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Jeff Duntemann’s Metadiet Picobook, Part 5

Hypothesis: Eating fat gooses your metabolism, burning body fat.

Experiment: Eat more fat.

Some time back, I reviewed a very old book: A Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public, by William Banting. It was published in 1865, and you can get it for free from Google Books. It’s the earliest I’ve ever seen anyone publish what amounts to an experiment in losing weight. An overweight man got advice from his doctor, tried it, and lost weight. Better still, he published what he ate, and passed out the book (which is more of a pamphlet) to anyone who wanted it. Banting’s diet proved so popular that “to bant” became a Victorian term for what we now call “going low-carb.”

Fast forward to the late 1950s. A physician named Herman Taller, like Banting, got impatient with his own weight. He’d tried the fashionable remedy of his time (counting calories and avoiding fat) without any success. Then, at the encouragement of a fellow researcher, he did something remarkable: He started consuming what could have been as much as 5,000 calories a day, most of it fat. He lost weight.

Also, like Banting, he wrote a book. Calories Don’t Count was published in 1961. Again, like Banting, Taller and his book have been pretty much forgotten. Forgotten, of course, until Gary Taubes redisovered them, and described them both in his 2008 book, Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Taller’s book is mostly of historical interest these days. His science is now 55 years old, and we’ve learned a lot in the meantime. (There are hazards in polyunsaturated fats that we had no clue about in the 50s.) So I don’t recommend it. Taubes’ book picks up the science that Taller began with, and brings it up to the current day. I do recommend Taubes, enthusiastically, and have several times. If you want to know anything at all about human metabolism, he’s your go-to guy.

For this entry, the point I want to make is something that Taubes explained: Going low-carb is an excellent first step. But you can’t just eat protein, or you risk mal de caribou, which is liver overload due to eating almost nothing but protein. You have to eat fat as well. If you’ve reduced your carb intake, eating fat begins a remarkable process: fat mobilization. Your body runs out of convenient carbs in the bloodstream, and begins to burn stored fat for energy. Your metabolism ticks up sharply. You generate more heat. It’s a weird concept, but I did the experiment. It works.

Here’s how: I banished all carbs from my breakfast. No sugar, no grains, no juice, no fruit. What I began eating (and have eaten most days since) is an egg fried in butter, sometimes two. Coffee with cream. Some days (not always) full-fat unsweetened yogurt. An odd thing began to happen. Within twenty minutes to half an hour, I started to sweat under my arms.

I added up the calories, and it was about a wash compared to a bowl of Cheerios. But when I ate Cheerios, I didn’t sweat. I got a little sluggish, in fact, an hour later, in what was literally a Cheerios crash. The key is that I hadn’t eaten any carbs since the previous evening’s meal, and had gone all night without eating anything. By the morning, I was out of carbs. There was nothing to stoke the fires but protein and fat.

As with everything I’ve suggested in this series, it may not work this way for everyone, but the biochemistry seems legit, and it certainly worked for me. Try it. Lose your fear of fat. There’s nothing to it. When I ate more fat, I lost weight, and both my bad cholesterol and triglycerides went through the floor. By conventional measures I’m healthier than I was when I was 45. I credit that to eating more fat. (The kidney stone just pushed me in the right direction.)

Tomorrow: Wrapping up.


  1. William Meyer says:

    Another thing we need to learn: Eating fat does not refer only to things like butter, bacon, or a nice rib-eye. In learning to manage my hypoglycemia, I did a good deal of research, and found that vegetable fat, like animal fat, will put the pancreas to sleep. Green olives are your friend. Nine or so green olives contain sufficient fat to make the pancreas behave for a few hours.

    Yesterday was interesting. I did without my usual oatmeal breakfast, and also postponed my first coffee until 9:30 or so. Started working about 7:30, and consumed perhaps a quart of water before I had any coffee. When I did have coffee, I used one of the smaller cups, not my usual large one. I felt no desire for food until nearly 3:00, and did not suffer any of the classic blood-sugar depletion symptoms.

    I have also been starting the day with a glass of V8 spiked with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Not sure yet whether that recipe is a keeper. We’ll see.

    1. Nothing wrong with olive oil. I just really like butter for some reason.

      I did notice that eating eggs in the morning kept me from getting hungry again much before lunch. When I do snack, it’s on peanuts, and don’t really have any carbs of consequence prior to lunch. Taller commented on fat’s ability to kill your appetite, at first gently, and then (if you persist) by triggering nausea. Doesn’t work that way with cookies, energy bars, or anything else low-fat or high-carb.

      1. William Meyer says:

        I also prefer butter, but my system seems to object. However, determining which foods are really antagonistic is a continuing process. I do know that aged hard cheeses give far less trouble than do soft cheeses. But then, I much prefer cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, all regulations to the contrary.

        1. I look old, hard cheese too–there’s a Unikaas Black Label Gouda at Whole Foods that I’ve been eating recently, and I think I linked to it in an Odd Lots sometime in the past few months. Old enough not to need pasteurization, hard enough to pound nails with. And delicious, especially with a good dry red. The link’s gone bad or I’d include it here. I hope it’s still being imported.

          1. William Meyer says:

            Back in my Toronto days, I was big on 8 year old Canadian cheddar. Made from unpasteurized milk, and always excellent. A huge contrast to 5 year old Wisconsin cheddar, which has always reminded me of battery acid. As the cheesemakers in Toronto told me: only really nasty bacteria can survive in pasteurized milk, and it leaves little room for finesse in the product.

  2. Barbara says:

    Where do you get full-fat yogurt? I’ve been looking in the local grocery stores and it’s all low-fat or non-fat. I’m sure if I did find one, it would have some kind of fruit in it. Call me weird, but I don’t like fruit in things. I prefer my fruit the way it was made.

    I haven’t looked at Trader Joe’s (don’t go there often) but they were recently advertising one with fruit in it. So, maybe they have a plain one.

    We don’t get a Whole Foods until sometime in 2014. The nearest one is about 45 minutes away.

    1. The only one I’ve seen recently is Greek Gods Pomegranate:

      And it’s not always easy to find. Look in places like Whole Foods or Natural Grocers. Around Chicago, I’ve seen it at Jewel, though not at all stores at all times.

      There’s no actual fruit beyond pom juice in it, and the pom flavor isn’t terribly strong. Try it if you see it.

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