November 19, 2018 by Dr. Varner in Ketogenic Diet , Obesity

Have you ever started a diet and wondered why your weight refuses to budge? You do all the right things, say no to the desserts and suffer through the cravings… but still, nothing happens?

That was my story for years.

I became obese at the age of 5, and as I grew up I tried everything in the book to lose weight. I did all kinds of sports, from horse riding to karate. I went on one diet after the next and still, nothing made a difference.

All I kept hearing was that my obesity was all my fault because I just couldn’t get off my a** or lay off the snacks. I knew that wasn’t the case, but without any results to show for it, I took the comments to heart and felt like a complete failure.

In medical school, I discovered the option to have bariatric surgery. I had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy done in Mexico and suddenly I started to see my life turn around. After the procedure, I dropped 70 pounds and felt amazing. But pretty quickly found myself stagnating once again.

That’s when I discovered a book called The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung.

Having just graduated from medical residency, I thought I knew everything about the human body. I was sure this was going to just be some new-age diet fad that I’d have fun tearing apart.

But once I started, I found myself 12 hours later absolutely captivated by everything in this book.

Even though I was a fully-licensed, board-certified doctor, I realized that I knew nothing about how the body and obesity really work.

I decided to test out the theory on myself and after just three days I felt completely transformed. I was no longer hungry every waking moment of the day and my brain felt clearer than it had ever been before. After a couple more days, the weight started to shed. Today, I’m down yet another 50 pounds and counting.

As it turns out, what had kept me from losing weight all these years was not a lack of willpower… it was a lack of accurate information. Everything I had been told about weight loss was wrong, so it was no wonder why I was failing.

To learn how to lose weight, you need to first know how the body really works. Read on to learn the secret to rapid and sustainable weight loss.

The Insulin Theory of Obesity

When it comes to obesity, it all comes down to insulin. You’ve probably heard about insulin from biology class or from a relative of yours with diabetes. Basically, every time we eat, our blood sugars go up and we release a hormone called insulin.

This hormone triggers your body to take excess glucose, or blood sugar, and convert it into glycogen, which it stores in your muscles as reserve energy.

However, there’s only so much glycogen that can be stored in your body, so when your tank gets full, the excess energy that you consume is stored as body fat.

When we’re not eating, our blood sugar levels go down and the process reverses. Our body taps into our glycogen stores and turns it back into glucose to fuel our body.

In general, our body is relatively self-regulating. When we eat, glycogen goes in. When we’re not eating glycogen goes out.

The trouble is, over the past decades the American diet has changed pretty dramatically. First, we’ve seen a major increase in refined carbohydrates and sugars being consumed, which has led to higher insulin levels and more excess energy to store away as body fat.

And second, we’ve seen the rise of “snacking” or the habit of eating all day long. When we eat more frequently, our bodies don’t have a chance to lower insulin levels and engage in the reverse process of using our energy and fat stores. So instead, it all just keeps piling in.

After years of these kinds of eating habits that put our insulin levels at a constant high, our bodies begin to develop a resistance to the hormone. To help you picture that, imagine if you were sitting in a quiet room and you heard a bell. You’d jump up and get into gear.

But imagine if the bell started ringing every hour, and then it started ringing every minute… After a while, you’d stop hearing it, or responding to it. In order to get you up and on your feet, the bell would have to get louder and louder, until eventually you became completely deaf to it. You’d be bell-resistant.

That’s exactly the same that’s happening with the insulin in our body. With so much being produced all the time, we build up a resistance to it. That insulin resistance is what we call Type 2 Diabetes. And this is what lies behind the obesity epidemic today.

So if we want to combat obesity, we need to make two key changes: what we eat and when we eat. In this article, I will focus on what to eat and I will elaborate on when to eat in a follow-up article.

How the Ketogenic Diet Works

A ketogenic diet is a diet that is high in fat, low in carbohydrates and moderate to low in protein. That’s right, I said it—high in fat.

These should generally be the good fats you get from olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, fatty fish, eggs, olives, etc. But can also include full-fat milk and yogurt, cream, and fatty meats.

At the same time, you must cut out ALL sugar, processed and refined carbohydrates, as well as fruits and starchy vegetables. Instead, you want to load up on lots and lots of green, leafy vegetables.

While protein is moderately important, you don’t want to overdo it, because in the absence of carbs your body can turn protein into glycogen quite easily—and we’re back in the same situation all over again.

So what happens when you drastically cut down your carbs is that your body is able to burn through all of its glycogen stores.

As mentioned above, glycogen is an intermediary between glucose and fat. When we have excess sugar in our diet, it is first stored as glycogen and when we have stored as much glycogen in our muscles as we can, we then store the rest of the sugar as fat.

When our body needs it, it taps into the glycogen in our muscles, breaks it into glucose and uses it for energy. Only once all of the glycogen is used up does your body start turning to your fat stores.

When your body runs out of glycogen, it starts to shift towards metabolizing more and more fat instead of glucose. As part of the process, your body produces ketone bodies.

Now, these ketone bodies serve an important metabolic role, because there are two parts of our body that have no ability to burn fat directly. These are our red blood cells and brain cells.

Red blood cells and brain cells typically require glucose to function, but when the human body enters this state of ketosis and begins burning fat, these ketone bodies become available as an alternative source of fuel for the brain.

And interestingly, the way that ketones fuel the brain is very different than the way glucose does. Rather than getting a gush of glucose energy from the bowl of cereal you just ate, when you’re in ketosis you’re methodically breaking down the fat stores in your body, which is a much more stable process.

This transforms the way your brain operates, which brings me to the next section…

How Being Ketosis Makes you Feel

In many ancient texts, we find that accounts of people who experience some kind of a mental clarity and some kind of spiritual experience when they are fasting.

A lot of people today believe that that’s actually a historical account of what your brain and your body feel when you’re in ketosis. Because during prolonged periods of fasting your body naturally uses up its glycogen stores and then turns to burn fat.

Being in ketosis brings a great sense of well-being and it leads you to feel more awake and more alert. From personal experience, I have to say it’s really quite an amazing feeling.

There’s quite a bit of science behind this as well. You see, the ketogenic diet was actually developed in the 1920s as a therapy for epileptic seizures. At the time, there was nothing that could really be done to help those people.

But then it was discovered that if they followed this high fat, low carbohydrate diet, their seizures would be dramatically reduced. This was especially the case with children.

That said, when going through the initial transition phase as your body switches from running on glycogen to ketones, you may feel symptoms of what is known as the ‘keto flu’. This may make you feel tired or nauseous, but once your body adjusts to ketosis this will go away and you will start to feel better than you ever have before.

How to Get Started with Keto

Eager to see what it’s like to be in ketosis? Here’s how to get started.

The key idea, as I mentioned earlier, is to completely cut out sugars, starches, grains, bread, pasta and fruits.

Instead, you should be eating a lot of vegetables, meats, coconut oil, vegetable oil, nuts and nutritious stews like bone broth. There are plenty of delicious recipes on myketokitchen.com to give you some meal ideas.

If you look at my plate when I’m eating ketogenic, most of the plate is green: Broccoli, asparagus, spinach… I turn cauliflower into cauliflower rice too. You see, on keto, you really need to eat vegetables. This is super important for a number of reasons, including that vegetables give you a great amount of fiber and tons of great vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

You’ll want to read up a lot more before getting started, but I’ll just highlight one of the most common side effects that you’ll face, which is to lose water. So, when starting keto, it’s important to make sure you have enough sodium, electrolytes and potassium in your diet. This will help support your body as it transforms how it runs.

How to Stick to Keto

As with any diet, compliance is always the biggest issue. So to help you stick to it, here are some of my top tips.

The first is to always make sure you’re prepared. This is the number one way to stay consistent with any diet. When you’re out and about, it’s very hard to find keto-friendly options, so it’ll be easy to fall off track. Instead, I recommend that you dedicate some time on the weekends for meal preparation, to make sure that you always have keto options on hand.

Second, it’s important to make sure you closely look at the ingredients and contents of all the food you eat. You’d be surprised at how much sugar is in the average “salad”.

I found this out when I was trying to make a ketogenic taco casserole. I tried to get some seasoning for my dish, but I couldn’t find a single taco seasoning that wasn’t loaded with cornstarch or added sugar. I don’t get it, these don’t improve the taste at all! Nonetheless, it was a strong reminder to always check the labels on things I buy, even when it’s not something that appears sweet.

Third, start monitoring your progress. On Amazon, you can find keto strips, which test your urine to tell you your ketone levels. The main goal of keto is to reach ketosis, so it helps to know whether you’re in that state or not. This will also help you to track how your body responds to certain foods.

Lastly, get your friends and family on board! It’s hard enough to stick to a diet as it is. But it’s even worse if people are offering you pizza and cake at every turn. The best way to succeed is to educate the people around you about your diet and ask them to support you on your journey.

Conclusion

If like me, you’ve struggled with losing weight for a long time, it’s time to try something different. We’ve been told all our lives that the path to losing weight is to eat low fat and high carb foods. But as the science increasingly shows, that’s completely wrong.

If you’re following your diet, but not seeing results just take a look at your Slimfast shake or diet granola bar and see how many grams of carbs and sugars it has in it. Then, think about how many times you eat in a day.

The answers are there right in front of you. When your body is constantly being flooded with glucose, It’s literally impossible to lose weight. With the wrong information and the wrong diet, all of your efforts might just be making things worse.

So, if you’re serious about losing weight, it’s time to switch things up. Cut out sugar, cut out processed carbs today and I guarantee you’ll start to see changes right away.

Comments (2)

  1. Ken says:

    I’m eager to give it a try.

  2. Catie Marshall says:

    Bravo Dr. Varner! Patients might also want to hear about how fasting over 13 hours regularly decreases breast cancer reoccurrence according to the 2009-2010 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
    “This finding was the first time that anyone had ever made an association between a clinical outcome of breast cancer occurrence and prolonged nightly fasting,” explaines Dorothy D. Sears, PhD, associate director of the Center for Circadian Biology, and an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego,

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