One of the side benefits of writing this column is encountering people who add insight to stories I have written. That happened when Lance Perkins contacted me regarding a column I wrote earlier this year about COVID-19 weight gain.
The premise of my column was that the obvious culprit for weight gain experienced by most people (including me) during the ongoing plague was inactivity coupled with eating additional junk food. We didn’t all suddenly develop metabolism issues — at least I haven’t heard that identified as a side effect from COVID. Increasing physical activity and eating healthy food are the most effective means to achieving weight loss; miracle diets are generally futile if your goal is permanent weight loss.
My poundage shifts are absolutely connected to my level of activity and intake of good food. When I travel to Mexico my consumption of fresh food increases, and my exercise (particularly walking) increases exponentially. After several years of wintering in Mexico, it feels like my body is subject to a tide. While in the United States, the incoming wave brings unhealthy fats, and when I head south of the border the tide mercifully takes that lard away to where it should reside — in a pan of delicious refried beans.
Mr. Perkins agreed with the general premise of my column about weight shifts, but said there were other aspects to food health he thought I should learn about from a book he wanted me to read. I invited Lance to my house where we shared some delicious Mexican coffee, and he brought me my reading assignment as a gift. Lance is an elderly man with a warm smile who appears fit as a fiddle and exudes kindness.
Catherine Shanahan, M.D., wrote the book titled, “The Fatburn Fix,” that Lance wanted me to read. She has also written a prior book titled “Deep Nutrition” and is a board-certified family physician trained in biochemistry and genetics at Cornell University before she attended the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The doctor also was the director of the LA Lakers PRO Nutrition program for six years.
It’s been a busy year, but I finally managed to complete Lance’s homework assignment right before the treat laden holidays. The book’s subtitle states: “Boost energy, end hunger, and lose weight by using body fat for fuel.” Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
An underlying premise to the book is that our ability to burn fat is heavily influenced by certain foods we put into our bodies. Without getting overly technical (the book contains significant scientific analysis) Dr. Shanahan explains our cell structure and ability to properly consume fuel is impaired particularly by vegetable oils commonly found in most junk food.
The doctor suggests five things we absolutely should do to improve our bodies ability to burn fat: 1.) Eat natural fats, not vegetable oils (be especially careful of which oils you heat); 2.) Eat slow digesting carbs, not starchy carbs or sweets; 3.) Seek salt (this one surprised me); 4.) Drink ample water; 5.) And, supplement with certain vitamins and minerals.
Excerpting a few key observations, Dr. Shanahan said, “Most diets actually damage your metabolism further. Not only does this set you up for weight gain once you complete the diet, it can also cause entirely new health problems you never had before. … It’s widely accepted that most chronic disease is associated with obesity, and that losing weight can help alleviate suffering and sickness of all kind.”
She added, “Most practitioners give terrible nutrition advice because most of the nutrition education they receive during training is either exactly backwards or just plain wrong…The key dietary claim I’m making is that the central defining feature of junk food is the inclusion of vegetable oils, which are toxic to the body.”
It’s not possible to review the entire book in this column, but the doctor made a compelling case for her recommendations, and reading her book reminded me of another treatise written by physician Terry Wahls titled, “The Wahls Protocol.”
Dr. Wahls suffered from severe multiple sclerosis. She had become wheelchair bound and was using hydraulic lifts for her limbs due to the illness. After studying the brain, Dr. Wahls began eating food designed to provide her body and especially her brain with proper fuel. Some of her dietary shifts included eating specific meats, green vegetables in particular and darker fruits, like berries. She also recommended people obtain healthy doses of natural sunlight. Within a year, Dr. Wahls reportedly tossed her wheelchair and returned to walking and biking.
I’m no scientist, but the analysis and suggestions from these specialized physicians was persuasive enough that I changed my consumption of various foods and fats. They convinced me tasty adaptations would enhance my chances for maintaining and sustaining better health while losing weight. I join Lance in recommending that you consider reading both books.
None of us are destined to live forever, but if you struggle with weight issues or other derivative health problems, isn’t it common sense to fuel your engine, including your brain, with the best energy possible? There is a reason high performance fuel is used in race cars.
Jesse Robison is a Pocatello native educated in Idaho. He works as a mediator and insurance claim consultant, but his passion is public art. Robison has spearheaded art improvements throughout Pocatello, including the Kizuna Garden located at the Pocatello airport, and serves on the Bistline Foundation.