When I was over in Japan, I developed a little bit of a beer gut, and noticed myself losing some muscle strength, even though I was eating what seemed like a healthy diet (prepared by my amazing host mom) and walking around a bunch. When I got back here, I decided to try to reverse the trend, and got on the Internet to see what the hive-mind had to say.
The most interesting articles I’ve found:
- Gary Taube’s excellent Times article on the myth of fat being bad for you.
- The Primal Blueprint, a guide to getting back to the basics of paleolithic life. Scientific? Varies. Salient? Very. Main points: eat natural things, run around, lift heavy objects, play, sleep, use your mind.
- Same guy as above, on grains
- Cancer patients choose sweets over survival
- Some dude who has lived on nothing but beef and water for 47 years, answering questions of the curious. ((PDF version here)
- General reading on carbs, the medical/nutrition establishment, worldwide diets, and other miscellanea.
- Tim Ferris on working out more infrequently.
- Everything we think we know about a healthy diet is a lie.
- Fat is good, even saturated.
- Running, biking, and other low-impact exercise is fine, if you’re doing it as a sport or for fun. It doesn’t do jack for your health.
For the year I spent abroad, I essentially did the exact opposite of what these guys recommend: ate mostly carbs, and rarely did any strength training.
A month-ish of experimentation, and here’s what’s been working:
- Lift weights twice a week, in compound movements, slowly, to failure. No stupid cardio, no stupid ‘isolating muscle groups.’
- Cut out sugars and grains all together, cut down on legumes, get about a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. Get the rest of your nutrition from fat. Eat hella meat and eggs, plus some cheese, nuts, and veggies.
- Never count calories, carbs, or anything else. Eat whatever when being social. Food should give you energy, not stress.
I haven’t checked a scale for months, but I’m not trying to lose weight. I can lift more, got rid of the developing belly, never spend more than an hour a week in the gym, and can go for hours without getting hungry. I’ve also noticed that food is tastier- once you cut out crackers, bagels, and cookies, I think your tastebuds attune to the lighter flavors in whole foods.
- Why do some societies seem perfectly healthy eating high-carb? Your average Japanese person eats a lot of rice and noodles (and beer), doesn’t do much in the way of weights, and lives long and ages well. Why wasn’t their lifestyle healthy for me?
- Why is there such a disconnect between the low-carb movement and government/medical opinion? Is a sinister processed-foods lobby, or simple cognitive dissonance?
- Are we seriously damaging our kids by stuffing them with all these carbs?
I wonder if there’s a career or graduate school path for an Econ major in nutrition science or policy. This is some really interesting stuff, and with obesity accounting for about 9% of health care costs nationwide, there are some real economic implications if we can turn the epidemic around.
Updates and Suggested Reading:
- Michael Pollan: In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma
- Lierre Keith: The Vegetarian Myth (Lowcarbian summary)
- Gary Taubes: Good Calories, Bad Calories
- Clarification: I don’t think weight matters much, unless people are super-obese, and the weight-loss obsession is missing the point. You can tell if you’re healthy by your mood, how you look, how fast you move, and how easily you can lift heavy things.