Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Horseman

There are some new readers of this blog who want to lose weight and/or get fit. This post is for them and indeed ANYONE who thinks that the way to lose fat is to 'eat less and do more'. It is based on an original post that can be found here.

The Official Line on How to Lose Weight
The official line on how to lose weight can be summarised as follows: 'Eat less, do more'.

Whichever way you cut it, just about any diet you care to mention (that does not involve restriction of refined carbohydrate), falls in to one or other - or both - of these categories; 'Eat less or do more'.

Dinner At Mine
Now if I were to invite you to my house for a three course meal with all the trimmings and said 'bring your appetite', how would you develop your appetite?

You might skip breakfast (i.e, eat less), and/or you might go for a big walk or for a swim (i.e, do more). Whichever way you cut it, just about any way you care to mention to raise your appetite falls in to one or other of these categories; 'Eat less or do more'. (Commonly we talk of 'working up an appetite'.)

Spot the difference
Did you spot that? The 'official'/conventional recommendation to lose weight is to 'eat less and/or do more' whilst the VERY thing you would do to compel yourself to eat more than usual requires that you ; 'eat less or do more'.

NOW do you understand why calorie restriction based diets do not work? The next time your doctor or a dietitian advises you to 'eat less and do more' to lose weight, ask them the question above and see what they say! ;)

The Power of Hunger
Hunger is an incredibly powerful driver. You can eat 'bulky' foods and drink all manner of shakes to fill the belly, but your body cannot be lied to for long. If it thinks it is 'losing', then all other (hormonal) factors being the same, it will crank up the hunger accordingly.

FFS one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is famine! (For anyone on a calorie-restricted diet, look at the picture above - the rider in the foreground; that's you that is).

That is indicative of the power and pain of hunger.

Even those who have had surgery (liposuction, gastric banding and other invasive surgery) find that their cravings remain. Furthermore, such weight loss is not a one way street. In many cases, despite the surgery, weight can be regained. This is because without changing WHAT you eat, you are not tackling the root cause of the problem.

So what is the root cause of obesity? In a word insulin.

Insulin is the primary hormone that governs fat storage. People with Type 1 Diabetes cannot produce insulin and die emaciated. People with Type 2 Diabetes are awash with insulin and (usually) die obese.

The body tries to maintain about a teaspoon of sugar in the blood at any one time. The body has evolved to maintain blood sugar in a very narrow band. When excess sugar enters the body, insulin is released to remove and store this excess energy. It is stored as fat. Carbohydrate is simply a long sugar that is split in to a simple sugar by the body.
In contrast the impact of a natural fats is negligible, and protein impact is modest in terms of glycemic load and index.

Carb Scarcity
Think about a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. What would you eat? You'd hunt animals (protein and fat) and eat seasonal fruit and vegetables. Carbohydrate would exist in the fruit and veg but would be a small proportion of the diet by volume as a whole.

Our hunter-gatherer might find wild honey but those wild bees are aggressive and so this would be a rare treat.

Fast forwards 40,000 years. The average diet is awash with carbohydrate - usually bread, rice, pasta and potatoes. These are sugars. These promote secretion of the fat storage hormone, insulin.

Day-in, day-out, the modern body has to chronically pump out insulin (from the islets of langerhans), due to this excessive carbohydrate consumption. As with any drug, the insulin receptors eventually become desensitized so the body has to produce more and more insulin to control blood sugar. Eventually the islets of langerhans get burnt out - they can no longer produce insulin in the required amounts.

Congratulations. You now have diabetes.

We haven't evolved to live in a high carb environment. Of course we crave refined carbs as they were historically a rare treat and valuable source of energy. But, if you can get your insulin under control you can better handle and control the cravings.

In addition, on a diet low in refined carbs YOU NEVER HAVE TO GO HUNGRY. You can eat as much as you want as long as it is from the paleo food groups (and preferably follow seasonal fare). It is that easy.

Your digestive tract and your body as a whole has been shaped and honed by thousands of years of evolution. Natural selection does not tolerate waste. Cutting bits off yourself and binding other bits up is no solution.

Here endeth the first lesson!


Dr. B G said...


Wonderful blog! I luv it!!

You don't think the govt is getting it right??

I thought hunger sharpened the appetite like many other things :)


Marc said...


GREAT post!!!!!
Let me share an example of this madness and misunderstanding.

One of my best girl friends is obese. She has finally enrolled herself in (what is now very popular here in the US) a BOOT Camp. 3 times a week, an instructor works them out like grunts for an hour. An hour of squatting, running, planks,pushup, step ups etc.I believe they even have a goal of making at least one of the attendees throw up per session. Now this "boot camp" has done wonders for her mood, as I'm sure it's been a while since endorphins have been released, however since she started this last October, she has not lost any significant weight.(I think she lost 3 pounds)
I keep teling her, now that she is devoting all this effort to finaly getting going, why is she not adressing her food intake? Now the interesting thing is that she does not eat a lot of food. At most 1 meal a day. That meal is usually a mid day lunch sandwhich. Her insulin is totally out of whack.
I look at her and she is a classic example of "eat less and/or do more" yet nothing is changing....sad isn't it.
She knows about my blog, I set the example every day as we work together. I'm a shining example of my lifestyle and yet......
Sorry for the long comment ;-)
I just felt like sharing my frustration. I wish I could help her.
Keep up the great posts A.!!!


Asclepius said...

Cheers Marc.

I reckon we all know someone like your friend and it is frustrating.

Paleo workouts give you the endorphin hit, the fitness, the fun and the fat loss - without looooong sessions in the gym.

I know a few people who have done exactly the same as your friend but eventually lose heart in the traditional workouts because they don't get lean.

I think that working out until you vomit is frightening. I mean, I would run until I vomited if I was in danger, but I can think of no land-based mammal that would do this to itself in the pursuit of food or fun/play.

Our paleo compass remains a good guide to what we should do and how we should do it!

Paul said...

pedant mode on>
Famine is the guy with the scales second from front. Death is the ripped guy in the front. :-)
pedant mode off>

Methuselah said...

Spot on - your 'eat more do less' dichotomy is the perfect explanation for any low carb cynic and I have been using it regularly. This post now provides the perfect adjunct to my verbal rants!

Easy Diets said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Asclepius said...

Paul, cheers for the art lesson! ;)

Who'd have thought famine would look so fat and death so ripped?

A nice parallel to the absurdity of conventional dietary advice.