I’m sorry I haven’t posted much recently, but I’ve been very busy working on a new project. As long-time readers may know, as well as having written a couple of dozen books on computing and web development I also write about psychology and motivation, and more specifically Creative Visualization, in which I teach techniques for priming yourself to become more creative, have greater motivation and to set and achieve your goals in life (among many other things).
I’ve written two books on the subject so far, Creative Visualization For Dummies, and Yes I Can!. The former is a comprehensive tutorial starting from first principles, while the latter takes a selection of 20 different aspects of life and provides techniques for working on each (it also made the UK WH Smiths Top 20 in 2012).
Topics covered in both books include coping with fears and phobias, gaining self-confidence, getting other people on your side, becoming happy and fulfilled, quitting bad habits such as smoking, and much more. In all these areas I have succeeded in making vast improvements in my own life, having stopped smoking and drinking, becoming more confident, losing a fear of dentists I had since childhood, and so on. All, that is, with one exception.
And this exception has stubbornly bugged me for years, and steadfastly refused to budge even after the deepest and most highly imagined visualizations and affirmations. What could this thing be you may ask (or you may already have an inkling). Well, the answer is my weight.
My Toughest Goal To Date
Having been a thin and spritely teenager, and reasonably slim and healthy in my 20s, once I hit my 30s I started to put on a few pounds until by my 40s I had become overweight enough that I was now on two types of blood pressure medication, and also suffered from acid reflux (fairly common with overweight people).
Then, as I continued onto my 50s, despite trying to follow healthy advice about eating low fat and high carb (10% fat, 30% protein and 60% carbs), and keeping my calorie intake to under 2,000 per day, I was continuing to gain weight, and in addition to being put on statins I became clinically obese in my early 50s (by having a BMI in excess of 30).
As I said, all this time I was able to change numerous parts of my life through constant visualization, affirmations and motivational techniques, but nomatter how hard I tried, I couldn’t lower my weight (in fact it continued creeping upwards). But I was determined not to give up trying, undertaking various different dieting attempts, in the course of which I finally kicked alcohol to the point that I could go without it for weeks or months, then drink for one night, and go without it again for several more weeks without getting ‘hooked’ again. And with all those beer calories not entering my body I still wasn’t losing any weight.
I purchased and frequently used a treadmill and vibration machine. I changed from a sit-down desk to a standing one. I went on long walks and undertook exhausting DIY or gardening projects, and sometimes I lost a few pounds, only to see it all come back. ‘Healthy’ eating, exercise and no smoking or drinking simply wasn’t working for me, and I am a highly determined individual.
Having decided that this was one area that was not simply going to bend to my will in the way that so many others had in my life, I went back to the drawing board and decided I had to undertake some research. So I started with biology primers and learned as much as I could about nutrition and the digestive system, about how fat storage (and release) works, the effect exercise has on weight, what different foods do to the body, how various popular diets work and so on. And I now have half a small bookcase full of books on the subject from all the best-known authors.
Many of these books, sadly, led me up the garden path – mainly those that continued to preach the standard 10/30/60 dietary split between fat, protein and carbohydrates, and spouted off about the ‘healthiness’ of grains and pasta, while at the same time demonizing eggs, meat and saturated fats.
What I discovered was that we have all been lied to by the huge food organizations and drug companies, who do so much lobbying that they have governments in their pockets, which also repeat the big food lie of the last 60 years, which is that fatty foods cause body fat. I mean, it sounds so logical and obvious doesn’t it? You eat fat so you get fat. Except that it’s completely wrong.
Fatty Foods Do Not Make You Fat
What I discovered over and over again in my research is one simple and very fundamental fact (something that nature perfected over a very long time to ensure our survival), which is that carbohydrates (not fatty foods) are turned into body fat. You see, people have only been farming for about 10,000 years. Before that we were hunter gatherers and most of the food we ate was meat and vegetables, along with nuts, seeds and berries.
Our diet was pretty much the inverse of what the ‘experts’ currently recommend, in that we probably ate about 60% fat, 30% protein and 10% carbohydrates. And that 60% fat was burned as fuel by our bodies by turning it into chemicals called ketones, which are superior to glucose for powering muscles and our brains.
At the end of summer each year there would be fruits, berries and nuts on the trees and an abundance of carbohydrates would become available. People love sweet foods so all this fruit would be eaten and the carbohydrates in them would be turned into fat and stored in our bodies to help us live through what could be bitterly cold winters, often with restricted access to food. By the time spring came all the excess fat would be burned off at around the time food became more plentiful again.
This was the great mechanism invented by nature – the internal equivalent of squirrels storing nuts for the winter. And the process by which this works is very simple indeed. In fact it’s so simple that all nutritionists fully understand it (even while still insisting that somehow it’s the fat that makes you fat).
How You Get Fat
What happens is that as soon as carbohydrates enter your body they are broken down into glucose. Whether these carbs are from wheat, bread, pasta, potatoes, sugar or high fructose corn syrup, they all are easily broken down into glucose, which then quickly enters your bloodstream. Your pancreas then notices this and immediately realizes that your glucose levels are far too high and starts to deal with them, by either converting the glucose into glycogen (a watery energy storage medium) or, if you already have enough glycogen already, the glucose is swept away into your fat cells.
Now, you were born with your fat cells because you need them to survive, and they play an important role. So the insulin does the smart thing and utilizes them to store the energy-dense meal you have just eaten, because on an evolutionary scale, with all these carbs being consumed it must currently be the autumn, and winter is therefore coming, and so you’re going to need that fat to survive. The trouble begins, though, when you eat lots of carbohydrates every day, because the winter never comes, and your bodily fat supplies grow and grow.
So when nutrition ‘experts’ insist that your diet must comprise of 60% carbohydrates, they are actually advising you to store as much fat as possible. Like I said, they all learned about insulin and fat storage when they studied for their qualifications. But somehow the big myth that fat makes body fat overrides this knowledge in most of them. And sadly this includes the majority of physicians and doctors too, who simply rely on what governments, health advisory bodies and drug companies tell them.
Yes, I found it very hard to believe too, and I took a lot of convincing by the results of numerous books and scientific studies, before I reluctantly admitted that most of the professionals had it all wrong. If you don’t believe it, do the research for yourself – but be honest and open and read all sides of the arguments, especially the ones that are based on solid science and the results of independent studies.
So What’s The Answer?
The answer to obesity is simply to let your body have its winter by restricting your carbohydrate intake until you return to your baseline weight. You do this by reducing carbohydrates to a minimum and then increasing your fat intake to compensate.
Of course, in modern society it’s not quite as easy as this because most foods are highly carbohydrate loaded, so restricting carbs means returning to cooking all your own meals from basic ingredients – but isn’t that going to be so much more healthy for you anyway, particularly as you also cut out all the additives and preservatives too?
Yes, it does mean leaving all those delicious pastries, cakes and desserts on the table, omitting pasta, bread, potatoes and rice from your diet, and foregoing sugary drinks such as sodas and even fruit juices. I know, sounds terrifying, doesn’t it! But all these things would have been non-existent (or very scarce) during the 2 million or so years that comprised the main evolution of the human dietary system.
You see, 10,000 years of evolution since the invention of agriculture is a miniscule amount in comparison, and the human body has been unable to evolve sufficiently fast to keep up with it, especially over the last 50 years, in which major farming strides have been made – hence the current obesity epidemic.
It’s Not Your Fault
If you’re overweight you need to remember that it’s not your fault, even though dieticians and doctors may scold you for overeating and not exercising, it’s not the case that you are to blame. You are in the same boat as about half the human race. You’ve been told to eat the wrong things, and most of the food in the supermarkets today will result in you gaining body weight.
Once you have realized that it’s not your fault, and you know why it’s so hard to diet successfully (because most food – even specialist diet food if it contains carbohydrates – will make you put on weight), and you finally make the decision to lose weight and actually keep it off, wouldn’t you hanker for a scientifically proven method you could use to get back to your proper baseline weight, and stay there?
Well thankfully there is a safe and almost foolproof way, and I am just one person of hundreds of thousands who is proof of its efficacy. I also have nothing to sell (unlike many diet proponents). I just have some information to pass on, which is that simply by changing over to eating all natural food, cooked by myself from original ingredients, I am now losing on average 120 grams (¼ pound) almost each and every day, and have been for months. I don’t exercise (other than gardening and some DIY), and I don’t diet. What’s more I eat when I am hungry and never have to starve myself.
So far I have lost 11 kilos (25 pounds) of body fat, several inches of waist size, my acid reflux has almost completely disappeared, my blood pressure has significantly dropped, and even my dandruff has disappeared. What’s more I feel like I have the energy back that I did in my 20s, I fall asleep quickly and wake up early and not drowsy, and everything is going great!
It’s All About The Carbs
To achieve all these changes in my life I really have made only one change, and that is to try and keep my consumption of carbohydrates down to under about 25 grams a day. I simply made the choice that I was not going to go on a diet, but I was going to change my way of eating – for good!
From all my research, and the numerous incredible stories of others, I knew that a low carb way of eating was what our bodies evolved to need, and are most efficient at using. I also understood that if I were to go back to eating carbohydrates I would pile on the pounds again (as I do if I slip up by having a few too many grams of carbs in a day). No, I was not going to go on a diet to reach my target weight, and then assume I could go back to eating what I liked. That would just be a recipe for disaster.
So I made the plunge and chose to completely change what I eat (even though it’s totally different from what the rest of my family have), and made the decision to stay eating that way from now onwards. And by the way, every meal is delicious!
Initially I thought it was going to be hard, but guess what? I lost 3 kilos (7 pounds) in just the first 7 days and felt excellent. I also, for the first diet ever, felt no hunger pangs whatsoever. Somehow by not consuming carbohydrates, and replacing them with fat, my satiety levels were significantly raised and I found I could only eat about half the amount I used to before feeling full up. And if I feel peckish during the day, that’s fine. I eat a handful of macadamia nuts, or maybe some beef jerky, or have a coffee with plenty of double (heavy) cream.
I Am Never Hungry
Let me stress again. By eating what is also known as a paleolithic (or LCHF) diet, my biggest dread about dieting is gone for good;I have no hunger other than the normal hunger you feel just before mealtime. And I also have no guilt about snacking because I can eat tasty, fatty snacks that don’t cause weight gain and that quickly stop any hunger twinges. Plus, because I am constantly full, my calorie intake is sufficiently low to maintain a healthy 120 gram daily weight loss most days.
At some point (probably mid 2014) I expect to reach my baseline body weight, at which time I will stop losing weight and should simply maintain the same level quite naturally, as long as I keep off the carbs. And all without recourse to Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, or vigorous workouts, or starving myself, or anything other than easting sensibly the way my ancestors used to – that’s it, just as nature intended. No fad diet. No rebound. No cravings. No added expense other than for the cost of buying wholesome food instead of factory-made meals. No hunger. No binging. No shame.
Of course, there are a few things you should know before you make a huge change like this, such as which supplements and minerals you may need to take (perhaps such as increased magnesium and sodium, maybe Co Enzyme Q10, Omega 3, and other supplements such as these, depending on your lifestyle and any medications you take such as statins, and so forth), and what foods are allowed and disallowed, and so on.
Speaking of statins, by the way (which is a whole other area of dietary and health misinformation), thankfully low carbers generally find that their good cholesterol (HDL) raises, while LDL (the bad one) drops, and their ratio of triglycerides (fat) to cholesterol also drops (this is the most important indicator of all), often to the point where statin medication can be discontinued – another bonus of eating better, because statins cost money and can have unpleasant side effects for many people.
If you are interested in switching to this way of eating you won’t regret it, and in the first instance I recommend looking up “Low Carb”, “Paleo”, “LCHF” (Low Carb High Fat), or “Atkins” and getting yourself a good primer on the subject, perhaps along with a low carb recipe book to give you ideas, because you’ll be glad to know that you can make substitutes for most carbohydrate meals, and can make cookies, ice cream and other treats from alternative ingredients. See, it’s not as bad as you might have thought!
Please bookmark this blog if you haven’t already because as I fully digest it all I’ll be posting much more on this subject from the huge mass of books, literature and other information I have amassed, and keep you up-to-date on the continuing progress of my new eating regime. I am truly amazed at just how totally easy it is, and how successful too. If only I had known about all this stuff 20 years ago!
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