Thursday, July 4, 2013

The biggest bet of your life

As I'm preparing my presentation for Observe Hack Make 2013 on modern nutritional science ('what you should eat to stay healthy and lose weight'), I keep running into people who have grave problems with the fact that I'm no longer eating bread, pasta or sugar, nor most processed foods.

Their issues continue even when I explain that I lost a ton of weight without hardship, and that many of my friends have done likewise.  Nor does it sway them that many in my family have normalized their blood pressure and diabetes by likewise adopting a low-carb "paleo" lifestyle.

So what I want to talk about is the big bet we are all taking. The bet is on these graphs:

Source: Adele Hite
Number of Americans with Diabetes. Source: Centers for Disease Control
Note the explosion of obesity (doubled) and, worse, diabetes (> tripled). These two are closely related.  Combined, obesity and diabetes will in the coming decades lead to skyrocketing rates of (at least) cancer, heart disease and dementia.  This in turn is already leading to reduced life expectancy, but far worse, a very strong reduction in the number of 'healthy years of life'.

Mentally, we are all  betting that we'll personally somehow escape this fate by our lifestyle or perhaps genetics. 

If you consume what has been described as the Standard American Diet ('SAD'), or an international equivalent, you are betting that the cause of exploding obesity and diabetes is not the food itself, even as you munch on your government recommended low-fat breakfast cereal with extra fibers.

The theory is then that our expanding waistlines are in fact caused by lack of willpower, since we're unwilling to eat a low-fat diet in moderation, nor are we willing to exercise enough. Otherwise we'd be fine.

You'll have to believe there has been a massive decrease in willpower, starting in the late 1970s, causing us to suddenly overeat and underexercise.  This is the general public health message, amplified by the food companies: there's no such thing as bad food, don't blame us, exercise more!

Oddly enough, in the 1950s and beyond, people didn't exercise enough either.  Nor did they eat a low-fat diet

Like me, many people these days are not betting on the 'collective lack of willpower' theory. I've done willpower, starving myself and spending 2+ hours a day exercising. It caused me to lose 50 kilos, and a constant fight to keep them off.  When I was unable to keep that up, most of it came back in a hurry.

Instead, these days many of us are betting on the fact that the food we've been eating contains far too many "heart healthy" carbohydrates, whole grain or not. We believe that we've been needlessly vilifying fats & cholesterol, which turn out not to be behind obesity and heart disease.

We are betting that the 20+ ingredients of a typical breakfast cereal can't all be healthy for us. We are betting that the highly processed vegetable oil and sugars that lace our foods are making us ill. And while we believe in the benefits of exercise, we know you can't exercise yourself out of a bad diet.

And unlike people starving themselves to get into smaller size pants, we are finding that eating actual full fat food, very little sugar & restricted carbs, is something you can keep up for life, while delivering rapid results in terms of weight and health.

So next time you meet one of us Paleo folks living the hard life of quality meats, fine fruit, actual vegetables, delicious fish & super soups,  instead of balking at our refusal of bread, margarine & Oreos.. ponder what bet you want to take:

Collective lack of willpower.. or perhaps eating overprocessed food too rich in sugar and carbohydrates?

(to read more, please head on to )


  1. "the 20+ ingredients of a typical breakfast cereal can't all be healthy for us"

    Agreed. Well said, Bert.

  2. Thanks Bill! Let's continue to spread the word!

  3. After my first child was born, my normally overweight body just ballooned and I realized I had to lose weight or my health would be shot. Through sheer bloody willpower and an enormous amount of exercise I did in fact lose 29 Kilos. And as soon as I stopped 'dieting' the weight returned, eventually with interest. I topped out at 105 kilos (that's a little large for a 165 cm female). Then I discovered LCHF and my life changed FOREVER. I lost 35 kilos without the slightest need for 'willpower' my body did all the regulation I needed. I will never go back to anything like SAD. ;) Great article.

  4. Diana - wonderful! I wish I had discovered LCHF ten years ago...

  5. Bert, I agree that low-carb is the way to go. I am making that no-risk bet. Sugar is 100% carbohydrate and 0% critical nutrients. Importantly, modern rates of sugar consumption - especially via sugary drinks - are a key driver of the global trends towards obesity and diabetes, together the greatest public-health challenge of our times:

    In an effort to counter those disturbing global trends - especially amongst young people and Indigenous peoples - I am calling for a ban on all sugary drinks in all schools in all nations:

    Readers, if after assessing the facts you think this proposal has merit, please forward my piece in the link above to parents, students, teachers, principals and heads of schools, nurses, doctors, dentists and others involved in public health and education.

  6. The link in the vilifying fat and cholesterol paragraph: "which turn out not to be behind obesity and heart disease" does not work. It opens a "HARVARD T.H. CHAN" page saying that the page does not exist.