My Single Best Tip for a Healthy Weight

Just following up on our post from last week – Robert, I wanted to share with you my single best tip to support a healthy body weight..

In our body, nothing happens by accident. Every single physiologic process is a tight orchestration of hormonal signals. Whether our heart beats faster or slower is tightly controlled by hormones. Whether we urinate a lot or a little is tightly controlled by hormones. Whether the calories we eat are burned as energy or stored as body fat is also tightly controlled by hormones. So, the main problem of obesity is not the calories we eat, but how they are spent. And the main hormone we need to know about is insulin.

Insulin is a fat-storing hormone. There’s nothing wrong with that – that is simply its job. When we eat, insulin goes up, signalling the body to store some food energy as body fat. When we don’t eat, then insulin goes down, signalling the body to burn this stored energy (body fat). Higher than usual insulin levels tell our body to store more food energy as body fat.

Hormones are central to obesity as is everything about human metabolism, including body weight. A critical physiological variable such as body fatness is not left up to the vagaries of daily caloric intake and exercise. If early humans were too fat, they could not easily run and catch prey, and would be more easily caught themselves. If they were too skinny, they would not be able to survive the lean times. Body fatness is a critical determinant of species survival.

As such, we rely on hormones to precisely and tightly regulate body fat. We don’t consciously control our body weight any more than we control our heart rates or our body temperatures. These are automatically regulated, and so is our weight. Hormones tell us we are hungry (ghrelin). Hormones tell us we are full (peptide YY, cholecystokinin). Hormones increase energy expenditure (adrenalin). Hormones shut down energy expenditure (thyroid hormone). Obesity is a hormonal dysregulation of fat accumulation.We get fat because we’ve given our body the hormonal signal to gain body fat. And those hormonal signals go up or down according to our diet.

Obesity is a hormonal, not a caloric, imbalance.

Insulin levels are almost 20 percent higher in obese subjects, 2and these elevated levels are strongly correlated to important indices such as waist circumference and waist/hip ratio. Does high insulin cause obesity?

The “insulin causes obesity” hypothesis is easily tested. If you give insulin to a random group of people, will they gain fat? The short answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Patients who use insulin regularly and physicians who prescribe it already know the awful truth: 4the more insulin you give, the more obesity you get. Numerous studies have already demonstrated this fact. Insulin causes weight gain.

In the landmark 1993 Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, researchers compared a standard dose of insulin to a high dose designed to tightly control blood sugars in type 1 diabetic patients. Large insulin doses controlled blood sugars better, but what happened to their weight? Participants in the high-dose group gained, on average, approximately 9.8 pounds (4.5 kilograms) more than participants in the standard group. More than 30 percent of patients experienced “major” weight gain!

Prior to the study, both groups were more or less equal in weight, with little obesity. The only difference between the groups was the amount of insulin administered. Insulin levels were increased. Patients gained weight. Insulin causes obesity. As insulin goes up, the body set weight goes up. The hypothalamus sends out hormonal signals to the body to gain weight. We become hungry and eat. If we deliberately restrict caloric intake, then our total energy expenditure will decrease. The result is still the same—weight gain.

Once we understand that obesity is a hormonal imbalance, we can begin to take effective action to support a healthy body weight. If we believe that excess calories cause obesity, then the treatment is to reduce calories. But this method has been a complete failure. 

The question is not how to balance calories; the question is how to achieve healthy hormonal balance especially insulin. There are really only two ways that insulin increases. Either:

  1. We eat more foods that stimulate insulin
  2. We eat the same insulin-stimulating foods, but more frequently.

My book, The Obesity Code laid out the science behind weight gain and how to apply that knowledge to support healthy body weight. It forms the theory behind the IDM program’s (www.IDMprogram.com) many successes over these many years. This book’s goal is to embrace these ideas and make it easier to implement in day to day life.

The key to long lasting weight control is to control the main hormone responsible, which is insulin. Supporting hormonal balance and a healthy body weight requires a change in our diet, which is composed of two factors – how high the insulin levels are after meals, and how long they persist. This boils down to two simple factors:

  1. What we eat – determines how high insulin spikes
  2. When we eat – determines how persistent insulin is

Most diets concern themselves with only the first question and therefore fail over the long term. It is not possible to address only half the problem and expect success.

In terms of the foods, this is not a low-calorie diet. This is not even necessarily a low carbohydrate diet. This is not a vegetarian diet. This is not a low-fat diet. This is not a carnivore diet. This is a diet designed to lower insulin levels, because insulin is the physiologic trigger of fat storage. If you want to support healthy metabolism, you need to lower insulin, and this may be done even with a high carbohydrate diet.

Many traditional societies have eaten carbohydrate based diets without suffering from rampant obesity. In the 1970s, before the obesity epidemic, the Irish were loving their potatoes. The Asians were loving their white rice. The French were loving their bread.

Even in America, let’s remember the 1970s. Disco was sweeping the nation. Star Wars and Jaws played to packed theatres. If you looked at an old photograph from that era, perhaps you might be amazed at several things. First, why anybody ever thought bell bottoms were cool. Second, it’s amazing just how little obesity there is. Take a look at some old high school yearbooks from the 1970s. There is virtually no obesity. Perhaps one child in a hundred.

What was the diet of the 1970s? They were eating white bread and jam. They were eating ice cream. They were eating Oreo cookies. There were not eating whole wheat pasta. They were not eating quinoa. They were not eating kale. They were not counting calories. They were not counting net carbs. They were not even really exercising much. These people were doing everything ‘wrong’ yet, seemingly effortlessly, there was no obesity. Why?

What about the diet of the Chinese in the 1980s? The were eating tons of white rice. On average, over 300 grams per day, compared to a low carb diet of less than 50 grams and all highly refined. Yet they had virtually no obesity. Why?

What about the diet of the Okinawans? Over 80% carbohydrates, and mostly sweet potato, which has some sugar in it. What about the Irish in the 1970s, with their beloved beer and potatoes? They didn’t think twice about what they were eating, but until recently there was almost no obesity. Why?

The answer is simple. Come closer. Listen carefully.

They were not eating all the time.

When you don’t eat, this is technically known as ‘fasting’. This is the reason there is the English word ‘Break fast’ or breakfast, the meal that breaks your fast. During your sleep, you are (presumably) not eating and therefore fasting. This allows time for your body to digest the foods, process the nutrients and burn the rest for energy to power your vital organs and muscles. In order to support a healthy weight, you must balance feeding and fasting.

During feeding, you store food energy as body fat. During fasting, you burn body fat for energy. If you balance those two, your weight will remain stable. If you are predominantly feeding, you will gain weight. If you are predominantly fasting…you get the idea. So, here’s my best single tip for weight loss. It’s so simple and obvious that even a 5 year old could have come up with it.

Don’t eat all the time.

Unfortunately, most nutritional authorities tell you the exact opposite. Eat 6 times a day. Eat lots of snacks. Eat before you go to bed. Eat, eat, eat – even to lose weight! It sounds pretty stupid, because it is pretty stupid. Instead, it may be better to use intermittent fasting, a dietary technique used successfully for countless generations.

  1. Fasting is effective but not always easy. I often drink green tea during fasting as I find it helps support a healthy and balanced appetite. Also check out the free Facebook support group – The Obesity Code Network for fasting support and education.

 

2019-09-17T14:59:25-04:0028 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Fung is a Toronto based kidney specialist, having graduated from the University of Toronto and finishing his medical specialty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001. He is the author of the bestsellers ‘The Obesity Code’ and ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’. He has pioneered the use of therapeutic fasting for weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal in his IDM clinic.

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P C
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P C

Very honest and informative article that telling the Truth.

Dyana Dokos
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Dyana Dokos

Dr Fung, I am a newby to IF and have mostly been doing the 16/8 with no problems. I am working on a 36hr fast now. I am a Type 2 Diabetic as well. Is it common to have your blood sugars raise higher when you are fasting? and will adding fat to my herbal tea help with that or should I not be doing that at all. I am confused in reading your books that it says its okay to add the fat in your tea or coffee during fasting but then it also says to try and stay… Read more »

Esther
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Esther

Read this link for an explanation. Your best bet is to get Dr. Fung’s book The Diabetes Code
Read the whole article The Dawn Phenomenon – T2D 8 from the link below.
https://idmprogram.com/dawn-phenomenon-t2d-8/

Don’t give up, but understand the science behind fasting and watch Dr. Fung’s videos on this site and on YouTube.

Mark Weber
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Mark Weber

Yes – your blood sugars will rise until usually about 48 hours, as Glycogen is pulled from your Liver and Muscles. Once all your internal sugar reserves are gone, your blood sugar will come down and you will begin to produce Ketones. This is normal.

Irene Chang Britt
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Irene Chang Britt

Thank you for this post. I have devoured your books, Dr. Fung, and many of your YouTube videos. I am down just within the normal weight range for my age (55) now, but had hoped for a bit lower, and thinking that I had to abandon rice and other carbs. This made me feel so much better. In the end, I’ll be ok if I just maintain while sticking to my balanced macro intake. Your insights are invaluable to many of us just trying to lead a healthy, balanced life.

Giles Gomez
Guest

Is a 16 hr fast good enough to lower insulin levels?

Darlene
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Darlene

I am trying to convince friends that insulin that, according to Dr. Fung, makes people fat yet
we know people that take insulin because of type 2 diabetes and yet aren’t fat. How do I explain that
to my friends so as to convince them that Dr. Fung is correct?

JohnM
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JohnM
j
Guest
j

I would like to thank Dr Fung. No other tip has worked as well for weight loss in my experience as stopping eating after 2pm. This was reported in a previous post. I find he is right about not eating all the time but for best weight loss I have found specifically a 2pm cut off makes a huge difference. Dr Fung has explained about circadian rhythms and insulin previously.

j
Guest
j

A huge thank you to Dr Fung
I have found not eating all the time helpful but the more specific advice to stop eating by 2 p.m. which was explained in a previous post by DrFung has been by far and away the most successful weight loss strategy I have ever used and I’m not hungry!

Jacquie
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Jacquie

Could you please link me to stop eating by 2pm? Or anyone?
Thank you

Charles R Aliff Jr
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Charles R Aliff Jr

Dr. Fung,
Talk to me about lowering my body’s setpoint. I am 66 years, 6’5″ in height, and have been slowly gaining weight the past 30 years. How do I reset (lower) my body’s weight setpoint?

Thanks,
Charles

CSue
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CSue

I don’t disagree with what you said but there are other reasons why people are more fat now than simply how often they eat: more environmental toxins including roundup, mold, and other chemicals, worse junk food, worse wheat, less nutrients in food, more fast food, more processed food, more use of pharmaceuticals, more food engineered to be addictive, more sitting in front of screens, larger portion sizes, etc.

doug
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doug

Hi CSue, you lump a ton of factors together. If you have studies that demonstrate which of them are significant that would be interesting. The problem with the grab bag thing is, sure, environmental toxins and mold are probably having some kind of negative impact, but I haven’t seen anything that actually ties them to obesity, let alone worse overall health outcomes. Sedentary lifestyles sometimes get studies, but they don’t usually have any causal links. Pharmaceuticals (antibiotics, in particular) are getting some principled fingers pointed at them, particularly during pregnancy. My overall concern is, hand wringing about twelve things in… Read more »

Ellen
Guest

Hello Dr Jason,
Thank you for your very informative article. I would just like to query one small detail. It is true that in Ireland in the 1970s we did usually eat potatoes with our main meal of the day but most of us did not drink beer. It is unfortunate that so many racial stereotypes still exist and some even seem to be more acceptable than others!

Dolfin
Guest
Dolfin

I am on day 5 of my fast. It is scary due to the unknown from my little understanding of it and the newness of it. Yet so far my results are all positive. Physically I feel better, I am growing mentally stronger daily. My goal is to fast for 60 days. I began my fast on Nov 1, 2018 at 305 lbs, and would like to go till Dec 31, 2018 to hopefully lose 60 lbs.

aligrace
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aligrace

Please do more research on breaking an extended fast properly. Its very important how you break a fast. You could also start small and gradually add days as you become more familiar and experienced with fasting. Godspeed my friend

Johnnie Wood
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Johnnie Wood

Thank you Dr. Fung and all of the other intermittent fasting patients . I have found that since I started intermittent fasting, I generally feel better when I have not eaten and have allowed my body to complete digestion before adding anything to my stomach.

Darlene Blue
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Darlene Blue

I need a easy meal plan

doug
Guest
doug

Hi Darlene, Start by (a) decreasing sugar and (b) decreasing the number of meals per day so there’s more time you’re not eating — and no between meal snacking and no sugar drinks, plain water is awesome. I’ve found sugar to be devious because it really drives hunger and undermines your other IF structure. When you get that working well, you can look at decreasing carbs like bread, pasta and rice and have some longer, periodic fasting times. Dr. Fung seems to be very solid in what he recommends. I lost 50 lbs and have kept it off for ten… Read more »

kaira
Guest

It is very interesting Blog. This is an extremely fascinating article! I’m happy you shared this data since individuals need to know the distinction and there is a distinction.

tajhizyar
Guest

interesting ! Thanks for information !

David Williams
Guest
David Williams

I have a question similar to Dyana Dokos: why is it advisable to add fat to (in my case) coffee, i.e. Bulletproof Coffee. Or more generally the advice to have a low carb, medium protein, high fat diet.
I have read much of Dr. Fung’s writing and I do not understand why high fat is not only OK, but advisable.

Cem Kaan
Guest
Cem Kaan

You are mostly right about 70’s; but happen to note that food today are much more industrially produced these days and their nutritional content have changed. Rice and potatoes of 70’s differ from todays rice and potatoes.

Brigette Lim
Guest
Brigette Lim

Dr Fung I have read all your books…in your opinion, when does burning fat set in? After 16 hours are more?

jayino
Guest

Thanks for your good website and information !

Steve
Guest
Steve

100% agree. Fasting is the key
Spread the word

How to lose weight fast
Guest

In our body, nothing happens by accident. Every single physiologic process is a tight orchestration of hormonal signals. Whether our heart beats faster or slower is tightly controlled by hormones. Whether we urinate a lot or a little is tightly controlled by hormones. Whether the calories we eat are burned as