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Yesterday’s post introduced the low carb high fat (LCHF) way of eating.

It is preferable to consider LCHF not as a short-term fix ‘diet’ but rather as a nutrition plan that you and your family can adopt — just as you might have adopted a high carb low fat one!

If you missed my previous posts over the past several days, it might be worth your time reading them to better understand the science behind it: debunking popular breakfast myths, why overweight individuals not to adopt an athlete’s diet, why we should not graze and a case against grazing.

The primer below is not exhaustive. Information comes from my own 18-month experience as well as insights from other LCHF followers and medical practitioners.

N.B.: In order to avoid fatigue or light-headedness from Day 1, you will need to consume around a litre of water a day and use good quality salt (e.g. sea salt) on your food. A potassium supplement, e.g. Lo Salt, is also highly recommended. I season everything with sea salt and Lo Salt.

Also, avoid falling into the trap of ‘gluten-free’ and soy-based foods (e.g. tofu). Most of these have large amounts of carbohydrate and are not on the LCHF plan.

1/ I’m afraid of fat, especially getting fatter by eating more of it.

Over the past few years, the medical establishment — which had previously advised against fat — now recognises it has a beneficial part to play in a healthful diet.

The problem Westerners have is eating a lot of carbohydrates which make us hungry a few hours later. This has made us fatter, not thinner, especially as more of us are obese and running the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

By turning the tables — eating more fat and far fewer carbs — we are actually helping to regulate insulin. Dr Mercola says (emphases mine):

Sugar (and foods that convert into sugar, such as grain carbohydrates) is the main culprit in causing you to become leptin-resistant and should clearly be avoided, especially if you’re struggling with excessive hunger.

Dr Lyle Macdonald explains:

insulin is a storage hormone released in response to eating with carbohydrates having the largest impact on insulin secretion, protein having the second greatest and fat having little to no impact on insulin secretion. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well or poorly the body responds to the hormone insulin. Individuals who are insulin resistant tend to have higher baseline insulin levels because the body is releasing more in response to try and overcome the resistance.

Note that fat has little to no impact on insulin secretion. This is why overweight people may well benefit from the LCHF.

On another practical level, fat increases satiety. Many LCHF followers find they consume fewer calories by increasing fat when compared with their former high carb low fat diets.

2/ How much weight can one lose on LCHF? Can you give me a real-life example?

The heavier one is, the more weight one will lose. The heaviest will also lose weight quicker than those who are in a normal weight range.

There are many examples that can be found by looking for LCHF successes in a search engine. A specific case is that of Tommy, a Scandinavian who has lost an incredible amount of weight — nearly 200 pounds in the first two years. The before and after pictures are amazing! His website, Eat Low Carb High Fat has many helpful posts on physiological markers and what he eats.

3/ How can I get a variety of fats?

Many LCHF followers rely a lot on butter. To it, one can add garlic, herbs and different kitchen seasonings (Old Bay, poultry seasoning). You can do this as you cook or make a compound butter in advance. Take a slightly softened stick or brick of butter, put it in a bowl and mix whatever you like into it so that you have it over the course of a few days. You can put it into a smaller container (with lid) or roll the butter into a sausage shape which you can then wrap in cling film (plastic wrap).

Clarified butter — known as ghee in the Subcontinent — is also an excellent cooking fat.

Cream is useful, especially in sauces or in a shot of coffee, known as ‘bullet-proof’. If you’re buying milk, make sure it is full-fat. Milk has a fair amount of carbs, so use it only in hot beverages and when thinning cream sauces.

Olive oil is great for salad dressings and light sautéing. It cannot withstand high temperatures, however.

Animal fats are highly recommended. I keep a variety of them in the refrigerator from our roasts and pan fried meats, e.g. duck. After cooking, I drain the fat into a glass jar (with lid) by type of fat. At any one time I have jars of the following fat: chicken, duck, goose, beef and pork. Chicken and duck fats are flavoursome to mix with butter when sautéing vegetables. Goose, beef and pork are for on the occasions when I make Yorkshire pudding, which needs fat that can withstand very high heat. To make light gravies to go with the roasts, keep a tablespoon of the fat in the roasting tin to make a roux (add a tablespoon of flour to mix and cook with the fat as a sauce base). Then add meat stock and seasoning gradually to the roux to make the sauce — a slightly thicker form of jus.

Pork crackling makes an excellent accompaniment to roast pork loin and a nice snack before dinner. I save chicken skin, salt it, flatten it and heat it in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp it. Served on the side with hot chicken, it melts in the mouth and is surprisingly filling! If I’m running low on chicken, I eat the skin with a small amount of meat and give the lion’s share of protein to my better half.

Full-fat mayonnaise is a must. Use it generously with tuna, chicken, egg or coleslaw.

Peanut and almond butters are great with vegetable sticks at lunch or as a daytime snack.

4/ How can I be sure I’m getting the right proportions of fat, protein and carbs?

Martina from the UK, author of The KetoDiet Blog, has a helpful calculator for macros — macronutrients — that are scaled to individual requirements. This determines the proportions you should be eating each day. The calculator page also has useful examples to illustrate how they work.

Most people with experience of this and similar calculators say to select ‘sedentary’ unless one has a daily workout regime.

You might have to rerun the calculator as you lose weight and reach a subsequent stall or plateau.

Initially, I was successful on a 60% fat, 35% protein, 5% vegetable with some flour (sauce) carb for the first few weeks. After my first month, I then had to recalculate my fat and protein amounts, so that I now eat 55% fat and 40% protein with 5% carb.

Weighing portions in the beginning will help to ensure that they are accurate. After 18 months, I no longer do this.

5/ It sounds as if you don’t count calories, then.

No. I weighed everything instead. Now I judge by eye. After a few months, you’ll see and feel (fullness) exactly what you need to eat to achieve satiety. Again, because of the dominance of fat, you’ll consume fewer calories.

6/ Did you throw out all the carbs in your house in the beginning?

No. I only threw our remaining pasta, rice and couscous a few weeks ago!

I went cold turkey whilst my better half continued to eat bread and potatoes for a few more months. We have both been on LCHF (ketogenic diet for us) for over a year, so it seemed a waste of space to keep these carbs around. As much as I dislike throwing food away, the opened packets were only taking up space. None of it appeals to us anymore!

I still make bread, but primarily for bread crumbs, used sparingly just to give crunch to soft vegetables. My better half needs a few more carbs than I do, so I make bread once every fortnight now on average. We have Yorkshire pudding much less often. For our birthdays, Christmas and Easter I make a fruit crumble or ground nut-based daquoise (e.g. Opéra, Yule Log).

7/ What sort of foods will provide both protein and fat?

Always buy fatty meats and eat the fat after cooking. When pan frying duck breasts, render the skin before flipping the breast over to cook on the lean side. Delicious.

Bacon and good quality sausages (85% meat minimum) are excellent sources of protein and fat. Premium hot dogs are perfectly keto.

Fatty fish — salmon, mackerel, sardines — provide a lot of Omega 3 and satiety.

Cheese is outstanding. Not only does it give you the excuse to eat different varieties but it is also very filling. A thin wedge of brie after dinner often suffices.

Don’t forget the versatile egg. Enjoy it scrambled, poached, hard boiled, devilled or in an omelette.

8/ What should I avoid?

Beware of eating too much dark (70%+) chocolate. It has carbohydrates, so only have a square or two now and then unless you are fully in maintenance.

Nuts are another potential downfall. Too many almonds or peanuts can cause a stall or weight gain. A handful — 15 whole nuts — really is the maximum one should have per day if one is not in maintenance. Nuts have a fair amount of carbohydrate. It is easy to underestimate how many we eat.

9/ Can I have a carb cheat day? If so, how soon?

If you’re really into carbs, cut down dramatically to begin with as you increase fat. If you can’t do without toast or breakfast cereal, have one or the other — and only a small portion. Give up every other carb.

If you’re not losing weight within the first fortnight, give up carbs altogether.

Most LCHF followers will experience a taste bud change once they go cold turkey. Carbs and sugars lose their appeal within a few weeks.

If you’re entering the LCHF plan anticipating your first cheat day, you’re unlikely to succeed long term. One way around this is to think of something fatty and appetising every time you want something carby. If you’re really hungry, have a fatty snack. Otherwise, imagine you’ve just eaten a fatty snack and you now feel full. Mind over matter.

10/ What are my chances of reaching a stall? What do I do?

Nearly everyone, reaches a stall — plateau — at some point on LCHF. This is especially common for those with the least to lose. However, this is common to every diet plan, which is why so many of us fail.

Considering LCHF as a long term way of eating helps to give us patience and endurance in reaching our goal.

LCHF is a gradual plan for those of normal weight. The heaviest have the most dramatic results. For everyone nearing their goal weight, the last several pounds take the most time to shift.

In general, it is essential to remember that after decades of an excess of carbs, the liver, pancreas, gall bladder and thyroid need time to readjust. This might take months or a few years.

Speaking personally, it was normal for us to have plateaus every few weeks. Sometimes we lost nothing. Sometimes we lost inches instead of pounds. Some pound loss came easier than others. There seems to be a step-change, including stall, every several weeks with progress at the end. Whilst my better half is now in maintenance thanks to a historically better metabolism and insulin sensitivity, I still have several more pounds to lose.

Those who are concerned can re-evaluate their macros, keep a food diary, weigh portions to guard against underestimating and increase gentle exercise. Some people find it helpful to reduce consumption of cream and milk.

Martina has an excellent précis of LCHF which serves as a useful reminder of what we should be doing. She also has an encouraging follow-up post. The readers’ comments and Martina’s responses are also enlightening.

Don’t give up! The benefits will come sooner or later! Internal clean-up is a big part of LCHF. Often, that stage has to be completed before the rest follows.

11/ You said ‘gentle exercise’.

LCHF does not work well for sedentary types who suddenly engage in intensive exercise to break a stall. Some actually gain water weight.

It is much better to get one’s exercise from moderate walking, cycling, housework, DIY or gardening.

That said, fitness enthusiasts who have already adopted their regime can do well if they choose to embark on LCHF.

12/ In what other ways can LCHF benefit us?

Diet Doctor has over 100 articles with case studies on the ways LCHF can benefit us. These cover a variety of health issues from acne to cancer to Parkinson’s.

I got interested in keto because it seemed that there should be a diet which can help with low moods and irritability. What I found amazed me. Related posts are on my Recipes/Health/History page under ‘Low-fat, high-carb diets increase depression‘:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

High carb, low fat diets bad for brain health — and moods? (more testimonials for the ketogenic diet)

In closing, best wishes to all those who are undertaking LCHF or are embarking on such a journey.

Final words from me before exploring recipes in future posts: low carb high fat eating is the most fun you’ll ever have with food!

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Yesterday’s post made a case against grazing — consuming several small meals a day.

My previous posts on diet debunked popular breakfast myths, warned overweight individuals not to adopt an athlete’s diet and discussed why we should not graze.

As obesity and Type 2 diabetes have been at high levels in the West for 30 years and show no signs of abating, it is useful to find out why this phenomenon has been occurring.

With regard to diet, we wonder why our blood sugar levels aren’t going down whilst we feel hungry at the same time. This post will explore the subject in greater detail and what to do.

Insulin and leptin

Too few of us, especially those trying to lose weight pay enough attention to the role of insulin and leptin in the diet. That is because most of us do not realise how insulin affects each of us.

Dr Mercola’s article on frequent meals and metabolism has a good explanation of the role of insulin and leptin on metabolism. Excerpts follow. Emphases in bold are the original; those in purple are mine:

Consuming junk food and fast food that does not feed your body the nutrients it needs will often lead to eating far more calories than you need simply because your insulin- and other hormonal balances are out of whack …

Metabolism can be roughly defined as the chemistry that turns food into life, and therefore insulin and leptin are critical to health and disease.

Insulin works mostly at the individual cell level, telling the vast majority of cells whether to burn or store fat or sugar and whether to utilize that energy for maintenance and repair or reproduction.

Leptin, on the other hand, controls energy storage and utilization, allowing your body to communicate with your brain about how much energy (fat) the cells have stored, and whether it needs more, or should burn some off.

Controlling hunger is one way that leptin controls energy storage.

Hunger is a very powerful and deep-seated drive that, if stimulated long enough, will make you eat and store more energy. The only way to eat less in the long-term is to not be hungry.

It has been shown that as sugar gets metabolized in fat cells, fat releases surges in leptin. It is believed that those surges result in leptin-resistance, as well as insulin-resistance.

Once you become leptin-resistant, your body loses the ability to effectively and accurately convey hunger signals, resulting in feeling hungry much of the time, even though you’ve consumed sufficient amounts of calories.

Sugar (and foods that convert into sugar, such as grain carbohydrates) is the main culprit in causing you to become leptin-resistant and should clearly be avoided, especially if you’re struggling with excessive hunger.

The objective in changing diet is to become insulin- and leptin-sensitive. Many of us who have problems controlling hunger from an overload of carbohydrates — including sugar — are insulin- and leptin-resistant. We want to move from resistance to sensitivity.

Dr Lyle Macdonald at Body Recomposition explains more in his article ‘Insulin Sensitivity and Fat Loss’ (emphases mine):

insulin is a storage hormone released in response to eating with carbohydrates having the largest impact on insulin secretion, protein having the second greatest and fat having little to no impact on insulin secretion. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well or poorly the body responds to the hormone insulin. Individuals who are insulin resistant tend to have higher baseline insulin levels because the body is releasing more in response to try and overcome the resistance.

Becoming insulin-sensitive through diet

Note that Macdonald says carbohydrates cause the body to secrete the highest amount of insulin. Protein comes next. Fats, on the other hand, have no impact on insulin.

I cannot emphasise that enough.

Fats are the key to resolving insulin-resistance so that one becomes insulin-sensitive.

Granted, everyone is slightly different which means that insulin resistance and sensitivity vary, some of that being dependent on our genes. However, Macdonald says:

high insulin secretion tends to make people eat more.

This is why obesity and Type 2 diabetes are often discussed together — and why many of these diabetics are overweight.

Macdonald mentions two studies which showed that insulin-resistant women lost weight once they began reducing their carbohydrate intake.

Although the studies do not appear to mention a move from insulin resistance to sensitivity because that was not their objective, in time, if they maintained the eating plan, the dieters would probably have succeeded in regulating their insulin secretion.

It would be complicated and expensive to have all the blood tests necessary to diagnose insulin sensitivity or resistance, not to mention secretion. However, Macdonald offers these basic questions which can help us determine if we are sensitive or resistant:

  1. On high-carbohydrate intakes, do you find yourself getting pumped and full or sloppy and bloated? If the former, you have good insulin sensitivity; if the latter, you don’t.
  2. When you eat a large carbohydrate meal, do you find that you have steady and stable energy levels or do you get an energy crash/sleep and get hungry about an hour later? If the former, you probably have normal/low levels of insulin secretion; if the latter, you probably tend to over-secrete insulin which is causing blood glucose to crash which is making you sleepy and hungry.

Those who are insulin-resistant and often hungry would do well to adopt:

a diet lower in carbs and higher in fat (don’t forget that protein can raise insulin as well) …

What to do

The low carb high fat (LCHF) diet is what it says. Reduce intake of carbohydrates dramatically and replace that deficit with fat.

What to avoid

Carbohydrate-heavy foods to eliminate or reduce include potatoes, sweetcorn, chickpeas, lentils, rice, pasta, breads, pastry, oatmeal, breakfast cereal, breakfast bars, sugar, chocolate bars, sugary soft drinks, sweet smoothies and — crucially — fruit.

What to increase

Replace the carbohydrate deficit with fats: butter, olive oil, mayonnaise, cream, cheese and animal fat (chicken, duck, goose, pork and beef).

Exclude low-fat spreads and dressings as well as margarine.

With regard to coconut oil, be careful. Those who are unaccustomed to eating it and incorporate it in their diets might find it disagrees with them, resulting in a rush to the bathroom. Start with small amounts and adapt your body slowly.

Fatty proteins

Buy fatty meats, including well-marbled steaks and chicken with skin.

Bacon, pork sausages and quality hot dogs are excellent no-brainer meats.

Pork roasts with a good layer of fat are also highly recommended.

Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and trout, are excellent as is any other fish and seafood, particularly when combined with a buttery or creamy sauce.

Water and salt are vital

In order to avoid fatigue, especially in the beginning, you will need to consume around a litre of water a day and use good quality salt (e.g. sea salt) on your food. A potassium supplement, e.g. Lo Salt, is also highly recommended. I season everything with salt and Lo Salt.

Alcohol and soft drinks

Speaking of drinks, beer is out. Spirits, especially clear ones (gin and vodka), are fine. Dry wine is also good.

Diet soft drinks can be drunk in moderation. They are not a replacement for water.

Vitamin supplements

SpouseMouse and I have always taken a daily multi-vitamin and continue to do so.

Dr Mercola says that Vitamin D3/K2 supplements can also help to keep the body healthy. I take a D3/K2 supplement daily in liquid (drop) form. D3 and K2 are particularly necessary for people who have compromised immune systems.

Our household

I follow the ketogenic eating plan which calls for 20% or less of net carbohydrate intake a day. I try to keep it well below 20% altogether. SpouseMouse is more insulin-sensitive than I am and requires 30% to 40% in carbohydrates a day. Our protein intake is roughly 35% of our daily intake and fat comprises the rest — proportionally more for me and less for my better half.

The only starch we have in the house is T55 bread flour. I make bread for SpouseMouse once a week along with the occasional Yorkshire pudding.

I sauté vegetables in butter, duck fat or chicken fat. An alternative for the winter is to cook vegetables and top them with homemade cream sauces, often with cream cheese, which I top with grated cheese and bake at a low temperature (150° C or 325°F) for 15 minutes until the gratin melts.

Meal suggestions

The list below is hardly exhaustive but gives an idea of what LCHF followers eat.

Breakfast can be comprised of sliced ham, bacon and fatty (often smoked) fish, eggs (any way you like) as well as cheese.

Lunch can include the above as well as avocados, salad leaves, bell peppers and celery with a full-fat dressing. Some tomatoes and carrots are all right, but not too many as they are higher in carbs than green vegetables. Nut butters, particularly almond or peanut, or cream cheese with vegetable strips is a good combination. A cheese plate is a filling and tasty option. Fish and meat are superb proteins. Egg, chicken or tuna mixed with lots of mayonnaise are satisfying and easy to prepare options.

A small snack of a handful of almonds or peanuts is fine.

Dinner should be comprised of fatty meats or fish. Lean versions of either are also excellent sautéed in fat. Vegetables can include the aforementioned suggestions for lunch along with cooked ones such as green beans, broccoli, aubergines, courgettes (zucchini), cauliflower, brussels sprouts, all of which should be topped with butter or cream sauce.

A square or two of dark chocolate — 70%+ — makes a satisfying dessert substitute. A cheese plate is a better alternative and, for many, more filling.

These suggestions show how fat can be incorporated into the daily diet in place of carbohydrates.

Results

The LCHF is not an immediate silver bullet to combat insulin resistance, but, in time, the body corrects itself. Depending on the level of resistance, this can take six months to a year in most cases. Results will differ according to the individual.

Immediate effects

Within 24 hours, hunger pangs disappear. LCHF followers experience higher energy, calmer moods and better concentration. Sluggishness is gone.

After three to four days, the LCHF dieter will need to urinate copiously over a period of several hours. This will result in water weight loss of a few pounds. Heavier individuals will experience more loss than those of normal weight. Keep drinking water, however, as this is the time when fatigue or light-headedness can set in.

After one week, fat loss begins.

A fortnight later, pulse rates begin to normalise, clothes fit better and inches are lost.

After three weeks, skin becomes smoother and clearer. Dull roughness disappears. Expect compliments.

Intermediate results

As the body adapts, weight loss stalls can occur although inch loss continues.

Many people become frustrated after three to six months and think that nothing is happening when they get on the scale. However, tracking regular measurements of the waist, belly, hips and thighs will demonstrate that the body is reshaping itself into a slimmer, more attractive one. For this reason, a tape measure is more useful than a scale much of the time.

Men have an easier time losing weight than women. Post-menopausal women have the hardest time, although they, too, will still experience overall loss in inches and flatter tummies.

The longest and toughest battle is for internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and thyroid to start functioning properly after decades of abuse, illness or immune system issues. However, in time — depending on the condition — this can normally be resolved.

As an example, an article on Hashimoto’s disease states:

there is no doubt that what goes through your digestive system has a huge impact on your immune system. Huge.    

One Hashimoto’s sufferer, Carrie Vitt, regained her health with a gluten-free diet. It took her several years, but she is now symptom-free.

I digress, but this goes to show how a proper diet combined with patience and persistence can bring about lasting and beneficial physical improvement — without drugs!

Conclusion

Whilst this is not meant to constitute medical advice, overweight people with no serious health issues might wish to try an LCHF diet not only for weight loss but also for better overall health.

Starting now — well before the holiday season — will help to adapt the body and mind to a new way of eating, not meant for the short-term but the years ahead.

My last three posts on diet debunked popular breakfast myths, warned overweight individuals not to adopt an athlete’s diet and discussed why we should not graze.

The human body is just as complex as human beings are. We are as individual inside as we are in the personality traits we possess. Genes and metabolism vary significantly, even among people with seemingly similar physical characteristics.

Therefore, the type of weight-loss plan or long-term way of eating is crucial. This also includes the daily meal pattern.

Grazing is a new idea

Over the past 25 years, Westerners have been told that eating fewer smaller meals every day helps to regulate the body and metabolism.

However, this was not always the case. It is a concept which would have been ridiculed in the era when I grew up. In fact, frequent eaters would have been accused of gluttony or self-indulgence.

Dr John Douillard recalls the same three-a-day regime (italics in the original, emphases in bold mine):

Eating breakfast, lunch and supper with no snacks in between will provide a natural fast in between meals that will encourage fat metabolism.

When I was growing up, all the kids on my block had an early supper around 5:30 p.m. After supper, we played for a while and then came inside and went to bed. There were no bed time snacks – the kitchen closed at 6 p.m. sharp.  We would wake up and have breakfast around 7 a.m. and then walk 10 miles to school in the snow. Just kidding! But that was 13 hours straight with no food. We slept through the night fasting and broke the fast with break-fast. That means that every night, we reset fat metabolism. This allowed us to maintain normal blood sugar, stable moods and overall greater health than what is created by the cultural habits I see today.

What about healthful snacks?

If you have a healthy snack, like a carrot, in between breakfast and lunch you will burn the carrot but you will not burn any stored fat between those two meals.

This means that if you refrain from grazing — snacking:

your body will be forced to burn stored fat to get you to supper

Sounds like a formula for weight loss, doesn’t it?

I remember from my youth that obese people were few and far between. In addition to three squares a day, we also did not have as many starchy snacks — cookies and savoury biscuits — on supermarket shelves.

Douillard says that, contrary to what we hear and read, man did not survive for thousands of years by eating small snacks throughout the day:

For them, it was feast or famine. Our very presence as a species is due to the fact that humans were able to endure long periods of time without food.

What is ‘fat burning’?

We often hear the expressions ‘burning fat’ or ‘fat burning’. What exactly do they mean?

Douillard explains:

When we talk about “burning fat,” what we are actually referring to is the process of using fat as our fuel, our source of energy. It’s a chemical process, not just a metaphor for losing weight. But fat is only one kind of fuel that can be utilized by our bodies, and carbohydrates —or sugars— are another. When your body has both available, it will burn the sugars first and the fat second

Burning fat detoxifies us and neutralizes excess acids that build up from stress. The problem is that many of us have lost the ability to burn fat effectively and are chronically storing fat and gaining weight.

Contrary to popular belief, we do not need to exercise in order to burn fat. Fat should be our primary — ‘go to’, if you prefer — source of fuel all the time.

Fat is slow-burning and, therefore, meant to aid our survival. That is why it takes a week or so to lose a pound of fat. We should not confuse losing fat with water weight, which comes off and goes back on rapidly.

The problem in the West is that carbohydrates — starches and sugars — burn quickly. Most of us eat too many carbohydrates. We feel a decrease in blood sugar a few hours after consuming them and make the incorrect assumption that we need more food during the day. However, if we stopped eating carbohydrates and stopped grazing, our bodies would be forced to burn fat as a primary source of fuel as we go about our daily work.

Fewer meals better

Echoing Douillard’s preference for three meals instead of many is Elitefts, a fitness site. In an article about meal frequency, Elite points out that dieters in medical studies featuring grazing were given fewer calories per day to consume in several small intakes. That means that people did not lose weight because they were eating more often. They were losing weight because they were consuming fewer calories overall.

Elite also advocates fewer meals per day because that is how the body is meant to function. As I wrote in a recent anti-grazing post, we can safely ignore warnings about going into starvation mode. The Elite article says the same thing:

The body does not trigger a hormonal cascade to signal possible starvation if it goes a few hours, or even several hours without eating. The body copes well with long spans of no food. The signals triggered by starvation—the ones that supposedly kick in after only a couple hours of not eating—take roughly three or four days of very low calories to activate39-48. They will not activate in two hours, or three or eight. The entire premise from which this idea is built is wrong.

Another mistake dieters make is to think that the more they feed the body, the more weight they will lose. It doesn’t make sense to me, but it’s a popular belief — and a mistaken assumption:

The body doesn’t work that way. It turns out that longer stretches between meals makes the body release more fat to be burned as fuel27, 28, 37, 49, 51. What the body wants is to use fat if there’s no food coming in and store fat when there’s too much food. Such routine frequent feedings actually slow resting metabolism50 and lowers another component of metabolism called the thermic effect of food51-54.

The overweight among us should stop grazing if they wish to burn fat!

WebMD has looked at several studies of grazing and weight loss. Their article says there is no conclusive benefit to grazing. In fact:

eating six meals a day actually made people want to eat more.

The tendency for any of us is to underestimate the amount of food we eat! Most of us seeking to lose weight are often eating more than we think. Going back to three or fewer meals a day will help regulate what we eat — as long as we are careful to eat within our calorie range. This means being accurate with food portions.

Fewer meals benefit the body

Those of us who eat fewer meals a day, especially if we have only one or two, are improving our gut flora — good bacteria in the digestive tract.

Not only that, but we’re helping to improve the way our bodies use insulin.

Authority Nutrition says that those of us who fast intermittently — e.g. eating one meal a day — are helping our bodies function normally:

… studies in both humans and animals show that intermittent fasting has various health benefits, including improved insulin sensitivity, lower glucose, lower insulin and various other improvements (11).

Intermittent fasting also induces a cellular clean-up process called autophagy, where the body’s cells clear up waste products that build up in the cells and contribute to aging and disease (12).

Better use of insulin lessens the possibility of becoming pre-diabetic. Although much more research needs to be done, some researchers believe that the risk of cancer may also be reduced as cells are healthier and functioning better.

US News discussed the link between fewer meals a day and better gut flora (first highlight in the original):

Grazing may increase risk for developing bacterial overgrowth. When bacteria replicate excessively in the small intestine, it results in a condition called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. As anyone who’s had SIBO can attest, the condition produces a variety of miserable symptoms, from bloating and diarrhea to nausea and constipation. Once it develops, SIBO must be treated with antibiotics in order to be eradicated.

In order to prevent bacterial overgrowth:

The intestines need to be fasted for at least 90 minutes at a time in order for routine cleansing waves to occur. So if you’re prone to stretching out your meals over the course of a few hours – say, taking a few nibbles at a time while you work and multi-task – there’s a reasonable chance you’ll never go a full hour and a half without food passing through your small bowel. People who have a history of SIBO – or other risk factors for the condition, such as chronic use of acid suppressing medications or pancreatic insufficiency, may want to consider whether giving their gut a break for a few hours each day may be of benefit.

Other problems with grazing

The US News article goes on to say that grazing is not recommended for people who are constipated:

Chalk up that experience to an involuntary nervous system reflex called the gastrocolic reflex, which instigates forward movement (peristalsis) in the colon after being triggered by one of several different stimuli.

At the top of the list of triggers is physical distension of the stomach. The stomach has mechanical receptors that detect stretch. Significant stretch after a large volume intake or bulky meal – say, an entrée-sized salad, a large tub of popcorn or a Thanksgiving meal – sends a strong signal to the colon, essentially telling it to make room for the load of food that’s about to head down the pike. (Higher caloric loads, such as those associated with traditional meals, also trigger the gastrocolic reflex.) For people who tend toward constipation, then, consolidating their food volume into fewer eating occasions can leverage the gastrocolic reflex and maximize their chances for a post-meal movement. Conversely, nibbling small amounts throughout the day may not produce enough stimulating stretch of the stomach or enough of a caloric load to trigger the gastrocolic reflex.

After-dinner snacks can also produce or aggravate acid reflux:

If you experience heartburn while trying to fall asleep – or wake up with a sour taste in the mouth, a scratchy throat or excessive coughing – examining your nighttime eating patterns may be worthwhile. For most people, it’s best to stop eating two hours before bedtime – and three full hours if you have chronic acid reflux – to allow your stomach time to fully empty before lying down flat.

Conclusion

Our grandmothers were right: two or three meals a day keep us healthy. They would have laughed at the absurdity of grazing.

So should we.

More tomorrow, specifically on food and insulin.

John F MacArthurThe past few weekends I have been writing about Jesus’s healing — creative — miracles in Matthew 8 and 9:

Matthew 8:1-4 – Jesus, creative miracle, leper

Matthew 8:5-13 – Jesus, creative miracle, centurion, faith, humility

Matthew 8:14-17 – creative miracles, Jesus, Peter’s mother-in-law

Matthew 8:23-27 – Jesus, storm, miracle, Sea of Galilee, faith

Matthew 8:28-34 – Gadarene swine, miracle, demons, Jesus

Matthew 9:1-8 – healing miracle, creative miracle, paralytic, sin, Jesus

Matthew 9:18-26 – Jesus, miracles, Jairus’s daughter, death, sleep, woman with blood issue, resurrection, healing

Matthew 9:27-31 – Jesus, miracles, healing, two blind men, physical blindness, spiritual blindness, faith, Capernaum

Matthew 9:32-34 – Jesus, miracles, healing, deaf mute possessed by demon, Capernaum

John MacArthur’s sermon, ‘Miracles of Sight and Sound’, explains how St Matthew wanted us to think of Jesus with regard to His miracles, events in the Old Testament and ancient biblical prophecy. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Matthew’s purpose in writing is to tell us: that Jesus is that Messiah; that that someday has arrived; that Christ is the promised King; that He is the One who can right the wrongs, who can reverse the curse, who can establish the kingdom, who can destroy the enemy.  He is the One.  And in order to convince us that Christ has the power to do that, in chapters 8 and 9, Matthew marks His miracle power, and he doesn’t do it in a random manner.  He marks His miracle power, I believe, insofar as it is associated with Old Testament prophecy There were many miracles that Jesus did—Matthew selects nine of them in chapters 8 and 9, three sets of three—and, in these miracles, I see the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.  And Matthew was saying, “This is the Messiah.  He fulfills the prophecy.  The prophecy says He will do all of this in the kingdom, and He has given you a preview of it all.”  The kingdom will evidence His power over disease, His power over death, His power over the elements, His power over the earth; and in His first coming, He gave previews of all of those.  Now remember that of the nine miracles, the first three deal with disease,  the second three deal with disorder, and the third primarily with death.  And there’s some overlap, but that’s just kind of a general focus.

Genesis

After Adam and Eve committed what is known in the Church as Original Sin — the disobedience which caused every human afterward to sin by instinct — God promised redemption for mankind:

in Genesis, chapter 3, no sooner had man fallen than God gave the promise that there would come One who would be called the Seed of the woman; and that very One would bruise the serpent’s head.  And so from that time on, the Old Testament was filled with promises that God would bring a Deliverer, that God would bring a King, and that that King would restore the kingdom, would establish again the rule of God, would wipe out disease and death and pain and illness and sorrow and war and fighting.  And the prophets would again and again and again repeat that He’s coming: the Anointed Son, the King of kings, the Satan-Conqueror, the Death-Defeater, the Sin-Destroyer, the Healer.  The Jews know Him as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Prophet, Priest, and King surpassing all others.

Isaiah

MacArthur cites passages from the prophet Isaiah which proclaim that the Messiah would save and restore God’s people. He says these are pertinent to the first three healing miracles.

Isaiah 33:22-24:

22 For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver;
    the Lord is our king; he will save us.

23 Your cords hang loose;
    they cannot hold the mast firm in its place
    or keep the sail spread out.
    Then prey and spoil in abundance will be divided;
    even the lame will take the prey.
24 And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick”;
    the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.

Isaiah 57:19 (second half of the verse):

“… Peace, peace, (AI)to the far and to the near,” says the Lord,
    (AJ)and I will heal him.

Therefore:

As there was no disease before the Fall, there will be no disease after the restoration.  Now, if Jesus Christ is the One who has the power to do that, He must be able to demonstrate such power, and that is why Matthew shows us that He has power over disease.

Isaiah 35 prophesies a restored topography of the Earth. MacArthur says that Matthew wanted us to connect this with Jesus’s calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee when the disciples feared for their lives. This is what Isaiah 35:4 says:

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Isaiah 29:18 speaks of the restoration of sight and hearing:

In that day the deaf shall hear
    the words of a book,
and out of their gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind shall see.

We can also draw a spiritual meaning from those verses, that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes and ears to saving faith.

Daniel

MacArthur associates Matthew’s accounts of deliverance — casting out demons — with verses from the Book of Daniel. These also pertain to his raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead. Therefore, Jesus has power over sin and death.

Daniel 12:2:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

From these verses — merely a few examples of the scriptural foretelling of the arrival of Christ as Lord — we learn that He did not come to earth randomly.

Conclusion

There are Christians who mistakenly say that we should not study the Old Testament. Ironically, they do, for the verses which condemn certain sins. That is not wrong, but there are many New Testament verses which cover abomination and depravity which lead to eternal death.

A true Christian will read the Old Testament in light of how God and His prophets attempted to guide the Israelites to be ready for the Messiah and what we can expect from Him.

The Old Testament points to Christ throughout.

Scripture is alive, historical and full of meaning. May we study it closer in our walk with the Lord.

Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (here and here).

Matthew 9:32-34

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

———————————————————————————————–

Last week’s post discussed Jesus’s healing of the two blind men who followed Him into the house where He was staying in Capernaum.

His healing the deaf mute took place immediately afterward at the end of a very long day which involved raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead and healing the woman who had the 12-year blood flow. Before that, He condemned the pharisaical method of fasting and cured a paralytic. He was surrounded by crowds the whole time that day, except for brief periods: inside Jairus’s house and at Peter’s house when He healed the blind men.

The blind men with fully restored sight no sooner went away (verse 32) than a demon-possessed deaf mute stood before Him. He might have been someone in the crowd and was presented to Him. However, John MacArthur thinks he was a companion of the two blind men:

Now, this would have been one of their friends.  They were blind, he was deaf and dumb; and together they made a whole person …  And they immediately went out, and they got hold of their friend, “possessed with a demon, and they brought him in.”  This is the commitment of the men.  One of their fellow beggars.

He tells us that the word in Greek for the man’s affliction is

koufos.  It is translated in Matthew 11:5 as deaf.  It probably means deaf and dumb.

If one cannot hear, one cannot speak.

Matthew Henry says that the fact that a demon rendered this man deaf and mute illustrates that Satan is no friend of mankind (emphases mine):

His case, which was very sad. He was under the power of the devil in this particular instance, that he was disabled from speaking, Matthew 9:32. See the calamitous state of this world, and how various the afflictions of the afflicted are! We have no sooner dismissed two blind men, but we meet with a dumb man. How thankful should we be to God for our sight and speech! See the malice of Satan against mankind, and in how many ways he shows it.

That said:

Of the two, better a dumb devil than a blaspheming one.

However:

When the devil gets possession of a soul, it is made silent as to any thing that is good [,] dumb in prayers and praises, which the devil is a sworn enemy to.

Therefore, this state of being can be compared in our time to becoming a slave to the devil and sin, where we forsake a close relationship with the Lord for pleasure, greed, depravity and self-sufficiency.

As soon as Jesus cast out the demon, the man — now fully healed — spoke, causing the crowd to marvel (verse 33). They exclaimed that nothing like this had ever occurred in Israel.

Should we then deduce that the crowd converted that day and followed our Lord ever afterward? Only in the sense that they were curious and amazed.

Henry says that the crowd might have recalled Psalm 98:1:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.

However, he makes this observation:

The multitudes marvelled and well they might[,] though few believed, many wondered.

They followed Jesus to see miracles.

MacArthur likens the crowd to today’s cinema goers who go for a thrill and then leave it behind. At the time he preached his sermons on Matthew in the 1970s, The Exorcist was showing on the big screen:

I’m amazed at people today, you know.  They, they may, they go see these movies that scare them to death; scare them out of their wits and just sit there and let themselves be scared into a frenzy, sweat.  Some of them have to run out into the lobby at the scary times.  Why would people line up for blocks to see The Exorcist?  Well, you know, there’s a certain funny fascination about that.  As long as you’re sitting in a soft seat shoving popcorn in your mouth and you can leave when it’s over.  See, you, you don’t want to get in the situation.  You just don’t mind watching somebody else in it.  There’s a certain thing about that.  And I believe there was something of this fascination in these people who were terrorized by Christ, but also astounded and amazed at the supernatural.  But they wanted to make sure it was just at arm’s length; and when it began to crowd their status quo, that was the end of it: They wanted Him dead.

Jesus’s miracles were entertainment for the vast majority in the crowd, nothing more.

Another aspect of their fascination was that they expected a temporal Messiah, not a spiritual one.

They were not ready to leave Judaism under the manmade laws of the Pharisees. They were not ready to devote their lives to Jesus. They had what they needed in their lives. He was, sadly, for them, an exciting phenomenon, not the Son of God.

When Jesus became too threatening to the status quo, He had to go:

in Matthew chapter 21, they could make only one conclusion: “And the multitude,” it says, the same multitude that marveled.  That’s a broad word.  The multitude said, “Hosanna to the Son of David:  Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.'”  They threw palm branches at His feet.  That’s the marveling multitude: “Isn’t He wonderful?  Oh, He’s the Messiah.”  The next thing you know, they got the word that He was going against the establishment; that He was preaching a message that they didn’t want to hear; that He was a threat to their security, a threat to their life.  But it says in Matthew 27 that the same multitude screamed at Him to be crucified, that Barabbas should be released, and Jesus should be executed.  But that’s how it is with fickle mobs, you see.  Marveling multitudes eventually screamed for His death.  The fickleness of that superficial fascination; it’s like John 6.  They followed Him for the free food, you know?  They really weren’t interested in what He said.  They liked Him at a distance.  They liked Him doing His miracles.  They were fascinated.  There was a certain awe.  Even though there was a certain terror involved, if you could keep it at arm’s length, it was okay.

The Pharisees were spiritually blind and deaf. Therefore, they accused our Lord of being in league with Satan in driving out demons (verse 34). Their reaction was as psychologically and spiritually complex as the crowd’s but for different reasons. They did not like His preaching, even though they should have recognised it, but they were spiritually bereft. They liked their privileged status and feared the crowd might reject their hold on them. They also did not think that Jesus had anything to say to them. They were the foremost among the self-sufficient. Furthermore, Jesus was not among their number. He did not mix in their circles nor did He have their training. He had to be derided, ridiculed and blasphemed then killed.

Ultimately, the Pharisees had to diminish His power among the people. For now, they shamefully lied about the source of His miracles. Henry says:

The Pharisees blasphemed, Matthew 9:34. When they could not gainsay the convincing evidence of these miracles, they fathered them upon the devil, as if they had been wrought by compact and collusion: he casteth out devils (say they) by the prince of the devilsa suggestion horrid beyond expression we shall hear more of it afterwards, and Christ’s answer to it (Matthew 12:25) only observe here, how evil men and seducers wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13), and it is both their sin and their punishment.

In closing, the parallel account of this healing — creative — miracle and Jesus’s response to the Pharisees is in Luke 11:14-23, about which I wrote last year.

Next time: Matthew 11:1

Yesterday’s post looked at daily eating frequency, specifically, misconceptions about diet and number of meals.

Over the past 30 – 40 years, sedentary Westerners think that adopting an athlete’s eating pattern will help them lose weight.

On the face of it, the reasoning makes partial sense. However, what is missing in adopting the eating plan alone is that it leaves out the other half: strenuous physical activity.

Suit the right eating plan for you

Millions of us are eating too much too often with the result that we are putting on weight — or at least not losing it — despite grazing on five to eight ‘meals’ a day.

Fitness expert and nutrition expert Alan Aragon explains (emphases mine):

People have varying total energy demands, and this can differently influence their macronutrient requirements. Ratios per se shouldn’t be the focus since they’re merely a default result of figuring absolute needs. For example, those with a moderate to high energy output (through formal training, non-exercise activity, or both), can typically consume a higher amount of carbohydrate and still lose weight. In contrast, sedentary or barely active folks have lower overall energy demands, thus a high carbohydrate intake wouldn’t likely be optimal. Nevertheless, there’s rather interesting, yet unreplicated research examining the effects of insulin sensitivity on weight loss (low-carb worked better for insulin-resistant subjects while high-carb worked better for insulin-sensitive subjects). Unfortunately, body composition wasn’t assessed, nor was there any structured exercise protocol. My hunch is that a well-designed, progressive training program would greatly diminish the influence of pre-existent differences in insulin sensitivity on weight loss.

Reading extensively on ‘moderate’ output tells us that it requires not an hour at the gym but more extensive and intense physical activity than the average office worker gets: morning run, lunchtime exercise and an hour or two in the evenings. Most of us do not come anywhere close to this type of training and conditioning regime.

Eating post-exercise — caution advised

This brings me to another related subject, which is the necessity of eating after an hour of exercise. This has been going on for at least 50 years and is still prevalent among average dieters who eat immediately after callisthenics (in the old days) and something like Pilates (nowadays). For my mother’s friends in the 1960s and for my former cleaning lady in the 2000s, this meant a girls’ break with ice cream and cake! Seriously! They hadn’t even burned up enough calories to warrant such an indulgence. Even worse, they then went home to have lunch or dinner. More critically, they were not losing weight! Not surprisingly, some gained!

Aragon tells us how eating after exercise benefits athletes, but, generally, only under certain conditions. The replenishment is protein:

Postexercise protein intake has been promoted in both lay and academic circles as an urgent, universally imperative tactic, but it’s rarely ever put in the proper perspective. The origin of the postexercise “anabolic window of opportunity” began with research examining postexercise carbohydrate timing on the rate of glycogen resynthesis after depletion …

Protein got lumped into the supposed ‘magic’ of the postexercise period after studies showed that protein expedited glycogen resynthesis when co-ingested with carbohydrate (particularly in the case of insufficient carbohydrate). Furthermore, research has also shown that protein consumed in the postexercise period can work synergistically with the trained state to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS). However, these studies have two main limitations. First off, in most studies the protein was given to subjects who trained after an overnight fast, minus a pre-exercise meal. Secondly, the bulk of the research showing the benefit of immediate postexercise protein is acute (short-term). The majority of chronic (long-term) studies lasting several weeks has failed to corroborate the acute findings. Many people – even smart folks in the industry – are unaware of this, probably because the bulk of the research with null findings began in 2009 & onward.

Aragon says that nutrition studies can support one thing or another, as my readers and I have discovered.

Diet — one size does not fit all

Aragon points out the difficulty and individualistic nature of diet. We cannot all follow the same one, which is why some eat frequently successfully and others skip meals to maintain normal weight and health.

For those embarking on a weight loss programme, he says:

For losing fat past the initial stages, I’m a proponent of imposing a calorie deficit, and depending on the individual situation, this can involve a decrease in caloric intake, an increase in caloric output, or a combination of both. In the case of intake reduction, it doesn’t make sense to hack into critical nutrients – especially protein, whose requirement actually increases in a caloric deficit. So, for the most part, it’s carbs that will get the brunt of the reduction when it’s time to cut calories, while protein & fat remain somewhat stable (I typically set protein slightly higher than it needs to be). The degree of carb reduction varies individually, but the underlying aim is to consume the highest amount of carbs that still allow a satisfactory rate of fat loss. This approach accomplishes two main things – it enables the highest possible training performance (in terms of both strength & endurance), and also the lowest chance of undue hormonal downregulation from prolonged bouts of dieting. Carb reduction can then be strategically positioned as a trump card. In other words, carbs can always be incrementally reduced on an as-needed basis, depending on how results are proceeding.

In my own case last year, I cut carbs in half initially then, seeing that was not working too well, cut them out completely for several weeks. I do not eat any carbs (outside of those in green vegetables) more frequently than once every few weeks. Even then, that is only an occasional slice of bread or Yorkshire pudding, homemade in both cases. Our house has no pasta, rice, potatoes or other starches outside of flour.

With regard to protein, remember that Aragon is talking about athletes, not the average person. Yesterday’s post cited Martin Berghan of Leangains who said that 100g of protein taken with other healthful foods at dinner will be sufficient for a 16- to 24-hour period.

Whatever dieters choose to do:

I’ve seen the greatest client success come from letting individual preference dictate meal frequency. Some people do great on small frequent meals, others do great on the opposite (and all points in between). The theoretical advantages of any given dietary approach go straight out the window if it’s at odds with someone’s personal preference & adherence capability.

Intermittent fasting (IF)

Individual diet tailoring ties in with some people preferring to take one or two meals a day, allowing the digestive tract to rest and adjust in the interim. This is called intermittent fasting, or IF.

This is a relatively new concept and, whilst it’s big among some athletes, the average person looks upon it with horror.

However, some of us only eat once a day and we’re fine. Once one retires or works from home, cutting down on food makes sense. We’re not that active and don’t need the calories we once did. Your mileage might differ, however.

Aragon says that researchers are now backing away from the idea of many small meals a day, although more studies need to be done on the benefits of IF:

Academics have known for a while now that research has not supported the lore of frequent, small meals to stoke the metabolism better than the equivalent in larger, fewer meals. Furthermore, research has not supported the idea that small, frequent meals are necessary for preserving muscle mass. The evidence as a whole has not indicated any threat to muscle preservation during dieting when meal frequency is reduced – either daily or intermittently through the week. In fact, some studies have shown superior lean mass retention with IF during hypocaloric conditions. However, this could have been due to measurement error inherent with bioelectrical impedance analysis. It should also be noted that the IF research thus far has not involved structured exercise protocols.

Also:

IF presents an effective option for those who prefer the convenience and luxury of larger meals – not to mention, less preparation & transportation of meals through the day.

Conclusion and more advice

Eat in the quantity and frequency that suits you.

We should avoid eating like athletes if our exercise regime is relatively negligable.

The overweight and obese would do well to take stock of what they are eating, perhaps by keeping a food diary for a month. This helps one to analyse where calories peak and what types of food is consumed. Adjust downward accordingly.

Too many carbs? Eliminate processed foods — cakes, chocolate bars, cookies and savoury biscuits. Cut down drastically on bread, potatoes, pasta and rice, replacing them with fat. Cream cheese and celery or carrot sticks can comprise part of lunch.

Be careful with protein, because the body can process excess protein the way it does carbohydrates. Ultimately, this leads to weight gain. Buy fatty meats and eat the fat.

Satiety is everything. Upping fat content for those with constant hunger for carbs and even protein can help to stop the need to eat so often. Calorie consumption will go down, not up. Taste buds also change on a low carb high fat diet. The longer one follows it, the less one craves sweets and starches.

Fat is filling. Fat is good. It’s the most self-indulgent, calorie-controlled food you can incorporate into a daily, ongoing eating plan.

More on diet and intermittent fasting soon.

Nearly 25 years ago, SpouseMouse and I had occasion to travel to the US.

We were watching television when an advert came on announcing:

Americans eat five meals a day.

SpouseMouse’s mouth dropped open: ‘Five meals a day? No wonder they’re so fat.’

This year, we had dinner with a delightful American couple. SpouseMouse related this anecdote. The wife said:

Five meals? It’s seven or eight these days.

It was another jaw-dropping moment for both of us. The woman continued:

You have to eat frequently during the day.

As she was our guest, we were not going to argue. However, she was clearly overweight. We concluded later that she eats too often, consuming too many calories.

The body — less is more

Martin Berkhan, the author of Leangains, is a nutritional consultant and personal trainer.

His ‘Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked’ is an interesting post. Berkhan, incidentally, is a fan of intermittent fasting, which goes against current thinking, but can help stimulate metabolism. Intermittent fasting involves eating one or two meals a day.

Highlights follow.

Thermic effect of food

The thermic effect of food (TEF), where

[t]he amount of energy expended is directly proportional to the amount of calories and nutrients consumed in the meal

is the central point around which ‘grazing’ — consuming frequent daily meals — revolves.

Yet, Berkhan tells us that a traditional three-squares-a-day regime:

yields a larger and long lasting boost in metabolic rate.

Nine meals (!) with the same numbers of calories and nutrients would result in:

a very weak but consistent boost in metabolic rate.

Six meals would be somewhere in between the two.

He says that smaller, more frequent meals do not ‘stoke the metabolic fire’ (emphases mine):

There’s a saying that goes “correlation does not imply causation” and this warrants further explanation since it explains many other dietary myths and fallacies. Just because there’s a connection between low meal frequencies and higher body weights, doesn’t mean that low meal frequencies cause weight gain

The connection between lower meal frequency and higher body weight in the general population, and vice versa, is connected to behavioral patterns – not metabolism.

A body of current research also indicates:

superior appetite control when eating fewer and larger meals.

Blood sugar

Blood sugar levels are another reason Westerners use in support of several meals a day. Yet:

blood sugar is extremely well-regulated and maintained within a tight range in healthy people. It does not swing wildly up and down like a chimpanzee on meth and it doesn’t plummet from going a few hours without food. Or even a full day without food. Or a week without food for that matter.

Yet, most of us have experienced short periods of time — late morning and mid-afternoon — when we feel sluggish or cranky until we have a small snack. Berkhan says that has more to do with what we normally eat than with actual low blood sugar. In fact:

Low just means lower range. This is subject to numerous confounders, such as your habitual diet, energy intake and genetics. Most importantly perhaps, it’s subject to entrained meal patterns, regulated by ghrelin and other metabolic hormones. In essence, this means that blood sugar follows the meal pattern you are used to. This is relevant for those who fear blood sugar issues and hunger from regular periods of fasting, as it serves to explain why people can easily adapt to regular periods of fasting without negative effects …

There’s no need to eat regularly to “maintain” blood sugar as it maintains itself just fine and adapts to whatever meal pattern you choose.

If you feel sluggish or cranky, have a small bite to eat until your next proper meal. Look at what you normally eat. Carbohydrate-laden food will cause the lower blood sugar effect. Substitute fats for carbs — cream cheese on carrot sticks, for example — and this will disappear.

Starvation mode

Every time I read about fat Westerners worried about going into starvation mode, I have to laugh. Even those of us of a normal weight could go for several days before we slipped into genuine starvation mode.

What causes the starvation mode stall — a notional weight gain on a highly-reduced number of calories — is a temporary state in which the body will try to hold on to water and fat. Once the body adjusts to fewer calories, it starts letting go of both.

The human race would not be here today if we were not designed to adapt to long periods without food.

Berkhan says:

Efficient adaptation to famine was important for survival during rough times in our evolution. Lowering metabolic rate during starvation allowed us to live longer, increasing the possibility that we might come across something to eat. Starvation literally means starvation. It doesn’t mean skipping a meal not eating for 24 hours. Or not eating for three days even. The belief that meal skipping or short-term fasting causes “starvation mode” is so completely ridiculous and absurd that it makes me want to jump out the window.

Looking at the numerous studies I’ve read, the earliest evidence for lowered metabolic rate in response to fasting occurred after 60 hours (-8% in resting metabolic rate). Other studies show metabolic rate is not impacted until 72-96 hours have passed (George Cahill has contributed a lot on this topic).

Seemingly paradoxical, metabolic rate is actually increased in short-term fasting.

Protein intake

Confusion over how much protein to ingest per day is partially related to powdered proteins that athletes take.

In the fitness world, athletes take whey protein to elevate amino acid levels. Casein enables a sustained release of amino acids. Whey is considered anabolic and casein anti-catabolic (inhibiting muscle loss).

As a result, there is much talk about ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ proteins. This has led to a debate among dieters in general about what sort of protein to eat and how much.

Most of us do not have to worry about that because we do not use whey or casein. Where food is concerned:

Most whole food proteins are absorbed at a rate of 3-6 grams an hour. Add other macronutrients to that and they’ll take longer.

The average Western dieter does not need to concern himself or herself with steady or frequent protein intake during the day:

protein is absorbed at a very slow rate …

100 grams of protein as part of a mixed meal at the end of the day would still be releasing aminos for 16-24 hours.

Prolonged fasting — real starvation — would pose a problem as the body would have to convert amino acids into glucose which it would then burn for energy. However, most of us will never be in that situation, even when fasting intermittently:

Obviously, for someone who eats a high protein meal before fasting, this is a moot point as you will have plenty of aminos available from food during the fast.

Conclusion

We worry far too much about eating, which has become a Western obsession.

The body does not need much of what we consume daily.

The more active you are, the more you need to eat. The less active — e.g. office workers — do not need to eat too often.

When my mother was working between the 1940s and 1980s, she said that no food was allowed in the office. Coffee was not even allowed at the desk until the 1970s in her experience. Hence the coffee break, which was at specified, staggered times. Food had to be eaten in the employee lounge. For many employees, that meant lunch. Snacks were considered self-indulgent except on special occasions.

We’ve taken food consumption to outrageous levels. It is no wonder we are getting fatter and fatter, especially since many of our snacks are carbohydrate-heavy.

More to follow tomorrow on diet and meals.

Yesterday’s post looked at fitness trainer John Kiefer’s reasons to not eat breakfast.

Briefly, an early breakfast, especially one with 30g or more of carbohydrate, interrupts the body’s ability to burn fat. Fat-burning hormones are at their peak around the time most of us get up — 7 a.m. Breakfast eaters, it is said, also lose weight. However, what is less well known is that weight loss is comprised of muscle, not fat.

Today’s entry gives more reasons from Kiefer’s article for Athletics.io, ‘Why Breakfast Is Nothing But a Scam’.

If you’re a non-breakfast eater, this will further justify not eating early in the morning. It will also give you more arguments to persuade family and friends that you are not harming your body by refraining from food at this time of day.

What kind of breakfast?

In general, the French paediatrician who said the only good breakfast is the one you want to eat is right.

On the other hand, millions of Westerners are eating carbohydrate-laden breakfasts and wondering why they are not losing weight with cereals and crisp-breads notionally designed for that.

Kiefer says:

When looked at from a scientific standpoint, skipping carbs at breakfast certainly appears to be a way to lose body fat faster—or, at the very least, to keep it off.

Kiefer says that one only needs a carb-laden breakfast if one is malnourished. The rest of us can and should drop the carbs.

Try eating eggs and fatty meats or oily fish. Not only will you feel as if you’ve had a feast — fat satiates us — you will probably eat less for lunch. A normally sized dinner, again with more fat than protein, vegetables and no starches should tide you over to the next day. Watch the weight and inches drop!

Breakfast and the brain

We have heard for decades that breakfast is essential for proper cognitive function. Therefore, everyone must eat something.

Yet, Kiefer maintains such evidence is anecdotal. Furthermore, this pertains to children, in particular. We all know that breakfast helps with attention span and good behaviour. At least, that is what we have been told.

Kiefer says that breakfast might not be responsible for this. It is more likely upbringing (emphases mine):

Researchers withheld breakfast from one group of kids, letting them eat their first meal at lunch, while a second group of kids at a so-called balanced breakfast. The result? When kids skip breakfast, they pay attention, behave, and perform better throughout the entire day[72-83]. We may not want to believe this, but it’s exactly what I’m talking about with regard to observation and proof. In the case of these kids, there must be some other factor relating breakfast to academic performance, because both vary in the same way with socioeconomic status[84], i.e. well-to-do parents have and spend time helping their children with academics, and they almost always serve breakfast.

Athletic performance

In his experience as a fitness trainer, Kiefer does not believe that skipping breakfast will harm an athlete’s performance, especially as the body is already prepared to burn fat early in the morning — without a meal:

As long as your glycogen stores remain adequate[87-88], this will have little to no effect on your strength levels.

Non-breakfast eaters, take heart

Kiefer concludes:

Skip carbs at breakfast. Skip breakfast altogether. This waste of a meal can keep you from burning fat, it can help store fat, it’ll lower your growth hormone levels, and the idea of it having any cognitive benefits is an urban legend … In reality, it’s the least important—and potentially most harmful to your physique—thing you can do all day.

If you don’t feel like eating in the morning, don’t. Your body is trying to tell you something. Listen to it.

My previous posts on breakfast can be found on the Recipes / Health / History page under ‘Breakfast — love it or loathe it’:

Paediatrician says children can skip breakfast

Breakfast is optional (American and English research trials)

Hunger between breakfast and lunch (blame carbs and low fat)

Fitness trainer on breakfast and the body

John Kiefer is a fitness trainer.

He originally wrote for Elite FTS and now does so for Athlete.io.

His posts on breakfast explains the state of our body’s hormones early in the morning and how breakfast can hamper fat burning.

In fact, he advises his clients to not eat breakfast. His reasons follow.

One of the best-known statements in support of breakfast is that it helps to burn more calories during the day. In ‘Eating Breakfast Causes Weight Loss: Worst Research Ever’ (language alert) Kiefer discusses a 2013 NPR (National Public Radio) programme on the subject in light of a Spanish study:

from the International Journal of Obesity stating that subjects who ate their main meal of the day before 3 PM lost significantly more weight than people eating later in the day—with calories consumed in both groups being roughly equal.

The study contrasted diet results of breakfast-eaters versus those who took their first meal later in the day.

Kiefer points out that the type of weight loss between the two groups is important:

what the authors of the Spanish study aren’t telling you … is that their morning group lost weight because they lost significantly more muscle. This study tests body fat at the very beginning, but conveniently never mentions again, referring only to weight.

In ‘Logic Does Not Apply Part 2: Breakfast’, Kiefer explains hormone activity in our bodies at 7 a.m. and how eating breakfast can affect it, not always for the better.

Cortisol helps to burn fat and builds up while we sleep, peaking around the time most people are getting up:

Cortisol, when acting without elevated insulin levels and in a natural manner — so without being constantly elevated like during chronic stress — triggers the breakdown of triglycerides into free-fatty acids (FFAs) for metabolization and triggers lipolysis1, 2, 14-28. Cortisol, in the morning, accelerates fat burning.

Ghrelin nears its peak at this time. Ghrelin controls hunger and the release of growth hormone:

As growth hormone levels raise the body releases more fat to be burned as fuel45-49 and decreases the destruction of protein for use as fuel50. Growth hormone levels peak roughly two hours after waking without breakfast51.

Therefore, we wake up with bodies ready to burn fat:

Every day the body starts as a fat-burning furnace. Even during exercise, without eating breakfast, the body burns far higher levels of fat than normal52, 53 and causes up regulation of the enzymes necessary to burn fat, allowing fat to be metabolized faster54.

The average Westerner interrupts this process with breakfast, especially if it has 30 grams or more of carbohydrate. Carbs break down into sugars. Kiefer explains (emphases mine):

As is well known, insulin levels raise with the rise in blood sugar, kick-starting a downward spiral: the early-morning release of insulin reduces fat burning for the entire rest of the day55; … and the insulin lowers levels of ghrelin and growth hormone29-31, 51.

Going back to the aforementioned Spanish study, the breakfast eaters lost weight in the form of muscle. Those who refrained from eating until late morning or lunch lost fat.

A good weight loss regime should burn fat, not muscle.

Incidentally, this is what the difference in volume between fat and muscle looks like (photo credit — Show Up Fitness):

Breakfast skippers may be on to something without realising it. Their lack of hunger may indicate that their bodies are ready to do what is normal in the morning: burn fat. Nourishment can comfortably come later.

If we have breakfast, we shouldn’t feel hungry until lunchtime, right?

Yet, millions of breakfast eaters feel hungry before lunch.

I remember this from the cereal repasts of my youth. My mother thought this was healthful and weight-stabilising. Dad and I had to join in the regimen of Special K with sliced banana and semi-skimmed milk. Errgh. By 10 a.m., I was hungry.

Is it any wonder that I came to share this journalist’s opinion of breakfast:

Breakfast is a nag. Breakfast saddles up against the loser wall with “flossing” and “401k” and “thank you notes.”

But I digress.

As I have now seen for myself, part of mid-morning hunger depends on what one eats in the morning.

Dr Mercola has a good page on breakfast, hunger and fat loss. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Why carbs increase hunger

Mercola explains:

Typically, you will find that eating a carbohydrate-rich breakfast will tend to make you hungry again far sooner than a low-carb, high-fat breakfast will. The reason for this is because if your body is using sugar as its primary fuel, it will need a “refill” at regular intervals, as sugar is a very fast-burning fuel.

Fatty bacon and eggs with no carbs or fruit might be a better option for these reasons:

Fat, on the other hand, is a slow-burning fuel, allowing you to feel satiated longer, and the more important fact is that you have loads more fat available than sugar stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver.

Also:

If you’re healthy, your blood sugar level won’t drop dangerously low (such as can occur with hypoglycemia) but they can drop low enough to make you feel hungry again, even though you recently ate. This effect is amplified when eating a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, such as pancakes, muffins, cereal, or bread, with a large glass of juice for example.

When I’m on holiday I enjoy looking at what other hotel guests select from the breakfast buffet. Nearly everyone has a high-carb breakfast, whether that is toast, pastry or ‘healthy’ cereal. Last summer, one overweight man piled his plate with cereal, fruit salad and five slices of various whole-grain breads slathered with jam. No doubt he thought he was doing the right thing. Maybe he was by eating what he wanted. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was famished by mid-morning.

The ‘fat switch’

There may well be a connection between what we eat for breakfast and our ability to gain and lose weight.

Carbohydrates might flip the ‘fat switch’:

The term “fat switch” was coined by Dr. Richard Johnson, chief of the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado, and author of the books The Sugar Fix, and The Fat Switch; the latter of which presents a groundbreaking approach to preventing and reversing obesity. As explained by Dr. Johnson, any time we discuss sugar, we’re talking about ALL forms of sugar, including grain-carbohydrates, but some types are clearly more hazardous than others, in terms of their effect on your biochemistry.

Fructose — the sugar found in fruit:

activates a key enzyme, fructokinase, which in turn activates another enzyme that causes your cells to accumulate fat and resist letting any of it go. This is especially true if you are overweight, but far less of an issue if you aren’t.

Carbohydrates — including grains — hinder weight loss because they break down as sugar:

thereby promoting insulin and leptin resistance just like other sugars, which in turn promotes obesity and makes losing weight a real struggleThere are also circumstances in which carbohydrates can be converted to fructose in your body even when there’s no fructose in the carbs. The underlying mechanism for this is still unclear, but Dr. Johnson believes that insulin/leptin resistance may be one of the conditions that allows for this odd conversion to occur.

Therefore, not only can carbohydrates and fruits increase late-morning hunger, they might also inhibit the body’s metabolism and its handling of insulin.

For overweight people this increases the risk of weight gain and Type 2 diabetes.

Anyone in that situation would do well to consider a low carb high fat breakfast, the old fashioned kind: fatty meats or fish (e.g. smoked salmon) and eggs.

I know a lot of overweight people who really should be on this type of eating plan. I’ve tried explaining the principle and the subsequent weight loss, but they just can’t get their heads around the notion of fighting fat with fat. Carbs have become an iconic, ‘necessary’ part of their diet. ‘How can someone live without carbs?’ they ask. ‘You need them!’

We do not. We need only a small amount, the best source of which is the fibre in green vegetables.

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