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Weight Maintenence

I would like to address a question, or concern posed by a reader in a comment under the “Getting Started” page/post. It is such an important concern that I didn’t want it languishing, relatively unseen, in a comment thread. The comment is copied below:

Your book and message made a difference in my approach. I did weight watchers and with the science, I took a different tact in my food choices (more protein, less bready carbs) and added in daily exercise. I’m now at BMI 24.5 and feeling great.  However, I’ve been here before. The challenge is keeping it off. WW maintenance has never worked for me in the long run, one of the weaknesses of the program.  Any advice that would make a difference? I need a different maintenance approach. Thanks.

First of all, congratulations, dear reader, for reaching your goal, which is an admirable achievement, and hard-earned I am sure. I too have reached a goal-weight in the past, only to let it slip away, sadly watching the numbers on the scale creep right back up to where I started at in the first place, and sometimes even higher.

First of all, dear reader, the thrust of my book, “The Relativity Diet,” is that the onus is on you, the reader, to utilize your newfound knowledge to choose the food types from the three groups of macro nutrients in a manner that you are comfortable with. Generally, this means managing your carbohydrates in regard to total volume (less than 120grams/day, and low-glycemic), concentrating on lower fat protein sources (poultry, fish), generally eating more protein at the expense of carbohydrate, and of course, managing your caloric intake (counting calories).

You see, all of the above isn’t a temporary “guide” to get to a special place.  Nay, all of the above needs to become your new “normal.” On the Relativity Diet, when you get to your goal weight, nothing changes; in this case, “more protein, less bready carbs,” and “added daily exercise.” Why would you want to cease something that is so obviously beneficial?

This is the problem, as I see it, with many diets, including Weight Watchers with the points system. I think it is difficult to follow a “plan” for the rest of your life. That is why I think if your diet is based upon the choices you make, which is based on the science you have learned, then you take ownership of your diet, and it becomes your “usual food and drink,” which is actually the definition of “diet.” It is impossible for someone else’s diet, whether it be Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, the points-based Weight-Watchers, or any other “plan” not your own to become your usual food and drink; it will be forever artificial, and thereby temporary.

There is no doubt that you will stray from your “diet” at some point. The important thing is to know that you are straying, that you stray not too much, and for not too long. As long as you return to your new normal of healthy eating and daily exercise, all will be well.

Thank you so much for your comment, and again congratulations.

Hmmm…bacon or a bagel?

When presented with the question: What’s worse for you, bacon, or a bagel? It would seem the answer to be obvious, because, of course, that’s what we’ve been taught; force-fed even, by various governmental agencies these past thirty-plus years. Another thing obvious, and not merely seemingly so, is the painfully ponderous pace with which the government responds to legitimate data, of which I could list a litany of examples; but will mention only one, that being the role carbohydrates play in our metabolic processes, specifically in regard to insulin, obesity and the metabolic syndrome.

Even today, on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) website, you can access the “current” publication of clinical guidelines (from the National Institutes of Health [NIH]) for the treatment of obesity in adults. It is from 1998, and recommends as an optimal diet; low-calorie , less than 30% (approaching 20%) of saturated fat, and 15% protein. Well, do the math and you see that, if you approach the ideal, and limit fat intake to 20%, and protein to 15%, that leaves a remaining 65% for carbohydrates.  There is no mention of the quality studies demonstrating the positive outcomes of caloric-controlled/low-carbohydrate diets, when compared to low-calorie/high-carbohydrate diets. It is as though these behemoth agencies are so invested in their ideology of; Fat:Bad, Carbs:Good, Protein:Equivicol (unless it’s from a plant-based source, in which case it’s good), that they refuse to acknowledge what everyone else already knows—that the more effective diets are those that control carbohydrates in some fashion, and that more protein is not bad.

It’s not that the data’s not there—it is, if you look for it; for instance, a search of the NHLBI yields an article from 2005 with the title, “Replacing Some Carbohydrates with Protein and Unsaturated Fat May Enhance Heart Health Benefits.” And two more recent articles from earlier this year, both funded by the NIH, suggest that saturated fat is not the bogeyman it was long thought to be. The bogeyman, it seems, is actually carbohydrate, especially high-glycemic.

When an individual cuts saturated fat from their diet, assuming that their caloric intake is appropriate, then those calories have to come from another macronutrient, either carbohydrate, protein, or un-saturated fat (olive oil is mono-unsaturated). In one of these recent studies, in which the calories of saturated fat are replaced by those of poly-unsaturated, or mono-unsaturated fat, what is conclusively shown is a reduction in Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) events. Additionally, if those saturated fat calories are replaced by carbohydrates (especially refined carbs), there is an exacerbation of plaque build-up, increased triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol, and a reduction in “good” cholesterol. The evidence shows that increasing the unsaturated  fraction of fat is a good thing, whereas replacing saturated fat fraction with carbohydrate is a bad thing.

The second study, also funded by the NIH, is what’s called a “meta-analysis,” which is a summary of similar studies; and this analysis was comprised of studies from 5-23 years of follow-up, and a total of 347,747 subjects. What did this study show? It showed that “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with in increased risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), or CVD.” I wouldn’t say that this is incredibly shocking information, based on the breadth of research available for review when I was working on my book; in fact, it is entirely consistent with the argument that I make in The Relativity Diet. It is, perhaps not entirely ironic, that these thirty-plus years of “bad information,” propagated by the NHLBI, parallels the rising incidence of overweight and obesity in our unique and exceptional nation.

The fact that fat is not the bogeyman once thought to be is not an excuse to over indulge, because it is energy-dense, at 9 calories per gram, and one still must honor the first law (energy in=energy out); but the next time you find yourself in an early morning breakfast buffet line, you’d probably be better served picking the bacon over the bagel, as long as you are within your caloric requirements, of course.

Am J Clin Nutr 2010;9(3)1:535-46, 502-9

Just the Facts, Please

The below is my monthly contribution the the NWTC Newsletter.

We live in a universe defined by mathematical law of such symmetry that to suppose it is merely accidental defies logic. For example, Kepler’s 3rd law of planetary motion tells us that the square of the time it takes for a planet to orbit its sun is directly proportional to the cube of the longest radius of its elliptical orbit. The value of pi is an infinite number that starts with 3.14… Planck’s constant is an infinitesimally small number commonly applied in quantum mechanics. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, and energy is equivalent to mass multiplied by the speed of light, squared. One pound of fat contains 3500 calories. The three macronutrients; carbohydrate, protein, and fat contain four, four, and nine calories per gram respectively.

Our corporeal existence is dependent on a tight range of values: a core temperature of 98.6 +/-5, a serum sodium concentration of 135+/-10, a blood pH of 7.4+/-0.3, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. There are so many physiological “requirements” that I consider everyday begun with opened eyes a wonder. All of these numbers have a meaning, a reason for being what they are that rarely penetrate ones veil of consciousness, remaining forever just a number, a target, a value to be attained. Take, for instance, your blood pressure of around 128/76. Perhaps it’s higher. Perhaps it’s lower. Perhaps you take a medication, or two, or three, to bring it down to a certain number. But, what does that mean? All most people know is that the top number is supposed to be higher than the bottom; and the higher it is, the worse it is; and the lower it is, the better; unless, of course, it’s too low, then that would be bad.

The top number of your blood pressure is the systolic pressure, which is the maximal aortic pressure that results from the contraction of the left lower heart chamber (ventricle) as it sends oxygen-laden blood throughout the body.  Simultaneously with the contraction of the left ventricle is the contraction of the right ventricle, which sends oxygen-deprived blood, returned from the bodily tissues, into the lungs to allow the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen across the cellular membranes of the 300 million or so alveoli of each lung.

The bottom number of your blood pressure is the diastolic pressure, which is the lowest pressure in the aorta that occurs just before the ventricle contracts again a second or so later. The difference between the upper and lower number, in our example 52 (128-76), is called the pulse pressure, and the time that the pressure takes to fall from 128 to 76 comprises the time that the heart has to re-fill with blood to eject with the next heartbeat, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on, and so on, for a lifetime…lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub.

A heart contracts, blood is ejected into the aorta at 128mm Hg, the arteries elastic walls expand, decreasing the resistance to flow, and the blood courses throughout the body as the pressure rapidly decreases to 76 mm Hg in the aorta. Out in the venous system, the pressure approaches zero as it is ultimately returned to the right side of the heart. Knowing this, it is easy to understand the significance of plaque build-up in the arteries, which results in constriction of flow, loss of elasticity, and increased resistance, which makes the heart work harder and decreases the flow of oxygen to the tissues that need it. And knowing this, it is easy to understand the significance of obesity, which predisposes one to the development of the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and the associated cardiovascular disease, leading of course to high numbers.

And that’s just your blood pressure!

So, I can tell you that this number means that; that number means this; and that all life came from the ancient seas, from a slimy green unicellular organism washed one day upon an ancient shore; but I can only tell you so much before I would be forced to say something along the lines of…”and then He said, ‘Let there be light’.”

“On Call” with Wendy Weise

I’d like to thank Relevant Radio, Dave Zelzer, and Wendy Weise for allowing me to discuss the aspects of weight-loss and emotional health as presented in The Relativity Diet. I hope that what I shared was meaningful and of use to the listening audience. As is usually the case with me, there are things I’d wished I’d said that I didn’t; but’s that life as they say; or, that’s the way the pickle squirts, as my Grandma Melarvie used to say.

Also, I am thankful for the fact that Julianne Donlon-Stanz managed to “speed read” my book in less than a day, and thought it significant enough to introduce me to Relevant Radio. And I am thankful that our son, Eric, came back home to us after being gone seventeen years (in the desert so to speak), went back to school, met Wayne in class, and invited him over to look at some trees, which is where his wife, Julianne, happened upon my book. Strange how life works. I wonder what Grandma would think about that?

I’ve posted the link to the interview on the “Listen to Radio Interviews” page, which is on the navigation bar at the top of this page.

Culture of Fat

The incidence of overweight and obesity has been increasing ever since the collection of data in the mid-sixties. It is difficult to say if was increasing prior to that point for the simple reason that no one was keeping score in a statistically significant fashion. The increase of the overweight and obese is not specific to adults, unfortunately, it also includes children: the increase in adults of overweight and obese is from 44% to 66%, and in the pediatric population, 4% to 18% over the course of the past fifty years.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but the larger question is what, exactly, can be done about it. It is interesting to note that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) was invented by a Japanese scientist in 1957, and rapidly incorporated into the food chain due to its much lower cost (from corn, as opposed to sugar beets or cane sugar) and also because of its long shelf life. There were some initial studies suggesting that there was perhaps a causal relationship between HFCS and the rising incidence of obesity; however, some more recent studies suggest that weight-gain associated with HFCS is no different than that of cane or beet sugar. So, although HFCS is ubiquitous in our diet, especially in diet-foods ironically enough, I think we can probably cross that bogey-man off our list.

We could blame the “fat” virus, a subject of a previous newsletter, a close relative of the common cold virus, if not the common cold virus itself; but, we can’t do anything about that. It’s not like we have a choice about not catching a cold, unless you live in a sterile bubble, like John Travolta in that old movie, “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” Although there is data suggesting at least a correlation, if not a causal relationship, between the adenovirus-36 and obesity, it doesn’t really matter in the sense that we’ll just have to live with it and adapt, because once it’s incorporated into our DNA there’s no way to remove it (yet).

We could blame McDonalds, like many want to do. They’re a big, juicy, super-sized target, peddling saturated-fat paddies between two soggy pieces of empty-calorie, high-carbohydrate, HFCS containing white bread; not to mention more fat-fried, HFCS-containing, empty-caloric, high-carbohydrate sticks, coated in about a weeks’ worth of the daily recommended dietary salt intake. But, if we blame McDonalds, then we’ll need to blame the retail food service industry in general, because few are not guilty of making available for sale food products similar or equivalent to the above.

We could blame our DNA. Maybe we’re genetically doomed to a lifetime of obesity. Actually, no…You can’t blame your genetics. Although some people do have a genetic pre-disposition to obesity, it is nearly impossible that you are genetically meant to be obese. There are a few genetic syndromes of which obesity is genetically a part of, but they are exceedingly rare. The fact of the matter is that although the transmission of obesity is some fraction of a genetic pre-disposition, one study suggesting 25%, the primary mode of transmission is cultural—meaning it is taught. If a child of obese parents is adopted into a family of normal-weight parents, he or she is more likely to be of normal-weight, whereas if adopted into a family of obese parents, is more likely to be overweight.

Just as a child being raised in into an obesogenic environment or culture, so too are we living in a national, and increasingly global, obesogenic culture that is a product of the choices we make. Collectively, we choose the energy-dense, large portion, empty-caloric, high-fat, salty foods because of taste, pleasure, convenience, price, or whatever; the market system responds, and creates the culture. The culture of fat will not change first; rather, we must change our patterns of behavior first—then the market system will respond, and the culture will change accordingly. As Walt Kelly said on the Earth Day poster in 1970, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” We live in a culture of fat because of the choices we make. I was morbidly obese seven years ago because of the choices I made. If there is a need to assign blame, I’m afraid we have to look no further than ourselves; but more importantly, what are we going to do about it? If collectively, we can take personal responsibility for our diet, and make the positive choices of healthy foods over unhealthy ones, then the market system will respond, and, like an ice sculpture in early spring, the culture of fat will slowly melt away.