Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category
Very interesting report on what the blood panel looks like, year by year, for someone who has followed a LCHF diet for 8 years. From the link (where you can also find a chart showing the results from the blood panels):
The wild rumors about how dangerous LCHF is long term, don’t get validated in my blood work. After eight years on LCHF they are excellent, just as when I started. There simply aren’t any big changes during these years.
Many things are typical and the trends are also confirmed in studies on low-carb diets:
- Low triglycerides (good)
- Excellent HDL cholesterol levels
- Nice ApoB/AI ratio
- A low fasting blood sugar and a low HbA1c (good)
- Low, but normal, insulin levels, measured as C-peptide (probably excellent)
- A normal weight and a normal waist circumference
- A low and good blood pressure
To summarize, all problems associated with the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes usually improve on LCHF. Obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high insulin levels and dangerously disturbed cholesterol numbers (high triglycerides and low HDL).
My test results also show that the inflammatory level in the body – as measured CRP – is non-detectible on all test occasions.
With these results in mind the fantasy talk about long-term risks with LCHF doesn’t seem to be valid, at least not in my case. Perhaps you’ll have to put up with me for about 50 more years.
I’ve kept my weight at a normal weight level effortlessly and without any calorie counting during these years. I’ve gone up and down a few pounds within the normal range.
During my experiment with a strict LCHF diet and ketone measuring, I lost 12 lbs/5 kg. They came back when I returned to liberal LCHF, but disappeared again when I added 16:8.
My experience is that the latter is clearly the easier alternative. At least if you’re like me, and not that sensitive to carbohydrates. So I will continue with liberal LCHF with the addition of 16:8 on weekdays.
“16:8″ is a new term for me. It means that each day you fast for 16 hours and eat only during an 8-hour period. In practical terms, it boils down to skipping breakfast. I have been doing that off and on, and I think I’ll try it more seriously. (Another number pair I just learned: 5:2, which refers to eating normally for five days and then two days eating only 1/4 the normal amount of calories—that is, on two days, a typical woman will eat 500 calories each day and a typical man 600.
In Brazil: the payoff from the experiment will, I bet, greatly exceed its cost. I hope they’re tracking things like sick days, public health expense, average hospital duration, etc. The outcomes will be interesting.
Take a look at the graph below, showing my daily weights since starting this effort. I didn’t record any meals 19-22 because I was in Phoenix, and on the plane I read Taubes’s Why We Get Fat” and thought, “Makes sense.” So on the way to the airport for my flight home I had a Denny’s Meat-lover’s Omelette with no hash-browns and no toast, and I was off.
So starting at 23 May the weight-loss graph flattens out and takes some sharp jumps upward: I was figuring out how to eat the new way, and was stumbling somewhat in finding my footing.
But then it seems I catch on, and starting (really) at 5 June (the sharp drop on 6 June is an outlier), the trend is sharply down. And the strange thing is that (a) it’s not at all hard to minimize carbs (I’m averaging, per week for the last three, 21, 16, 17, in that order); and (b) that I’m not really hungry at all. That is, if I go to eat something, I can pretty much tell whether the motivating impulse is hunger or habit, and it’s increasingly easy to break the habit because I’m not hungry. If the snack doesn’t have the reward of assuaging hunger, it becomes less interesting. I suppose that I previously felt actual hunger when eating a diet substantially higher in carbs (if Taubes is right about what happens (why is not really relevant)), and feeling actually hungry not only motivated me to go get a snack (thus in time developing a habit), I also had the reward/reinforcement of assuaging actual hunger—hunger that I felt because my body fat was inaccessible for fuel because of a system glitch triggered by all the carbs. If I don’t get that reward, the snack’s not worth it.
I’m upping the carbs a bit today: don’t want to drop too fast. But I feel confident that the diet is safe—see this post.
UPDATE: The day after this post my weight jumped 4 pounds!I had eaten a bit more the previous day, but not that much more. But in looking through the foods, I noticed that I had eaten a 1-lb tub of Sonoma Brinery’s excellent chipotle sauerkraut. I thought it was a great deal: only 86 calories and only 6.2g net carbs. But, I now noticed, 3000mg sodium. Total sodium that day was 4500mg, minimum. No wonder my weight jumped: I was a water balloon. I have started watching sodium levels, and today I lost 2 of the 4 pounds. I imagine the rest will be gone before the weekend’s over.
It’s now been just over 10 weeks since I began this effort on 30 March. My goal was to lose 1.5 lbs/week. To date, actual weight loss has been 16.1 lbs over 10.57 weeks, which averages 1.52 lbs/week: pretty close close to goal. So I am still on track for reaching goal about 8:00 a.m. on 23 Dec, and indeed running slightly ahead of schedule at this point.
I think the low-carb way of eating has helped: it certainly mutes feelings of hunger between meals (though it does take some practice to distinguish the impulse of habit from a feeling of hunger). And certainly total daily calories are important: even though the low-carb foods seem festive, one cannot feast but instead must watch those total calories. But with those two things (along with keeping track: I find it awfully easy to fool myself without a timely record) have made a difference.
One very helpful tactic: each evening I open my calorie-tracking program (I use DietController, but Fitday.com and FatSecret.com offer much the same capabilities) and figure out what I’ll eat the next day. I first enter what I would like to eat, given what’s on hand, look at the calorie total, and then adjust items and quantities until the calorie total is about 200-300 calories below the limit. (I allow for a certain amount of calorie creep.) Then I try to match what I eat for the day to what I had planned to eat, adjusting the already-entered foods and amounts as needed.
This doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing: I lurch around a bit, as you can see from this graph:
I work on having an effort mindset, so I look at this as a record of learning. Mistakes offer great opportunities for learning, more (in most cases) than successes. And you can see in that cluster of above-the-line points that I did have to learn how to handle low-carb foods.
I’ve had a couple of recipes from this site and both have been good.
For a very solid and cogent rebuttal of the mechanism Gary Taubes proposes in his books (Good Calories, Bad Calories and, more recently, Why We Get Fat), see this column, and thanks to JVR for pointing.
I’ll point out a couple of things. First, the author is well-qualified: he’s an obesity researcher and neurobiologist. Some books on how diet affects us and how to tailor our diet for better health are written by authors with little background in (or knowledge of) nutrition and digestion and metabolism: authors such as heart surgeons, for example. (Taubes is a science journalist, so his work is specifically to interpret science for the general public.)
Dr. Guyenet starts by agreeing that LCHF (low-carb high-fat) diets do indeed work for very many. As we know from shaving, nothing you do works for everyone, so we each must experiment to find what works for us. But the efficacy of the LCHF diet is not at issue:
I’d like to begin by emphasizing that carbohydrate restriction has helped many people lose body fat and improve their metabolic health. Although it doesn’t work for everyone, there is no doubt that carbohydrate restriction causes fat loss in many, perhaps even most obese people. For a subset of people, the results can be very impressive. I consider that to be a fact at this point, but that’s not what I’ll be discussing here.
What he is discussing is the mechanism that prompts the body to eat and then to store the fat. The vulgar conception of the problem is that one eats more calories than he burns, but that begs the question: it’s simply restating the fact, and not in a helpful way. Whenever the body increases in size, it consumes more calories than it burns. Otherwise (duh) it would not increase in size. It happens in children when they grow taller and it happens in adults who get obese. Saying that eating more than you burn causes obesity, as an explanation, rates right up there with saying, “Huh! Well, if it’s not there, then someone took it.” Right, Sherlock. Thanks for the explanation.
The question is why does the body (a) eat all those calories and (b) not burn them. Taubes’s explanation is that eating carbohydrates and particularly easily digested carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereal, sugar in its many forms, potatoes) releases a flood of insulin, which acts to run on sugar (what carbs are digested into) and not on fat. So it burns through the sugar in our blood, converting the excess to fat, and protects the fat stores from use. The low-carb diet means that the body has to switch gears and start burning fat as the primary fuel.
Dr. Guyenet points to studies that show insulin is an inadequate explanation, and takes Taubes to task for not pointing to the brain rather than the pancreas, and in particular not mentioning leptin while dwelling on insulin. Guyenet makes the case that the problem that causes the body to start consuming and storing excess calories is a disfunction of leptin production.
Now the question becomes: what made leptin suddenly go wrong. As Guyenet points out,
The first part of this hypothesis states that energy balance is not the ultimate cause of fat gain, it’s the proximal cause. That is, Taubes is not disagreeing with the first law of thermodynamics: he understands that fat accumulation depends on how much energy is entering the body vs. leaving it. However, he feels that the entire industrialized world didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to eat more calories, therefore something must be driving the increased calorie consumption.
Guyelot’s point is not that Taubes in wrong in putting the question that way, nor is he wrong in advocating a(n) LCHF diet. He’s wrong in pointing to insulin (triggered by carbs) as the root of the problem. Leptin is closer to the root, but as pointed out in the comments, we now have to figure out what has caused the leptin to misbehave? Something in the environment (e.g., industrial toxins, pesticide residue on food, eating too many carbs, …) has thrown a monkey wrench into the system, and we don’t yet know for sure what it is. But we do know that a LCHF diet helps a lot of people. (Including epileptics, BTW: it’s a standard treatment for some forms of epilepsy.)
As Kurt Harris writes in comments:
“The brain is the primary homeostatic regulator of fat mass, just as it homeostatically regulates blood pressure, breathing rate, and body temperature…”
So onward in exploring what agents – whether nutritional, environmental or cultural – are causing the dysregulation of our brains.
UPDATE: I should perhaps note, BTW, that I am not especially bothered by this. It’s often difficult to figure out the chain of cause and effect, even though one has a good idea of what happens when and under what conditions. I studied Ptolemaic astronomy in college, and though the cycles and epicycles are not physically true, by using them one can indeed predict astronomical events and plot accurate courses. Taubes book is the Ptolemaic diet book: he seems to have the mechanisms wrong, but he tells a well-connected story and his dietary recommendations based on the (incorrect) theory do work for many. Certainly they seem to be working for me, and I do think it makes sense to regard fat as a food rather than an evil. Carbs are not evil, either, but on me they seem to have a bad effect (from whatever cause) if consumed in excess. So doling out carbs to myself seems a good course to follow.
First, radishes make great snacks: crunchy and with some zing and virtually no carbs and no calories. And, in addition, tonight I made Roast Chicken with Daikon. The daikon I cut like french fries as shown, and I find them extremely tasty. The Wife is a little more iffy. But I’ll be making this again. I spatchcocked the chicken, then cut it into the two halves and roasted those skin-side up. I went for at least an hour and perhaps 1 hour 20 minutes. The chicken was definitely cooked more that I would normally cook it, and it was much more tasty. The skin was chewier and almost caramelized.
Okay, I’m finding my footing. The key is that lunch must be a light meal: today, a tossed salad without meat. I think to keep the calorie count within limits lunch will generally be meatless.
The Wife needs car snacks for the drive home, so today I tried a few.
Wrap in a leaf of Romaine or leaf lettuce or endive:
a. roast beef wrapped around a little cheese (1/3 of a slice) with a smear of mustard.
b. lox smeared with some cream cheese and rolled up.
c. ham wrapped around a little cheese (1/3 of a slice) and rolled up.
That sort of thing. Anything to avoid carbs. I looked at a “bakery bar” at Peets this morning—an elongated cookie, by the look of it: 41 g of carbs, more than twice my current daily max.
Tomorrow I’m making roast chicken with daikon. Cute idea: daikon cut into sticks like french fries, with practically zero carbs: 12 oz raw daikon contains 14 g carbs minus 5 g fiber, resulting in 9 g net carbs.
I got the snack ideas from reading The New Atkins for a New You, by two MDs and a PhD (nutrition). You can tell the Atkins people have been at this a while: the book is excellent, well organized and anticipates all the common questions, which they’ve doubtless heard a lot over the past 40 years. The book reflects the accumulated experience and expertise. Recommended as a practical guide. (The Taubes book is more to provide the scientific justification for a low-carb high-fat diet.)
The Wife has joined me in the low-carb diet. I have been having sort of a plateau, and in looking at total daily calories, I can see why. The low-carb menu includes many foods I had more or less avoided because of their fat content—but those foods contain zero (or very few) carbs, so are appropriate to my current diet. But I had become accustomed to eating such foods on at feasts of one sort or another, so I lapsed into the “feast” attitude when they appeared on my daily menu.
Not good. Keeping carbs low is well and good (yesterday’s net carbs was 12g), but it’s also important to keep total daily calories at a reasonable level. (Yesterday’s totaled 2175—I should be keeping total daily calories below 1500 to meet my goal of 175 lbs on Dec 23).
So I’m doing a little reset and checking amounts more carefully. My goal is to do a week where each day is less than 20g net carbs and less than 1500 calories.
In spite of setbacks, I am still no longer obese, merely overweight: BMI this morning of 29.7.
UPDATE: I just checked. The meals following the gap are my meals since I returned from Phoenix. The line is the upper limit on daily calories to achieve goal (the right-most data point is today, and I’ve entered what I ate for breakfast along with what I plan to eat the rest of the day):
I find it interesting to look at how the initial efforts are erratic and then it smooths out—I’ve seen that pattern repeatedly, which is the pattern of learning. The upsurge on the 12, 13, and 14 of May was due to some chocolate truffles I shared with The Wife. I had trouble pacing the consumption. The gap is when I was away, and I kept no track of meals then.
I found a good recipe here, and so I adapted it more to my taste: Sausage & Egg Breakfast Bites Makes 9 squares, each one containing a smidge more than 1 egg.
- 1 small bunch lacinato kale
- 1-2 Tbsp oil (I used ghee)
- 1/4 c finely diced onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-2 cups of crumbled, uncooked sausage
- 10 eggs
- a small bunch of parsley or other fresh herb (tarragon, perhaps)
- 3/4 c. grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese
- several good grindings black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
You can optionally add pepper sauce as desired. (I’d go at least 1 Tbsp, but suit yourself.)
Preheat the oven to 375ºF and grease an 8×8 pan..
Remove the stems from the kale and then slice it into thin strips or chop it small.
Sauté kale and onion in oil or butter over medium heat for several minutes, then add the crumbled sausage and the garlic.
Continue to sauté until sausage is basically cooked, then turn off heat. Let that cool for a while.
Whisk the eggs, then stir in the parsley, onion, garlic, kale, and sausage. Mix well.
Add the cheese. Mix well.
Pour into the greased 8×8 pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. When you shake the pan, the middle should remain still, not jiggle.
Let cool slightly before cutting into squares. Cut twice vertically to make 3 columns, turn pan 90º and cut twice vertically to produce the 9 squares.
As I figure it: Each square has 250 calories, along with 1.8 g carbs and 0.3 g fiber, so 1.5 g net carbs per square.
For tonight, I made a variation of this 6-hour pork roast. [Update: Six hours my ass. More like 3.5-hour roast pork. Probably the oven at 275ºF is too hot. Try 200ºF: that's the same as "Low" on a slow cooker. I used a thermometer to determine when pork roast was done.] So far today: 14g net carbs. After some of the roast and 2 c of salad, the day’s total will be 28g carbs and 11g fiber, or 17g net carbs: comfortably under the 20 carb target.
It feels weird to eat foods like these breakfast bites and the pork roast because I’ve been so thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea that eating fat will make me fat, which is a silly idea if your total daily calorie intake is reasonable. Even with the (false) idea that all calories are alike, eating fat should have been deemed okay to eat. But somehow we had the idea that eating fat will make us fat—as if eating starches made us starchy, or eating sugar made us sweet. A lot happens before food—whatever it is—becomes body fat, including digesting it and metabolizing it. And simple carbs—foods using refined flour and or sugar of one form or another (soft drinks, for example, or candy)—flip a switch in the system that results in protecting the stores body fat, preferentially burning sugars from the carbs. So excess calories are stored as fat, which (since your body can’t use that fat) simply accumulates: you can’t makes use of it if your diet is high in carbs. So once the sugar burns off, with no access to your stored fat you’re hungry again. So you eat more carbs… It’s a vicious circle. Thus the low-carb diet. People really should read Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat.
One thing that now makes sense: why fat tastes so good. Probably it’s because it was a major source of calories as we evolved. Those who developed a taste for it fared better.
UPDATE: BTW, there are vegetarian and vegan low-carb diets, as well.
UPDATE 2: It occurs to me that modern agronomy and food processing methods have exposed a bug, as it were, in our digestive/metabolic/storage system. Evolution never tested for high fructose corn syrup or refined sugar or white flour or the like. The result is like when a programmer forgets to consider the effect of negative numbers in an input field resulting in program failure. But since evolution doesn’t think, just operates mechanically on the next step, it can hardly be blamed. And in any event, evolution is fixing the bug that right now: people whom the new diet sickens will not be so successful, overall, as those who can handle the new diet (or avoid the new diet), and so that particular metabolic weakness will select out a subgroup, and as favorable mutations randomly occur, the capacity to live well on such foods will fare relatively better. It’s slow, but what’s a few hundred thousand years? (If we last that long, which seems unlikely.)
But our body’s reaction to a high-carb diet is indeed a problem for our ability to function, and thus it does engage the slow-grinding wheels of evolution to begin work toward a solution. What we’re seeing is evolution in action: those less able to find a solution will not succeed so well as the others.
It’s definitely a bug: unexpected input blows the program out of the water.
UPDATE 3: I should note that a vegan approach to a low-carb diet is perfectly feasible.
The game goal in Go is to get more points than your opponent. The trick is that you get one point for each captured stone and also one point for each point of territory. Focusing only on the one or the other is suboptimal: you have to find the best mix, given the situation in the particular game you’re playing. Similarly, the low-carb diet means that you keep total net carbs low, but (as I’m learning) you also have to keep total calories low. Yesterday’s baby back ribs added up to too many calories.
So with low-carb, it’s not as though you can simply forget about calories: they still have the same meaning. You just shift the source a bit.
I am still learning, so I thought a post about some of the things I’ve learned would help me organize it in my own head. I’m blogging my experience mainly to get the word out. It almost seems as if the USDA Food Pyramid, with its heavy emphasis on grains and carbohydrates, was designed to promote a way of eating that benefits producers rather than consumers, especially since counterexamples and disconfirming evidence regarding a diet whose major component is high-carbohydrate foods have been well known to researchers for decades, as Taubes recounts in his book Why We Get Fat, a book I strongly recommend.
Note: When I say a “low-carb” diet, I follow common usage and mean low net carbs—that is, grams of total carbohydrates minus grams of fiber (since fiber has no metabolic impact). So when you see “low carb,” think “low net carbs.” Some carbs have more serious metabolic impacts than others: refined sugars, particularly fructose, have worse effects than (say) the carbs in broccoli (1/2 cup of frozen, chopped, steamed broccoli has 4.9 g carbs, but 2.8 g is dietary fiber, so net carbs amount to 2.1 g). Similarly, while fat is now simply considered a food (rather than an evil), there still are some fats to avoid: cottonseed oil, soybean oil (which, like high fructose corn syrup (a bad carb) seems to be in everything now), peanut oil, and others. Reasons are given in Why We Get Fat and also in The New Atkins for a New You, which I also recommend. The Atkins people have been working on low (net) carb diets for 40 years, and that experience results in quite a polished book.
I have found these distinct groups, and doubtless there are more:
Paleo diet: As the name indicates, the idea is to eat only foods that Paleolithic humans would have eaten. Unfortunately, the idea collapses immediately: no effort is made (so far as I can tell) to eat only the wild cultivars from which domestic crops (cabbage, say, or celery, or Brussels sprouts (developed in the 13th century), or broccoli, etc.) were bred. I’m assured that one need not take it to this extreme, but then why the name? I found it frustrating and misleading and quickly decided that for a literal-minded person, trying to eat Paleolithic foods doesn’t work. Sauerkraut, for example, would not be allowed even though the carb content is low: one serving has but 7g of carbs—and also 4g of fiber, so only 3g of net carbs. (Paleolithic humans, even if they had cabbage or a cabbage ancestor, would scarcely have the tools and insight to ferment the shredded plant to make sauerkraut.) I suppose we are not to take the name literally, but then why give it such a name?
Primal diet: The same idea as the Paleo diet, so far as I can tell, though less strict and going beyond just the food to replicate the level and types of activity and the like. Here’s a good rundown.
Whole30: Dropping the historical allusions and focusing on the foods, Whole30 (the name refers to a 30-day challenge to get one into the plan) is an aggressively low-carb diet that rejects all dairy products—not because they sometimes are relatively high in net carbs (lactose is a sugar), but just because. Here are the rules (PDF).
Low-carb diet: This diet focuses on the macronutrients without worrying about the historical origins of the food. You can eat pretty much what you want, so long as the proportion of carbs is kept suitably low. (Note that this diet is actually low-carb and also high-fat: a diet that’s both low-card and low-fat is dangerous—cf. rabbit starvation, aka mal de caribou.) Beans, for example, could be eaten, but you would have to be careful: 6 oz of cooked black beans have 41g of carbs, though also 15g of fiber—still, that is 26g net carbs. If you’re trying to keep carbs under 50g/day (currently, I’m going for 20g net carbs for at least a month, and then will gradually increase carbs/day to find how much I can safely handle), that’s a lot. So beans might be avoided initially not because Paleolithic humans didn’t eat them, but because they are relatively high-carb. Here’s a good rundown on a low-carb, high-fat diet. And it’s important to know that a vegan/vegetarian low-carb diet is perfectly possible.
JH2 in a comment pointed out this page, which shows various ranges of daily carb intake (using net carbs: total carbs minus fiber):
300 or more grams/day – Danger Zone!
Easy to reach with the “normal” American diet (cereals, pasta, rice, bread, waffles, pancakes, muffins, soft drinks, packaged snacks, sweets, desserts). High risk of excess fat storage, inflammation, increased disease markers including Metabolic Syndrome or diabetes. Sharp reduction of grains and other processed carbs is critical unless you are on the “chronic cardio” treadmill (which has its own major drawbacks).
150-300 grams/day – Steady, Insidious Weight Gain
Continued higher insulin-stimulating effect prevents efficient fat burning and contributes to widespread chronic disease conditions. This range – irresponsibly recommended by the USDA and other diet authorities – can lead to the statistical US average gain of 1.5 pounds of fat per year for forty years. [FWIW, if you stuck with Soylent as your food and ate it for three meals a day, that would be 228g of net carbs daily. - LG]
100-150 grams/day – Primal Blueprint Maintenance Range
This range based on body weight and activity level. When combined with Primal exercises, allows for genetically optimal fat burning and muscle development. Range derived from Grok’s (ancestors’) example of enjoying abundant vegetables and fruits and avoiding grains and sugars.
50-100 grams/day – Primal Sweet Spot for Effortless Weight Loss
Minimizes insulin production and ramps up fat metabolism. By meeting average daily protein requirements (.7 – 1 gram per pound of lean bodyweight formula), eating nutritious vegetables and fruits (easy to stay in 50-100 gram range, even with generous servings), and staying satisfied with delicious high fat foods (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds), you can lose one to two pounds of body fat per week and then keep it off forever by eating in the maintenance range.
0-50 grams/day – Ketosis and Accelerated Fat Burning
Acceptable for a day or two of Intermittent Fasting towards aggressive weight loss efforts, provided adequate protein, fat and supplements are consumed otherwise. May be ideal for many diabetics. Not necessarily recommended as a long-term practice for otherwise healthy people due to resultant deprivation of high nutrient value vegetables and fruits.
Ketogenic diet: This is simply the low-carb diet with severe carb restrictions. The Atkins plan’s phase 1 (“induction”) limits net carbs to 20g/day, and so is a ketogenic diet, but in later phases the plan has you gradually introduce more carbs to find what you can handle: see this page. (Use the menu at the top for more detail on the 4 phases.)
Since I really do not see why dairy products should be excluded—though obviously one must keep track of their carbs. (Dairy products lack fiber, so total carbs = net carbs for them.) But if you’re tracking the carbs, why not dairy? The fact that Paleolithic humans had no dairy cuts no ice with me. They also didn’t have (say) Scotch.
This page lists 5 common mistaken beliefs (called “lies” in the post: the Internet tends to be inflammatory) about nutrition along with some very useful links to reference articles—for example, this New Scientist article.
UPDATE: Steve of Kafeneio points out a very interesting article in this regard. From that article:
- Recognize that the overall pattern of the diet matters
- Recognize that the best way to avoid bad foods is to eat good foods instead
- Talk about nutrients less, and foods more
- Acknowledge that the quantity of calories does, of course, count
- Acknowledge that the quality of calories does also, of course, count
- Acknowledge that the best way to control the quantity of calories without being hungry forever is to improve the quality of those calories
- Acknowledge that daily use of feet and forks does involve personal choice, and thus requires personal responsibility
- Acknowledge that to be responsible for anything, people need to be suitably empowered
- Acknowledge that choices we make are in turn dependent on choices we have- both need to be good
- Acknowledge that impulses related to food are deeply rooted in both biology and culture, and thus hard to change
- Acknowledge that culture must adapt to compensate for Stone Age biological impulses that otherwise do harm — whether they are about sex, or food, or anything else
- Acknowledge that no one thing is THE thing wrong with our diets, and no one food or nutrient change will fix it all
- Acknowledge that we need to change the world around us, but can’t just wait on the world to change; in the meantime, we need to empower, and change, ourselves
- Acknowledge that most expert opinion and the weight of scientific evidence support a basic set of fundamentals of healthful eating
- Recognize that the imperfect knowledge we have of optimal nutrition is still enough to eradicate 80 percent of the total chronic disease burden. If ever there was a case not to make perfect the enemy of good, this is it
- Emphasize to the public what we know best and agree on most about healthful eating, rather than an endless “my diet can beat your diet” parade of contestants
- Work out what we don’t know, while applying to good effect what we do
- Establish a reliable, objective, operationally useful definition of junk food- and then ban all of it. Junk is not food, and food is not junk.
- Identify gaps in the prevailing skill set for healthful living, and establish programs to fill those gaps in all of the relevant settings: schools, work sites, churches, restaurants, cyberspace, supermarkets, and so on.
- Keep pushing on the food supply to change, but take better advantage of the most effective, least contentious way of changing it: changing our demand.
- For fully fleshed out approaches to these and related ideas, see:
- Fixing Obesity
- Obesity Be Damned: What Will It Take to Turn the Tide
- What If? I New Year’s Public Health Reverie
- I Love You, Have Another Helping
- Why Holistic Nutrition Is the Best Approach
- Fixing Food Stamps for All? Could Be a SNAP
UPDATE: Some other good books I’ve found:
I just looked around for a list of side-effects because I’ve gotten a headache the last three days. Onset is in late morning, and normally I don’t get headaches. I found this:
Being in ketosis can cause headaches for some people. You may also feel a little lightheaded, and may experience some flu-like symptoms for a few days. Up your salt and water intake, and power through it, if you can. It will get better after 3-4 days. If it doesn’t, add a little more carb to your daily total. This is one of those low carb diet side effects for which I don’t have a solid explanation, and it seems to vary by person.
More information here, with other side-effects listed. And one important note:
It’s also really important to eat at least 2 cups of raw green leafy vegetables every day. These vegetables provide potassium and vitamin K, and will also help with hunger.
I guess I should point out that I use “diet” to mean “what you eat,” as in the Mediterranean diet, or the common American diet, or whatever. So my current diet is low in carbs: for a while, less than 20 grams per day of net carbs. (Net carbs = grams of carbs minus grams of fiber.)
I was astonished this morning to weigh and find myself 1.6 lbs lighter than yesterday morning. I get the idea that the body preferentially burns calories from carbs since those are quickly digested and rush into the bloodstream, triggering an insulin release that then stores calories from the less quickly digested fats. Once you restrict carbs to a low level, the body switches to burning fat, and apparently decides, “Well, if we’re going to be burning fat, I have a lot of that on hand, so I’ll start using that…” The reason, Taubes explains, why obese people eat a lot is that they are very hungry: the body’s systems are diverting calories to fat storage and (because of the insulin thing) not willing to burn those calories. So the obese take in more food, triggering insulin, burning some carbs and storing the rest as more fat, leaving the person quickly hungry again. The key to the fat vault is lost. See this recent NY Times op-ed for more info.
On the trip I read Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes. As he explains, this book is more or less the Cliff Notes version of his earlier and longer work Good Calories, Bad Calories, which I read some years back and found impressive. The link to GC, BC is to inexpensive secondhand editions—though I would recommend his newer book because in condensing the arguments he made in the earlier book, he made them sharper and more cogent: a kind of distillation of the findings.
The problem with cutting back on fat is, as Marion Nestle points out, is that you cannot cut back fat without increasing the proportion of carbs and protein—and a carb-heavy diet (cf. Dean Ornish, Pritikin, et al.) triggers a cascade of reactions in the systems in the body that lead ultimately to obesity and very ill health. The reason—as Taubes explains, with many references to actual studies—is that the digestion of carbohydrates fills the system with sugars, which triggers insulin to burn the sugar and store the fat, so that people (as you see) get fatter and fatter and fatter, even if they cut drastically back on calories. Programmers in particular will understand how the system is working: given the inputs, the processes and outputs are inevitable.
The answer is to cut back carbohydrates drastically. This is not a problem for those who eat meat—indeed, Taubes describes one experiment in which two men voluntarily lived for a year, eating nothing but meat (and fat) and gained no weight and suffered no problems: they remained perfectly healthy. Vegetarians face a bit more of a challenge, but the Atkins site has guidelines for vegetarians and vegans. It also some good free tools for those following the Atkins low-car plan and an enormous collection of low-carb recipes.
I like the way Atkins uses a 4-stop process, starting with a first steop (“induction”) in which your diet is very low in carbs (a limit of 20 gramsof “net carbs” (grams of carbs minus grams of fiber) per day) for the first two or three months and then a limit of 50 grams. You can eat all the protein and fat that you want. The site explains it well.
I highly recommend Why We Get Fat: Taubes makes his case well. And if you want the Cliff Notes version of of that book, try the 99¢ Kindle book Key insights from Why We Get Fat – And What to Do About It. That will give you enough information to decide whether to give it a go. I’m doing it, and I started on the trip—e.g., for breakfast yesterday I stopped at a Denny’s and had their “meat-lover’s omelette”—but without the potatoes or toast. It was very filling, and I’m sure quite a few calories, but this morning I found that my weight is down after the trip.
Meat Lover’s Omelette
Three-egg omelette with prime rib, crumbled chorizo sausage, bacon, fire-roasted bell peppers and onions, and a smoky cheese blend covered with Pepper Jack queso.
Served with Hash Browns or grits and choice of bread. [I didn't get those - LG]
And fortunately the baby back ribs I plan for Memorial Day fit right in with the plan. Tonight I’m making Stretch’s Chicken Savoy along with a salad. Diet Controller automatically analyzes the foods I enter, so finding the grams of carbohydrates and fiber for a meal and a day is not problem at all.
UPDATE: Alterations to Stretch’s Chicken Savoy recipe: Roast for 20 minutes, not 25. Use only 1/2 c red wine vinegar. Remove chicken from skillet before pouring off the grease. (That last is obvious, but somehow they seem to have poured of the grease without the chicken pieces spilling out; I didn’t even try.)
My BMI this morning is 29.9: thus I am overweight, not obese. Weight in pounds: 220.7.
BMI - Weight Status
Below 18.5 - Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 – Normal
25.0 – 29.9 – Overweight
30.0 & over – Obese
It took 7 weeks; that is why patience is useful.
Probably the two most useful discoveries: drink miso broth to satisfying hunger cravings between meals, and postpone meals to avoid evening snacking. (Since I am retired, I can readily put off breakfast until 10:00 or 11:00, putting lunch around 2:00 or 3:00 and dinner around 7:00.) Right now I’m enjoying a cup of miso broth (with instant dashi) as a morning treat, satisfying my appetite.
1.5 Tbsp miso
0.5 tsp instant dashi
about 2 cups hot water (I use a 16 oz mug)
Put miso and instant dashi in cup, add a little water, and use a small whisk to mix. Then fill cup with hot water, stir, and enjoy.
UPDATE: I will add that using Diet Controller ($5 in the App store for Macbook; equivalents everywhere: FitDay.com, etc.) scrupulously has really helped me learn to manage my diet. Indeed, this chart clearly shows learning takng place:
And I admit that the various graphs and charts are no small part of the appeal—and usefulness.
The common wisdom is that overeating causes obesity, but there is increasing evidence that the causation primarily goes in the other direction: obesity causes overeating, a vicious cycle that is hard to break. David Ludwig and Mark Friedman write in the NY Times:
FOR most of the last century, our understanding of the cause of obesity has been based on immutable physical law. Specifically, it’s the first law of thermodynamics, which dictates that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. When it comes to body weight, this means that calorie intake minus calorie expenditure equals calories stored. Surrounded by tempting foods, we overeat, consuming more calories than we can burn off, and the excess is deposited as fat. The simple solution is to exert willpower and eat less.
The problem is that this advice doesn’t work, at least not for most people over the long term. In other words, your New Year’s resolution to lose weight probably won’t last through the spring, let alone affect how you look in a swimsuit in July. More of us than ever are obese, despite an incessant focus on calorie balance by the government, nutrition organizations and the food industry.
But what if we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?
The more calories we lock away in fat tissue, the fewer there are circulating in the bloodstream to satisfy the body’s requirements. If we look at it this way, it’s a distribution problem: We have an abundance of calories, but they’re in the wrong place. As a result, the body needs to increase its intake. We get hungrier because we’re getting fatter.
It’s like edema, a common medical condition in which fluid leaks from blood vessels into surrounding tissues. No matter how much water they drink, people with edema may experience unquenchable thirst because the fluid doesn’t stay in the blood, where it’s needed. Similarly, when fat cells suck up too much fuel, calories from food promote the growth of fat tissue instead of serving the energy needs of the body, provoking overeating in all but the most disciplined individuals.
We discuss this hypothesis in an article just published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association. According to this alternative view, factors in the environment have triggered fat cells in our bodies to take in and store excessive amounts of glucose and other calorie-rich compounds. Since fewer calories are available to fuel metabolism, the brain tells the body to increase calorie intake (we feel hungry) and save energy (our metabolism slows down). Eating more solves this problem temporarily but also accelerates weight gain. Cutting calories reverses the weight gain for a short while, making us think we have control over our body weight, but predictably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more.
Consider fever as another analogy. A cold bath will lower body temperature temporarily, but also set off biological responses — like shivering and constriction of blood vessels — that work to heat the body up again. In a sense, the conventional view of obesity as a problem of calorie balance is like conceptualizing fever as a problem of heat balance; technically not wrong, but not very helpful, because it ignores the apparent underlying biological driver of weight gain. . .
Regarding my own weight loss, this morning I am down to 221.3, which is exactly 8 ounces into obesity. Once I lose 8 more ounces, I will have a BMI of 29.9: overweight, not obese. (Obesity is when the BMI is 30.0 or greater.) FWIW, my goal has been to lose 1.5 lb/week. I’m now 11 weeks into the effort, and my weight loss averages 1.6 lb/week. Not bad, and the little $5 program Diet Controller (in the App Store for Macbook) has been an enormous help.
I do know how to lose weight now, thanks to the regimen of a few years ago which taught me the necessary skills by having me practice them for months. (One important skill I learned was patience: not to bail out at setbacks.) But I have now learned that for me it is important to track my intake or it slides into dangerous territory. And in fact recording my meals turns out to be easy and allows me more control. Without the recording of intake—well, for me it’s like driving a card with no speedometer. I have the illusion that I can regulate my speed to road conditions and traffic, but out on a four-lane highway it’s easy for me to find myself going over 80 mph. With a speedometer I can track and thus regulate my speed. By recording my intake, I can regulate that.
I have now been using Diet Controller on my MacBook for exactly 6 weeks. My starting weight was 232.5 and this morning I weighed 223.0, so 9.5 lbs lost in 6 week. My goal was to lose 1.5 lbs/week, so I’m pretty much on target. I felt for the past week that my weight hasn’t really budged, but in fact it was only 5 days and the weight was very gradually dropping.
I did learn enough from my previous weight loss to know to ignore plateaus and just keep up with the discipline, which I’ve gradually (re)learned. You can track my learning by looking at the calorie balance chart. Calorie balance = calories burned minus calories consumed, so positive is good, negative is bad. The red shaded are denotes more calories consumed than burned, and the area above that denotes that I burned more than I consumed, but not enough more to meet my 1.5 lb/week goal. The calorie balance to meet the goal must fall above both shaded areas:
Notice how I improved as I got more experience and practice.
My weight jumps around. In the chart below note that before today I had five days in which my weight remained between 224 and 225—days in which I felt like I would never see my weight drop. Though it was only five days I felt like I was making no progress at all (especially since I had dropped to the 223 range just before). But here is where experience gave me patience, and you’ll note that my calorie balance has been good for the past 11 days. I knew if I just maintained good meal discipline the weight would eventually drop. But it’s odd how 5 days can feel like weeks—a good reason to keep track and review data.
The weekly average, though, smooths out the readings considerably. The weekly averages, in chronological order:
A very rapid drop at first, and then slower. But, on the whole, I’m staying below the line:
Count me out. The blurb:
A mere six-pack doesn’t cut it in Hollywood anymore. Today’s male stars need 5 percent body fat, massive pecs, and the much-coveted inguinal crease – regardless of what it takes to get there.
I am enjoying at my weight-loss project, which will take me to my goal weight of 175 lbs (I’m 6′ tall) by December 23, according to my Diet Controller program (from App Store for Macbook, $5).
Earlier I mentioned how I had worked out for myself the well-known idea of eating only when you’re actually hungry: I had found that by delaying my meals until I really craved them—hunger-based eating rather than clock-based—I was above to eliminate late-night snacks: the evening meal itself was late enough that I didn’t feel hunger before going to bed. After doing this for a week or so, I can now tell whether I’m hungry or not. That is, I have relearned the feeling of hunger.
Last night 2 or 3 hours after dinner, I had a real hankering for a half-cup of the chicken salad I made, but by knowing what being hungry feels like, I could tell that the impulse to eat the chicken salad wasn’t coming from hunger but from wanting the taste, mouth-feel, and chewing: all centered in my mouth. Not real hunger, which is centered in the belly. So I’m had a (one-pint) cup of beef broth with hot sauce and a splash of sherry: tasty, warm, and fills the stomach. It was fully satisfying. (It’s interesting to see how corporations have exploited that mouth-feel hunger to push more calories into us. See this article on how junk-food companies manipulate your tongue.)
Broths are the dieter’s friend. Indeed, I would expect that some “health juice” brand like Odwalla to put out a line of tasty and healthful (and low-calorie) broths to heat and drink—Campbell’s consomme is not bad, but broths can be made in a wide variety (fish, various vegetable combinations, chicken, beef, and so on). Of course, they’re also easy to make at home, and I’ll be cooking my greens in more water to have the broth (aka pot liquor) as a between-meal beverage.
It’s also interesting to look at the weekly averages shown in the Calendar view of the program. You can specify what items the Calendar tracks—I track just weight and calories—and the Calendar is a month view that includes a column of weekly averages of those values. Friday’s calories are entered because I was planning my meals for tomorrow to check how the weekly average would turn out. Click screenshot to enlarge.
The weekly average weight provides the same benefit as weighing once a week, but is more accurate, being based on daily weighings. In glancing down it you see your week-to-week progress.
The calorie figures are shown in black if they are above the calorie goal and green if they are at or below calorie goal. The first two weeks the weekly average calorie figures were black, but without really trying, just basing my actions on the on-going feedback from the program, the third week’s average calories was green, and I can see that this week’s will be as well: I’m seeing progress in learning the limits.
The feedback really helps, much as a person learning to shoot free throws gets better because he gets good information from each shot, whether the shot is made or not, which helps in making the next shot better. It’s a learning thing.
The graph of the daily calorie deficits is also helpful, and looking at the figures over the past 20 days makes dieting feel more like a baseball series: winning or losing an individual game (in this case, whether the calorie count for the day is black (a loss) or green (a win)) is not that important. What is important is winning more games than you lose. It keeps the occasional bad day (Easter Sunday dinner, for example) in perspective: you’re going for the series, the long haul.
My focus is really the calorie deficit—what they call the calorie balance: calories burned minus calories consumed. Positive is good, negative is bad. When I put in my weight goal and the amount I was targeting to lose a week, Diet Controller computed my calorie target (based on my activity level: sedentary) and includes targets in its graphs, like this one:
As you can see, performance is gradually improving as I learn and adjust. Shaky beginning (the red zone is when the calorie deficit goes negative) but I’m starting to hit the diet-plan target more frequently.
I certainly can see that I use things I learned in my previous big effort, and the program’s tracking and charting data helps provide the feedback to improve performance. I can see that after I hit the target weight I will continue a while, aiming at a calorie deficit of zero each day, but focusing a lot on keeping the weekly averages good.