Episode 138 Show Notes
Metabolism: The brilliant Kirsty Woods, an experienced exercise physiologist, explains that metabolism is all the processes within cells that keep us alive and produce energy rather than merely a digestion process that can be categorised into fast or slow, and blamed for weight gain. What is often labelled as “slow metabolism” is more likely to be the body’s inefficiency with burning the right fuel for metabolic health.
The root cause: Kirsty talks about the importance of making informed decisions about your health and to recognise that health is not just about the number on the scales. By focusing on metabolic health, which can improve energy, hunger, and weight loss, we can simplify and strip back the overwhelming labels associated with conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. This approach also has potential benefits for managing medications and addressing the links between diabetes and Alzheimer's, and insulin resistance and PCOS.
Connections: Conversations and connections are key when it comes to helping people improve their health, and it is so important to keep the conversation going so that people remember the message later when they're ready to hear it. It is also really helpful being part of a supportive community when dealing with the constant and consistent pushback from food industries pushing their highly palatable, processed foods and pharmaceutical companies with their vested interests in people staying on medications.
The bigger picture: Metabolic flexibility is key when it comes to weight loss and managing chronic diseases, and testing can help identify issues like insulin resistance and hormonal disruptions. By looking at the bigger picture, including diet, hormones, medications, stress management and sleep habits, you can become metabolically flexible and improve their overall health and wellbeing. It's complex, but by changing the conversation and understanding the root cause of issues, we can make a real difference.
The Low Carb Road Show: Kirsty will be presenting at the Low Carb Road Show in Perth on 23 April and we can’t wait for this opportunity to hear Kirsty share her experience of the last 10 years in the health industry with her wealth of expertise on the fundamental role of metabolic health in our overall health and wellbeing.
Book your ticket to the low carb road show! Thanks to our platinum sponsor, LAKANTO
Visit rlmedicine.com/the-low-carb-show-perth to reserve your seat today!
Kirsty Woods Bio:
Kirsty Woods is the lead Exercise Physiologist and founding practitioner at Metabolic Health Solutions in Perth, Western Australia. She has helped over 1000 clients improve their metabolic health.
With over 10 years in the health industry she understands the complexity of obesity and related comorbidities, and the frustrations and challenges it can pose. Kirsty takes a very hands on approach with clients and gets great satisfaction when they achieve long-term goals.
Kirsty's specialty areas include complex obesity, PCOS, diabetes, sleep apnoea and fatty liver. She is also a member of The Obesity Collective & The Society of Metabolic Health Practitioners.
To connect with Kirsty:
Episode 136 - Courageous campaigner for the truth
Dr Mary Barson: (0:11) Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr Mary Barson.
Dr Lucy Burns: (0:15) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of
Both: (0:20) Real Health and Weight Loss!
Dr Lucy Burns: (0:23) Hello gorgeous ones. It's Dr. Lucy here yet again with another Friday episode, around the Low Carb Road Show with one of our fabulous speakers. I'm so excited to be speaking to Kirsty Woods today. She is a brilliant exercise physiologist who is passionate about low carb medicine for multiple reasons, which you're going to hear about today. Welcome to the podcast Kirsty.
Kirsty Woods: (0:48) Thanks so much for having me. I look forward to sharing some stories and experience that can hopefully help some people now and on the Road Show.
Dr Lucy Burns: (0:57) Absolutely, absolutely. And it's so interesting, because the theme that seems to be coming through with all of the interviews, and I've done quite a few now, is how low carb nutrition has changed people's practices. And that it's rejuvenated or reinvigorated their passion, has that been the case for you as well?
Kirsty Woods: (1:18) Well, I actually had quite an interesting start in this space, that was backed by data. So I do metabolism testing in my clinic. And I found that it was one tool of many in the kit, that can actually help to improve the way that people burn fat, which kind of went against what I learned at university. So I like to say that university teaches you how to learn, not what to learn. And it's been a journey from there. So I haven't necessarily had a personal story myself. But you know, I can't unsee what I've seen in the clinic with some of these patients. And even better, I've got some of the data to let me know I'm on the right track to help motivate clients, and then also see if there's some other aspects that were missing as well.
Dr Lucy Burns: (2:03) I love that. Now, you mentioned you have a metabolism clinic. And your talk is centred a lot around metabolic health. But I know for lots of people, like you know, metabolism, what does that even mean? So I'd love for you to, you know, maybe explain that for our listeners.
Kirsty Woods: (2:21) Absolutely. I know, when a lot of people present to the clinic, or some listeners might think of metabolism as if it's fast or slow. That's not even half of the story. So when we talk about metabolism, what we're talking about is all the processes that go on within the cell that keep us alive. And that produces energy. So not only is it about how much energy we're producing, it's about how we're producing it. So similar to a car, we need to burn fuel, our bodies are made or designed to burn fat more efficiently. So that's why one of the ways that for example, low carb, or therapeutic carbohydrate nutrition can help some individuals is by getting them burning the right fuel. And that's generally sometimes a problem we see, not necessarily slow metabolism. So that's how it all ties in and really helps to explain why you can have someone who's skinny, but have diabetes. And that all comes back to metabolism. And metabolic health, which is unfortunately, generally neglected. Particularly when it comes to weight loss. We can lose 10 kilos by chopping off an arm, but it doesn't mean that it's healthy.
Dr Lucy Burns: (3:29) Indeed, indeed, indeed. That's one of my favourite sayings. What's the fastest way to lose weight? Cut off a leg! But yes. And again, you know, I think that it's important to realise that this is not the general public's fault. You know, most people try and lose weight through traditional dieting, calorie restriction, counting points, you know, Weight Watchers, all of those plans that didn't teach anybody about metabolism. And if they weren't losing weight, then the solution was, well, you've got a slow metabolism.
Kirsty Woods: (4:06) Yeah. And look, in all honesty, it can be a problem, but maybe 10% of people that present to the clinic, it is actually a problem even those with thyroid because thyroid is involved, just one of the many things involved with metabolism. So we really need to look at that bigger picture so we can help people make an informed decision. Because as you say, it is unfortunately, the likes of the marketing out there - similar to cigarettes, there's lots of money spent in it. So of course these foods are addictive and palatable when we're getting some of the different messages for what is designed for a healthy population. But 20% of us are actually healthy, if that! So we want to make an informed decision. So once again, that's where things like testing not only metabolism, but fat versus muscle, and your measurements, can be really key to get that whole story so that you're not beating yourself up unnecessarily. Because it's not that we've just got less willpower over the last 50 to 100 years. There’s a little bit more to the story, which is, as I said, some of what I'm going to be chatting about in my talk when we come over to Perth.
Dr Lucy Burns: (5:13) Yeah absolutely. So we are excited because Kirsty is speaking at Low Carb Road Show Perth. Perth is the first of our roadshows to kick off. And I think, you know, Western Australians, particularly, you know, with COVID and the borders, it's really been very tricky for people to connect in person with other people. You know, it's like Western Australia was a little world, it was literally shut for a long time. But it's also, you know, the tyranny of distance means that for people wanting to come to low carb events in person, they're usually on the East Coast. And the East Coast is a long way from the West Coast.
Kirsty Woods: (5:54) Yes. Absolutely. So it is exciting.
Dr Lucy Burns: (5:56) I know. And I love the fact that the topic of your presentation melds in with one of the themes. So I’ve forgotten what's the exact name of your presentation?
Kirsty Woods: (6:08) So I'm going to be talking about Change The Conversation, and elaborating a little bit on that, what the aim of it is to do is talk about some of what we've already talked about is, when it comes to people trying to lose weight and improve their health, we want to be able to help people make an informed decision. And recognising that it's not just about a number on the scales, you know, it's much more than that. So, obviously at a personal level, it helps to understand that for those who are going through their own journey, but also at a professional level, as well, so that people can be better managed, have that right support, which are all important aspects. So you know, some of the things that we might go through is, unfortunately, when people come to see us they tend to be overwhelmed, because they have high blood pressure, they have diabetes, they're overweight, and it becomes very overwhelming. You're stuck with all these labels. But really, if we simplify it, strip it back and come back to that metabolic health that we talked about. So if we get the root cause we can find that we improve energy, we improve hunger, we lose weight, and do all those things in a less stressful way, but also helps in terms of medications, why, you know, diabetes might be linked to Alzheimer's, all those other links that we find, which I find really fascinating. Particularly my other area of research is Alzheimer's, it's an energy shortage in the brain, once again, comes back to metabolic health, but we don't think about it like that. Same with PCOS, we think about it in terms of fertility. But when we really think about it, it's insulin resistance within the ovaries. It’s a specific insulin resistance, which causes a cascade of events, causing high testosterone, which presents as symptoms. And we try and treat the symptoms, but not the root cause. So that's about changing the conversation, changing the way we think about things personally, but also in a much larger picture so we can help as many people as possible.
Dr Lucy Burns: (8:03) Absolutely. I love that. So I love two things. I love that you're talking about conversations, because that is the key, you know, connection, conversations. People sometimes hear information, they may not be ready to hear the message. And so when we keep the conversation going, it means that later on, they may suddenly remember and they go “oh yeah I remember hearing about that.” And you know, I'm now ready to, they may not actually say those words, I'm now ready to hear it. But that's what their brain will be saying. And so I think it's really important that that we have conversations, I also think connection is so important, because when you feel like you're part of a community - that you're not just doing this on your own, because there's a lot of pushback from, as you mentioned, vested interest groups making lots of money out of people buying their highly processed foods, pharmaceutical companies making lots of money out of people staying on their medications, you can sometimes feel like a bit of a loner, forging your own path. And so having a community is really, really helpful. But one of the other things I loved that you said was that actually coming back to the root cause, instead of looking at all of these things as being separate conditions, they're often all related to the same thing. And Mary and I have this fancy word, it's Mary's word actually, I'd never really heard of it, which is called pleiotropic. And what that is, is when one action or one behavioural change has multiple effects. And I love that because suddenly, instead of having to take seven different pills for seven different conditions, you can change one thing and you're helping seven different conditions because they're actually all part of the same thing.
Kirsty Woods: (9:55) And another thing that comes to mind that we often see in clinic is, you know, people struggle to, for example, be physically active, which we know can be really important in terms of longevity and health, because they're tired, they're overweight, which as I said, can put stress on the joints and those sorts of things. And then they're just told to exercise more, which doesn't work. However, what we generally find is once again, by improving some of those elements they have the energy, so they naturally do more activity. And that sends off a cascade of events. And it's really interesting, because as I said that one action has such a roll-on effect.
Dr Lucy Burns: (10:31) Yeah. And you’re right, I mean, when you say to somebody, particularly if they're metabolically unwell, and that usually for us means, you know, insulin resistance or high fasting insulin, they don't have access to all their fuel, which means, therefore, they're hungry and tired. And then we're telling these hungry and tired people to eat less and move more. And then we blame them for why that advice doesn't work. So amazing, isn't it?
Kirsty Woods: (10:57) Yeah. And that's really where I find that once we have an understanding and an education of, you know, some of these metabolic parameters. So muscle versus fat, also, you're letting them know that they don't have a slow metabolism, we're letting them know that they've got changes in fuel use for the first time. They don't understand fully what's going on yet. We don't know the full solution. We know that as I said, the good news is these things can change. But for the first time, you know, they know that there's physiological drivers, and it's much more than, you know, self blame and willpower, and some of those things which unfortunately, tend to go to. Because it's not easy. Obesity, and chronic disease is complex but unfortunately we tend to put them in the too hard basket, which is not fair.
Dr Lucy Burns: (11:43) Ah, not fair at all. Not fair at all. And it's like lots of things, you know, even we can, you know, talk about advertising, which advertise all of these products, link them to emotions, tell people, they're going to make them feel better. And then when they eat them, if they over eat them, even though they're designed to be over eaten, like that's the whole process with them, blame the person to say, well, you know, “you should have had willpower. Eat as part of a balanced diet.” So if it's “eat as part of a balanced diet,” how about you, big food company, spend a bit more time not making your product so hyper palatable?
Kirsty Woods: (12:21) Yeah, it's actually been quite an interesting transition with obviously, some of the newer products coming out now that they know, therapeutic carbohydrate restriction is a tool and those sorts of things. However, once again, we can come into the same problem, food is our fuel. And if we're filling up with processed things, as I said, really good as an insurance policy, but if that's our main source of fuel then unfortunately, we run into problems once again, it's not as simple as “cut the carbs for everyone.” And also, we need to choose some of those wisely, depending on what our needs are, what our exercise requirements are, what our medications are, all those sorts of elements as well.
Dr Lucy Burns: (13:00) Absolutely, absolutely. And I mean, most of our listeners know that our philosophy is, you know, Low Carb Real Food though it probably should be Real Food Low Carb, because I think everybody should be focused on real food. And then people who are insulin resistant need to lower their carbs. There are plenty of people out there who, this might be an interesting phrase for you, Kirsty, to sort of educate me on but you know, we'll use the phrase metabolically flexible to mean they can access both fat or carbs for their fuel. But if you're not metabolically flexible, that means you’re really stuck just with carbs as your primary fuel source.
Kirsty Woods: (13:41) Exactly. And that's one of those elements. Switching back to the testing we're talking about before that's generally an issue. It's not always a metabolic rate. It's that metabolic inflexibility. So by measuring the glucose and the fat, we can have a look at it. Once again you touch on an interesting point, we know insulin resistance is a huge factor. And they are generally the ones that we can identify as benefiting most from therapeutic carbohydrate restriction. But what does that mean? For an athlete that could be 150 grams, for someone else that might be 50. But the key is that we need to make them metabolically flexible. So removing that guesswork by testing, and then also for some individuals, it's nothing to do with diet, there is hormonal disruptions, there’s medications, they're not sleeping, they’ve got sleep apnoea. So once again, we need to have a look at things as a whole for a lot of people. As I said, diet can be a huge component. Once again, changing the conversation! It's not as simple as just cutting the carbs and everything's all good. Once again, everything is complex. It all interweaves with each other. But it does come back to that metabolic flexibility and what that can bring about in terms of not only weight, but the way people are feeling, the way they're managing their chronic disease and even the way they're sleeping.
Dr Lucy Burns: (14:54) Yeah, absolutely. And again, that you know, changing the conversation from the number on the scales to how you feel, you know. You can be what you know, people would call “thin” and feel like rubbish. So you know, you don't have access to energy, maybe you've actually got intra abdominal intra organ fat, we know that various races are much more prone to that. And you may have somebody who is Asian or Indian descent, who I think the phrase that people will use is a “TOFI” - thin on the outside, fat on the inside, and it's, again, just a genetic predisposition to store excess fat in your organs rather than under your skin. But that makes us metabolically unwell. Even though externally, you may look reasonably lean.
Kirsty Woods: (15:44) Unfortunately, these are the people that you know, might not feel great, but in someone else's eyes, they're judging a book by its cover and it’s like “your weight’s fine so everything's fine.” Another cohort that seems to come to mind when we talk about this is those who have undergone bariatric surgery, particularly those who are starting to regain weight, you know, they've done so well in losing this weight. But, you know, a lot of them that present the clinic, but still don't have that metabolic flexibility. So once again, we're not talking about types of foods, other health habits, obviously you've got some nutrient deficiencies in some of these people, because they haven't had that education that sometimes slice and dice and unfortunately, it's not anyone's fault, not the individual’s fault. It's not the surgeons fault. There are some structures, which unfortunately means it is able to happen. But it's another one that comes to mind, it's not stuck in stone, things can definitely change to once again, get things heading back into the right direction, gaining the energy, improving your health. It's like one analogy I love is about a poker hand, similar to the genetics you spoke about. You can be dealt, not the best of hand, but if you play cards right, make an informed decision…definitely you can make some positive changes and win the game for lack of better word.
Dr Lucy Burns: (16:59) Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And that's exactly right. You can't always change the cards, you can't you know, you don't choose your parents. If your parents have type two diabetes, you will be genetically predispositioned to insulin resistance. Nothing you can do about that. Except manage it and optimise what you can by, you know, as we talk about low carb health, but strength training, sleeping well, managing stress, all of those things that people go “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and then don't do.
Kirsty Woods: (17:32) Yeah. And it's really interesting. The genetics versus lifestyle debate, so it's generally a bit of both. But people say, you know, my family's big, I'm big. But when you think about it, families also tend to have similar sorts of lifestyles. So once again, we need to think about what we can control to get the best outcomes.
Dr Lucy Burns: (17:52) Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, it's always helpful just to go okay, well, yeah, okay, maybe my family does have insulin resistance. That means for me, I, you know, I will definitely need to focus on low carb real food as my nutritional platform, making sure I'm getting all you know, the, you know, vegetables or and protein that I'm going to need in particular protein, because you know, we all love protein. But it also means that I'm going to have to be really mindful and make sure that I manage my stress well, and that I'm going to sleep well. And if I can't sleep, or I'm not sleeping, that I get that sorted, because it does make a difference.
Kirsty Woods: (18:27) Yeah, not saying it's simple, but definitely worth it, from what people tell us back in the clinic, as simple as, you know, having energy to play with the grandkids or sleeping all the night through - just all those little things, not being able to nap in the afternoon so that they can work, make money. It's different for every individual, but definitely worth it.
Dr Lucy Burns: (18:48) I'm so excited for your talk, like your talk is gonna be amazing. I think people's eyes will be wide open listening. Yeah, listening with their ears, looking with wide open eyes. Because you know, as you said, data doesn't lie. It can really just help, I guess change people's mindset. And this would be the thing that I think is really important - that we have been conditioned to focus purely on the scales for a long time. And still people do that as markers of health with measuring BMI and things like that. But, you know, you and I both know that there's a lot more to it.
Kirsty Woods: (19:25) Absolutely.
Dr Lucy Burns: (19:26) Kirsty if people want to find you, where do they find out about your clinic?
Kirsty Woods: (19:30) We have a website, metabolichealthsolutions.org and there's a clinic tab specifically about those. If there is any health professionals on the call, I also post case studies on Twitter to help understand a little bit more about that metabolic health direction and some of the upcoming research as well.
Dr Lucy Burns: (19:49) Excellent, excellent. Well, I will link all of those in the show notes for anybody who wants to go and have a look at those. And you know, I just think this whole it's going to be such a great conference, the idea that we've got doctors, we've got exercise physiologist, we've got dietitians, nutritionists, everyone coming together, all with this idea of really being able to help and empower people to make positive changes in their life that actually work. Like that's the thing - they actually work! So, yes, I'm looking forward to it and I will definitely be looking forward to seeing you on April the 23rd.
Kirsty Woods: (20:23)
Sounds brilliant. Thanks so much.
Dr Lucy Burns: (20:24)
Dr Lucy Burns: (20:32) So my lovely listeners, that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr Lucy Burns…
Dr Mary Barson: (20:39) and I'm Dr Mary Barson. We’re from Real Life Medicine. To contact us, please visit rlmedicine.com
Dr Lucy Burns: (20:50) And until next time…
Both: (20:52) Thanks for listening!
Dr Lucy Burns: (20:54) The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended, to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.