Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Nutrition Debate #110: My Body and Me

Homeostasis, I have come slowly and begrudgingly to accept, is a controlled condition with a “compound” predicate. It is controlled, I now recognize, by both my body and me. I used to regard it differently. I used to think that my body and I were one entity, and that I was in control. I am wiser now. Let me explain how I came to recognize that change.

The first step, which occurred more than 10 years ago, was when I recognized that I was in sole charge of my health care. I still went to see my doctor, and in the beginning at least, I took his advice, usually; but as I educated myself in diet and nutrition, I came gradually to believe that he was hopelessly out of touch with developments in nutritional science as it related to my long-term type 2 diabetes. I credit him with suggesting that I start eating Very Low Carb (Atkins Induction), but it was to lose weight, not to treat or control my blood sugar, or dramatically improve my lipid chemistry.

As my knowledge increased over the years, I paid less and less attention to what my doctor told me. I requested to be titrated off statins and refused his suggestions to renew them later. I also refused his suggestion for new prescriptions. To be fair, as my doctor saw the health outcomes I had achieved through dietary means, he also began to back off a little. As my weight dropped, so did my blood pressure (duh!). On balance, as my doctor’s influence on me diminished, my sense of empowerment increased. Naturally, this new power led me to be overly self-confident. This was the “I’m in control” phase.

My doctor actually encouraged me too. He frequently said I should go on local (NYC), even network TV, to tell others of my accomplishments and how I did it. I declined, of course, knowing that I was just an amateur who was entirely self-taught and without any “credentials”. I also know that there are hundreds of much better trained professionals in practice and in research out there who understand and advocate for this Way of Eating (WOE) and who have a well-deserved place in the blogosphere and in the publishing world.

The bottom line is that as I gained a sense of empowerment I came to think of myself as being “in charge,” not just of what others had to say and do with my body (with respect to diet and nutrition), but with what I did with it myself. This arrogance, I hope you will think, is a natural consequence of the transition that I have described above. I consider it a major accomplishment. It is, I think, one that very few people make. Most people in our culture – the ones who are getting sick and sicker on the Standard American Diet (SAD) – are doing so diligently and conscientiously following the diet that their traditionally trained clinicians advise. We put our destiny – our precious health – in their hands, for better or worse. To switch from professional medical advice to going your own way on the basis of what you read in a blog is…well, crazy, right?

Well, I did it. And so have many, many others. My doctor did monitor me once a month for a year, and the standard 4 times a year thereafter; he happily observed and approved of all the outcomes. So, in that sense, I didn’t do it alone, but I was in charge (of what I ate). I stuck to Very Low Carb, and I got the results. And my doctor looked on approvingly. That was Phase 1. This is where it gets dicey, perhaps complicated by my being male, do you think?

After some years of successful weight loss and dramatically improved metrics (BS, BP, HDL, TG, A1c, CRPs, etc.), my weight loss slowed. At one point, during a lax period, I regained some and then lost some again. But weight loss became harder. I fiddled with ketosis for awhile using a K/G ratio of 1.5:1.0, calculated by detailed record keeping of everything I ate. That grew tiresome after I no longer needed to learn about the effects certain foods had on my blood sugar. I also began to regularize what I ate for breakfast and lunch every day and to eat smaller evening meals: “Supper” instead of “dinner.”

I have also over time adjusted the daily calorie target and the macronutrient ratios. Carbs have always been very low (from 7% to 5% now), protein always “moderate” (from 28% to 20% now), and fat always high (from 65% to 75% now). Calories have ranged in recent years (after I had lost well over 100 pounds) around 1,200 calories (typically) a day. I have always believed that a calorie deficit was necessary. You cannot burn body fat, even in a mildly ketogenic state, if your dietary fat is sufficient to maintain your metabolic activity level. You must call on your body for that additional energy, i.e., the difference between the energy content of what you ingest and what you require for homeostasis.

This was never a problem for me. So long as my carb intake was very low, my serum insulin level was low, I had access to body fat, and my blood glucose was low and stable. I was not hungry because “my body” made up for the energy deficit. It catabolized and oxidized (broke down and burned) my body fat as needed. But that is where “my body” came into play. I did “my part” – ate low carb, moderate protein, high fat and still low calorie – and my body did “its part.” It continued to break down and burn fat and tell me “it” was “happy” (by not sending me hunger signals, and the good lab results).
That’s when I realized that “my body,” not “I’, was in charge. And “it” has “a mind of its own.” I just slavishly follow its demands. I try to “listen” to “it” and feed “it” what it needs. My body is, after all, a much more powerful and better controlled and disciplined “person” than I am. We both live in the same skin, so my goal now is to keep us both “happy.”


  1. Nice article with great insight, Dan. So important to listen to your body. It always knows what it needs.

    1. Thanks,Franziska. It's a humbling realization, especially since I'm an Alpha male, but one that I can "live with," both literally and figuratively.