to shut the insulin production down to much lower levels in the blood stream to keep from overeating and getting lazy.

Now, I'm getting it. For many people a calorie is not just a calorie.  A carb calorie is digested quickly. And it spikes insulin which wants me to eat more calories because my cells don't process it properly. Protein and fat calories take longer to digest, keeping me fuller longer and they don't spike my insulin, so I don't want to eat more.

Is there a magic line of how many carbs are too many carbs? For some people, yes. And that magic line is different for every one of those people depending on how lucky or unlucky they are in the genetic lottery. I think I got pretty unlucky. I need to steer clear from simple and most complex carbs. When I do, my life is sooooooooo much easier.

That gets back to the other point I wanted to get back to. My husband is not insulin resistant. He doesn't have to eat a certain way to keep himself from gaining weight. I am insulin resistant and I do have to eat a certain way to keep myself from gaining weight. When I eat a low carb diet, I can control my eating and I feel more energetic. All of a sudden I am the person who is strong enough to resist the extra piece of cake or the cookies sitting on the counter right under my nose. I am more willing to go for a walk and have good character of taking care of myself. I am not strong enough if insulin is coursing through my veins. The hormones are telling me to eat and slow down at that point. Driving me to eat and be lazy. As Peter Attia says here in this video of other times and other hormones that make us want to eat: 2 minute video

So, for some people having a piece of cake is just having a piece of cake - like for my husband. For other people it's opening a Pandora's box. I had a piece of cake yesterday which was fortunately also very high fat to keep me satiated. But, I'm starving today. and I feel lazy. If I would have eaten the same amount of calories yesterday with lower carbs, I probably wouldn't feel so hungry and I probably wouldn't feel so lazy. The insulin would have stayed in check.

My husband doesn't quite understand it and he does frown a bit at my half and half in my morning coffee versus skim milk, but that half and half keeps me satiated all morning until lunch time. The skim milk would have me running for a 500 calorie breakfast within an hour. It might not be what others do to keep the eating in check, but it's what I have to do. And I am SOOOOO glad that more and more and more research is backing this up. Fat is beginning to be seen as a good thing, even saturated fats aren't seen quite as bad. Sugar is the new foe and it's about time as it seems pretty obvious to me and those of us who fit the camp of gainers due to sugar/carbs consumption.

And with that said, the scale dropped a whole pound today. Finally moving again after a week of nothing.


  1. I totally agree about eating fats to feel good. I also use half and half in my coffee, and feel much more satiated with my ricotta and fruit breakfast that way than if I have creamer and cereal! When I eat a low fat breakfast, I want to gnaw my arm off by 10 am!

  2. Great post! I found your blog via 3FC, and since I am just starting out on low carb for the first time, I love reading about your success!