Good Calories – Bad Calories

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"]

There are those in the diet world who stick firmly to the “Calories In, Calories Out” (CICO) model, citing the “Law of Thermodynamics”.  This is a bit of a problem, and can be easily knocked over as an argument.  Firstly, there is no one “Law of Thermodynamics”.  If someone quotes that at you, ask them if they mean the zero-th, first, second or third law.  That will probably shut them up!  The thing is that we have been advised to eat less and exercise more to lose weight for the last 50-60 years and during that time obesity rates have soared around the world.  Clearly something is wrong.

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0307877523" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51N18MYXSuL._SL160_.jpg" width="139"]There has been much work over the last decade to show that, in human nutrition terms, a calorie is not just a calorie, and I put myself firmly in that camp.  CICO leads to weight-loss advice that says either eat less, exercise more, or both.  This is over-simplistic, and if you want chapter and verse on how to demolish this argument, read Gary Taubes’ books.  ”Why We Get Fat” is the easy book: Good Calories, Bad Calories” (Known as “The Diet Delusion” in the UK) is the “big book” (if exercise is all you need, you could lose weight simply by carrying GCBC around with you!)[simpleazon-image align="right" 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"]

But while I am a total fan of Gary, and feel that his books have changed my life, the good old calorie can still tell us a few things:  it can show you just how easy it can be to become malnourished when you’re on a diet.

For instance, the “average” person needs around 2000 calories a day to maintain normal life.  This, of course, varies a lot.  According to the math I would need 3050 calories a day to maintain my current size, and my wife would need 1755 (she’s younger, much smaller, and more active than me).  You can see that it’s quite a range.

We know that body fat is a highly-effective energy storage medium: one pound (.45kg) of fat contains 3500 calories.  So if we just go with the basic idea of “eat less”, if we want to lose 1lb a week we need to consume 3500 calories less per week, or 3500/7=500 calories less per day.  For Susan that would mean reducing her daily calorie intake by 28%, for me I’d need to reduce by 16%.

That’s all very well, but our food is not just an energy supply.  In addition we need micro-nutrients and, although as their names implies we don’t need much of them, when we don’t have enough the results can be horrendous.  For instance, a severe deficiency of vitamin C causes a disease called scurvy, where your teeth fall out, you get suppurating sores and you get severely depressed (well, you would, wouldn’t you?)

Beri Beri victim

Pellagra sufferer

Beri beri, a disease caused by a lack of thiamin (vitamin B1) caused extreme lethargy and even death.  And pellagra, caused by a deficiency of vitamin B3 (niacin) affected more than three million people in the American south, killing 100,000 of them in the early part of the 20th century.

I got quite a shock, researching this.

I am from the UK but my wife is American and her father was a southerner.  When she grew up she was accustomed to eating grits (from the same stem as English “groats”) and still enjoys grits when we go out to breakfast if we are in the Southern states.  I have always laughed: to me grits looks like wallpaper paste, tastes not much better, and I imagined it to be completely devoid of nutrition, because grits is made from corn kernels, dried and soaked in lime (that’s the chemical, not the juice of the fruit!)  But apparently, the key nutrient in corn (maize), niacin, is biologically unavailable (it’s locked up).  However, if you treat the maize with lime it makes the niacin nutritionally available.  Traditionally, new world cultivators of maize knew this (how?!) since 1500BC and didn’t suffer from pellagra, but when maize started being shipped around the world, people who adopted it without knowing about this process of  nixtamalization developed diseases of malnutrition.

Now you may think that these were all diseases of the past, and that we no longer need to worry, but here’s the interesting (and worrying) thing … these are diseases of extreme malnutrition, but malnutrition happens on a sliding scale.  If you are bit short of micro-nutrients you might not suffer from anything as bad as pellagra, beri beri or scurvy, but your health will be negatively affected.

Various governments publish “Recommended Daily Allowances” (known by various names depending on the government and the day of the week) for various nutrients.  But these amounts are the amount that, if everyone in the population had that much, around 50% of them wouldn’t get ill.  How much you need, not just to avoid malnutrition, but to be in optimum health, is probably much more than the RDA, or whatever your country calls it.

So, if you are aiming to lose one pound a week on your diet, and you do it by reducing what you eat by between 15% and 30%, you’re reducing your micro-nutrients by that amount, too.

Scary, isn’t it?

Before dieting you were probably malnourished to some degree; now you’re dieting it’s got worse.  We have all heard of pregnant women getting cravings–that’s because the baby is using up the mother’s micro-nutrients.  The craving is the body’s drive to get the mother to correct the deficiency.

Irradiated food symbol

But, if we’re eating a “normal” diet, are we getting all the nutrition we need?  No.  In the Standard American Diet (SAD), which (obviously, by definition) most Americans, and large numbers of people in the rest of the world eat, our food is deficient in these micro nutrients, for a variety of reasons:

  • The soil is worn out: we keep cropping, but don’t replace what we take out
  • The time from field to fork gets longer: vitamins start to decay once a plant is picked.  In America the average distance travelled from field to fork is around 1500 miles.  And if you think it’s better in Europe, just remember that most of your “fresh” vegetables and salad stuff comes from southern Spain.  A tomato grown in a greenhouse in Malaga will have done over 1500 miles by the time it gets to a supermarket in Birmingham.
  • Vegetables, nowadays, are picked before they are ripe, so that they will last longer on supermarket shelves.
  • Food is irradiated, destroying its DNA.
  • A lot of food is so processed that it has few, if any, micro-nutrients: what we call “junk food”.

So, we are already eating a diet that is low on nutrition, and then we eat 15-30% less of it.  Less of a bad diet is a worse diet, not better.  No wonder we have cravings and get hungry.

What are we to do?

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="098430472X" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/418yh6o7hML._SL160_.jpg" width="106"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="0984755179" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AXQpauaLL._SL160_.jpg" width="115"]Well, I already knew a lot of this information about nutrition, but it wasn’t at the top of my consciousness until I read Naked Calories and Rich Food, Poor Food by Jason and Mira Calton. Time for a declaration of interest.  Currently I have no commercial relationship with the Caltons at all.  But I am so impressed with the books, and with their supplement, that I am hopeful that I may be able to import it into the UK.  I’ll alter this sentence if and when that happens!

By now you will understand the title of this post.  If most of the food we eat is just “naked calories”, how can we make sure that our calories are well-dressed?  The art and science of making sure that you have enough micro-nutrients is complex (one of the things I like about the Calton’s supplements is that they have made it very easy), but there are some things that we can do straight away.

Looking at the list of problems above, you can see that eating your five a day will help, especially if they come from a local, organic farm.  When we live in Florida we buy as much as we can from Lake Meadow Naturals (about 10 miles from where we live) and in the UK we use Sunnyfields Farm and Beechcroft Farm, both, I was surprised to find, exactly 9 miles away from where we live, but in opposite directions!

Next, don’t keep stuff too long.  Buying it fresh, organic and local is all very well, but if it sits in the veg drawer in the fridge until it’s floppy and unpleasant, you might have done better to buy canned or frozen!

Lastly, for now, aim for the most nutrient-dense foods that you can find.  I will be helping with that by posting about various foods.  For now, check out my recent blog post “Which Avocados are best for Paleo/Primal?

And educate yourself.  For starters, read the Calton’s books, and click the various links on this page.  And watch out for the next posts in this series.

Why We Get Fat

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

My lovely friend, Kali Harmen, recommended that I read Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and I sighed, deeply!

It is an occupational hazard of being overweight (in America the current politically correct term is “a person of size”!) that every second person wants you to read their favourite book, and when you run a website called Live Free From Obesity the frequency rises dramatically!

Why We Get Fat: Kindle Edition

Why We Get Fat: Kindle Edition

But I rate Kali’s opinion, so I thought I’d at least follow the link to Amazon, discovered that it’s only £4.05 on the Kindle (or on my iPad), thought “what the heck” and downloaded it just before Susan and I jumped into the car to head to Gatwick to catch the plane to Florida (to look after her sick Mom).

I had wanted to go to bed early, because we had to be at the airport early, but I started reading it in bed in the hotel and had to force myself to put it down and go to sleep at about 01:00am.  By the time we landed in Orlando the next day I had read it one and a half times.

Gary is a science writer, but/and a very good one.  He has been fascinated by all the bad (or non-existent) science behind nutritional advice, both in the USA and the rest of the world.

Gary’s theme is that we “people of size” (not his term) don’t get to be this way because we eat too much and exercise too little.  And in the first half of the book he completely demolishes “gluttony and sloth” as adequate explanations for obesity.  Gary says that we don’t get fat because we eat too much, but that we eat too much because we are growing fat.  Does that scramble your brain?  It did mine, until Gary talked about teenage boys.

We all know that teenage boys have growth spurts.  We know that teenage boys eat a lot, and any of us who have had anything to do with teenage boys know that they can appear very lazy.  But no-one would think to say “my son is growing tall because he eats too much”.  We wouldn’t think of saying that the boy is growing tall because he never gets out of bed.  We know that his hormones have triggered the growth spurt, and that his system craves more energy to fuel the growth spurt … and takes so much energy in making him grow tall, that he frequently doesn’t have the energy to get out of bed.

So why would it be any different if we’re growing width-wise as opposed to height-wise?

But why do we get fat?  Popular wisdom says that it’s all down to the 1st law of thermodynamics, and that you can’t deny the physics.  Take more calories in than you expend through exercise, and you’re bound to get fatter.  Hmm, says Gary.  Imagine there are a row of rooms and each of these rooms has an entrance door and an exit door.  Now imagine that a crowd of people is moving through the rooms.  But one room has many more people in it than all the rest.  You ask me why, and I say it’s because more people are entering that room than leaving it, and you look at me as though I’m losing the plot.  ”Well, obviously!”  but why?  I have just stated the obvious, without any sort of explanation.

That’s the same as saying that I’m fat because I ate too much and didn’t exercise enough.  Yes.  Obviously.  But Why?  Again, popular wisdom would say that it’s obvious that I’m a greedy, lazy slob.

Well, maybe.

But nowadays we get children as young as 6 months old who are obese.  Can it be that they are already greedy and lazy?  Unlikely.

Gary explains how it’s all down to our endocrine system, and gives us a series of lessons: Adiposity 101, Endocrinology 101, etc.  I can’t reproduce the entire book here: go get your own copy!

But if you’d like to sample Gary’s writing before lashing out a whole £4.05 for the Kindle edition, or a massive £4.49 for the paperback, try some of his New York Times articles:

A good place to start is with “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie“, published in the NYT in 2002.

Next try “Is Sugar Toxic“, a response in the NYT (April 2011) to the runaway viral success of Robert Lustig’s You Tube video, which I wrote about in my “Truth About Sugar” blog post back in early April.

But maybe you’d like to see and hear Gary.  He did a lecture at Crossfit (a physical training outfit for people serious about getting fit: that Crossfit link is scary, but Crossfit is actually for everyone: check out this story in Sydney, Australia.) and the lecture was videoed and posted in three parts on You Tube: here they are:

Gary Taubes Cross Fit Talk, Part 1

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

Gary Taubes Cross Fit Talk, Part 2

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

Gary Taubes Cross Fit Talk, Part 3

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSq_J5acEto

The Diet Delusion

The Diet Delusion

In that lecture Gary referred several times to his first (500 page) book, called Good Calories — Bad Calories in the USA, and The Diet Delusion in the UK.

If you want to study this stuff in depth, or you’d like to see what a serious scientific investigative journalist can get up to for five years, then this is the book for you!

It arrived Friday morning (today is Saturday) and I’m just a couple of chapters in, but already I am enthralled.

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="1439190275" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51C4YyKhT2L._SL110_.jpg" width="73"]Just by way of interest: having read Why We Get Fat on the plane to Orlando, I decided (despite having two week’s worth of Lipotrim in my case) to try Gary’s eating plan.  I ate really well: eggs and bacon for breakfast (with mushrooms and tomatoes), cold meats and salad for lunch, and steaks, broccoli, salads for dinner.  My weight dropped slightly (I had been worried it might soar!).  My blood sugar continued to fall, and my blood pressure fell slightly.

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0345484045" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51-h3UmqMEL._SL160_.jpg" width="127"]I will return to Lipotrim, just as soon as I have the psychological and emotional support I need in place, to go through what Atkins would call the Induction Phase.  I will be writing blog posts about Atkins, The Gabriel Method, and about T-Tapp training, and will then start to tie all these together.

Watch this space!

I first wrote this post a year or so ago.  Since then I have learned some things that I didn’t know back then, which means I need to make a few changes.  There are a number of “great debates” in the weight loss world, and one of the biggest is “CICO vs GCBC”.  That is, the “calories in, calories out model” (eat less, exercise more: you can’t gainsay the physics) versus the “Good Calories Bad Calories” model (not all calories are created equal … some foods will have a worse effect than other foods).  Intellectually I have come to believe and follow the GCBC model … but my personal experience says that CICO is also true; you can’t gainsay the physics.  Even when you’re eating exclusively good calories, too many of them will make you fat!

This post was, originally, based exclusively on CICO … I will make notes where I think we need to make an adjustment.  To get an idea of why all calories are not created equal, check out my post on my number one nutritional-science guru, Gary Taubes: “Why We Get Fat“.

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When I first started this odyssey I was “morbidly obese”: I had a Body Mass Index (BMI) just over 40. That meant I was 9 stones (126 lbs, 57 kg) overweight.

Conventional wisdom suggests a safe rate to lose weight is 1 lb per week. At that rate it would have taken me about two and a half years to get to goal weight. Actually, on the sort of nutritional regime that achieves a one-pound-a-week weight loss, it will take forever, because the last few pounds just won’t come off.

The first time I did this, I lost 7 stones (100 lbs, 45 kg) in 30 weeks, cured myself of various problems along the way (like Type II diabetes), and was never healthier in my entire life.

That same conventional wisdom that says only lose a pound a week also suggests, variously, only weighing yourself once per week, or once per month, or throwing the scales away altogether.VLCD

Nonsense. Weigh yourself every hour for two days, then every day.

I guess I better justify these bold assertions. After all, I am not medically qualified, and I’m not a professional nutritionist.

I am a fat bloke who wanted to stay alive. I am also an intelligent man, capable of reading, researching (I have a Master of Philosophy, M.Phil. degree; that’s a sort of “PhD Lite”), and forming reasonable hypotheses that I can test on myself.

Safe Rate for Weight Loss

So let’s examine where this “1 lb per week safe limit” argument comes from, and to do that, we need to get into a little (very simple, I promise) science.

Our bodies need food. I want to use the a metaphor: “The Body is Like a Car”.

The body (I’m just considering physical stuff here; mental, emotional, creative, spiritual, social and cultural considerations I’ll deal with in “Together We Can”) needs food for three things:

  1. Fuel (Petrol, Diesel, Gas)
  2. Maintenance (Spare parts)
  3. Getting maintained (the motor repair person)

Fuel is calories. The body uses it up doing absolutely everything it does, from just staying alive, through thinking hard, to running a marathon, and everything in between.

Maintenance is vitamins, minerals and amino acids. These are the building blocks that are used for constantly repairing, growing and rebuilding our bodies.

The “repair person” function is carried out by certain enzymes and other substances that catalyze (cause to happen) changes in our bodies.

All foods contain these three components in different proportions. The reason why people criticize “junk food” is because it contains loads of fuel and almost no spare parts or repair people.

The body, like a car, can store fuel for later use. However, a car has a fixed-size fuel tank. When it’s full, adding more just causes a mess on the filling-station forecourt.

The body, however, just grows the fuel tank to contain all the extra fuel you add. In extreme cases that means the body is almost nothing but a great heaving, wobbling fuel store. The trouble there is that the body becomes so ungainly and difficult to move, that it’s really hard to actually use up this excess fuel. That means you have more fat (which doesn’t use fuel) and less lean muscle (which does use fuel), so your fuel consumption drops whilst your fuel store goes up.

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Another way that your body is unlike most cars is that your body can have a reserve fuel tank that has a one-way valve.  You can add more fuel to your reserves, but then be unable to actually use it up.  More of that later on.

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How much fuel do we need?

Well, that depends. If you were lying in a coma in a hospital bed, you’d still be using fuel.  They say that your brain uses up around 600 calories a day (although I know some people where I would swear it’s less!)

When I first owned a car, cars were very simple things. If you turned off the lights and the ignition … that was it; it was totally inert.

But my big blue Mercedes uses electricity all the time, whether I’m driving it or not. The clock, the car’s engine computer, the security system are all using power, whether I’m driving it or not (as I learned to my cost when I came back from a three-month trip and had to pay £200 for a new battery, and silly money to the Mercedes garage for resetting all the systems so they worked again–I’ve got rid of that car now!).

This underlying rate of energy consumption is called your “Basal Metabolic Rate”, and differs, based on your gender, weight, height. Here’s how Wikipedia defines BMR:

Basal metabolic rate (BMR), and the closely related resting metabolic rate (RMR), is the amount of daily energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment, in the post-absorptive state (meaning that the digestive system is inactive, which requires about twelve hours of fasting in humans).
The release of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of the vital organs, the heart, lungs, nervous system, kidneys, liver, intestine, sex organs, muscles and skin.

BMR changes with age, gender, height and weight.

On top of your BMR requirement is the energy you need for normal daily functioning: getting up, getting dressed, washed, fed, to work, etc. This total amount of energy is called your Daily Calorie Needs, and can be anything from 1.2 to 1.9 times your BMR.

And here’s the simple truth. Eat more calories than your Daily Calorie Needs, and your body will store the excess energy. Eat less and your body will make up the difference from the energy store.

In even simpler and balder language: eat more than you need and you’ll get fat, eat less than you need and you’ll get thin.

[hr]

The difference in the Good Calorie – Bad Calorie model is that our endocrine systems can get damaged, in which case eating less may not make you thin, and even eating small amounts can make you fat.  If your waist measurement is larger than your hip measurement, then this may already have started happening for you.

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HOWEVER … if all your requirements come from food, then eating less calories means you are also eating less spare parts and “maintenance people”.. To avoid linguistic clumsiness, from here on I will just divide food into fuel and nutrition.

Here’s the danger; cut down on food in order to cut down on excess calories, and you’re in danger of cutting down on nutrition, too. Do that and you’ll get ill; maybe even die.

Where does the boundary lie between reducing calories to lose weight and not endangering your health? Let’s do a little sum.

A pound of fat contains 3500 calories. So, to lose a pound a week you’ll need to consume 3500 calories a week less than you use. A woman who needs around 1250 calories per day, or 8750 per week would need to cut her food intake by about 60% to lose a pound a week. If all she does is stay on the same diet, but just reduce quantities, you can see she’s going to be in BIG trouble: 60% less calories, but also 60% less nutrition.

But how about if there was some way to get 100% of the nutrition you need, at very low calorie levels?

Welcome to the Very Low Calorie Diet, or VLCD. My diet is incredibly well formulated to give me all the vitamins, minerals and enzymes I need to get top-notch, fabulous nutrition, but only 500 calories per day.

I’ll do a worked example, but, for the math-phobic among you, I’ll put all the sums in an appendix. It comes out that on my 500-calorie a day VLCD I will, based on my today’s weight, lose 6.6 lbs a day.

Of course, tomorrow I’ll be about a pound lighter, so the BMR equation will change, so I’ll either get very good with a calculator, or I’ll build a spreadsheet (which I have; have a look at it or download it from here).

There’s one more thing to explain.

How The Body Stores and Uses Energy

The body stores energy in two forms, one available for quick access in the short term, and one for longer-term use.

The evolutionary need was for, on the one hand, a rapidly available energy store that could be used for flight or fight, or chase, or sex. On the other hand, we needed a slower-release energy store to get us through the winter and spring, when there wasn’t much food around.

For short-term, rapid uptake use, our bodies store glycogen in our liver and our muscles. For long term use, energy is stored as fat, which has a second use to keep us warm.

When we start a VLCD the glycogen is the first thing to go, and glycogen bonds with five times it’s own weight of water, hence for the first few days we pee every 90 minutes, morning, noon, and night, and the weight absolutely falls off. It looks exciting on the scales, but it is only water!

How do we know when the glycogen is all gone? We enter a state known as “ketosis” (not to be confused with ketoacidosis). We know we are in ketosis when:

  1. We stop feeling hungry,
  2. We stop peeing every 90 minutes,
  3. If we pee on a “ketostix” strip (get them from our store) it goes purple,
  4. Our teeth start to fur up, and we start leaving toothbrushes and toothpaste around the house for immediate use,
  5. Our weight loss conforms to the above equations.
  6. Our brain starts to get sharper.

It’s important to stay in ketosis for reasons 1 and 6. And you do that by sticking strictly to the diet. Any little extras (not so much as a slice of lemon in a glass of water) are liable to kick you out of ketosis.

I have experienced (6) above. Apparently it’s because ketones fuel the brain instead of glucose.

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Since then being in ketosis and ketogenic diets have become even more important to me.  Check out my blog posts “On Ketogenic Diets” and “203 Comments on Mark Maunder’s ‘Basic Ketogenic Diet’“.

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I’ve Been Told to Throw My Scales Away

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="B002JE2PSA" locale="us" height="103" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41zH94zSuwL._SL160_.jpg" width="160"]No. Check out the Withings scales in our store. (We commute between the UK and the USA: in America I use the FitBit Aria scales[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="B0077L8YOO" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/314fN8XxK%2BL._SL160_.jpg" width="160"]) They are not cheap, but they are very accurate scales that will weigh you and measure your body fat percentage, as well as calculate your BMI. They are worth every penny, because they are WiFi, and will report your weight on line.  You can keep that private; but we recommend making the details available to your doctor, and to your Live Free From Obesity group: when we are all monitoring each other’s weight, it has a highly motivating effect!

When you get them, weigh yourself every waking hour, day and night (and when you get up for a wee). They record your weight on a central website (only you can see it, unless you allow your Dr access), so you can do it half asleep.  Do this without dieting; just your normal lifestyle. After two days, look at the results. You will find that your weight can fluctuate by as much as 5-8 lbs (2-4 Kg) during the day.

This means that you can “lose” a pound simply by weighing yourself an hour later! And it means that a target weight loss of 1 lb per week can’t be detected … it’s lost in the “noise”.

Would you trust an airline pilot who didn’t look at his instruments? I wouldn’t. Your scales are your instruments: they tell you how you’re doing. And when you’re feeling all miserable because you can’t eat your favourite food, go weigh yourself; you’ll be so excited at another couple of pounds lost, that all your motivation will come back!

Won’t a VLCD Damage my Muscles?

No. I went from obese couch potato to walking 500 miles with Walking for Happiness. I did my first 200 miles whilst on my VLCD, and my longest walk was 15.5 miles in a day. VLCDs (ketogenic, low-carb diets) are known to be “muscle sparing”, or to even increase muscular endurance, and that has certainly been my experience.

Won’t a VLCD Cause My Metabolism to Slow Down?

No. That’s why weight loss is so rapid. It does that by sparing lean muscle mass. Something like 25 year’s research on Lipotrim has shown you can stay on it as long as you need to, to get to your healthy body weight.

I’ve Been Told to Come off a VLCD After Four weeks

NO NO NO NO NO! At least, not if you’re on a decent, nutrient-complete VLCD. That rule was invented by the US Post Office, 30 years ago, because, after a completely charlatan company poisoned people with a rubbish VLCD, they were worried that they could be sued if they delivered a VLCD to someone, and they died. Legal advice said that people could go with no nutrition at all for four weeks, so if they made that restriction, they were legally safe!

Why you shouldn’t come off, and go back to normal food is because there is a “re-feeding protocol” to use at the end of a VLCD, and then a “new you” protocol, for on-going maintenance. Ignore these and your food addiction will come back in spades, and you’ll pile all the weight back on. I know. I’ve been there!

Do it once. Do it properly. Follow the rules. Live healthily forever.

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… and there’s more.  When you cut way down on your carb intake, as you do on either a commercial or home-made VLCD (I don’t recommend this, because I can’t, because I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist.  However, when I am in America I can’t get my VLCD, which is only available in the UK, so I make my own), your body takes some time to switch from expecting to be able to run on glucose to making up it’s mind that it has to break down your body fat stores and run on ketones.  The more you yo-yo back and forth, the more your body doesn’t believe that you won’t give it any more carbs.  The cravings get worse, and, during the period when you aren’t eating carbs, but your body isn’t in ketosis, you really don’t have any energy, your brain is totally fogged and your headache just gets worse!

[hr]

What VLCD Should I use?

Ah, this is where I can’t recommend, only tell you what I did, and am doing. I followed, and am following the Lipotrim diet. The problem for anyone not in the UK is that Lipotrim is only available in the UK, and only through your GP or your pharmacist. There are two videos you can watch for more information, Lipotrim’s own video, and one made by Professor Dr David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLfih175fZg

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BspgMc_bk70

[hr]

Beware: In America you can find a product called Lipotrim.  It is not related in any way to the Lipotrim that’s available in the UK, and works (if it does work; I have no idea) on an entirely different principle.

[hr]

I have experienced all the advantages mentioned by Haslam in that video.

Originally, Lioptrim was developed by Dr Alan Howard, whose career at Cambridge University spanned 60 years. He has been responsible for developing a number of VLCDs, including Lipotrim, the Cambridge Diet, and, I believe, Lighterlife. Lipotrim is probably the most heavily researched of all the VLCDs; there’s masses of research documented on the Lipotrim website.

When I’m not on Lipotrim, I miss it. It tastes OK, and it is simple. I have tried varying Lipotrim with Cambridge, Exante, and Be-Yu. I only trust Lipotrim 100% because of all the research that has been done, because of the clinical supervision, and because it worked for me.

What Else Do I need?

You need psychological, emotional, cultural, spiritual and social help and support, and that isn’t provided anywhere in the world … which is why we are developing Live Free From Obesity, and Together We Can.

[hr]

And you need to understand that for the first 1.8 million years that humans were around, our bodies ran almost exclusively in ketosis, we were hugely more healthy than we are today, and we were capable of feats that today we would regard as “super human” … but more of that elsewhere!

[hr]

Appendix: The Maths

All this “maths” is in a  spreadsheet which makes it all very easy.  Check out the Live Free From Obesity maths spreadsheet here.

English BMR Formula

Women  BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men         BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in year )

Metric BMR Formula

Women  BMR = 655 + ( 9.6 x weight in kilos ) + ( 1.8 x height in cm ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men        BMR = 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )

I’ll do mine, in kg (because that’s what my scales register). This morning I was 133 kg, I am 193 cm tall, and 63 years old.

So my BMR is:
66 +(13.7 x 133) + (5 x 193) – (6.8 x 63)
66 + 1822 + 965 – 428 = 2424.

That’s what I need just to stay alive; my BMR.

Next we use something called the Harris-Benedict equation to see what my daily needs are.

With this amount of exercise

Multiply the BMR by this

Little to no exercise

1.2

Light exercise 1-3 days/week

1.38

Moderate exercise 3-5 days/week

1.55

Intense exercise 6-7 days/week

1.73

Extremely intense exercise 6-7 days/week

1.9

(That’s the same for men and women.) I reckon I should multiply by 1.55. That gives me a Daily Calorie Requirement of 3758. Let’s call it 3800 to make life easier.

But on my Very Low Calorie Diet, I only get 500 calories a day. That means each day I am 3300 calories short. Over a week that’s 3300 x 7 = 23,100 calories short each week.
And at 3500 calories per pound of fat, that means I’ll lose 23,100 / 3500 = 6.6 lbs per week.

NOTE

On 500 calories a day, you cannot and should not engage in heavy exercise; you will “run in to the brick wall” … something that long-distance runners experience if they haven’t “carb-loaded” sufficiently the day before.  I have experienced it twice: it’s a very weird feeling; you just have no energy to go on.

I like Nordic Walking (see our Walking For Happiness website).  I didn’t start walking until I was two weeks into the diet, and then built up slowly.  I will soon be posting an article on “How to Start Walking for Optimal Safe Weight Loss”.  Watch this space!

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