I want to talk to you about a trend I see making the rounds lately. And, because I’m seeing it, I know that it’ll soon make itself abundantly clear to you, as well:
People putting themselves on ridiculous diets for the sake of “exploration,” and to also prove a point.
It makes for great reading, that’s for sure, and I’m all for people exploring to find out what works for them. But sometimes, when a conclusion is drawn that misses a few things, I get a little frustrated.
Take this essay from Vox, excerpted below:
I recently gained 16 pounds of body fat and I felt terribly uncomfortable in my clothes. I wanted to slim down, so I decided to dramatically ramp up the fat in my diet. Every day for about a month, I slammed as much bacon or heavy whipping cream as I could stomach. I lost weight (about seven pounds). My cholesterol dropped 10 points. My afternoon drowsiness faded and, overall, I felt pretty good.
To be sure, there was a purpose to my bacon vacation. I wanted to test the limits of a growing divide between nutritionists on the benefits of fatty foods. Since the 1960s, conventional diet lore has demonized cream and fat as the culprit in America’s obesity epidemic. Yet in recent years, a counter-revolution in the top rungs of the medical establishment, including the Harvard School of Public Health, have begged Americans to return to the naturally fatty diets of our ancient ancestors, who did not suffer from modern heart disease.
So, as Vox’s eager health guinea pig, I decided to put it to the test in the most extreme way possible and get results just in time for the New Year’s diet rush.
Keep in mind, I’m pro-fat. I like my butter, I like my olive oil, and I like my avocado.
I purposely allowed myself to eat as much as I wanted two weeks prior and during the super-fat experiment. When I switched to fat, I ended up eating fewer calories. Fat is more satiating, per calorie, than carbs, and it curbed my otherwise ravenous appetite. I didn’t even count calories; I just went with my hunger pangs.
I ended up learning a very important lesson: that carbs trick my body into consuming far more food than necessary.
The one time I gained weight over the course of my experiment is when I tested out a breakfast ice cream recipe, made with cream and the naturally no-calorie stevia leaf. My concoction was delicious: just these two ingredients form a kind of tart matcha-flavored ice-cream. However, compared to just drinking it from a carton, I consumed twice as much cream when it was frozen and sweetened with stevia.
This appears to be why diet soda is associated with weight gain. Sweeteners trigger hunger hormones, and all those diet soda fanatics end up consuming more calories.
Excellent to know. Onward, though:
I dropped about seven pounds and 1 percent of body fat over the month. Prior to the fat diet, I had gained 16 pounds eating whatever I wanted (which included lots of carbs). As soon as I cut carbs and loaded up on fat, the my widening waistline halted.
My cholesterol also dropped 10 points. I actually expected this result. For the last year, fat has always decreased my cholesterol. In a previous experiment, I tested a cult bodybuilding diet that involved several hours of dessert binging every night. The sugar caused a dangerous 31 percent spike in total cholesterol. Immediately afterwards I put myself on a steady diet of no-nitrate bacon to help repair my arteries. Over the course a few months, thanks to a high-fat, low-carb protocol, my cholesterol returned to safe levels.
There is much more to the essay and it’s definitely worth a read.
However. There is a lot to be learned just from this small little excerpt, here.
1) That “cult bodybuilding diet?” That was basic Intermittent Fasting (IF), something incredibly difficult for people who aren’t already in relatively good shape… or for people who live average 9-5 desk jobs. Lots of people can make IF work for them, but I’m generally against people who adopt certain principles just for the purpose of losing weight without changing the way they live outside of the diet, because chances are abundantly high that the same things that cause the weight gain are the same things that cause other health problems. This is one of the main contributors to weight gain – not having realistic strategy and eating philosophy outside of meal planning and meals you control for how you will eat. Even if a “cult bodybuilding diet” provided results, it’s not sustainable. Approach with caution.
2) Notice how he notes that “the sugar caused a dangerous 31% spike in total cholesterol.” As cholesterol plays a part in high blood pressure, this essentially proves part of my point about heart disease.
3) He also makes an important pair of points:
“Fat is more satiating, per calorie, than carbs, and it curbed my otherwise ravenous appetite. I didn’t even count calories; I just went with my hunger pangs.”
While snacking on vegetables might quickly satiate a craving, it does nothing for pure hunger. That being said, a plate of strictly vegetables for a meal might prove to be highly unsatisfying in comparison to a meal with a much more adequately balanced blend of protein, fat, and carbs. That plate might look smaller, but it’s going to do the job with far less of a “stuffed” feeling. It’s worth it to ensure that you have a source of all three – protein, fat, and carbs – present on your plate.
4) This part is possibly the most important: he said that he dropped about 7 pounds, with having lost only 1% of his body fat.
Think about that. If he lost seven pounds in one month, and only 1% of his body fat… assuming that he’s possibly 170lbs (I’m being generous) means that 1% of his body is 1.7lbs. So, he lost 7lbs, with less than two pounds of it being body fat… which means he may have lost more muscle than anything.
For the record, you might want cardio to help you lose the weight, but you need muscle to help you keep it off in the long run, because the muscle is more metabolically active than body fat – a pound of muscle burns far more calories per hour than a pound of fat.
Diet plans that sacrifice muscle by cutting too many calories and skipping the protein, and training plans that sacrifice muscle without a game plan for helping to replenish it result in people with smaller bodies, sure, but markedly lower daily caloric burn. Read my words: this is where yo-yo dieting comes from. And, when you go on diets like this, all of them are engineered to produce this same result – not because ‘they want you to keep coming back for more’ but because it’s literally the ‘fastest’ way to encourage weight loss, regardless of whether or not the dangers will have them recommitting to the diet again later in life, or worse, leave them in a perpetual cycle of diet, fail, shame.
In short… when you see these kinds of stories/articles/results, keep this in mind: protein and fat will always be more filling than carbs (no matter the source); cutting sugar will always result in success; and anything that sacrifices muscle – which, usually, is all dieting – will likely leave you worse off than when you began.
It’s not enough to simply “lose weight” – if it doesn’t leave you primed for maintaining that weight in the end, it just won’t do.
What do you think? What’s the worst diet you’ve ever tried?