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I became the world's leading expert on how I'm supposed to eat.
August 14, 2014 10:02 AM   Subscribe

"So I decided on a radical experiment. I would spend eight weeks each on six different plans representing the various options for would-be dieters, from popular fads to clinical studies: the Abs Diet, the Paleo Diet for Athletes, the Mediterranean Prescription, the Okinawa Program, the advice of a personal nutritionist, and the USDA's nutritional pyramid.

My hypothesis: By applying the same discipline to nutrition that I apply to cycling, I'd be able to measure these diets against the claims of their authors. Each one would have something to teach me; each would also fail me. And along the way, I became the world's leading expert on how I'm supposed to eat."
posted by stoneweaver (90 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Somewhere deep within the wood-trimmed bowels of Outside magazine, someone just finished an A.J. Jacobs book and had a brilliant idea.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:14 AM on August 14 [13 favorites]


Sounds like he eventually came around to "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Which...yeah.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on August 14 [23 favorites]


It was eight weeks spent on each diet, not eight weeks total for all six.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 10:17 AM on August 14


So fishtables then.


That's what I thought.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:19 AM on August 14


This could easily be part 1 of a series:

September: "So I decided on a radical experiment. I would spend eight weeks each on six different plans representing the various options for would-be exercisers."

October: "So I decided on a radical experiment. I would spend eight weeks each on six different plans representing the various options for would-be fornicators."

November: "So I decided on a radical experiment. I would spend eight weeks each on six different plans representing the various options for would-be long-form travel essayists."
posted by leotrotsky at 10:20 AM on August 14 [4 favorites]


Well, there's more to it than that. The big thing is that calories are only part of the story - what's in your food matters just as much as how many calories it is. There's also the point that we're adapted for certain sorts of diets, and you ignore that at your own risk. A sustainable diet is also important - one of his points on the Paleo diet is that it requires some experience with working with organ meats, not something that most people have. And then there's the big one - plan to cheat.

I think I'm going to look up that Mediterranean diet book. It sounds like something that I can work into my own regimen (70 pounds down and counting!)
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:22 AM on August 14 [7 favorites]


"A last bit of advice: Once you've settled on a nutritional approach, cheat. Every now and then, eat whatever you want and wash it down with what's on tap. Knowing you can do this will make it easier to eat well the rest of the time."

True words. Once I put a tiny crack in my ironclad resolution to Never Again do whatever, the whole commitment gets forgotten about. If it doesn't start as a categorical thing, little exceptions don't flush the whole thing down the toilet.
posted by Beardman at 10:23 AM on August 14 [15 favorites]


I have lost about 70 pounds over the past year and the only thing that has worked for me is to avoid refined flour and sugar at all costs, and reduce as much as I can salt from my diet. So this basically means no prepared foods or home-made bread or cheese. Pretty amazing how much the pounds melt off.

A large part of it as well has to do with being over the age of 40. You just don't need as many calories, and the (gradual I hope) ageing process also changes our metabolism too.
posted by Nevin at 10:28 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


"And if you share my Irish heritage, Bannock will tell you to eliminate or dial back on, among other things, chicken, tomatoes, coffee, soy products, and all dairy."

I'm of Irish/Swedish heritage, and fuck that shit so hard. Especially giving up coffee and dairy.
posted by SansPoint at 10:33 AM on August 14 [19 favorites]


Most of the article is inside a firewall.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:33 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Most of the article is inside a firewall.

No it isn't. Most of the article is using magical "fade out, don't load until scroll-down requires it" HTML-bullshit.

It works fine on my desktop. Not sure what you are using to read it.
posted by hippybear at 10:35 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


The best diet is paleo-ish with some tasty processed foods now and then.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:36 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Chocolate Pickle: "Most of the article is inside a firewall."

I had to turn off my script blocker to see it after some request for signup.
posted by 724A at 10:37 AM on August 14


Also, hey, skinny white guy finds that whatever he's eating makes him a skinny white guy. I'm pretty fucking unconvinced that his experience generalizes.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:38 AM on August 14 [24 favorites]


These "I did something for 7 days/8 weeks/12 months" books and articles are a grown-up version of a Buzzfeed listicle. Now with bonus implied bullet points! I usually get halfway and then realize that the gimmick is not interesting enough for me to finish reading.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 10:41 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


I dunno, this guy seemed to be doing it right, with regular blood tests to see what effects the diets were having on him. And 8 week is a decent amount of time to see how your body is going to adjust to something. The conclusions he's drawn seem to make more sense than fad diet book recommendations.

But then, you didn't finish reading, so you don't know that.
posted by hippybear at 10:44 AM on August 14 [9 favorites]


Spoiler: The placebo effect is the best overall diet. As long as you're actively thinking about what you eat, you generally make better decisions and weight-loss follows. Individuals may see some variation, but no matter what, if you approach it mindfully you're going to do better.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:45 AM on August 14 [10 favorites]


I dont' get why these diets always recommend giving up caffeine, and coffee specifically. It just seems like puritanism rather than decent advice. Coffee is one of my primary ways of managing hunger pangs, in fact.
posted by bonehead at 10:47 AM on August 14 [17 favorites]


I'm pretty fucking unconvinced that his experience generalizes.

Given that his experience is that you should figure out what works for yourself, it's hard to see what you're objecting to here.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:50 AM on August 14 [15 favorites]


I also use coffee to ignore the signals of my body and often find myself way out of whack and too hungry to function, which sometimes leads me to make poor eating decisions for the sake of quickness and convenience. I assume this response is not unique to me, and that's probs why they recommend axing it.
posted by sibboleth at 10:52 AM on August 14


I wouldn't say that he's recommending anyone give up coffee. In fact, I don't think he's making recommendations about what anyone should eat. He's pretty clear that he was doing this to find out what HE should eat, and notes specifically that it's possible the diets he didn't do well on will be really good for some other people.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:56 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


The heritage diet seems suboptimal to me as I am deathly allergic to my primary ancestral food source and the secondary one is 3,000 varieties of potato.
posted by elizardbits at 10:58 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


Given the speed at which we have to refill the coffee in a bunch of 5L urns (hourly is too long) at family reunions, the case can easily be made that coffee is ancestral (Icelandic) food.
posted by bonehead at 11:00 AM on August 14 [3 favorites]


But you LOVE potato

As a half-scot half-northern-greek I'm pretty down with the implication that I need to eat nothing but sheep, weeds, and seething anger
posted by Greg Nog at 11:03 AM on August 14 [41 favorites]


YOGURT
posted by elizardbits at 11:08 AM on August 14 [5 favorites]


You guys, the whole point he's making is that each body works differently and each person has different priorities and preferences wrt to health choices, and to find a balance that works for you as an individual. He's not saying paleo or whatever will or should work for everyone or that his experience generalizes, he's saying the opposite of that.

And, come on, his point that 'health' is not just about weight is a good and valid thing, and something is very often ignored-- especially by skinny white guys. Props to him for having some awareness of that fact.
posted by Kpele at 11:10 AM on August 14 [8 favorites]


Given that his experience is that you should figure out what works for yourself, it's hard to see what you're objecting to here.

It's very much framed as "fad diets are dumb and I know the secret" when in fact you could read the same data and say "making significant changes to your body composition is hard and takes a long time, and is surprisingly divorced from other health markers that blood tests look for." To be fair, this is much more an objection to the editorial direction than to his actual experiment, which is stunty but whatever, he's a writer.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:13 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


As a half-scot half-northern-greek I'm pretty down with the implication that I need to eat nothing but sheep, weeds, and seething anger

I got English, Irish, Polish, and French Canadian by way of the Acadian Maritimes. Pork products may be my only option.

Although that means I can still eat bacon so yay
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:13 AM on August 14


Spoiler: The placebo effect is the best overall diet. As long as you're actively thinking about what you eat, you generally make better decisions and weight-loss follows. Individuals may see some variation, but no matter what, if you approach it mindfully you're going to do better.

You clearly are not a shame eating time bomb of self destruction. Congratulations.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:21 AM on August 14 [7 favorites]


I lost six pounds on this plan, and my body-fat percentage went from six to five.
Five percent! I don't think I've had a body-fat percentage of five percent since I was a zygote.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:32 AM on August 14 [11 favorites]


my Ancestral food: A steady diet of wool and nothing.
posted by The Whelk at 11:41 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


It's very much framed as "fad diets are dumb and I know the secret" when in fact you could read the same data and say "making significant changes to your body composition is hard and takes a long time, and is surprisingly divorced from other health markers that blood tests look for." To be fair, this is much more an objection to the editorial direction than to his actual experiment, which is stunty but whatever, he's a writer.

On one of the diets he went from 6% bodyfat to 5% in less than two months, which is no joke. Another improved his HDL to the best level's he'd ever had, a third worsened all his cholesterol numbers terribly.

The dude didn't lose a ton of weight on any of them, but as he says straight up at the beginning of the piece he didn't need to and didn't intend to in undertaking the experiment. Ditto muscle/cardio. That may set him apart from the majority of Americans considering starting a "new diet," but the changes he did experience, both blood test wise and in terms of mood, etc., seem significant enough to me given that he was only on each diet for eight weeks.

Personally I found the focus of the piece on how easy it was to live with any of these methods for long-term health maintenance refreshing. I mean, after all, that's the real goal anyway, and it's not talked about much. There are a hundred different more or less effective ways to lose x amount of lbs in a month. Finding a method of eating that will keep you healthy and that you can live with for the rest of your life is a much heavier lift, but that's what's really necessary. Michael Pollen's haiku is true enough as far as it goes, but it'd apply to most of the diets he tried; him taking a deeper dive in to what worked and didn't work about each particular method was interesting.
posted by maggiepolitt at 11:41 AM on August 14 [4 favorites]


I suppose the girlfriend would make me do an elimination diet eventually anyways. lol
posted by jeffburdges at 11:42 AM on August 14


Also, hey, skinny white guy finds that whatever he's eating makes him a skinny white guy.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:38 PM on August 14


What does his colour have to do with it?
posted by Decani at 11:42 AM on August 14 [2 favorites]


What does his colour have to do with it?

Because scientific research has a tendency not to control for race super well in general and I don't believe nutrition has historically been any better. We have a *lot* of data on how middle-class white American males act, behave, and react to things, and we're finding more and more that that's at best a distortion of reality and often actively counterproductive to finding out scientific truths.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:46 AM on August 14 [8 favorites]


It's almost as though none of these fad diets is in any way broadly applicable to humanity writ large, and overzealous advocates of whatever the food trend du jour happens to be are just exercising the same muscles as the ones who are fat-shaming.

Me, I only eat things that I have stared in the eye as I killed. Which makes salad a surreal experience.
posted by Mayor West at 11:51 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]


...unless I was exercising, I wasn't allowed much in the way of carbs. I grew so tired of the approach that boredom or upset stomachs would end meals before I had eaten enough. I found myself looking forward to exercise because I could use it to excuse a granola bar.

Agree with him on carbs. It seems for some people carbs make them more hungry but they have always been the most filling and satisfying thing for me. I'd be interested in trying different diets like that just as an experiment but when you eat mostly vegan for ethical reasons you kind of restrict a lot of your choices of fad diets.

I also love the fact that, in a book that's ostensibly about weight loss, Acquista's only real discussion about calories is to say that counting them will ultimately derail attempts to lead a healthier lifestyle.


Can't possibly disagree more with that though. It's just a way to quantify what you are going to do anyway if you are losing weight.

So what happened? The soy? Maybe. There is a growing body of research, summarized in the book The Whole Soy Story, suggesting that consuming excessive amounts of soy products can pose health risks, including disrupted hormone levels.

Uh-huh, I'm not really excited to take advice from someone on the board of a group that endorses raw milk. You can take the soy from my cold dead Irish descended hands. Demonization of individual food products is pretty rarely warranted.

The site does one important thing very well, however: It forces you to pay attention to everything you eat. You realize quickly how hard it is to get in sufficient produce and how quickly calories, fats, sodium, and cholesterol add up.

AKA, the benefits of calorie counting.

my own take on what is commonly referred to as an elimination diet. You'll have to keep a diary of everything you eat and how it makes you feel, but it won't take a full year— more like two months.


And why not include calorie counting if you are logging everything anyway? That's the one thing I don't get there.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:53 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


> It's almost as though none of these fad diets is in any way broadly applicable to humanity writ large

This is easy to say, but the advice to cut way down on refined foods is pretty universally good advice.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:54 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Raw milk is awesome; you should get it if you can.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 11:55 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Last year I joined a new team at work. A couple of the guys on the team are hard-core fitness dudes, real ripped muscle types. One of them was my boss.

We spent a lot of time traveling overseas together, and I got to watch his eating (and exercising habits). I adopted some of them.

8 months later, I had lost 35 pounds (an average of a pound a week, which is about where you want to be in most weight loss plans).

The only thing I intentionally cut back on was "fresh" dairy. Basically, I stopped drinking milk and only very very occasionally had ice cream. This was more due to a suspicion that I have mild lactose sensitivity.* I still ate yogurts and occassionally put some aged cheddar on a burger.

Beyond the fresh dairy exclusion, I ate anything I wanted. Just not all the time! I didn't follow any fad diets at all, I didn't go paleo, I didn't go Atkins or anything like that. I simply watched my calories and was a bloody zealot about logging all my intake every. single. damn. day.

I got the LoseIt app. I studied up and figured out how to estimate my Base Metabolic Rate (BMR). I tried to exercise 4 hours a week.

During this time, I traveled for work, which most people will agree is never easy for a dieter. But I found ways. I made it work. Here is the main reason why:

I decided that I was not on a diet.

I decided this after going to lunch with a vendor and my boss at a really posh steak place. Everybody ordered awesome food, including my super in-shape boss. This was at the beginning of my "diet", when I still considered it a diet. I sat there, guilty, eating the amazing steak and decadent mashed potatoes...I made an aside to my boss (let's call him Jon):

Me: Oh man, this is not going to help my diet at all
Jon: Don't sweat it. Just tell yourself "It's only one day, and tomorrow I'll be back to my normal routine"
Me: Really? Is that what you do?
Jon: All the time. It's the only way to stay sane.

And that's all it took. I don't even call them cheat days. They are just days that are outside the routine. They happen sometimes. People want to go to dinner. Family birthday parties have cake. It's just one day, tomorrow I'll be back to my regular thing. And my regular thing is a healthy, sustainable, delicious set of meals that keep me fed and fueled to do things I need to do every day.

Tracking calories really is key. Exercise is an excellent supplement to healthy weight, but what you eat really matters. The great part is, as TFA and others have alluded to, because everybody's body is different, tracking your intake helps you learn about your body's response to food. This is so critical.

If you have 1800 calories to eat in a day, you'll quickly find out which foods help you reach that goal without making you want to murder everything. You'll figure out that, generally speaking, whole foods (meaning foods with minimal processing or refinement) tend to stick in your gut a little longer. They keep you feeling full just a little bit longer.

A couple other great things I learned from my bodybuilder boss, given here as a Q&A:

Me: What kinds of supplements should I take?
Jon: None. Well, maybe a multivitamin, just in case you're not eating balanced meals.

Me: What about protein powders and stuff?
Jon: Sure, if you want. But they're expensive and aren't as effective as say, egg whites or fish or chicken. They are convenient, which can be useful in some cases.

Me: So, some of the guys are doing Paleo, what do you think of that?
Jon: Get your macros right, then you can worry about your micros if you want. Does it really matter what octane of gas your using if you're constantly redlining the engine?

I still have some weight to lose and some strengths to gain. I don't look amazing, but I feel a hundred times better than I did last year. I did a 100-mile bike race on my own (granted I was super slow compared to everyone else, but the point is that I did it). Sometimes I get a burger with fries. Sometimes I get an awesome burrito at the local dive. I enjoy expense-account dinners with vendors. I track all those meals too. And the next day, I'm back to my normal routine.

Another great benefit of tracking food is that after a while you can visually intuit your portions, so even if you're at a restaurant you can sort of grok the calories and figure out how much you can eat without breaking your bank.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:56 AM on August 14 [26 favorites]


Raw milk is awesome; you should get it if you can.

I eat very little dairy anymore anyway, but I think I'll avoid it.

FDA: CDC reported that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:58 AM on August 14 [7 favorites]


Calorie Counting turns me into a neurotic mess who doesn't eat for days and sets up a very ....unhealthy attitude toward food. I cook most of my meals at home cause that's where I work from and that's been the most sustainable. (I'm not "on a diet" I'm trying out new recipes that just happen to be full of vegetables that's it..")
posted by The Whelk at 11:59 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]


(also the instant I have to put something into a spreadsheet I stop doing it.)
posted by The Whelk at 12:01 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


I was just discussing with a computer operator here how the December 2011 post on intermittent fasting and glucose intolerance was when I adopted my strategy of 16/8 intermittent fasting.

I eat a normal lunch, and a normal dinner. Then I pretty much don't eat until lunchtime the next day.

975 days later, 125 pounds lighter. WORKSFORME.
posted by mikelieman at 12:03 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


Oh, and as long as The Whelk mentions spreadsheets, yeah, I started my moving average in Google Docs, but it's evolved since then.

No spreadsheet.
posted by mikelieman at 12:05 PM on August 14


Heh, my most successful weight-loss strategy so far has been shacking up with an awesome girlfriend. I am less bored = I eat less + we cook real food for each other. And there's the dogs that need walking. (Cats are not diet aids, I'll tell you that.)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:06 PM on August 14 [8 favorites]


I probably wouldn't have started counting if I had to use a spreadsheet either, bless the app makers that made it simple and smartphones in general, and the privilege to be able to afford to use them.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:08 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Meh, raw milk is demonized and that stat gets cited, but it's not like it's a crapshoot. Safe dairy techniques have been around prior to pasteurization/homogenization.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:10 PM on August 14



No spreadsheet.


Step one :weigh yourself every day.

Nooooope.
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


I hadn't realized the connection between tomatoes and potatoes, interesting.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:23 PM on August 14


Safe dairy techniques have been around prior to pasteurization/homogenization

That's misleading at best. "Safe" techniques or not dairy was a huge vector for the spread of tuberculosis prior to pasteurization.

As to the article in the OP, it was bland and milquetoast. "What works best for you is what will work best for you!". Oh come on. We didn't need the article to tell us that.
posted by Justinian at 12:31 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


But a lot of people do need to hear people saying that, because what the fad diet marketing teaches is "this diet will work for everyone!"
posted by MoonOrb at 12:33 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Doleful Creature: And that's all it took. I don't even call them cheat days. They are just days that are outside the routine. They happen sometimes. People want to go to dinner. Family birthday parties have cake. It's just one day, tomorrow I'll be back to my regular thing.

That has never worked for me, even a little, because for whatever joyous reason, my body reacts to "cake" with an addict's craving for more sugar that is psychologically and emotionally agonizing to attempt to resist (and I will fail 100% of the time). Some of us just have sugar receptors that are either ON or OFF. And a little "cheat" snaps them into the ON position until, one way or another, it ends in misery. So yeah, the whole "don't deny yourself X food because you'll only crave it and 'break your diet'" thing only works for people who can eat one slice of cake and not immediately need to eat everything else in view that contains sugar.
posted by tzikeh at 12:33 PM on August 14 [10 favorites]


And yet I've never had TB. Enjoy the paranoia about raw dairy, though. I won't bother to get into it with metafilter people, but pasteurization pretty much ruins milk, and is the reason many have "lactose" intolerance. Polymerized proteins and ruined fats don't serve the intestines well.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:36 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


"What works best for you is what will work best for you!". Oh come on. We didn't need the article to tell us that.

Given that there are 100 "Revealed! The one true way of diet!" articles for every one like this? Yes. We do. The variation of responses on this thread alone makes it obvious that different people's bodies respond to food stimuli in pretty different ways.
posted by escabeche at 12:52 PM on August 14


And yet I've never had TB.

Well, my dad smoked his whole life and never got lung cancer. (Died of a nasty case of emphysema, though.)
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:55 PM on August 14 [9 favorites]


Nooooope

I've found I can't manage what I'm not measuring, so if my goal is to manage my daily rate of weight change, then I need to feed the system raw values so I can get useful feedback. The whole part about where $MATH occurs takes the stress out of the equation.
posted by mikelieman at 1:02 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


So my comment in response to "don't fucking step to me" (as if, dude) was deleted. But what people often call lactose intolerance is not in fact lactose intolerance (unless it's actually properly diagnosed as such). Please continue the pile on.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:03 PM on August 14


And yet I've never had TB.

Anecdote != data.

I'd love to see some actual science behind your claim that Pasteurization causes lactose intolerance, seeing as how the CDC and Mayo Clinic say absolutely nothing about that, but you don't want to "get into it with metafilter people," which I can understand. We're a pretty educated and fact-based bunch.
posted by tzikeh at 1:03 PM on August 14 [8 favorites]


Me, I only eat things that I have stared in the eye as I killed. Which makes salad a surreal experience.

Waiter, I'll have the vegetable medley and a sheet of googley-eye stickers.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:03 PM on August 14 [12 favorites]


Enjoy the paranoia about raw dairy, though.

Unfortunately, cows are dirty. They shit everywhere. And no matter how long the beard is of your neighbourhood plaid-clad artisanal farmer, shit is going to get in the milk. That's why we need to pasteurize it.

Of course, the risks are much greater at an industrial scale, but better safe than sorry. Or at least don't characterize the risks as "paranoia."
posted by Nevin at 1:07 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


Maybe we should let the raw milk go, it wasn't even in the article. I just brought it up because the author of the book about soy has a connection to promoting it.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:10 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


But what people often call lactose intolerance is not in fact lactose intolerance (unless it's actually properly diagnosed as such).

It is the default state for adult humans.
posted by elizardbits at 1:19 PM on August 14 [5 favorites]


In conclusion, the human diet is a land of contrasts.

Moving on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:25 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


I'm not really excited to take advice from someone on the board of a group that endorses raw milk.

Raw milk is perfectly fine as long as it's a) fresh as hell, and b) coming from a small-scale, clean and well-maintained farm. If you've never experienced the joy of shooting milk straight out of an udder into your mouth, or pouring thick cream on your porridge that came out of the cow maybe an hour before, you're missing out.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:29 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


are you this cat, tell the truth now
posted by elizardbits at 1:31 PM on August 14 [11 favorites]


No but I pretty much did that exact thing many times as a kid. Hell, my step-grandparents bought their milk and cream and butter from a local farmer in the Cotswolds and have done so all their lives.

Or at least don't characterize the risks as "paranoia."

Characterizing risks as far greater than they are is more or less exactly paranoia, so..

Plus the best cheeses are made from raw milk. Pasteurized milk doesn't coagulate in the same way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:36 PM on August 14


But, yeah, you're right Empress, should move on.

I think the most important takeaway from this--one that should be a headline in every newspaper and on every website everywhere--is that nutrition, especially fad diets, are emphatically not a one-size-fits-all solution.

That and lifestyle changes as opposed to 'dieting' are the long-term and healthier ways to lose weight.

Not that it'll make any difference to the millions of people who glom onto the latest fad diet as though it'll work.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:40 PM on August 14


Unfortunately, cows are dirty. They shit everywhere. And no matter how long the beard is of your neighbourhood plaid-clad artisanal farmer, shit is going to get in the milk. That's why we need to pasteurize it.

I wasn't going to get into the raw milk thing, but I just have to reply to misinformation like this. Properly treated / pastured cows do not have excessive shit on the feet or on their teats. I watch my unbearded neighbor who wears a vest and button down shirt every day milk as we chat sometimes. He examines the teats before he puts the milker on; out of 40 cows there is maybe one or two teats he needs to clean before he puts the milker on. There is a lot of other cleaning involved, spraying their feet as the come in, spraying the walkway between groups being milked, &tc. but it really doesn't have to look like a "regular farm" if you don't want it to.

I worked baling hay and shoveling shit on a dairy farm way back in my youth. The smell of sour milk around the holding tank was pervasive. I walked into the room with my friend's holding tank and there was zero bad smell at all. I couldn't believe it; it just didn't smell like a dairy farm "should" smell.

When you're going to cook the milk before you use it, you can get really lazy, and then you need to cook the milk because you've forgotten how or just can't be bothered to produce clean, safe milk.

I'm misquoting, but towards the ends of his life Pasteur basically reversed himself. The line in my head is, "It isn't the pathogen, it is the territory." If there is no environment for the pathogen to be transmitted and multiply, then there no need for cooking your milk before you consume it.
posted by Walleye at 1:42 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


As a few have pointed out --and I should have mentioned this in my enthusiastic re-telling of my own Diet Adventures-- what works for me doesn't work for everyone. Duh, right?

The idea I was hoping to illustrate was merely to agree with the idea that you have to know yourself to better yourself. Right? Counting calories isn't the only way, it just happens to be a pretty straightforward way. If you're allergic to spreadsheets I can certainly understand why that doesn't work for you.

Mrs. Creature cannot handle calorie counting, but Weight Watchers works wonders for her because it sort of simplifies that system into points which are much easier for her to handle.

My body-builder boss hates calorie counting too, actually. Instead, he just focuses on weights of macronutrients, i.e. "I need c grams of carbohydrates, p grams of protein, and f grams of fat every day." When he's at home he measures this with a scale. When he's traveling he just eyeballs it (e.g. 4 oz of meat: about the size of a deck of cards) and sticks to really simple menu items like Steak, rice, salad (dressing on the side), etc...

The website Scooby's Workshop is, well, a little bit bodybuilder focused. It's sort of feels like the Ken Rockwell of fitness and food...but I've found it to be a mostly excellent, no-BS resource of basic nutrition and fitness advice. The author of the site seems genuinely interested in sane approaches to nutrition and fitness. Here's the section on eating, it's a pretty good place to get some basics: Losing Weight and Building 6-pack Abs
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:43 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


At any rate, if anyone wants to look at a good deconstruction of how pasteurization damages milk at the cellular and even molecular level, feel free to memail. It's in print currently so I'm reluctant to post in "public".
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:47 PM on August 14


The Whelk: Calorie Counting turns me into a neurotic mess who doesn't eat for days and sets up a very ....unhealthy attitude toward food. (also the instant I have to put something into a spreadsheet I stop doing it.)

Drinky Die: I probably wouldn't have started counting if I had to use a spreadsheet either, bless the app makers that made it simple and smartphones in general, and the privilege to be able to afford to use them.
I lost weight by logging everything I eat & drink in the MyFitnessPal app. (There’s also a website, but the app has a barcode scanner.) I meet my calorie goal, and try to exceed my protein & fiber goals.

I recognize that calorie counting doesn’t work for everyone. But TFA says, “pay attention to everything you eat. You realize quickly how hard it is to get in sufficient produce and how quickly calories, fats, sodium, and cholesterol add up.” The apps make it easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
posted by editorgrrl at 1:59 PM on August 14 [4 favorites]


Trust me, thanks to the past I know the caloric count and sugar ratio of literally everything on earth excepting fried bugs.

Wait why can't people from an Irish background eat tomatoes? I'm somewhat related to most of the North Sea and tomatoes do nothing but make me and salads happy.
posted by The Whelk at 2:09 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Ken Rockwell

I read this as "Rockwell Kent" and thought "wait, stern simplified line art of rugged northern life? That ..kinda sounds cool?"
posted by The Whelk at 2:12 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


tracking your intake helps you learn about your body's response to food.

Yeah, can't second this enough. Even if you're not trying to lose (or gain) weight, it's a worthwhile experiment to track your macros for a month. Just being aware of what I'm putting in my body has vastly improved my eating habits without even having a target calorie limit.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 2:12 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


Not that it'll make any difference to the millions of people who glom onto the latest fad diet as though it'll work.

Funny thing is, well not *funny*, but I do find it easier to understand when I keep in mind that for many people, the stress and anxiety over their weight or the details of the latest thing down the pipe actually is their comfort-zone.

And of course, once people have a significant investment in their own comfort-zones, moving from there can be incredibly challenging. I'll stop now before this becomes a cathartic wall-o-text regarding my brief adventures as a certified personal trainer....
posted by mikelieman at 2:16 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Our milk comes from here... Note the use of "Low temperature vat pasteurization". I have no clue if that's objectively better or worse than anything, but the shelf life of the stuff is a week, maybe 10 days, and that's just fine by me...
posted by mikelieman at 2:23 PM on August 14


Re: the notion of not stressing about occasionally not adhering to whatever one's chosen food plan is, there's the No-S Diet: no (between meal) snacks, no sweets, no seconds... except on Saturday & Sunday. The logic is it's easier to avoid the chocolate chip cookie all week long if you know you can have one on the weekend, rather than telling yourself you can never again have a chocolate chip cookie but then inevitably giving in and hating yourself and/or having one more often than once a week...
posted by twsf at 2:47 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


And Special days, don't forget--celebrations, birthdays, etc.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:51 PM on August 14


The placebo effect is the best overall diet. As long as you're actively thinking about what you eat, you generally make better decisions and weight-loss follows. Individuals may see some variation, but no matter what, if you approach it mindfully you're going to do better.

Somebody thought about snake oil.
posted by srboisvert at 3:35 PM on August 14


Why didn't he take on a ketogenic diet?

Switching your body to primarily metabolizing fats instead of glucose is pretty drastic and different from most of those diets he tried. Keto is even good for blood cholesterol, which seemed to be what he cared about most.
posted by chillyvanilly at 4:08 PM on August 14


Calorie Counting turns me into a neurotic mess who doesn't eat for days and sets up a very ....unhealthy attitude toward food.

Fascinating because Calorie Counting resulted in me leveling my daily food intake so that I no longer had accidental binge and starve days due to unaccounted for different amounts of physical exertion. Coincidentally, I went from about 5-10 headaches a month to zero and I became a much less crabby person.
posted by srboisvert at 5:39 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


I'm no good at "just go back to your regular routine" after eating something unhealthy. A glass of wine, a small square of chocolate, dinner at a nice restaurant all lead to me scarfing down random junk food I don't even enjoy. I've been working on my eating competency though, and I think it's helping me get better at following the more-sensible/less-faddish weight loss advice. I read about it at the Fat Nutritionist site after seeing it linked on AskMe, and learning how to pay attention to the effects of hunger, fullness, and certain types of food has been really useful. I grew up poor with rare treats that had to be shared with my bratty sisters in-between meals of whatever was cheap; my working mum had little time for cooking and did all the fad diets of the 80s with her friends. So I never learned how to eat normally or had it modelled for me.

Your mileage will of course vary, but if you are in a similar situation, learning the basic skills first might make weight loss easier.

Also, Weightbot for iOS is good for tracking your average weight if you just want need that without doing the calorie counting thing.
posted by harriet vane at 8:11 PM on August 14 [5 favorites]


I would live to do a more paleo diet. But it's really hard for me to find ethically raised and slaughtered meat. Meat would make my life so much better.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:39 AM on August 15


Try your local farmers market. There's often a startling variety of meat available, and you can speak directly to the person who raised it about any issues you may have.
posted by hippybear at 12:46 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Good idea. Thanks!
posted by persona au gratin at 12:51 AM on August 15


Eh, I'm kind of bummed out by this. I went through a phase last year where I went really paleo. I lost a ton of weight and my joints felt better... but then the UN report on climate change came out and I realised just how monstrously, awfully, no-good, very bad paleo was for the planet. Yes, yes, I know, you need to buy ethically raised organic grain fed artisanal meat, but you end up eating a lot of meat doing paleo, and I'm a city-dweller with a limited food budget.

TL;DR: I went vegan. I'm still vegan. I have no plans to not be vegan, because climate change scares the crap out of me and it's one thing I can do to reduce my carbon footprint. And the weight has crept back on (I now weigh between 58-60kg, up from 54-56). I have spasms of self-loathing and panic about this - I will not go gentle into that middle age spread! - but it turns out ethical concerns motivate me much more than health concerns. I work out six days a week, but I'm kind of stumped. I just can't recreate a high protein, high fat, low carb diet as a vegan, so I guess I'm just going to be kind of fat from now on.

Have fun with your experiment, outdoor man. But I think I'm just doomed to be a pudgy vegan.
posted by nerdfish at 2:13 AM on August 15


If this thread proves anything it proves that what works for someone won't work for everyone.

I see a lot of people here that can't/won't count calories and do daily weigh-ins but for me that's exactly what I needed. More that just looking at calories as a whole number, breaking it down to the big four (carbs, fat, protein, fibre) on MyFitnessPal and getting a workable weightlifting plan changed my life.

A little under two years later, I'm down 105lbs and still going strong.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 5:44 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


nerdfish, I would consider eating an egg from time to time in order to get some of the nutrients that are only available from animal sources. Vegan athletes do exist, so YMMV. Tempeh is a good way of getting some protein and better than tofu in many ways.
posted by asok at 7:05 AM on August 15


B12 is pretty much all you can't otherwise get in a vegan diet, and fortified food or supplements work fine for that.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:02 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


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