Obesity News

Gary Taubes

Peter Attia

Most people with an interest in overcoming obesity will have heard of Gary Taubes, especially if you’re a regular reader of Live Free From Obesity: I mentioned him originally in Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and Vegetarian or Carnivore? You choose!, amongst other blogs.

In fact when I first read Gary’s [simpleazon-link asin="0307474259" locale="us"]Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It[/simpleazon-link] he immediately became a hero of mine.

Gary is a science journalist, rather than a practising scientist (although, I happen to believe, with a sharper scientific mind than many who are practising scientists).  For a significant part of his career he has majored in writing about bad science–which is what first got him interested in nutrition.  But whereas when he was writing about the bad science of cold fusion he was content to just tell the story, he has become much more deeply involved with nutrition and, last September (2012), with Peter Attia, he set up the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI).

I have always found both Gary and Peter quite scary: they have brains much sharper than mine (and I’m no fool), and they also have a level of personal discipline and persistence that I can only envy.  So I was pretty much moved to tears when I watched Peter’s recent TEDMED talk, when he, too was almost moved to tears.  See what you think.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3oI104STzs

For a less emotional, more factual introduction to NuSI and its work, spend three minutes with this video:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmfA9XFw-uU

Peter is also running a blog covering some of the most burning questions that individuals have: what should I eat, should I be concerned about cholesterol, how can I protect myself from the major “diseases of civilisation” on his own website, The Eating Academy.  To begin to study what Peter has to say, start on the Eating Academy’s “Start Here” page.

Peter is at pains to explain scientific concepts in everyday language, but I have to say, his blogs sometimes make me work hard, and I suspect they may leave some of the readers of Live Free From Obesity gasping for air!

Don’t worry, I will make it my task to translate the more difficult posts into still simpler language, so that people with little of no scientific training, but who are eager to understand Why We Get Fat, And What To Do About It, can take the news on board!

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0307474259" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Ni96jsZzL._SL160_.jpg" width="104"] [simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0307949435" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51tR7-zIiFL._SL160_.jpg" width="98"] [simpleazon-image align="left" asin="1400033462" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41ikBliWK8L._SL160_.jpg" width="105"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="0091924286" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41zvRZLsE4L._SL160_.jpg" width="97"]

When I was a kid at school, everyone knew I was stupid.  They had measurements, tests, exams that proved it.

Then, at age 11 we all sat the “11+ exam” which separated the clever from the stupid in preparation for the next stage of our education.

Everyone was amazed that I was one of only four kids in my school who passed.  No one could understand it, but you can’t buck the system, so I went to grammar school.

We were “streamed” according to ability, as measured by tests.  As I was always bottom of the class, what everyone always knew about me was validated: I was stupid.  (I was 30 years old before I noticed that it was the top class of five classes that I was always bottom of).

No-one really expected me to do well at GCEs, but I passed enough to get me into 6th form (university preparation).

Finally I lived up to expectation and failed 2 out of 3 “A-levels”.

Except that, in my 30′s, having noticed the facts above (that we had all missed before) I went to university part time as a post-grad researcher (even though I had never attended as an undergraduate) and got a Master of Philosophy degree (M.Phil. — it’s a sort of “PhD lite”).

My curriculum at school was biased towards the sciences: I studied maths, physics, chemistry and biology.  The “A” level that I did pass was physics.  It was well known that I was a bad student and did no studying in the sixth form; even so, I passed physics.

So here was a set of data, available to people with sufficiently scientific minds that they were employed teaching science, that seemed to indicate that I wasn’t stupid.  I later learned that only 10% of children of my generation went to grammar school.  That fact alone puts me in the 90th percentile.  That I was regularly at the bottom of the top 5 forms puts me at the 98th percentile.

And yet they believed me to be stupid, treated me as though I was stupid.  I’m not whining; I just want to show that these people who believed themselves to be “hard-nosed scientists” could not see beyond their beliefs about me.

If we talk to people about belief they tend to self-sort into roughly four groups:

  1. Religious.  These people believe in God, no question.  ”Faith” is an everyday concept for them.  Many tend to be evangelistic, keen to have other people join their religion, although some religions are exclusive: if you aren’t born into that faith, it’s very hard or impossible to join.
  2. Spiritual.  These people recognise a spiritual dimension in their lives but are often wary of joining a formal religion.  They may want to avoid being categorised.  But they usually have faith in their own expression of spirituality.  These people are seldom evangelistic but are often happy to talk about their beliefs to anyone really interested.
  3. Agnostic.  These people don’t know.  If someone could prove to them the existence of God, or prove to them that God does not exist, then they would sign up.  In the meantime they sit on the fence and probably don’t give the matter much thought.
  4. Atheist (includes Humanist).  These people are quite certain that the whole religion/spirituality thing is a fairy story.  They, like the religious people, are often evangelistic, hoping to persuade others of their beliefs.

Now here’s the interesting thing.  All of these groups require faith to hold on to their position.  Let’s make it really simple.  However much you believe in God you cannot prove God’s existence scientifically; probably not philosophically (unless you create your own system of philosophy that sets out with God as an a priori fact!)  This is obvious to a religious person: they accept as part of their religion that it involves faith.  Faith in God is something they are pleased and proud to proclaim.

But, on the other hand, atheism requires faith, too.  If we can’t prove that God exists, we also can’t prove that God doesn’t exist.  An atheist might say that there is no evidence of God’s existence and a religious person might cite any number of phenomena they they consider proof.  But an absence of proof doesn’t constitute proof of absence, and anyone styling themselves as a hard-nosed scientist/atheist should recognise this logical position. You need faith in the non-existence of God to be an atheist, just as much as you need faith in the existence of God to be a religious person.

I also notice another interesting phenomenon.  If we lay out these four positions on a spectrum with say “Extremely Atheist” on the left through to “Extremely Religious” on the right, it seems to me the people with the strongest faith tend towards the poles: those in the middle are more wishy-washy.  And the tendency to evangelise happens at the poles, too.  I never came across an agnostic standing on a street corner waving a placard saying “I’m not sure whether God exists or not, join me”.

So, what has this all got to do with my school experience?  I am fascinated to look back and notice all those scientists and logical positivists who held a position of pure faith, ignoring facts that might have suggested they were wrong.  Holding me as “stupid” was an act of faith.  It is true that I was gangling, unattractive, socially inept and an idiosyncratic learner.  But they had plenty of evidence to suggest that I wasn’t stupid, and I’m sure they could have found more if they’d looked.  For instance, for many of my years in grammar school I would have Mr Firth for history one year and Mr Hughes for history the next.  It went back and forth for several years that way.  In years when I had Mr Firth for history I usually came somewhere near top of my year in the exams.  In years when I had Mr Hughes I usually came somewhere near bottom of the year.  Not only could no one understand this phenomenon, no one could, apparently, suggest an hypothesis that could be investigated.  No one adult, that is.  All my peers knew the problem.  Mr Hughes liked smaller boys who were still wearing short pants.  Being taller I wore long trousers.

Scientists are human and they, whether they believe in God or not, often hold on to acts of faith independently of evidence that suggests they may be wrong.

We have the ability to be curious.  It’s not exclusive to humans–it is a survival mechanism for many species.  We also have a process for testing hypotheses and adjusting them if the facts don’t back them up.  This is how knowledge progresses.

I have also noticed another fault-line into which we can insert an analysts’s scalpel: those who rely on scripture to find truth and those who seek out truth.  It happens in particular in a corner of the world of nutrition in which I am currently exploring.  There is a nutritional idea called “Paleo” … the underlying idea is that there is considerable evidence that our paleolithic ancestors were significantly fitter, stronger, more disease-free than we are today, and that we might see what evidence we can find about what aspects of their life-style we could emulate for our own benefit.  There is considerable anecdotal evidence that the paleo/primal lifestyle has improved the lives of many, and not a few scientists who can point to some strong epidemiological evidence as well as some molecular models to explain their findings.

There are probably as many different flavours of paleo eating and living as there are adherents to the idea and some of those different flavours are very different from others.  They probably all range themselves against the “Standard American Diet” (appropriately known as SAD) or processed and junk food.  I particularly appreciate the work of Jimmy Moore, founder of the “Livin La Vida Low Carb” website.  Jimmy is running some research at the moment on the effectiveness of the “ketogenic” diet.  He calls it his “n=1″ research … in other words, he only has one research subject, and that’s himself.

This idea is echoed by others, like Dr Holly Lucille who asked in a recent post on her Facebook page “Who Is your Primary Care Giver?“.  (It should be you, if you haven’t guessed!)

This is a loose-knit community of people who inquire within as much as without, who have developed a body of knowledge that they check against the known facts, and then go their own way.

Sometimes I don’t necessarily agree with their way: it wouldn’t suit me.

For instance, this morning I came across a Facebook page that is new to me: “Primal Journey“.  It is a lovely page, has some stunning photos of food recipes, but the woman who runs the page eats stuff that I can’t eat, and that I may recommend that others don’t eat … if they are like me.  I, by the way, am a  65-year-old-man, with an incredibly low tolerance to carbohydrates, and type 2 diabetes.  The picture shows what she has achieved by following her own interpretation of a primal lifestyle.  Whatever your “paleo scripture” may tell you, it seems to me that she’s certainly got it right in her n=1 piece of research.  I called my wife over; her reaction was that this is the most amazing “before and after” photo we’ve seen (and this world is full of them).  My attitude is, if you’ve found a path that works for you, then follow it.  I believe that is what God asks us to do (oops; shown my hand!)

At the other end of the spectrum is another attractive young lady, Kate Giovino, who also shows us how she looks on her Facebook page. Kate also, clearly, has a regime that works for her (except that we don’t have a “before” picture of Kate, so maybe she was always this slim and fit).

I first came across Kate when she commented on a post from someone who describes himself as the “Primal Toad“.  He likes to post interesting questions on Facebook and see what responses he gets in the comments.  Last Sunday he asked:

There are now HUNDREDS of “Paleo” or “Primal” books available for purchase. And I mean where those 2 words are in the title of the book.

Do you see this as a good thing? Bad thing? Or are you just whatever?

Kate was one of those who responded and a conversation ensued.  It became apparent that Kate was very angry with Stefani Ruper and Nora Gedgaudas.  Well, I’ve been reading up about these two women; I don’t understand what Kate’s angry about.  Nor, apparently, did the Primal Toad.  The discussion became “one-sided” heated with the Toad trying to mollify and see both sides but Kate sticking to her scripture guns.  This led to a new post on the Toad’s website:

Dear Paleo Police,

Please stop your attempt to tell someone how they can or can not eat. There is no right or wrong way to eat “Paleo.”

These internecine fights seem to go on everywhere.  Jimmy Moore was recently attacked and came up with a similar response in his blog post “10 Critical Issues The Paleo Community Must Address“.

 

 

I am an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church.  A neighbor recently noticed the “Minister” sticker on my windshield and asked me about it.  He asked “What do you teach?” which turned out to be a profound question for me.  I don’t think I teach anything in the sense that he meant.  What I would like people to learn is, firstly, the most fundamental belief of the ULC:

You have the right to practice your own beliefs, so long as you harm no one.

And next I would like people to understand that scripture as we have it today was written down by a human being, and that human may have got it wrong.  In fact, a very short theological study will show how people can (and do) change scripture to suit themselves.

Back in school I was taught that the sixth of the 10 commandments was

Thou shalt not kill

I was rather surprised to discover recently that in more recent versions of the bible this has become

You shall not murder

which is very different (and in the original Hebrew it is “murder”, which, I guess, is in line with the ancient Hammurabi code and used by the Jews of the time).  I find it interesting that, here in America, Christians who tend to be against gun control tend toward the “murder” interpretation of the sixth commandment, whereas the pinko-commie liberals tend to go for “thou shalt not kill”.  Somehow it seems to line up better with “love thy neighbor“, “turn the other cheek“, “vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord” (in other words, you tend to the beam/mote stuff and leave the big stick stuff to me) and other items of the socialist manifesto (or can we find those things in scripture?)

Of course these arguments about scripture can (and will) go on for ever.  As will the arguments about the existence or non-existence of God, or the “correct” way to pursue a Paleo or Primal diet.  I often have the feeling (I may be wrong: it has been known!) that those who cling to scripture are frightened of something.  Scripture is a set of rules by which we may live our lives, and we all know, do we not, that

rules are made for the guidance of wise men and the blind obedience of fools.  (I’ll send a free copy of Susan’s recipe for totally carb-free ketogenic chocolate to the first person who can tell me who said that, and what he reached for.)

If there is no god then we have to decide for ourselves what is the best way to behave and how we may work out what constitutes ”best”.  And if there is a God then, in His wisdom, He gave us intelligence, morals and ethics, and the freedom to use them to live in the best way we can.  It is part of God’s gift to us that we can pursue science.

If you are living the best way you can then I applaud you and will see what I can learn from you and I ask that you do the same for me.

God or Science?  There is no question: God gave us science and expects us to use it responsibly.  And if there is no God then we humans made up science–and we still have a duty to use it responsibly and not to oppress others with it.

Thank you Jimmy MooreThe Primal Toad, The Primal Journey lady and the millions of others who are true scientists, and who share their results with the rest of us.

Interested in Paleo, Primal, Low-Carb?  These are some of the major works of scripture (although their authors wouldn’t see them that way!)

[simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0470913029" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51fDTshjJYL._SL160_.jpg" width="106"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0982565844" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51F9XVQYELL._SL160_.jpg" width="114"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0984755101" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51k%2BrjruDaL._SL160_.jpg" width="123"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="1591138043" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5170IClvOJL._SL160_.jpg" width="101"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0553380788" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51lAkdvlNBL._SL160_.jpg" width="98"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="1400033462" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41ikBliWK8L._SL160_.jpg" width="105"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0307474259" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Ni96jsZzL._SL160_.jpg" width="104"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="1594774137" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51oICmnk22L._SL160_.jpg" width="107"]

Postscript

If there’s one thing that’s liable to unite all these different factions of the tribe Paleo, it’s if a VEGAN happens to enter the room, and if they are a raw-food vegan, well!

Now I’m at risk of becoming  alienated from everyone here, but, deep breath, here I go.  I have to say that I don’t think the vegan lifestyle would work for me: I am HIGHLY carb-intolerant, I do well on meat, and the weight is falling off.  I once was a vegetarian for about 5 years, but my knees gave out, I had an inner sense that I needed to come off my veggie diet, and within days I had gone from cripple to hiking canyons in the Uzège in Southern France.

Scott Jurek Ultra-runner

But consider Scott Jurek.  Here’s a clip from his bio on his website:

Scott Jurek’s outstanding competitive resume includes victories in nearly all of ultrarunning’s elite trail and road events, including the historic 153-mile Spartathlon, the Hardrock 100, the Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon, the Miwok 100K, and—his signature race—the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, which he won a record seven straight times.

For those of you unfamiliar with ultra-running, let’s just take one of these races, the Badwater 135.  It is a non-stop, 135-mile race across Death Valley in the Mojave Desert, in the height of summer, with a cumulative climb of over 19,000 ft.  He broke the record, finishing with a time of 24 hours, 36 minutes, 8 seconds.

He’s not only vegan, he’s a raw-food vegan.

I’m sure that all of us paleo/primal/low-cal afficionados can find plenty to criticize about Scott’s diet.

If only we could catch him.

If all this blows your mind, check out these books:

[simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0547569653" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5135SJAluHL._SL160_.jpg" width="106"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0307279189" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5117MxRQidL._SL160_.jpg" width="104"]

 

There are a number of popular memes I come across on the Internet connected with what we do (or don’t) eat, and how we can lighten up, lose weight, conquer obesity, get healthy, and all the rest. Some make sense to me; others seem like arrant nonsense. Some are arrant nonsense, from people who should know better—for instance, qualified medical people who apparently can’t differentiate between ketosis (good) and keto-acidosis (very bad).

If it wasn’t that I’m working to fit into my new self-image of a kindly and reasonable ordained minister (and to keep the friends I have) I would be tempted to explode and “flame”. But I just passed my 65th birthday so am exchanging that youthful but intemperate passion for the “wisdom” of increasing years.

My number one bête noir is “Diets Don’t Work”. The other is “But can you live that way for the rest of your life?” Let’s take them one at a time.

Do Diets Work?

[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="1582702187" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/514y%2BP4rk4L._SL160_.jpg" width="100"]Of course they do! I regard this as a non-question but I keep hearing people say “Diets Don’t Work” and to me this seems an empty statement.  I addressed it some time ago in a blog post, referring to Jon Gabriel and I thought I had done with the matter.  But I recently had a sweet lady, a vicar’s wife from a rural parish in the heart of England, an intelligent, erudite, educated lady, a lady with seven grand-children, actually SHOUTED at me that DIETS DON’T WORK.

So, before I lose my English gentlemanliness and my ordained-minister composure, and the aforementioned wisdom that came to me as I recently passed the grand-old age of 65, let me take a breath, put my teeth in straight, connect with higher things, and start to take this empty assertion apart.

I suspect that we will have no differences of opinion about the words “do not” so let’s start with the word “diet”.  The word is derived, according to Merriam-Webster:

Middle English diete, from Anglo-French, from Latin diaeta, from Greek diaita, literally, manner of living, from diaitasthai: to lead one’s life

First Known Use: 13th century

Interestingly, I had it in my mind that it came from the Latin “dies” referring to something daily and that it meant “that (food) which we consume on a daily basis”. Either way, we’re in the same ball park. Most modern-day dieticians and nutritionists would have a slightly wider definition.  They would take “diet” to mean the food or nutrition that we consume on a regular basis.  Well, already I hope we can see that the sentence “the nutrition that we consume on a regular basis doesn’t work” needs some further discussion.  I will put on one side, for now, the difference between food and nutrition and come back to it later.

We still have “work” to look at, and now we have introduced “we”.  Let’s start with “work”. What would we mean if we were to assert that a diet did, or did not, work.

I am going to be bold and say that for me any particular diet (that is any particular set of foods eaten on a regular basis) could be said to work if it led me to be fit and healthy, to be disease-free and allowed me to live a long and happy life. If at the same time that set of foods were highly palatable, and relatively easy to obtain without having an overly adverse effect on others or the environment, I would say that that diet could be said to work. On that basis I think that there is some doubt as to whether the nutritional plans followed by many “civilised westerners” are working, at least as well as we might like.

Others might have a different definition of whether a diet is working.

The objective of the systems built by our DNA and driven by our hormones and our psyches over millions of years might be to make sure that we have the necessary energy reserves to survive the hard times that come from time to time and to have enough energy to successfully pass on our genes. In that case I guess for many of us our diets are working… or would be, if only those hard times would come along a little more frequently in the “first world”.

Here’s an interesting aside. If you talk to anyone who was an adult civilian, living in Britain during the Second World War, they would tell you that with all that food rationing, times were hard. But apparently, apart from being bombed, the UK population has never been so healthy1. That diet worked. It worked for those that defined it: their purpose was to keep the population alive and healthy given the restrictions imposed by wartime. Many who were obliged to follow it might have said it didn’t work: it wasn’t that palatable, often left them hungry, was boring, and was hard work.

If you were a character in a murder novel hoping to bump off the fifth earl so that you could inherit, and you were doing it by feeding him dinners laced with arsenic then I’d imagine you’d be hoping for a different outcome from most people’s idea of a successful diet.  If someone had stolen your arsenic and replaced it with self-raising flour then it would be fair to say that that particular diet wasn’t working (for you: I would guess that the fifth earl would be content).

So, I’m quite happy to concede that some diets don’t work, for some people, for some of the time… it all depends on the people involved, the set of foods in question and the desired outcome.

During the 1960s there was an apparent surge in deaths from cardio-vascular disease in American men. This was an odd anomaly caused by two artifacts.  One was that previously there had been a life-expectancy of adult males of around 49 years due to a high-incidence of infectious diseases. Then we invented antibiotics; life expectancy rose and people died of different things: degenerative diseases as opposed to infectious diseases.  The other artifact was even sillier.  There is in the medical world almost a fashion as to what is written on the death certificate. At one time a doctor might have written “natural causes” where now they might write “heart failure”.  Both Susan’s mother and my mother have “heart failure” as the cause of death on their death certificates. Neither woman had a history of heart problems. Neither woman had an autopsy.  Susan’s mom wasn’t even attended by a physician when she died.  Basically the statistics say that these women died because their hearts stopped beating.  Well, yes, but those statistics don’t tell us anything useful. They told us even less back in the 1960s.

But back then nobody noticed this and one scientist who had a bee in his bonnet about dietary fat managed to get his hypothesis to hold sway, and over the last 50-60 years we have been persuaded to leave fat out of the set of things we consume on a regular basis. This makes that set of food stuffs less nutritious and less palatable.  The palatability issue was addressed when food manufacturers noticed a (for them) heaven-sent opportunity. America has a huge amount of land ideally suited to growing corn: sweet corn. From sweet corn you can easily derive high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and, provided you have a sweet tooth (and a sweet tooth is fairly easy to develop in a population, by gradually increasing the quantities of HFCS in the foods you manufacture, and judicious use of TV advertising) HFCS makes all that bland, fat-free food taste good (well, better!)

Then governments around the world got more and more worried about the failing health of their populations and the increasing cost of health care and they advocated nutritional regimes (dare we call these “diets”?) that made matters worse. They put increasing store on avoiding dietary fat, got the message about cholesterol back to front and upside down, and recommended the very things that were making us sick: cereal grains, sugars, and fructose.

These nutritional regimes resulted in an overwhelming rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and, ironically, cardio-vascular disease; the very thing that they were trying to address in the first place. They were also responsible for a surge in Alzheimer’s Syndrome in the elderly (and, increasingly, not so elderly) to the point that some people are now calling Alzheimer’s Type III diabetes.

So, all right, the diets suggested by most modern, western health authorities don’t work that well. We all know they don’t work—that well. I am writing this sitting in an Internet cafe right opposite the checkout line in a supermarket in Florida. I am not medically qualified. I am not a qualified nutritionist or health adviser. But I don’t need to be to see that the majority of people going through these checkouts are not peak physical human specimens. And I’m not being arrogant saying this: neither am I! My purpose here is not to preach from the pulpit, despite my newly-arrived white collar (I’m not wearing it because the shirt doesn’t fit—yet!). My purpose is to raise the banner and see if we can’t educate ourselves and take our nutrition and health back into our own hands. And to do that we are going to need food, but food that fits into a different nutritional regime than the one(s) that brought us here.

We are going to need diets that do work.

When I read “Diets Don’t Work” I suspect that what is being referred to are those hastily thrown together dietary plans that are published in women’s (and men’s) magazines, with increased magazine circulation more in mind than increased health for the readers. But is it true that universally these diets don’t work? I don’t think so. I suspect that all of these diets have worked, according to some set of criteria or another, for some people, for some of the time.

[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="B00AWQWYVK" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/516RY%2BHkMDL._SL160_.jpg" width="100"]Before I move on to the second “nutritional meme” I just need to spend a moment with a thread I just saw on a lifestyle forum where someone had posted a question about ketogenic diets and someone else (let’s call him “John”) had posted a response:

@john: I find that these diets don’t work because people don’t stick to them.

Well, there is a sentence that could keep people from a host of different disciplines occupied for many a happy hour. But I will just stick with reflecting about the use of “I” as in “I find…” and “people”. Later on this book we will begin to look at how we can support each other and how we can build a supportive environment. One small aspect of that is “owning”. So, with our Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) hat on, we might ask @john if he can own that for himself.

“Who are these people, John”, we might ask, “who can’t stick to the diet?” We might wonder what motivated him to write that.

Now let me get on to the second “nutritional meme” that’s irritating me.

Can you live this way for the rest of your life?

No. So?

This challenge is thrown out as a criticism against various nutritional regimes.  ”This isn’t a regime”, says the pundit, “that you can follow for the rest of your life, ergo, it’s of no value at all”.  I don’t agree.

Let’s imagine that, cycling home from Winn Dixie (which is where I am right now, drinking their free coffee and using their free Wi-Fi) I get knocked off my bike, break my leg, and wind up in the Emergency Room at the local hospital. The doctors take an x-ray of my leg, proclaim that I have a fracture and propose to re-position the bones and then plaster my leg and issue me with crutches and some analgesics and instructions to take it easy while the bones knit together.

“Oh no, doctor”, I cry, “I can’t possibly live that way for the rest of my life!”

The doctor looks at me and wonders whether he shouldn’t call for the on-duty psych consultant.

“Of course not”, he says patiently. “You have broken your leg: the plaster cast will hold it in position while the bones heal themselves, helping them to heal cleanly, and when that happens we will remove the plaster cast”.

Whew! I am relieved. I thought I would be in a plaster cast for the rest of my life, and didn’t want to live that way.

So, for the next few weeks while the bones heal, I consider what I could have done, that fateful day, to have avoided being knocked off my bike. Remembering that I was in the USA and not the UK and cycling on the correct side of the road might have helped. Stopping before making a blind left turn might have helped. Indicating my intentions with hand signals might have helped.

A few weeks later I go back to the ER and have an X-ray: my leg is healing fine and they take off the plaster cast. The weeks of inactivity have left me feeling very weak. I have difficulty even walking.

“Doctor! I can’t live the rest of my life this way”.

The doctor sighs and patiently explains that I will have some sessions with the physiotherapist (“physical terrorist” as Mom used to say) and she (I hope it’s a she) will teach me some exercises that will re-condition my muscles to get me into a good shape for living the rest of my life. And I continue to reflect on my new, accident-free cycling style.

Does this seem like an extreme example to you? Well, I guess it all depends on why you want to lose weight, what else is going on with your body, how much weight you need to lose, and so on.

If you went a little wild over the holiday season and put on a few pounds so that now your favourite pants are a little more snug round the middle than you’d like, then a gentle adjustment to your lifestyle will do the trick. Probably losing 1-2 lbs a week is going to be fine: you’ll be back in shape before January is out and you’ll be on a regime that works for the rest of your life (except, perhaps, the winter holiday season!)

But that’s not the situation that I, and literally millions of people like me, am in. For whatever reason, parts of my system are as broken as my leg in the above example, and it’s fatuous for me to cry to the doctor that I can’t live like he proposes for the rest of my life.

If I don’t let the doctor reset my leg and put it in plaster my leg would get worse and worse and, quite likely, I would be crippled for the rest of my life. Maybe my life would have been shortened: gangrene setting in and so on. Could I live the rest of my life that way? Yes, obviously. But the rest of my life may be shortened and I certainly would be a less-than-happy bunny.

Well, it’s not my leg that’s broken; it’s a part of my endocrine system. The bits that are connected with the hormone insulin aren’t working properly. As a result I’m not just a few pounds over the top, I’m 65% too heavy. I have type II diabetes, high blood pressure and I can already feel the damage that high blood sugar is doing to my legs and feet. I could find a nutritional regime that I could follow for the rest of my life. It might, eventually, lead to my type II diabetes going away. If it followed the well-known “safe rate of weight loss” (1lb per week) it would take me the best part of three years to get down to my goal weight.

Whichever way you look at it, this isn’t a gentle lifestyle issue! I need to get healthy. I need a reset, I need to be “put in plaster” until my body re-builds itself, then I need a re-hab period (what we would call convalescence in the UK) until I have built up my strength around my newly healthy body. Then, and only then, I need a regime that will work for the rest of my life to stop this happening again.

Let’s go back to the broken leg scenario. Once my leg is healed, once the physio has signed me off, I might go walking to build up my strength. I might even start running from time to time. I might go and take some cycling road-safety lessons, and all of these constitute a new approach that is viable for the rest of my life. But none of it is appropriate while the fractured ends of the bones are still rubbing together. If I try walking, running, cycling before the bones have healed I will just set myself back and back and my leg may never heal.

So we are probably looking at a number of phases. Let’s look at the Emergency Medicine scenario. An accident happens. Those first on the scene, probably the paramedics, are initially concerned to make sure that things don’t get worse. Is the traffic being diverted? Are we safe from fire or electricity? Airways, breathing, circulation: the ABC of first aid. Staunch bleeding, stabilise the body with back board, neck brace. When the patient is stabilised we can take them to the hospital and the doctors can begin the therapeutic stage: having made sure that things aren’t going to get worse, we can look at how to help the patient begin to get better. The third stage is rehabilitation or convalescence: getting used to being healthy again. The fourth stage is to take advanced driving lessons.

The same is true with nutrition and nutritional ill health. If you are eating toxic food the intervention of first cause is to stop. Once you are reasonably stable we can look at therapeutic interventions: there are nutritional plans that have therapeutic effect: they can help the body heal itself from all sorts of conditions. Various forms of the ketogenic diet, for instance, have been showed to help epileptics keep free of seizures, clear cancer, and allow diabetics (even type one diabetics, to my amazement) heal themselves. And ketogenic diets, by their very nature, help obese people to burn that fat: ketogenic diets are fat-burning diets. It is possible (I know, I’ve done it) to lose weight at the rate of 1lb per day rather than 1lb per week. It’s not do-able through just reducing what you eat, and it certainly isn’t a regime anyone could (or would want to) follow for the rest of their lives. But I started that regime on a Thursday morning and, on urgent medical advice stopped my diabetes medication on Sunday morning and didn’t require it again. I was on a therapeutic diet, rather than a long-term, sustainable regime. There is a place for both.

The Jaminets (“[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="145169914X" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AHwQW%2BtCL._SL160_.jpg" width="106"]”: I know I’ve mentioned them elsewhere) make an interesting point that helps differentiate between food and nutrition. Pretty much all mammals need the same (or very similar) nutrition. That’s the same whether you are a polar bear or an elephant, a lion or a cow, a human or a lowland gorilla.

But they all need very different food. A cow couldn’t become a carnivore (look what happened when feed manufacturers tried to make that happen: BSE!) A lion can’t become a vegetarian. Why? Because each of us has a different digestive system, designed to produce the nutrition that we need from the food that we (naturally) eat. A cow, for instance, has four chambers to its stomach and regurgitates its food so that it can re-digest it. Horses, who also eat grass, only have one stomach, but a very long digestive tract. There are foods that are natural to each type of animal: foods that its digestive system has evolved to process to provide optimum nutrition.

The problem is that most of us who live in western civilisation don’t eat what is natural. Most of us can, I suspect (I certainly can) reflect on what my parents and grandparents ate, and see how different it is from what we (I!) eat today. I couldn’t be in a better place to see this: I am sitting in an internet cafe in a major American supermarket and I am directly across from the checkouts. There are only 12 checkout lines and I can easily see at least a dozen medically obese people—and I can also see what they have in their shopping carts! Mostly packets of things my grandmother would never have seen. But this is only a perspective of 50-100 years. Human kind has been around for millions of years (probably around two million years) and has only been living an agricultural existence for around 10,000 years. That’s about 0.5% of the total. That’s not enough time to evolve to cope with the “new” agricultural diet. And it’s only been 50 years at most that we’ve had an industrial diet (manufactured food). That’s 0.0025% of the time we’ve been around. That really isn’t enough time to evolve to cope with our new diet.

So, do diets work? Well, the “Standard American Diet” certainly doesn’t seem to work as well as it could, or should. In which case, we need to replace it.

How can we decide how to change our diet?

Most of those “diets” suggested in magazines, the ones that my vicar’s wife and @john and Jon Gabriel say don’t work, are prescriptions for reducing the quantity of what we eat. Sometimes it’s the overall quantity of what we eat (calorie counting), sometimes it’s reducing some component of what we eat (such as a low-fat diet).

Do these work? Well, it’s a truism to say that for some people they don’t work. People try them and they don’t lose the weight. Sometimes that’s because the diet is not well designed, or it’s difficult to stick to (my guess is that’s the sort of diet john encountered). Sometimes it’s a matter of management of expectations. I sometimes comment on a blog about ketogenic diets and have come across people who want to switch to the ketogenic diet because they tried xxx diet for 5 days and nothing much has happened.

Very often these diet plans are based on a false assumption, or on a set of false assumptions. Often the objective is to lose weight; sometimes that is achieved. If you overdid it over the holiday season and normally you eat healthily then simply cutting down on what you eat for a short while will probably bring you to your objective. Actually, simply returning to your normal healthy diet will probably bring you to your objective, but cutting down a bit might achieve your goals more quickly. Very few nutritionists would put their name to a recommendation to do this (they would prefer that you just return to your normal healthy regime), but they won’t ring alarm bells and have you sectioned, either.

But, as someone I read recently (it was probably Paul Jaminet) said:

Eating less of a bad diet is simply a worse diet.

If you are currently eating foods that don’t support a healthy body and a healthy mind, just eating less of them won’t really help. And reading one diet book and sticking to its recommendations slavishly won’t help, either. You have to know your own body and take responsibility for its health.

You have to find the diet that does work, for you. And that might be just one nutritional plan that will work for the rest of your life, or it may be a set of diets, each designed to take you through a therapeutic process until you are well enough to move on to your lifetime plan.

The question is, how do you find that diet or diets? I will deal with that in a future post.

 

Jacques Peretti

Brilliant new TV series on BBC 2: The Men Who Made Us Fat.  As of today (17th June 2012) you can still watch Episode 1 on BBC iPlayer.  For those of us who have been studying this for a while, there are our new heroes (Gary Taubes, Dr Robert Lustig), and some old ones (Dr John Yudkin), as well as those baddies we all love to hate (Ancel Keys and George McGovern, amongst others).

The programme is hosted by Jacques Peretti: he has a blog here, and an article “What caused the obesity crisis in the West?” on the BBC News website.

The programme is now available on You Tube: start watching below, and when it  begins click the link about the play list.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE-H__aIEFE

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0241965284" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TbqHq8ckL._SL160_.jpg" width="105"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="1468161776" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41ZUxuOCjLL._SL160_.jpg" width="107"]

George: Angel Dog

No posts for the last couple of weeks: we’ve been in Florida, looking after Susan’s mom after she got out of hospital after a fall (and taking her back after another fall!)

And then our beloved dog George died while we were away, so we have been grieving.  Best boy ever in the whole wide world.  George came everywhere with us (except Florida) so now, wherever we go we are reminded of George.

And I have been doing some studying.  I have discovered a new hero, Gary Taubes, an amazing physical regime, T-Tapp, and I’ve read the Atkins book and the Jon Gabriel method, and we’ve discovered a wonderful source of organic flax seed, flax meal and flax oil (good for omega-3, lignans, etc) in Sussex: The Flax Farm, run by the lovely Clare Skelton and her team.

More of all that when we get back from picking up some hay or straw for our chickens (whichever the wonderful Beechcroft Farm can spare), because with all the rain in April, the chicken run is a quagmire, and the poor girls have cold, wet feet!

Good news, first seen on the BBC.

Organisations representing nearly every doctor in the UK have united in a single campaign to tackle rising levels of obesity.

The campaign will start by reviewing the case for fat taxes, promoting exercise, restricting food advertising and other measures.

Now, if only I could find a way to get them to:

  • Actually talk to obese people,
  • Use the latest brain research to work on the mind, emotions, spirit side of obesity,
  • Get the nation Nordic Walking

I would be a happy soul!

Can anyone introduce me to Professor Terence Stephenson?

Here’s another BBC Horizon programme, investigating fat and obesity.  Interesting stuff but a lot of it gets me mad!  The only obese person they spoke to was just about to go for gastric bypass surgery … and that’s an option you may not want to take:

People undergoing weight loss surgery typically do so because they believe it will save their life … but according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, you have a one in 50 chance of dying within 30 days of gastric bypass surgery.  And if your surgeon isn’t experienced, your risk is even higher. Within the surgeon’s first 19 procedures, the odds of death within 30 days were 4.7 times higher!

Mercola Fitness Website

But it’s their investigation of the effects of the hunger and satiety hormones, ghrelin and leptin that is most interesting, and which gets me most mad.  Their conclusions (that obese people don’t respond to leptin and ghrelin like non-obese people, and that’s why “they are hungry all the time”) are so grossly unscientific.  If these “scientists” would go and talk to obese people,  they’d discover that most of us are never hungry.  We quite often miss being hungry!

[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="0380718723" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ZULQmrMjL._SL160_.jpg" width="128"]So why do we eat if we’re not hungry?  Well, Dr Roger Callaghan  has an interesting book with exactly that title: Why Do I Eat When I’m Not Hungry?  He puts it down to anxiety, and I think I go along with him.  The latest neuro-science research would probably support it, too.  Basically, it’s because we’re addicted, and that’s a long subject.

Anyway, “flame off” for now and there is interesting stuff in the programme, so watch “The Truth About Fat” here on BBC iPlayer. (no longer available, but here’s an interesting insight:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFk2yM_1jRo

I did find their research with identical twins interesting, where they had a genetic pre-disposition to obesity, but only one twin of the pair had expressed that gene.  There’s an interesting piece of research that I saw reported on the Ordnance Survey maps website (“Regular walks can cut obesity gene in half”) that reports some research showing that walking can reduce your probability of the “obese gene” expressing itself by 50%, by regular walking.

There was a recent BBC Horizon programme that reported on High Intensity Training … where 3 minutes high intensity exercise will make you fit and healthy!

Sceptical?  So was I!!

You can no longer see the programme on BBC iPlayer, but there’s a BBC News article about it, and here’s a 30-minute version that aired in the USA on PBS:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnpgtdrMoME

The programme seems to have been inspired by the work of Izumi Tabata which has inspired a lot of interest in Tabata training or Low Frequency High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

This video should give you an idea:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okA7B5vsIYU

There are also some echos of HIIT in the Paleo exercise regimes … the notion being that we think about the likely pattern of exercise for hunter gatherers: short bursts of intense effort while hunting, followed by long periods of rest while eating the kill.

A lot of paleo people are into Crossfit:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzD9BkXGJ1M

The description on that You Tube video says:

What is CrossFit? CrossFit is an effective way to get fit. Anyone can do it.

My reaction right now is, “yeah, right!”


We just signed up for six sessions of Crossfit with CrossFit Lake Mary, mainly because of the “Power of Community” book, below.  They say that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger; we will see.


[simpleazon-image align="none" asin="B006ZI0WTA" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wfS9s124L._SL160_.jpg" width="160"][simpleazon-image align="none" asin="B007L3NFJ2" locale="us" height="124" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/11P0VzdJqfL._SL160_.jpg" width="88"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="1934030902" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51EXEmIArEL._SL160_.jpg" width="107"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="1936608731" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51spXrFeqrL._SL160_.jpg" width="108"]

Superhumans

I shall have more to say about super humans later, but my mind has been completely blown away by realising that there are people doing things I never imagined possible: like running 135 miles across Death Valley in 120 degree heat in 24 hours, non stop.  It makes you think, doesn’t it?  Well, it makes me think!

[simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0547569653" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5135SJAluHL._SL160_.jpg" width="106"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0307952193" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41svdZmUKcL._SL160_.jpg" width="106"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0738212547" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pBXnCIIML._SL160_.jpg" width="108"]  [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="1584154845" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51KVWuXdxlL._SL160_.jpg" width="104"]

&nbsp.

[simpleazon-image align="none" asin="0307279189" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5117MxRQidL._SL160_.jpg" width="104"]   [simpleazon-image align="none" asin="1592334652" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51my42VCa4L._SL160_.jpg" width="128"]

Yes!! It’s one of the worst health problems facing the western world, and the UK is up there with the worst of them.

According to a BBC health report, around a quarter of all UK adults are clinically obese.  If you go with “merely overweight” the figure jumps alarmingly to over 60%.

The report goes on to say that:

As many as 30,000 people die prematurely every year from obesity-related conditions.

Some experts believe obesity is responsible for more ill health than smoking. Being significantly overweight is linked to a wide range of health problems, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Indigestion
  • Gallstones
  • Some cancers (eg, breast and prostate cancers)
  • Snoring and sleep apnoea
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Infertility

And the cost tot he UK economy is huge.  The National Audit office reckons that obesity costs the NHS £500,000,000 a year (that’s £500 million, but you get the real feeling with all those zeroes).  But the overall cost to the UK economy is far worse: £2,300,000,000,000.  £2.3 billion.  With around 60 million people in the UK, that’s £37,000 for every man, woman, and child.

I think I’ll get slim and ask for my £37,000!

But the health-care systems of the world (and the people wanting to lose weight) pick out one or two things to look at: pills, special diets, special exercise fads, the latest book.  Live Free From Obesity aims to use specialist nutrition to speed our progress to a healthy weight, while introducing fun and easy exercise, and rewiring our brains to only want healthy food.

It has to be worth a try!

Jamie Oliver began his odyssey to change America’s eating habits in Huntington, WV and it was reported in a British Channel 4 documentary, Jamie’s Food Revolution.  Here’s the American trailer:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8CF15HJJ-0

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="1401310478" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/614JYr0BoQL._SL160_.jpg" width="121"]You can still (as I write in March 2013) watch the entire series of programmes on Four On Demand: Jamie’s American Food Revolution, as well articles, ideas, and things to do.

At the time, the British Daily Mail ran an article about Huntington, WV, USA, the Obese capital of America.

So many people think that the individual people of Huntington are being criticized.  I don’t agree.

I frequently visit America (I have family there and we live part of the year in Florda).  I am made most welcome, and people like to take me out to dinner.  I always used to return home ill.  At first I fixed the problem by taking ALL my nutrition with me, and studiously avoiding American food, and then I was fine.  Now I eat paleo/primal/very low carb and I’m fine.

And my American family and friends didn’t understand what I was going on about … but that’s because they have hadn’t experienced anything else.

It’s a puzzle.  They think that Daily Mail article is poking fun (well, its the Mail, it probably is, but Jamie wasn’t).

They don’t recognise the love and care.

Sigh.

[hr]

That’s what I said back in Oct 2010.  Things are changing.  There is a huge recognition of the harm that sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and grains are causing.  It will take a while, but we will get there, eventually.

[hr]

Subsequently Jamie won a TEd talk prize: here’s his brilliant presentation.  I think it is total dynamite. If you have any interest in you and your children living long, healthy and happy lives, then watch this!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIwrV5e6fMY

[maxbutton id="2"]

Ready to consider change?
Click here to find out more.
Health-care professionals: would you like to be able to help your obese patients, and save on your practice budget, too?
Click here to find out more.

BMI Calculator

[calculatornet_bmi_calculator]

You can download a healthy weight chart here.

Health & Beauty Therapy Directory