Continuing our conversation from the LAST POST, I want to continue to highlight the fact that whole food diets, raw diets, high-protein diets, and other coarse “health food” diets may not have some mystical slimming property, but may be reliant on inadvertent calorie restriction.
Now if you have followed my work for a long time, you know that I don’t have an outright problem with “inadvertent” calorie restriction, nor do I have a problem with “unintentional” weight loss. These terms both imply that weight is lost automatically, without willful force against the body’s natural appetite and energy-regulating systems.
I happen to believe that there is a huge fundamental difference between eating less and exercising more as a RESULT of something (change in diet, change in metabolism, increased insulin/leptin sensitivity, change in attitudes and relationship with food/exercise) than eating less and exercising more consciously despite being hungry as hell and exhausted. And the science, with the hormone leptin especially, fully backs this up (keep pumping leptin into a rat and they can literally starve to death even surrounded by tasty food).
In fact, in the category of weight regulation, for those that incur a significant negative health burden from carrying excess body fat (keeping in mind that the health risks normally equated with being overweight are blown WAY out of proportion), my primary emphasis has been on finding a way to trigger automatic and spontaneous fat loss. In other words – losing body fat without being hungry or relying on cheap, potentially harmful, impractical, and unsustainable methods such as absurd quantities of exercise or laxative use. This spontaneous fat loss is sort of the Holy Grail of Weight Loss, and is pretty amazing to experience if you have a history of perpetually making no progress trying to eat less and exercise more than you desire. This is probably why Paleo, low-carb, vegan, raw, Intermittent fasting, etc. dieters become so obnoxiously evangelistic and develop pronounced HYPERchondria after losing weight and feeling good for the initial 6-month honeymoon period.
Regardless, keep in mind that say, raw foods like we discussed last time, may have a role to play in helping people with serious obesity problems. I would definitely preferentially recommend a well-designed raw foods diet that induces weight loss because the food isn’t absorbed at a high rate over counting calories and “points” eating highly palatable refined foods. Why? Because on a raw food diet you can eat as much as you desire, maybe even more than you desire. You also are eating more nutritious food, albeit poorly-utilized nutritious food. And as you know if you have read Diet Recovery, I happen to think that indigestible matter actually plays a vital role in metabolic health due to the conversion of a portion of undigested food into short chain saturated fatty acids that increase insulin sensitivity, increase mitochondrial activity, and have helped rodents that have been studied to become metabolic dynamos.
This seems like a much safer bet than eating below appetite and taking in virtually no nutrition – a standard method studied exhaustively by obesity researchers with the same outcome every time… weight loss followed by reduced metabolism and extreme hunger and cravings followed by weight regain – whether you give into those cravings or not.
So I’m not discounting or discrediting filling up on wholesome foods, raw foods, unprocessed foods, and so on for losing some body fat. In fact, that’s what I generally recommend. I just want to get real about what the mechanisms are, and help offer up some reasoning in a world in which so many people attribute these supernatural properties to various diets – the food is “living,” “its life force is intact,” or “it’s the genetic blueprint from our ancestors,” for example.
We know that all species of every creature grows faster and reproduces better on a diet that is totally unnatural for it, just as we know that steroids make athletes a lot better than they would be following what is “natural.” That’s not to say that cooked, processed food diets don’t have any negative consequences. They clearly do. Richard Wrangham speaks to both sides of that…
“We can think of cooked food offering two kinds of advantage, depending on whether species have adapted to a cooked diet. Spontaneous benefits are experienced by almost any species, regardless of its evolutionary history, because cooked food is easier to digest than raw food. Domestic animals such as calves, lambs, and piglets grow faster when their food is cooked, and cows produce more fat in their milk and more milk per day when eating cooked rather than raw seeds. A similar effect appears in fish farms. Salmon grow better on a diet of cooked rather than raw fishmeal. No wonder farmers like to give cooked mash or swill to their livestock. Cooked food promotes efficient growth.
The spontaneous benefits of cooked food explain why domesticated pets easily become fat: their food is cooked, such as the commercially produced kibbles pellets, and nuggets given to dogs and cats…
Even insects appear to get the spontaneous benefits of cooked food… Whether domestic or wild, mammal or insect, useful or pests, animals adapted to raw diets tend to fare better on cooked food.”
I hope this also highlights, in a roundabout kind of way, that if you are underweight and metabolically-Arctic as a result of eating a bunch of extreme “healthy” diets for years – you might want to loosen the f$%# up and have some pizza and ice cream. Because you aren’t gonna get the calories you need from rabbit food or lean meats no matter how much of it you eat.
Anyway, here are some of the primary factors on how absorbable a food is from a calorie standpoint. Keep in mind there are many factors involved in weight regulation, and there are no all-encompassing one-hit-wonder theories. Notice the tremendous overlap with palatability – meaning that the effects of these foods are two-fold, or what I call, for the amusement of one 180 reader in particular, a “double whammy.” In other words, what causes less stimulation or excitation in the brain kills appetite, and also is digested and absorbed less completely…
1) Softness – The softer a food, the more completely it digests. In animal studies, soft food promotes more growth and is liked better than hard, dry food.
2) Tenderness – Along the same vein, tender foods are more digestible than tough foods. This is one factor in the digestive superiority of cooked meats vs. raw meats, or cooked starches vs. raw starches, or cooked anything vs. raw anything basically. Generally the easier it is to chew, the easier it is to digest more completely. Notice how easy it is to chew fast food compared to the homemade version.
3) Fiber content – Fiber seems to impair absorption somewhat
4) Protein content – The more protein in a food, the more energy required to digest that food – so the smaller the calorie “profit.” This is true except in extreme protein restriction, which seems to have a strong hypermetabolic effect – proposed by some to be an innate mechanism which enables a creature to get its required protein from low-protein food without storing excess fat.
5) Particle size – The more a food is blended, chopped, or crushed into small pieces the more digestible it becomes. Ground beef is more digestible than steak for example, which begs the question, “Why go out for steak when you’ve got burgers at home?”
6) Meal size – It seems that eating big meals instead of small meals causes a slight loss of digestive efficiency. I would imagine the greater the variety and complexity of these meals, the lower the percentage of calories absorbed as well (although we tend to eat considerably more when the variety is greater).
I’m sure there are tons of other factors. Too many to mention. I would think calorie density probably promotes better absorption. A higher ratio of fat to other macronutrients would promote better absorption. Liquids over solids. And so on. Anyway, you can see a great many of the popular diet ideas woven into that list. Sort of a Jon Gabriel meets Joel Fuhrman meets Martin Berkhan meets Sonya Black Widow Thomas (picture at top) – all Fletcherized somehow.
I don’t mean to be suggesting any grand conclusions here, just thinking out loud. As usual. And trying to bait JT, which is always fun.