Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Nutrition Debate #126: Do You Live to Eat or Eat to Live?

Do you live to eat, or eat to live? I love to eat, but I eat to live. I used to live to eat, and I paid a big price for it. Over many years my body changed. The way it processed food changed. “Somehow,” I developed a disregulated metabolism. The carbs I ate, both simple sugars and complex carbohydrates, were the only fuel my body was using. Fat was carefully stored away in copious quantity. I was a sugar-burner running “high” on glucose to prevent “crashes.” And I became insulin resistant. The insulin my body made could no longer get nutrients into my cells. The fat I ate wasn’t burned for energy because my blood insulin was too high preventing access to my fat stores. Year after year I got fatter and fatter.

I also became a Type 2 diabetic. I was diagnosed 27 years ago, but I was probably fully diabetic many years before that. Over the years, as I got fatter, my diabetes got worse – until 2002 when my doctor suggested that I try Atkins to lose weight. I lost a lot of weight, eliminated virtually all my oral anti-diabetes medications, dramatically raised my HDL, lowered my triglycerides, and lowered my blood pressure. These are the cluster of risk factors known as Metabolic Syndrome, which I had, and they are all gone now! A doctor today would not know that I am (and always will be) a type 2 diabetic. Once you have a disregulated metabolism, there’s no fixin’ it. You have it for life. You have to “live with it.”

Accepting this fact is not as difficult as you might think. All you have to do is change the food you eat. The hardest thing about dieting is being hungry. Traditional “balanced” diets are just slow starvation. You eat less than you body needs for energy balance, and your body reminds you of this frequently. It’s an exquisite machine, continuously assessing its options to maintain homeostasis. It regulates and shifts resources around via a complex system of signaling from the brain, liver, stomach, intestines, the fat stores, the blood and all the other organs. Everything works in harmony. If you are hungry, your body is telling you to eat because it doesn’t have access to your fat reserves. It is ‘available’ (around your waist) but it is not accessible. Why? Because, with high circulating insulin, your body thinks “sugary foods” (carbs) are plentiful, so it should preserve your body fat for leaner days (winter, famine, etc.) So, how then do you lower your circulating insulin? You stop eating most carbohydrates. That will “free” or “release” your body fat to be used for fuel and you will not be hungry. Your body will not send you a signal to eat because it will be satisfied with the energy it is getting. Your body fat will be feeding your body. How cool is that?

So, as much as I love to eat, I now eat to live. I am currently eating less to lose weight. I eat very few carbohydrates (less than 20 grams a day), so I am not hungry. I let my body tell me when to eat. If I’m not hungry, I don’t eat.  Frequently I go from breakfast to dinner without any food at all. I eat a good breakfast: 2 fried eggs, 2 strips of bacon and a big cup of coffee with heavy cream or ghee. If I do eat lunch, I eat a can of sardines packed in olive oil. That’s all. Dinner is just meat, fish or fowl and a low carb vegetable with butter or tossed and roasted in olive oil. Weight loss, without hunger!

You could say that my diet is limited. By restricting my choices to certain foods, though, I do not feel “deprived.” Would you feel deprived if you could not eat poison? That’s what carbs are to a diabetic’s body. Carbs are “toxic” to a Type 2 diabetic or prediabetic. Type 1s have to inject insulin to live. If they don’t, the sugar in their blood will kill them quickly! Sugar is toxic to Type 2s too, just in a chronic rather than an acute way as long term hyperglycemia damages the body.

All carbs are toxic to Type 2’s. If you’re a Type 2 and follow your doctor’s or dietician’s advice to eat a “balanced” diet with 45-60 grams of carb per meal, your treatment will progressively include more and more medications to control your blood sugar. Why? Because the 2013 ADA guidelines for “good control” call for an A1c of <7.0 and blood glucose level under 180 after meals. Unfortunately, damage to organs, nerves and arteries, particularly in the feet, kidneys and eyes, begins when BG is above 140. And heart attack risk steadily rises as the A1c level goes above 5.5, for everyone, diabetic or not. The risk is doubled with an A1c of 6.0.

For diabetics, cardiovascular disease is almost a given, as heart disease or stroke are the most common causes of death for a diabetic. As heart attack risk rises, so does the risk of other conditions such as erectile dysfunction, hearing loss, dementia and many cancers (particularly colon, bladder, liver and breast, 4 of the most common cancers in the US). Eventually many diabetics will go on to add drugs for co-morbid conditions and to inject insulin as well. And then to collect “the dreaded complications”: neuropathy (amputations), nephropathy (end-stage kidney disease), and retinopathy (blindness), or one of many chronic diseases of the Western Diet, including cognitive decline (Alzheimer’s).
This is the prospect you face: The medical establishment will tell you T2 diabetes is a progressive disease, and it will be if you allow them to treat you with a “one size fits all” “balanced” diet. But you do have a choice. You can treat your carbohydrate intolerance by avoiding carbs, use your meter to set goals, and take charge of your own health. Eat to live!


  1. Have you read dr Furhman's book "Eat to Live"?

    1. No, I haven't. I just Googled his web site though. Have you mentioned him to me before?

      I like his idea that "Health = Nutrient Density/Calories. That is a very good formulation.

      He give me a clue about his diet with his emphasis on micronutrients. He talking about real food, primarily fruits and vegetables. That's okay if you are not carbohydrate intolerant, or beginning to be. If you are overweight, you likely are.

      But he gives me another clue about what his diet is about with this statement: "...and the less you will crave fat and high calorie foods." This looks suspiciously like a diet that is very low in meat, especially meat containing saturated fat and cholesterol. That is where we would part company.

      He also goes on to say, "If you are an adult diabetic, you will likely be insulin-free in no time." That is a very misleading statement. First of all, I am an 'adult diabetic' (for 27 years)and have never taken insulin. I have controlled my diabetes for the last 11 years with diet alone (except for 500mg once a day)to suppress gluconeogenesis.

      On the other hand, every adult type 1 diabetic knows that they must take inslulin for life of they will die!

      Promises like that may appeal to some, but I think that kind of 'sell' is over the top. It just smells of commercialism. I have nothing to sell. Just an idea. An idea that works. If you are overweight because of insulin resistance from carbohydrate intolerance, you can lose weight easily without hunger, and avoid becoming diabetic -- if it's not too late. Sooner rather than later is better. It will allow you more choices for the rest of you life -- more choices than I have now. That is my message.