Saturday, March 23, 2024

Type 2 Nutrition #998: "I write about nutrition." Crickets!

When I introduce myself as Dan Brown, people sometimes hesitate and then ask, “Are you…” I reply, “No, but I do write a little.” Then they usually ask, “About what?” and I say, “Nutrition.” Pause. Crickets.

No, I’m not talking about eating bugs. I’m a meat eater. Mostly protein and fat. As few carbs as possible. But the silence (“crickets”) is because… I am, well, still “overweight.” At 5’-10” (shrunken from 6 feet), I currently weigh 222 pounds. I’m not muscular, so all that extra weight is body fat. My BMI is 32 (obese). Overweight is 25 to <30. “Healthy” is 18.5 to <25. And frankly, I would call that BMI “sickly.”

“Crickets” is just being polite in casual conversation. The “silent person” is actually thinking, Would I take nutrition advice from a person who is obese? Especially if that “silent person” is “normal” weight. Out of context, the answer is, “no”! It’s ludicrous. I actually laugh when I see the morbidly obese Health Minister of a certain European country or even our own U. S. Assistant Secretary for Health.

But context is important. (Witness: “bloodbath.”) While my current BMI is 32, my BMI used to be 52. And, at 222 today (2024), I still weigh more than 150 pounds less than I weighed in 2002 (375). Without surgery! Or exercise! Just nutrition. Just learning about the physiology of weight gain and weight loss.

So, after I lost all that weight (and as adjunct put my type 2 diabetes “in remission” in the first days before any weight loss), I had the opportunity to write about nutrition for a local weekly newspaper, and I took it. And then I discovered the internet, and I started posting my columns on line. This is #998.

How did I do it? I already told you. It’s not complicated. I eat mostly protein and fat, and as few carbs as possible. I like all animal protein, and full-fat dairy, but I limit my daily dairy to heavy cream and butter.

For “meat,” I prefer ruminant species, principally beef (steaks or chopped/mince) but lamb is good for a treat. I sometimes eat pork and chicken (skin on), but never breaded or deep fried. All seafood appeals to me, but I’m partial to shrimp, clams, oysters and mussels, and cod or any other white, flaky fish. For lunch, I love a can (tin) of sardines, tuna, mackerel or salmon, so long as it’s packed in olive oil or water.

I skip breakfast, except for coffee, and as you can see, I eat a very light lunch (just a can/tin of fish). And supper is usually just one of the “meats” I’ve described above, with fat. I don’t prepare a vegetable, but I do eat vegetables when served in a restaurant or by a host. I prefer the above ground type or the leafy type. I don’t eat bread or potatoes or other root vegetable (except on Thanksgiving and Christmas day).

Why am I not hungry? Here’s the physiology part: There are only three macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates. Protein has many important bodily functions, building and maintaining a host of essential structures and processes, but it is not a primary fuel. Fat is a dense fuel (9 kcal/g) used as a secondary fuel and stored long term for that purpose as body fat. Carbohydrates act as a less dense (4kcal/g) but easily available primary fuel for immediate use or short term (1-2 day) storage.

Carbs are almost all converted to glucose and enter the blood for circulation and “pick-up” by muscle and other cells. Glucose is accompanied by the transporter hormone INSULIN to “open the door” so it can get picked up. High levels of glucose in the blood are very bad, so insulin has to always do its job. And if we’re always eating carbs, blood insulin levels stay high, and the “cell door” becomes RESISTANT.

So, the “secret” to losing weight when you have INSULIN RESISTANCE is to eat as few carbs as possible. That way, the insulin level in the blood will drop (since the glucose level has dropped), and the body can turn to burning your backup body fat for energy. And if you’re still fat like me, you’re never hungry. ;-)

The body doesn’t need carbs for energy. It can make all the glucose it needs from protein and fat by a process called gluconeogenesis. And when body fat (triglycerides) breaks down for energy, besides making fatty acids for fuel, it also makes ketones for fuel, which both your brain and your heart love! 

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