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Rant: Eat Food. Not Too Much. And Sometimes Plants.

ExtraRich Milk Cap.jpgOh me, oh my, oh me, oh my…I’m just such a bad boy. Last year, I violated the Laws of Thermodynamics by eating more calories…and losing weight. Now, since we all know that every calorie is exactly like every other calorie (settled science!) and since we know that if you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight, well, what other conclusion can I draw? The Laws of Thermodynamics are wrong! And by next week I’ll have this unbalanced wheel spinning away here! Somebody please wire NIST for me; my FAX machine is broken. They can send the Nobel Prize to my Stanwell St. address.

I’ve had to drill new holes in all my belts. I’m not kidding; you can still see the leather shreds on my 3/16″ bit.

Other weirdnesses are besetting me. My blood pressure is down. It wasn’t all that high to begin with (let’s call it high-normal; Carol doesn’t want me to post precise numbers) and now it’s normal-normal. My blood numbers are good, and haven’t changed a whole lot since I gave up habitual sugar in 1997, at which point they abruptly went from worrisomely high to…low-normal. So how did I do it? What’s the magic method?

Simple. Read this very carefully:

Eat food. Not too much. And sometimes plants.

Or, if you’d prefer the shorter, hipper, periods-for-emphasis version:

Eat. More. Animal. Fat.

I eat an egg fried in butter every morning, and I don’t skimp on the butter. I eat full-fat Greek-style yogurt with breakfast. I eat great mounds of several kinds of cheese. I have everybody-knows-are-hideous things like bratwurst for lunch and sometimes supper, especially in good weather when I can toss them on the grill. I eat steak, ground buffalo, pork roast, and chicken deep-fried in lard, when I can find it. (Alas, the poor lards have been hunted nearly to extinction by cruel activists bearing rapid-fire lawsuits and campaign dollars.)

And most recently, I’ve discovered extra-rich milk. It’s not easy to find, but it’s worth the search. Hereabouts, you can get it in half gallons or gallons at Farm Crest milk stores. Farm Crest milk comes from cows not treated with antibiotics or growth hormone, which is why I started drinking their lower-fat versions to begin with. And it is the whitest, creamiest, most delicious milk I’ve ever tasted. 4.5% milkfat, wow.

So why am I not dead? Am I some kind of alien fluke, or zombie? (If so, I’m coming for your brains, which are deliciously high in fat.) By all the objective measures that we have, I’m healthy and apparently getting healthier. (And most recently, I discovered during a routine eye exam that my vision is getting better. Not so much better as to obviate the need for glasses, but my prescription went down almost half a diopter. No clue why–even I won’t blame it on a low-carb regime–just tossing it on the table.)

That’s the more. Here’s the flipside: I eat a lot less pasta and rice than I used to, love it though I may. I have refined sugar only occasionally, and then only as dessert after a high-fat meal. And little by little, I’m trying to give up refined grains and starches, though that’s a much tougher climb. I do eat vegetables that don’t make me gag or bloat, admitting that it’s a short list. I eat fresh fruit only in moderation, since fruit is mostly sugar. I snack on peanuts or almonds, chased by a glass of extra-rich milk. Once it goes down, I’m not hungry anymore. (Bet I can stop eatin’ em!)

Like a lot of people, I went on the low-fat, high-carb diet recommended by our all-wise, benevolent Federal government in the 70s, and that’s when I started to put on weight. Middle age accelerated the process, and I’d probably be over 200 by now if I hadn’t figured it out.

So let me beat you shamelessly over the head with it, while reminding you that this is one of my clearly labeled and tightly self-rationed rants:

1. Government low-fat dietary guidelines are bullshit, all of them anchored in the bogus work of Right Man Dr. Ancel Keys, who may well be the most damaging fraud in the entire history of science. He had data for 22 countries. He picked the six countries that supported his hypothesis, that fat is bad for you. Then he attacked his critics until the government raised him to sainthood. Over the next thirty years, humanity gained the weight of a minor planet.

2. We know a great deal less about health and nutrition than we think we do, and as with all science, what we know gets old fast. For a quick catch-up, read Gary Taubes‘ book Good Calories, Bad Calories. Breaking news: Human biochemistry is complicated! Story at 11!

3. You may be the fluke, and thrive without effort on a low-fat diet. Maybe we’re all flukes–human beings are not identical. (I love the word “fluke”! I had it printed right on my VOM!) Makes no nevermind: You have the power to find out. You are the experiment. Do the science. I did.

Good luck. Butter is delicious.


  1. Tony says:

    I’ve said it all along, normal is not normal, it is observed average. What we do not know about anything is vast yet some would prefer to go around making like we know it all. HA!

    My own diet needs to cut the refined sugar and the starch and I’d probably be much healthier.

  2. Tom R. says:

    My elders always told me that a person could not drink themselves sober, eat themselves skinny or spend themselves out of debt.

    Jeff, you seem to have cracked one of these — now how about the other two!

    1. The elders are right–except that the proverb isn’t to be taken too literally. You can’t shed a bad habit by reinforcing it. As an almost non-drinker who takes a glass of wine with dinner a couple of times a week, I barely remember being “drunk” as the word is generally understood, so I can’t speak much to that. However, if you spend money on education or productivity equipment, you can spend yourself out of debt. And it sure looks like you can eat yourself skinny if you do it correctly. (In both cases, the trick is to do it correctly and know when to stop!)

      I was being very flip in the rant, but there’s more here than I understand yet, and the research grows thin in spots. Portion control, for example, is something I haven’t seen much research on, controlling for fat/protein/carb ratios. “Social eating” figures in there too, somehow. (I suspect that when we eat socially, we pay less attention to when we’re full and thus eat more.)

      I’m sure you’ll hear more about this from me over time.

  3. Andy Kowalczyk says:

    I have an implanted memory of looking at an ad in an ancient copy of PopTronics (or other such) — “If it’s good, it must be a Fluke!”

  4. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Keep the information on this coming. I am particularly interested in what you have cut out of your diet, and what you eat when you are on the road. Do you avoid McDonald’s? Eat only salads? No mashed potatoes?

    I am back in the US after 8 years living in Germany, and during the last 5 months find myself much less satisfied with the taste of food and gaining weight, whereas I was fully satisfied with less quantity in Germany and losing weight. It seems almost impossible to get food that is not prepared as ‘low-fat’ here in the US, whether it is from the grocery or restaurant.

    One thing is for sure: when I left the US over 8 years ago, I thought food here was too salty. On returning, I now find that there is practically no salt in anything, and it tastes horrible! There IS a daily allowance for salt; we need it; but I’ll be darned if no-salt foods are being forced on us. Never a problem with that in Germany–I never felt the need to season foods additional to the preparation.

    Nor do the Germans avoid fat. They freely use butter or lard (Schmalz) for cooking and are FAR trimmer than the folks around me now.

    1. Here’s a quick sketch of my current eating guidelines, which I’ve tweaked and twiddled over the last 13 years, since I first started paying attention to diet in a systematic way:

      1. Avoid fructose as much as possible, which here mostly means avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).
      2. Eat (genuine) sugar only as part of a dessert after a biggish meal, especially a high-fat meal. Ice cream is ideal.
      3. Do not eat margarine. Eat butter instead.
      4. Avoid artificial vegetable oils like canola, corn, safflower, etc. Olive is ok, and coconut oil is ok.
      5. Salt is a non-issue. Salt to taste.
      6. Do not eat processed carbs (white rice, pasta) without significant protein and fat to buffer them.
      7. Eat whatever vegetables you can stand. For me that’s celery, lettuce, peppers, mushrooms, carrots and occasional exotica like parsnips. Corn, legumes, and dark greens are right out.
      8. Drink only whole or extra-rich milk.
      9. Use half & half for coffee rather than artificial creamers.
      10. Snack on nuts, especially almonds.

      I don’t eat socially more than twice a week, generally. I have a suspicion that social eating fosters overeating, but research here is thin. I don’t avoid McDonalds, though I don’t eat there much because I have to drive to get there. When we’re driving somewhere (like Chicago, which is mostly where I drive to) there’s no avoiding it. Generally, I eat as much meat, eggs, and dairy as I want. I try not to eat a lot of starch, and when I do, I smother it in butter.

      This has worked well for me. My weight has crept down from 160 over the past several years to 150-153. If I just gave up rice and pasta I’d be down in the 140s, but that’s a tough one. I don’t drink beer at all, and I have a glass of wine with dinner about three times per week.

      And in truth that’s the most of it. Probably the most important guideline of all: These rules are about averages and habits–if I’m at a family celebration, I eat cake and don’t sweat it. The effects of diet are long-term, and a glitch in the blood sugar now and then probably won’t do any permanent damage.

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