The Cause of (and Cure for) My Obesity
By Shane Ellison, M.Sc.
I have been rail thin ... and I have also carried more fat than I'd like to admit to. As a college wrestler, I was 4% body fat. In my late 20s, I ballooned to a whopping 30% body fat. I felt weak, tired, edgy, depressed, and was haunted by a constant craving for food - usually anything that had sugar. Disgusted with myself, I was determined to lose the unwanted fat while building more muscle ... in the shortest amount of time.
As an organic chemist trained in biochemistry, I scrutinized every available way to lose fat. I studied volumes of research on fad diets, the "food pyramid," and strenuous exercise programs. I mapped out the actions of purported fat-loss drugs like Wellbutrin, Phentermine, Xenical, Clenbuterol, Meridia, and amphetamines. What I learned was that these things could provide only temporary fat loss, at best, while putting my health at risk.
Digging deeper into science, I discovered that I could lose fat and gain solid muscle by adopting some simple habits that would help control a single hormone in my body: insulin! Your body uses insulin to escort blood sugar and other nutrients into the muscle cells to be used for fuel. This keeps us alive and energized. However, too much insulin can be detrimental. It tells the body to store fat and, instead, use glucose for fuel. In addition, many hormonal systems that regulate appetite, mood, muscle growth, and even fertility are thrown out of whack by excess insulin. This state of imbalance leads to an addiction to sugar that has made the manufacturers of soda, juice, cereal, beer, and candy rich.
Most people have learned to pay attention to how many calories or grams of fat they put into their body. But they ignore the sugar. This is a deadly mistake. Low-calorie and low-fat foods tend to be loaded with sugar or "sugar mimics." These include sucrose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed proteins, trans-fat, and milk sugars such as lactose and maltose.
Looking back at my own eating habits, I see now that I was consuming sugar just about every time I put something into my mouth. Whether I was drinking a "sports drink," munching on a "health food" bar, or eating Campbell's soup, I was consuming some type of sugar. And that meant I was headed toward more treacherous health problems than just obesity.
Long-term, sugar consumption can turn this metabolic nightmare into a living hell. Habitually high insulin levels lead to a medical condition known as insulin resistance or Syndrome X. The excess insulin numbs the muscle cells. Instead of allowing the glucose in so it can be used as fuel, the cells no longer react to it. Unable to gain entry into those cells, glucose remains in the bloodstream. Blood sugar skyrockets. Recognizing the rise in blood glucose, the pancreas produces even more insulin. Insulin and glucose overload leads to hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Aging accelerates so fast in people who suffer from insulin resistance that it can erase 10 years from their lives! Alarmed by what I learned, I was now wildly motivated to control my insulin. And it wasn't difficult. I never went hungry. I never counted calories. I never suffered in the gym. I learned how to control my insulin by changing a few lifestyle habits. Doing so allowed me to burn fat day and night. My body innately knew when to eat and how much to eat.
By controlling my insulin, I descended from 30% body fat to a lean 12% body fat in 90 days. During that time, I gained six pounds of muscle. I had abundant energy all day. My mood was consistently upbeat. My physical and mental endurance was at an all-time high. My productivity quadrupled. With my newfound habits, I felt like I had found the Holy Grail of effortless fat loss. I awoke from my metabolic nightmare and freed myself from the impending health crisis that 80 million Americans are now faced with. Here are the steps I took:
- I learned to exercise properly. Proper exercise and insulin resistance cannot co-exist. I did interval training, which consisted of short bursts of intense exercise separated by short rest periods. And I worked out with weights 3 times per week. I attained the best results when I exercised first thing in the morning, before breakfast.
- I quit sugar and sugar mimics. I scrutinized every food label to ensure that there were no sugars. If something tasted sweet, I didn't eat it - not even fruit for the first 90 days. I quit all soda and fruit juice and replaced it with purified water, water with squeezed lemon, or green tea. Instead of artificial sweeteners, I used only the natural sweetener Stevia.
- I avoided dieting. Lowering food intake and dieting teaches the body to store fat. I ate a meal every 3-4 hours until I was totally full. My meals focused on healthy fat, vegetables, and protein. I ate grass-fed beef, eggs (the whole egg), pork, fish, whey isolate (free of sugar and artificial flavors), beans, chicken, organic salads (at least every other day), steamed vegetables, blueberries, coconut oil, organic bread with REAL butter, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, and avocados.
- I got more sunshine. I exposed at least half of my body to sunshine for 15-20 minutes per day. There are numerous studies which show that sun exposure helps to normalize insulin and blood glucose levels. I also noticed that it helped control my appetite and mood.
- I drank more water. Drinking water has been shown to increase thermogenesis by up to 30%, activating the body's natural ability to burn fat. I drank 16 ounces of purified water upon waking in the morning and 10 minutes before every meal.
- I used supplements. As a drug chemist, I knew that nutritional supplements could be useful. After all, the vast majority of drugs are derived from natural nutritional sources. But it wasn't until I fully embraced them that I experienced their powerful benefits. To mobilize my fat and intensify my workouts, I used a thermogenic aid: a 30% extract from citrus aurantium mixed with other supportive herbs. To increase my insulin sensitivity, I used a 1% banaba extract with cinnamon and red ginseng. To help with digestion and circulation, I supplemented with cayenne pepper. To mitigate my intense sugar cravings, I used the essential amino acid L-tryptophan.
- I cheated. In order to ensure that I could stick to my habits long-term, I cheated once a week. During this time, I did and ate whatever I wanted.
And I am thrilled to say that as other people heard about what I had done - and applied it - they had the same success, perhaps even greater. Consider Frank Dannenberg. At 5' 4", Frank weighed 205 pounds. He was a three-time heart attack victim and Type II diabetic. At a mere 58 years old, Frank was planning his own funeral. After following my recommendations for 90 days, Frank lost 23 pounds of fat, gained 10 pounds of muscle, and reversed his diabetes. With his newfound health, he also abandoned nine prescription drugs!
Without a doubt, the benefits of controlling insulin go beyond fat loss. Insulin control is the long-awaited panacea that Americans have been searching for. Physician David Katz, Director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale Medical School, summed it up best. He suggested that learning how to regulate insulin could be the master control of all disease, not just obesity.