Friday, June 30, 2017

Why we get Fat: and What to do About It - Review

At the end of 2016, I read Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes introducing me to the concept of a biochemistry and hormonal reason for weight management.  I will be writing a review on that book at a later date.  It was an eye-opening book but not one that I would recommend to the casual reader. You have to want to understand EVERYTHING to do with the biochemistry of nutrient storage and the history of nutrition advice in the US if you are going to read that book.

Luckily Mr. Taubes has a more recent and more approachable book Why We Get Fat: And what to do about it.

Insulin and Carbs

If you read either book, you will learn about the mechanisms that insulin uses to move nutrients (fats and glucose (sugars)) into cells.  You will also learn that the constant use of this process will eventually lead to insulin resistance in cells - namely muscle cells.  Meaning that fat cells are much more likely to take in nutrients while muscle cells atrophy.  This means your fat cells are getting bigger while your muscles starve.

I can not do all of the biochemistry justice in this simple review.

Not all fats are the enemy?

For anyone raised in a western country, we have been indoctrinated for years that fat is a four-letter word.  It will kill you and everyone you know.  This book touches on why there is no good science to back that up.  (For a deeper understanding of how nutritionist in the 50's used partial data sets and miss-correlated colesterol to heart desease to come up with this theory I recommend reading Good Calories, Bad Calories).

The book talks about how natural fats found in meat, avocados, butter, and cheeses not only don't cause heart disease in most people, they allow you to feel full so you can stop eating.


The book also added new biochemistry items I did not know about.  Namely how Cortisol affects the body.  The quote I highlighted is: "cortisol makes us store fat both directly (through LPL) and indirectly (through insulin). But then it works to release fat from our fat cells, primarily by stimulating HSL, just like other hormones."

I translated this to mean: Cortisol primes the pump such that if we have any nutrients that can be crammed into a fat cell (or noninsulin resistant cell), it will get crammed.  However, if nothing is present Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL) will break down the stored triglycerides in fat cells to allow them to be released into the body.  So if we are fasting during this process, and have only converted glucose in our system as our stress decreases, we will have mobilized a bunch of fat that our liver can turn into ketone bodies.  Much of the body can run on ketone bodies rather than glucose.  The liver can create glucose as needed for the other parts of the body that can only run on glucose.

But if you reach for that cookie, or beer, or other comfort food, LPL and insulin will not only prevent the freed fat from being used, but it will push more into your fat cells.

My experience

In the past six months since reading Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes I have lost over 40 pounds. The word "Hangry" can no longer be used to describe me. I have eaten more bacon, eggs, and steak than I ever thought was possible in the past. I also eat a lot more green leafy vegetables too (ten-year-old me would die).

I have made mistakes by eating too much protein, too many carbs, and not enough fat.  There have been weeks where my diet has been dialed in, and I feel like a racehorse.  And there have been weeks where I have just wanted to eat a pint gallon of ice cream.

Luckily, thanks to the fact that I log my food into MFP (My Fitness Pal) (allowing a review of what has been eaten, what the nutrients were) combined with the biochemistry I have learned has allowed me to understand what could be happening and make corrections for it.

With these two books doing so well at educating me how to leverage my biochemistry I am going to have to read The Case Against Sugar (Gary Taubes' latest book) soon.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck - Review

One of the things about traveling for work is that you get a chance to read - a lot.  Generally, I read technical books, history books, diet & exercise books, or business books. In this case, I could not help but wonder what knowledge a book titled "The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck" could contain. At a minimum I expected I might get a laugh or two - I was not wrong

Though there is a significant amount of language that any former sailor would feel comfortable with, this is actually a serious book written in a language that feels more approachable to the people that probably need it most.  I see the use of "adult" language as a means for the author to keep readers that are so frustrated with things in life that they most likely swear regularly to release the tension that is built up in them.  This tension prevents them from being able to see a good plan to go forward.  They can not see what to prioritize.  And when everything is a priority - nothing is a priority.  When nothing is a priority one does not improve their lot in life.

However, you might be surprised that there is actual wisdom in this book.  Here are just a few of the quotes I found in this book that I did not expect:

  • Self-improvement and success often occur together.  But that doesn't necessarily mean they are the same thing.
  • After all, the only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear [the pain].
  • ... there is no value in suffering when it's done without purpose
  • Happiness is therefore a form of action; it's an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you,
How many of us needed to hear and understand that happiness was an action we took rather than something that someone or something gave to us?  I think this is something every goth kid needed to hear in the 80's, every grunge kid needed to hear in the 90's, every emo kid needs to hear in the 00's. (Disclaimer: neither me nor the author are claiming this is a cure for actual depression just a way to shock some people just enough to look at the world in a slightly different perspective to ejoy what they already have)

And my favorite excerpt from the book:
  • Problems add a sense of meaning and importance to our life. Thus to duck our problems is to lead a meaningless (even if supposedly pleasant) existence.
I don't know how many people I know that try to live a problem free life.  My favorite people are always the ones that have had a ton of problems and have successfully solved some of them and learned valuable lessons when they could not solve others.

So if you are not offended by adult language, are looking for a different and frank look on how to get your life's priorities in order try out this book.