food glorious food: engineer style.

It’s another MizFit Man in the house, People!

And an organized one at that.

Big thanks to Tony for making the time for us & for saving me the time and writing his own introduction.

I write a blog called Emotions for Engineers. I am a male and an engineer by training. I have run into problems in my personal life and have gotten help through books and therapy to improve the balance in myself and my relationships. I have written about communication, the nature of love, vacation, and other issues dealing with emotions and relationships, but only recently have I delved into the physical side (here and here), specifically diet. These have proven to be my most popular writings since I started writing Emotions for Engineers.

I started my own journey of weight loss fat loss in early 2007. Since then I have lost about 40 lbs, while losing very little strength. Importantly, it has not been a white-knuckle battle everyday with hunger fighting against my poor willpower. It has been practically automatic. I hope to lose another fifteen or so pounds to get down to fighting weight.

Why we want so much to “be thin” troubles me. Most of us have two competing emotions-love and fear-that drive our decisions. If we want to lose weight because we want to look good for our spouses, that’s love. If we think that he or she will leave us for that ditzy young secretary if we don’t lose weight, that’s fear. Eating right because you don’t want to die is fear. Eating right because you want to be active and live long to see your grandkids is love. It can only be good if eating right and being at a healthy weight helps you feel better about yourself.

Fear is a harmful emotion that is driven by unknowns and doubts. As such, when we feel out of control concerning weight and fitness, as many do, the lack of control leads to fear, which can lead to depression, anxiety, co-dependence, and other bad things (not to mention the dark side). At the foundation of all we are, is our physical health. If you can gain some degree of control over that, the world will be better. You will have less fear in your life and allow room for love and growth.

My advice is to look deep and be brutally honest with yourself. M. Scott Peck says that mental health is “Commitment to reality at any cost.” Find your motivations and if they are negative, try to recast them in a positive light.

Then take control…

Taking Control Has Two Parts:

1. Learn how to eat right

2. Eat right

Learning

Most people blow it at step one. Here are some facts:

1. You do not need carbohydrates to live and thrive.

2. Fat is an excellent fuel for low intensity activity (99.9% of the day for most of us).

3. Dietary protein and some fats (essential fatty acids or EFAs) are necessary for good health.

4. To lose weight you have to ingest fewer calories than you burn. (No surprise).

So there’s the education part. Now here’s what to do about it.

Eat Mindfully

Now that you know what you need, you have a basis for acting on it.

  • First, get plenty of protein (shoot for 1 gram per lb of desired bodyweight).
  • Second, limit carbohydrates to less than 50 – 100 grams (200 – 400 calories) per day, mostly from low-starch vegetables.
  • Third, don’t worry too much about fats, especially when it comes from meat or nuts. Stay away from trans fats.
  • Fourth, eat only when you are hungry. Following this will limit the total calories you ingest, especially in conjunction with the low-carb recommendation.
  • Fifth, keep an eye on the scale, your measurements (fit of clothes) or some other objective measure
  • Sixth, do resistance exercises that challenge your muscles.

If you want to lose weight:

  • Seventh, limit weight loss to what your body can support, based on your total body fat.
  • Eighth and last, stick to the basics until you are on the right track. Many people go off track on this, so I’ll expand a little. There is no shortage of advice you can find about meal timing, spacing, high intensity exercise, fasting, etc. Some of the advice is good, some bad. Ignore this stuff for now. The marginal differences from those things are small.

You do not have to live every second of every day worrying about getting the right macronutrients. You can splurge from time to time. If you have a bad diet day, that’s ok. You’ll put on a few pounds of water weight, which will come right back off. Just move on and get back with the program the next day.

I put a lot more details about eating right in Emotions for Engineers. The main takeaway here is that most people can control their physical state. It is a question of positive motivation and the knowledge of how to do it. Removing health risks will allow you to focus on higher values. That can only be good. Happy trails.

Links:

Emotions For Engineers

Gary Taubes’ Berkeley Lecture

Good Calories, Bad Calories Book

Lyle McDonald

Protein Power Book, Protein Power Lifeplan Book, and Blog

Cross Fit – a combination of resistance and aerobic activity – if you dare

Ketogenic Diets – Comprehensive summary of advantages

Fat Loss Troubleshooting Guide from ProjectFit.org

Recent research comparing Low Carb, Mediterranean, and Low Fat diets

Thanks so much, Tony. I loved this post for the same reason I enjoy your comments here: we come at this from such different perspectives (read: you are SO GREAT in conveying the science in an easy to grasp manner).

Got questions for Tony? Thoughts? Musings?

Please to hit him/us up on the comments.

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Comments

  1. Shivers says

    Very well written post Tony. Nice work! :o) You really hit the nail on the head with the Fear/Love Balance. I’ve been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster with my body lately- comfort eating and refusing to exercise, followed by panic starvation and over-extending myself.

    Just the other day I caught hold of myself and realised that my motivations for losing weight were completely misguided. I was driven by the fear that of becoming fat, and therefore ugly (a whole bunch of stuff there for another day!). In reality, I should have been focusing on preparing for a season of sport that I really enjoy, and on finding a way of making that normal and fun for me.

    I finally learned to relax today, to allow myself to eat more (!!!) of the good stuff, and to trust that if I exercise regularly, without feeling compelled to do multiple sessions daily, then my metabolism and body will adjust itself accordingly and naturally in time.

    Sorry for the long comment, this post just really reasonated with me! :o)

  2. MizFit says

    ooooh, never apologize for the long comment, Shivers.
    VERY INSIGHTFUL and amazing/impressive to me that you were selfaware enough to realize that your motivations for losing were misguided and motivated by fear.

    a motivator which never works huh? whether our goals are life, work or weight.

    thanks for commenting!

    Miz.

  3. says

    Great post! I’ve just subscribed to your blog Tony and look forward to lots of interesting, thought provoking reading. I really like the no-nonsense way you talk. You are so right about the need to evaluate our motivations and adjust them accordingly. The emotional side of our lives is so often neglected in all we do but it is the vital part in our success.

  4. says

    I ABSOLUTELY AGREE with everything in your post Tony – awesome! BUT for *me*, a methodical approach/view like this of steps would not have worked. Interesting that you wrote “it has not been a white-knuckle battle everyday with hunger fighting against my poor willpower.” Today, I get that and its not for me either, but for many years it WAS a white-knuckle battle and although I was already armed with all of the information in your post, there were still many emotional components that needed to be addressed and that took YEARS and at the time could not be seperated from my relatioship with food.

  5. says

    I had a major aha! last spring about fear. I have spent too much of my life working from the perspective of fear. It’s hard to overcome once practiced, but I’m slowly getting there. Self-loathing vs. self-love…tough nut to crack.

    From an educator’s standpoint knowing and understanding are the easy parts of any process. It’s applying that knowledge and working it that’s tough.

    Have a nice day.

  6. MizFit says

    AMEN Ms.FatDontWrinkle.

    Its pretty darn simple…..until it’s not.

    Until, for me, it was time to APPLY it all.

    Miz.

  7. says

    Well put, Tony! You’ve really highlighted the hard part, both for weight loss and overall health. It’s not enough to just know what to do, you have to actually get out there, do it, and stick to it!

    I would like to reiterate your last point, because it’s the one I feel is the most important:
    >”You do not have to live every second of every day worrying about getting the right macronutrients. You can splurge from time to time.”
    So true, yet how often do we have a bad day, get down on ourselves, and throw in the towel?

  8. MizFit says

    thanks gena. And the need for LEVITY in all this (for me anyway)

    The ability to giggle at slice(s) of cake comsumed and think:

    Dang. That was some majorly yummy MACRO!

    Miz.

  9. says

    Lots of great advice, thanks Tony!

    However,I don’t think low-carb is the universal answer for everyone. Some people do really well on it, but other people don’t.

    But I totally agree–it’s really important to limit junk, include a reasonable amount protein and good fats, eat plenty of veggies, and work on the emotional issues that get in the way of healthy eating.

    I just think the particulars of how many grams of carbs vs protein are very particular to the individual, both from a physiological as well as a motivational standpoint. (i.e.–if you’re miserable on low-carb you won’t stick to it).

  10. says

    Gggrrrrreat stuff here.
    I love the take home message of sticking to the basics and the wonderful K.I.S.S. method.
    All the other ‘fluff’ simply distracts you from what really works.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. says

    WOW this is such a great wake up call article. It is so easy for many to get caught up in the little details when starting out and that is a huge mistake for many new dieters–heck the word diet alone can send them into an eating frenzy. This was great, short and to the point. Thanks for sharing.

  12. MizFit says

    I don’t think low-carb is the universal answer for everyone. Some people do really well on it, but other people don’t.

    I so agree.

    and also think for the majority of us it’s a mishmash of so called diets.

    Im TOTALLY low carb——in the later afternoon/for dinner/nighttime snack.

    catch me for the first few meals/snacks of the day Im Carby McGee.

    Miz.

  13. says

    I’m not really into the low carb thing and counting carb grams but…I did enjoy the post. I liked the calm, reasonable tone and the basic message than one can manage one’s weight and be healthy without getting all crazy. Definitely something that I need to hear from time to time.

    :)

  14. says

    I love the discussion about love and fear, and I think it is so true. As we develop “loving” reasons for doing what we do, we are far more likely to stick to something. Whereas, with a “feaful” reason, our bodies and minds can only keep up the “fight or flight response” for so long, then we crash, so to speak.

    However, I do have to disagree with your take on carbohydrates. As a runner, it is imperative for me to get plenty of carbohydrates. If I didn’t eat a bowl of cereal or some other form of carbs before a run, I’d gas out before mile 2. Last weekend I ran 9 miles, and the only reason I had enough energy to continue was due to carbs- prior to my run, including a banana- and replenishing my electrolytes. Whenever I eat large amounts of protein, I feel very sluggish, and go into brain-fog mode. But I do think that many people can do well on a high-protein, low-carb diet. It’s just not for everyone.

    But with everything else, I am definitely on board, and I think it’s great advice to at least be very picky with carb sources (vegetables like you mention, and whole grains, avoiding “white” carbs). I also think it’s great to get a good amount of healthy fats (it’s great for your joints, skin and hair, as well as many other body functions- plus for some vitamins to be absorbed, we have to have fat-A, D, E & K).

    Thanks for your no-nonsense approach, Tony!! Congrats on your weight loss thus far, and good luck with losing the rest.

  15. Shivers says

    Yeah, I was gonna comment on the carb thing, that doesn’t work so well with everyone. You’d have to pry my bowl of oatmeal out of my cold dead hands!! :o) But yeah it’s important that we don’t rely too much on our comforting starches, instead focusing on getting all that yummy greenery, healthy fats and various proteins into us.

    I love MizFit’s description of her food as “clean” because I don’t subscribe to a “diet” either, I just try to keep my food as natural as possible and use whatever works for my body. As my brother says; “I love ingredients!” :o)

  16. says

    Hmmm..

    I hate to break the trend of everyone loving this post, but honestly – I have some issues with it.

    I’m not saying it’s entirely wrong – I preach a few similar ideas myself to anyone asking me how to lose weight – keep it simple, just eat right, and yes – a low carb diet will help the average person shed weight more quickly.

    But as much as you can break it down into a few simple instructions – long term loss and maintenance simply IS much more complex.

    Anyways, a couple of the big points I disagree with here are
    1. The love/fear argument works, but only on the most basic level. Has anyone seen Donnie Darko? You may know where I’m coming from here…

    2. “You do not need carbohydrates to live and thrive.” Uh… yeah you do. Anyone who’s tried Atkins (me raising my hand here – and yes I succeeded in dropping 20 of the 70 lbs in total that I’ve lost through Atkins) knows exactly how foggy and stupid you feel on a low carb diet. Your brain needs carbs, just as much as fatty acids and protein to function.

    It IS a good post, to the point and most of it’s true – but I think we also need to be careful not to oversimplify weight loss.

  17. says

    I liked most of it, and just disagreed with one thing: the eat when you’re hungry.

    I have to force myself to eat almost immediately (less than two hours) upon waking otherwise I’ll involuntarily throw up everything I eat. I also have to eat my weight in protein.

    So I’d say eat when you wake up, then when you’re hungry, especially because too many people are used to eating breakfast.

  18. MizFit says


    Thanks, Sarah!
    For many reasons.
    (Saw donnie darko. Intriguing point).

    Beyond the fact that it makes for much more interesting COMMENTversation when it’s not all three cheers——I always ask that you guys are *brutally* honest (and many people have been precisely that w/my posts) as if I want only compliments I’ll ask my mom.
    :)

    Your .02 is always welcome up in herre!

    Miz.

  19. says

    Great guest post. Necessarily simplified to keep the post from trailing and to keep the attention of the reader (but hey, that makes for good comments, amirite?) but a really great post.

    Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics and make sure you still understand and follow them – and this is an especially good one because it comes at the problem from a slightly different angle.

    The carb thing – it all depends on where you’re getting your carbs, and how many you’re getting. The average diet is carboverload, and from bad sources to boot.

    Also a fan of Donnie Darko, I can see the problems with persuing the love/fear thing too far, but on a shallow level, it definitely works to give an easy barometer for our motivations. Why are you doing this – or anything? If the reasonings are fear-based, you probably won’t stick with it once the fear is gone.

    You’d think someone on a diet because of health issues (and not just obesity, but complications that come from obesity) would be more likely to stick to a diet than someone who wanted to look nice for their spouse, but I have seen and experienced the opposite. Motivation is vital, and I think that’s what the post is trying to drive home.

    And splurging from time to time keeps us sane, so long as we’re prepared to deal with the consequences. Like bowl pie!

    *winks at MizFit*

  20. says

    This was a very interesting post, and the only thing the Bag Lady has to contribute is something she has said before – both here and elsewhere. Regarding the low-carb argument – it’s all about balance.

    EVERYTHING IN MODERATION!

    Apply that to your entire life, and you’ll lead a happy, well-balanced life.

    I think the biggest problem that I have noticed everywhere lately is that no-one understands the word moderation. Everyone thinks they have to have the biggest, the best, the most expensive. Or that they have to diet to extremes, or exercise to extremes, etc. etc. etc.

    Think about it – when the Bag Lady says Everything in Moderation, she means EVERYTHING – from food to exercise to booze, to sex.

    Seriously, if you substitute the word sex for, say; running, or working out in some of the posts or comments you can read on the web, would you be bumping nasties that often or for that length of time?

    Oops, the Bag Lady went on a tangent, and now everyone who stuck with her thus far is going to have to scrub their brains (and will have horrible mental problems because she suggested substituting sex for exercise…..sorry…)

  21. says

    Thanks Tony – really enjoyed the love/fear thing.

    have a REAL problem with the low-carb thing though and I doubt I’m going to be the only one. IMO, your body DOES need carbs. Perhaps not processed carbs, but you don’t say that. I think that’s a crucial distinction that gets missed. Potatoes, for example, may be starchy, but they can be good too, depending on how they’re prepared.

    I’m not going to go into a whole rant, but suffice to say, I don’t like demonizing a food group entirely. That, to me, is dangerous. LowER carb, less processed carb, yes. Carb is bad, no.

    But thanks for the love/fear insights – that is oh so true and hits oh so close to home.

  22. Debra says

    I really appreciate the simple, straight forward way this is written and the Love/Fear aspect of weight loss hits home for me. Thank you Tony and MizFit

  23. says

    Bag Lady – I think my brain just exploded.

    I adore the idea of “emotions for engineers”!! Great post Tony. Your love vs. fear approach makes wonderful sense. Not with you on the carb restrictions though. Overall it sounds like you have a very sane and reasonable plan! Look forward to hearing more from you!

  24. says

    Awesome post! I have come around to the “love” motivation this time around. The times before it has been fear and I never stuck with it. I do think most of us could do with less carbs..but the ones we do put in should be good ones like whole grains, fruits and veggies. I did Atkins at the beginning and it did help get the loss going. Now I eat more like MizFit, get the carbs in before about 3 and then try to avoid the rest of the day unless it’s veggies or a little fruit. I think if you are going to do a late afternoon or evening work out, then go for the healthy carbs. It is a big controversy. I think we all need to find what works best for us. Low carb can really be a blessing for some that haven’t had success losing through other eating plans. Sometimes, it gives you hope to see you can lose weight. It helped me to value foods. I used to take them for granted. Now, I savor my fruits and healthy whole grains when I eat them. I also seem to have a better feel for when my body really “needs” them! Sometimes, after a good workout in the morning, my body screams, “some oatmeal down here NOW!”

    Find what works for YOU and stick with it :)

  25. says

    Um, Baglady – if you do it right, sex IS exercise!! *winkwink* =)

    I was way late to the lowcarb party, but it made me realize how little protein I was getting in a day. I was SO carb-overloaded that I was always hungry and sluggish, and well, fat. I went almost completely carb-free for a month and I felt good, but I realized that I don’t want to live in a world without cake, so like BagLady suggests, now I just try to have more balance in my protein and carb intake – maybe a little more protein than carbs, but the carbs I eat now are good carbs, with a few bad ones thrown in for pleasure occasionally.

    Um, okay I just totally didnt say anything here that wasn’t already said, but that’s my .02 for what it’s worth (which would be .02). =)

  26. says

    It’s interesting to hear a view on “weight loss” from a different perspective, especially that of a man. I think men often view weight loss as something cut and dry. I know how the men in my life lose weight: say you’re going to lose weight, eat less and exercise a little, lose it. For me, it’s just not that simple. I always through a bit of too high/low expectations, charts and numbers, binges, baking, over exercising, under exercising, reading, writing, etc. to push me towards my goal. The advice seems easy enough, but for me there’s a lot more to consider.

    Carla, I love how you bring people onto this blog that have different ideas and approaches. Thanks for making us think!

  27. says

    Hmm…couple of thoughts.

    I love the breakdown of love/fear. I think it’s an important distinction to make because after all, motivation for losing weight really does make a difference. That’s one thing I’ve definitely learned. I agree that application is the hard part, but understanding it really is the first step. And learning to live without being motivated by fear is such a profound change and enormously freeing.

    About the carbs – I think that the statement was black and white and that’s where I disagree with it. I think it’s very important to know the difference between good carbs and bad carbs, and I couldn’t agree that we don’t need the good ones. I’ve seen the difference so profoundly in myself – when I severely limit whole grains and complex carbs, the exercise goes in the toilet. When I eliminate simple carbs and stick with fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains, I literally have never felt better. So while you may not need them to live…I definitely need them to thrive.

    I can, however, totally agree with the need for protein. So many “diets” limit protein so strictly and I think that’s a big factor in why they never work long-term. The need for regular amounts of protein throughout the day is something that I’ve also learned the hard way.

    Love the title of the book, BTW. I’m married to an engineer and while I adore him beyond all reason and am completely aware that there IS emotional stuff going on under that nuts-and-bolts surface, sometimes it’s so hard to tell! Not a guy comfortable with open displays of emotion, for sure. I think I’ll get him your book for Christmas. :-)

    V.

  28. says

    I’m starting a low-carb diet so this post was interesting on several levels. Apparently my “healthy” whole grain cereal for breakfast, pasta for lunch wasn’t as healthy as I thought!

    As for the fear/love thing. I am scared of becoming diabetic or dying of a heart attack like my mother. So what do I do? I consider the fact that I love my nieces and nephews and want to be around to see them grow up. I think of it as motivation….or a way of balancing things out – in the same way that I’m trying to achieve a balance when it comes to food and other aspects of my life.

    does that make sense?

  29. says

    what a great article- well written, true and to the point. i love it.

    as far as the low carb thing goes, i think it depends on your level of activity. 50-100g would leave me sluggish and exhausted all day, so i usually stick to 125g. i eat my “carby” foods (oatmeal, brown rice, protein bars) for my first couple of meals and from about noon on, i get the rest of my carbs from fruits and veggies. i think as long as every meal contains lean protein, good carbs (whole grains, fruits, veggies) and healthy fats (nut butters, seeds, avocados, olive oil), you’re good to go.

    great info, miz :)

  30. Shirin says

    I am shifting to more protein in my diet to gain muscle mass and feel better all around. I don’t want to get too hung up on specific numbers, but 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight seems like an awful lot to me, and I am a small woman. I’ve read elsewhere 1 gram per pound of “lean” bodyweight. But I’m not sure how much less than total weight that would be for someone with a BMI on the low side of “healthy”). Thoughts?

  31. MizFit says

    I love how you bring people onto this blog that have different ideas and approaches. Thanks for making us think!

    ashley, you NAILED it with that. Thanks for noticing.

    Shirin?

    Im prolly (as the kids no longer say) the wrong one to ask as, IMO, you cram as much protein down your piehole as you can take in a 24 hour period.

    chicken? soy? tofu? protein shakes? whatevs.

    but in my LIFE Im none too scientific.

    in my WORK I am. more anyway.

    Please to keep your EYES PEELED for MizFits article in EXPERIENCE LIFE MAGAZINE.

    coming this OCTOBER to a newsstand near you.

    all about how much and how to eat in order to gain that ever elusive muscle.

    Miz.

  32. says

    The love/fear thing – so true.

    I second the Dieting Ninja’s (love the name) point about how people who need to lose weight or change their diet for health reasons seem to struggle with it much more than those who do it proactively.

    And I’m another who would NOT survive on a low-carb diet. I’m mostly vegetarian, so even my protein comes with carbs. Like MizFit, I eat most of mine in the morning though – big bowl of oatmeal with raisins – and then it tapers off for the rest of the day.

  33. says

    Interesting view point on weight loss. Most of that I think I’ve seen here in various points by Miz-I’m always thinking about my carb intake but finding the right balance is tricky.

    Also, when are we going to be satisfied with our bodies? Why am I always focused on a little more?

    Got me thinking again…

  34. says

    I want to barf everytime I hear someone say “…don’t worry too much about fats, especially when it comes from meat…”

    Ya. As if we really need animal protein. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t pumped so full of hormones and disease before they throw it on a plate.

    I’ll pass.

  35. says

    Great post, Tony. I repeated ‘mental health is commitment to reality at any cost’ over and over in my head until I really got what it meant (takes me a while sometimes). This is a good one to add to my list of mantras, since I tend to bury my head in the sand over a lot of things. Keep up the great work :)

  36. says

    Writes and reads like many of the engineers I worked with over the years and very solid advice. Could we also say that physical health is commitment to reality at any cost? (M. Scott Peck, love him!)
    I wonder…

    Thanks!

  37. says

    Like Tony said, there are lots of answers out there. It was interesting to read his. Congrats on all the success and kudos to him for making changes that better his life!

  38. says

    Oooh, interesting post and interesting comments. I was really with Tony through the “emotional” part. But I gotta agree with some of the others, the “you don’t need carbs to live and thrive” kind of made me question his credibility for this kind of dietary advice. But I know it takes courage to post your credo and accept (hopefully constructive) criticism, so my only suggestion would be “what worked for you may not work for everyone, listening to our individual bodies is as important as listening to our emotions.”

    But yes. Fear is seldom productive in my life and seldom worth it. Confronting my fears is scary, and life would be much easier if my real fear was being fat (rather than death, or being unloved, or bad things happening to the people I love, etc).

  39. says

    I love this post. I’m keeping it on my screen for when I come back from my run, I want to re-read it just for kicks!

  40. says

    Thanks for the post….gave me much to think about. Though I don’t think a very low carb diet would be right for me due to my workout/running schedule – I need the energy! I just try to eat the “right” carbs and not junk.

  41. says

    I like the post and new voice but, like Crabby said, I don’t think the low-carb thing is the smartest…especially suggesting a limit of 50-100 g/day. That is practically nothing. One g. protein/pound of body weight is a LOT of protein, too. I know hi-protein and low-carb works for some people but I think 50 g/carbs a day would be way too difficult for most people to maintain, let alone have energy.

    That said, I really like Tony’s views on the drive to be thin, the link b/t eating and emotions…he’s very in touch!

  42. MizFit says

    So curious what Tony’s take is on all this (she thumbtypes recalling when she tried to go *low* carb before a bodybuilding show and lasted one day before she decided even her DRIVING was impaired)….

    Hopefully he’ll be by later!
    Miz.

  43. says

    Your right, what an excellent post! The Fear/love difference is actually a huge huge thing to learn and understand. I think for me moving to a more ‘love’ reason for losing weight has been one of the greatest enablers for me to actually lose a significant amount of weight! Well written!

  44. says

    Wow! I am so blown away. I love how he touches on fear and finding the right motivations in getting healthy and fit. I honestly never looked at it in that perspective. It seems so obvious! An incredibly, eye-opening post :)

  45. says

    Loved part of this post other parts not so much… I am all about incorporating science and love into healthier lifestyles… and that is really how I lost 70 pounds.. I decided to gift myself health and fitness and to be like a Madame Curie in terms of observations, measurements, etc.

    That said, I am pretty sure that 100-years from now we are going to find out that cookie cutter approach to nutrition is about as effective as blood letting was for mental illness…

    Clearly, we need to burn more than we eat calorie-wise to lose weight, but I have a feeling that there is no ‘one’ right answer in terms of caloric composition. That said, I am all over whole, clean foods myself.

    But after training for distance runs and weight lifting on a very low carb, low calorie diet I am personally finding that an increase in whole grains/fruit/starchy vegs is doing me a world of good…

    I also know that my husband, African American, with a family history of high blood pressure and heart disease is not so well served by getting his fat through animal products… Based on genetics and lifestyle – we have different physiological responses to the same foods… to be healthy he and I need to eat differently… ironically, I don’t like meat or cheese or milk – and he loves them… I could eat them, but don’t… he wishes he could, but can’t…

    Just to say, that I think eating healthy is critical, but what that looks like may vary based on our age, genetics, activity levels and environments…

    OK, sheepishly crawling off her soapbox and back to her work…

  46. says

    Per some of the other commenters, I wonder if Tony would modify this at all for athletes? I run about 50 miles per week, and I NEED carbs.

    I did, however, spend about a year and a half doing the Paleo Diet for Athletes, which resulted in a 4-5 lb. weight loss (same approach as Tony’s guidelines). What I found, however, was that the time I spent thinking about food, planning food, eating, and planning again was becoming a full time job.

    Basically, in order to get the calories I needed, with my level of exercise, I was always in the grocery store, and I was spending a mint. (Ever shop at Whole Paycheck?)

    Today, I still use the guidelines of that diet, but I’m glad have my life back, and enjoy some mac n cheese with the kids.

  47. MizFit says

    ZM? I love that you climbed up on the soapbox (which is well worn with the imprint of my nike air rifts).

    And sally? That last sentence of your comment is it for me.

    The living.

    What I adore about any given blogpost is that it makes some of us shout AMEN!! while others roll their eyes while still others think ‘whatevs’ and click away leaving not a comment or a thought.

    Miz.

  48. says

    My thanks to everyone who has left comments. I am really sorry to be late to the party. I actually prepared a witty pithy response to the first 20 or so comments at 6 AM, then I hit submit and the comments disappeared into the great bit bucket in the sky. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps it was my carb-starved brain…

    I am in meetings all day, then a dinner tonight, so I am going to try to address the comments in buckets. (I am not quitting my day job anytime soon.)

    So first, we have essential fats that we need to eat, thetre are essential proteins that we need to eat, but no such thing as essential carbohydrates. This is because your body converts fat and protein into the carbs that it needs to survive. People who go for a year without any protein or fat die. Go for a year without carbs and you adapt.

    I do agree that low carb is not for everyone. I have some of the zeal of the converted going here. Listening to Taubes Berkeley Lecture and reading Good Calories, Bad Calories were a religious experience for me. It so well meshed with what I had experienced in my own life that it was scary. For me the insulin resitance and metabolic signs have come on gradually over the years.

    Michael Phelps is the antithesis of low carb of course, but he’s young and perhaps the greatest athlete on the planet.

    Regarding the feeling of being tired, foggy, shaky as you go onto a low-cab diet. That is something that happens. For most people the body adapts and the fog goes away. It can be difficult for some people during the transition.

    Regarding energy level for exercise, once you go through the transition, I think that most people would be ok with long distance, low medium intensity exercise. High intensity is a potential issue. This link is a really great resource on some studies around work capacity on a ketogenic diet.
    http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/1/1/2

    I think Paleo diet approaches are good directionally, in fact, here is a really interesting article about a paleo type society that eats high carb and does just fine. It may be more the grains that are hitting us today. http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/08/kitavans-wisdom-from-pacific-islands.html

    So I have to go right now, meetings starting up.

    I’m really sorry that I am unable to address this iwith more care right now.

    I’ll be back.

    Tony

  49. says

    My Hubby is the methodical one in my house. I’m more of a here + there type. Some might call me scatterbrained, but I really have a method to my madness!

  50. says

    I liked the post up until the rules. That’s like three times the protein most people need! Did you mean per kg, maybe?

    I go the whole foods, plant-based approach. I’m new here and perhaps the flavor of most readers is slanted Atkins, but goodness… Anyway, you said we could be brutally honest. :)

    I prefer The China Study. The data makes sense and no one feels foggy or ill during any “transition.” Shouldn’t a good diet make you feel good?

  51. MizFit says

    we’re all about the brutal honesty up in herre, Amy (and welcome)!

    Every thurs is GUEST CHEF/GUEST FOOD POST thursday so it changes week to week.

    I know tony will be back later today to respond to comments…

    Miz.

  52. says

    These have been some awesome comments today. I have nothing to add other than to say, Bag Lady — I’m right there with you! Moderation.

  53. MizFit says

    and BUMPING NASTIES, Felice.

    you in with the BL on the phrase bumping nasties too?

    :)

    Im more a ‘bumping uglies’ woman myself…

    Miz.

  54. says

    This is such timely advice for me (in my current weight loss struggle and confusion about what is best for my goals). I like the practical common sense aspects. My favorite line is this: “stick to the basics until you are on the right track.” I have a lot of online friends who discuss fitness, weight loss, etc. and I hear of ton (often conflicting) advice and weird little rules. I am going to save this post for future contemplation.

    Wait…did I just read the phrase “bumping uglies”? I’m going to have to go back and read the other comments more closely.

  55. says

    Thank You – Thank You – Thank You !!! I have lost the weight and struggled to keep it off (gained 10 back of the 60 lost) and you have really helped me to put this BACK into perspective and given me the kick in the ass that I needed.

  56. says

    Alright. I’m back. Sorry again to be so late in responding. So I’m going to refer to some of the specific comments here that I didn’t cover in my previous blanket post, no. 51.

    Crabby 10, Roobabs 15, Shivers 16, Sarah 17, Gemfit 22, Annette 25, Valerie 28, tfh 40, WeightingGame 43, Amy 57: I want to reiterate that low carb is not for everyone. In particular, people who are not insulin resistant, probably don’t benfit as much. In my case, I had gained an average of about 2 – 3 lbs per year since college, all my blood numbers stayed good for a while, then blood pressure started creeping up, triglycerides went through the roof. I tried low calorie, low fat approaches to losing weight, but after losing the first 10 pounds or so could not maintain the lower calories and working out. Once I broke through that low cab fog, suddenly my body was using its fat as fuel and the weight just melted away. I don’t know your ages, nor how hard you work at diet or working out to maintain, but if you find yourself having to work much harder, eat much less, or gaining a few pounds per year, consider a run at lower carb. Insulin resistance sneaks up on you.

    Sarah 17, you mention that you lost your first 20 lbs by doing Atkins. I wonder if it broke you out of an insulin/carb cycle, which then set you up for your success??

    Amy 57: for most people the fogginess is very temporary and they come out of it feeling better than ever. Your long term diet should make you feel good long term. Lots of things make you feel good short term but are actually bad for you.

    To all:
    I am really not anti-carb. I have developed a belief that high levels, especially of refined carbohydrates and grains, induce an insulin response that has several effects. The insulin prevents mobilization of fat from your fat cells, it can induce hunger, and make your muscles resistant to insulin, meaning you need increasing level of insulin to clear your bloodstream of sugar. I know it’s not really that simple, but it seems like a pretty good working hypothesis.

    I left a lot of detail on the cutting room floor that in retrospect I probably should have kept in there. Vegetables really are ok. Some fruit is ok, but probably you should stay away from juice; it’s a lot of sugar. I think grains in general, even whole grains, are an issue. The dietary guidelines put out by the US Government are likely a leading cause of some of the obesity problems that we’re seeing in the world today.

    Regarding sources of nutrients and protein level: If you can get a pretty decent mix of macronutrients from all vegetable sources, more power to you. I think it would be a lot of work to do that, and I would be concerned about the quality of the proteins and oils/fats.

    As I recall, the FDA recommends about 0.3 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. This is a minmum and based on some nitrogen balance studies. If you are exercising vigorously and are concerned about your body composition, 0.5 is probably a better minimum and going to 1 gram will be fine unless you have pre-existing kidney problems.

    To Diana’s Body Journey 66: It is simple, but not easy. I find the pressures around the house and at work really hard sometimes. When the ids go out and buy a bag or potato chips or fulce de leche ice cream… Today, I had Tiramisu with lunch at work. I’m calling it a cheat meal. Tonight i’ll have a salad with steak on it for dinner, with dressing on the side.

    Tomorrow is my leg day at the gym, so I’ll have a powerbar of some sort before the workout so I don’t bonk while doing leg presses or squats. i use my higin thensity workouts to buy some extra carbs (like 25 grams or so).

    At the end of the day you have to do what’s right for you. But do it with your eyes open, and please listen to a non-mainstream view. (I was anti-Atkins until very recently, but out of ignorance, not knowledge). I strongly encourage you to watch the Taubes Berkeley lecture. Here’s the link again.
    http://webcast.berkeley.edu/event_details.php?webcastid=21216

    Thanks again to all of you. I feel so gratified that so many of you found something to like in there. I will be moseying over to emotions for engineers to respond to some of the comments there.

    Cheers,
    Tony

  57. says

    Tony, reading your comment above now makes a lot more sense to me and yes, I think you left a little too much on the cutting room floor in your post.

    I’m not pro-Atkins entirely, but I do think that processed carbs don’t work as well as fuel. Complex carbs + protein = the best muscle builder for me (so far). I am prone to being insulin resistant (thanks PCOS!) so I’m learning what the best combination is.

    My main concern was that you seemed anti-carbs entirely and too many people, IMO, try to ‘diet’ by cutting out entire food groups. From my experience, that’s a surefire way to regain weight because it’s very rarely sustainable on a healthy level. Again, just my opinion.

    It really does depend on finding what works for you. I’m learning slowly and making it a lifelong journey, not a diet. It’s about feeding my body and soul and not my gut.

    Thanks for clearing things up and sorry for the ramble! :)

  58. says

    Generally good post, except a few things – 1 g of protein per 1 lb of body weight is way too much, unless you are a bodybuilder. It’s time for America to lose its fear of not eating enough protein. If anything, we eat too much of it (especially slathered in saturated and trans fats!).

    Also regarding: “The dietary guidelines put out by the US Government are likely a leading cause of some of the obesity problems that we’re seeing in the world today.”

    WOW. As someone who is quite familiar with how these guidelines are created (as well as doing research in global nutrition issues), I have to say that is quite the misinformed and unscientific statement.

    I love Taubes too, but he has an agenda (like everyone else) that clouds his judgement too.

  59. says

    Hi deepali and Gemfit,

    Man I saw all the typos in my response 67 above. Sadly I wasn’t even under any kind of influence at the time.

    As I mentioned in a previous note, I left some of my hemming and hawing and explanations on my recommendations on the cutting room floor (actually on e4e at http://www.emotionsforengineers.com/2008/07/healthful-eating.html ).

    Regarding protein, 1 gram per pound won’t hurt you and might help. I readily acknowledge that it is not always easy to eat that much. For me it’s the equivalent of 1.5 lbs of lean meat (at 8 grams per ounce). Half a gram is probably just fine for most people. I suspect that many people eat much less than even that. Your body really does NEED a certain amount to repair itself. If you’re not getting that, it may increase your appetite which could cause you to overeat. Our hunter gatherer ancestors, 20,000 years ago ( who are genetically identical to us) ingested on the order of 30% of their calories from protein (150 grams for a 2000 Calorie diet).

    deepali #69: I don’t know your qualifications to judge nutritional issues, but I will simply accept that you are qualified and have a well-considered opinion. At the same time, Taubes has done an enormous amount of research on the subject of the US dietary guidelines and has presented a compelling story about their evolution. What strikes me from a scientific standpoint, even looking at current research is that many so-called scientists are drawing conclusions from correlations in epidemiological studies. Then the science reporters pick it up and it becomes gospel. Then politicians make it a law and the cascade effect is in full-force. Is I’m sure you know, epidemiological studies don’t prove anything (correlation is not causation), but they can help in creating hypotheses. If you read Taubes, don’t read it for the science. There are some holes (probably things he left on the cutting room floor). Read it for the history and science methods lesson.

    A lot of the world does look to the US for leadership in science and research. There is an assumption that we are really good, after all, we “won.” I have come to the belief that it it’s an unfounded confidence in some cases. Too much of our science becomes politicized and misreported.

    I can’t argue the science with you. I am a pretty good synthesizer of information, but not part of the nutrition establishment. What I can tell you is that in my case, the above approach has worked really well with my intervention (n = 1). That is after trying more conventional approaches that left me weaker after losing only 10 pounds. Other approaches may result in weight loss, but taking body composition issues into account, I don’t think they will serve most people, unless they’re looking for the really skinny unmuscular look.

    So I’ll leave this deceased equine with a few parting links that probably nobody will ever see.

    I did a post on some recent obesity reporting that really bugged me. (http://www.emotionsforengineers.com/2008/08/obesity.html)

    A guy who is really good on this diet stuff and can provide a plan that can really help people with their eating is Lyle McDonald. Check out his Guide to Flexible Dieting or Rapid Fat Loss Plan (if you’re in a hurry). http://www.bodyrecomposition.com

    Finally, this is a blog written by a really smart friend of mine, Dave, who has done some good research on biochemistry (http://sparkofreason.blogspot.com/2008/07/energy-conservation-its-not-just-good.html), appetite (http://sparkofreason.blogspot.com/2008/07/energy-regulation-2-appetite.html), and bias in science (http://sparkofreason.blogspot.com/2008/07/even-more-dissonance.html).

    Cheers,
    Tony

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