Tuesday, September 21, 2021

An Open Letter to My Family about Health

Hello Family, 

I never got to know Grandma Jean as well as I would have liked. Unlike my cousins I grew up on the other side of the country rather than across town--and I have always been a little jealous of their closeness with our late grandparents.

While I was in my senior year at the University of Washington, grandma lost a protracted battle with health complications resulting from what I know understand to be Metabolic Syndrome. Like almost all of the adults in my extended family, my grandmother struggled with her weight--and as she got older this lead to diabetes and heart problems.

Over the past few years I have been making significant progress in addressing my own metabolic issues, and have begun to understand how to be more healthy with my genetic disposition towards insulin resistance and the danger of developing the same metabolic syndrome that took the life of my grandmother at the age of 74, twenty years sooner than her husband. 

I do think that this disposition towards developing insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome is partly inherited through my matrilineal line--and so this is being largely written to the Arends, Bedells, and Smiths that share Grandma Jean's Juneau DNA. 

People that are predisposed to metabolic syndrome are at greater risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure--which all significantly decrease life expectancy, as well as quality of life in old age.

I don't know anyone in my family, with Grandma Jean's DNA, with possible exception of my extremely athletic cousin Greg, who doesn't have either the warning signs of insulin resistance, or is at some stage of developing into a full blown case metabolic syndrome right now. 

The first step in developing metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance. The first major sign of this is fat accumulation around the mid-section. There are a lot of theories as to how one develops insulin resistance, but the important thing to know, is that your hormones are no longer working properly, and rather than burning your body's fat for fuel, it has transitioned into a mode where it becomes increasingly difficult to use existing fat stores for fuel, instead preferring new energy--meaning that you will be hungry, despite likely eating more calories than your body needs. 

Once you develop insulin resistance, it becomes increasingly more likely to develop into more serious health issues.

I'm writing this, because I wish someone would have shared with me, years ago, what I am about to share with you--because I believe that if Grandma Jean had heard it she could have lived a much longer and healthier life--and I want that for you too.

You can reverse Insulin Resistance and the early stages of Metabolic Syndrome by adopting some or all of these following pieces of advice:

1. Start intermittent fasting. You may think it is impossible, as you are likely always hungry as a result of your insulin resistance, but adopting intermittent fasting will help you gain control over your cravings and what you choose to eat. I suggest starting by narrowing your eating window. In my case, I eat my first meal at 11am, and have dinner before 7, meaning that for 16 hours a day, I am not eating. 

This prolonged period where I am not eating, allows the insulin levels in my body to drop, and for my body to start using its own fat as fuel. There are different models of intermittent fasting, but the most important thing is that you limit the number of times in a day and the window you eat in, so that you give your body more time to shift gears.

2. Stop drinking alcohol. The liver is the most important organ in weight-loss. When you drink alcohol, you are effectively putting something in your body which the liver has to spend hours (possibly even an entire day) to process, meaning that while it is processing alcohol, it cannot effectively burn fat. So long as you are ingesting alcohol of any kind, your liver will be under significant added stress, meaning that it cannot do its job normally.

3. Avoid added sugar. This goes without saying, but one of the biggest factors in developing insulin resistance is a consistently high insulin level. When I was growing up, it was common to start the day with a sugary bowl of cereal, have juice and fruits at school, come home and have cookies or snacks, have more insulin inducing food at dinner, and then have a dessert before bed. 

That means that in a given day, I was spiking my blood sugar more than half a dozen times, from sun-up to sun-down... and at no time during that period was I allowing my insulin levels to drop. Keeping up this pattern for years is what wrecked my hormones and helped me to develop insulin resistance. Simply avoiding sugary snacks, drinks, and desserts alone would have gone a long way towards narrowing my eating window and would have helped me to avoid developing the hormonal problems that I did.

4. Try the Ketogenic Diet. All carbohydrates are processed by the body as sugars. Grains, starches, etc. all become sugar in the body--so limiting the consumption of carbohydrates will help to lower your insulin levels and possibly reverse your insulin resistance. If you are going to consider a diet that works well at addressing these issues while also helping you feel satiated and maintaining a lot of energy, I have personally had a lot of success with Keto--which synergizes well with intermittent fasting and the other advice above.

Keto is not strictly a low carb diet. Keto is a high fat, medium protein, low carb diet. Meaning that the bulk of one's calories are going to come from healthy fats like butter, avocados, coconut oil, and olive oil. A Keto diet should be about 60% fat, 35% protein, and 5% carbs.

5. Cut all industrial seed oils from your diet. Not all fats are created equal. In fact, modern industrial seed oils are just as bad, or worse than added sugar. Industrial seed oils (corn oil, canola oil, Crisco, margarine, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, soya oil, etc.) are high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which prevent the body from effectively burning fat, and the byproduct of their highly oxidized nature is diminished life expectancy. Unfortunately, these modern industrial seed oils are in almost everything--almost all processed food, fast food, etc. contains high amounts of unhealthy industrial seed oils. 30% of the average American's diet now consists of calories from seed oils. 

By adopting some or all of these recommendations, you will likely gain a degree of control over your diet, hunger and satiety that you never knew was possible. In addition, you could, if you are fortunate, completely reverse the effects of the onset of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.  

Notice I did not say anything about counting calories or exercise. During the past two years I have not counted any calories or changed my largely sedentary lifestyle to a major degree--it is possible to reverse metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and lose weight without an expensive gym or weight watchers membership. 

Over the past two years I have lost over 80lbs following these points--albeit inconsistently--and I probably could have lost a lot more had I known at the beginning of this journey what I know now.

Following these has meant that I have had to start cooking most of my own meals, paying a lot more attention to what I am putting in my body. It hasn't been easy, but it has been liberating.

A few positive side effects in addition to losing weight: I have gained more confidence, I am less ashamed of my body, I no longer have acid reflux or heartburn at night, I sleep better, I wake up more alert, I have better mental clarity, I have more energy, I have less mood swings, I have better digestion, I have less aches and pains in my feet and joints--and best of all, I am no longer considered clinically obese. 

I just want you to know that I love you, and that I want you to live long and healthy lives as well.

Finally, God loves you, and sent his son Jesus to die on a criminal's cross in your place as a ransom for your sins. You can have forgiveness and a  personal relationship with God, your creator, if you repent from your sins and put your faith in Jesus. Regardless of how long you live, you will someday be face to face with your creator, and I pray that if you haven't already done so, you would accept his free gift of salvation for yourself today.



No comments: