By Mark Hyman, MD Chairman, Institute for Functional Medicine Founder and Medical Director, The UltraWellness Center Author of The Blood Sugar Solution
Diabesity refers to the continuum of blood sugar and insulin imbalance that causes everything from mild weight problems and a little belly fat to pre-diabetes to full-blown type 2 diabetes. It affects 1 in 2 Americans, 1 in 4 African Americans, 1 in 4 Medicare patients and 1 in 4 teenagers. It is a global problem – 80% of the world’s diabetics live in developing countries.
And it affects skinny people, too! In fact, 37% of skinny kids and 23% of skinny adults (only 35% of Americans are considered to be of normal weight) have diabesity – they look skinny but are metabolically fat. Doctors call it “metabolically obese normal weight.” I call it the “skinny fat syndrome.” Indeed, 90% of people with diabesity are not diagnosed.
The Diabesity Quiz
Answer the following questions. Even a single “yes” answer may mean you have it. And the more you answer “yes,” the greater your chances.
- Do you have a family history of diabetes, heart disease or obesity?
- Are you of non-white ancestry (African, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Indian, Middle Eastern?
- Are you overweight (BMI, or body mass index, over 25)? Calculate your BMI.
- Do you have extra belly fat? Is your waist circumference greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men?
- Do you have sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings?
- Do you have trouble losing weight on a low-fat diet?
- Has your doctor told you your blood sugar is a little high (greater than 100mg/dl) or have you actually been diagnosed with insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or diabetes?
- Do you have high levels of triglycerides (over 100 mg/dl) or low HDL (good) cholesterol (< 50 mg/dl)?
- Do you have heart disease?
- Do you have high blood pressure? Are you inactive (less than 30 minutes of exercise 4 times a week)?
- Have you had gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome?
- Do you suffer from infertility, low sex drive, or sexual dysfunction?
You can also take the comprehensive diabesity quiz.
Stop the Epidemic: Quit These 5 Foods
The following foods spike insulin, which is the fat storage hormone responsible for your belly fat. These foods also cause cravings and can be addictive. They mess up your hormones and brain chemistry, increasing your appetite and causing you to crave sugar and refined carbs. The key to regaining control of your hormones and brain chemistry is to cut out these foods and eat real food.
Avoid sugar and all pseudonyms for sugar including artificial sweeteners and even so-called healthy alternatives such as stevia and agave. Ditch the sweetened and sugary drinks, too. No juice, alcohol, sweet coffees or other liquids full of sugar. If you have to ask, “Is this okay for me?” it isn’t! After even only one to three days off sugar, your brain chemistry will change, ending the vicious cycle of addiction and cravings. Sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine!
All Flour Products (Even Gluten-Free)
From bagels, crackers and pasta to cookies, wraps and pizza dough, we are bombarded with poor quality sources of carbohydrates at every meal. Avoid these foods. They are absorbed into your bloodstream too quickly, causing blood sugar to rise and insulin to spike. Remember that gluten-free alternatives might even cause as big a spike (or bigger!) in blood sugar than the wheat-based product.
Processed Junk “Food"
This includes all trans fats (avoid anything with hydrogenated oils) and poor quality fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and flavorings, preservatives, dyes and anything you could not imagine growing in nature. All of this stuff literally confuses the body. Your weight regulation and metabolism malfunctions. MSG (monosodium glutamate), for example, found in most processed foods – often under other names such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract or gelatin – dramatically increases cravings and binge eating.
All Gluten and Dairy
These are the two most common major inflammatory foods in our modern diet. Foods that trigger inflammation tend to promote obesity and diabetes. The scary part is that most people are unaware of their hidden sensitivity to gluten and dairy. Besides a scale that just won’t budge, other signs of a food sensitivity are: nasal congestion, indigestion, bloating, autoimmune diseases, rashes, drops in mood or energy, headaches, joint or muscle aches and some chronic diseases.
Curious to learn if you may have food sensitivity? Try eliminating gluten and dairy to see if those stubborn pounds start falling off your waist!
Higher Glycemic Index Carbohydrates
This includes all grains, starchy vegetables and fruit. You should do this only if you have advanced diabesity, have type 2 diabetes or are hitting a stubborn plateau with weight loss.
Five Steps to Get Started on the 6-Week Blood Sugar Solution
Interested in getting results faster or moving past a weight plateau?
Here’s a great way to get a jumpstart on losing those stubborn pounds and healing from diabesity. For six weeks, avoid carbohydrates with a higher glycemic index such as potatoes, grains and fruit (besides a small serving of berries daily) to give yourself a metabolic tune up. While these vegetables and fruits can be healthy and full of nutrition, they may cause a spike in blood sugar and an insulin surge too great for certain individuals.
1. Get Prepared
Connect with your motivation for getting healthy by keeping a journal. Write about why you want to change and what is important to you. Dancing at your son’s wedding, playing with your grandchildren, feeling more energy?
Take measure of yourself (record your weight, height, body mass index, fasting blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol). You may even want to do specific medical tests to help you assess your diabesity and its root causes. In my free guide, How to Work with Your Doctor to Get What You Need, you can find exactly what tests you should do, what they mean and what to do about any abnormal results.
Do a pantry and kitchen makeover – get rid of the 5 foods that cause obesity and add in real whole foods.
2. Detox from Addictions
Carefully eliminate substances that keep your body on the viscous cycle of cravings and addictions. Sugar, alcohol and caffeine are best eliminated before you start the 6 weeks. In my book, The Blood Sugar Solution, I show you how to do this without the uncomfortable side effects.
3. Add in the Right Foods and Lifestyle Habits to Turn on Weight Loss
Start filling your pantry and refrigerator with fresh, whole, real foods. Choose fresh vegetables, berries, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and lean animal protein such as fish, chicken and eggs. No gimmicks or weird stuff – just actual food!
Learn to create the perfect plate and eat twice as many veggies as anything else on your plate. This helps balance blood sugar and keeps you feeling full. Here’s the breakdown:
- 50% low starch, low-glycemic veggies (crunchy or green ones). These are fiber-rich foods to help reduce glycemic load. You actually get unlimited refills on this side of the plate.
- 25% lean and clean protein. A serving size is the size of your palm.
- 25% slow-burning carbs like gluten-free whole grains or sweet potatoes.
Examples of meals you can eat:
- Breakfast: Vegetable frittata over black rice
- Lunch: Triple A Salad (arugula, avocado and artichokes) with canned wild salmon and fruit – only 1 fruit a day
- Dinner: Grilled chicken, broccolini, 1/2 cup adjuzki beans
Try the following recipes:
4. Get Together to Get Healthy
Find a partner in your home, your neighborhood or even online, and share the journey of getting healthy together. Not only does finding a partner or group to do this with work twice as well and lead to twice as much weight loss, but it is also more fun getting healthy together than alone.
5. Personalize It!
What makes this program unique is your ability to customize a plan to get real, lasting results. Diabesity can be caused by or worsened by many things: inflammation, environmental toxins, gut problems, hormonal imbalances and nutritional deficiencies. Customizing the program according to your specific triggers will help you get the best results. The Blood Sugar Solution provides specific quizzes and personalized recommendations to fix these problems. This is the last diet you will ever need because this last step pairs your individual symptoms with specific personalized solutions. You will, once and for all, heal your symptoms at their root cause and feel like a new person. People say to me all the time that they never knew how sick they were until they started feeling so well.