Tag Archives: obesity and diabetes

Health Based, Not Weight Based

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I’ve been learning more about obesity and how it appears to increase the risk for disease.  Key word there is “appears”.  But before I get into that, I think we’d all agree that it’s just obvious that obesity negatively affects health in some ways.  Some obese people can go decades with excellent blood panels and be otherwise healthy, but the extra weight can lead to obstructive sleep apnea and osteoarthritis.

In my nutrition studies I heard a lecture by Dr. Barry Sears where he underlined that obesity and disease are correlational and not necessarily causational.  In other words, obesity is present in a large number of those with disease but we can’t prove if it’s the obesity causing the disease or if the two just happen at the same time.

Studies in the near future should really make this area more clear to us.

In the meantime, this information, coupled with this country’s weight obsession and the fact that people assume a person is healthy simply by looking at their weight, should really change the way we approach health.

I wrote recently about the law of attraction.  When we as a society focus on fixing obesity, you know what we are collectively doing?  We are focusing on obesity.  Instead of focusing on health.  Some would argue that a focus on reducing obesity is a focus on health.  But essentially it’s not because as humans, we look for the quickest solution to our problems and a focus on obesity means we focus on things like a reduction in calories, low fat, low sugar, foods that promise to reduce weight, products that promise to help us reduce the pounds, etc.  Food marketers are pretty smart and have zeroed in on our thoughts and have created a billion products just for us.  And the majority of these products are full of the very substances that caused us our problems in the first place.

What if we focused on a health based approach?  Instead of screening people on their BMI, what if we took their blood pressure and conducted blood tests for their hormones, blood sugar, lipids, and white blood cell count?  Not only would this help many thin people suffering from fatty liver disease and high cholesterol and early stages of cancer, but it would send our society the message that just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you’re healthy and just because you’re fat, it doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy.

Obesity can’t be too comfortable.  Physically, it feels nice to have a weight that doesn’t make it difficult to breathe or move.  But, I fear it’s extremely uncomfortable because of society’s view of obesity.  We’re so advanced right?  And yet, future generations are going to shake their heads in pitiful disbelief when they read about how we treated fat people.  Not to mention how we were willing to assume and judge before truly understanding.

I was generally pleased that Michelle Obama has been highlighting childhood obesity and yet I’ve always felt like the mark was missed.  Now I know how I feel about the initiative.  Hearts are in the right place but the approach is based on weight when it should be based on health and society’s access to the basic components of health.  Right now, more than ever, we need to teach our children about real foods and healthy habits without calling them fat (honestly, if I was a large kid, that would depress me).  We don’t need them to get on some chemical laden “nutritional” diet drink.  We need to work to provide all areas in our country with fresh, affordable food, proper nutritional information, and perhaps teach the basics of food and cooking in schools, rather than teach people how less calories equals less weight gain.  Who in their right mind is going to say, “Yes, I feel empowered now that I know I just need to eat less and move more.”  Obese people have fat cells that work differently than other people’s.  Their cells literally make them feel hungry, very often.  And as I’ve said before and will say again, who will endure hunger indefinitely when they don’t have to?  Who other than someone with an illness, such as an anorexic?

With all this focus on the extra weight issue, we’re avoiding making the message really straightforward and we’re avoiding doing the right things to increase our nation’s health.  We don’t want our congressmen, those who can change crucial laws, to think, “Ok, so we’re trying to get the obese people to adopt a healthy lifestyle…check.”  No, we need them to see the true challenges that many thin and not so thin people have when it comes to eating healthy.  How about subsidizing fruits and vegetables for starters, eh?  Maybe then people’s cells could get the nutrients they need and would stop asking for so much food?

Obesity and it’s links to type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, fatty liver disease, etc, are very complex.  Let’s respect that fact so that we can respect those who are being stigmatized-the very thing we all hate to happen to us.  And let’s focus on the actions that will actually help us.  Checking out our insides instead of our outsides only and helping people make better lifestyle choices because they want to be healthy, not because they want to be thin.   I don’t think it will happen with our overemphasis on “you’re too big”.

I didn’t lose weight by thinking I was too big and needed to drop weight, by the way.  I did that for years and only got bigger.  I lost weight by getting into the habit of thinking, “I’m beautiful, I matter, and I want to learn how to take care of myself”.

It’s time for our country to adopt a health based approach.  One where self love isn’t a joke or an ego driven ideal but a standard for treatment starting with oneself and extending to all others.

Obesity and Diabetes Part I

 

Courtesy of Sundayhill

Courtesy of Sundayhill

 

 

Why We Need To Talk About It

Of all things I can think of obesity has the worst stigma attached to it.  And that is simply unfair.  If the overwhelming majority of us is intelligent, hard-working, and wants to be healthy, then how come so many of us (including myself years ago) are becoming obese?

Science journalist and author Gary Taubes, Dr. Mercola, and Dr. Weil have all mentioned recently that some people, in fact many people, do not have the ability to handle carbs well and that for some people, or again, many people, even a relatively small number of carbs is harmful, especially when consuming refined carbs and sugar.  When we talk about the strong link between type 2 diabetes and genes, this is quite similar.  There are people who are sensitive to carbohydrate intake because of their genetics and need to produce a lot of insulin to manage blood sugars.  In the meantime the excess insulin is throwing off the metabolic balance in the body and as a result they are accumulating fat instead of burning it. 

The following is an excerpt from a blog post by Gary Taubes titled The Inanity of Overeating:

“Now, if you gain 40 pounds of fat over 20 years, that’s an average of two pounds of excess fat accumulation every year. Since a pound of fat is roughly equal to 3500 calories, this means you accumulate roughly 7000 calories worth of fat every year. Divide that 7000 by 365 and you get the number of calories of fat you stored each day and never burned – roughly 19 calories. Let’s round up to 20 calories, so we have a nice round number. (In the new book I discuss this issue in a chapter called “The Significance of Twenty Calories a Day.”)

So now the question: if all you have to do to become obese is store 20 extra calories each day on average in your fat tissue — 20 calories that you don’t mobilize and burn — what does overeating have to do with it? And why aren’t we all fat? Twenty calories, after all, is a bite or two of food, a swallow or two of soda or fruit juice or milk or beer. It is an absolutely trivial amount of overeating that the body then chooses, for reasons we’ll have to discuss at some point, not to expend, but to store as fat instead.”

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Are you telling me that an extra teaspoon of jelly a day is enough to make that much of a difference?  Nah.  Taubes has a point!

Here is another excerpt from that post:

“What’s been needed (and still is) was for someone (a reasonably smart 14-year-old would suffice) to ask the obvious questions and then insist on intelligent answers. Here’s how such a dialog might go:

The experts: Obesity is caused by over-eating, by consuming more calories than are expended. There’s no getting around the first law of thermodynamics.

Us: But all that law says is that if somebody gets fat, they have to consume more calories then they expend. So why do they do that?

The experts: Because they do.

Us: That’s not a good enough answer.

The experts: Well, maybe they can’t help themselves.

Us: Why can’t they help themselves?

The experts: Because they can’t.

Us: That’s not a good enough answer either.

The experts: Because the food industry makes them do it. There’s so much good food around and it’s so tasty, they can’t help but eat it.

Us: But obviously some of us can, because we don’t all get fat. Why is it only some people can’t help themselves?

The experts: Because they can’t.

Us: Try again.

The experts: Well, it’s complicated.

Us: What do you mean complicated? We thought it was easy. Just this eating-too-much, exercising-too-little, calories-in-calories-out, thermodynamics thing.

The experts: Okay, how about this? [Now quoting from an NIH report published in 2000.] “Obesity is a complex, multifactorial chronic disease that develops from an interaction of genotype and the environment. Our understanding of how and why obesity develops is incomplete, but involves the integration of social, behavioral, cultural, physiological, metabolic and genetic factors.”

Us: So what do all those have to do with eating too much and the laws of thermodynamics?

Experts: They contribute to making fat people overeat.

Us: How do they do that?

The experts: We don’t know. It’s complicated.

Us: Then maybe there’s another way to look at it. Maybe when we get fat it’s because those physiological, metabolic and genetic factors you mentioned are dysregulating our fat tissue, driving it to accumulate too much fat, and that’s why we eat so much and appear — to you anyway — to be kind of lazy. We’re compensating for the loss of calories into our fat.

The experts: Yeah, well, maybe. Your guess is as good as ours.”

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Not only did that make me laugh but he brings up an excellent question:  Why are we overeating?  We are like any other mammal, not meant to overeat, but meant to receive an overwhelming feeling of satiety after eating.  This feeling of satiety is supposed to signal us to stop eating.  So how come some of us (a lot of us) are not getting those signals and how come some of us are not burning a few extra handfuls of calories?  How come the only overweight mammals on earth come from zoos and family homes and are not found in the wild?

I mean you can’t blame anyone for eating when they’re hungry or for even being hungry for that matter.  So isn’t the issue not that they’re void of self-discipline but instead, that they are constantly hungry?  The solution to obesity is not to just eat less or exercise more or both.  It goes much deeper than that.  Or it wouldn’t be an epidemic.  This is not the most comfortable subject to discuss but an important one.  I was once clinically obese.  I know what it feels like to be seen as fat and lazy- a most undeserving assumption.  So let’s get into this shall we?  If you want to read all of Gary’s excellent post, here it is.

And to end this post and reiterate my point I’ll quote Michael Barker, who does a great bit of research himself and has type 2 ketosis prone diabetes:

“We eat because we are hungry not out of some lascivious need. What we are seeing now is hunger, one that isn’t slacked by eating. Something has gone wrong with our diet and we are now hungry at a level that causes us to eat in search of a satiation which we can’t achieve.”

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Stay tuned for Obesity and Diabetes Part II, What Are We Supposed to Eat? 

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on all this?

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