Yesterday’s post made a case against grazing — consuming several small meals a day.

My previous posts on diet debunked popular breakfast myths, warned overweight individuals not to adopt an athlete’s diet and discussed why we should not graze.

As obesity and Type 2 diabetes have been at high levels in the West for 30 years and show no signs of abating, it is useful to find out why this phenomenon has been occurring.

With regard to diet, we wonder why our blood sugar levels aren’t going down whilst we feel hungry at the same time. This post will explore the subject in greater detail and what to do.

Insulin and leptin

Too few of us, especially those trying to lose weight pay enough attention to the role of insulin and leptin in the diet. That is because most of us do not realise how insulin affects each of us.

Dr Mercola’s article on frequent meals and metabolism has a good explanation of the role of insulin and leptin on metabolism. Excerpts follow. Emphases in bold are the original; those in purple are mine:

Consuming junk food and fast food that does not feed your body the nutrients it needs will often lead to eating far more calories than you need simply because your insulin- and other hormonal balances are out of whack …

Metabolism can be roughly defined as the chemistry that turns food into life, and therefore insulin and leptin are critical to health and disease.

Insulin works mostly at the individual cell level, telling the vast majority of cells whether to burn or store fat or sugar and whether to utilize that energy for maintenance and repair or reproduction.

Leptin, on the other hand, controls energy storage and utilization, allowing your body to communicate with your brain about how much energy (fat) the cells have stored, and whether it needs more, or should burn some off.

Controlling hunger is one way that leptin controls energy storage.

Hunger is a very powerful and deep-seated drive that, if stimulated long enough, will make you eat and store more energy. The only way to eat less in the long-term is to not be hungry.

It has been shown that as sugar gets metabolized in fat cells, fat releases surges in leptin. It is believed that those surges result in leptin-resistance, as well as insulin-resistance.

Once you become leptin-resistant, your body loses the ability to effectively and accurately convey hunger signals, resulting in feeling hungry much of the time, even though you’ve consumed sufficient amounts of calories.

Sugar (and foods that convert into sugar, such as grain carbohydrates) is the main culprit in causing you to become leptin-resistant and should clearly be avoided, especially if you’re struggling with excessive hunger.

The objective in changing diet is to become insulin- and leptin-sensitive. Many of us who have problems controlling hunger from an overload of carbohydrates — including sugar — are insulin- and leptin-resistant. We want to move from resistance to sensitivity.

Dr Lyle Macdonald at Body Recomposition explains more in his article ‘Insulin Sensitivity and Fat Loss’ (emphases mine):

insulin is a storage hormone released in response to eating with carbohydrates having the largest impact on insulin secretion, protein having the second greatest and fat having little to no impact on insulin secretion. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well or poorly the body responds to the hormone insulin. Individuals who are insulin resistant tend to have higher baseline insulin levels because the body is releasing more in response to try and overcome the resistance.

Becoming insulin-sensitive through diet

Note that Macdonald says carbohydrates cause the body to secrete the highest amount of insulin. Protein comes next. Fats, on the other hand, have no impact on insulin.

I cannot emphasise that enough.

Fats are the key to resolving insulin-resistance so that one becomes insulin-sensitive.

Granted, everyone is slightly different which means that insulin resistance and sensitivity vary, some of that being dependent on our genes. However, Macdonald says:

high insulin secretion tends to make people eat more.

This is why obesity and Type 2 diabetes are often discussed together — and why many of these diabetics are overweight.

Macdonald mentions two studies which showed that insulin-resistant women lost weight once they began reducing their carbohydrate intake.

Although the studies do not appear to mention a move from insulin resistance to sensitivity because that was not their objective, in time, if they maintained the eating plan, the dieters would probably have succeeded in regulating their insulin secretion.

It would be complicated and expensive to have all the blood tests necessary to diagnose insulin sensitivity or resistance, not to mention secretion. However, Macdonald offers these basic questions which can help us determine if we are sensitive or resistant:

  1. On high-carbohydrate intakes, do you find yourself getting pumped and full or sloppy and bloated? If the former, you have good insulin sensitivity; if the latter, you don’t.
  2. When you eat a large carbohydrate meal, do you find that you have steady and stable energy levels or do you get an energy crash/sleep and get hungry about an hour later? If the former, you probably have normal/low levels of insulin secretion; if the latter, you probably tend to over-secrete insulin which is causing blood glucose to crash which is making you sleepy and hungry.

Those who are insulin-resistant and often hungry would do well to adopt:

a diet lower in carbs and higher in fat (don’t forget that protein can raise insulin as well) …

What to do

The low carb high fat (LCHF) diet is what it says. Reduce intake of carbohydrates dramatically and replace that deficit with fat.

What to avoid

Carbohydrate-heavy foods to eliminate or reduce include potatoes, sweetcorn, chickpeas, lentils, rice, pasta, breads, pastry, oatmeal, breakfast cereal, breakfast bars, sugar, chocolate bars, sugary soft drinks, sweet smoothies and — crucially — fruit.

What to increase

Replace the carbohydrate deficit with fats: butter, olive oil, mayonnaise, cream, cheese and animal fat (chicken, duck, goose, pork and beef).

Exclude low-fat spreads and dressings as well as margarine.

With regard to coconut oil, be careful. Those who are unaccustomed to eating it and incorporate it in their diets might find it disagrees with them, resulting in a rush to the bathroom. Start with small amounts and adapt your body slowly.

Fatty proteins

Buy fatty meats, including well-marbled steaks and chicken with skin.

Bacon, pork sausages and quality hot dogs are excellent no-brainer meats.

Pork roasts with a good layer of fat are also highly recommended.

Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and trout, are excellent as is any other fish and seafood, particularly when combined with a buttery or creamy sauce.

Water and salt are vital

In order to avoid fatigue, especially in the beginning, you will need to consume around a litre of water a day and use good quality salt (e.g. sea salt) on your food. A potassium supplement, e.g. Lo Salt, is also highly recommended. I season everything with salt and Lo Salt.

Alcohol and soft drinks

Speaking of drinks, beer is out. Spirits, especially clear ones (gin and vodka), are fine. Dry wine is also good.

Diet soft drinks can be drunk in moderation. They are not a replacement for water.

Vitamin supplements

SpouseMouse and I have always taken a daily multi-vitamin and continue to do so.

Dr Mercola says that Vitamin D3/K2 supplements can also help to keep the body healthy. I take a D3/K2 supplement daily in liquid (drop) form. D3 and K2 are particularly necessary for people who have compromised immune systems.

Our household

I follow the ketogenic eating plan which calls for 20% or less of net carbohydrate intake a day. I try to keep it well below 20% altogether. SpouseMouse is more insulin-sensitive than I am and requires 30% to 40% in carbohydrates a day. Our protein intake is roughly 35% of our daily intake and fat comprises the rest — proportionally more for me and less for my better half.

The only starch we have in the house is T55 bread flour. I make bread for SpouseMouse once a week along with the occasional Yorkshire pudding.

I sauté vegetables in butter, duck fat or chicken fat. An alternative for the winter is to cook vegetables and top them with homemade cream sauces, often with cream cheese, which I top with grated cheese and bake at a low temperature (150° C or 325°F) for 15 minutes until the gratin melts.

Meal suggestions

The list below is hardly exhaustive but gives an idea of what LCHF followers eat.

Breakfast can be comprised of sliced ham, bacon and fatty (often smoked) fish, eggs (any way you like) as well as cheese.

Lunch can include the above as well as avocados, salad leaves, bell peppers and celery with a full-fat dressing. Some tomatoes and carrots are all right, but not too many as they are higher in carbs than green vegetables. Nut butters, particularly almond or peanut, or cream cheese with vegetable strips is a good combination. A cheese plate is a filling and tasty option. Fish and meat are superb proteins. Egg, chicken or tuna mixed with lots of mayonnaise are satisfying and easy to prepare options.

A small snack of a handful of almonds or peanuts is fine.

Dinner should be comprised of fatty meats or fish. Lean versions of either are also excellent sautéed in fat. Vegetables can include the aforementioned suggestions for lunch along with cooked ones such as green beans, broccoli, aubergines, courgettes (zucchini), cauliflower, brussels sprouts, all of which should be topped with butter or cream sauce.

A square or two of dark chocolate — 70%+ — makes a satisfying dessert substitute. A cheese plate is a better alternative and, for many, more filling.

These suggestions show how fat can be incorporated into the daily diet in place of carbohydrates.

Results

The LCHF is not an immediate silver bullet to combat insulin resistance, but, in time, the body corrects itself. Depending on the level of resistance, this can take six months to a year in most cases. Results will differ according to the individual.

Immediate effects

Within 24 hours, hunger pangs disappear. LCHF followers experience higher energy, calmer moods and better concentration. Sluggishness is gone.

After three to four days, the LCHF dieter will need to urinate copiously over a period of several hours. This will result in water weight loss of a few pounds. Heavier individuals will experience more loss than those of normal weight. Keep drinking water, however, as this is the time when fatigue or light-headedness can set in.

After one week, fat loss begins.

A fortnight later, pulse rates begin to normalise, clothes fit better and inches are lost.

After three weeks, skin becomes smoother and clearer. Dull roughness disappears. Expect compliments.

Intermediate results

As the body adapts, weight loss stalls can occur although inch loss continues.

Many people become frustrated after three to six months and think that nothing is happening when they get on the scale. However, tracking regular measurements of the waist, belly, hips and thighs will demonstrate that the body is reshaping itself into a slimmer, more attractive one. For this reason, a tape measure is more useful than a scale much of the time.

Men have an easier time losing weight than women. Post-menopausal women have the hardest time, although they, too, will still experience overall loss in inches and flatter tummies.

The longest and toughest battle is for internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and thyroid to start functioning properly after decades of abuse, illness or immune system issues. However, in time — depending on the condition — this can normally be resolved.

As an example, an article on Hashimoto’s disease states:

there is no doubt that what goes through your digestive system has a huge impact on your immune system. Huge.    

One Hashimoto’s sufferer, Carrie Vitt, regained her health with a gluten-free diet. It took her several years, but she is now symptom-free.

I digress, but this goes to show how a proper diet combined with patience and persistence can bring about lasting and beneficial physical improvement — without drugs!

Conclusion

Whilst this is not meant to constitute medical advice, overweight people with no serious health issues might wish to try an LCHF diet not only for weight loss but also for better overall health.

Starting now — well before the holiday season — will help to adapt the body and mind to a new way of eating, not meant for the short-term but the years ahead.

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