Fallout II

There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.


After the catastrophe that was yesterday’s loss of all my writing (catastrophe to me; relief to some.) I am going to try again on the subject of idiocy that gets thrown about over the holidays.

In addition to articles blaming our holiday eating for all the evils of this world, we also get articles like this horrendous one by Joe, advising us of 20 Little Ways to Drop Pounds. Just in time for the holidays!

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Bad news: The average person gains one to two pounds a year.

Good news: Consuming just 100 fewer calories each day is enough to avert that weight gain.

If you’re finding this out a little too late―and you want to actually lose some of that weight―you have to downsize by 500 calories a day. But you don’t have to slash them all from your plate.“You can eat 250 calories less and then burn 250 by walking for 30 to 45 minutes. Over a week, that will produce about a pound of weight loss,” Dr. Holly Wyatt, a clinical researcher at the Center for Human Nutrition in Denver, said.

Please, Holly. If it were that simple…everyone would be doing it.

Do you know a lot of fat people that haven’t tried exercising regularly? Do you know any really fat people that haven’t tried forcibly restraining themselves at the tables? I don’t. I’ve seen some on TV–but those are people in such extreme states of obesity that they’ve given up all hope. And why have they given up all hope?

If you talk to them, a very common lament is that they did what people like Holly told them to do, and it didn’t work.

In fact, I have to question all the numbers here because research the NY Times reports on tells us that the average person puts on 1-2 pounds of weight over the holidays. That writer is smart enough (and that’s not saying much) to link this to average adult weight gain:

Since the average weight gain during adulthood is about one to two pounds a year, that means much of midlife weight gain can be explained by holiday eating.

I just have so many questions. Don’t you?

1. How on earth can all the other weeks of the year of normal eating not be enough to undo the damage from 6 weeks of eating? And that’s assuming you overeat consistently from Thanksgiving week all the way through New Year, every day, every week.

2. How do people so perfectly balance their yearly increase in poundage? I mean, what an amazing feat. Exactly the same amount; every year. And we know that the average person’s metabolism drops by 5% or so every decade, so people are somehow magically eating less once they hit 30, then 40, then 50–exactly enough less to keep their weight gain the same.

3. What about all those people who stay skinny till they turn about 30-35 and then suddenly start getting fat? Did they suddenly start eating a lot more at holidays?

4. How do these people perfectly balance their intake of calories and their output of energy for the rest of the year so that they neither lose that pound nor gain any more? What a miracle! Especially when 2/3 of the country is dismayed by that holiday pound and actively goes to work eating salads and running to the gym for a couple weeks in January? Even if they give it up, Holly says all we need to do to lose that pound is eat a little less and exercise a little more for just one week. Gyms report that they count on January’s increase in memberships to get them through the year. Their memberships typically triple in that month, and about half those people stick with it. And yet somehow all that gym-ing isn’t enough to lose that one pound?

5. And how can people capable of so perfectly balancing their calories in/calories out not figure out how to lose when they want to? Why are they all sliding inexorably into fathood?

It’s almost like there’s something else at play here…

And there is! But we’ll get to that. First, let’s see what amazing weight loss tips Joe has compiled in between his online gaming. I’ll start with my favorites–two that are completely contradictory:

1. Start with salad…and eat less during the rest of the meal, a study from Pennsylvania State University shows. When salads were topped with low-fat mozzarella and low-calorie Italian dressing instead of high-fat alternatives, women ate 10 percent fewer calories over the course of the day.

7. Crack a nut. Dieters in a Harvard University study who ate a handful of peanuts or mixed nuts daily were more likely to keep weight off than a group whose regimen didn’t include the high-fat snacks.

Come on, Joe. Eat fat, or don’t eat fat? You’re telling us both to eat more fat and to also eat less fat in order to eat less total.

My theory? Either one of these studies was a half-finished association that was reported sloppily (or Joe interpreted it sloppily), or it’s the type of fat and/or sugar that made the difference. Those nasty Italian dressings are made with horrendous fats such as we talked about yesterday and lots and lots of sugar: all of which messes with your metabolism, spikes insulin, and causes inflammation.

One of the most popular House Italian salad dressings in America contains the following: (Water, Soybean Oil, Distilled Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Garlic, Salt, Egg Yolks, Parmesan Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Spices, Red Bell Peppers, Natural Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Onion, Garlic Powder, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, (Sorbic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Calcium Disodium EDTA) Used To Protect Quality, (Caramel Powder, Annatto Extract) Colors Added.)

Just like Madre used to make!

Anyway, I’m not shocked at all that women who ate more of that garbage ate a little more than women who didn’t. (And by the way, Joe didn’t get his facts right. The study only measured how much the women ate immediately after eating the salad–not throughout the day.) I’m guessing it had nothing to do with the fat. My guess is the sugar–which those dressings are spiked with–raised their blood sugar and made those who ate more of it hungrier in proportion. That’s what happens to everyone who eats sugar.

3. Order two appetizers. According to a study at the University of North Carolina, the average hamburger is 23 percent larger today than it was in 1977. Choose a pasta dish and salad or soup from the appetizer column, instead.

This is brilliant. I went to one of those websites that gives you the menu and calories of a number of popular restaurants. I looked at Applebee’s, Chili’s, Fuddrucker’s, and a couple others. Denny’s I believe. The first thing I would like to tell you is that not one of them had a salad or a pasta on their appetizer menu. The average appetizer at Chili’s has 1,013 calories–meaning that two of them is 2,026. The average burger is only 1,445. At another one–I can’t remember which one as I did this yesterday and then lost my work–I tried ordering any of the pastas (no pasta or salad on the appetizer menu) and then a side salad to go with it. Of course they didn’t have a side salad. Their average pasta dish was 1,218 calories and their average salad was 950. Their average burger was 909.

4. Visit the vending machine. Nibbling on single servings is better than digging your way to the bottom of a mega-bag of chips.

Now while I’ll definitely grant that eating a small bag of potato chips is better than eating a large bag, you know is even better? Stop eating them entirely!

Besides, that advice just seems really at odds with this one:

6. Watch coffee calories. The fancy concoctions that are now the javas of choice for many people can contain as many calories as an entire lunch.

So it’s ok to go trot off to the vending machine when you feel hungry; but watch those coffee drinks! And what if you followed this one?

2. Stick a fork in it. If you prefer your salad dressing on the side, dip your fork into it before stabbing your greens. That little maneuver could cut hundreds of calories.

So you dipped your salad fork in dressing to save the tiniest couple of calories, but sure, why not go have a single-serving bag of Chips Ahoy?

5. Walk and talk. When your cell phone rings, slip on your walking shoes and stroll the halls at work or hoof it outside. If you did this for 10 minutes every workday at a moderate 3 mph pace, you’d burn about 1,000 calories a month and lose 3 pounds a year.

I used to do this when I was enormously fat. I still do it now. It has nothing to do with size. I get bored on phone calls, plus they make me nervous, so I tend to march up and down briskly to relieve the tension. I called a couple people to say goodbye this summer before I flew back to Asia, and during the entire hour on the phone I walked swiftly around and around my father’s house. But back when I was really fat, wanna guess how many pounds I lost doing this every day? I’ll give you a hint…it’s a mathematical value intermediate between positive and negative values.

8. Don’t just sit there. The average person burns 100 calories per hour sitting and 140 per hour standing. Get on your feet 2 hours a day while you work, and you could drop an extra 6 pounds over the year.

Another great one. Back when I was enormous, I used to go out for a brisk walk every day for 30-45 minutes. Not for exercise per say, but mainly to clear my head. I walked everywhere anytime I needed to get anywhere–that’s what you do in developing countries like the one I live in. This had other benefits, but again, anyone want to guess how much weight I lost using this handy tip?

No hints this time!

Now, in case you’re new to this blog and are thinking, “well, naturally all the walking in the world won’t help if you’re eating too much,” I will refer you to this previous post detailing my typical diet during this period.

13. Drink water. Your body often mistakes thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated means you’ll probably also stay satiated.

If you’re a carb-snarfing grain and sugar eater, this is some of the stupidest advice anyone will ever give you. You know the difference between hunger and thirst. So do I. Back when I was eating tons of whole grains and fruit all the time, the amount of good that drinking water did for staving off hunger was precisely zero. That’s because hunger has nothing to do with the amount of stuff in your stomach.

Hunger is a mechanism whereby your body’s cells tell you they need fuel. A growling stomach is a separate mechanism that means your stomach is empty, which has nothing to do with whether you are actually hungry. Filling the stomach with water may stop it from being empty, but it cannot fix true hunger.

When you eat lots of carbs and sugar–whether it comes from whole grains and smoothies or candy bars and sodas–your blood sugar goes up. This is a toxic condition your body immediately works to correct. How it corrects this depends on your genetic disposition. Some people use a bit of that sugar for energy, but then their genetics dictate that a lot of it be converted into fat by their liver and shuttled off to the fat cells for storage. The high blood sugar has triggered an insulin rush, and one of the jobs of insulin is to lock that fat up tight in the cells. It’s trying to protect you. It doesn’t want you using any of your own body fat when there’s all this toxic sugar around to burn up first. Over time, you get fatter and fatter and fatter, and slower and slower and slower as your cells become more and more and more resistant to insulin. Inevitably, an hour or two after eating, you feel hungry. Not empty-stomach hungry: starving. Ravenous. Your cells are being denied fuel by the insulin and they are screaming for it. No sane person can resist this demand for too long, for your body instinctively knows that resisting the cellular demand for fuel would ultimately result in death. But most fat people try anyway, at some point, out of guilt that they “shouldn’t be eating so much.”

Water does nothing to help this process. Well, perhaps nothing is too strong a word. Water beyond proper hydration does nothing to help this process. You can’t ignore the demand of your cells by filling your stomach with a energy-less liquid.

Some people, the naturally skinny, are metabolically impelled to burn their high blood sugar by dashing around. After meals you have a slump for a while as you digest, but then you start racing around. You jiggle your legs while you sit. You suddenly think of an errand to run. Nothing can stop you. You get all chatty. That’s because your muscle cells are more sensitive to insulin, so the blood sugar gets burnt before it can be converted and stored. But the same thing happens to you–you still have constantly high blood sugar and, inevitably, an hour or two after eating you feel hungry. You start trolling for snacks. You are just as likely as any fat person I’ve ever known to have a stash of candy. No one–including you–gives you a hard time about doing so because you are thin, but you’re doing the same thing your fat colleague is doing, and for exactly the same reason. (One of my favorite really thin people used to ask me to bring her canned icing, which she would eat with a spoon. She’d eat honey and peanut butter sandwiches between meals, had a stash of candy she constantly snacked from, and couldn’t wait 15 minutes at a restaurant for food to be served. She would start eating sugar packets while she waited. But recently she told me that “moderation in all things” is the key to staying thin…)

There are also kind of in-between people whose bodies seem to react like skinny people when young, but as they become more resistant to insulin they slowly start transforming into fat people.

20. Brush your teeth after every meal. It doesn’t just fight cavities: Brushing serves as a physical and psychological cue to stop eating. When you’re on the go, a few Altoids or a breath strip can have the same effect.

You know what? You don’t need some psychological trick. You are a rational, thinking human being. What you need is knowledge and then the desire and control to do what you know is right. That’s all. Stop putting your food on smaller plates or plates of a certain color to “trick” yourself into eating less. Stop brushing your teeth for the sole purpose of tricking yourself into thinking it’s time to stop eating.

Instead, start eating what you know is good for you. I know exactly what it is to have every cell in my body screaming at me: “WE NEED FUEL NOW!!!” and yet to try to force myself to resist that call because I’d just eaten an hour before. I know what it is to drink 700ml of water and yet still feel starving. I know what it is to be unable to go three hours without food, to be unable to do the things I want physically because I’m so exhausted; all my food having been shuttled off to my fat cells and locked in there. I know what it is to think that people who exercise are insane and people who fast have some kind of superpower.

That kind of thing never happens to me anymore. I can go two days without any food if I have to. I regularly go from 6:30pm to 12:30pm the following day without food. Once or twice a week I do that. My stomach is sometimes empty, but I’m never hungry. And guess what I can do?

Drink water, tea, or some other liquid, fill my stomach and stop the rumbling.

That’s because my blood sugar is stable rock, my insulin with it, and my body adapted to using fat instead of sugar for fuel. If I don’t feed it fat, it switches over to using my own fat without a hitch. Because I have this enormous fuel source at my disposal for the first time since puberty, the only times I feel tired are when I’m actually tired or enormously stressed. I trust my body, (except when it IS enormously stressed) and I eat what it wants. I can tell when it wants meat or fat, if it wants cheese or yogurt, if it wants a pickle. When I eat those things, I feel good–strong and energetic and clear. When did finishing off the pan of brownies ever ultimately make you feel anything other than vaguely sick and ready for a nap?

You know what you need to do. If you’re just “mostly doing it” and having that brownie sometimes or that bread with the salad because it’s a special occasion, STOP. Act like somebody.

Console yourself with some bacon.


Plato says he’s hungry

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