Feet on a Scale

There is nothing that gets a serious readership more than an article on diet and why it doesn’t work! So, as some readers commented (1597 comments) –  “It is time to stop fat shaming” and “…being overweight is a disease”.

If you haven’t read the article – here is the link.

Now, I am not at ALL into fat shaming. The measure of a person is who they are on the inside, and not on the outside – but, I also know that we are meant to live vibrant and energetic lives. Plus that, shaming people is offensive.

Also, to say that being overweight is a disease is a ‘crutch’. No, it isn’t a disease , but it is also not a lack of self-control. But, it is an outcome of the Standard American Diet (SAD) and our lack of physical exertion.

These reality shows only portray a part of the weight-loss struggle. Can you lose weight on a low calorie and high physical exertion model?  Yes, you can.

But, is it a strategy for long-term success? I would state, and the studies confirm, that this is a categorical ‘no‘.

We live in a society that has been taught to eat ‘low fat’ because ‘fat’ has more calories. You’ve already read my posts where many investigators have shown that the original studies supporting this premise were ‘cherry picked’ and quite frankly – false. Yet, Americans have been in an uncontrolled experiment for over 40 years – we ate low fat, high carbohydrate diets and you see where we ended up. About 70% of us are overweight and almost 35% are obese. This isn’t a disease – this is a disaster, and WALL-E may be right.

So, let’s look at some of the information in this article and try to make some sense of it.

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Claim 1: “The body fights back against weight loss.”

This is ‘not necessarily true’ if you ask Dr. David Ludwig, MD, PhD – Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. You are certainly fighting your biology – but, the content of your diet also impacts the statement.

  • If you are eating a lot of simple carbs – then, yes. The body will fight back. Our brains become addicted to fast-acting carbohydrates.  Actually, one area of the brain the ‘nucleus accumbens‘ lights up and this part of your brain is associated with cravings and addiction. So, if you eat a low-fat diet full of simple carbs – even if it is low calorie, your body is going to revolt.
  • “The more you cut back on calories, the hungrier you are, the slower your metabolism becomes, and the more you have to keep cutting back in order to maintain weight loss.”
  • However, low-carb diets showed a lesser – to ‘no effect’ on metabolic slow-down.

Claim 2: “There is always a weight a person’s body maintains without any effort”.

This is ‘true’ – and, if you just think about it – you don’t need an expert to confirm it. If I am used to a ‘healthy breakfast’ of oatmeal, milk, whole grain toast (no butter) and OJ – well guess what? My body is going to give me what I deserve. Weight gain! That’s because we don’t want to change our eating strategies. It’s not that we are lazy – we don’t know how, or how to make it taste good.

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  • What was the old statement about insanity? ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’
  • Seriously, I think the NYT could do better.

Claim 3: ‘Low leptin levels are a causal factor in hunger’.

  • “Ding-ding-ding”. They hit the nail on the head!
  • Again, according to Dr. Ludwig – ‘food affects our hormones, our metabolism and the expression of our genes.’
  • Leptin is a key hormone that affects our hunger levels. And, what diminishes our leptin levels?
    • High insulin levels – reduce your sugar and fast carb intake. Insulin locks fat in your cells – your body doesn’t know what it has on board.  A good analogy – going to get groceries when you have ‘zero’ room in your pantry.
    • Sleep – average leptin levels dropped by 20% after 6 days of mild sleep deprivation – and, how many of us can make that wonderful claim.
    • Severe calorie deprivation – your body goes into shut-down mode. Of course it will signal you to be hungry!!!
  • So, what can you do additionally to raise leptin levels? We discussed sleep and cutting simple carbs – what else?
    • Get more Omega-3 fatty acids (like DHA and EPA).
    • Eat the rainbow of green leafy veggies.
    • Stay away from artificial sweeteners. When has artificial ANYTHING been good for us?
    • Destress – high cortisol levels decrease leptin.
    • Exercise – but, not too much. Really?
      • Yep – chronic exercise also raises cortisol. Think about it – cortisol is the ‘stress’ hormone. It is activated when you (and your backside are in a world of hurt – think running away from a sabre tooth tiger). Obviously, our ancestors didn’t do that everyday (or, I hope not) – but, they were active.  Activity is a great thing – just don’t push yourself to the limit everyday!

Claim 4: “The brain dictates the number of calories we consume”.

  • I touched on this in the first claim.  But, this one is more interesting – he goes into the ‘calories in vs. calories out hypothesis.
    • And, the statement is “These very small differences between intake and output average out to only about 10 to 20 calories per day — less than one Starburst candy — but the cumulative consequences over time can be devastating”.
    • Now, how good are you at counting your daily calories? I’m not!
    • The article’s statement does not take into consideration that the quality of our the nutrients associated with our calories matter.
      • Forget the garbage in the convenient boxes – the box has more nutritional value than the ‘stuff’ inside the box.

I hope people start to realize that it is not only the amount we feed ourselves, but also the hormonal impact (insulin, leptin, and others) that throw us for a loop.

We do NOT need to be slaves to calorie counters or our treadmills. Let’s enjoy real food and wonderful exercise and take back our health.

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