Friday, February 19, 2010

A Letter To My Sister

I have been corresponding with my sister in the hopes that zero carb may help her regain her energy levels. As a busy mother of three, I am sure they are sorely missed.

I wanted to explain, as simply, as possible why going zero carb is necessary for long term success once we are overweight. This is what I came up with. I am posting it here, too, in case it may help someone who is considering zero carb.

I am sorry to be going on and on like this and I hope it isn't boring you to tears. As you can tell, I am pretty passionate about it. :)

I wanted to address your low energy problem. I understand it completely because that is exactly how I felt. You described it nicely. I have done very little on the house over the last few years because I had no energy for it. I just wanted to hang out on the couch and didn't do stuff with K and the boys because I was tired. It was depressing because we won't have Garret at home much longer and we have been promising to do stuff like hiking and camping for years.

I think this summer will be different because I have a lot more energy. It isn't so much that I am bouncing off of the walls; it's just that I have a more consistent level. I also don't want to sit as much. I am watching a lot less TV lately because I just don't want to sit still that long.

You would think that overweight people would have more energy because they are carrying around bags of energy in the form of fat. However, it doesn't actually work that way. The problem is we can't access that bag of energy.

The common thought on how to lose weight is simply that you have to take in less energy than you use. Eat 500 calories less a day and you'll lose a pound a week - that kind of thing. It's so simple that it works, right? You and I know that it isn't that simple in reality. It turns out that we aren't fat because we overeat or don't move enough. We overeat and don't move enough because we are overweight. It's an important distinction.

People think that fat is just bags of energy that hangs off of us that we can dip into when we use more calories than we take in. However, fat is actually constantly circulating through us and is metabolically active.

You can think of the fat in our bodies as a series of pools interconnected by pipes. One pool might be our belly while another is our backside. The way that it is suppose to work is that when we eat, insulin drives the excess fuel into our fat cells (fills the pool) and then, between meals or at night when we sleep, the pool then drains back into our blood, giving us fuel for those times that we need energy between meals.

Insulin is the hormone that controls this process. One of its main jobs is to maintain your blood sugar. When you eat stuff with carbs in it, those carbs become glucose in your blood stream, which raises your blood sugar. Your body will pump out insulin to control this rise to try to keep your blood sugar from going too high. The more carbs one eats, the more insulin is required to maintain the blood sugar levels.

Insulin will initially try to put the extra sugar in your muscles and liver. However, once those are full, it turns to the fat cells.

This is how it is supposed to work. However, what happens is that over time, it takes higher and higher levels of insulin to do its job. The body's cells become insulin resistant, so the insulin stays in the blood at a higher than normal level (so will the blood sugar level).

Insulin's job is to put blood sugar into the fat, not to take it out again. You can only access that energy in the fat when the insulin drops again. Going back to my pools analogy, high insulin "clogs" the drain pipe, making the pools back up and get bigger. This clog also slows down the release of fuel back into the blood stream.

So now, instead of getting some fuel when needed between meals, the cells "get hungry" once the fuel in the blood stream is gone. The body has to combat this by increasing hunger and by conserving energy.

This why you have no energy. Obesity is actually internal starvation. The only way to combat this lack of energy is to either eat all of the time which, of course, only makes the problem worse, or to bypass the problem of the insulin resistance. If you don't eat food that contains carbs, you won't need as much insulin and eventually the levels will drop. Once the levels come down, the drain unclogs and the fat is free to flow out again. Once the fat is free to flow, the cells now can fuel themselves (giving you energy again) and the pools can shrink.

It has nothing to do with calories eaten or working out. It is all hormonally driven. Without insulin blocking the fuel, your body won't constantly crave food and you'll be more active because you'll have more energy.

Sorry for the lecture. I just wanted to explain why zero carb worked because it isn't obvious. Plus, you don't hear the truth in the deafening din of the "calories in/calories out" crowd.

Hopefully that helps.

Love, Ryan

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