On occasion, I’ll have patients return to my clinic claiming, “The protocol didn’t work.” It always makes me laugh because unbeknownst to them they are suggesting that science has failed them. A closer look, however, reveals something a bit more sinister. And it has nothing to do with science. Instead, it has to do with people.
The Science Works Every Time.
How many times have you met someone on a “diet” (my favorite word, as you know) who justifies their binge eating by claiming they’ve "been good all week?” If I received a penny every time I heard that I would no longer be operating! Yes, I understand the logic, people are people and are reward-driven, particularly when it comes to food. Why? Because the dopamine surge in response to a hot fudge sundae (or any high glycemic index carbohydrate) makes us feel good. And we do strange things, not unlike a cocaine addict, although a 1 AM refrigerator raid is of less consequence than the “stunts” pulled by George Jung as portrayed in the movie Blow (by Johnny Depp). Yet the consequences are more significant than appreciated at first glance. What do I mean?
Well, unbeknownst to the masses, it takes not only 3-4 weeks to form a habit, but at least that much time to condition one’s metabolism to predominantly burn fat as opposed to sugar. And it takes even more time, on the order of twelve weeks, to bulletproof your metabolism so that it can’t be derailed in the wake of a cheat meal. What does that mean? No cheat meals for the first twelve weeks on the program. None. Including alcohol. That’s right, no wine. I know, your “grey-haired doctor with-a-stethoscope” told you that the nightcap is OK. He’s wrong.
And for a variety of reasons, including the recently proven linkage between even small amounts of alcohol and a whole host of cancers. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the reference: LoConte NK, Brewster AM, Kaur JS, et al: Alcohol and cancer: A statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. J Clin Oncol 36:83-93, 2018.
You see, the consumption of high glycemic index carbohydrates (i.e., bread, pasta, rice) during the induction phase instructs the body to utilize carbohydrate as an energy source, precisely the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. You are, after all, trying to shed body fat, right? So you must tell the body to do just that: burn fat. And this requires a continuously low insulin signal. Sure, you can induce the accelerated fat-burning state known as ketosis by fasting for 36 hours or training intensely in the context of low carbohydrate consumption, but neither will forge that desired metabolic resiliency, biochemically speaking, to make that Saturday night piece of pizza nearly invisible. Why? Because it takes time and persistence of effort to entrain your biochemistry. This is not unlike the time and effort it takes to build muscle. That’s a biochemical process too, agreed? It takes diligence to transform your body into a fat-burning machine. The body doesn’t change overnight, nor after five days on the protocol. So don’t kid yourself. Or better said, don’t reward yourself. At least not yet.
Twelve weeks means twelve weeks. Make it there and never look back…