Me, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Tongue Cancer, and Jason Fung, MD

Something you might not know about me. Back in the early 2000’s, I was fat. Not chubby. Not “just need to lose a few pounds.” Morbidy obese.

The point at which I stopped weighing myself and just gave up was when the scale hit 220, but I didn’t quit eating, and didn’t quit needing roomier clothes. So I weighed more than that. I just don’t know how much.

On a five-foot, six and a half inch frame, (which using a standard weight chart would make me 5’7 because of the one-inch heels) my max healthy weight would have been about 150 — my wrist measurement is exactly 7″, which qualifies as medium frame. Which made my body mass index back then 34.4, and made me morbidly obese.

At the time, so was Matt. He weighed over 300 pounds.

I was working pretty hard on the morbid part, too, killing myself in bits and pieces. I had adult onset diabetes, something I didn’t know until some weird anomaly triggered the ex-nurse in the back of my head. I bought a glucometer from Wal-Mart, checked my blood sugar and Matt’s, and about fainted. Both were awful.

I was also growing an already active parathyroid tumor, but wouldn’t know about that for some years yet.

And I was feeding future squamous-cell cancer of the tongue, one of the cancers associated with excess intake of sugar and sweeteners.

NOTE: The other predisposing conditions for tongue cancer are smoking — never even tried one cigarette; drinking — come from a long line of alcoholics who drank themselves to death, and decided I was never going to drink, and never did; and, chewing betel nut, which I’d never heard of.

Anyway…

When we first checked them, our blood sugars were so high I thought the damn meter was broken. But purchase of a second meter, and repeat tests at different times proved that in FACT we were both in incredibly bad health.

We were also way too broke to see a doctor, had no health insurance, had no backup, had nothing but a roof over our heads and the Internet and a desperate need to fix our lives.

Matt researched, and found the Paleolithic diet, which for us became our permanent way of eating for a bunch of years.

Because we were desperate AND broke, we ate what I called Wal-Mart Paleo, which was hamburger and other cheap ground meat, frozen vegetables, and raw fruit and nuts in season — or whichever was cheapest at Wax-Mart at the time. We eliminated snacks and junk food, and just ate one meal a day. (Mostly to keep down costs.)

This was a low-carb, medium-protein, high fat diet.

And we tested our blood sugars both fasting and one hour after meals. Rigorously. I used to be a nurse. I knew what happened to people with long-term diabetes.

In a short period of time, I lost at least sixty pounds (more, but because I’d stopped weighing myself after the scale topped 220, I don’t know how much more), but I plateaued at 160, and Matt lost over a hundred, from around 300 down to around 200.

Our weight is both still there.

More importantly, our fasting and postprandial blood sugars dropped down to normal. And then never went back up.

With the one meal a day thing, and no snacking, we didn’t know it at the time, but we had accidentally discovered 24-Hour Intermittent Fasting, which was eating just the one low-carb, medium protein, high fat meal a day, and drinking lots of fluids.

So I can attest that eating Paleo works to get the weight off. Well. And quickly.

But here’s the thing. I’d been a dieter since my early twenties, and the thing I KNEW about dieting was that no matter what you did, the diet would eventually stop working, and the weight would come back, and bring friends.

But this weight never came back.

Neither Matt nor I regained the weight we lost, which is unheard-of for diets.

Until, about a year ago, when we changed the way we ate. We started eating extra meals, and snacking, and our weight started to climb.

Which was when we discovered — guess what? — it wasn’t the Paleo that caused the weight loss. It was something else.

We went back to eating once a day, and the weight came back off.

Back to tongue cancer for a minute

I’d been a diet soda fan since diet soda came out in the 1970s, and my fluid of choice was not water, but the diet crap I’ve been drinking forever.

Even while eating Paleo, I hung on to those damn diet drinks.

It looks now like the artificial sweeteners are what caused the tongue cancer.

I have no other predisposing factors.

  • Never drank.
  • Never smoked.
  • Never chewed betel nut.

Turns out tongue cancer “of unknown etiology” (which means “we have no fucking clue what’s causing this) is showing up in women in their fifties — in other words, the exact market for folks who drink a lot of diet sodas, and have for years. My evidence is corollary, not causative, but there’s a lot of it.

With about half my tongue gone, and no desire whatsoever to lose the other half, or my jaw, or half my face [I’ve seen the pictures: Not for the squeamish] I determined that I would do everything I could to stop the cancer.

I found mine when it was just a place on my tongue that wrinkled a little when I curled it, and that was sensitive to heat.

I’ve been drinking a lot of green tea. A LOT. Enough that it was causing me severe nausea every day.

But it was the only thing I knew I could do that might help prevent the cancer from coming back, so I kept at it.

Matt was searching for eating-related help, though, and discovered mention of autophagy (the process of the body destroying broken cells to use pieces to build new, healthy cells), and a link to this and improvements in squamous cell cancer.

He got the book.

I don’t recall if I’ve ever recommended a book here before (except for one of my own) — but I’m recommending not one, but two — and their author, Jason Fung, MD:

The Obesity Code

The Obesity Code

The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

The Complete Guide to Fasting

The Complete Guide to Fasting

The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting

Why I’m recommending?

Because he clearly demonstrates the link between elevated insulin and a massive host of health problems (including Type 2 Diabetes, morbid obesity, squamous cell cancers, and other life-threatening diseases, like Alzheimer’s), and then CLEARLY demonstrates how to drop your insulin blood levels back to normal, and what doing this can do to save your life.

And I can confirm from more than a decade of personal experience that what he recommends works.

By the way, these are not affiliate links. I make nothing if you buy these. I bought both books myself, and am following the process — and I’d like my readers to be able to live longer, healthier, better lives. So we’ll all be around longer.

Holly

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

45 comments… add one
  • anon Apr 15, 2018 @ 14:05

    I chewed betel nut, but only once or twice. It is a strong taste.
    I struggle with my weight.
    Thanks for this post, Holly! Love to hear successful weight loss stories. IF wasn’t something I’d considered.

  • Quinndara Woodworth Apr 14, 2018 @ 21:09

    When you ate one meal a day how did you decide portions and percentages of carbs, fats, proteins?

    You impressive adventure in weight loss makes a good story.

    • Holly Lisle Apr 19, 2018 @ 7:38

      I didn’t. This isn’t that hard. There’s no portion measuring, no math. You’re eating whole, unprocessed foods.

      I just ate steamed frozen vegetables with real butter, ground beef or ground turkey, baked chicken, the occasional steak (they’re expensive), some fruit. If you’re only eating one meal a day and not snacking, you can eat a lot of food, and I did. And still do. I eat until I’m not hungry, and occasionally (rarely) until I’m uncomfortably full.

      • Quinndara Woodworth Apr 19, 2018 @ 21:30

        Thank you for your comment Holly. I am giving your plan serious thought. I am glad you posted what you did and what you accomplished.

  • Kathryn Kistner Apr 13, 2018 @ 18:31

    I’m so thrilled you are spreading this word. I also have the two Fung books, and tonight I just borrowed a digital copy of The Plant Paradox from my library. (Thanks, Cheryl Sola.)

    I lost 110 lbs eating Keto/one meal a day. NO exercise. My husband lost 80 lbs.

    The hunger comes in waves. Then disappears in 20-30 minutes or less. I’ve been experimenting with fasting Since Dec. 2017 and have done two fasts for 5-1/2 days, and one for 11 days. Otherwise, 1-, 2-, or 3-day fasts.

    During fasting, my body feels like I feel after having had a meal an hour or two before. No hunger.

    And the truth is, my body HAS just eaten… my own body fat. The magic of autophagy.

    Check out Cole Robinson for SERIOUS fasting motivation. He’s on YouTube and Facebook (Snake Diet Motivation)
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/397925543877867

    WARNING: He has a radical style and naughty mouth. He’s not for everybody. I ignore his style for the benefits I get.

    Holly, thank you for getting this VITAL word out.

    • Holly Lisle Apr 19, 2018 @ 7:42

      I was so happy to find him, and so happy to discover that Paleo was not the thing that worked — that one meal a day WAS. I had my first baked potato drenched in butter in about a decade last week. Can’t make it a habit, but knowing that I can have one occasionally is a lovely thing.

  • mullet Apr 11, 2018 @ 14:19

    I finally got my boyfriend off most of his artificial sweeteners. Totally agree with you on that point. He dropped his weight from 400 pounds with exercise and portion control — his approach is different, he eats four meals a day rather than one, but it works for him. He’s down to about 225. Different bodies need different approaches, I think.

    I’m delighted you’ve found an approach that works for you, and many other people. I’ll share it with him, but his hunger pangs are … painful and make him very very very grouchy. Hangry. Four meals a day, ensuring he gets enough fat and protein in each, keeps that under control.

    I’m really concerned about the advice on this thread about bitter almonds and bitter apricot pits, though. The cyanide in them is NOT bound sufficiently to make them safe to eat. Please do not poison yourself. If you question the veracity of that statement, at least make sure those around you know the symptoms of cyanide poisoning so someone can get you to the hospital if necessary. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1273391/?page=1

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 8:45

      The first book explains why hunger pangs are painful. I had them two. I had to make some significant switching in what I ate, but I don’t have them anymore.

  • Ewelina Apr 11, 2018 @ 13:49

    Holly, thank you for sharing. My sister lives in Germany and practices holistic healing. She and I were once discussing cancer and she mentioned the benefits of vitamin B-17 found in bitter raw apricot kernels. These can be found on Amazon’s website. I have consumed them once myself, there are no side effects associated with consuming these seeds. Thought you may want to look into this.

    Wishing you all the Best!!

    Ewelina

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 8:45

      Thank you. I’ll check them out.

  • Deb Salisbury Apr 11, 2018 @ 13:49

    Hugs, Holly! I’m glad you found something that works.

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 8:48

      Thank you. I’ve found some things that work, and one I haven’t yet tried.

      Twice-a-year ten-day fasting to encourage autophagy of dysplasia cells remains. I successfully did a three-day fast without discomfort, simply to learn the process. It works, and I was shocked how good I felt.

  • emmiD Apr 11, 2018 @ 13:43

    Thank you for sharing, Holly. Years ago (1990s) we started avoiding trans fats and high fructose corn syrup; people thought we were crazy—no, just way ahead.

    We collectively have a host of health problems and have been gradually changing our diets since the first of the year. We’re seeing results, but… time to investigate Dr Fung.

    Thank you for the links.

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 8:48

      Let me know how it goes. I’m excited by how much better I’m feeling (and I thought I was feeling pretty good before.)

  • Cheryl Merz Apr 11, 2018 @ 13:03

    I discovered Dr. Fung through another source, in August of 2016. His blog, https://idmprogram.com/blog/, is an extended source of the science behind his program. I bought both of his books also, after reading through the blog posts. They are authoritative, but if you are able to follow the medical language he works to make understandable to laypeople, you will gain a deeper understanding of why his program works.

    I lost thirty pounds easily, but since my first introduction to him, my LC/HF/IF journey has been fraught with ‘life’ difficulty. The proof, to me, that this is the best bet for long-lasting if not permanent weight loss is that I still easily keep 16-18 hours of daily fast between meals, usually without undue hunger, and that even though I’ve allowed more grams of carb to sneak into my diet than I should, I’ve only gained 5 pounds. I’m expecting that to come off quickly as I return to the low carbs and swimming daily when we can open our pool.

    Holly, I’m so glad to see you spread the word about Dr. Fung’s genius.

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 8:51

      I’m glad you found his work. Considering that we’ve been doing “24-hour fasts” for years and just called it eating one meal a day, it was nice to discover WHY what we were doing was working.

      I loved the science in his books. WHY is the most important question we can ask as human beings. He did a great job of answering that one.

  • kate Apr 11, 2018 @ 12:44

    very informative. I wish my problem was losing weight. I actually need to gain. in early July, at 6’3, I weighed 124 pounds. Not good, so I have been looking for ways to add safely. found a few, none of which involve being eating junk so I guess that is the same on both sides.
    I am glad you found a way to fix your problem and glad you are still with us.

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 8:53

      A friend of mine who’s a biochemist with Hashimoto’s tells folks with that issue, “Have your thyriod checked — full workup, not just TSH.”

      • kate Apr 13, 2018 @ 9:06

        my doctor had that done in November, it came up normal. my mom, before she passed in late August from complications of Lupus, was a retired RN, since my brother’s thyroid was hyper, she made sure I wrote that down to take to my doctor, requesting the full test .

        • Cheryl Merz Apr 13, 2018 @ 14:55

          Make sure what your doctor believes is normal is the same as the ‘new’ standards set by the American Endocrinology Association, or whatever the official organization is called. Mine was still using the standards set before they eliminated everyone with abnormal thyroid that slipped into the first large sample, skewing the results. I had to go to an endocrinologist to get the medication I needed. My internal medicine doctor wasn’t up to date.

          It’s sad, but we must all be our own health advocates these days.

          • kate Apr 13, 2018 @ 21:39

            well, right now, I have to see a neurologist. my physical therapist thinks I may have nerve damage because of how I walk and how my muscles reacted to her pushes on my leg. apparently, nerve jumping is ‘not’ normal or a sign of exhaustion.
            she told me to get a waLker rather than a cane to stabilize when I have to go out.

            I am just glad this hit after mom no longer needed me.

  • Connie Cockrell Apr 11, 2018 @ 12:02

    Appreciate the information, Holly. I too am obese, 5 ft 2 in, and 195 pounds. I’ve got both Celiac and I found out a short time ago, Hashimoto’s. So, in my research no gluten, of course, but also no nightshades. I’ve read about the Plant Paradox as well and am doing what I can to eliminate those items. It makes for a restrictive diet but one I’m happy to do if it can increase my health. It does. Hair, nails, skin, energy, an weight, all better. I also exercise, though not enough in my opinion. I haven’t, though, been fasting. So that’s something else I can add to my arsenal of tools. I’m glad you decided to share.

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 8:54

      Hugs, Connie. If you’re on the forum, talk to Rez. He’s dealing with Hashimoto’s, too.

  • Betty Widerski Apr 11, 2018 @ 11:51

    Thank you. One of the reasons I follow you (and certain other authors) is that you are an authentic human looking to make the world a better experience for others in addition to yourself.

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 8:55

      Thanks. My path through life is to try a bunch of stuff, and share what I find that’s actually good.

      If I can leave my corner of the world a little better than I found it, I’ll be happy.

  • Sylvia Apr 11, 2018 @ 11:06

    Thank you for writing this post, Holly. I’m a lot older than you, and agree with you completely. Have lived longer than my parents (Mom, heart; Dad, lung cancer from smoking; both, diabetes) and older sister (COPD, diabetes, other ailments). I smoked for about ten years but quit in my twenties, have tbl with weight tho never as high as yours (which I can hardly believe!). I became interested in improving my health and began reading natural health info. I think it’s helped me with better health than most of my contemporaries. I’ve preached against diet sodas for years, tho one reason is I don’t like the taste!

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 8:57

      ” I’ve preached against diet sodas for years, tho one reason is I don’t like the taste!”

      Wish I didn’t, but I haven’t had one (or desired one) since we dumped the crap food in the trash.

      We’ll still have whatever folks are having over the holidays, will still enjoy our feasts for special occasions.

      But we have decided that THURSDAY is no longer a special occasion.

  • Sarah Wolf Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:23

    Thank you, Holly. Sharing your experience can help so many people. I’ve heard about intermittent fasting, but never thought to try it myself. I might give it a go. Best of health to both you and Matt

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 9:00

      Thank you, Sarah.

      We’ve been doing one meal a day for about ten years, but we weren’t doing it for health reasons. We were doing it because we don’t have time to cook and eat three meals a day, so eating one meal a day is just easier.

      Also cheaper, because if you only eat one meal a day, even if your portion sizes are large, you’re still eating less. So you buy less food.

      It just turns out that what we were doing was keeping our weight down. Now that we’re doing it with better food, we both notice that we’re tightening up some more. Which is nice.

  • Cheryl Sola Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:16

    Both you and Matt are brave, wonderful people. You lead by example and that takes guts. When Diet Coke gave me mitral valve prolapse back in the eighties, I stopped drinking artificial sweeteners. Voila, no more mitral valve prolapse. The battle of the bulge, however, has been an on-going struggle. The South Beach Diet (Phase 1) worked wonders. Turns out it was almost gluten free. But later phases didn’t work so well. Now, I have Type 2 diabetes (after 31 years of CFIDS/Fibromyalgia, that started, coincidentally?, around the time Diet Coke became popular). I will be reading your book recommendation. And, I have one for you. Please, and especially because of the cancer, read Steven Gundry, MD’s book, The Plant Paradox. The hidden enemy are proteins in plants (gluten happens to be one of thousands) that act as their defense system and which, through his clinical observations, are the underlying source of inflammation, the root of most Western diseases. It’s a paradigm shift in the way nutrition should be viewed. I started it last month and the fibro in my hands has already started improving. His Paradox cookbook just released yesterday. His earlier book, “Diet Evolution,” was upgraded in “The Plant Paradox.” If you can’t afford it, email me privately and I will send you a copy. It’s that important!

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 9:04

      I’ve picked up a copy. Thank you for the recommendation.

  • Tony Pullen Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:16

    Thanks for your honest sharing. It’s scary what we do to ourselves when we think about it. But the problem is we all too often don’t think … until it’s (almost) too late.

    Well done and keep up the fight.

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 9:05

      Thank you.

  • Jess Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:13

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Holly. Sending along hopeful thoughts for your health issues.

    • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 9:05

      Thank you, Jess.

  • Catherine McFarland Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:05

    My sister just lost 30 pounds with IF. She eats steadily (it seems) for 5 hours a day and then stops. But she also walks on her treadmill daily too. I’m trying the IF with less good results. But I have severe fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndromes and can hardly walk at all. So I’m not getting any exercise. But I am trying the IF and will continue with it for a while longer. I think I just need to find the right timing.

    Good luck Holly with all your health issues.

    • Holly Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:15

      I didn’t do any exercise. Back then, I could barely move. Eating one meal a day and not snacking, the weight just came off.

      So you can do this and succeed without doing any exercise at all.

      • Catherine McFarland Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:23

        That’s reassuring. I, too, can barely move sometimes and it has really made losing weight difficult. I just need to get the IF practice straight and I hope to lose weight too.

        • Holly Apr 13, 2018 @ 9:07

          Even with three meals a day, if you don’t snack between, and don’t eat before bed, you’re getting about 12 hours of fasting in, which gives your blood sugar time to drop. What we’re doing is more extreme, but we’re doing it because where food is concerned, it’s too much trouble to cook three meals a day.

          So we just eat one big meal. Turns out, that’s actually healthy. Who knew?

    • Sarah Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:57

      Much empathy. I have severe CFS too and when it’s bad, exercise is enormously tough.

      • Sarah Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:58

        (… enormously tough may be the stupidest piece of under exaggeration ever. I’m so used to underplaying it because people don’t get it.)

    • Meranda Apr 12, 2018 @ 21:35

      I have CFS and had pre-diabetes that transitioned to diabetes. I lost 60 pounds and completely reversed my diabetes, no exercise, doing IF while eating a ketogenic diet. Given what Holly is talking about here, I wonder if the IF was more responsible for those two things than the ketogenic diet.

      I also kept the weight off until I really started eating a LOT again, during a year of prolonged stress.

      There is hope for people like us 🙂

  • KenB Apr 11, 2018 @ 9:37

    Thank you for sharing your story… that takes a lot of courage.

    • Holly Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:01

      I wasn’t going to say anything. But, dammit. I have more than a decade of experience eating this way, and I know it works — quickly — and that the results last.

      Paleo wasn’t the thing that worked. Anything that cuts carbs and snacking and increases protein and fat will work.

      So in the end I decided I had to talk about this.

      • Mark Nicodemo Apr 11, 2018 @ 10:12

        I wish you a cure for all that ails you and peace of mind.

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