By Joey Lott
There are a few of us who have done so many stupid food restriction hijinks that our main concern is ?how can I put on some weight and keep it?? But by and large (pun intended) the overwhelming majority of people today are nearly obsessed with weight loss. The idea that there is an obesity epidemic is virtually unchallenged, and to be sure, the statistics are damning. We?re getting fatter. With the single exception of sub-Saharan Africa everyone – man, woman, and child – seems to be getting fatter worldwide. But why? And is it necessarily a problem?
In a recent post here on 180D the ?food reward hypothesis of obesity?, or what I’ll just call the food reward theory, was briefly mentioned. I was familiar with the theory, having read Stephan Guyenet’s blog fairly extensively over the years. (Guyenet is one of the leading advocates of the theory as what he terms ‘the dominant factor in obesity?.) Guyenet’s views on the importance of the theory are pretty bold. But I didn’t recall ever being won over by his arguments.
This recent mention on 180D (and a challenge to my view that it’s not a very convincing theory for broad application) caused me to revisit the theory. I relied, once again, on Guyenet’s arguments and references to explain the theory to me. I want to share with you what I have learned and my critique.
Before we go on, though, I should warn you that I do have biases. I am not married to my biases. I am always open to evidence that counters my biases. After all, the true spirit of science is to always challenge theories and biases, attempting to prove them wrong. But even though I don’t believe my biases to be the absolute truth, I feel that I should share them with you up front so that you know where I am coming from.
Although there is great talk about a so-called ?obesity epidemic?, I am skeptical of much of the hysteria. Yes, the evidence is pretty damn clear. With the singular exception of sub-Saharan Africa, we all are getting fatter. And yes, there is a definite increase in the cases of many diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and various types of cancer. And yes, there is some correlation between fatness and some diseases. I’m not denying that. In fact, I’m not denying anything.
However, I am, as I said, skeptical of the hysteria. Not because there might not be something to be concerned about. But rather, because hysteria doesn’t tend to produce very good science or honest investigations of matters. Instead it’s, ?Give us the simple answer now so we can go back to the football game!
I detail much of my investigation in this matter in my forthcoming book titled (provocatively), Big Fat Lies. You can get it for free when it comes out HERE. The actual book isn’t nearly as provocative as the title. Instead, it’s a fairly level-headed examination of whether or not the supposed causal connections between fat and disease is necessarily what we’ve been led to believe. I won’t go into all the details here, but suffice it to say, fatness (particularly moderate amounts of fat) doesn’t always (or even all that often) clearly cause disease. And it is certainly possible that both fatness and disease are sometimes the symptoms of the same causes. And, incidentally, one possible contributor to both fatness and increases in disease rates is a population that is increasingly aging (and having babies at older ages too which, by the way, predisposes the child to be fatter). So an aging population may be the exclamation mark that screams ?epidemic?, accentuating some trends that can also partially be explained by increasing use of pharmaceutical drugs, increasing sleep debt, and increasing stress, among other things. Food reward probably plays a role too, by the way. I am just not yet certain how much and whether or not the proposed ‘solutions? are appropriate or even safe.
So that’s one bias.
I’m also particularly sensitive to the dangers of anything being misunderstood or appropriated to fuel unhealthy food obsessions and restrictions. As most of us who are regular readers of 180D know all too well, that’s a slippery slope, and it leads directly to hell. As Matt mentioned in a comment recently, advocating for restriction will likely help a very small number of people while leading the overwhelming majority into a nightmare of food restriction. So I am extremely cautious about advocating for anything that is restrictive. (Though it’s awfully easy to make that mistake even in subtle ways, and I have done that more often than I’d like.)
So there you have my biases. At least the relevant ones of which I am aware at the moment. Let’s continue.
The food reward theory, as Guyenet defines it, ‘states that the reward (reinforcing, motivational) and hedonic (pleasure, palatability) value of food influence food intake and body fatness, contributing to the development of obesity.
Food reward may not affect everyone equally – even according to the proponents of the theory. Not just because some people have greater will power and abstain from all that horribly, deliciously addictive stuff. But rather, because some people may be conditioned or just genetically predisposed to be susceptible.
So in general, I think most people will agree both from their own personal experience and from a review of the relevant scientific literature that it is a reasonable theory. Lays and Coca-Cola employ food scientists to increase food reward and palatability to increase repeat sales. And studies do show that altering various factors to increase reward and/or palatability will increase caloric intake by most humans in the short term.
But my argument is that there is not yet evidence to confirm that food reward or palatability works long term for all or even most humans to increase caloric intake beyond actual needs and contribute to fat gain. Or, really, I should be more specific. It’s not even the fat gain that’s the issue. It’s the health problems. I’m not convinced that there is yet a strong case to be made that foods that are designed so that ?bet you can’t eat just one? can be explained as, as Guyenet states, ‘the dominant factor in obesity? (where obesity is imagined to mean not just fatness, but also health problems).
As we’ll see, the research that Guyenet* cites on the matter actually suggests that the long term fattening effect of rewarding/palatable foods affect only susceptible people. And as Matt pointed out in the comments of the previous post, one likely factor that can contribute to susceptibility to the fattening effects of rewarding/palatable foods is restriction. So ironically, many people may potentially (this is not confirmed, of course) make themselves susceptible to the negative effects of such foods by denying themselves their physical/dietary needs and restricting/dieting to extremes. Sure, it’s hard to argue that Coca-Cola is a necessary food. But many of us know all too well the pattern of restricting not only Coca-Cola and Doritos, but also all sugar and all fried and salty foods. Then, heck, why not restrict all carbohydrates too? And all dairy. And anything with any taste or calories whatsoever. Then, when the breaking point is reached, a binge on all the ?forbidden? foods is common. Plus, the yo-yo of caloric restriction is pretty well known to increase fat gain long term and, more importantly, contribute to metabolic derangement and health problems.
* Incidentally, if you aren’t familiar with Guyenet’s blog, Whole Health Source, you might want to check it out. I have a lot of respect for Guyenet’s work. He has done a great deal to point out the fallacy of low carbohydrate doctrine, and I suspect he has saved many low carbohydrate dieters from further destroying their health. And his work on the food reward theory, even though I don’t happen to find the argument as convincing as others do, is quite good too and worth checking out.
Specifically in defense of the food reward theory Guyenet references a bunch of studies and then writes, ?Even if not all of the studies are perfect, at some point, one has to acknowledge that there are a lot of mutually buttressing lines of evidence here. ? In other words, there are lots of pieces there that if one looks at all of them Guyenet believes a picture of the food reward theory (as the ?dominant factor in obesity?) should emerge. I just haven’t yet seen that picture emerge so clearly.
Incidentally, for those interested in further reading on the subject, Guyenet has several excellent series of posts that elaborate on why he believes that food reward is the ?dominant factor in obesity?. See the start of those series here and here.
What is troublesome about the theory is that at his best, Guyenet, one of the leading proponents of the theory, does not produce a convincing argument. I looked at every abstract he references in his posts specific to food reward. Yes, I know that he admits that the individual studies aren’t perfect. (Who is?) That’s okay by me. But in my view there’s a difference between imperfect and…how to put this…Let’s just say, I was wondering, ?Where’s the beef??
A lot of the studies he cites are non-human studies. Apart from the ethical concerns (which is a whole other topic), I have read far too many bogus conclusions about human health that were based on rat studies. In rats it was solid. Feed rats high fructose corn syrup, their waistlines blow up like the Goodyear blimp. So it’s a done deal, right? In humans surely the same is true. Whoops. Not so fast. Turns out it doesn’t work that way. Or how ?bout this. Feed rats a little bit of fructose and ?Whoa! their livers turn into fatty goo. So it must be the same in humans, right? Wrong again. Damn! How frustrating!
So I’m extremely skeptical of non-human feeding studies. Not only do rats have different metabolisms, but lab rats are…get this…caged and often subjected to lots of stress. And a lot of the time the logic in rat studies is just plain weird. For example, and I’m not making this up, some studies have done the following. They take a group of rats and withhold sugar water for 12 hours a day. During the first hour when the rats are reintroduced to the sugar water they binge on it before eating rat chow. The conclusion? ?Holy shit! Sugar is more addictive than cocaine!
But what about the human studies? Well, it may not surprise you, but I’m not so won over by what Guyenet presents in this regard. Here are some examples.
Effect of altering the variety of sensorially distinct foods, of the same macronutrient content, on food intake and body weight in men.
Get together a group of men. Give them foods that are all nutritionally identical but that look different. Men eat more calories when there are more ‘sensorially distinct? (yet nutritionally identical) foods.
Palatability affects satiation but not satiety.
Get together a group of people and feed them tomato soup. Some of the tomato soup is just what you’d expect it to be and probably tastes fairly decent. But some of the people got tomato soup with varying amounts of citric acid. Surprise! The more citric acid, the less people ate. Yet all people felt more or less equally satisfied (called satiation) after eating however much they ate. And when given a buffet style meal afterward, all people at equal amounts, so in total, those who ate the less pleasant soup ate less.
The takeaway? Make food less palatable and people may eat less during a single meal in a controlled setting.
Effects of changes in palatability on food intake and the cumulative food intake curve in man.
Add cumin to yogurt. Some people don’t like the taste. Those who don’t like the taste will eat less than those who like the taste.
I could have told you that!
The relative reinforcing value of food predicts weight gain in a longitudinal study of 7–10-y-old children.
Get together a group of kids. Tell the kids that they can either have a food reward or a non food reward for completing a certain number of tasks. With each reward issued, increase the number tasks necessary to earn a food reward but keep the number of tasks necessary for a non food reward stable. Maximum number of tasks for nonfood is 20. Maximum number of tasks for food is 240. So at the end, kids have to really want the food to work toward it.
Some kids (about 3 percent) will go for low hanging fruit and ask for the non food reward each time. Some kids (about 3 percent) will go for the food reward every time, despite the increasing difficulty. The rest of the kids are somewhere in between.
A year later follow up with the kids. Measure and weigh them and see if their BMIs have changed and if the number of food rewards chosen was a predictor of BMI increase.
Follow up again still another year later. Same deal. This time? ?Jackpot! The kids who worked harder for food rewards were gaining weight faster than the kids who didn’t want the food rewards so much.
Right. So the takeaway is that maybe some kids who really want food a lot will get fatter than kids who don’t really care so much.
Many of the other studies that Guyenet references show that alterations in dopamine signaling may predict susceptibility to food reward. So, for example, one person has ?normal? dopamine stuff happening, and so that person can probably be surrounded by Doritos and Big Macs all day every day and probably not be greatly influenced. But another person may have different dopamine stuff going on. And if that person lives in a macrobiotic cult in the Alaskan wilderness far from any McDonald’s, he’ll stay lean (probably too lean). But drop that person in the middle of most American grocery stores and it’ll be ?nom, nom, nom, nom, can’t stop, can’t stop devouring Cheetos even though my sides are splitting.
But the thing that remains unclear is how frequently this is actually a problem. What percentage of fat people have the dopamine stuff going on as noted in these studies? It could be 100 percent, of course. But then again, it might be 1 percent or less. So based on these studies we could say that food reward could be a major, perhaps the causal factor in fat gain and perhaps even health problems among some as of yet undetermined percentage of the population. And that could be a very important piece of information that could help a lot of people. (Because chronic, painful bingeing isn’t very fun.) But we just don’t know what the significance of this finding is.
That’s my summary of my findings thus far. I promise you, I didn’t cherry pick these studies to shine an unfavorable light on the theory. Actually, I cherry picked these studies because they are the ones that seemed most relevant.
My main concern about promoting the food reward theory as the ?dominant factor? in increased fatness is that it isn’t (in my view) proven, and it can easily lead to disordered eating with all the negative health consequences that typically follow. Promoting a diet that has low palatability (i.e. ?clean eating?) as something that people who feel themselves to be ?overweight? should do is, in my view, potentially dangerous.
Here’s why. First of all, if someone’s weight is increased because of preconception parental health, pharmaceutical drug use, sleep debt, or a history of dieting/restriction, making food less palatable (?clean eating?) can simply fuel unhealthy food obsession and unintentional calorie restriction. Many of us have experiences variations on this, and we know that it ain’t pretty.
For another thing, if someone really is fat because they are susceptible to food reward, ?eating clean? probably won’t make that person less susceptible. Instead, if dopamine signaling stuff can make one susceptible to food reward so that such a person truly feels powerless to stop eating Twinkies and Doritos even after he or she is incredibly uncomfortable (by the way, been there, done that for years when I was younger…I know how horrible that can be), then it would be worthwhile to find ways to change the dopamine signaling so that a person can still feel pleasure yet also be able to eat to satiety and stop. But ?eating clean? may not be the best solution.
While the food reward theory isn’t inherently fat shaming – not at all – I see that it can easily be turned into just another tool to shame people for being fat. It can turn into, ?You fatty fatterson there, how dare you eat that palatable food. You should be eating brown rice instead.
It seems to me that there’s a lot more to learn about all of this. And meanwhile, I am cautious about any recommendations that are likely to be harmful to the majority and only possibly helpful to a few.
About the Author
Joey Lott is health researcher and a more than 10-time Amazon bestselling author. Get his future health books for free, including his upcoming title Big Fat Lies at www.joeylotthealth.com. Read more of Joey’s work in his books.
Excellent Joey. As someone who gained plenty of weight “eating clean” at about 1200 calories a day, I’m very glad to see this post. Thank you.
As I see it, dieting has become an obsession. We seem unable to just eat a well balanced diet of food as nature intended, using our intuition to know when we have had enough. Also the old saying “a little bit of what you fancy does you good” allows us to have the occasional treat without getting hung up about it. Keep it simple.
@Joey – Have you read “The End of Overeating” by Kessler? Be interested in your thoughts.
@Matt – 180D still needs a subscribe to comments plugin.
I’ve read that book and of course countless others MAS. It basically advocates that typical addiction pathology is at play with particularly palatable combinations of food that equal profound deliciousness–particularly calorie-dense combinations of fat, sugar, and salt.
In my experience, rarely does it truly follow the anticipated addiction pathology to eat unlimited amounts of these foods. Most people lose all interest in bingeing, cravings wane, etc.–unless they are still consciously restricting or waiting until they are ravenous to eat, exercising their brains out, working too much, or otherwise causing a strong compulsion for calorie consumption.
This all deserves to be part of the conversation, but it’s only a fragment of the big picture.
I haven’t read that book. Do you recommend it, MAS?
I enjoyed the book and believe what the author shares is a piece of the puzzle. How important is that piece? Not sure.
** YES! Subscribe to the comments is here!
Thanks for such a well thought out and easy to understand article Joey.
I’m familiar with Stephan’s work and the food reward theory, but as someone who healed my 30 year binge eating disorder through intuitive eating, any food restriction puts me straight on the path to bingeing again. It would certainly be detrimental to my mental health and my weight to try to stick to eating bland food.
The psychological aspect is something most obesity researchers fail to consider. Neither do many seem to understand that most overweight people are yo-yo dieters and that this has contributed to their weight gain.
In my view, fat shaming may be the dominant factor in the “obesity crises”.
Actually Heather, I think most obesity researchers know that quite well. Like, actual obesity researchers. It’s everyone else that doesn’t get much of anything about obesity–the psychological component, metabolic component, differentiation between short-term and long-term results, and on and on it goes.
Ha ha I’m sure you’re right about obesity researchers, Matt, since you’re a lot more widely read on the subject than I am. It’s heartening to hear that’s the case.
Thank you Joey for this brilliant article and I like your comment Heather, have you written a blog or a book whilst on your journey?
Thanks for your kind words, Di :-)
I wrote several posts in a thread in an eating disorders forum describing my recovery (I’m haj, the first poster in the thread). I wrote it in the hope it would help others. I’m not a natural writer but I hope it gives a decent explanation of my recovery journey.
I like Guyenet’s work, it’s very well thought out. However, it’s application seems to be missing something. I can’t be the only one that does not think all the food reward Friday foods look all that good?
I really take the opposite action of the food reward theory in real life; I want my food to be as palatable and ?nutritious? as possible. I believe Stephan’s thinking is along this line as well, as he wants to make veggies and other ?healthy? food palatable enough to enjoy and avoid the other evil foods that supposedly make us fat and sick. But his application seems too restrictive.
My thinking is in line with Joeys’ because I still can’t help but observe that over-eating of anything is a symptom of something other than palatability. For example, do we crave the same foods when we are stressed out as opposed to when we are very chilled out? Do we eat more or less when we are over-tired? Do we eat out of boredom or for entertainment? If ?healthy?, palatable food, was conveniently available, would we choose Doritos instead? Think of the most delicious sweet fruit imaginable ? would a can of coke be chosen over that?
Eating less palatable food, using will-power and self conditioned habits, may make us less fat; but so would eating all our meals as slim-fast. Or better yet, remove our sense of smell, which makes all food less palatable, and hence we?d eat less.
Here’s one problem I’ve had with the food reward theory- I think processed foods have actually gotten LESS palatable and rewarding over the last fifty years. For example, I think McDonald’s French Fries were better in the 80’s when they used beef tallow instead of vegetable oils. I’m certainly not alone in this, Julia Child expressed this exact same sentiment in the early 90’s. Still, McDonalds fries of today are pretty tasty, just not as good as they used to be.
On the other hand, questionable food products (such as soybean oil) have been made way more palatable and rewarding. The idea of putting straight soybean oil into coffee is pretty disgusting, but if that oil is processed into coffee mate, it’s pretty good. Although personally, I’d rather use real cream.
Lastly, I think everyone has had a dessert at some point that was so “decadent” and “rich” that you could only eat a couple bites (but those bites were heaven!) Personally, I’m thinking of some super creamy chocolate cheesecake. In other words, I think if the reward value of a food is too high, it will seriously limit the amount you can consume.
John, palatability is only one factor of the food reward theory. Palatability may help you create a habit of regularly eating or more accurately, wanting to eat a specific food (in larger amounts), but there’s no direct correlation here like the more palatable, the more you’re compelled to eat it.
Let’s hear what Wikipedia has to say about it:
“Incentive salience is a motivational “wanting” attribute given by the brain to reward-predicting stimuli. This “wanting” is unlike “liking” in that liking is a pleasure immediately gained from consumption or other contact with stimuli, while the “wanting” of incentive salience is a motivational magnet quality of a stimulus that makes it a desirable and attractive goal, transforming it from a mere sensory experience into something that commands attention, induces approach, and causes it to be sought out.
Every time I read that quote I imagine Steve Buscemi reading it to me.
There are many who’d liken palatable food to drugs but I think this is a very poor comparison. I mean I agree with Matt here, unless you’re somehow restricting, you can’t get addicted to food. You can actually employ an overeating strategy to lose interest on specific food items. But as my grandpa used to say, don’t try this with heroin. And was right after all, damn it!
Actually I might’ve gotten it wrong with equaling palatability to “liking”… more like it’s the “wanting”. So my first paragraph is all wrong, fcuk!
The mention of rat experiments reminded me of this article I recently read which suggested that when drug experiments are performed on rats, the results might have more to do with the experimental conditions than the drug itself- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html
Nice article, I like your writing style.
So basically what I gather is that its pretty much impossible to lose fat. Calorie restriction doesn’t work. Macro restriction doesn’t work. Food reward is out the window. Exercise doesn’t cut it. Eating clean doesn’t matter.
Ok avoid omega-6s, don’t starve yourself, don’t drink too much water, eat the food, take some glycine.
I’m doing all of these things and I feel like shit and am 270 lbs.
Is my metabolism wacko? All signs point to yes. Have I been eating a surplus calories like I read in the DR book? Yes and I’ve put on 15 lbs and don’t feel any better for it.
I started working with a naturopath to check out my thyorid and adrenals because what the hell else is left? Even she is skeptical that they are the case and the whole mess of this is giving me way too much stress. Test results next week….
In the meantime… help?
@Jason – I have been thinking about your comment and it inspired me to post a response on my blog.
If you are honestly consuming an excess of calories then of course that’s going to lead to weight gain and probably feeling lousy. And, to be clear, I did *not* say that food reward isn’t a valid theory. I just said that I haven’t yet come across strong evidence suggesting what percentage of people are likely adversely affected by it or what the best solutions are in those cases.
Food reward equates hyperpalatable food to opiate drugs. Opiate drugs can be extremely valuable in some situations. And under the right conditions, many if not most people can become addicted to them. But most people are not addicted to them. The food reward theory says that almost identical brain stuff is happening in opiate addiction and overfeeding of hyperpalatable/rewarding foods.
So some people are probably suffering because of their response to rewarding food. And in those cases if those people want help, it would be great to have solutions. For some of those people “eat less, move more” will be the sustainable solution. But statistically, that’s not going to work for most people. Most people will actually end up worse off trying to follow that advice. It’s not that the advice is inherently flawed. It’s that some people can’t take the advice or they will follow extreme diets or exercise routines to try and comply. But there may be other factors as well. Although I know some people will disagree with me on this, I think that some people who have high fat mass and eat a lot may have other things going on that necessitate that. In other words, it may be an adaptation. So if such a person tries to just eat less and move more without addressing whatever is causing that adaptation, chances are the efforts will backfire.
You are certainly not alone in your confusion and frustration. I sure wish I knew all the answers. I don’t, though. Here’s what I *can* say with some confidence, however. If you have a high fat mass and feel lousy, starving yourself is probably a bad idea. So is extreme exercise. The things that I would look at first are ways to reduce or eliminate any and all drug use. Many pharmaceuticals are known to produce fat gain and cause all kinds of health problems. I’d also address sleep since that is a major factor. Sleep at night, go to bed early, eliminate blue light at night, sleep for as long as you need (no alarm clocks of possible), and get sunlight exposure on eyes (unfiltered) in the morning as often as possible. Eat first thing in the morning, and eat enough to be satiated until lunch. Unless you are trying to gain weight, snacking is not ideal. So try to eat around 1000 calories for breakfast and do it first thing. Don’t wait until you become really hungry. Then do the same for lunch and dinner.
Also, learn effective ways to reduce stress (distress) since that has been shown time and time again to lead to weight gain and health deterioration. I am a huge fan of progressive muscle relaxation. I think that a half hour formal practice of that every day can be extremely beneficial. The reason I like that is because it is something that you can incorporate into your life. Over time you’ll find that you are relaxed throughout the day rather than tense all the time. But other methods are also very valuable, which can include things like Feldenkrais work, Buteyko breathing, meditation, prayer (if that’s your thing), or watching fish (apparently it’s very helpful according to some studies). Any which way you do it, finding something that is effective for you can help a great deal.
There’s little doubt but what sustainable, healthy movement can improve health in many ways. Of course, there are exceptions. Someone recovering from compulsive over exercise and/or restrictive eating disorders (who are dangerously underweight) should avoid all unnecessary exercise for a while. But for everyone else, increasing gentle walking or other sustainable and safe activity is probably a good idea. But only you can know what is truly right and sustainable for you.
I’m definitely not trying to paint a hopeless picture with this post. I was simply trying to point out that in my view, given the information I have right now, I see some potential danger in recommending that everyone who consinders themselves to be overweight or fat should start “eating clean”. I think there are other considerations that need to be factored in. But if you are presently what you consider to be overweight and you feel shitty, but not in a “I’m not eating enough” sort of way (see something like Eat for Heat for a more detailed description of what that might look like) and you are already eating, let’s say 3000+ calories a day, then eating more isn’t super likely to help with those things. So if you can “clean” up your diet and keep calories at around the 3000 mark and make small, sustainable increases in gentle activity, you’ll probably see some benefits from that. I’m just saying that it’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach and it can easily be taken to an extreme and produce more harm than good. And furthermore, there are too many other factors that we have to consider. Although I know some will disagree with me, I have met people who are quite fat but who eat less than 2500 calories a day (and don’t lose weight). To tell such a person to eat less, move more is potentially dangerous.
Hope that clarifies some things.
I agree with most of what you say Joey, in particular that one size doesn’t fit all. But I do wonder how it all got to be so complicated?
Having trained as a nutritionist many years ago, I have almost given up trying to understand it all. So many people are adamant that their way is right and each one can be polar opposites.
Healthy nutrition has become a minefield that I doubt will ever be a safe place to be.
I now trust my intuition to eat what feels right for me and suffer the consequences if I don’t.
Good luck in your quest
Jason stress can be a cause of an inability to lose weight. Your hormones play a very big part in your metabolic processes. I have written a book that may help you. Click on my name and it will take you to my website. The link is at the top of the page. Alternatively contact me through my contact form and I will send you a free pdf
Thanks Janet I will check it out
Thanks all for your input. As you can tell I was a bit frustrated when I wrote my comment (and Joey sorry for this ramble on your post because it really was not specific to this topic). I had been working mentally on a plan to implement a food reward strategy for fat loss and then I read this and doubt set in.
I am already on point with most of the suggestions being made but my stress level is high and that may just be what causes everything else I do to fail. Joey I have read some of your works and websites and you offer much helpful information on this, thank you. I also took the 24 hour cortisol test last week; it will be interesting to find out what the results are.
For right now my plan is not to worry so much about diet. I will continue eating “clean”, which to me means avoiding most processed foods and focusing on nutrient rich whole foods while not being excessively strict or giving myself grief. I will find ways to reduce my stress and once I have a clear diagnosis from my naturopath it should be easier to move forward.
Thanks again everyone for your input so far.
Great article, Joey! Will have to check out those series of posts.
You pose a lot of interesting points, one that particularly strikes a chord with me is when you mention “less palatable food”. When I was growing up, there were times when I would be offered food that I didn’t like or that was unfamiliar to me (like at friends’ houses), and I wouldn’t eat the food. People just labeled me a picky eater, but in my mind it made sense. Of course I didn’t eat the food! Now in my late 20s, I have a lot of trouble gaining weight and am starting to wonder if it’s mainly psychological. Just makes me think! Interesting stuff.
I just have to share this here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UZJRR8OHhY
Haha. I knew that’s what it would be before I even clicked on it. I’m actually going to do a post about these girls right now. Unbelievably funny stuff.
I read Stephan’s book and tried, even though I knew better, to restrict my diet to see if I could loose a slight amount of weight. The result was a lot of stress symptoms predicted by Matt’s and Joey’s writings. I stopped and went back to eating enough foods/calories of nutritious foods and immediately started to feel better. From years of restrictive eating, I still have a tendency to eat too little. I re-read this article and found Joey’s ideas to be right on and although, I like Stephan’s writings, think he is off base on this theory of food reward…although off course it can be true for highly processed foods.
Yeah, I also admire Guyenet, tried his stuff out…I now believe that the sole fact we are in this “obesogenic” environment means we shouldn’t tackle our obesity problem by what we allow/do not allow ourselves to eat.
A tribe member eats a bowl of honey in one sitting if he can get his hands on it.
My strategy would be:
a) optimize sleep duration, depth, continuity and regularity (Why We Sleep – Matt Walker)
b) high effort full body resistance exercise to fatigue done rather infrequently, but consistently – 1x a week for about 20 minutes.
The more I think about it the more I think our modern lifestyle is to blame. Much more so than diet. We really need to be active. Like all the time. Of course if you’ve fucked yourself you can’t just instantly jump up and become really active. You’ll just get sicker from overdoing it. Climbing slowly into a truly active lifestyle takes a long, steady, progress-oriented approach. I’m unfortunately not very far along on that path, but I hope to point the ship back in the right direction as soon as I can.
Would that be a combo of activity (walking) and resistance training? People typically report rather small effect on fat loss through activity. In fact, food companies are blamed for putting physical activity:food intake 50:50 (You can have this shake and burn it off doing minutes of y).
Then again somebody like Lyle McDonald can’t shut up about NEAT:-)
Most people are not really very active though. I moved to the mountains at age 16 and the lifestyle there was truly what it means to be physically active. On days off from work it was typical to be out doing active things from dawn until dusk. And during the workweek it was still typical to try to squeeze in a really vigorous hike or bike ride or something like that before or after work. I’ve literally never seen an obese person living that type of lifestyle, nor have I ever seen an overweight person adopt that lifestyle and not lose a tremendous amount of weight.
I’m 100% sold on sleep and adequate dosage of resistance training, as well as “fuck it” diet.
With activity, I’m not sure.
1) Is it good or bad for joints long term if you repeat extra 10000 openings and closings of a joint 5 times a week during 5×1 hour of quick walking? Some of it could be even good, there are anthropologists arguing for movement, like Herman Pontzer.
2) It’s not really progressive exercise after a while, and cardiovascular demands drop. Impractical to raise intensity.
3) I can get in maybe 1 hour a day of dedicated low intensity continuous activity. Which seems too little.
4) According to my band, I get around 12 000 steps a day on average from walking already, long term. I’m cerainly not leaning down from it. (Although my sleep is poor, so…confounding factor).
5) Studies seem to show only about a few kg fat loss with 5 hours of solid intensity cardio with a coach weekly.
6) Anecdotally one loses muscle and fat with excessive cardio/activity. Certainly not my goal, it also increases likelihood of weight regain.
7) Excessive activity could diminish resistance training adaptation. mTOR..pathways..bla bla. My friends lifters/runners certainly report that from practice.
As I said…not sold, esp. given the time investment. But many obesitologists certainly use 1 hour or longer walks (up to 4h!) to lean down their obese clients, so…I don’t know.
All things optimal, I think 4 hours of daily light activity would be an absolute minimum. Like I said, where I’m from 4 hours of physical activity outdoors would be considered kind of short duration. 1 hour per day is practically meaningless, although it’s better than nothing and we’ve got to make the most of what we’re capable of doing in this modern world. Not everyone has the luxury of exercising many hours per day as part of their jobs, and the ones that do make so little money and have so much financial stress it probably more than offsets the benefits!
Thiamine deficiency (hidden beri beri) can happen if someone ups his carbs. It is a dangerous condition with a lot of neurological symptoms.