Anvil or Hammer

Book Review: Finally

Posted in Rant by Mike on March 3, 2008

That was about the longest I have ever taken to read a book of this length or type.

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

I want to start by saying: to all the reviewers who said this is not a heavy, fact filled, detailed book, “You didn’t read the book!” This is a heavy, fact filled, scientifically oriented book. It covers digestions, metabolism of different macronutrients (including some of their divisions like fructose versus glucose), the history of dietary science and some of the social scene of science.

The easiest way to summarize the idea of this book is, when you consume carbohydrate you cause a biological process to occur that temporarily halts fat metabolism. When you do this repeatedly, you cause the process to halt longer each time, to a point that you may stop it almost completely. That is why you get fat and stay fat with carbs. I could go on to summarize that this process is the building blocks of diabetes, dietary fat does not cause bodily fat (something I have always believed) and that heart disease is often blamed on fat but that is only because of the tools we have used to diagnosis it, a better tool (which exists, has been tested but it terribly expensive) shows that it’s not fat and that insulin and blood sugar plan as much or more of a role in these processes.

I started reading this book as a skeptic. I still find myself skeptical of the whole low carb thing on some levels. Certain things really appealed to me. First, he is the first low carb enthusiast who has said what I felt one of them needed to say if they were serious, the mass production of grains for human consumption is the single biggest health mistake we have made. It also appeals to me because of the amount of science he put behind it, for once it wasn’t simply a belief system but a series of tested (although not adequately) hypotheses and it encompassed an understanding of biology and metabolism. I like that kind of stuff.

I’d like to get into more detail as to exactly how his arguments are constructed but I lack the 10 hours it would take to give it a fair chance. I’m also not going to recommend that everyone read it. It is heavy. If you don’t like reading about lipid metabolism versus how the liver metabolizes fructose, stay away. Vegetarians, this book has nothing to offer you, it’s going to recommend a lot animal fat. The small subset of people who eat meat and like BioGeek reading, this is for you.


Monday Morning Weigh in: 235.2

Posted in Diet and Bodyweight by Mike on March 3, 2008

Yep, that’s high. Three days of eating everything will do that.

It’ll be sub 233 by next week, I bet.

So, on diet…

I spent 28 days trying to do a low carb diet, just as an experiment. I learned a lot of things, some of them are very pro low carb, some of them are more status quo.

I was eating 3-4 eggs every morning, about 1/2 – 1 pound of beef each day and 1/2 – 1 pound of frozen salmon per day. If I needed more food, I either .I did not drink milk, but only because all we have is skim. I did not eat fruit or much vegetable. I tried to not eat any kind of bread although toward the end I did, I’ll explain that in a bit. If I just couldn’t get the craving for sweets to go away on a given day, I would have one chocolate.

What I found is that it is hard to eat no or truly low carb. Not only do you get to deal with cravings, as with any diet, but you lack suitable options much of the time. A 100 calorie snack pack is no benefit when all 100 calories come from 25G of carbs. They did put in a Burger King across the street from my office so I would occasionally go over and order a burger with no bun. Each time, it was like they had never done it. They had to find it on the menu and they had to make an announcement to the staff regarding how it is made.

I also found that it is incredibly hard to eat low carb in a more social concept. Eating low carb/high fat is frowned upon, looked on as dangerous and irresponsible. People have an understanding that saturated fat is bad and that all animal fat is saturated which is a misunderstanding. Animal fat, most of it is largely made up of the “good fats”, vegetable fat profiles really aren’t any better.

There is also the issue of preparing food for other people and eating with other people. I’m not the kind of person who can tell someone, easily, that I don’t want their food they made for me. I did pass on bagels, doughnuts and so on but I usually do. When preparing food at home, I started out making two different meals but it became clear that wasn’t going to work on a social level, so I had to abandon that. That’s when I instituted a couple carb night per week, nights with no restriction, even that was only mediocre in it’s reception.

I was pretty happy with the low carb approach. It’s first time in a year that I haven’t felt like I was fighting hunger while gaining weight. As I said, I ate very few veggies and yet my digestive habits didn’t come to full stop like you are told they would, if anything, they were slightly better.  I didn’t get the greasy skin and discomfort described by some opponents.

In the future, I’m planning on bring back most aspects of my old diet, including more salads and including just eating with my wife in the evening. I plan on making Beef my main day time staple though, beef that has fat in it. I think this is the healthiest, most balanced diet for me right now.