I went to see a nutritionist last week. My goal was to bring down triglycerides, bring up good cholesterol, and bring down bad cholesterol. I figure if I do those things, my weight will go down, my energy will go up, and I’ll feel generally better.
This week I began my diet modification. I say “modification” because it’s not a diet – a diet suggests a start and stop. This is a slow modification of what and how I eat.
All good low-glycemic diets, she says, begin with a detox period. I’ve been asked many times about the detox, so I’ll detail it here:
This is my own summary, as relayed by my nutritionist and interpretted by me. I am not a doctor, a dietician, or an expert, but rather, an avid and curious reader, and you shouldn’t make diet or medical decisions based on what I’m telling you. But here you go anyway:
Your liver’s primary job is to filter toxins from your intake. In many cases, especially in overweight people busy eating bad food or, at best, enough calories to at least stay overweight, its busy digesting fats, protein, etc. most of the time. Sometimes, it has so much work to do, it can’t keep up. So it packages and stores fats and proteins as triglycerides and fatty acids. They are packaged for later, and the liver moves on to other things. The liver has lots of roles, though, and part of it, as you’re digesting, is to clean up after the digestion process.
When you eat carbs (sugars), your pancreas secretes insulin. The insulin response triggers the chaining together of glucose molecules from the blood into glycogen. The glycogen is “animal starch,” and it’s what we use for energy. As your body begins to get “full” – on in this case, more accurately and objectively, “postprandial,” which indicates glucose levels – insulin levels subside as production is decreased. Digestion is pretty complex, I understand a fraction of a fraction of a percent of how it works, but clearly, the liver plays a critical role and remains busy.
Most people, it seems, go through a constant cycle of sugar highs. They get hungry, they dump sugar into their bodies, they mass-produce insulin, the sugar is “dealt with”, and they crash, which makes them hungry for sugar, repeat ad nauseum. There’s another cycle of salt to sugar. I can remember times in my life of eating saltines and Chips Ahoy alternatively.
Now, when you detox – in my case, by eating ONLY certain veggies (and 3 servings of fruits a day for some simple sugars) – your liver doesn’t have anything to do most of the time. It digests your food quickly, its job is done in one to three hours. So, sitting idle, it eventually says, “Well, I might as well take care of that stuff I stored.”
It will start burning off the old stuff you’ve had stored. This process, apparently, doesn’t work forever. Eventually, the low calorie intake and the lack of carbs and protein can get very unhealthy very fast. So it’s only a week long. Then we add things like nuts and fruits and beans and fatty foods like avocado.
It does, however, in most people, “teach” your liver to go back to the stored fats and process them. And the idea is to adjust your food intake, both in quantity and in quality, over time. You want your organs working off of what you eat, not storing your food. It seems pretty evident to me that this requires you to reduce carbohydrate intake. Sugars are carbs, carbs are calories, so most low-calorie diets are actually masking the source of success: low carbs.
I’m entirely convinced that carbs are the problem in diets. Not carbs in general, but low-fiber, simple carbs that exceed the amount we need and expend. Look at all the shit we love to eat: chips, fries, cookies, ice cream, candy – it’s all carbs.
Back to the detox: in the first few days, I’m told to expect a massive drop in energy, general discomfort at the hunger pangs, unease that may come from any toxins being released from within those stored fats, and, of course, irritibility from the sugar withdrawal. But so far, so good. I’m about 36 hours in, and I’m still feeling okay. Yesterday late afternoon was tough, but I found some veggie burgers – Dr. Praeger’s – that were amazing. So good that I’d eat them off this detox. But sadly, I’m limited to 2 a day by the nutritionist, otherwise, I’d eat 10 a day.
By day 4, I’m promised that energy level should shoot up as body is growing more efficient and is oil and fat starved. Given the efficiency (and purity?) the metabolism ought to have by then, I think this is realistic. I’m optimistic about where this change is going to lead me, because I’m encouraged by everyone around me.
Updates to follow for sure.