How my friend Charlie, developer, game designer, stopped being hungry.
Is there a better diet? Yes! It has no name, has nothing to do with calories or carbs, and it’s complicated.
A friend of mine, game designer, developer, Charlie got into cooking recently.
“I’m so hungry all the time!”, he used to say.
After a few days of cooking according to the Angela’s formula, as people call it — fiber (lots of veg), protein, healthy and essential fats, Charlie was surprised how not hungry he felt! And intermittent fasting he recently got into — it got much easier without any bulletproof coffees and keto and lowcarb diets.
I just finished “Why calories don’t count” book by Dr Giles Yeo. The book is about metabolism, about digestion of food, getting energy out of food and using it in our body, it’s about the measuring of calories and how we got our caloric values for different foods, about how imperfect those caloric values are, and about how they don’t represent at all the quality of foods we eat, or what happens once food is in our body.
Despite the title the author doesn’t say that calories, energy density of food, amount of food don’t matter for health or bodyweight, maintaining a healthy bodyweight or changing it. No, Dr Giles Yeo says that most diet approaches work because they put us in a caloric deficit through the principles of eating, rules of those diets — paleo, #lchf, keto, plant-based, Atkins, zone, alkaline diet, sirt foods diet, intermittent fasting etc Most diets work because they represent systems, that usually make us eat better quality foods, and help us to manage the amount of food we eat. But, of course, unless the diet approach is sustainable long-term and becomes a lifestyle that a person practices every day — every diet fails as soon as we get back to your old eating habits.
“If you focus on health, your weight will take care of itself”
My favorite quote from the book.
Throughout the whole book Dr Giles Yeo (out of Cambridge UK, where he lives and works) analyzes different diet approaches and make a case, that no matter what you call it, any diet that’s made of high quality minimally processed foods, that delivers all the vitamins, minerals, essential fats and proteins we need, loads of fiber to feed our gut — any diet has a potential to succeed, and anything different will ultimately fail. We don’t have to be on any fancy diet but instead it’s a good idea, from all the evidence we have, to focus on quality of foods, micronutrient adequacy, eating enough fibers of different kinds from whole foods (30g+), eating sufficient protein (no less than 16% of the calories minimum).
I’m a nutrition coach, and my clients come to me to change, to improve their eating habits, to improve health, bodyweight and body composition, and most importantly, my clients come to me to learn how to maintain results without being on a plan or on some diet their entire life.
When we start working together, I gradually start transitioning my clients to whole foods, introducing foods and meals with missing nutrients in their diet.
Very often I get this question, “But Angela, the calorie is still a calorie, right? If you tell me to eat walnuts to get my essential fats, I still need to count calories, right? And make sure I’m in a deficit to keep losing fat, correct?”
Well, yes and no.
You see, of course, it matters, if you eat a handful of walnuts or a bag of walnuts, the latter will make it almost impossible to lose weight for most. And it’s also true, that if we count calories in walnuts, and give you some fatty processed snack, like a scoop of your favorite walnut-flavored ice-cream with the same amount of calories, two things will happen:
1. You’ll absorb at least 10% more of calories from the ice-cream compared to walnuts. (In reality this number is even higher due to calories lost to digestion of fibers in walnuts)
2. You’ll feel hungrier much sooner after eating the ice-cream, because with all the calories eaten you get close to none of fiber and essential nutrients. VS walnuts that have some fiber, take more time to digest, and have essential Omega 3s and Omega 6s fats, that make you feel and stay fuller longer.
And the same goes for when we compare any whole foods to non-whole food alternatives. When we eat more processed and ultra-processed foods we end up:
- Eating more;
- Feeling hungry more;
- Absorbing more calories from food;
- And usually getting fatter and/or sicker.
Here’s an interesting study I read in the New Scientist magazine not long ago, that looked into whole foods eating VS processed food eating.
In the book Dr Giles Yeo also goes into a discussion about processed foods and whole foods. What are they? Those processed and ultra-processed foods? What are whole foods? Are processed foods always unhealthy? Because even cooking is a way to process foods.
And I agree with Dr Yeo, that it is complicated. Sauerkraut or naturally fermented yogurt are quite amazing for our health but they are processed, even though minimally and naturally.
But what about things like plant-based milk?
Or a plant-based burger?
So it is complicated, and often we do need to look into details, like reading ingredient lists, and making sure, that with that oat milk or a bean burger we aren’t consuming tons of added sugars, salts, preservatives, emulsifiers and all kinds of highly-questionable and experimental ingredients.
Of course you can’t go wrong with getting great quality whole foods of all kinds, cooking them in a healthy way, and eating them every day, or can you?
What if you decide to go Carnivore? Dr Yeo and myself totally agree, it isn’t the best idea.
What if you decide to eat whole foods but only meat? It’s all whole food, right? It should be all good for you! Right?
Try feeding your dog beans only, and see how well that goes! (Please, don’t do this!)
The point is, every animal is “designed” in a very specific way to be more or less suitable for different foods, and having specific needs for different nutrients in those foods.
They say but humans are omnivores!
All it means is that we can indeed get nutrients from different foods, sometimes better sometimes worse, but not from ALL the foods — tried eating grass or leaves only recently? Like a cow or some gorilla?
We have specific nutrient requirements, and if we don’t eat those, we’ll get sick and die faster and with more suffering. And so NO, you can’t survive on bananas only. And eating all raw food isn’t gonna make you live on light energy, and if you are 100% plant-based you damn sure need to supplement with things like EPA-DHA, and most probably zinc, calcium, iron, B12 and iodine.
And then carnivore?
We have 10 trillions plus symbiotic bacteria in our gut for “some reason”, whose food is fiber — I doubt it, carnivore diet can make them happy, or can provide optimal long-term health for you and me as well (Dr yeo doubts it a lot as well!).
And all these other diets from keto to raw vegan, and everything in-between?
The way most people do them are SO nutrient UNbalanced, that people have to recover their digestive, metabolic, hormonal and mental health after following one of those.
I’m not saying they can’t work at all, but most people just never do the work to make sure their diet is adequate from a nutrition science perspective. People just assume, as long as you avoid carbs (choose your rule here) — you’ll be fine. And that, of course, is too simplistic and doesn’t reflect the reality.
Here’s a day of my meals, when I ate all the nutrients, that we believe are required for human health. All within 2000 calories, minimally processed, with tons of fiber.
Because humans are omnivores, we can eat different foods in different parts of the world and still have a nutritionally balanced diet. But these days, with all the calorie-dense nutrient-poor processed foods, that dominate our food environment — this isn’t what’s happening. And then we wonder why we keep getting sicker and fatter?
Because we can’t bullshit nature!
We can’t fortify with vitamins crappy sugary-fatty foods, put a “healthy” label on, expecting that this is now as good as whole foods.
We can’t focus on counting calories, disrespecting our digestion and metabolism, disregarding the quality of foods that deliver those calories.
We can’t expect to have the best health, when we don’t pay attention to eating all the vitamins and minerals, all the essential proteins, fats and fibers we need, believing in some raw or carnivore magic, or yet another theory of what humans ate sometime in the past.
People often ask me, “So what’s you diet approach as a nutrition coach? What diet do you prescribe to people?”
I don’t believe in diets — I believe in science, however imperfect.
I don’t believe in diets — I believe in science, however imperfect.
I analyze data — people’s food journals, blood work, gut microbiome analysis, metabolic health — and then I create a solution, that have the best chances to succeed based on what we know as nutrition scientists — the kinds of foods, that work the best in a human body, delivering ALL the nutrients we know human body needs.
🙂THANK YOU FOR READING!
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