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One Big Mac plus another Big Mac....
May 16, 2012 11:31 AM   Subscribe

That the conventional wisdom of 3,500 calories less is what it takes to lose a pound of weight is wrong. The body changes as you lose. Interestingly, we also found that the fatter you get, the easier it is to gain weight. An extra 10 calories a day puts more weight onto an obese person than on a thinner one.

Carson C. Chow deploys mathematics to solve the everyday problems of real life. As an investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, he tries to figure out why 1 in 3 Americans are obese.

Here is a link to the LBM Body Weight Simulator.
posted by Ruthless Bunny (125 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dr. Chow, a mathematician, has found that a food glut is behind America’s weight problem.

Eponysterical?
posted by Fizz at 11:43 AM on May 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


I'm always surprised to learn that people still believe that calories in = calories out is a valuable way to approach weight loss. The first law of thermodynamics provides a good description of what is going on but is pretty much useless as a weight loss principle. Why? Because your body has plenty of ways to become more or less efficient at using up calories you ingest -- you can expend more energy as heat, or excrete more of it as waste products. So calories in = calories out is still true, but you and I could be eating the same amount of calories, but partitioning it very differently -- I could be putting more of it in my fat cells, for example, and you could be sending more of it to your muscles to do useful work.
posted by peacheater at 11:46 AM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


fuck it, I'm getting all my nutrients in the form of a thin paste form now on.
posted by The Whelk at 11:46 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't believe it. Anecdata: My friend switched from skim milk to whole milk, lost ten pounds, and has stayed that way for years (still drinking whole milk).

Also this: "Huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same. This is because a person’s body will respond slowly to the food intake."

So adaptation is slow. Adaptation is mediated. There must be other levers besides calories! I think burning stuff in a bomb calorimeter and assigning a number and relating that number to what people eat and then correlating that with people's weight over time is a red herring.

Check out the arguments these guys make, for example: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/
posted by zeek321 at 11:47 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Beginning in the 1970s, there was a change in national agricultural policy. Instead of the government paying farmers not to engage in full production, as was the practice, they were encouraged to grow as much food as they could.

So, unintended consequences of government policy seem to be largely responsible for the obesity epidemic.
posted by John Cohen at 11:48 AM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is useful information for those who worry that occasional feasts on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas pose a major barrier to their efforts to lose weight:
Huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same. This is because a person’s body will respond slowly to the food intake.
posted by John Cohen at 11:49 AM on May 16, 2012


(I should clarify, I believe this guy's model, but I think calorie restriction as a strategy to lose weight is crazy.)
posted by zeek321 at 11:49 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lost a lot of weight after switching from whole milk to heavy cream btw, and that's because of the nature of calories, not the amount. So I agree with you zeek321 (I think). The nature of the calories you eat is very very important. I don't understand why everyone is so stuck on this calories is the only thing that matters paradigm.
posted by peacheater at 11:49 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]



As a person who is losing weight very slowly on a low carb diet, it's encouraging for me to see that there's a reason progress is so slow.

I can keep on keeping on, and occasionally deviate from my meal plan and not freak out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:52 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where does the 3,500 number come from? The numbers I remember growing up were something like 2000 and 2300 for females and males, respectively. Are things just being calculated differently?
posted by curious nu at 11:55 AM on May 16, 2012


So, unintended consequences of government policy [PLEASE CHOOSE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING] [ Eating too much. / Not eating enough. / Exercising too much. / Not exercising enough. / Food desserts. / Cylons. / Hipsters. / Commercials. / Too much government. / Not enough government. / Lack of parenting. / Too much money. / Not enough money. / All of the above. / None of the above. ] seem to be largely responsible for the obesity epidemic.
posted by Fizz at 11:55 AM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I would just keep on keeping on Ruthless Bunny. I've lost 60 lbs on my low-carb diet, and I intend to eat this way pretty much permanently (with occasional diversions) and this last 10 lbs is taking forever. I'm well into normal BMI now though, but I sure would like to lose just a little bit more. This just may be what my body wants to be at while eating low-carb though -- it's not like you can just lose to whatever weight you'd like either.
posted by peacheater at 11:56 AM on May 16, 2012


I don't know how that interviewer and interviewee got through that entire interview without mentioning the gut microbiota. Does his model ignore gut microbiota because there's no convenient way to assess them? That seems disastrously incomplete.

There's a lot of evidence (growing every year because this is a hot field) that gut microbiota influence weight gain enormously, and one's microbiota are determined by a complicated combination of factors from our environment, including the types of foods we eat.
posted by gurple at 11:56 AM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I lost a lot of weight after switching from whole milk to heavy cream btw,
This is the first I've heard of this. Where does the justification come from? Do you just end up having less because it's so rich? I can't imagine gaining weight from drinking water instead of milk, for example.
posted by smidgen at 11:57 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think this is very interesting, though I suspect there are aspects that his model has had to elide over. The only thing I would seriously disagree with is this: If food were expensive, you couldn’t have fast food, because prepared food readily available for sale has been a part of many societies for millennia, even when food has been more expensive in relation to its price in America today. If he's using fast food to mean large quantities, or cheaply satisfying but high in calories, that's different, but he doesn't really address what's changed in our food since then aside from its relative abundance.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:57 AM on May 16, 2012


Some of the things he says matches my personal experience. I porked up while working a desk job and then lost all the extra weight while unloading trucks. I got a desk job again and it took about three years to get back to my previous fatness. I'm losing again and finding that it really is the long view and overall changes in habits that make a difference and not the occasional "EAT ALL THE THINGS" days that occur on special occasions.
posted by charred husk at 11:57 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, unintended consequences of government policy seem to be largely responsible for the obesity epidemic.

It's my understanding that a lot of America's surplus food is sent to other countries (IIRC we're by far the largest exporter of food in the world). Besides, it's not necessarily the amount of food Americans are eating, it's that most of the food we eat is extremely unhealthy.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:59 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't understand why everyone is so stuck on this calories is the only thing that matters paradigm.
Uhm, because it's simple and intuitive? Energy in, energy out.

It ends up being that the amount of water you can bring to a boil by burning a gram of food isn't directly proportional to how much energy your body gains by absorbing.

Talking about "good calories" and "bad calories", though, has a strong whiff of bullshit. A calorie is a measurement of energy. Whether your body is more efficient at absorbing carbs than fats is different story.
posted by pmv at 11:59 AM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I lost a lot of weight after switching from whole milk to heavy cream btw,

My understanding is that if you eat too many carbs your body can't get rid of all of the excess and they get turned into saturated fat because your body has to do something with them. If you eat less carbs and more fat (so you're still getting enough calories) then you're utilizing multiple metabolic pathways in parallel, so nothing is overloaded, and your body has an easier time regulating your weight and energy expenditure. I'm sure a million other things are going on too, with insulin, leptin, etc.

IANAD, just a random hack.
posted by zeek321 at 12:00 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the first I've heard of this. Where does the justification come from? Do you just end up having less because it's so rich? I can't imagine gaining weight from drinking water instead of milk, for example.
To a first approximation, yes. But just switching out milk for heavy cream wouldn't do much -- it's my entire diet that has changed, from eating carb-heavy meals, to ones that are richer in fat and moderate in protein. What that does to my body is that it lowers my insulin levels, which is the hormone in your body that is principally responsible for accumulating fat. Thus more of the energy I consume goes towards doing useful work, thus leaving me less hungry.

The tragedy of low-calorie diets as usually practiced is that people fill up on low-calorie meals that are mostly comprised of carbs (since they're cheap calorie-wise). This causes insulin levels to go up, causes more of the calories consumed to be stored as fat, and leaves you feeling hungry and/or lethargic.
posted by peacheater at 12:01 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where does the 3,500 number come from?

Its kind of unclear as phrased in the article, but 3500 calories is the number of calories in a pound of fat.
posted by TedW at 12:02 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, unintended consequences of government policy seem to be largely responsible for the obesity epidemic.

Well, sure. Because government policy is largely written by industry advocates. Take a look at the leadup to the creation of the first set of dietary guidelines in the '70's. The first iteration said things like "reduce consumption of meat and dairy." Then the cattle and dairy industries suggested that they would personally ruin the author of said guidelines, and we got version 2: "consider choosing meats that will reduce saturated fat intake." Or we can talk about the clusterfuck that Nixon created with corn subsidies, and the proliferation of cheap sugar, which has resulted in national food production of ~600 more daily calories per capita in the last 40 years. That extra energy has to go somewhere, and it's generally right to our waists.
posted by Mayor West at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Uhm, because it's simple and intuitive? Energy in, energy out.

Well yes, but simple doesn't necessarily mean right, and there are plenty of counter-examples.

Talking about "good calories" and "bad calories", though, has a strong whiff of bullshit.
I guess? One could rephrase that as calories that don't tend to put make you put on weight, and calories that tend to make you put on weight. Not quite as catchy. I agree that it's not any sort of moral argument, if that's what you mean. Everyone has to do what is best for their own body, but right now a lot of people are being led astray by what the US government is telling them to do.
posted by peacheater at 12:04 PM on May 16, 2012


So, unintended consequences of government policy seem to be largely responsible for the obesity epidemic.

Another way to put it might be "the consequences of the regulatory capture of US policy by the industrial farming lobby seem to be largely responsible for the obesity epidemic."

Tomato, tomawto.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


Many things that seem simple and intuitive are also wrong.

Energy in = energy out works if you assume a system that uses energy with perfect, predictable efficiency. This does not describe the human body.
posted by rtha at 12:11 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


One phrase I utterly hate that tends to get tossed at fat people is 'eat less, exercise more'. While technically correct, the devil is so much in the detail.

It's somewhat akin to telling a poor person 'earn more, spend less'. And since the solution is so obvious and simple, it now means the fat (or poor) person is obviously just lazy and/or morally deficient; they deserve the state they're in because they just don't understand how simple it is.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2012 [29 favorites]


But just switching out milk for heavy cream wouldn't do much -- it's my entire diet that has changed, from eating carb-heavy meals, to ones that are richer in fat and moderate in protein.

Ha, that seems a little misleading to imply the change from milk to heavy cream is why you lost weight then!
posted by smackfu at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2012


These findings are definitely consistent with my experience. My weight's gone up and down like a yo-yo much of my life, and I've definitely noticed it's much easier to really pile on the pounds on after a certain weight threshold has been crossed.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]



zeek321: "I don't believe it. Anecdata: My friend switched from skim milk to whole milk, lost ten pounds, and has stayed that way for years (still drinking whole milk)."

peacheater: "I lost a lot of weight after switching from whole milk to heavy cream btw"

Sniff. I switched from heavy cream to eating my cereal with giant hunks of butter, never felt better.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Ha, that seems a little misleading to imply the change from milk to heavy cream is why you lost weight then!
Sorry, I didn't intend to mislead, but that's one of the choices I made -- milk has a lot of lactose, and heavy cream has much less. So that's part of the low-carb choices I made, though definitely not the only thing.
posted by peacheater at 12:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Besides, it's not necessarily the amount of food Americans are eating, it's that most of the food we eat is extremely unhealthy.

It's probably both of those things combined. In my experience American restaurants serve insanely big portions.
posted by Hoopo at 12:16 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I highly, highly recommend the HBO weight of a nation documentary on obesity. It really grapples with all of the complications regarding our national food system, as well as the difficulty of losing weight (especially after gaining).

I think its online for all to watch. Hurrah!
posted by stratastar at 12:16 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


peacheater: "I don't understand why everyone is so stuck on this calories is the only thing that matters paradigm."

It's a good start and easy to grasp for people who are just starting out. When you've got 100+ pounds to go before your ideal weight, usually just counting calories will get you started. As you get used to tracking things, you can make note of what other things have an effect on you.

Initially just eating less had an effect, but I learned that even a small amount of regular soda screws my metabolism up so badly that I couldn't progress without eliminating it entirely. I also learned that I need more exercise than average Joe to lose effectively.

Everyone's different, but we all need to start somewhere and then we can learn about ourselves along the way.
posted by charred husk at 12:17 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sniff. I switched from heavy cream to eating my cereal with giant hunks of butter, never felt better.

Heh. We use Straus cream-on-top milk, and sometimes you pour some into your coffee and hey, it looks like you put a nice lump of butter in it! Delicious.
posted by rtha at 12:18 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ha, that seems a little misleading to imply the change from milk to heavy cream is why you lost weight then!

Yes and no. Again, anecdotally, adding more fat into your diet creates a cascade of changes in tastes, activity levels, etc.

When I began spreading (pasture-raised, USDA inspected) lard like cream cheese and mixing it into soups, carby stuff like rice cakes and potato chips started tasting like (delicious) cane sugar to me, and, even so, I just wanted less of it. I still eat as much carbs as I want. I have tons more energy, I heal faster, and I had a wave of different food cravings that eventually subsided, leaving my favorite foods altered.

YMMV.

(I was never fat. I've always been pretty thin. Just a tiny bit of a belly. But my pants starting getting tight so I made big changes.)
posted by zeek321 at 12:20 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that different gut microbiota can make different amounts of calories in the food that you eat available to you, such that two different people with exactly the same weight, genes, and body type can eat exactly the same thing and gain weight differently from it.

In mice, fecal transplants can pass the "disease of obesity" from an obese mouse to a skinny mouse through their gut microbiota.
posted by gurple at 12:20 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Where does the 3,500 number come from? The numbers I remember growing up were something like 2000 and 2300 for females and males, respectively. Are things just being calculated differently?

3,500 is the standard value for how many excess calories translate to a pound of fat; ergo, eat 3500 less calories than you expend (technically actually kilocalories), and you'll lose a pound of fat.

You're probably thinking of recommended daily calorie intake though; that's 2000 for the average women, and I think 2,500 for the average man currently. So if you take conventional wisdom, a man who eats 2000 calories a day will run a deficit of 500 calories per day; 500 x7 = 3500 and thus lose 1 lb of fat a week.

As any overweight person who's been on a diet will tell you though, it's not quite that simple as metabolic rate, muscle mass, exercise etc will alter that significantly, and raw calorific value doesn't automatically tell you how well different foods will be processed by the body. Eating 3500 calories of cellulose (fibre) will do pretty much bupkiss for example, as we can't digest it at all well.

Good to see some science backing that up though.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:23 PM on May 16, 2012


I don't understand why everyone is so stuck on this calories is the only thing that matters paradigm.

The whole weight loss field is very "science-y". Doctors with basically anecdotal results proposing diets with arbitrary rules. Diets that don't work unless you cook every meal at home yourself, which is not exactly common in today's society.

So people end up just wanting to count something, whether that is calories or carbs or whatnot.
posted by smackfu at 12:26 PM on May 16, 2012


Again, anecdotally, adding more fat into your diet creates a cascade of changes in tastes, activity levels, etc.

Haha, weirdly, I've head a lot of friends say that same thing, if you replace "vegetables" or "spices" instead of fat. I once lost some substantial portion of my weight, like a fourth, on a vegetarian nearly-fat-free diet. It was stupid and unhealthy, but it worked out in real life just like it did mathematically on paper. I can't stand (and could never stand) fat in meat, though I love high-fat dairy. My life now involves a few more pounds, and more cheese; at least for me, adding it in changed nothing aside from my perception of myself.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:29 PM on May 16, 2012


I don't understand why everyone is so stuck on this calories is the only thing that matters paradigm.

Because it's easy, and while it's not perfect for all the reasons that people here have outlined, it can be useful, especially if you're eating a lot of junk; if you're diet consists of ice cream and potato chips, then cutting back on calories will help even if it won't make you lose as much weight as you might hope
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:29 PM on May 16, 2012


> Energy in = energy out works if you assume a system that uses energy with perfect,
> predictable efficiency. This does not describe the human body.

It doesn't; but it remains absolutely true that a person requires a certain minimum amount of food energy daily to maintain vital functions, i.e. to live, and that minimum amount can be expressed in kcal (or joules, or ergs, or british thermal units, or kilowatt-hours, or any other.) Reduce your energy intake below the minimum and your body must make up the difference by drawing down its own stored energy as long as it has any left, and you will lose weight right up until you starve.
posted by jfuller at 12:31 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually jfuller, that's not true. There have been studies of rats with deranged metabolisms, who continue to put on weight, even as they literally starve. Their bodies would rather eat away their vital organs, than deplete their fat cells. I'm not saying this is true in most people, of course, but a very low-calorie diet in a person who tends to pack away calories in their fat cells, is essentially a starvation diet. Your body has a homeostatic program and if its program is putting away fat in fat cells, it tends to do that even if it's deleterious to the organism as a whole. This sounds like an obviously evolutionarily poor strategy of course, but we didn't really evolve in a time with as much sugar and starch available as today, and consequent high insulin levels.
posted by peacheater at 12:37 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Many things that seem simple and intuitive are also wrong.

Energy in = energy out works if you assume a system that uses energy with perfect, predictable efficiency is absolutely true, but does not apply to weight loss where the caloric content of the urine and fecal matter, and the metabolic heat of the organism, are not being tallied. This does not describe the human body phrase is therefore useless in discussions of weight loss .

FTFY, rtha
posted by IAmBroom at 12:37 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Foods good for a gut microbiota diet:

coffee, berries, dark chocolate, black or green tea, whole grain rye bread, red wine, pomegranate juice, black olives, spinach, pecans, black beans, red onion, soy milk

Note that most of these also appear on heart-healthy diets.
posted by Ardiril at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


This phrase is therefore useless misleading, at best,in discussions of weight loss .

FTFM.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2012


Is this the crossing out thread now?
posted by smackfu at 12:40 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


coffee, berries, dark chocolate, black or green tea, whole grain rye bread, red wine, pomegranate juice, black olives, spinach, pecans, black beans, red onion, soy milk


That just described a day's worth of eating over here.

I must have the happiest gut flora in the country - rock on little monsters! Improve my immune response and weight management! I'll give you all the yogurt you want, we are a team here.
posted by The Whelk at 12:41 PM on May 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


Haha, weirdly, I've head a lot of friends say that same thing, if you replace "vegetables" or "spices" instead of fat. I once lost some substantial portion of my weight, like a fourth, on a vegetarian nearly-fat-free diet.

Well, yes, when you starve yourself things do reduce to calories-in, calories-out, sort of. :) And if you deprive yourself of basic building blocks your body will down-regulate or shed biomass.

Also, particular diets can trigger autophagy where the body eats itself for energy. This is a good thing for certain kinds of illnesses where something bad is building up or something good is building up too much or in the wrong places.
posted by zeek321 at 12:45 PM on May 16, 2012


I think we can shorten this to, "Everyone's metabolism is really, REALLY bad at conforming to a species wide trend."

Or, "Metabolism, the original hipster."
posted by Slackermagee at 12:48 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


What about changes in weight that are only related to changes in what you eat via changes in appetite? I know there have been times in my life where I have lost a large amount of weight without trying at all simply because my appetite mysteriously changed. Obviously this is not a long-term solution to weight loss (I eventually gained the appetite and weight back) but could more information about how and why appetite affects weight really hurt?

I mean, I just ended a long-term-relationship and I don't want to eat anything. It would be great if there was a study I could enroll in that measures levels of various hormones etc. and compares them to later when I am (hopefully) willing to eat again. Bonus: it gives all of us heartbreak sufferers the chance to say, "I regret so many choices but at least I am contributing to science."
posted by newg at 12:50 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My experience is that counting calories IN can be a useful tool for getting a handle on what you're eating and developing an awareness between that and the effect it has on your weight.

Where "calorie counting" falls apart is that the Calories-OUT 'measurement' is a wild-assed-guess AT BEST. And the BMR & TDEE **ESTIMATES** are just that. There's plenty of edge cases where TDEE - 500 calories doesn't equal weight loss.

I consider this a failure in the choice of metrics, and advocate for John Walker's Exponentially Weighted Moving Average fed by daily weighings and rendered into $DAILY_RATE_OF_WEIGHT_CHANGE.

$DAILY_RATE_OF_WEIGHT_CHANGE lt 0; weight loss
$DAILY_RATE_OF_WEIGHT_CHANGE = 0; maintenance
$DAILY_RATE_OF_WEIGHT_CHANGE gt 0; weight gain.

Then the entire game becomes following the gauge to ensure you meet your goals ( e.g. -0.50 lbs/day )

tl;dr: Without effective assessment and feedback processes, many diets fail. ( WORKSFORME )
posted by mikelieman at 12:50 PM on May 16, 2012


If anyone wants a scary look at how US policy has probably changed obesity rates in this country please look at this video. I've linked specifically to the part where he shows a map of the US overlaid with changing obesity rates. It's super super scary. Bear in mind that the new governmental recommendations about lowering calories and fat (the food pyramid) were introduced in 1977.
posted by peacheater at 12:52 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Is this the crossing out thread now?
posted by Sayuri. at 12:54 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's the same sort of chart as in peacheater's video, but in a more interactive form, from the CDC (scroll down a bit).
posted by gurple at 12:56 PM on May 16, 2012


One phrase I utterly hate that tends to get tossed at fat people is 'eat less, exercise more'. While technically correct, the devil is so much in the detail.

It's somewhat akin to telling a poor person 'earn more, spend less'. And since the solution is so obvious and simple, it now means the fat (or poor) person is obviously just lazy and/or morally deficient; they deserve the state they're in because they just don't understand how simple it is.


It's tough because while the concept can be expressed fairly simply, it doesn't make it easy to do. Since we're talking about privilege a few threads down today, I can't help but see the similarity in the conversation. Both "straight/white/male privilege exists" and "eat less, exercise more is a method to lose weight" are very simply expressed and generally true, but talking about them we end up bogged down in the details and exceptions and people end up taking them as value judgements.

To quote the article:
It’s so easy for someone to go out and eat 6,000 calories a day. There’s no magic bullet on this. You simply have to cut calories and be vigilant for the rest of your life.

So how do you put that across without seeming judgey?
posted by ODiV at 12:58 PM on May 16, 2012


So how do you put that across without seeming judgey?

As a doctor, I usually find a person who seeks answers won't feel judged, and people who are still in the mindset of dissembling and excuses will think you are full of shit.

All I know is that every obese person I have seen who lost weight did it through brute force will and effort. Most people won't go to that extent. Creating a circus of distraction around a basic thermodynamic law is not going to help anyone.
posted by docpops at 1:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [27 favorites]


I actually think that eat less, exercise more is exactly the wrong thing to be telling fat people. So I don't think there's a non-judgey way to say that. Setting out to eat less calories without first fixing the composition of one's food to include foods that tend to decrease one's appetite and excluding food that tend to increase one's appetite is a recipe for failure. And people fail at this again and again. It's patronizing to think that if you tell a fat person this in exactly the right way it'll suddenly magically work and they'll eat less. There are real physiological reasons why a fat person's appetite is the way it is -- fix that and they'll magically eat less. This is not a question of psychology or willpower, but of physiology -- a disorder not of caloric balance, but of accumulation of fat tissue.
posted by peacheater at 1:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Foods good for a gut microbiota diet:

coffee, berries, dark chocolate, black or green tea, whole grain rye bread, red wine, pomegranate juice, black olives, spinach, pecans, black beans, red onion, soy milk

Note that most of these also appear on heart-healthy diets.
posted by Ardiril at 12:39 PM



Cite, Ardiril? I'm really interested in understanding this stuff (and many of those foods are a big part of my diet). :)
posted by blurker at 1:04 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's tough because while the concept can be expressed fairly simply, it doesn't make it easy to do.

At risk of offending the Breakfast Council Creeps, I would suggest a 16/8 Intermittent Fasting schedule to resolve a myriad of issues. Skip breakfast, eat a regular lunch, try not to snack until dinner, eat dinner 6-7, and at 8pm you're done eating for the night. Depending on your bad habits, you could drop a whole lot of weight doing this.

It's EASY because there's no menu planning, and you don't have to change anything you do other than just eat lunch and dinner. For truly effective results, combine with the advanced assessment and feedback tools I mentioned previously.
posted by mikelieman at 1:06 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I actually think that eat less, exercise more is exactly the wrong thing to be telling fat people.

Not when they are clearly overeating. And not when it is accompanied by counsel on healthier foods that improve satiety as you state, and not when you discuss the importance of treating the feeling of hunger as a sign of good health and not something that needs constant amelioration like an itch to be scratched.

And on and on and on and fucking on, because all this was never dealt with before the age of ten when it might have had an impact.
posted by docpops at 1:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


With respect, docpops, it's not a circus of distraction at all -- it's something that people fundamentally need to understand if we're going to do anything about this obesity problem that faces the US today. As long as people keep repeating, it's calories in = calories out, just eat less and exercise more, without taking a close look at the optimal macronutrient composition of good diets, we're going to continue to have this problem and obesity rates will continue to rise. I honestly did not require any great willpower to lose 60 pounds -- when I started eating the right things, my body just felt more full and I had less appetite. Losing weight actually became easy.
posted by peacheater at 1:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, to be fair some people just don't have an intuitive sense of the effect the choices they make has on their weight. And advocating that they make changes without advocating for lifelong assessment and feedback from those changes doesn't sound optimal.

Step 1: Buy a scale

Step 2: Learn to zero it.

Step 3: Get on it every morning, and use the raw data to derive your $DAILY_RATE_OF_WEIGHT_CHANGE.

Step 4: Consider your $DROWC when making choices today.

Step 5: Goto step 3

Think of weight management like diabetes management. You're going to do it for the rest of your life.
posted by mikelieman at 1:10 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's a distraction to talk about esoteric human physiology and the HFCS lobby in a room with a mother whose kid is nursing on a Pepsi or a morbidly obese programmer that thinks a case of Pepsi a day is "kinda cool". On a broad level, for public policy, it's a great idea.
posted by docpops at 1:11 PM on May 16, 2012


Your 'micronutrients' had the same results as my "intermittent fasting". I still say the common thread is the development of an awareness of the cause/effect feedback loop between our food choices and the effect those choices have on our weight.
posted by mikelieman at 1:12 PM on May 16, 2012


I actually think that eat less, exercise more is exactly the wrong thing to be telling fat people.

Oh, I don't really go around repeating it like a mantra or approach random people with advice. I think we're looking at the phrase in two different ways. I agree that it probably wouldn't be the most effective phrase to parrot to someone so they would actually accomplish weight loss.
posted by ODiV at 1:13 PM on May 16, 2012


OK fair enough, docpops.
posted by peacheater at 1:14 PM on May 16, 2012


ArkhanJG: "It's somewhat akin to telling a poor person 'earn more, spend less'. And since the solution is so obvious and simple, it now means the fat (or poor) person is obviously just lazy and/or morally deficient; they deserve the state they're in because they just don't understand how simple it is."

Yet if you're big boned like me and say 'eat less, move more' it's actually quite empowering. And merely doing that will have some beneficial effect, even if it's not as great as switching out some carbs for protein or whatever. Although I would like to know more about these foods that actually suppress appetite. I could definitely use some of those. I'm hungry.
posted by wierdo at 1:14 PM on May 16, 2012


This estimator advises that I eat a 2600 calorie diet to attain my (first) weight goal in 180 days.

I have been eating less than that for the last, oh, decade or so and haven't been losing weight.
posted by Foosnark at 1:17 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Step 4: Consider your $DROWC when making choices today.

Eh, I think there is far too much noise in body weight measurements to make it useful. Most systems use either weekly weigh-ins or a moving average.
posted by smackfu at 1:17 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fat, basically, wierdo -- the only macronutrient that doesn't stimulate insulin release at all. When I get about 65 % of my daily calories from fat (which is not a very large number of total calories, since the fat has appetite suppressing qualities) I have an extremely small appetite. I can basically just about eat two good-sized meals a day and I have extremely stable energy and blood sugar levels.
posted by peacheater at 1:20 PM on May 16, 2012


wierdo - a lot of it is trial and error. For me it was a few sips of wine and a handful of olives as I came in the door from work to keep me from overeating at dinner. Apples. They never go bad and they filled me up. But what works for one person may not for another. Above all else, I stress being analytical, like you have to figure out a way to commute to work every day in under 20 minutes. Or your kid has to have the same pill at the same time of day forever. Figure out a method, don't worry if it seems odd or silly, and keep doing it forever.
posted by docpops at 1:21 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I sometimes had trouble meeting the daily caloric minimum for me when I first started doing the low-carb thing, because I just wasn't hungry. Full-fat Greek yogurt FTW!

Or, you know, whatever works best for you, and is sustainable for the way you live.
posted by rtha at 1:23 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The $DROWC is a direct implementation of John Walker's exponentially weighted moving average tactic.

Having a NUMBER, ( e.g.: -0.42 lbs ) attached to the decisions I made yesterday is the most empowering tool I've ever come across for weight management. I get 24 hour cause/effect feedback loop, and I can't think of any tactic which provides useful data at such a short resolution.

I believe that successful weight management is a TWO PHASE process, and things like keto, calorie counting, carb counting, HFLC, Intermittent Fasting, etc are all weight change strategies, but alone and without the most important part of feedback and assessment, they're all limited.
posted by mikelieman at 1:24 PM on May 16, 2012


Full-fat Greek yogurt FTW!

God yes. Lately my go-to breakfast has been Fage yogurt plus a handful of roasted nuts and a few berries. Keeps me very full.
posted by peacheater at 1:25 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Speaking of weighing every day, mikelieman, do you have any recommendations for a good scale? My current Taylor scale seems to be increasingly wonky -- not very reliable or consistent and it can be demoralizing.
posted by peacheater at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2012


YES! Taylor 7405. Reads up to 440 lbs, easy to zero, nice big numbers, and 30 bucks at wally-world.
posted by mikelieman at 1:28 PM on May 16, 2012


smackfu I think mikelieman is talking about the hacker's diet method which does indeed use a weighted averaging system (actually an exponentially smoothed weighted average).
posted by Mitheral at 1:28 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


i've lost 120lbs through diet and exercise over the last 3 years. the one thing that shocks me is how willing i was to convince myself that i was doing something to lose weight before i started actually trying.

articles like this gave me every reason to go "see? we don't understand how the body works!" and then i'd eat a 2lb bag of reese's pieces. i'm not saying that my weight loss was easy, but i was just continually convincing myself it was impossible because it was *hard*.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 1:30 PM on May 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Bonus Points: It looks like the case design from a 10 year old Dell pc.

And yes, John Walker's Hacker's Diet. ( Although I don't count calories, I do a 16/8 Intermittent Fast ).

I think the real take away from it is that using the assessment and feedback tools promotes empowerment and success.

And as long as we're talking about the 'rendering it into a useful metric', here's my implementation of some advanced graphics to visualize your daily weight change rate... ( What Walker calls the "Eat Watch"... ( which is horrible, I know.. ) )
posted by mikelieman at 1:32 PM on May 16, 2012


Wow, the scale I currently have (the Taylor 7004) has the worst reviews I have ever seen for a product on Amazon.
posted by peacheater at 1:32 PM on May 16, 2012


WOW. All those people who didn't read the part of the manual where it tells them to zero the scale! So sad.
posted by mikelieman at 1:34 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


As others have said, low carb diets work so well it feels like a lifehack. I realized recently I wasn't eating enough for the workouts I do. One hardboiled egg has 80 calories, that plus 2 cups of water keeps me full for 3 hours. That just isn't right. Meanwhile I could easily eat half a bag of chips in the same time for 600 calories (or a sandwich for about the same).
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:36 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


When your body has to keep itself warm (or cool), that burns a few calories and they add up over time. But temperatures have been steadily rising thanks to the growth in central heating, both at home and at work.

according to one model, initially devised in 1997 by the Building Research Establishment, average indoor temperatures have risen from 12C in 1970 to about 17.5C (63.5F) today.
posted by Lanark at 1:42 PM on May 16, 2012


I think it's astonishing how little we know about diet, metabolism, and weight. It's been mentioned here many times before, but Gary Taubes' book Good Calorie, Bad Calorie is a really great bit of science journalism on the history of US dietary science and policy. The book comes to its own conclusion (carbs are bad), but what's really interesting is all the documentation on the changes in fads, politics, and assumptions made by scientists and doctors. We really are profoundly ignorant of how the body processes food and stores energy.

The research in this article is interesting in that it gets away from a completely simplistic "calories in = weight" and has some numbers on how hard it is for fat people to get skinny. But then there's whole other side to things, insulin and carbohydrate metabolism and hunger responses and.. It's an incredibly complex system and it feels like we're barely chipping away at once facet at a time.
posted by Nelson at 1:43 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Good Calories, Bad Calories was incredibly eye-opening for me. Both from my perspective as someone interested in nutrition and food, and as someone doing science as an example of what happens when scientists work within a paradigm that takes unproven assumptions to be fact.
posted by peacheater at 1:47 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"So how do you put that across without seeming judgey?"

You don't bother about the 'seeming judgey' part. Tough love, baby.
posted by Ardiril at 1:52 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because no one's ever been judgey to fat people or about fat people before, and that's why we have so many fat people. Being judgey will surely be the new hotness in public health campaigns.
posted by rtha at 2:05 PM on May 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


I was able to successfully lose weight from living in South Korea for a year. American size portions were making me unhealthy. I've learned that if I go out to a restaurant I share my meal with whoever joins me. Now that I'm home I am tracking my weight and weighing myself daily. One of the things I miss is the assortment of vegetables offered during a meal. Most of the times that I eat out the meals are lacking vegetables and high in meats and starches. I think it is easy to judge heavy people for making bad choice when the culture of food has a large effect on what is right to eat. I wish I could go to a restaurant and tip the server for less food or more vegetables.

For myself tracking calories and other quantified-self activities are a non-starter. I do not want to spend an inordinate amount of time tracking all my life data. I don't need a device to tell me I did not sleep well. I do want to use products or items that make it a little magical to stay fit and active.
posted by andendau at 2:11 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because no one's ever been judgey to fat people or about fat people before, and that's why we have so many fat people. Being judgey will surely be the new hotness in public health campaigns.

Already the new hotness: Georgia Childhood Obesity ads (previously)
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:24 PM on May 16, 2012


Judgey is in the eye of the judged.
posted by Ardiril at 2:48 PM on May 16, 2012


"a day's worth of eating" - Heh; black beans, red onion, and black olives with a splash of dry red wine makes a helluva side dish.
posted by Ardiril at 2:54 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lanark quoted: "according to one model, initially devised in 1997 by the Building Research Establishment, average indoor temperatures have risen from 12C in 1970 to about 17.5C (63.5F) today."

12C indoors? Wow, that seems really cold for comfortable indoor temperatures. (Checks web page.) Yup, it's a study from the UK.
posted by Triplanetary at 2:57 PM on May 16, 2012


My #1 rule of weight management: Find an active, physical hobby (or several) that you love, such as cycling, running, martial arts, swimming, racquetball, crossfit/aerobics, rock-climbing, etc.

I feel like focusing on the weight itself is doomed to failure; it's just so damned un-fun running on a treadmill and counting calories that you can't maintain it for long. But if weight-loss/maintenance is a side-effect of doing something you love, then it takes care of itself.
posted by LordSludge at 4:08 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nothing insightful in the article, sorry.

The most interesting thing I've learned about this in the last few years is that the individual fat cells grow and shrink when your weight changes. I had always imagined that they were a constant size and were created and destroyed as needed, which is not the case. The exception is when you are at a peak weight and keep eating, new fat cells are made.

The count of fat cells you have, is determined by the peak weight you have been, and if you are below this peak weight all the shrunken fat cells are ready and waiting to balloon up again, and are en-masse releasing a chemical signal telling your body that they are starving and you should eat more.
This is why it's so easy to drift back to your peak weight from your ideal weight.

This means lipo is actually much sensible than I thought - not only are you reducing your bulk, you are reducing your hunger and your ability to put on weight quickly, because you have reduced the actual count of fat cells, which dieting does not do.
posted by w0mbat at 4:17 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Speaking of recently rising indoor temperatures... also heated beds. In the last few years I've gained over 40 lbs with one major change: a heated bed pad. My physiologist and I figured it's pumping around 50 calories an hour while I'm in bed for about 8 hours a night. That's 400 calories every single sleep period, plus more one or more mornings a week when I sleep in. I would have to reduce my food intake by 450-500 cal a day just to maintain weight, mush less lose any.
Uggh, hard choices - falling asleep easily, staying deeply asleep due to warmth and relaxed muscles around my permanently damaged hip? Or night after night of poor sleep (sleep deprivation itself leading to weight gain) and less mobility/more pain (also leading to weight gain).
What I have been doing is setting the bed temperature gradually lower over time. Next step is putting the heater on a timer so it's warm when I get in, but turns itself off within 2 hours. Hopefully this will help me lose a bit of the extra while eating a reasonable diet. Otherwise, I'd be stuck on under 1100 cal/24hrs. Misery.
posted by Dreidl at 4:44 PM on May 16, 2012


A warm bedroom makes you gain weight? Dammit! Now my husband is going to win every time he wants to sleep with the window open, even in February. Brrr.
posted by ambrosia at 4:53 PM on May 16, 2012


Anecdata: My friend switched from skim milk to whole milk, lost ten pounds, and has stayed that way for years (still drinking whole milk).

I lost a lot of weight by switching from whole milk to heavy cream btw

I know a friend of a friend of a cousin of a stranger who ate a half-cup of curds and turned into a Harryhausen-esque skeleton.
posted by JHarris at 5:04 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm struggling with my weight right now and I'm doing the low carb high fat thing. I probably eat more fruit than is recommended and I wish legumes were part of the eating plan cause I love beans and think they're healthy but I'm excluding them for now. I'm also working out.

It's surprising how hard it is to get vegetables when eating out. Almost no one offers real vegetable sides; it's always potatoes in some form, usually fried. It's never green beans, broccoli, zucchini and these are fairy cheap produce items. Salads are often the only choice and they are usually sad affairs packed with lots of non-vegetable items.

My current breakfast is either eggs scrambled with bacon and spinach, eggs baked in ramekins with grape tomatoes and feta or goat cheese, or Greek yogurt with a spoonful of ground flaxseed, chopped pecans and blackberries or blueberries. Dinner is usually a meat or fish with two vegetable sides and lunch is dinner leftovers, salad with meat and cheese, or lately sausage and sauerkraut. Snacks are fruit and nuts or maybe a boiled egg.

The weight is coming off albeit more slowly than I'd like. I really miss pizza, but otherwise, eating like this seems sensible and not too difficult. I watch my portions. I've cut out beer altogether but I'm still drinking too much wine and hard alcohol. Baby steps.
posted by shoesietart at 5:16 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


shoesietart: have you tried Deep Dish Pizza Quiche? It's the best low-carb substitute for pizza I ever ate.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:35 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I say, "If you're going to drink, go with bourbon, ( or other hard liquor ), straight up or on-the-rocks. About 70 kcal/fluid ounce.
posted by mikelieman at 6:42 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Almost no one offers real vegetable sides; it's always potatoes in some form, usually fried. It's never green beans, broccoli, zucchini and these are fairy cheap produce items.

Surprisingly, this is untrue at a lot of otherwise horrible chain restaurants. Red Robin, Applebee's, Cheesecake Factory, and Outback Steakhouse all have at least one straight up vegetable side. You can usually sub broccoli or something for fries if you ask.

(My county recently passed a law requiring any establishment with more than 6 locations nationwide to give diners a nutritional menu at the time of ordering. I happened to be at lunch at the Cheesecake Factory just after this went into effect, and I took a look at the proffered nutritional menu and almost lost my damn mind. The lunchtime portion of fish and chips was almost two thousand calories. The chicken caesar salad? 1600 calories. The appetizer combo serves 2-4 people, but still comes in at over 3,000 calories. I was not under the impression that Cheesecake Factory was anything like health food, but I would never have guessed that you could eat a three thousand calorie lunch there without even trying.)
posted by KathrynT at 6:45 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Salads are often the only choice and they are usually sad affairs packed with lots of non-vegetable items.

I really hate it when you can't easily get a vegetarian salad. Many chain restaurants have bacon, chicken, deli meats, etc on every salad. They still charge you for it even if you ask to leave the meat item off.

When everyone is talking about eating high fat diets for weight loss, do you only eat "good" fats? What foods would those be (aside from, I'm guessing, avocados, nuts, and olive oil)?
posted by JenMarie at 7:06 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also lost about 50lbs, twice. Once a couple years into college, again a couple years after college when I'd put the weight back on. That video peacheater posted is an incredibly important baseline to understand - this cannot be a genetic disorder. Carbohydrates are strongly suspect. Many people's activity levels are also obviously way too low

If you are overweight or obese, it is almost certain that you can get down to a healthy weight over time with changes to diet and activity. It is almost certain you will feel happier and healthier at a healthy weight, like a giant heavy chain-mail suit you've been wearing for as long as you can remember finally falling off. If you have type II diabetes, you can cure it. Losing the weight is worth doing
posted by crayz at 8:55 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


a person requires a certain minimum amount of food energy daily to maintain vital functions, i.e. to live, and that minimum amount can be expressed in kcal (or joules, or ergs, or british thermal units, or kilowatt-hours, or any other.)

Which is all fine as far as it goes, but the important thing to know is the amount of food energy that makes it into your cells, which is only loosely related to the amount of chemical energy available by treating food as if it were firewood and literally burning it, which is where those numbers on the labels come from.

Unfortunately there is no feasible way to measure the amount of food energy that makes it into your cells.
posted by flabdablet at 1:26 AM on May 17, 2012


It is almost certain you will feel happier and healthier at a healthy weight, like a giant heavy chain-mail suit you've been wearing for as long as you can remember finally falling off.

I've been toying with the idea of actually constructing some chain mail underclothing. I want to find out whether I can fool my body into maintaining its customary weight set point even when a steadily increasing amount of that weight exists in the form of something outside my skin that I could just take off.
posted by flabdablet at 1:29 AM on May 17, 2012


Yes, weight loss is absurdly simple. All I need to do is eat between 500 and 750 calories a day (or 10-13 WW points) while running for at least 45 minutes 5+ days per week, and I lose weight.

Maintaining is is equally simple: I need to eat 1,000 calories a day, while running at least an hour daily, and I will gain less than a pound a month.

Of course, were I to eat as much as 1600 calories a day, or, god forbid, not exercise at the peak of my exertion level, I will pork up again immediately. I once tried the kind of 'you should eat this many calories to maintain your weight', got a total of 1800, ate that amount (carefully measured) daily and gained 5 pounds a month.

I'm a bad, bad human, because I am obviously broken.
posted by jrochest at 2:19 AM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't believe it. Anecdata:

You're doing it wrong.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:24 AM on May 17, 2012


jrochest,

All sarcasm aside, you should probably read Gary Taubes' Why We Get Fat. His entire book is written solely to address your opinion on diet/health.

I'd feel pretty secure in stating that the low carb/paleo/primal/ancestral/atkins/evolutionary/LCHF crowd is almost certaintly much closer to the truth than all the Ornish/Pritikin/high carb people.

The high fat diets are all better at losing weight, keeping it off, being satisfied while following them, improving all relevant biomarkers, controlling type II diabetes, hell pretty much everything.

About the only bad things I could say about these diets is that they tend to be heavy on animal products which is environmentally and morally problematic. (Just finished reading Eating Animals, so that's on my mind.)

It's easy for people to make jokes about eating butter and bacon, but that's pretty much what we should be doing.

I'm curious to see who has a legitimate heath-based argument against high fat diets at this point.
posted by Telf at 2:57 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I'm curious to see who has a legitimate heath-based argument against high fat diets at this point."
It may be true that fat is better than carbohydrate for weight loss, but eating saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. A consensus that it's okay to eat butter and bacon might mislead people into thinking a high fat diet is safe: a high fat diet increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturated_fat_and_cardiovascular_disease_controversy
(no complete consensus, but look at all the evidence)
posted by Gomoryhu at 7:11 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're as confused as me by conflicting statistics on the population-wide effects of various kinds of diet, go get blood tests before and six weeks into your altered diet and see what it's doing to you. You generally don't want to be behaving in ways that increase your LDL or triglyceride levels. If you're not doing that, your new diet is probably no worse for your arteries than your old diet was.
posted by flabdablet at 8:53 AM on May 17, 2012


Gomoryhu, please look at the metastudies about saturated fat and heart disease links mentioned on this page (the first section). They found insufficient evidence to link saturated fat to heart disease or mortality due to heart disease. My current thinking on this is that saturated fat does raise LDL levels, but also raises HDL levels and lowers triglyceride levels. The triglyceride to HDL level is the best simple indicator of heart disease risk we have right now. LDL is more complicated -- some forms of LDL do raise the risk of heart disease, but it's not the concentration of LDL that's important but the actual number of particles. If you're interested in more of the science behind this I'd urge you to take a look at Dr. Peter Attia's wonderful ongoing survey of the cholesterol literature. He starts at the very basics and then gets progressively more complicated. Here's Part I, II, III and IV (so far). One thing that's clear to me is that the vilification of saturated fat was probably misguided, and that it's a lot more complicated than saturated fat -> raises cholesterol -> gives you heart disease. That ship sailed a long time ago, and the answers are turning out to be pretty nuanced. I'm no longer afraid of saturated fats.

When everyone is talking about eating high fat diets for weight loss, do you only eat "good" fats? What foods would those be (aside from, I'm guessing, avocados, nuts, and olive oil
My notion of good fats has changed dramatically from what it was five years ago. I definitely eat avocados, nuts, olive oil, but also butter and lard. In fact lard has an especially bad rep, but it's nutritional composition is basically what you'd get by mixing butter and olive oil in equal proportion, neither of which are considered quite so horrible. I avoid soybean oil, refined vegetable oil, corn oil -- basically for omega 3 to omega 6 ratio reasons, though the jury is still out on that and I'm not completely convinced. But my day to day fats are coconut oil, butter, lard and bacon drippings. It's really not a bad life.
posted by peacheater at 9:35 AM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just to back up peacheater on this, high fat diets have also been shown to increase the size and "fluffiness" on LDL (That's good.) while high carb diets tend decrease the size and increase the density of LDL. (Very bad.) This what probably causes heart disease, not the outdated cholesterol is bad model.

There is very little evidence to support that high fat diets do increase cardiovascular disease. In fact, more and more studies are showing that they improve pretty much all markers for health. Everything from blood pressure, to HDL, to adiposity. Being obese is a pretty good indicator of being unhealthy. (Sorry.) So don't you think it's odd that a diet which allows you to safely lose weight and improve all modern biomarkers for health would also be bad for your heart?

Science moves slowly. I feel safe to say that we're witnessing a Kuhnian paradigm shift on nutrtion. This is something much bigger than people quibbling over white rice vs brown rice. Old model high carb apologists are forced to jump through more and more hoops, creating increasingly more contorted arguments to prop up their old model. Obviously grain, corn and drug lobbyists are slowing things down, but change is inevitable.
posted by Telf at 4:58 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, Dr. Attia, who was linked by peacheater, is a great resource. He's wicked smart and really knows his stuff. More and more MDs and especially endocrinologists seem to be moving in the high fat low carb direction.

He's done some good podcasts as well.
posted by Telf at 5:00 PM on May 17, 2012


While I completely buy this, certain carbs have pretty much been a staple for generations. Talking about bread and rice and pasta as bogeymen never seemed all that accurate to me. Trying to get someone to eliminate those from their diet is just asking for noncompliance.

It seems more likely that the prevalence of a sugary dessert as a not only a legitimate regular dinner course (pie! ice cream! candied walnut salad with raspberry vinaigrette!), but as a midday snack (cookie! mocha! orange chicken!) and as part of a healthy breakfast (cereal! mocha! donut! pancakes!) is much more to blame.

'm not sure whether this changing tastes driven by processed food or what, but having the equivalent of a slice of cake and bowl of ice cream every day should not be normal.

(mocha! mocha! mocha! :-))
posted by smidgen at 11:58 AM on May 18, 2012


I've been toying with the idea of actually constructing some chain mail underclothing. I want to find out whether I can fool my body into maintaining its customary weight set point even when a steadily increasing amount of that weight exists in the form of something outside my skin that I could just take off.

flabdablet, since I know literally hundreds of people who do just this (sometimes plate armor, sometimes leather, but always a heavy "2nd-skin"), I assure you: it will have no effect at all.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:53 PM on May 18, 2012


Talking about bread and rice and pasta as bogeymen never seemed all that accurate to me. Trying to get someone to eliminate those from their diet is just asking for noncompliance.

Depends. I grew up in a rice culture, and I don't really miss it. I adore good bread, but I don't eat it every day. I miss my daily beer, but it's not like I *never* drink beer any more.

The first month was hard. It's been a year and change, and now it's habit; recently, when we were putting together some food for friends who just had a baby, we realized that we'd completely forgotten to include any rice or potatoes or anything like that - we added a loaf of good bread to go with the whole smoked chicken and salad fixings we'd made.

For our particular low-carb regimen, "eliminate" didn't mean "never ever eat again as long as you live!" It meant stop eating pasta four nights a week; no, you really aren't required by law to have rice or potatoes with every dinner; you don't actually need to eat a sandwich for lunch most days.

For some people, this wouldn't of course be sustainable - I've got friends here at work who really kind of love the low-carb thing, but it's hard because they've got spouses and kids and they can't get the whole family on board. The best "diet" is the one that works best for the person who's using it.
posted by rtha at 1:06 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah making my favorite foods the embodiment of all evil in the world is a really great way for me to tuck into some home made bread and oil for dinner and NOTHING ELSE. I took it like rtha, no I do not need rice/potato/bread at every meal, I shouldn't eat too much starch later in the day, yes I am still going to eat this pizza, I refuse to believe having a bagel twice a week is going to kill me.
posted by The Whelk at 3:26 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Life is too damned short to eat shitty pizza.
posted by mikelieman at 5:37 PM on May 18, 2012


The Whelk - this is what we had for dinner one night a few weeks ago.
posted by rtha at 5:38 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


*pops three lactaide tablets*
posted by The Whelk at 6:47 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A response to Chow on a Scientific American blog. Nothing that we haven't been saying here (though I probably shouldn't have read the comments).
posted by peacheater at 8:23 AM on May 19, 2012


Of course, were I to eat as much as 1600 calories a day, or, god forbid, not exercise at the peak of my exertion level, I will pork up again immediately. I once tried the kind of 'you should eat this many calories to maintain your weight', got a total of 1800, ate that amount (carefully measured) daily and gained 5 pounds a month.

I'm a bad, bad human, because I am obviously broken.


This is true for me but I don't think it is because I am broken. I think it is because I am old, was fat and metabolic slowdown is completely normal. Rocks his chair.

That said calorie counting still took off 50 lbs for me. It works. It's hard. It's worth it. I hate all the bullshit that people spew about dieting and the special snowflakiness of the denialists. Give it 1 month of solid 100% effort at losing 1 to 1.5 lbs a week by counting your cals using a system that factors in your baseline activity level and counts all your exercise calories burned. IT WILL WORK IF YOU DO.
posted by srboisvert at 6:56 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Calorie counting can still work agreed, but given a choice between eating to satiation on a diet replete with meat, fat and vegetables that makes me feel good and improves all my health indicators vs. carefully counting every morsel I eat for worse outcomes, why would I choose the latter choice? There have been many studies that show low-carb diet approaches have better outcomes both in terms of weight loss and health indicators. Here is a list of the studies with links to the relevant papers (please scroll down to the section entitled weight loss).

If calorie counting works for you, all power to you, but for some people like me who are insulin resistant it really doesn't work all that well. It's really not bullshit -- there is actual worthwhile science behind it. It hurts to see people struggling so hard to lose weight using conventional approaches when it could be so much easier with a little lowering of carbs. Why work so hard when you don't have to?
posted by peacheater at 9:46 AM on May 21, 2012


Our friends who live downstairs counted calories and went to the gym and it worked for them and has been sustainable (it's been a couple of years now, I think).

Would it have worked for me? Probably. Would it have been sustainable, in the way that the low-carb approach has been? Likely no.

This is why is really dislike the "do this, it will work" declarations. Everyone is, in fact, a special snowflake when it comes to how their bodies will react to a given change in eating habits, and most importantly, how their brains react. For some reason, the idea of counting calories specifically gives me the shudders, while the idea of counting carbs does not (even though, hi, when you reduce your carb intake you reduce your calorie intake). I Jedi mind-tricked my own brain.

Specifically reducing carbs may or may not work for other people, and may or may not be sustainable.

(The side benefit of reducing carbs was that it let me find out that I have a gluten sensitivity. I'm not intolerant, but on gluten-heavy days, I have to take an antihistamine before bed or I snore like a freight train. Go figure.)
posted by rtha at 10:18 AM on May 21, 2012


If the science ends up definitively pointing towards a low-carb diet for health and more people are healthy because of it then that's great, but I'm be worried that low-carb diets will equal more meat eating which will mean even more factory farming, continuing and exacerbating the ethical, environmental, and public health issues that are inherent in that industry. I'm not saying that this is a reason to deny or inhibit legitimate nutrition research, it just makes me worried.
posted by Defenestrator at 7:44 PM on May 24, 2012


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