The Obesity Code
Unlocking The Secrets of Weight Loss
Jason Fung, MD
I'll be doing a series of blog posts that review books that I read while on vacation in Maui. Yes, I went to Maui and read books on nutrition. Ok, so some people like to Jet Ski. Some like to see every possible sight there is to see. Vacation for me is an opportunity to clear my plate of the day-to-day tasks so I can focus on the learning I have trouble getting to when I'm home. I know, I'm weird :).
This book is broken into six parts:
1. The Obesity Epidemic
2. The Calorie Deception
3. A New Model of Obesity
4. The Social Phenomenon of Obesity
5. What’s Wrong with Our Diet
6. The Solution
The first part describes the epidemic of obesity we have today. It talks about the idea that obesity is not about excess calories or lack of self-control. Up until the 1950’s, it was common knowledge that sugary and starchy foods made you fat. No one would tell you to eat fewer calories, they would tell you not to eat those “fattening” foods. Then, in an attempt to deal with rising epidemic heart disease and without much real evidence, fat was labeled at the enemy of health. In 1977, this led to US dietary policy advocating a low fat and high carb diet. Not only has this shift not slowed the heart disease epidemic, but obesity has gotten worse.
Part two talks all about the flaws of the “calorie-in, calorie-out” model of weight gain. This model basically asserts that if you eat more calories than you use, you will get fat. According to Dr. Fung and supported by many studies, this is simply not true. The body is much more complex than this. This part also dispels the myth that exercise is the key to weight loss. Again, this is a belief that is simply not supported by the evidence nor by the majority of people's experience.
Part three introduces and describes the idea that obesity is caused by an imbalance of hormones in the body. More specifically, that obesity is essentially a result of insulin dysregulation. Insulin is the fat storage hormone. High levels of insulin as a result of excess refined carbohydrate consumption and insulin resistance are what make people fat. It’s not about calories. It’s not about self-control. It’s not about lack of exercise. It’s about insulin.
Part four is an interesting one. It talks a lot about how we, as a society, view and have tried to treat diabetes and obesity. It touches on topics like politics, dietary dogma, money, public policy, socioeconomic perspectives, and childhood obesity.
Part five describes, in great detail, the major issues with the standard America diet: sugar, diet soda, and refined carbohydrates. It also talks about how other things (hormones and foods) impact insulin. Fat is discussed in detail. This is a really important part of this section.
Part six is the payoff. It outlines the proposed steps for lasting weight loss. It talks at length about what constitutes a healthy diet. It also describes how fasting can be used to correct insulin resistance. At a high level, maintaining a healthy weight is all about what you eat and when you eat it. So simple ;).
Just about every new client comes to me with weight loss as a goal. While I always acknowledge this, my goal for clients is health, not necessarily a specific target weight. There are plenty of unhealthy ways to lose weight and I have no interest in pursuing any of these. Besides, I have found that when the body is healthy, weight settles out to what’s appropriate for the person. The beauty of what this book proposes is that it results in true health because it addresses the root causes of excess weight. Intermittent fasting, in particular, is going to be a very powerful tool that my clients will be able to use to achieve health and the weight loss they desire.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s packed full of useful information and all of the information is backed by citations of studies. Often there are books that provide lots of info but don’t cite too many references. I like when there are references. Run, don't walk to a bookstore to buy this book. Well, ok, you can put it in an online shopping cart instead if bookstores aren't your thing :). Even for people who aren't carrying extra weight, the information in this book is of great value.