Low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie frustration

Are you dieting right now? Following a nutrition plan? Eating Keto? Vegan? Eating a low-fat diet? Eating a Mediterranean diet? Are you cardio-ing to the point of exhaustion? Maybe you’re doing HIIT, yoga, spinning, or pilates.  

I have battled weight gain for my entire life. As a kid, I always felt like a kind of freakish anomaly. How had (seemingly) every kid on earth figured out the CALORIES IN – CALORIES OUT model of maintaining a steady weight and staying slender? Why was it so hard for me? In fact, that question has shadowed me well into my adult life. I have consulted with physicians, and every time I do, I hear, “Eat less and move more!” Sounds simple enough. Something had to be wrong with me, right?

Ever since we in the United States turned to the government to tell us what to eat (that was our first big mistake), we’ve been getting fatter and fatter. Obesity has been on a steady rise since about 1977, and so has Type II diabetes. That’s no coincidence, by the way. In 1977, food guidelines handed down by the U.S. government were introduced to this country, and everyone from teachers to doctors were hammering away at this gospel. “Eat more carbohydrates. Eat much less meat. Fat is evil. Eggs are killers. Eat six times per day…” and on and on. And we did as we were told.

It’s no coincidence, then, that the incidence of diabetes and all its related horrors began rising, as well. Obesity, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, auto-immune diseases, all these health maladies cropped up more often as we dutifully did as we were told. Posters were hung in school cafeterias, reminding us to carb up and steer clear of meat and fat. Book after book was published touting the necessity of eating less meat and eggs, more carbohydrates, and very little fat. Who didn’t have one of those pocket-size calorie counter books? Yet we got fatter and fatter. 

I noticed something else during my decades of battling extra weight. When I’d ask a doctor about nutrition, I’d get one of two responses: a blank stare, or the rote “eat less food, eat low fat, and move more.” 

If you can relate to any of what I’m sharing here, you’ll also know that we’d follow that advice, lose some weight, then eventually plateau. Ultimately (as you’ll also know), the pounds would creep back on, and they’d bring ten or fifteen more of their friends with them, just for good measure. And ‘round and ‘round we’d go, year in and year out.

A couple of decades ago, surgery became the answer for those of us who were at our wits’ end and still overweight. And of course Big Pharma stepped in to save the day, peddling their solutions including a drug called orlistat (sometimes marketed as Alli). This controversial drug has since been found to damage our health and cause some very unpleasant side effects.

But why had our bodies gone haywire since the late 70s? Obesity and all its related health problems weren’t nearly as prevalent before that time. As it turns out, the government was wrong, if you can imagine. Respected doctors all over the world are beginning to recognize that obesity is a hormonal problem, not a calorie problem. More specifically, it’s insulin resistance that causes obesity and ultimately, Type II diabetes. The food pyramid, it seems, should have been almost completely upside down in order to be correct.

Of course, I’m not a medical doctor, and there’s a great deal of reading material out there now about these very concepts. I’m reading everything I can get my hands on, and I’m happy to say that I’m following the advice and seeing great results. For me, it’s no longer about wearing that bikini or slipping into a certain size jeans. It’s about health and quality of life. It’s about being able to garden and walk and play with our grandchildren. It’s about being the absolute best and happiest version of me. 

If you’ve been fighting this same battle, I encourage you to look into the research that explains insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes and even intermittent fasting. There’s never a “one size fits all” solution, because we’re all different and have various health concerns. And we should never embark on a new way of eating without consulting with our physician regarding specific concerns, including medications and dosing. But it’s time we start looking for our own answers to the question that still seemingly confounds the general medical community: “Why are we getting sicker and sicker, and can the solution really be this simple?”

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