Here is a conversation between and my good bud Andy Bellatti, blog author at “Small Bites.” Andy is pretty convinced that the cure to the obesity epidemic is to eat smaller portions, and get more physical activity. In other words, he’s in the majority and he feels that fringe renegades such as the infamous Matt Stone of 180DegreeHealth are a big part of the problem – watering down the real message and confusing the public. He’s of course anti-saturated fat, cholesterol, thinks meat should be minimized in the diet – aka “mostly plants.” He’s a very enthusiastic fellow, one that me and my bud David Brown have tried to steer away from “the dark side” on big topics such as saturated fat. But he ain’t hearin’ it! Still, our dialogue was very interesting, and worth highlighting, as it gets to the core of that big obesity debate as the numbers continue to grow (67% of America is now officially overweight).
This was all in response to his post on using smaller plates, which encourage one to eat less and thus stave off that pesky obesity thing, a well-known disorder of gluttony evidently.
I address him as ANDY, he addresses me as MATT. Enjoy…
I’m confused. I eat until I’m full, when I’m hungry, every day. If I eat a big portion off of a big plate, I’m less hungry later. I don’t think about calories. I just eat food based on what my body tells me. And sometimes I really eat a lot. The other day I had a whole pint of heavy whipping cream and 2 sticks of butter! But my waist-size is the same as it was my Freshman year of high school (17 years ago). I am one of the leanest people I know, and I exercise very little. I have much less body fat now than when I was primarily a raw-food vegan that ate small portions of fish on occasion. Is it possible that appetite and metabolism are regulated just like oxygen regulation? I mean, I can try to lower my oxygen level, but then I just pant and pant and pant like a dog until I get back to equilibrium. Should I really be keeping close track of my calories?
I don’t see what you are so confused about.
“I eat until I’m full, when I’m hungry, every day.”
So? Are you trying to say that, therefore, you should be overweight? The fact that you are able to recognize your fullness puts you at an advantage over most people.It is completely possible to eat until you are full and not gain weight.Weight loss is NOT about being hungry all the time.
“And sometimes I really eat a lot. The other day I had a whole pint of heavy whipping cream and 2 sticks of butter!”
Assuming this is true (in what context are you eating two sticks of butter, exactly?), it doesn’t have much significance. Remember, in nutrition you are looking at general diet patterns. Some days you may eat more than others, but unless your “high calorie” days become commonplace, it is doubtful you would see a significant effect on your weight.If that were the case, then one day of reducing calories would be sufficient for weight loss.
“I am one of the leanest people I know, and I exercise very little.”
Leanness does not necessarily come from exercise. There are plenty of people who are lean and do not exercise.
“I have much less body fat now than when I was primarily a raw-food vegan that ate small portions of fish on occasion.”
Yes, that’s possible. Going raw does not guarantee lower body fat. It is possible to still consume too many calories on a raw food diet (particularly if, for instance, you consumed a high quantity of nuts, nut butters, olive oil, and avocados on a day to day basis.)
“Should I really be keeping close track of my calories?”
It seems to me like you already are, seeing as how you make a log of everything you eat. I’m not sure I understand your question.If what you are asking, in a facetious manner, is whether calories have anything to do with weight management, then the answer is “yes.” If you, like Gary Taubes (who I have a feeling you are a fan of), think that is hogwash, then answer this question: If you were to consume no more than 500 calories a day for 2 months, wouldn’t you reasonably predict that you would LOSE weight? If, in your mind, calories and weight management are not related, then eating 500 calories a day would not affect the numbers on the scale, right?
I’m just pointing out (plea-ing actually) that the weight management dilemma is not so simple. I mean sure, anyone could eat less calories and lose weight, but that’s a problem if it induces a predictable set of consequences, one being, as obesity researchers call it, “rebound hyperphagia.”
What good is losing weight through calorie restriction and exercising more if doing so makes your body naturally rebel and overcompensate for it later? The vast majority thinks they need to “eat less and exercise more,” but their physiology is stronger than their supposed willpower – whatever that is. People are struggling Andy, and this strategy is not working out. It’s causing a national eating disorder and actually contributing to, not solving, the obesity crisis.
In fact, telltale symptoms of those with obesity are reduced thyroid, and raised cortisol, and restricting calories has been shown to worsen both of those underlying conditions, not improve them. Plus, thyroid hormone controls the utilization of fatty acids for fuel (lipolysis), and the lower it goes the more inefficiently one burns the fat that is trapped on their bodies. There is also much indication that reduced thyroid efficiency is the key underlying factor in the manifestation of many degenerative diseases, particularly heart disease (see Broda Barnes, Stephen Langer, Mark Starr, etc.)
I bring this up because I lived low-calorie/high exercise and am much leaner and more muscular now on high-calorie/low exercise, which has also cleared up many health problems – mostly attributable to the fact that I eat only fresh, unpackaged, unprocessed foods. Sugar intake = 3T total since September.
Andy, I appreciate your enthusiasm for good health, but do not be stubborn. There are people all over the world that are breaking your rules of good health and having excellent results, particularly by consuming large quantities of saturated fat to displace other foods. From an etiological perspective, it is obvious that calorie consumption, exercise, saturated fat consumption, and cholesterol consumption have little, if any correlation to escalating disease trends. It points squarely at refined sugar, flour, and vegetable oils.
Cut those out, and live more healthfully, regardless of whether the diet is “mostly plants” or mostly animals. Then all of the supposed rules and associations that modern studies have found with animal protein, animal fat, and other staples of the human diet since of the beginning of time go out the window. I promise you that is true. Please don’t think of those that espouse such ideas to be quacks, idiots, and arch-rivals of the “food heals” movement. They are not. We are not. I am not. Accept that there are numerous dietary strategies to restore proper body chemistry, digestive health, and treat and prevent illness of all kinds. Including eating meals like my breakfast today…
Green onions and jalapeno fried in 2T bacon grease
6 farm fresh eggs
6 ounces grass fed tri-tip steak
3T raw, grassfed butter
Planned exercise for the day: 40 minutes walking round trip to and from the library.
Let me take your argument piece by piece.
“What good is losing weight through calorie restriction and exercising more if doing so makes your body naturally rebel and overcompensate for it later?”
For someone who takes such issue with generalizations and sweeping statements, you sure don’t appear to mind making plenty of your own. Yes, if people cut calories drastically very quickly, the body does naturally rebel. However, a slow and steady approach to weight loss (think 20 pounds over the course of a year, rather than 8 weeks) generally does not make the body rebel and overcompensate for it.
“the weight management dilemma is not so simple.”
The reason why it’s not so simple is because the emotional factor is, in my opinion, often left out of it. Most nutrition counseling sessions do not revolve solely around WHAT people are eating, but the WHY, HOW, WHEN, and WHERE. Food can be comforting. It can be a friend. It can soothe. It is no surprise, then, that many people who displace a lot of emotion in food have a hard time with weight management.It also doesn’t help that confusing messages like “eat as many calories as you want, just don’t eat any bread!” are out there. I would be interested in hearing, Matt, how you explain the weight loss that has been achieved by people who still ate bread, rice, and pasta. By your standards, that wouldn’t really be feasible, right?
“People are struggling Andy, and this strategy is not working out. It’s causing a national eating disorder and actually contributing to, not solving, the obesity crisis.”
People are struggling because the food environment has gotten harder to navigate. When portions increase — and smaller ones are no longer available — it is no surprise that caloric intake increases. People are also struggling because the basic message of “eat less and move more” is being fogged up by hype, whether it’s low-carb, all-raw, “no red fruits after 6:14 PM” or whatever you want to call it.
“In fact, telltale symptoms of those with obesity are reduced thyroid, and raised cortisol, and restricting calories has been shown to worsen both of those underlying conditions, not improve them”
Again, too vague of a statement. Yes, drastically cutting calories very quickly can have a negative effect on metabolism and thyroid performance. However, I don’t know about many cases where a slow and steady, consistent approach to weight loss resulted in reduced thyroid. In fact, losing weight in and of itself reduces risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many cancers, so I am not too sure about this weight loss/disease link you are referring to.
“Andy, I appreciate your enthusiasm for good health, but do not be stubborn.”
I am not being stubborn. I understand that there are areas of nutrition that are still new and that we are ALWAYS learning new things. Nutrigenomics, for example, will open a door of new discoveries in the field. However, there is basic knowledge that I don’t see any reason to refute or doubt. I don’t see how you can say “weight management is not so simple” when it is a GIVEN that if I cut down your caloric intake to 500 calories a day for 2 months, I, you, and everyone else would understandably predict that you would LOSE — not gain — weight. That, to me, is a pretty simple concept. What is so complicated?
“There are people all over the world that are breaking your rules of good health and having excellent results.”
Hmmm. My basic rules of good health are: “eat fruits and vegetables every day, minimize your intake of heavily processed foods, be physically active, eat most of your grains in their “whole” variety, maintain a healthy weight, and seek out heart-healthy fats.” So you’re saying there are people shunning fruits and vegetables, eating a heavily processed diet, not watching their weight, and consuming boatloads of trans and saturated fats that have “excellent results”? I would be interested in seeing your data.
“It is obvious that calorie consumption, exercise, saturated fat consumption, and cholesterol consumption have little, if any correlation to escalating disease trends.”
Obvious does not seem like the right word. If anything, that is counter-intuitive. So are you advocating a sedentary lifestyle along with excess calories? The same lifestyle that has led to the current obesity epidemic??
“I promise you that is true.”
How?As for your refined sugar and obesity link, I think you are misinterpreting the information. The issue is that sugar is simply empty calories. Hence, it is entirely possible to tack on hundreds of sugar calories to your day and not have them make you feel any fuller. Consequently, it is very possible to down 600 calories of soda and feel hungry 15 minutes later. AKA: Consume an excess of calories.
“Planned exercise for the day: 40 minutes walking round trip to and from the library.”
How is this part of your argument against my recommendations? If you read my blog, you will see that I talk about “physical activity,” which can mean anything from lifting weights at the gym to taking a 15 minute walk in your neighborhood. A 40 minute walk is a lot more physical activity than the average person in this country gets. If you ask people who once lost weight what caused them to gain weight back, you will hear one of two responses: “I stopped exercising” and/or “I got careless about what I was eating and ate more calories.” Alas, you have your school of thoughts and I have mine. At this point, I find it best to agree to disagree. Thank you for participating in Small Bites.
Going down to 500 calories per day will cause dramatic weight gain following the weight loss, and a larger percentage of fat will be replaced than muscle, yielding a poorer overall body composition that consists of less muscle, and more fat. That is the outcome of that strategy. It is not a solution to the obesity epidemic, but a contributing factor.
Humans, to my knowledge, or any other species on earth, never had to monitor caloric intake or exercise level while consuming only fresh, natural, unadulterated, and unprocessed foods. Calories are not the issue. One can consume unlimited quantities of healthy foods, maintain weight, and even lose weight. High carb, low-carb, cooked, raw – doesn’t make any difference. Not everyone succeeds, but most do.
But like the original weight loss information provided by William Banting, even a tiny amount of refined sugar added to the mix (and probably white flour, trans fats, and other garbage as well) makes all the difference in the world because of it’s unique metabolic impact. Banting noted that he would gain 1 pound per week if there were only a few ounces of sugar in his diet.
Read William Dufty’s Sugar Blues. He lost 70 pounds by cutting out sugar and eating as much whole wheat as he could get his hands on. That’s what low-carbers don’t get, and I commend you for sticking it to them. It is a massive flaw to convict an entire class of foods, whether it be natural carbohydrates, or, ahem, saturated fat.
Andy, a diet high in saturated fat can be just as effective for restoring health as any other. In fact, the reason I choose that route is because doing so allows me to avoid sugar, which is, like Banting, “my greatest dietetic enemy.” I will agree that a high-sugar, high-saturated fat diet is dangerous for people predisposed to weight gain and related complications.
Portions sizes are larger because people are hungrier. McDonald’s resisted the Super Size trend started by Wendy’s, then they started losing market share and investors started pulling out. Then they had to respond to that.
A recent study has shown that elimination of refined sugar from the diet results in a reduction of caloric consumption by as much as 25%. But even if I overeat every meal, every day, my metabolism rises to meet that surplus and I don’t gain weight, whether I exercise or not. In fact, I’m leaner when not exercising at all. A lion in captivity that doesn’t have to move a muscle is just as lean and muscular as a wild lion, and lives even longer.
People gain weight when they stop exercising because exercise raises cortisol and triggers fat storage. This is misinterpreted as “not exercising makes me gain weight.” Just like, when people fall off the wagon of eating a reduced calorie diet (even if it’s only 200 calories less than they wanted to eat).
The only way I can gain weight is to eat sugar, white flour, fats, and lots of protein all together as part of high-calorie diet. But even on a low-calorie version I know, over time, weight would start to creep up on me. And if a person’s diet makes them fat, a 15 minute walk into town isn’t going to do a thing. It’s a divergence from equilibrium between appetite and metabolism that leads to excess fat accumulation. If a person gains 40 pounds from age 20 to 60 (typical), that represents a fat accumulation totalling about 9 calories per day. There is no way that if they had eaten one less peanut, or parked farther away from the supermarket, that they could have avoided that. Nor could they have consciously kept track of their energy balance with such precision.
As for eat more, exercise less, look no further than a portion of T. Colin Campbell’s China Study. They ate more calories than Americans, didn’t exercise at all (office workers), and weighed significantly less. As for saturated fat and cholesterol consumption not being correlated with rising disease trends – the consumption of both has declined while degenerative diseases and obesity continue to skyrocket. It’s not proof of anything, but makes the recommendations to exercise more (I don’t need to), eat less (I don’t need to), and avoid saturated fat and cholesterol (I eat as much as any human being in the world) to have a trim figure and be healthy look pretty silly.
What has increased? Sugar consumption, particularly fructose from HFCS and crystalline fructose which have seen outrageous growth in their usage since the late 70′s.
I don’t agree to disagree. If I did I would be in some other business. I didn’t take the time to visit this site because I’m bored or feel like shouting in everyone’s face that I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s about much more than that. There are people that need answers, and options. They need to know the truth – that packaged, processed, refined, modern foods are the cause of disease, and that wholesome real foods of any kind, from grain to saturated fat to bacon (mostly monounsaturated fat) can help a person overcome their health demons.
“So you’re saying there are people shunning fruits and vegetables, eating a heavily processed diet, not watching their weight, and consuming boatloads of trans and saturated fats that have “excellent results”?”
Eliminate the trans fats and ‘processed’ from that scenario and the answer to that question is “absolutely yes, without question.”
Gary (your favorite)
…and many others that at least have found a way to not have to “watch their weight” because it never changes. They have equilibrium between their metabolic rate and their overall desire for dietary calories – just like a healthy young kid. Just like our ancestors, whether sedentary, active, hungry, well-fed, eating mostly whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, or eating a pound of butterfat daily.