I’m taking on yet another true blog-like post that is not a diary entry, because I feel strongly about this.
I could do a several-hours-long lecture about this and still have more to say. It’s something near and dear to my heart, something I’ve found supremely interesting from the moment my biology classes hit on physiology. Functional. Physiology. They why and the how of biology. On top of it all, this person LOVES food. Like really loves food. I took an actual nutrition course in hygiene school, but to be honest I already knew all of it and the only thing I took out of the class besides affirmation of my views was the in depth look we took into popular diet fads.
Diet and weight loss and being in shape are all things that my relatives, my family, friends, co-workers and even online acquaintances have struggled with or are struggling with. Normally, I’m not bothered by other people’s views on things because I understand there are many views in the world. However, this one in particular, over the years have really clawed at my craw because I strongly disagree with many people for SEVERAL reasons–at the basic level, at the mid-level and even overarching levels that may have a loose connection with everything.
In the end all of my beliefs, ideals and ideas stem from HOW THE HUMAN WORKS. How does x make sense in relation to human physiology and biology? Then you can move up to psychology and goals and everything else that correlates with diet and nutrition.
How am I qualified? I took several good biology courses as a biology major that-never-got-a-biology-degree from professors that stressed critical thinking vs eat-and-spit learning. I am enthusiastic and (if I may say so myself) have always been a very good student aimed at overachieving and not “just making the grade.” Most importantly, I LIKE THIS STUFF. Haha.
This fire, today, all started with this picture found on the Facebook:
So. Shall I address the image first or ramble?
Image it is: Let’s do an analysis of this picture.
First, validity. Here is the article on CNN about this story. The article is interesting and rather typical whereupon the headline draws you in but you end up gaining no real insight into much. If you read it, it’s rather inconclusive because the results while concrete that he lost weight, are confusing in the details. Let me put out there that despite his “convenience store diet” sounding extreme, it really wasn’t because he did eat veggies and had protein shakes. So the gist is, he literally just counted calories regardless of the “quality” of the food. Don’t judge it before you learn the details.
Second, the positive reaction: so, aside from considering the article, let’s take the image at face value. Wow, that’s some pretty awesome results! Almost 30 pounds from eating junk food? LET’S DO IT. The positives would jump on this and take off with it thinking that hey, it worked for a nutrition professor, it’s totally green light all the way.
Third, the negative reaction: what a load of BS. Obviously this is a hoax or something. Everyone knows that junk food is called junk food for a reason. There’s got to be a catch.
Fourth, my reaction: WHOA-HO this is what I’ve been saying all along!
OK. The short of this is: I agree. Positive and Negative are 2 different sides of the same coin. He set out to prove something, and he did. Now it’s not to say that it’s the BEST diet to go on.
The numbers: Calories out – calories in = weight loss. If weight loss is negative, you are gaining weight. Say you intake 2000 calories. You aren’t that active, so you use about 1000 calories that day. You have just gained weight. (1000 – 2000 = -1000).
- First thing you need to understand: the human body has evolved over time to be the ultimate living machine. Everything it does is for survival and it’s had much time to figure out how to best accomplish that effectively and efficiently. If it can take shortcuts, it will, in order to save energy (i.e. referred pain) for the inevitable hard times. That is because energy = life. For example, if you are in dire straits, like extreme cold weather, it will shut down everything and focus it ALL into your major organs because even without arms and legs, you’ll still be alive as long as your heart and brain are pumping and you can eat to sustain those.
- Let’s break it down to calories. A protein and a carbohydrate at the molecular level are 4 units of energy each when metabolized. A fatty acid is 9 units of energy–more than double a single protein or carb.
- Fat: Your body, as evolved through time, does not wish to depart with fat, because fat/energy (same thing) storage is what will keep you alive in hard times (fat cavemen?? hah). Fat is energy stored. Fat IS a necessity in life not just for backup reserves, but as an integral part of cell structure and chemicals such as hormones.
- Protein: Next, it less wants to depart with protein because proteins are VERY important in your body for many functions and cells and maintenance and muscles and immunity and everything. Pretty much your whole body needs proteins. WHY would your body want to readily use something it needs all over?
- Carbohydrates: Carbs are energy. That’s what it is. Your body’s first line of energy comes from carbs. There are different types of carbs out there. Veggies are carbs. Carbohydrates are the most easily found biomolecule in the world, which explains why our bodies evolved to rely foremost on carbs for energy.
- Metabolism: When excess carbs or proteins are ingested, they are both turned into fat and stored in the body for future use. Protein. And. Carbs. Become fat when too much is taken in.
- Summary: Fat has more than double the amount of energy than either carbs or fat which are the same amount of energy. Like your thrifty Asian grandparents, your body never wants to do anything either excessively and inefficiently, or get rid of anything it could use in the future. It expends energy in this order: Carbs > Protein > Fat, because energy means survival. All 3 biomolecules are essential to human life.
- Images: Here are 3 charts from a bona fide human physiology college level text-book in no particular order.
TRUTH: learning something from the bottom up is the best way to learn. If you learn from the top down all you see is the tip of the iceberg and you can’t fully comprehend what said iceberg’s depth.
TRUTH: approaching something with an objective mind will result in epiphany as opposed to immediately taking offense and shutting down the mind to any sort of idea other than your own.
TRUTH: asking why is more important for learning and problem solving than what and how (though annoying, indeed)
TRUTH: For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.
TRUTH: Teaching is the ultimate demonstration of knowledge and comprehension
So how does all that gibberish translate into something utilizable? This is where my views start coming in.
MY VIEW: The best diet all around, through and through, is the Moderation Diet (barring any medical complications that some in the population do have)
The moderation diet extends far beyond the realm of biology and food and honestly should be utilized in all aspects of life, but let’s keep things relevant here.
What is it? Eat what you want, but do it in moderation. All aspects of the word moderation: Quantity, quality, habituation, etc. Eat the carbs. Eat the fat. Eat the meat. Eat what you like. However, you should eat a rainbow of colors. You should eat vegetables AND meat AND a carb source AND fruits (no I am not vegetarian nor will I ever voluntarily be). Don’t replace one for the other. Moderation. In all things.
How should I do it? The best way about it is to eat like the Japanese do: eat until you are you’re not hungry. Not until you’re full or bursting, but until your body says “meh”. Portion control. Same concept, but eating until you’re not hungry is easier to quantify. I realize there’s a flaw to this as some people either biologically or mentally can not do this, but that’s why I’m barring any medical complications. Example: I’m sure you’ve had times in your life (Thanksgiving, buffet) where you’ve eaten so much it stopped tasting good. There you go. When your food stops tasting amazing even though you reallllly wanted it and it smelled SO GOOD and the first taste was HEAVENLY, then you need to stop. Or you could literally count calories, but I find that time consuming and confusing when you can’t find the calories on the homemade shepherds pie.
When do I eat? “They” say that the most important meal is Breakfast. That lunch should be the biggest meal of the day (think about it: you’ve had equal time morning and afternoon to digest), and dinner is, well, dinner. Personally, I mostly eat all 3 mealtimes, with some exceptions on weekends or when I’m not expending so much energy. When I work, it’s all THREE baby, otherwise I am HANGRY. You should, however, try to eat the meals around the same time every day. Why? Because of circadian rhythms. Your body will start to release the right enzymes about 30 minutes before your usual mealtime in anticipation, in order to most efficiently digest the food you are eating. That’s why eating at sporadic times tend to make you fatter…your body will think you are in a period of stress and store energy. And yes, from personal experience, routine stress is definitely going to pack on the pounds. Biorhythms also account for better sleep and other bodily functions. All the better to keep as routine as possible.
Diets and results are great, but you have to ask yourself, will this last? Relapse is very common in this struggle in life (the weight loss and diets, I mean).Will you be able to do this forever? I have several…SEVERAL people in my life struggling with this. Patients. Friends. Co-workers. I swear, one of my co-workers was on a different diet every week. And the result? She never stuck to it. Ever. And even those are currently…ask yourself…is this what you want for the rest of your life? Continuity, being able to stick to a diet is the single most important success factor of a diet. Not the weight loss it provides you. You can lose 100 lbs but if you gain back 150lbs, 3 months after you reach your goal, you were NOT successful.
This is main reason the moderation diet works the best: longevity.
A. You’re not forbidding yourself something you like (which only results in your binging when you DO get it, undoing 1 month’s worth of progress in mere hours). Plus, you like it. Dieting and happiness CAN go hand in hand. Would you rather have the negative reinforcement of a punch in the nose, or the positive reinforcement of hug from someone you love? You ‘re more inclined to stick to something you like rather than something you hate.
B. You’re not depriving the body from something it wants and needs (eliminating carbs altogether is stupid. It just is. Why do you think the Atkin’s diet failed and now allows you to eat whole grain? Not just carbs, although that is popular right now, but protein and fat too) Any time you overload or deprive the body, you get: side effects.
C. By personally limiting, you’re learning to portion by yourself as opposed to someone telling you what to do. The whole “give a man a fish” adage. Extrinsic motivation works for a limited amount of time (and in anime/video games & war), but intrinsic motivation is the key to success for ANY aspect of your life.
It’s all in the mind, too.
Mind. Body. Spirit. Those 3 are the key to success in life. In regards to dieting, it’s not all physical, obviously. Your mind needs to be there too. That’s why I focus very little on numbers and more on how I feel. Little things like, OMG I stand so much straighter, or OOOOOO the fat crease lines are going away, or DAMN I feel STRONG. Indeed muscle weighs much more than fat, and increased muscle means increased bone density and vice versa. Mindset. It’s all there. Same as in life.
Other concepts I have developed over the years
Storage vs. Active mode.
Being in sync with your body. It’ll tell you what it needs.
In very short summation:
MODERATION. IN ALL THINGS. You will be successful. I promise.
The only downside to it all is the time it takes. Dramatic weightloss shouldn’t be a goal anyways because your body will have a hard time keeping up if it’s too much too fast, but results talk.
Personal experience: I am writing this while in the process of living this diet and exercise program. I admit that I am a very sporadic person, but my job has forced me to keep regular or risk PAIN, so I’ve been really good about staying on top of the exercise. I eat the EXACT same foods I’ve always eaten, just less, plus actually doing physical exercises and not just walking the dogs.
The exercise portion of this is easy to explain biology and action:
1. If you want red muscle fiber (endurance) then work out every day (runners). White muscle fiber (strength) is grown in about 24 hours, so you should wait a day if that’s what you want (typically strength training is 3-5x a week). Unused muscles start atrophying around 72 hours.
2. The best exercises are those that work many muscle groups at once (like sports) and not to mention that they’re typically more fun than running on a treadmill or lifting the same weights.
3. It used to be that they recommended long workouts that hit the target heartrate for burning fat, but recently (like I just read this in the 2015 new scientific discoveries periodical) it’s been shown that short bursts of intense workouts are MUCH more effective at burning fat.
4. You should do BOTH cardio and weights, not just one or the other. Especially for women, resistance training is highly important as you make your way to the dreaded menopause.
5. Moderation. Moderation. Moderation.
What I do, is I use my Total Gym, kettle ball, and free weights for resistance training. Then intersperse cardio via DDR/Stepmania and Just Dance. I get bored. I can’t do bikes or ellipticals or treadmills. These games are not only short (3-5 minutes each), but upbeat, fun and impossible to plateau on. Between the 2, Just Dance works your whole body better, but DDR/Stepmania really works on eye-foot coordination and balance. No, I am NOT a gym person, but if that’s you, go for it!
To anyone who actually made it this far, HUZZAH to you! I hope you were able to learn something from the bottom up. My goal was to help you understand the simple biological side of all this. The WHY. I have much more I could discuss with you, but I’m pretty sure most people got bored about 1/4 of the way through. As usual, there are many many different factors to any situation and there is no ONE simple answer for everyone out there. My brain is fried now, so I’m gonna stop. If you are still skeptical ask yourself that one important question: WHY. Try to explain to yourself why you are doing what you are doing, beyond the “because he told me to.” Can you? Is it beneficial? THINK for yourself. Use that big muscle in your skull. If nothing else, then maybe I’ve at least been able to cause you to refute everything I said, but that would require brain usage.