6 (Big) Reasons Why Being Lean Does Not Mean You’re Healthy
The secret to health is found in what you must avoid doing as well as what you should do.
We now know that obesity isn’t just a lifestyle choice – it’s a symptom of underlying metabolic dysfunction.
And that even if you are not overweight – or aren’t overweight anymore – you could still be suffering from metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance;
which makes you more likely to develop chronic diseases later in life.
(The New Science)
Your body produces fructose.
The big surprise!
Fructose causing metabolic disease is nothing new.
But the fact that our bodies can produce our own fructose is a giant breakthrough
(Thanks to Dr Richard J Johnson’s research and book: “Nature wants us to be fat”).
Our bodies (our organs and brain) can produce fructose, via the Polyol pathway.
So even people who are not consuming any fructose or added sugars can still have metabolic diseases for the reasons discussed below.
Weight loss and health is a disappointing experience for many!
It’s extremely disappointing for many people, who try to be healthy every day, and yet end up metabolically sick.
The truth is that lean people can be fat inside and have metabolic diseases despite focusing on health, fitness and conscious eating.
Don’t let this happen to you… read on.
The good news
Although metabolic diseases are common (up to 79.9% of adults are obese or overweight in some countries) but there’s a lot you can do about it!
Firstly, what diseases are related to Metabolic Disease?
There is direct evidence to support most of these findings, although some show strong correlations, and more trials are underway.
Many medical and research experts have suspected that all these metabolic diseases have one root cause, the evidence is clear.
- Diabetes Type-2
- Insulin Resistance
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Dementia (referred to as Diabetes 3) and evidence pointing to Alzheimer’s
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease, fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- ADHD and focus problem
- Bipolar disorder
- Continual hunger and restlessness.
- Mental performance and acuity – in mice, evidence shows impaired ability to navigate a maze for up to 6 weeks after high fructose binges.
The experts confused the public since the 1960s!
The science of food and nutrition has been in a state of flux for about 60 years (when ‘experts’ decided sugar was good and fat was bad).
This is partly to do with advances in the field (which is part of the normal scientific journey), but mainly to do with commercial interests and bad science.
Another reason is our easy access to bad foods all day, every day!
Seeing the puzzle come together at last
With this latest in-depth and well-proven research we see the health puzzle coming together for the first time.
Let’s get to the point!
What is the new science?
Fructose causes metabolic disease (we knew this already), BUT the fact that your body produces its own fructose is a breakthrough.
This fructose (along with uric acid and the hormone Vasopressin and other hormones) is responsible for turning on the fat-storing survival switch that operates outside the previous understanding of the calorie in vs calorie out model.
Our survival switch is an incredible metabolic marvel that has helped humans and animals survive millions of hard years
(btw, this affects all animals too, from whales to birds).
Why is there a “survival switch”?
Nature wanted you to seek out rare nutrients over the last ~10 million years. so that you could build up enough fat and water reserves, on your body and in your liver.
But nature never expected us to have these rare nutrients like salt, sugar, fructose and Umami rich glutamate foods available every moment of every day.
Nature never expected that we would drink our sugar (soft drinks, fruit juice, sweet tea and coffee or hot chocolate etc).
Nature expected and prepares us to survive winters in times of famine, drought and scarcity.
Most people just keep eating because they think they’re hungry and the survival switch is permanently turned on (which is really bad for your health).
Nature rewards you when you eat the previously-rare, dopamine-boosting comfort foods… but there is a price to pay when we overdo it.
We sacrifice our health because the survival switch is always on preparing us for scarce winter, which in turn reduces the quality of living… health is wealth.
We need to treat eating as an investment in our healthspan (the number of healthy years in your life)…
the greatest investment in our future health, happiness, energy, clarity and potential.
The 6 Reasons Why Being Lean Does Not Mean You’re Healthy (the short version).
To recap: You can turn on the survival switch (aka fat & water storage mode) by doing things, not doing things or eating certain ingredients.
These events create a signal and your body reacts by rapidly storing fat in your body and organs (like your liver, but with side effects for all other organs including the brain).
We are supposed to use the new fat reserves… but our modern lifestyle keeps that fat storage switch turned on permanently.
These are the main conditions that turn on your survival switch:
- Added sugar. If you consume lots of added table sugar or glucose, especially consuming quickly (we knew this… added sugars are poison)
- High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). HFCS is specifically more dangerous than normal fructose (fruit sugar) or glucose. But total sugar needs to be dropped too.
- Liquid Sugar. If you drink your sugars. Don’t drink your sugars!
- Dehydration. If you become dehydrated (e.g. a drop in 2% water level), the sodium-water balance changes, the survival switch turns on and your body stores water and fat.
- Salt. You consume too much salt. This can cause dehydration and change the water-sodium balance.
- Umami. You continually eat umami-flavoured foods and drinks.
Tip: Most of these foods cause gout, which can be a sign that your survival switch is on. (Umami food contains taste-enhancing Glutamates, IMP or AMP).
What is umami? Umami is that deep savoury rich ‘meaty’ flavour, our 5th flavour that we taste.
The main flavours we taste are sweet, sour, sugar, salt and umami. Think of products like Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), soya sauce, oyster and fish sauce, cured-aged cheeses, cured meats (biltong), tomato paste, mushrooms, added yeast, steak, anchovies, oysters and shellfish and beer (beer is high in glutamate from the yeast. Known to cause gout). Scientifically, umami is the taste of glutamate, the amino acid that is one of the building blocks of protein.
Red meats are high in IMP (Inosine monophosphate) which is why red meats should be limited.
The 6 Big Reasons In More Detail, Plus Actions?
The important concept is that we have to avoid the survival switch being turned on all the time.
Avoid the (small) things that are making you sick and do more of the things that make you healthy.
- ACTION: Eliminate ALL High-fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).
HFCS is specifically worse than normal fruit-sugar fructose (proved in trials).
HFCS in everything from soft drinks to sweets, breakfast cereals, but also food like sausage, boerewors, and commercial sauces.
Other names for HFCS: Corn syrup, Glucose syrup, Glucose-fructose syrup, Maize syrup, Isoglucose, Fruit fructose, Crystalline fructose.
Note on eating fruit: Please don’t demonise whole fruits. The speed of absorption and the presence of fibre, antioxidants and nutrients make a big difference in absorption and whether you turn on the survival switch or not (or how strongly it is turned on).
- ACTION: Do not drink your sugar.
Sugary drinks need to be eliminated or dramatically reduced in frequency, portion size and consumption speed (including sweet tea and coffee, and hot chocolate). Soft drinks do not hydrate you, they dehydrate you and this is a big part of the problem too.
If you do drink sugar drinks, drink it very slowly and rather dilute it, drink a little at a time, and hydrate very well with water.
Rather just stop drinking your sugar from today.
- ACTION: Eliminate as much table sugar.
Table sugar is a 50/50 mix of glucose and fructose.
Your taste buds WILL adjust to less sweet foods and drinks within 3-7 days.
Sugar makes you more hungry and causes cravings and overeating.
Tip: Eat a whole fruit if you are craving sugar. Eat one portion at a time or half a portion if it’s a big fruit.
- ACTION: Create sugar-free days.
Eliminate added sugars and sweet foods on most days of the week… give yourself a break.
The more sugar you eat, the more you need and the more sensitive your survival switch becomes.
Reset your sensitivity to sugar, by stopping sugar and artificial sugars for 5-10 days now and then.
- ACTION: Reduce Salt
New science shows evidence that it’s not that salt is bad or even that a specific amount is bad, but the more salt you ingest the higher the chances of dehydration, by disrupting the water-sodium balance. It’s the side effects we should be worried about, dehydration turns on your survival switch, and your body produces fructose and stores fat and water.
Tip: Stop cooking with salt and only sprinkle salt (Malden or Flaky salt is great) on the surface of the food afterwards.
I call that surface salt and flaky salt on the surface gives great tastebud joy.
NB: High blood pressure must be taken seriously, this causes long term heart and organ scarring and damage. It’s more serious than most people think as you can’t undo the scarring even though evidence shows you can stop causing more damage.
High salt or dehydration inducing diets do cause high blood pressure (slowly but surely over months and years).
The new guidelines indicate that 130/80 is considered a risk, down from the previous 140/90.
- ACTION: Stay well dehydrated.
Drink lots of water (the guideline is about 6-8 glasses a day).
1 cup/glass = 236ml (almost a quarter of a litre)
Learn to react to your body’s unique needs and circumstances, but do not overhydrate.
The guidelines suggest 2 litres a day for women and up to 3 litres for men.
Note: This knowledge is a real breakthrough… many healthy people do not hydrate sufficiently. Keep that survival switch off!
- ACTION: Reduce Umami flavours on many days of the week
Umami is that rich meaty savoury or soy sauce type flavour, but behind the flavours are the chemicals Glutamate, AMP and IMP. These directly turn on the survival switch.
Eliminate Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).
Look at reducing the frequency and managing portion size: cured-aged cheeses (e.g. Parmesan and Roquefort), processed and cured meats (biltong and ham), soya sauce, oyster and fish sauce, tomato paste, beer, grape juice, oysters, anchovies and scallops, walnuts, shiitake mushrooms, added yeast products.
Reduce red meat days (high in IMP).
- ACTION: Start the whole food journey today
If you are turning on the survival switch every day… there is a big chance that you may have high uric acid, inflammation and even scarring in your organs, liver disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, damaged blood vessels, damage to your brain and heart… but it may take a decade to start presenting chronic health issues, but the damage is ongoing (New tests can detect problems years before symptoms show). While it may be too late to reverse all damage with medical help, you can certainly stop and improve it.
Ensure you have enough whole food meals: FitChef’s Recurring Orders will ensure you eat healthy meals that give you your best chance of keeping the survival switch off most of the time (We avoid all the bad things and have a lot more of the good stuff). Just add exercise and loads of water.
- ACTION: Reduce or Limit all High Glycemic Index carbs.
The faster the carb is absorbed, the more likely it will put you into a fat-storage mode (carbs without fibre are absorbed too quickly).
Eat real whole foods… this alone will solve most problems.
Eat smaller portions and prioritise high fibre versions, eat a lot more veg and quality proteins (white meats, dairy, eggs and high
Examples: eat brown rice over white rice, even whole pasta over white, authentic sourdough over-processed white bread… but manage your portion size. But focus on getting more of your carbs from vegetables, especially more green veggies.
- ACTION: Consume less fructose (Fruit sugar).
It’s essential to eliminate high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Also don’t live on the very sweet fruits or dried fruits all day, every day.
This does not mean eliminating fruit at all… because fruit fills you up and satisfies your craving (and has loads of antioxidants and good nutrients) you only tend to eat 1 or 2 servings and that’s fine. (As Dr Johnson implies: an apple a day keeps the doctor away, by five a day invite him over)
Your gut also absorbs some fructose (4-5 grams at a time) so this never reaches your liver and won’t activate your survival switch.
Kids: rather than have sweets, biscuits and other high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat junk at home. Encourage a range of healthy fruits, and berries… choose fruits that are unlikely to promote gorging (Like Mango). Rather avoid dried fruits.
- ACTION: Vitamin C – 500mg/day
In many studies, most overweight people were low in vitamins C.
The suggested dose is only 500mg/day, not high doses are not suggested.
- ACTION: Manage Alcohol and the Dehydration.
Apart from the alcohol being processed by the liver and overworking your organs, the dehydration (or electrolyte balance alone can fire off your survival switch so that your body produces its own fructose and goes into fat storage and uric acid production).
A small change that may help (apart from cutting down). Is to drink double the water in between every drink.
Do not drink your sugar (stop high sugar mixers)… avoid artificial sugars too as they create more sugar cravings and hunger. Move to a more hydrating mixer.
Try to avoid eating all the other survival switch activating foods like high salt levels, red meats, glutamate high foods and added sugar. Avoid the pudding. You can still enjoy your food, eat well and potentially limit the damage.
- ACTION: Manage Stress
Although stress is not discussed in any detail in the book, stress and perception of stress play an important role in our physiology and habits. As well as sleep quality.
Do what you can to manage stress. Meditation and exercise are 2 of the most powerful ways. People who don’t exercise properly (i.e. achieving cardio and strength endurance, with longer exposure to being out of breath and in higher heart rate zones) often don’t realise that while you do suffer a bit during exercise, the feeling afterwards is usually incredible.
- ACTION: Colourful veg
Many low carb or keto diets have a problem with colourful veggies.
While there is more sugar, more carbs and more fructose in sweeter veggies, there are also beneficial antioxidants, nutrients and fibre. The digestion is slower and your liver is not flooded with fructose or glucose. Also, your gut does absorb around 4-5 grams of fructose at a time, to be burned as calories without turning on your survival switch as you do when you drink your sugar.
A diet full of good amounts of colourful whole foods is easier to maintain for decades than almost any restrictive diet.
- ACTION: Consider Intermittent Fasting (IF)
While fasting has been part of the human journey for millions of years, many people feel this is controversial.
(It is good to consult your doctor if you have any concerns).
However, many people do Intermittent Fasting for religious reasons, others do IF for weight loss, blood sugar control and mental focus.
Fasting allows your body to use up the fats and do some cleaning up of cells (Autophagy).
The most common IF technique (also referred to as Window Eating) is called 16:8 (16 hours fasting, 8-hour eating window). This means eating your food in a window from 12h00 – 20h00 on one or more days a week, often 3 days a week or every second day. In a nutshell, you eat your food during that 8-hour window.
Many people start with bigger eating windows and do a 15: 9 (eating all your food in a 9-hour window). Then reduce the eating window over time or even try OMAD (One meal a day, or all food in a 2-hour window)
Moderation is always key!
- ACTION: Monitor coffee hydration
It’s worth mentioning coffee. Coffee is good for fat loss… but just ensure you stay hydrated.
- ACTION: Eat or drink slowly, to slow down digestion and portion size.
This is similar to many other points. But consider eating or drinking slowly.
The speed that which sugar is delivered to your liver is an important consideration to turning on the survival switch.
In trials, people who sipped a drink slowly (or ate the sugars) did not activate the survival switch (or reduced the survival switch intensity), but people who downed the whole drink in one go did activate the switch
- ACTION: Reduce processed high carb and high glycemic index foods.
As mentioned, the speed of absorption or digestion is an important aspect.
Modern processed foods like white bread, white pasta, whites rice, and most sauces come with refined sugars, flour and umami flavour enhancers, and lack the protective nutrients to also slow down digestion… these all turn on the survival switch.
Focus on quality whole foods. Always ask yourself, is this the best and most natural version of this food.
Aim to eat high-quality foods for 60-90% of your meals. You eat around 93 meals/month (that 56 – 74 meals that need to include good ingredients)
- ACTION: Stop or limit artificial sugars/sweeteners.
While some artificial sugars don’t seem to directly turn on your fat storage, they do often affect your gut health and there is evidence that they increase your addiction and craving for sugars. In studies, people have often consumed more calories because artificial sugars raise their appetite and ate 17% more calories or showed signs of always being hungry (confirmed in mice studies too). The advice is rather to eat a whole fruit if you are cravings sugar.
Solving the biggest weight loss problem… keeping it off! (a great solution)
How do you guarantee that successful eating is convenient, no matter how busy life gets, you get enough of the good and avoid the bad ingredients?
We are not suggesting you never eat “fun foods”…
but ensure that your proverbial 80/20 is in favour of healthy foods that don’t trigger the fat-storage survival switch and keep yourself hydrated.
FitChef’s EatClean range offers a large selection of delicious whole-food meals, snacks and smoothies, all preservative and additive-free, no added sugar, high in fibre and cooked according to old fashioned slow cooking techniques. Make FitChef a lifestyle choice by creating a Recurring Order Subscription and joining the Loyalty Club to make healthy convenient eating affordable. Get your healthy meals delivered on auto-pilot.
Always speak to your doctor if you have medical concerns.
Discuss solutions with your doctor, but also let your doctor know about the latest science and discuss Dr Richard J Johnson’s evidence and ‘Nature wants us to be fat’ book with them. https://drrichardjohnson.com/
This is the new science that links nutrition and habits directly to all lifestyle diseases… as always with science, we will need to update ourselves on new findings like Polyol Pathway, fructose production, HFCS, uric acid and the hormone Vasopressin along with Leptin and Insulin Resistance.
We strongly encourage you to get the book or the Audible version.
Nature wants you to be fat.