One of the reasons why there are so many diets and so many different opinions about what to eat for optimal health is that we are not all built quite the same. What works for one person may not work for another. Genetic predispositions, gender, age, diet history, medical conditions, geographical location, blood type and so on will have varying degrees of influence.
We do, however, all share a common ancestry at some point far in the distant past. Many foods today have not been around in such large or even any quantities for most of mankind’s history. Refined sugar, grains, vegetable oils, modern fruit and dairy products are relatively recent developments that humans haven’t quite adapted to. This has led to near epidemic levels of obesity, diabetes, dementia, arthritis, dental caries, depression, cancer and heart disease - diseases that are relatively rare in pre-agricultural societies. The remains of hunter-gatherers, contrary to popular belief, reveal physiques that are almost disease free. If you read the accounts of the early European explorers they always marvelled at the robust health of ‘primitive’ people. This, then, is the starting point of planning an optimal diet – a return to more primitive foods.
The following, in italics, is a comment from my friend RT detailing his particular issues with diet and general well-being with my own analysis.
Disclaimer: I am a computer engineer and not a health professional so my advice may be for amusement only or taken with a pinch of salt. Keep in mind, though, that so called “health professionals” have endorsed the food pyramid which recommends eating 6 to 11 servings of bread a day. This has resulted in the diet holocaust we are experiencing now.
My biggest problem is that I am a very picky eater to begin with.
I can see this is going to be quite challenging. It occurs to me that a love of all food actually works in favour of those determined to change their diet as they can more easily adapt. However I am a big believer in the “you are what you eat" philosophy so diet changes are in order. Diet is often just a habit and habits can be changed. For example if you cut out sweet foods, sweet foods soon become too sweet to enjoy. Nothing is going to change if you don't change your eating habits permanently - it's time to get tough on yourself and bite the bullet.
My pallet is very narrow. I live on enchiladas / rice / beans 5 days a week. I don’t even have to order when I walk into my restaurant..... they know exactly what I'll be having.
Immediately I can see that this is a diet high in carbohydrates. Enchiladas are corn based. When the Conquistadors conquered the Neolithic people of Central America they faced a people who ate a lot of corn. Cortes with about 1000 soldiers conquered a nation of millions, cutting swathes through the feeble masses of corn eating Aztecs. It was a different story when they came up against the hunters living in the north. It took centuries to crush the bison eating North American Indians. Small groups of Apaches, Sioux and others were a real threat even to the relatively modern US cavalry, running rings around them at times. The Europeans were forced into a war of brutal savagery in order to prevail.Man for man the Bison eating Plains Indian was more than a match for most Europeans. The final solution to the Indian problem was the elimination of the great buffalo herds and introducing them to the Western diet.
Rice and beans are also Neolithic foods and there is a lot of evidence that beans (legumes) are generally poisonous. Raw soy beans can be used as a rat poison! The Greeks advised against eating beans. Some claim that they are high in protein but it is nothing like the protein you would find in an egg or steak. All beans should be avoided. Rice is not as bad as wheat but should only be eaten in limited quantities. I sometimes mix white rice with a can of sardines.
Restaurants should be avoided as they put in a lot of sugar, salt and god knows what else to make it tasty. There is no mention of what drinks are had with the meal but these are often a source of extra calories, especially sodas, beer and fruit juices. Avoid artificially sweetened drinks as they confuse the metabolism - just stick to water and a little wine.
I like very little in the way of fruits / vegetables.
This is actually a good thing, contrary to all orthodox diet thinking. Modern fruits are just candy bars on trees. Even the establishment now say to limit the drinking of fruit juices. So fruit is just fruit juice with some inedible (roughage) bits as well – how can that be better? The same as wholemeal bread – its just white bread with inedible, possibly poisonous bits, thrown in – how can that make it better? Vegetables can add a bit of variety and probably do no harm although I find it hard to imagine that hunter-gatherers ate much leafy green vegetable matter being generally unable to cook it well. A few berries would be beneficial. Avoid nuts as they are high in carbohydrate calories and tend to promote hyperphagia. All fruit promotes weight gain as the body has adapted to gorging on fruit for the very limited time it is in season to gain fat for the leaner, winter months. Modern methods of agriculture, cold storage and refining have made this metabolism shattering food available in vast quantities all year round.
In fact I dont eat large volumes of food as it is. Very small portions can fill me up.
This may be a relative thing. You want to be able to go for a long time without eating anything at all. Three or four times a week it would be good to miss breakfast and lunch and end the day with a normal sized meal. This will promote weight loss and give the digestion a rest. To do this comfortably you need to eat foods that don’t make you hungry. Meats and saturated fats are able to give a feeling of satiety that lasts.
What I was really wanting was an exhaustive list of what I can choose from...... so I can make momma a shopping list.
Here is a bit of a run down:
Avoid – Vegetable oil, sugar, corn, wheat (grains in general). Anything processed that comes in a box.
Limit – fruit, nuts, starchy vegetables, corn fed meat
Eat moderately – leafy vegetables, berries, cheese
Eat– eggs, red meat (grass fed), wild game, bacon, fish, butter, cream.
This is a diet high in saturated fat and you will find opposition to it everywhere. Even though our bodies burn saturated fat when we are losing weight people think it is bad for you. It is a real hurdle to overcome as it is ingrained into our consciousness that fat is bad. The Western world is as authoritarian in its thinking as any fascist/communist state when it comes to a healthy diet. Join the resistance and eschew carbohydrates – the only macro-nutrient you don’t need. Stop eating protein or fat and you will soon be dead but if you stop eating carbohydrates you may well get healthier. It’s almost impossible to stop eating all carbohydrate so just do your best to limit it.
I have discovered a blog that really is the only one you need to read. It is not about weight loss but follow the principles you find there and weight loss will surely result. It's written by a doctor too. Visit this blog and read every article:
Especially read first:
..... and I'm really in pretty bad physical shape stamina wise. I live way too sedentary a lifestyle now that I dont physically labor at work....... but I grew the belly when I was most active..... my weight has remained fairly constant over the last 10 years.
It is a good sign that your weight is not increasing. A large belly is a bad sign metabolically however. Reducing the size of the belly is my primary objective when it comes to diet and fitness – get that looking right and everything else will fall into place. Again the authoritarian state has convinced everyone that they need to exercise to lose weight. This is totally wrong – the only way to lose weight is through diet. If exercise made you lose weight then fat people would be thin on account of the weight lifting they have to do constantly. The trouble with exercise is that it doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as people think, the body compensates later in the day by slowing down the metabolism resulting in a calorie burn that’s not much different to a day without exercise. People tend to eat more after exercise because they feel they deserved it, erroneously thinking they have a calorie deficit. Eventually the body adapts to exertion and burns fuel much more efficiently. So many good reasons not to think that exercise assists with weight control. Use diet to lose fat and exercise to gain muscle.
I've never had much endurance. I was a sprinter. It was like, in my prime, my muscles could not get enough oxygen fast enough to sustain continued use ...... but if I rested for a few minutes I could sprint full speed again ....... and I recently found out my biological father had the same experiences.
...... so you know, walking even a half-mile on the treadmill my legs just stop responding to my requests for another step...... but 5 minutes later I can walk another 1/4 mile. I think I could probably build that up to a mile over a month or so of incremental increases...... I dont know that I could ever do 2 miles.
The world does seem to be divided into those that are good at endurance and those that are strong in bursts. I think I’m an endurance sort of person. The good news is that high intensity interval training is a very efficient way of exercising so this should suit your style. Just get the heart rate up for a few seconds and then rest and do it again for as long as you feel comfortable. Eventually the cardio-vascular system will improve and more endurance should be possible but take it in easy stages and don’t exercise everyday. Endurance and strength is best for practical reasons. You never know when a disaster will strike and you will have to put in a Herculean effort at saving your self and family during an earthquake or Islamic fundamentalist attack.
.... but any advice you care to offer would be appreciated..... I dont really care to get skinny as much as I want to feel better and have more energy.
Feeling better and having more energy is a good goal to have but very difficult to achieve constantly. Everyone, myself included, has off days - possibly due to poor sleep, viral infection or stress or just bio-rhythms. Yet being slimmer and fitter undoubtedly help with energy and good health. Ninety percent of the equation is diet and having a body that is not constantly awash with high energy carbohydrates will go a long way to developing a feeling of vitality. Learn to view hunger as a friend. (another authoritarian principle is that you must never feel hungry). Realise that everything you have been taught about nutrition is not only wrong but possibly a deliberate lie in the service of giant food corporations and governments – they probably don’t even realise that they are doing it. They do know that they want to make money. Just one example is that they will add salt to a soft drink and then add extra sugar to hide the taste resulting in you getting thirstier after drinking it and wanting even more. But hey, it’s the consumer’s choice, right?
Eschewing the enchiladas and beans and abandoning the 'exercise to lose weight' myth is not going to be easy RT. Ridding yourself of the authoratarian Western diet indoctrination may be even harder. And facing the opposition from friends and loved ones will be a mighty big ask. Yet why not try it for six months and see what happens?