Reading Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories" has been a minor epiphany in several different areas. It's a 'research review', which is not 'general' reading, you'd have to be a serious reader and seriously into the subject to enjoy it -- but I am.
I feel like someone who has been wandering through the desert for a lifetime, constantly tempted by rapidly vanishing mirages of weight loss promises, distracting myself from the hopelessness by focusing on my feet, and finally I tripped over something real. Something that revolutionizes the way I think about quite a few things, something that makes me look up from the book and holler, "Of COURSE! Yes, that makes sense!"
I've always felt fat was probably a 'symptom' of something (and no, not "eating 12 pounds of bonbons a day" as most seem to assume). Since obesity is associated with all the "diseases of Western Civilization," it makes sense that obesity is a symptom (an illness of a sort) just like all those diseases -- diabetes, heart disease, cancer, alzheimers, etc. -- and that they probably all have the same core causes. It turns out there is over a century of research demonstrating exactly that.
The amazing part isn't that fat is a hormonal, endocrinal, metabolic problem on display. Most of us knew that. The amazing part is how much evidence for this, and against the "healthy high-carb low-fat" hypothesis there really is, that has managed to be marginalized in one way or another.
At this point the agriculture chemical industry (huge), the modern food manufacturing industries (huge), the modern food retail and grocery industries (huge), the the modern pharmaceutical industries for heart issues (huge), diabetic issues (huge), cancer issues (huge), and even pharmaceutical industries for psychological issues research suggests are probably also 'diseases of western civilization' from the same root (depression, schizophrenia, etc.) all have a "vested interest" in keeping the global brainwashing going strong against meat and in favor of carbohydrates.
I think it's making me paranoid on low-carb's behalf: I'm beginning to see new "press releases" on research as literal propaganda. The rift of disconnect between what these studies actually say, and what they are proposed to have said, is getting wider and more astonishing by the day. Quite literally it is getting to the point where I see media examples regularly where a study that specifically did NOT find in favor of carbs, is promoted widely as having done exactly that. "The Big Lie," this is called in politics: say something often enough and loudly enough, and people will accept it. It will seem impossible that anything so "pervasive" could be wrong.
On an only slightly separate topic, Regina Wilshire's blog article "Don't Buy Their Snake Oil" is a good look at a research presentation that nicely examples something not uncommon nowdays: something presented so badly that the word "wrong" doesn't even sufficiently address the issue.
So basically, when you stick food in your body, lots of stuff happens, but concerning fat, it simplifies to one of two things happening:
1 - It is used for energy, or
2 - It is stored as fat.
Pretty simple. So when you see someone fat and sedentary, the obvious (and research supported) conclusion is: that person is not getting the energy from their food. Their body is essentially hoarding it in fat cells, refusing to give it to them.
So, the person will be driven to eat, as they have less energy. They will be more sedentary, because they have less energy. They are likely to eat carbs, because that is 'energy', which will only make things worse, as their insulin-resistance increases. Eating carbs even causes depletion and/or greater need for a variety of vitamins (some Bs, C and E so far, maybe more) which can cause body problems.
All of this not because the person is some kind of societal moral failure, but because their body is processing and reacting to insulin differently than it used to. Some people it starts in early childhood, some not till they are 60, some for genetic reasons, some for 'everything you ingested that came before' reasons, etc.
The bottom line, as Taubes explains, is that most people do not get fat because they keep eating; they keep eating because they are getting fat -- because the food they're taking in is, quite literally, not feeding them the energy they need.
After reading about carbs through the entire book, I had a realization at the end. And that is:
Food = meat.
Meat including fish, poultry, etc. of course.
Pretty much throughout history, that's what men ate. Until 10+ thousand years ago when agriculture graced our world.
I thought about this a lot, and came to the conclusion that culturally, I've been brainwashed into expecting several different foods at a time (especially at dinner), and starches constantly.
But in reality, FOOD, is a piece of steak or burger or chicken or pork or fish. Everything else (except fats) is just the details, just the seasonal add-ons.
This helped me in a surprising way. I've long had a problem with protein powder, which due to my size and difficulty with eating meat 5x a day, I need to use. But I have the ability to taste the stuff (any brand--I've tried many, good ones) no matter how "buried" it is in other stuff. It is vile, vile, vile, that is all there is to it. Even ice cream and chocolate syrup, when I once went off lowcarb, could not mask the vile taste of protein powder. So since last September when I went lowcarb I have wanted to drink this but I balk. "I don't LIKE it. I don't WANT to eat food I don't like."
Ta-da! Presto, I changed my way of thinking, and protein powder fell out of the food category. Now it qualifies more like maybe a medicine for fat and weakness. Those are supposed to taste bad--big deal. So now I've been having generally two protein drinks a day, adding 76g of protein to my day that is making all the difference in how I feel.
And now when I think about food, I think about -- food. I have burgers, steak, chicken, pork chops, gourmet sausages, I'm planning meatballs. I make eggs, with shredded hard cheese, or sometimes an egg-cream cheese bowl muffin, but generally, I'm eating MEAT. I'm not "Paleo," I'm not avoiding dairy or veggies or anything like that. I'm simply considering food to be MEAT, and if I can't have that, having some protein powder.
For the first time since September 06 when I began low carb, I have actually made all my nutrient counts, ideally no less, for some time now. I've been eating so that I am totally satiated every day, and so I have enough protein to feel strong, and I'm eating truly yummy foods (even a little something fairly sweet), and yet when I really push my food intake to the max, I make nearly 1500 calories, 120++g protein, 60++g fats, and generally less than 20 carbs. And I'm willing to eat 40-50 carbs a day, it's just amazingly easy, when I eat "real food", to keep them low.
My carb intake will be increasing next week with my zucchini and cauliflower experiments in the kitchen, and several new muffin and cookie experiments (using almond and coconut flours, as I now make just about everything gluten-free as well as lowcarb). Still it will remain low and my protein and fats will remain high.
And it's easy. I don't know why it wasn't easy before. I have an old blog post, "Don't Have a Cow, Man" about my issues with getting enough protein. And yet somehow now I'm looking at 160g a day when before I couldn't seem to make 80g very often. Since I can really track my sense of well-being and leg-strength to the protein quantity I've ingested in the 1-3 days prior, that's really important.
And I find that if I have something sweet to eat, I can eat literally 3-4 bites of it and feel like, "Ok, that's enough." I'm not hungry; but I'm not stuffed, either. This is the first time in my life I recall simply feeling "satiated". I'm good at ignoring hunger, and I'm good at feeding hunger, and I'm good at feeling stuffed, but those were the only three options for me until now. Now suddenly it's like my body is just where it needs to be.
Being back on lowcarb again (before long I'll update my on/off LC graph, which as always shows the story so much more eloquently than any words), I'm already reaping the rewards. I can sleep, deeply and fully. I can wake up without feeling I'm under the sea. I can think and function when I wake up. I have energy and feel like getting up. With one exception I have gotten up earlier than usual and done far more for my day by 9am than I used to get done by noon.
And the main thing is, I can get up and cook/eat 5x a day because I want to do well at this -- but mostly, because I have the energy.
The more meat I eat, the more like a stealthy hunter I feel. :-)