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Jeff Duntemann’s Metadiet Picobook, Part 2

To begin: Everything you think you know about dieting is wrong. Put it all out of your head. You’re going to have to start from scratch. This is work. It’s also a species of science. You’ll have to be rigorous and consistent, which involves four important first principles:

  • Keep good records. This suggests a calendar, but all those little squares on calendars just aren’t big enough. I’ve been tempted to write an eating-specific database utility in Lazarus, and I may if time ever allows. In the meantime, an ordinary diary in a text document will do.
  • Change only one thing at a time. Jumping feet-first into a whole new way of eating may lose some weight for you, but it won’t teach you anything about losing weight. Learning what works is the whole idea here.
  • Record consistently. Weigh yourself on the same scale at the same time every day. Ditto blood pressure, if you choose to record it.
  • Don’t give up. Individual metabolisms have inertia. The process may take some time.

Here’s what I call the Jeff Duntemann Metadiet: You’re going to try a number of relatively narrow changes to your daily diet, one at a time, and record what happens with each. Some will work. Some won’t. Continue with any change that works. Abandon any changes that don’t. Repeat until you’ve lost the amount of weight that gets you where you should be.

The above paragraph comes in at under 100 words, so it’s what I call a picobook. If it had come in at 10 words, it would have been a femtobook. IBM published an attobook once. It was a runaway bestseller. Anybody ever read it?

If at all possible, get some fresh blood numbers before you begin. If you’ve had a recent physical, that’s perfect, and it doesn’t have to be yesterday, just within a year or so. If you’re lacking a recent physical, I’ve had good luck with a chain called Any Lab Test Now. You don’t need a prescription or a doctor appointment. Also, their phlebotomists are among the best I’ve ever experienced. Other such labs are all over the place, and they’re not horribly expensive. Weight is only one indicator of health. Get your cholesterols and triglycerides at bare minimum. Record your blood pressure as you go, on a daily basis.

A sidenote: Exercise doesn’t really help you lose weight directly. It has lots of other benefits, especially training that builds muscle. Since muscle consumes energy 24/7, exercise helps indirectly by goosing metabolism. But we don’t burn calories like we burn charcoal in a grill. Calories don’t count. (Doctors knew that in 1964. By the late 1970s, they’d forgotten.) The type of calories counts critically.

Another sidenote: The BMI is bullshit. It doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle. If you’re in the process of losing fat and gaining muscle, it’s less than useless, and I will no longer discuss it. Don’t even bring it up.

Still another sidenote: There are other causes of overweight beyond diet. Genetics is big, as is the state of your endocrine system. You may not be able to eat your way skinny. My experience and research suggest that you can eat your way healthy.

The last sidenote (for today, at least): Don’t starve yourself. Eating less generally is a good thing, considering how much we eat, but taper off slowly. Going off a calorie cliff kicks survival mechanisms into gear that you don’t need, and over the long term will only make you gain weight again.

Tomorrow: The Biggie. I suspect you already know what it is. I suspect that you’re right. Get that calendar ready. And put down that doughnut.


  1. Tom R. says:

    Jeff, Your four bullet points sounds like instructions for engineers. Trying to trouble shoot ANY system using a shotgun approach, not keeping any records, and not making any measurements that can show what you are trying to change are a recipe for failure.

    Looking forward to the next installment! Oh, and was the attobook, THINK?

    1. Yup. And there we hit a sort of Planck’s Length for written works. As much as I would enjoy announcing one, there will be no zeptobooks, much less yoctobooks.

  2. Jeff, You got me with two these things… 1.) Calories don’t count 2.) The BMI is bullshit. I want more. 🙂

  3. Jeff, are you going to talk about GMO’s at all?

    1. Yes and no. There is a dearth of research (though no shortage of opinion) on whether or how high-tech GMO foods affect metabolism. The problem I see there is allergies, and what I will talk about is the wheat issue. Wheat has a very weird genome, and has been so thoroughly messed with using low-tech methods that a large number of people are sensitive to it, with weight gain being one (but not the only) symptom. More later.

  4. Rich Rostrom says:

    Going off a calorie cliff kicks survival mechanisms into gear that you don’t need, and over the long term will only make you gain weight again.

    “Starvation-induced obesity.”

    The BMI is bullshit.

    Prince Fielder is a professional athlete (the firstbaseman of the Detroit Tigers). Last year he hit .313, with 30 HRs and 108 RBIs, and played all 162 games. They pay him over $20M a year. He’s 5′ 11″, 275 lb, for a BMI of 38.5, which is “severely obese”.

    To be sure, Fielder is an unusual body type. However, of the 10 top batters as of today, two are “obese” by BMI.

  5. Rich Rostrom says:

    Also, calories swallowed != calories digested.

    The nominal caloric content of food is the heat of total combustion in a sealed vessel. But no animal organism completely burns what it eats.

    Proof: build a fire with buffalo “chips”. Also, why compost heaps generate heat.

    1. Precisely. One calorie is the same as every other calorie, if you’re a calorimeter.

      Digestion is complex, and metabolism is a dynamic system. The rate at which the body uses calories varies pretty widely depending on what sort of calories they are, how much muscle you have, and what genetics define your basic metabolic rate to be. Eating animal fat steps up my metabolism sharply, especially if it’s been awhile since I’ve eaten carbs. My breakfasts are protein and fat only (no carbs) for that reason. I’ll talk about that later in the series.

  6. William Meyer says:

    I find nothing in what you have written with which I could take issue. However, I am less concerned with losing weight–though I need to lose–than with simply quelling gastroenterological upsets, which have a way of really annoying a person.

    Managing hypoglycemia has taught me that losing weight is an unending challenge, as insulin is not your friend in that pursuit. But I have also accumulated much personal evidence that not all bodies work in the same way, and that my own seems well outside what many doctors and nutritionists expect.

    It’s an adventure, and I will, as usual, enjoy what you have to offer.

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