It’s Not A Diet, Actually

Just think of all those women on the Titanic who said, ‘No thank you’ to dessert that night. And for what?! 

― Erma Bombeck

In a previous post, I mentioned seeing an old, sugar-addicted friend who had some snarky things to say about my dislike of sugar. That’s a common reaction from some people. Whether they label it “Atkins” or not, they treat what I’m doing as “a diet.”

I dislike this.

There are several reasons why.

This is your last chance to go over to awkwardfamilyphotos before I get into it. Run.

Still here? Ok, well here we go.

The whole word “diet” has a modern connotation that people 100 years ago would never recognize. The word, sitting there all by itself, usually means today: “eating less food in an attempt to lose tonnage.”

100 years ago, “diet” meant: “stuff you choose to eat.” When you used it in relation to losing weight, the phrase was “semi-starvation diet.” This term has fallen out of favor. Why? I think author Gary Taubes hit it on the head when he said:

..perhaps because it implies an unnatural and uncomfortable condition that few individuals could be expected to endure for long.

Today, of course, you aren’t supposed to think of it as “unnatural” or “uncomfortable.” Oh no. Weight Watchers has solved it all for you, so that you can diet and be super-happy. You can enjoy delicious foods and feel satisfied all the time. And it definitely isn’t something temporary. It’s something you’re supposed to be able to do “for life.” After all, if you can’t will yourself into starving perpetually, you’re a glutton.

Because that’s what a traditional diet is. It’s starvation. And it’s stupid.

If you care to look in Gary Taubes’ book, Good Calories, Bad Calories chapter 15 “Hunger,” you’ll gain some very interesting information on this important physiological mechanism.

He starts by telling us about a study done in 1917. 12 men were put on diets of 1400-2100 calories a day for one month. Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? I mean, it’s common for diets today to tell you to eat 1500 or even 1200 calories, and for a lot longer than one month. Extreme diets for really obese people can be as low as 800. So the guys in this study were practically stuffing themselves.

You can read the entire report here. What they found was simply fascinating.

The 12 guys lost the weight, yeah. But some other things happened, too, and it is vitally important that you understand something: all these symptoms I’m about to describe happened to these men before they lost weight. It was not loss of weight that caused them; it was the effect of their perfectly–reasonable–by–today’s–standards, why–can’t–you–stick–to–your–diet–you–fat–cow,  diet:

1. They were hungry. Not just hungry: starving. They couldn’t stop talking about and thinking about food.

2. They got so cold they couldn’t get warm, even with lots of clothing. Their metabolisms dropped by 30%; so far that if they increased their calorie consumption–even by amounts far less than they were originally eating–they would immediately regain the lost weight.

3. They got anemia.

4. They experienced a clinically observable decrease in concentration.

5. They were obviously physically weaker.

6. Their blood pressure and pulse rate dropped precipitously.

7. They completely lost their libido.

8. When allowed to eat as they wanted after the experiment, every one of them over-ate tremendously. They regained all the lost weight in two weeks. Three weeks later, they had ballooned up an average of eight pounds beyond what they were at the beginning.

Ancel Keys decided to repeat this experiment in 1945, only with greater caloric restriction, and for longer. He was trying to mimic what might happen to Allied troops in war-torn Europe, and he got some conscientious objectors willing to volunteer. They would spend 6 months on the semi-starvation diet, eating 1,800 calories per day.

You can read about it in the ironically titled study: “They Starved So That Others Be Better Fed: Remembering Ancel Keys and the Minnesota Experiment.” Why is this ironic? Because any modern “nutritionist” you throw a stone at will tell you that you should eat 1,800 calories a day, and far less, to lose weight. And if you don’t, the problem is YOU. YOU are lazy. YOU are gluttonous. YOU have no self-control.

No one ever presents dieting to you like this: “You need to voluntarily and unnaturally subject yourself to starvation in order to lose weight. It’ll be so difficult that even determined, young, vigorously–healthy men could barely do it.

So what happened to Keys’ guys?

Well, first, they were fed what the researchers figured Europeans would have to eat. Their first meal was “a small bowl of farina, two slices of toast, a dish of fried potatoes, a dish of jello, a small portion of jam, and a small glass of milk.” Sounds like a perfectly reasonable amount of food, right? Aren’t you supposed to be satisfied with a slice of whole grain toast or two with a little margarine and half a grapefruit?

So what happened to the brave volunteers? Well, all the same stuff that happened to the first group, plus:

1. They didn’t all lose weight as they were supposed to. Two men failed entirely to drop enough weight, despite “drastic cuts” to diet. So they just cut them out of the study. They had to cut the calories of some men more than others in order to get them to lose the required amount of weight per week, even though all the men were putting in the same amount of exercise.

But it’s all calories in, calories out, folks. Just eat 100 calories less each day and you’ll lose 10 pounds in a year….

2. They went nuts. Five of them completely broke down. One guy ran out and binged on milkshakes, sundaes, and candy and then was found bawling and talking of suicide. One guy ate from garbage cans. Some of them were chewing gum on the order of 40 packs a day. Those who didn’t get that far became irritable, angry, obsessed with food, cooking and recipes, lost their libido, lost all ambition, and felt constantly listless and uninterested in life. They grew deeply depressed.

4. They grew so exhausted they could barely function. They learned where all the elevators were. They never stood when they could sit. They became experts at not expending any energy other than what they absolutely had to. When a buddy system was instituted to make sure no one cheated on the diet, one man was thankful for his buddy because the revolving doors of stores were too heavy for him to move alone.

5. When they entered the rehabilitation period and were allowed 2200-2800 calories a day, they saw no significant improvement in their health. Most described it as the worst period, with depression deepening. Some actually lost more weight at this point.

6. When finally allowed, in the last two weeks, to eat everything they wanted, their average food intake rose to 8,000 calories per day. Yet they were ravenously hungry, even after eating 8,000 calories, and in the end each man weighed an average of 5% more than he did before the experiment. Even more strikingly, they each gained an average of 50% more body fat than they had before they began.

But that’s not the way it works for you, folks. You should be able to starve yourself, lose weight according to The Calculations, then eat just a couple more calories to maintain for life. You shouldn’t be putting all that weight back on. Plus, of course, you can just put your food on a smaller plate and trick yourself into eating fewer calories. Or drink lots of water…that’ll make your stomach feel full.

Hunger is natural. Hunger signals that your cells need fuel, and it isn’t controlled by the size of your stomach. If your cells need fuel and your fat cells need to be replenished–in the view of your body, which will do what it wants independent of what you want–you can eat 8,000 calories a day and still not feel full.

Diets are not natural. Diets don’t work as they’re “supposed” to. Rarely do people lose weight the way it’s “supposed to happen.” You’re constantly being told it’s reasonable to put less energy (food) into the tank, but demand more energy (exercise) out of it. This is idiotic to the point of lunacy. Every honest researcher who has studied in the clinic–with metabolism tests and controlled diet and exercise–can tell you that when you stop putting in energy, no matter how fat you are, your metabolism and energy output slow in greater proportion than your weight drops.

Semi-starvation diets have a long and glorious history of ineffectiveness.

That’s why I’ve never dieted. I never dieted before, and I’m not dieting now. Diets are illogical. If the food I’m eating is good for me–and I was told whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat foods and white meats were–then I should not have to eat starvation-level amounts of them in order to simply not be ridiculously fat. It is nonsensical and stupid to tell me that my caloric needs are half that of a woman five inches shorter than I am, who is also less active, yet that is what current dieting theory says. “You are fat, therefore you are eating to much, even if the smaller, less active woman standing next to you eats more than you do and yet somehow doesn’t get fat.”

So you know what that tells me?  The food ISN’T GOOD.

If it was, you wouldn’t be enormously fat.

And guess what?

As soon as I started eating foods that actually are food –red meat, animal and coconut fat–and stopped eating foods that aren’t food–grains, sugars and excessive amounts of fruit–I stopped being enormously fat so quickly that I now need a whole new wardrobe and have no money to buy one with.

I’ve mentioned the book The Art and Science of Low Carb Living. In it the researchers discuss how when using a low-carb diet, they can put extremely obese patients on diets of as little as 300-800 calories a day. (Please don’t rush out and try eating 300 calories a day without medical supervision. You’re not an expert.) Those patients didn’t complain of hunger, didn’t see huge energy drops and remained reasonably satisfied. How?

Because they ate what was good for them: fat with very minimal protein. Fat is filling. Fat gives you energy. Ask any Tibetan mountain climber if he’d rather have four bowls of yak-butter tea or four Performance Energy Bar, Apple Cinnamon, to start his day.

I didn’t diet then, and I don’t diet now. I eat till I’m satisfied of foods I know are good for me. “Atkins” and other similar diets treat your carbohydrate restriction as unnatural and temporary. Over time, you just start adding back in all the stuff that made you fat and sick in the first place. Everyone’s goal is to achieve “normality.”

Well phooey on that. I AM normal. I’m a carnivore. Being able to eat grains is a backup emergency system God gave me to protect me from starvation. The only real difference, digestively, between me and a wolf is I have a little amylase in my saliva, which helps me digest starch. The rest of my digestion doesn’t love starch, but because of amylase I can use it if I need to. But you don’t run the backup emergency system 24/7 and expect good performance. Neither my stomach nor intestines are designed for that. They’re designed to eat meat and the fat it comes so copiously packed with.


Plato says he’s hungry

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