Monday, February 14, 2011

Another 180?

Weight Watchers junky to Intuitive Eating purist to the Metabolism Miracle… Have I lost my mind and succumbed to a fad diet? No… please hear me out…

I’ve talked a lot about how dieting has not worked for me (to lose weight or in terms of my mental health). I was thrilled to discover intuitive eating and have gained a great deal of peace through that type of approach to food. It feels great to no longer be a slave to cravings and it still amazes me how easily I can decide I’m full and just stop. No big deal! But somewhere there was a disconnect – if I was doing such a good job of tuning into my hunger, etc. why was I continuing to gain weight steadily? I understood the rebound affect after stopping with the restriction, but after almost two years, there has been no end in sight. I am not afraid of being fat, per se but there came a point where I came to terms with the fact that I just don’t feel good and my health was starting to be affected.

I felt lost – not wanting to return to calorie counting but not really knowing what else to do. That’s when I discovered the Metabolism Miracle. I know it sounds faddy and I really wish it had a less sensational kind of name so I wouldn’t feel so foolish. I heard an interview with the author in a podcast and what she had to say stopped me in my tracks. The premise of the book and of the author, Diane Kress’s work as a dietitian, is that about half of those who are overweight have a problem with insulin. This manifests itself in conditions (when actually diagnosed!) like insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, PCOS, and eventually, Type 2 diabetes. The symptoms manifest at different times in our lives for different people. Some might start having issues early in life, others not until they get gestational diabetes during pregnancy, or even not until menopause. Regardless of when symptoms arrive, all of these folks have what she calls Metabolism B. Men can have this too, I just tuned in more to the female life stages since I am one :)

People with this type of metabolism have trouble losing weight and/or keeping it off, tend to gain weight around their middle, and often suffer from mood swings (among many other symptoms). But there is a way to see it in blood work as well – fasting glucose over 85 (mine was last checked at 98), history of low-normal blood pressure earlier in life which creeps up to borderline high/high as the symptoms manifest (that’s me!), high “bad” cholesterol (yep, although I also have high “good” cholesterol…), and either really low or really high triglycerides (I have the latter). Trying to combat this by merely limiting saturated and trans fats won’t help because the real culprit is the carbohydrates – the nutrient that sends people with this predisposition into a blood sugar/insulin tailspin that leads right to fat gain – either in our blood or on our bodies (or both!)

Because our bodies are going haywire by overproducing insulin we wind up in a cycle of high to low blood sugar which leads us back to carbs and more carbs just to try to make ourselves feel better; when your blood sugar drops low, you get a signal to follow the quickest route to relief – fast carbs! Add that to the fact that if we don’t eat carbs often enough, our liver will release glycogen stores into our bloodstream to keep us going (which also sets the insulin response in motion). So we’re still getting fatter when we DON”T EAT. This is crazy making, when you think about it.

Diane Kress explains the science behind this response pretty well but I don’t even need all that to recognize the pattern in my own life. This totally explains why I get hungry again quickly after eating quick carbs, why I’m cranky as hell if I don’t eat every few of hours, why I get dead tired in the middle of the afternoon and need coffee just to make it through the rest of the day, and why I’m normally NOT hungry in the morning (my liver’s been dumping sugar into my bloodstream for hours since it’s been so long since I last ate – sometimes since 7pm the night before – over 12 hours!)

So what can I do about it? Well, her plan is pretty genius and completely doable. There is an initial low carb phase where you let your liver and pancreas (that releases the insulin) rest. That is 8 weeks and is low-carb, not no-carb. I’m a couple weeks in and it’s not that tough. I get to put my intuitive eating skills to use – there’s very little counting. It’s basically just a way to treat my body well. Those carby foods weren’t making me feel good so it’s not such a big challenge to avoid them for awhile. I cannot express how much better I’ve been feeling in terms of energy level and mood lately. And it’s a beautiful thing to know that this isn’t forever, that I will get more of those foods back when I’m ready for them.

The big difference between this program and those like Atkins or South Beach is the idea that the important thing is to keep a steady stream of low impact carbs coming to keep the insulin response in check and block the self-feeding mechanism from the liver so that it doesn’t kick in and exacerbate the insulin problem. After the first phase where you’re blocking this cycle by just not ever having enough carbs at a time to trigger an insulin release or build up the sugar stores in the liver that would allow the self-feeding to happen, the second phase switches the focus to controlling insulin by giving the body controlled amounts of carbs on a regular basis to keep the system humming and on track without over stimulating the pancreas to over-release insulin. Basically, it involves never going more than 5 hours without a serving of carbs (each time you eat carbs it’s a single serving of low impact carbs like whole grain as opposed to white, etc.) She even advocates a snack if you wake up in the night to prevent the overnight release. At the very least, we should eat one serving right before bed and shortly after getting up. It is so counter to what we’ve always been taught (don’t eat after 8!) but makes a lot of sense to me now. The final phase is maintenance or simply a plan to live your life after the goal of losing weight is off the table. It’s the same as phase 2, but includes more carbs (the amount is based on your personal stats).

I really feel like I’ve found the missing piece. I don’t see this as a return to dieting but rather a way to treat a medical condition I didn’t even understand I had! Looking at my lab work, I can see that I was on this train and that if I didn’t stop the cycle, I’d be diagnosed with pre-diabetes and most certainly put on meds for my high cholesterol sooner rather than later. Having this information makes me feel so empowered with a feeling like I’m finally on the right track. I don’t feel restricted or deprived, I feel free knowing that I’m finally addressing the root problem, not just the symptom (the weight).

Learn more on the book’s Amazon page (you can “look inside” to get a good bit of text before committing to buy it) and the Metabolism Miracle website.

Anyone else heard of this approach?


Elle said...

I have never heard of this approach but it makes sense to me. I have noticed that I never feel full/satisfied unless I have a complex carb with whatever meal I am eating, so I always try to include that. And I also noticed that when I eat processed carbs it makes me even more hungry and/or never fills me up. So it's not really going against IE, its just kinda learning about what keeps you feeling full and satisfied the best :)


Thanks, Elle. That is how I see it, too – as an extension of what I’ve learned through IE. I was just missing the crucial piece that will allow IE to truly work for me. It’s not that IE didn’t work, I just needed more information :)

How interesting that you noticed those carb-related observations, too! It seems like you’ve figured out a strategy for keeping yourself satisfied and on an even keel. That’s awesome! For me, I realized that something was off about how I responded to carbs but how I was handling it was actually making it worse, from what I’ve now learned. I would often not include carbs at dinner at all, not for any diety reasons, I just thought I didn’t want them. That would send me down a low blood sugar spiral, though, which was doing more harm than good. I like your approach of including complex carbs at every meal. That makes total sense!