There is a current spat on Twitter about the low-carbohydrate vs low-fat diets. Which one is better for weight loss?
Anything can make you fat. I have met the occasional fat vegetarian. I was once pretty fat because of whisky. Really. There are around 1800 calories in a bottle of whisky so a daily bottle plus all the food plus the fact that, back then, I spent most of my time in front of a computer, made me into a stunt double for Mr. Blobby. Some nights I became less intelligible than him…
I cut down a lot on the whisky, landed a job as a janitor (times were very, very hard). Very physical working 6 to 8 hours a day, 6, sometimes 7 days a week – the weight simply vanished. I made no changes at all to my actual food intake. It was the same ‘unhealthy crap’ I always ate and still do. Curries, pizza, lemon chicken, anything I can culturally appropriate, I’ll eat it. Except rat on a stick. Everyone has a limit. I’d try it once though.
It’s really simple (as long as we are talking solely in terms of weight loss and ignoring essential amino acids, vitamins etc). Calories in, calories used. If you take in more fuel than you use, your body will store the excess. If you use more fuel than you take in, your body will use its stored excess to make up the difference.
What should you eat to lose weight? It does not matter. Eat what you like but don’t eat more than you need. Eat less than you need and you will lose weight.
Do remember to stop dieting at some point though. Too thin is actually more dangerous than too fat. Having a little bit of reserve is always a good thing – you never know when you might need that little bit of extra energy reserve. Chubby Venezuelans will attest to this. So will all the currently-villified British fatties if Corbyn gets in.
There is much more to it than weight, of course. Healthy eating does not simply consist of calories. The above considers body weight in isolation, it does not consider what those calories consist of.
Sugar, the naked truth – you don’t need any, other than what’s already in the food. Now before you get all outraged, hear me out. I don’t need to smoke, I don’t need to drink whisky. In fact I know that those things are likely to be bad for me one day. I do them because I like them. I know the risks and accept them because to me, the enjoyment outweighs the risks. Okay I don’t drink as much as I used to by any means but I do still like my whisky. One of the advantages of reduced whisky intake is that I don’t need the swill at the bottom end of the market. I now have smaller amounts of the good stuff.
I like sugar too. I will not buy aspartame sweetened things because I know, from personal experience over many experiments, that aspartame will make the world drop out of my bottom. My guts don’t like it at all.
Then there are the energy drinks, or ‘wakey water’ as I call them. I have, again, restricted my intake to one or maybe two a day and never after midnight. But I still like them. Actually I prefer most of the cheaper ones to the full-fat Red Bull but that’s a matter of personal taste and also wallet strain. One for about £1.50 compared to a pack of six for £1.50, it’s not a heavy decision for a one-time homeless guy in Scotland.
As I said before, calorie-free ‘energy’ drinks are a joke. If you drink those and believe they give you energy you are insane. And probably awake and tired.
We use sugar because we like it. Yes, too much is bad for you but too much of anything is bad. The dose makes the poison – even too much water will kill you. It will kill you faster, too. We do not, however, need raw sugar in the same way that we need water. In an internal sugar shortage, your body can make the sugar it needs from fatty acids produced by bacteria in the gut, and even from protein. There is also sugar in a lot of foods anyway, especially plant foods. Your body can get all the sugar it needs from a salad but, well, salad… chocolate… no contest really.
Oh I eat salad sometimes. With salt, because everything is better with salt.
That’s another issue. The healthists insist we have a daily salt allowance. I do not accept any kind of ‘allowance’ because I’ve always been a rebellious little goblin and always will be. I live by my own rules and often break those too.
The salt thing is bollocks on many levels. If you have a job that involves a lot of physical work you will sweat a lot. If, like me, you really don’t like hot weather because it makes you sweat to the point where you have to replace your eyebrows with rain gutters: If you labour day in, day out at heavy lifting… you lose salt as well as water in that sweat.
If your job involves sitting at a desk in an air conditioned office then you don’t need to sweat much. If you are one of those Satanic hybrids who like hot weather and don’t feel like you’re melting whenever the sun hits you then you probably don’t sweat as much as those of us from normal, cold places. So you don’t lose salt and water so quickly.
A one size fits all approach is horrifyingly wrong. In anything, if it comes to it. I eat a lot of salt. I’ve no idea how far over the ‘allowance’ I am because I don’t care enough to measure it. I carry little salt packs from takeaways with me everywhere and I have been known to just open one of those packs and eat the contents as raw salt. On very hot days, usually.
Your body regulates its salt/water balance. Too much salt and your urine is salty. Too little salt and you die of hyponatremia. It takes a hell of a lot of salt intake to wreck that balance, and you’ll know if you’re heading that way. Your kidneys will tell you with pain.
It doesn’t take very long to die if you have too little.
There is no point drinking water on hot days if you’re not also taking in some salt. You lose water and salt in sweat, you have to replace both, not one, or your body will simply piss out the water to keep them in balance. Modern medicine makes no allowance for this, nor for differences between individuals. Modern medicine uses the British Standard Human as their model and if you don’t fit the manual, well tough. They will let you die.
It used to be enough to have a bag of peanuts or crisps to get plenty of salt. I have, in recent years, had to add salt to peanuts and crisps when I eat them because it’s now been reduced to silly levels. Like the calorie-free energy drinks, we now have ‘ready salted’ crisps to add to our list of false advertising. I remember when crisps were unsalted but came with a litle blue twisted bag of salt to add as much as you wanted. Sometimes a pack had two bags of salt by mistake. I loved getting those.
Let’s talk about fat.
You do not get fat from eating fat, unless you are eating human fat. Or you are eating too much fat. Your fat is not the same as cow fat or pig fat or sheep fat or nut fat. Yes, bags of nuts now have a ‘high fat’ warning. Sigh. They are seeds. The plant has to start growing underground, in the dark. It has to have energy reserves in the form of fats and starches until it can get its leaves into the light and start making its own.
Seeds are full of stored energy. That’s why we eat them.
In fact seeds – cereals, grains – are so full of stored energy that you can get very fat indeed eating those things. Even if you never eat any meat based fat at all.
When you eat a bag of nuts or cereal or rains you are not eating pure carbohydrate. You are also eating some protein and a lot of plant fats. So don’t tell me you are ‘avoiding fat’ by eating those things. You are avoiding certain types of fat by eating loads of another type.
In the end it doesn’t matter. Any fat you eat is broken down by your cells and if it doesn’t need to be used, it is reassembled, along with any excess carbohydrate, into human fat and then stored. Fat does not make you fat. Carbohydrate does not make you fat. Taking in more calories than you use is what makes you fat.
There’s a lot more – there’s enough for a series of lectures in this topic!
Some vitamins are fat soluble and you will not get them at all on a fat free diet. They only exist in the fat. They are insoluble in water. Vitamin K – ever tried to make a bacterial growth media where that was an essential ingredient? It just sits on top in a little blob.
So much more, but this is just a little backwater blog and putting whole lectures up feels somewhat futile.
Protein is worth a mention. Some years ago, the Atkins diet was all the rage. No carbs, just protein. Everyone on it was instantly recognisable because they had acetone breath. Their bodies broke the protein to make sugar and dumped the excess parts as nitrates and acetone. Sure, you can live like that but if your only goal is weight loss it’s pointless. All it does is make you smell like cleaning fluid.
All you need for weight loss is to take in fewer calories than you use. That is all there is to it. There is nothing more complex involved and it will save you money, not cost you money. You spend less on food. Alternatively you can spend more to have someone else to tell you to spend less on food. Can you see how silly that sounds?
Diets are expensive. You pay people to tell you to spend less money on food. You pay more than you save. Does anyone see the scam in this?
Look, it’s really simple.
Are you happy with your health on your curent diet (ignore weight)? No? See a dietician. A proper, quialified one. Yes? Your diet is fine.
Are you feeling like you have to lose weight but answered ‘yes’ to the first question? Just eat less and/or exercise more.
Are you feeling like eating a cake of yourself and don’t give a shit? Good. Carry on.
All of those are correct answers. If you want to lose weight, take in less than you use. If you are feeling bad, and you think it’s because of what you eat, see a dietician. If you are happy as you are, carry on.
Modern medicine will never get it.
So the diet scammers have an open field for profit, when losing weight should, by any definition of logic, cost less than whatever you spend on food now.
You can change your life and body without outside help.It does not depend on how much you want to spend.
It only depends on how much you care about it.