Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wow. Just Wow. Did I Read this Right?

Just skimming through the latest issue of Nutrition Action.  The CSPI guy is at it again, this time with an interview of the famous Dr. Willet.
Seems he advocates healthy whole grains, for health and all that.  But, he says he can't go much over 40% grains/carbs because of stomach distress!!!!
I'll have to go back and re-read that.  Didn't he just say:
"The Wonderful Omniheart diet beat out all the other diets (except for, you know, the diets we refuse to test) but I had to dial it back myself because it makes me sick!"

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm So Bored with the Paleo's - the Diet Wars

Berto's comment on my previous post got me thinking about my view that this latest Paleo dust-up is more than a couple of egos, that it is a fight between the fatties and the cross-fitters.

Who owns Paleo??

There seem to be two routes into paleo.  The first is through the "crossfit" guys, those who are young and lean, but want to get even more ripped.  This camp also includes young hip vegans who have recently become "meat-curious"

Then there are the "fatties".  It is this group I am going to focus on more now, because this is the path that I took.

Most fatties, as the crossfitters like to call them on the interwebs, start their diet wars by following some CW diet program.  It usually starts with them cutting out some soda and fast food, and that plan does seem to work pretty well for the men, and the younger people.

If reducing junk food doesn't work, they start to try other things.  This might involve skipping breakfast and adding in exercise, or going to a "healthy" low-fat diet containing lots of diet yogurt and Kashi bars.  Or, ordering a turkey burger instead of a beef burger.  If that doesn't work, they go to a cleaner low-fat diet, or mess with their meat intake.  They might add in even more exercise (even though the actual studies show that exercise is a poor way to lose weight, especially for women).  There's probably a stint involving some kind of diet shake or bar in the mix, too.

Lots of times, this plan results in some health improvement and the loss of some weight, probably around 15 pounds or so.  Eventually, if they need to lose more, they might join Weight Watchers, Dr. Oz's ShareCare or even [redacted]people dot com, and get really serious.  Some folks follow the recommendations of these CW organizations for years and never get anywhere.  These are the people you see week after week in WW meetings or racking up lots of "sparky" points.  Mostly fat old women, but there are also lots of younger women with diabetes and PCOS and depression. They usually try lots of things:  vegetarian, vegan, marathons, fasting, juice, etc.  They are eating stuff that Dr. Oz recommends.  Contrary to what the Crossfitters are saying, these fat old ladies aren't eating SAD.  They are failing in their weight loss attempts despite doing all the right things:  Blueberries.  Lean Proteins.  Olive Oil.  Soaked Walnuts.

Now, the crossfitters have NO IDEA what some of these fat old women have been doing to get into better shape all these years. The fat older ladies weigh and measure their food and themselves regularly, eat on small plates, count out each and every nut, count their steps on the pedometer, try just about every diet they can think of.  They recommit every few months or so, or every Monday morning.  One diet they rarely try is the paleo diet.  And that is because the CW diet experts hate paleo.  They don't even want the fat old women to know about it.  That's why people like me aren't allowed to post links to my blog on [redacted]people, and why Dr. Oz can be so nice to the hundreds of guests on his TV show and still be such a little brat to Mr. Taubes.

So, the next crazy thing these fat old ladies try is to cross over to the dark side, and go on a low carb diet.  Now, you have to be either pretty brave or pretty stupid to look into the low carb diet.  Once the fat old women have read GCBC, broken through that barrier, and have lost a bunch of weight, they want to find a way to incorporate healthy clean eating in with low-carb.  That's when they find diets like Protein Power and Paleo.  Again, most Crossfitters assume that they are all on Atkins, and that all those Atkin's people eat tons of bars and fake stuff.  Some do, most don't.

Now, the real problem is, they have just escaped the tyranny of CW, only to be hit with conventional crap talk by the paleo blogosphere. (Aravind and Dr. Harris come to mind here.)  For me, I really noticed it on Paleohacks in early summer, and then after the AHS11, all hell broke loose.  There were lots of comments about low-carbers having puffy red faces, and the "who does that Taubes guy think he is?" kind of stuff.  There was also a systemic disregard for the experiences, intelligence and viewpoints of fat people.  Earlier this year, I sent a ton of my hundreds of fat [redacted]peeps over to the Paleo blogs, but they had become such an embarassment, and downright hostile to fat people that I no longer recommend most of the sites anymore.

I came to think that not only was this much more than just science, as some penned, but that it was much more than mere battling egos.  It was about bashing fat old people, and in the most CW way.

I really noticed a shift at AHS11, right after Taubes made his comment.  The man next to me, who apparently heard about the paleo diet only yesterday and clearly (to me at least) was never fat, had an interesting response to the exchange.  Of course, he hadn't read anything about Guyenet's theories or had read any of Taubes' books.  He kept trying to lecture me about carbs.  He said, "You know, why do you talk about eliminating carbs, don't you know there are carbs in that food you're eating?"  (I was munching on a fairly unrewarding raw zucchini.)  Huh?  Duh?  Who knows more about the carb content of foods than a low-carber???  It was clear that he was not aware of low-carb talk and his belief that fat people are stupid was showing.  (Primer:  "carbs" are foods that contain lots of carbs, foods on the carby list, like potatoes, rice, wheat.  Zucchini is not on that list.  Yes, we know that zucchini contains carbs but it is not a "carb".)

During and immediately after the conference, there was a flurry of attacks against fat people by the paleo demi-gods.  And, I am not talking about the luminaries who spoke and who have the largest audience for their books and blogs, but more the commenters and hangers-on-ers, the people who think because they read some stuff or know someone really well, that they can define how it is for everyone else.  Just really nasty stuff, all just different versions of, "Fat people are fat because they are lazy and weak-willed."

So, do Guyenet and his buddies have anything better to offer to fat people?  They already get scoldings by CW dietitians and exercise coaches for eating saturated fat and not moving enough, get lectures on belly fat and portion control by their doctors, told it's calories in calories out, and then told they are stupid Dr.Oz-watchers who eat too much tasty food and cheat on their food diaries.  What's next, all your food through a straw (oh, we did that in the 70's, remember jaws wired shut?), or size 3X hair shirts with tight belts so they are even more uncomfortable?  Let's take their kids and health insurance away, fine them, discriminate against them in employment and take all their salt and pepper and their wok away until they behave themselves.

In the paleo world, carbs aren't the enemy anymore.  Fat people, people who have different body chemistries and reactions to dietary interventions are the enemy.  This is so much bigger than Taubes vs. Guyenet.  Stanton and Kruse have both commented that they don't have a horse in this race.  Well, maybe Taubes and Guyenet and Lustig and others are competing with each other.  But they are just messing around with theories.  The real fat people are messing around with their health.  Maybe Taubes and Guyenet have placed their bets, but it is the real fat people who are truly in the race.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Well it ain't Rocket Science, ain't It?

Reading Gary Taubes post this weekend got me thinking of the first time I worked with a bunch of PhD's.  I used to work at a mega-company known for its research.  In my department, there were a few, but then there was this other whole building of them.  Chemists mostly.  Tons of them, all walking around in their lab coats in nice hallways and better offices.  They had their own library.  They even had better pens than we did.

One thing I learned pretty quickly is that many of these chemists thought that when they got their fancy diploma, God had also included a key to all universal knowledge and wisdom.  And I also learned pretty quickly that I had better behave as if they were gods themselves, or my career would be about as terminal as my degree.

One day I went on an interview for a job in another division.  I was led into the office of the big VP.  He was a chemist and he had a PhD.  After the hello's, I started right in.

"Oh, you have a PhD", I gushed, "I'll bet you are really smart".  The VP answered,
"Not really.  Just persevering"
I thought, hey, I could work here!  At that moment, thousands of Canadian geese started flying around the building and they all landed right by the lake outside the VP's window.  We both decided that it was a delightful birdy omen.  I started work there the very next day.

One of the things I learned while working at the birdy place is that there are some very smart people who don't feel the need to tell everyone about it all the time.  They just quietly do their work and get things done, and through other people mostly.  I have been able to meet and work with others like this throughout my career, and it is such a pleasure.

Now, its not all PhD's who think they are such hot stuff, but many do.  And, some think that because they are from those fine institutions, they are smarter than all the others.  So here's what I have to say about that.  First, PhD's think they are the cream of the crop, but really they are only the top percentage out of all the people who apply.  Not a good representative sample of the entire population, I think.  Now maybe it is different in chemistry, but in my field, the only people who went along to higher learning right away were the dorks who couldn't get either a decent date or a decent job.  The rest of us (the smart, cute ones) were going off, getting married, making money.  So, if they were in the top 10 percent of the people who tried to continue on to grad school, well, they were still uglier than me and good luck with that.

Second, there was sure lots of crap talk on Guyenet's and others' blogs about the fact that Taubes doesn't have a PhD.  But really, the only advantage anymore to getting an education at some fine institution is that someone is checking your work and grading your papers.  There is quite a bit of interesting and challenging research work done in the private sector, and just because it doesn't get handed in to the agreed-upon professor for grading doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile.  In fact, it may be more worthwhile.  In addition, the people who did the work usually were adequately compensated for their work.

Taubes can read and research all he wants on the internet.  If he wants someone to grade his papers, he can join any number of clubs and groups on Facebook and elsewhere or pop an e-mail to just about anyone.  It's not rocket science. 

One other thing I eventually learned about working at the birdy place is that I was brought in exactly because I knew absolutely nothing about what had gone on before.  It was my job to figure it out.  No need to be too smart for that, just persevering.  They already had alot of smart people, just that not enough were looking for the right things.

Gosh, someone needs to figure out this obesity mess!  Why not the rocket scientist?
And to end, here's another interesting take on rocket science here.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I'm So Bored with the Paleo's - Part 3 - My N=1

After reading Hyperlipid's take on the Guyenet/Taubes smackdown, I realized that I had better get out part 3 of my series before everyone is so exhausted from it all.  No need to do an experiment in food reward.  I already have.  Of course, to Guyenet's homies, it is still N=0, but I'm posting it anyway.  So there.  (This is the snarky part, now, on to the serious part.)

A few years ago, I participated in a year-long "food experiment".  I became a locavore.  And, it was bigger than N=1.  You can read about it here.

The plan was for us to eat food grown within 100 miles of Ojai.  Pretty much everything was to be local, except salt and 3 exception foods per month.  And, we were allowed 2 meals out per month. (I didn't know this at the time, but this experiment was to be the start of my journey towards the paleo diet.  I'd never even heard of a paleo diet and I was a semi-vegetarian.)  Every month, we switched out our exceptions.  I usually chose a grain, some kind of meat, and something different, like coffee.  Many others chose chocolate.

A few weeks into the challenge, things loosened up a bit.  We voted in canning additives like citric acid, yeast, and one rule that turned out to be really helpful for me, that if there was something that was going to be thrown away, that was OK to eat, too.  (And its just amazing what people throw out, once you start paying attention, but that is for another post.)

We had different rules for out of town, and I figure that I was out of town for a total of almost three months out of the year.  But, I didn't eat SAD food when I was gone.  Mostly it was scratch cooking.  And, when I visited my mom for a few weeks, it was low-fat "diet" scratch cooking, just not local.

I figure that taking into consideration all the exceptions, vacations and dumpster food, I was eating about a 75% local primal/paleo diet, better than many I saw at the AHS11.  There, that's my disclaimer, but I'll bet I have a better food log than those folks over at the Foster's POUNDS LOST study.

So, what were we eating?  Fresh veggies and fruit, backyard eggs, chickens when we could get them, goat meat.  A few months into the challenge, we found a local source of beef, and then some local beans.  The only oil was made from olives.  Southern California isn't a big place for growing grains, so we had just a few of those that we grew ourselves.  But we did have olives, avocado, and every kind of fruit and vegetable, though not all year-round.

I had an advantage over others in the group in that I had access to my own home-grown food, lots of local veggies and fruits that I had canned, dehydrated and grown during the year before and in my 4-season garden.  Others were able to enjoy backyard chickens and eggs that I was prohibited from growing in my yard.

What didn't we have?  Well, lots of things that Guyenet says are rewarding.  Things like packaged foods, msg, HFCS, bread, chips and dip, cooking oil, chocolate, soda, sugar, bottled salad dressings, spices, seasonings, flavorings, crackers, oatmeal, peanuts, cereal, fast-food, potatoes, soy sauce, ice cream, catsup, mustard.  We DID make good use of our exceptions.  On the months that I choose turkey, I ate turkey almost every day.  Then I would switch to beans and then eat them every day.  It was boring at times, especially all the rice.

Eventually, I figured out how to make my own mustard out of the seeds I grew, made with vinegar from apples I purchased at the farmer's market the year before.  What surprised most of us is how our palates changed.  It took really only a couple of weeks, and we got very used to eating foods with no extra spices or seasoning, just a few herbs, garlic and olive oil.

I bought a large container of honey, but rarely used it.  Most of us did no baking because we didn't have flour.  Eventually I stopped seasoning everything, even though I had a stash of dried herbs and hot pepper.

So, without all the food reward, how much weight did we lose?????  We all thought once we got away from that bag of chips and the take-out food, the weight would pour off.  I think I lost around 2-4 pounds for the entire year, but mostly because I really pushed the dieting during the last month of the challenge.  I don't think anyone else lost any weight.  We were all surprised.  After all, people had been telling us that if we got away from all that nasty processed food, we would become thin.  It didn't happen that way.  That is because that theory is wrong.

Stay tuned for my next story:  all about what happened with wheat on the locavore challenge...