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Nutritional Guidelines, Fake Science, and My Decreasing Waist
In the spring of 2015, my doctor diagnosed me as clinically obese, with a Latin term that roughly translates to “fat in the belly.” As Rodney Dangerfield joked, “and when I asked for a second opinion, he said I’m ugly.” Anyhow, I’ve long struggled with clinical obesity. I’ve also held, since the 1980s, the habit of daily exercise, alternating between weights and cardio, as well as carefully cataloging my dietary intake, most recently adding MyFitnessPal to my daily habits. My obesity isn’t the fruit of sloth, or lack of self-control, as is the favorite diagnosis.
After months of stewing over the sting of my diagnosis, I decided to launch, yet again, diet #2454. This time it would be a high protein, medium carb, and low fat, a la South Beach. Watch my calories in, calories out, I’ve done this before, I’ve got this.
And yet … after an initial weight loss of about 20 pounds, Thanksgiving and Christmas snacking soon laid waste to my waist, reversing my losses. Just like every other stinkin’ time.
At my next yearly checkout, with nothing to show but my ever-present belly, I asked my general doctor for a referral to a well-known doctor in the “low carb, high fat” way of eating (or WoE). That was eight months ago, and, today, I’m at my lowest weight in three decades.
So, yeah, I might be popping the cork of success too soon, but there’s something else that I’m bringing attention to here. My WoE is rich in saturated fats and meat. The American Heart Association tells us that such things are the leading cause of heart disease. The AHA assures me that by dramatically increasing my saturated fat intake, I’ve issued my own death sentence. Notice how when reason fails, authorities turn to scare tactics? Yet,¹ my fellow WoE-ers and I have never had such good blood lab work, i.e., heart-healthy results. Though being hypertensive prior to the diet, my blood pressure has been consistently 75 over 115 since two months into the diet. I’m far from alone in seeing and experiencing this.
My WoE is very similar to the Atkins Diet. Gary Taubes famously wrote a highly-visible and highly-provocative article, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” back in 2002 in the NY Times. It made the then-scandalous assertion that fat was healthy. There continues to be a growing mound of evidence that the advice we regularly receive is flat-out wrong and is contributing to the obesity epidemic. Like the red-handed infidelitous spouse who asks, “are you going to believe me or your lying eyes,” my experience isn’t matching what I’m richly and authoritatively assured.
Why is this so? Why are we being asked to follow the same old misleading and unhealthy guidance?
I speculate that some of this pushback is politically driven. For example, remember Jimmy Carter’s push for “environmental sustainability?” That “Meat is unsustainable.” Sure, if we earth-destroying humans would simply eat rice and grass, we can save the planet. Umm … no thanks. There’s also the “Meat is Murder” crowd who tsk-tsks we carnivores. Yet, our bodies respond better to high-fat, saturated fat, and low carb. It’s healthier. You don’t have to like the incongruity of this with your preferred agenda, but deny this at the risk to your own credibility.²
For the AHA, and others, to acknowledge as much is to run counter to those who pretend their science-based way to saving the planet is the only way. There are financial incentives to keep things the way they are as well. I’m sure there are other factors as well. As I researched for this post, I found this post by @drrich from two-plus years ago making similar observations.
It seems Lysenkoism continues his march. Meanwhile, here’s to my pad of butter on my sirloin so that I may comfortably fit into clothes I haven’t worn in decades.
¹ Not everyone. Suffice it to say that this is empirical, not magical. There are always outliers.
² I’m being pith for many reasons, but, sure, we don’t know beyond reasonable doubt. We currently lack significant studies to know with certainty. The LCHF/Keto community cries out for more studies to better understand what we anecdotally are experiencing.Published in Science & Technology
Thank you for sharing this!
Lard is the secret to flaky pie crusts, said my great-grandmother on her way to her 103rd birthday. Of course results vary.
Different diets and exercise regimes work for different people to keep off weight.
Myself, I found last year that I can loose weight very quickly by just eating slightly less regardless of exercise.
Sure enough. I have done the Calorie in, calorie out plan (i.e., eat less) I lose weight, but I don’t sustain the loss. Genetics, hereditary factors, and other things I can’t pretend to understand influence weight loss. I’m concerned, here, why we’ve been blown smoke on one effective approach which may actually be the inverse of what we’re told, i.e., eating fat is healthy for you.
My grandmother swore by her “tablespoon diet.” She and my grandfather traveled a lot, and every time she came back from a trip, she would go on her tablespoon diet. It is what she called it–it allows for a tablespoon of everything. :) It worked. She kept her weight stable even while trying the wonderful food all around the world. :)
Do what works. Or do what doesn’t work because, you know, science.
Science [sahy-uh ns] – A leftist shibboleth which must not be questioned.
Mmmm… thanks for the reminder. I just put some lard on my wife’s frittata leftovers for lunch, heated it up, and mmm-mmm-GOOD. That’s good living.
The truth is bodies are unique and every one responds to differently to food. Scientific studies get us part of the way toward understanding them, but mostly each person learns by doing (or eating).
I highly recommend Gary’s “Why We Get Fat“, the condensed version of his thoroughly researched “Good Calories, Bad Calories“. I adopted the recommendations therein back in 2014 while spending several months mostly away from home and cooking for myself. Like you, I lost weight, steadily, like never before. My blood pressure dropped substantially (now ~110/70), and most importantly, I lost most of my hunger during the day. And I feel good.
My wife was was unconvinced, and since she keeps a lot of carbs around the house, I relapsed a little bit weight-wise after that project wrapped up. But I continued cooking my own zero-carb breakfasts, and all of the other benefits are still with me. Placing the “unhealthy food” label on carbs, where it belongs, and removing it from animal fat, where it doesn’t, changed my life.
We read his book last summer and have been eating low-carb since then. Mrs. OS is better at sticking to it than I am (watching football may be impossible without salsa and chips). We’ve lost weight and feel better. Mrs. OS chronic high blood pressure has been down near what used to be the target of 120/80 since about a month into the new eating pattern. It has always been much higher, bordering on the danger zone. We/she plan to make this a life time thing, only moderately consuming carb heavy items when our final weight goal is reached and maintained. We’ve also noticed the lack of between meals hunger on this eating plan, Mrs. OS had always struggled with that, probably because she was usually on a low calorie but high carb diet trying to lose weight. She is pretty miffed about being mis-lead for decades about diet by the ‘authorities’. Personally I never paid much attention to what the ‘experts’ had to say about what I consume. I did, however, eat what was put before me, after all I was raised that way.
It’s becoming clear that most people’s bodies respond similarly to high levels of insulin over time by becoming insulin resistant. The result of insulin resistance is the body’s inability to access stored fat and deal with glucose in the blood, eventually resulting in elevated blood sugar levels, elevated triglycerides, increased inflammation (a precursor to heart attack), and type II diabetes. That’s what happened to me. I couldn’t gain weight if I wanted to most of my life, but when I moved into my later years, the pounds started piling on and my blood sugar levels started inching toward a level of concern even though my diet and lifestyle hadn’t changed. The claim is that it takes about 10 years for this condition to show up, so you can be building toward it silently, and once you have it, typical diet recommendations (which tend to be higher in carbs) don’t help.
Some (if not most) of the blame for this situation is on government dietary guidelines that demonized the traditional diet higher in fats and lower in carbs. Faulty (if not outright biased) research combined with activist government (by leftist Senator McGovern) pushed through dietary changes adopted by institutions and people in the US and eventually globally that stressed higher carbs and lower fat, particularly saturated fat. The results were ever-climbing global rates of obesity and type II diabetes.
Directly increasing carb intake has its own issues, but a side effect of low-fat is the increased intake of hidden carbs – typically sugars – to offset the lack of flavor in low-fat foods. On a related note, I recently completed the book “The Salt Fix” which argues (through lots of references to research) that the push toward low-salt diets is similar. Low-salt typically results in increased sugars to offset, and the sugars appear to be worse than the salt on health (which has no negative effect at all on the vast majority of the population). One statistic that astounded me is that Scandinavians’ reliance on salt cod as a major food source in past centuries led them to consume upwards of 100 grams of salt a day seemingly without issues (most people consume an average of about 3.5 grams per day and the guidelines are even lower at 2.3 grams and 1.5 for certain other groups). The book argues that salt intake that low is actually dangerous and research indicates little effect on blood pressure even in those with elevated blood pressure (except for a few specific types).
In my own case, I switched to a LCHF (ketogenic) diet a couple of years ago and dropped over 40 lbs putting me back into roughly my ideal weight category and resulting in a dramatic improvement in all my health markers. My doctor is a proponent of LCHF and does lots of additional testing for diet-related markers (my wife and I belong to a Direct Primary Care practice).
I had the same magical experience. Spent most of my life overweight, then as I neared 50, switched away from the recommended low-calorie, high-carb, low-fat diet to cutting carbs way, way back, increasing the protein, and doing weight training instead of cardio. Lost 60 pounds, and it’s stayed off for three years and counting.
Wish I’d been clued into that “one simple trick” 30 years ago.
When the government tells us we have an obesity epidemic, I’d like to remind them that they’re at least partly responsible.
One of my (and my kids and their kids) favorite meals is fried ribs, plantain tostadas, a little fried yucca and aji, all fried in lard. I worry more about the yucca and plantain than the lard which I consider a necessary health food.
You and me both. I had great success with Atkins back in 2003-ish. However, I slowly re-introduced carbs back into my diet, a mistake I won’t be repeating.
Congrats, that’s my diet too when I need to drop weight. I currently need to drop weight because I just got pegged with apnea and haven’t tolerated the masks yet.
So to feel better 6’5 235 pounds needs to be 215 pounds per my specialist.
Here’s to lard!
I recently learned from this YouTube documentary video that lard comes much more attractively packaged in some places. You can do like this worker on the Trans-Siberian railroad who wishes her husband would take better care of his health. She gets off the train at the next stop to buy him some lard.
The first part of this series has an annoying English voice-over of sorts, not done well like in the movies. Later episodes of the series switch to English subtitles, which I like much better, partly because I like to hear the spoken Russian. Yes, I watched the whole series as well as many others about this railroad. Maybe we’ll take the trip someday. I am more attracted to some of the other foods, though.
I grew up in the mid-South and my mother started essentially every meal by rendering fatback, which was used for general frying and to flavor vegetables of pretty much every kind. That even includes lettuce, in something we called “lettuce and onions” but most people know as “kilt lettuce” (kilt as in killed/wilted with hot grease, not the thing Scottish people wear). That would be accompanied by corn bread, also flavored with rendered fatback (and then slathered with butter). If lard/fatback/butter could kill a person, I’d have been dead long ago.
The problem nowadays is finding fatback/lard. Few grocery stores even carry fatback, and what they carry is pitiful. My mother’s fatback was at least 1 to 1-1/2″ thick, but modern pigs are raised with nearly no fat – a result of the low-fat craze (remember “Pork – the other white meat?). As a result, the skin is often thicker than the fat layer. Try rendering anything out of that.
Also, most lard that I find nowadays is hydrogenated. They tell me you can find real lard in Mexican stores, but I haven’t tried that.
Although I don’t farm, I have seriously considered getting into it with the sole purpose of having real pigs with real fat and maybe preserving some of the heritage breeds that are fast disappearing.
If you’re interested in pigs, I recommend the book “Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig.” My wife happened to be at a bookstore where the author was speaking and signing books, so she got my son a signed copy for Christmas.
Here’s a thought, which unfortunately involves no cover-up, just some basic economics:
Meat – and concentrated proteins and fats generally – have historically been thought of as a luxury food. Fresh veggies and fruits have also been historically semi-luxurious in many temperate and colder climes. Dieticians, when they’re putting together a “nutritious diet” generally have an eye toward affordability, too, and I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at tips for “extending” recipes to feed a large family on a small budget, but “extending” basically means “pad everything out with starch”.
For a lot of people, adding fat to their diet won’t work unless they also restrict carbs, and perhaps until recently, severe restriction on carbs simply wasn’t thought of as “affordable” dietary advice. (And I’ll be honest – it’s kinda not. Now that we have a kid who’s eating solid foods, adding starch back in to round out hungry tummies at mealtime is easy to fall back in the habit of doing, simply to avoid feeling like a spendthrift.)
South Park was on to this with their episode “Gluten Free Ebola,” 10.1.2014, that talked an idea to turn the food pyramid upside down.
By “lard” we keep the liquid gold rendered from bacon for later use. My wife is partial to low-to-none processed foods.
@okiesailor just replace the chips with pork rinds. It’s difficult to stop eating chips, I never feel “full” but I find I can eat too many pork rinds, despite the fact I enjoy them. So the food is your friend, not your junkie. For added deliciousness, dip the pork rinds in mayonnaise. Just watch your friend’s reaction for added theatrical enjoyment when you remind them this is your health food.
I didn’t want to go there, “conspiracy,” because I’m a fan of the adage “never attribute to malice what you can attribute to incompetence” … that, and frivolous abuse of medical malpractice lawsuits.
In fairness, as Taubes has said, we lack significant studies to more authoritatively state that severe carb reduction is desirable, if not the more healthy, option. Until then, doctors will shy away from a diagnosis and prescription that may open them to lawsuit.
It is true that ketoacidosis is a risk for some, whacking blood pH and such. And yeah, trial lawyers… just one angry family member after someone died of a “fat people” disease on a prescribed high-fat diet…
I remain a fan of doctors, and doctor’s advice. That said, ketoacidosis and LCHF is a distant risk, if not easily directly linked.
Pork Belly in Sesame Oil. Pound sand, AHA.
OMG! I’m going to have to try this!
My understanding is that ketoacidosis is a risk primarily for Type I diabetics, but I’ve also read of instances where even doctors sometimes confuse ketogenic with ketoacidosis.
I spotted pork belly for the first time in Costco a few days go. The wheels in my mind were spinning with ideas, including making bacon. I didn’t think of this one, though. Thanks!
Repeat after me: isocaloric ≠ isometabolic.
I suspect that’s what’s going on.