Chareva’s gardens are pretty much done for the year, but she harvested these recently:
This bounty came from a small patch of ground, maybe 16 x 8. Imagine if we’d grown an acre of the things. These squashes, along with a book I just finished, got me thinking (again) about what the true paleo diet was and wasn’t.
At one time, I believed Paleo Man was first and foremost a hunter who spent most of the year living on a diet of meat, meat and more meat. Then autumn rolled around, and Paleo Man would eat a few squashes, tubers and fruits during the brief harvest season. Then it was back to the meat or the fish, because plant foods weren’t available.
Let’s just say that belief has been squashed. With proper care, these squashes will be edible well into the winter. That was also the case with the sweet potatoes we grew and harvested last year. So if Paleo Man knew a little about proper food curing and storage – and I believe he did – he could have been eating squashes and tubers for a good chunk of the year.
I commute to Nashville three days per week, which means three to four hours per week in my car, depending on traffic. I spend the drive time listening to books. Blood and Thunder, the book I just finished, is about the conquering (or theft, if you prefer) of the American Southwest. The culture of the Indian tribes who lived there is described at length. Food sources: sheep, goats, occasional buffalo, deer, elk and other wild game – there’s that meat-meat-meat part of the paleo diet – but also maize, beans, pumpkins and ground tubers.
Granted, these Indians didn’t settle down and build towns around their crops. In fact, in one stirring speech recounted in the book, an Apache warrior explained to an American soldier why the Apaches didn’t want to become farmers and send their kids to the reservation school: you white people spend your lives as slaves, working for the sake of your big houses and your crops, he said. Your schools teach your children how to be good slaves. We don’t want to live like slaves, and we don’t want your schools to teach our children how to be slaves. We want to be free.
But while they preferred a nomadic lifestyle, many Indians of the Southwest – the Navajos in particular – were quite adept at growing plant foods. They planted, moved around at will during the warm months (herding their goats and sheep along with them), then came back in time for the harvest. In fact, as the book explains, they depended on their maize, beans and pumpkins to get them through the winter.
Unfortunately for them, the U.S. Army figured that out. An army general assigned Kit Carson the task of finding and destroying the fields where Navajos and other Indians grew their crops. Carson apparently had little taste for the job – his first wife was an Arapaho, and he didn’t agree with the policy of herding Indians onto reservations – but he followed orders. With their plant foods destroyed, the Navajos surrendered to avoid starving to death.
If these Indians were typical of paleo people, then tubers and squashes were part of the paleo diet. Their diet would certainly be low-carb compared to the sugar-laden, wheat-laden diet of the modern western world, but it wasn’t zero-carb or ketogenic by any means.
You could argue that the Indians of the Southwest in the 1800s weren’t typical paleo people because their lifestyle had been transformed by the introduction of horses. That mobility allowed them to be nomadic much of the year and still return to their maize and pumpkins at harvest time. So perhaps the Indians east of the Mississippi – who didn’t ride horses – are a better example.
Well, those Indians ate squashes and tubers as well. One of the plants we’re considering growing next year here on the farm is Apios Americana, otherwise known as the American groundnut. Here’s some of what Wikipedia has to say about it:
The tubers were a staple food among most Native American groups within the natural range of the plant … In 1749, the travelling Swedish botanist Peter Kalm writes, “Hopniss or Hapniss was the Indian name of a wild plant, which they ate at that time… The roots resemble potatoes, and were boiled by the Indians who ate them instead of bread.”… The early author Rafinesque observed that the Creeks were cultivating the plant for both its tubers and seeds… In 1910, Parker writes that the Iroquois were consuming significant quantities of groundnuts up until about 30 years before his writing … The author Gilmore records the use of groundnuts by the Caddoan and Siouan tribes of the Missouri river region, and the authors Prescott and Palmer record its use among the Sioux. The Native Americans would prepare the tubers in many different ways. Many tribes peeled them and dried them in the sun, such as the Menomini who built scaffolds of cedar bark covered with mats to dry their tubers for winter use.
Another plant we’re considering growing is Cyperus esculentus, otherwise known as the tiger nut. Richard Nikoley has written about tiger nuts several times on his blog. Apparently they were a major food source for early humans, including paleo Indians in North America. Here’s another quote from Wikipedia:
It has been suggested that the extinct hominin Paranthropus boisei, the “Nutcracker Man,” subsisted on tiger nuts. Prehistoric tools with traces of C. esculentus tuber starch granules have been recovered from the early Archaic period in North America, from about 9,000 years ago, at the Sandy Hill excavation site at the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The tubers are believed to have been a source of food for those Paleo-Indians.
I ordered one bag of tiger nuts from Amazon and liked them enough to order several more bags. They’ve replaced almonds as my watching-football snack. I enjoy the taste very much –like coconut with a hint of raisin — but it takes awhile to chew them because they’re very high in fiber and resistant starch. (If you have a constipation problem, I can almost guarantee tiger nuts will fix it.) I like the idea of growing tiger nuts because they’re apparently quite prolific – some strains are so prolific they’re considered an invasive species. That tells me they’re not difficult to grow.
It’s clear from the historical evidence that our paleo ancestors ate squashes and tubers. That being said, I’m not quite as enthusiastic as Richard Nikoley when it comes to white potatoes. Yes, if you cook and cool them, you get some resistant starch. That helps to reduce the glucose spike.
But like many other foods we buy today, modern potatoes were bred to be more palatable than their ancient counterparts – which means less fiber and more starch in the case of tubers, or less fiber and more fructose in the case of fruit. I still believe diabetics and people with genetically low levels of amylase need to be careful not to over-eat those foods.
Tiger nuts are tubers, but they’re not exactly the metabolic equivalent of a baked Russet potato. White potatoes are low in fiber and fat. Tiger nuts are high in fiber and fat, both of which help to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Putting numbers to the comparison, if I eat a small baked potato that provides 120 calories, I get 30 carbs of which 3.5 grams are fiber (26.5 net carbs), and 4 calories from fat. If I eat an ounce of raw tiger nuts that provides 120 calories, I get 19 carbs of which 10 grams are fiber (nine net carbs) and 63 calories from fat.
Think about that fiber content for a second. I don’t know how big Nutcracker Man was or what his daily calorie needs were, but if I ate 2,400 calories of tiger nuts to get through the day, I’d end up consuming 200 grams of fiber. I hope Nutcracker Man subscribed to a good magazine.
So yes, Nutcracker Man subsisted on a tuber, but his diet was way high in fiber and more than 50% fat by calories. Richard listed tiger nuts as 42% carbohydrate, but if I go with the net carbs (the fiber would be converted to short-chain fatty acids in the colon), I get 30%.
So what was the true paleo diet? It would, of course, vary by region. But based on what we know about paleo people discovered in modern times (like the Indians in North America) and the foods other paleo people ate, I think Paul Jaminet got it right in the Perfect Health Diet book: more than 50% fat by calories, with the carb calories in a range of 15% to 30%, mostly from tubers and squashes. Not meat-meat-meat, not VLC and not ketogenic, but still roughly twice the fat and half the carbohydrate recommended by our national diet dictocrats.
I’ll take meat-meat-meat over the USDA diet any ol’ time But I don’t have to choose from those two options, so I’ll take meat-meat-meat with a side of squash and some greens.
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The title of this post isn’t entirely accurate. Halfway through my vacation, summer ended and autumn began. Plus, I wasn’t on vacation. If anything, I was putting more hours than usual. I just wasn’t blogging.
I wrote the first draft of Fat Head during a two-week gig as standup comedian on a cruise through Alaska. My shows were on Saturday and Wednesday nights, which means I was getting paid for a three-hour workweek. (Well, okay, more like 12 hours if you count rehearsing in my room.) I left the ship a few times to see Alaska, but I still had a ton of free time. So I got out my huge pile of source material, including transcripts of all the interviews I’d conducted, and spent 12 to 14 hours per day outlining and writing.
Ahhh, those were the days. Now I’m back to working as a contract programmer, and I commute from Franklin to Nashville three days per week. Toss in some farm work, blogging, quality time (including homework assistance) with the girls, maybe a TV show with Chareva before she goes to bed, and there’s not enough day in my day to write a book.
So I asked The Older Brother to take over the blog for awhile – a month, as it turned out, the longest stretch of my five-year blogging career. I of course read his posts and the comments. It’s fun for me to sit back and be a spectator. Anyway, by letting the blog go for awhile, I was able to squeeze some book-writing time into my schedule.
Our target audience for the book is kids, which means Chareva will end up producing a ton of cartoon characters and other artwork. We’d like to have both the book and companion DVD ready in time for the low-carb cruise in May, although that may be overly ambitious. It wouldn’t be fair to her to pound out the whole thing and then expect her to draw all the art in a month or two, so I told her I’d have a draft of the book ready by October 1st.
I’m such a wild optimist. The book is nowhere near finished, but I’ve written about a third of it, at least according to my outline. The challenge, as I told The Older Brother when I asked him to sit in the Fat Head chair awhile longer, is that I want to say everything there is to say, but keep in short and simple for kids – oh, and I want it to be fun and entertaining throughout.
So I have plenty of writing left to do, but Chareva has enough of the book in front of her to start drawing. Now I just have to stay ahead of her.
I set the blog aside for a month, but not the farm work. Yeah, I could’ve let that go for awhile and made more progress on the book, but decided that wouldn’t be a good idea. I’ve heard at least two authors say their health went downhill while writing a book telling other people how to be healthy. Too much time hunched over the computer, too many late nights, not enough physical activity, not taking time to cook properly. I prefer to remain healthy while writing about health.
So in addition to putting in a gym workout on Wednesday mornings on my way to the office, I spent at least one day each weekend outside, working myself into the state of being I call Dog-Tired Satisfied. Chareva and the girls kept busy too. Here’s some of what we’ve been doing around the farm:
A couple of people sent me a link to an article about a cop who apparently believes anyone who plays disc golf is a pot-head. Well, I play disc golf and I’m into grass, but not that kind. We’d like our side pasture to provide good grass for sheep and perhaps a dairy cow someday, so after I bush-whacked the chest-high weeds, we spent a Saturday afternoon tossing grass seed all over the place. Chareva found a variety specifically recommended for pastured animals. Let’s hope it takes.
Seems as if every few months, we end up with a pile of broken branches, dried-up briar that I cut down, various and sundry wood scraps, etc. So we had another bonfire a few weeks ago. This one didn’t burn quite as impressively as our previous piles, but it was hot enough to do the job.
Our chickens produce way more eggs than we can eat. I have a few egg customers at the office, but we still end up over-egged. So Chareva got out her tools and built an egg stand. The guy who looks like he should be playing bass for ZZ Top is our neighbor Brian. He brought over his riding mower to pull the egg stand up to the side of the highway.
The egg stand is self-serve. Chareva puts cartons of eggs inside, and the instruction sheet asks people to put four dollars in the cash box. And by gosh, they do. She’s already sold 20 dozen or so, and nobody has walked off with free eggs. One kindly customer even left a stack of empty egg cartons on the stand with a note saying Thought you could use these. Love your eggs!
Brian towed the egg stand for us because we didn’t have a trailer hitch on either of our vehicles at the time. We do now. For some reason, Chareva no longer wants to fill the back of her van with hay, wood chips, chicken feed, logs, goats, and whatever else around here needs hauling. So she informed me that we need a trailer, then found a used one for sale about an hour south of here. We figured Brian probably didn’t want to drive his lawn mower down there to tow it home for us, so we finally had the van outfitted with a trailer hitch. Here’s the trailer:
My big project for the previous month was processing the rest of that big ol’ wood pile I started tackling last year. As you may recall if you’re a long-time reader, it started out as quite a load:
I cut up more than half of the logs last year, but a heavy rain interrupted our log-splitting weekend. We still had dozens of cut-up sections ready to be split, plus plenty of logs hadn’t yet met my chainsaw. I didn’t want the remaining wood to sit outside through another winter, so I spent long days out there attacking the pile.
I eventually got through everything my chainsaw could handle, except for three large trunks sitting on the ground. Those might just become stadium seating for any weed-smokers who drop by to watch a disc-golf match. When I was done, this is what we had to split:
So last weekend, we rented a splitter and turned big ones into little ones.
I tried to assign the girls the relatively easy job of stacking the split wood in the barn. I was overruled. Turns out Chareva is particular about how the wood is stacked, so she did most of that. The girls weren’t really into the whole stacking thing anyway. They thought it would be more fun to pull sections of logs from the pile and bring them to me to split. Well, it’s certainly good exercise. Those things aren’t exactly feather-weight.
As the pile shrank, the girls found convenient seats for work breaks.
When we’ve been outside working in the past, Chareva has mentioned that it would be nice to have a few places around the property to sit down. So I obliged with six stump chairs, a his-and-hers combo in three different locations.
Some of the stumps I cut last year had started to rot, but I was pleased to find that most of the wood was still good. We ended up running the splitter until nearly dark both days. We certainly have enough firewood to feed the fireplace and the wood-burning stove this winter.
When we’d split everything worth splitting, the girls stood on one of the remaining stumps to survey the area once covered with tree trunks and thick branches.
Then they did a little victory dance.
I wasn’t inspired to dance, but I did achieve a state of Dog-Tired Satisfied. That’s good enough for me.
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I know I said The Older Brother was taking over the blog for a little while, and he is. But I was interviewed a couple of days ago for a libertarian site called Liberty.me and the video is now available online, so I’m interrupting just long enough to post it. Pierre-Guy Veer, the host, is a libertarian living in Quebec. (I heard there was a libertarian living in Canada, but didn’t believe the rumors. Glad I met him.) His microphone cut in and out, but his questions were brief and you can pretty much guess what he was asking from my answers.
We now return to your regularly scheduled guest host …
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I’d planned to review Keto Clarity, Jimmy Moore’s new book, last week. But as you know, I was distracted by some videos and posts featuring really stupid fat-shaming and other forms of b.s., so I decided to deal with those instead.
As I’ve mentioned several times recently, I’m not on a ketogenic diet and don’t aim for ketosis. I’ve done enough experimenting to know which diet gives me the best combination of energy, strength and weight control, and it’s not ketogenic. I’m on a low-carb diet (usually below 100 grams per day), but I don’t restrict protein or carbs enough to stay in ketosis.
For reasons I explained in a previous post, I don’t believe a ketogenic diet was the default diet of our paleo ancestors, and therefore I don’t buy the notion that anyone who doesn’t thrive on a ketogenic diet is suffering from a metabolic defect that needs to be fixed. There’s simply no evolutionary reason we should all be genetically geared to feel fabulous on a diet that few if any of our ancestors consumed.
But I also don’t buy the argument that since our paleo ancestors didn’t live on ketogenic diets, a ketogenic diet must automatically be ineffective or even dangerous. Our paleo ancestors didn’t drink whey protein shakes either, but those shakes are certainly beneficial for people who lift weights to build muscle. A ketogenic diet, like a diet supplemented with whey protein, is intended to be therapeutic – i.e., it’s supposed to help you accomplish a particular goal.
Obviously, one of those goals is weight loss. That was the main motivation for Jimmy to adopt a ketogenic diet, and considering that he lost 80 pounds in a year, I’d say it’s working. I also suspect that most people who buy Keto Clarity are interested in weight loss. And the scientific literature shows that ketogenic diets are indeed a good tool for weight loss – not for everyone, of course, but for many, many people.
One of the silliest arguments I’ve heard dismissing ketogenic diets goes something like this:
Well, sure, people lose weight on a ketogenic diet. But it’s only because people in ketosis end up eating less.
That almost sounds like an explanation, but it isn’t. Imagine having this conversation:
“My brother-in-law used to be an alcoholic, but not anymore. Now he drinks normally.”
“If he used to be an alcoholic, why isn’t he an alcoholic now?”
“Because he doesn’t drink as much.”
That’s not an explanation; it’s simply a restatement of a result. If someone craves alcohol to the point where he drinks so much that it’s screwing up his life and his health, but then starts feeling satisfied on a drink or two, wouldn’t we want to know why? Wouldn’t that suggest a dramatic and positive change in his brain chemistry?
I’d say the same thing about ketogenic diets. If an obese guy loses significant weight and keeps it off for the first time after adopting a ketogenic diet, it’s obvious to anyone with a functioning brain that he ended up consuming less energy than he expended during the weight loss. But that’s not the explanation; that’s the result. Wouldn’t that result indicate that something rather positive changed in his metabolism?
Well, uh, the ketogenic diet is satiating, you see.
Uh-huh … which is as much of an explanation as He stopped drinking too much because he’s satisfied on less alcohol now, you see.
So without (I hope) re-igniting a debate about who should or shouldn’t try a ketogenic diet, I’m reviewing Keto Clarity for what it is: a guidebook for people who want to try a ketogenic diet, either for weight loss or some other reason.
The book begins by explaining what ketosis is and the difference between a truly ketogenic diet and a low-carb diet – an important distinction because, as Jimmy learned after his weight crept back over 300 pounds, it’s entirely possible to be on a low-carb diet or even a very low-carb diet without being in ketosis. (That would be the case with me. I drift in and out of ketosis, according to my meter.)
The next couple of chapters are the here’s how to do it guidelines: how to determine the mix of fat, protein and carbohydrate that will produce what Dr. Jeff Volek and others call nutritional ketosis. The required ratios, as Jimmy explains, will vary from person to person, but the most important lesson here is: don’t make the mistake of thinking that if a low-carb diet is good, a diet low in both carbohydrates and fat is even better. You have to get your energy from something besides protein.
I can attest to that one. When I first tried a low-carb diet in the 1980s, I still believed in the low-fat nonsense. I didn’t read a book on the Atkins diet or any other low-carb diet (my bad) and tried to get by on skinless chicken breasts, turkey ham, egg whites and green vegetables. After a week of feeling half-awake and lethargic, I gave up. Whoops.
Anyway, as Jimmy explains in Keto Clarity, it’s the fat in a ketogenic diet that keeps your energy up and appetite down. But of course, the fats have to be the right fats. As the book explains:
Saturated fats, like those in butter, coconut oil and red meat, and monounsaturated fats, such as those found in avocadoes, olive oil and macadamia nuts, are basically safe for consumption in terms of your health. They don’t raise your blood sugar, and they don’t cause any harm when eaten to satiety. In fact, they are quite beneficial: they are anti-inflammatory, raise HDL, help you feel full and – most important for our purposes – they help you create ketones. Compare this to the polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils, which increase systemic inflammation and linked to multiple health problems, despite the fact that they are heavily touted as the healthy oils we should all be consuming.
And let’s be honest: butter, sour cream, coconut oil, avocadoes and egg yolks are freakin’ delicious. If you’re going to change up your diet, it certainly helps if your taste buds don’t feel punished.
In a subsequent chapter, Jimmy explains how to use a blood ketone meter to check your ketone levels. And yes, if you’re going to try a ketogenic diet, you should invest in one of those meters. The urine ketone strips Dr. Atkins recommended back in the day were all that were available, so that’s what ketogenic dieters used. But once you become keto-adapted and are relying more and more on ketones for fuel, fewer ketones are excreted in the urine, even if your blood ketones are still high.
One of the advantages I’ve found of a low-carb diet (ketogenic or not) is that I can go for hours and hours without eating – unlike back in my high-carb days, when skipping meals would give me the shakes. In a chapter on fasting — which many people consider the other “f” word, according to Jimmy – he explains that there are health benefits to intermittent fasting. (Paul Jaminet makes the same point in his Perfect Health Diet book.) One advantage of a ketogenic diet is that it allows many people who previously couldn’t stand the thought of going 16 hours or more without a meal to do so easily. But, Jimmy cautions, you need to listen to your body. If you’re really and truly hungry, as opposed to experiencing a stomach gurgle, you need to eat something.
Good point. I don’t think starving yourself ever works out in the long run.
As I mentioned above, I don’t believe everyone will feel his or her best in a constant state of ketosis. So in chapter titled Keto FAQ, I was pleased to see this comment from Bryan Barksdale, one of the experts Jimmy quotes liberally throughout the book:
I believe a well-designed ketogenic diet can overcome a lot of the negative effects people experience while eating a low-carb, high-fat diet. One such strategy some people may want to use is cycling in and out the various macronutrients, just as would have happened naturally in an ancestral diet.
Jimmy then writes that some people shed more fat if they cycle in and out of ketosis, although cycling may not be appropriate for everyone.
Again, test it for yourself and see how it works for you … If cycling in and out of ketosis gives you the results you desire, then go for it.
My sentiments exactly. Jimmy is obviously quite enthusiastic about the benefits he and the people whose personal stories he quotes in the book have experienced, but he doesn’t argue that everyone should be in ketosis all the time – despite what some internet cowboys will tell you.
He also doesn’t claim that being in nutritional ketosis automatically translates to weight loss. When you burn fat for fuel, you create ketones. That fat can come from your diet or your adipose tissue. If you consume all the fuel you need in a day, your body has no reason to tap its reserves. What a ketogenic diet accomplishes for many people is put their bodies into a fat-burning mode where it’s easier to tap those reserves – which makes it easier to eat less. That’s the point. There’s no magic involved that causes calories to vanish into thin air.
In one of the last chapters, Jimmy lists a number of diseases and conditions that have been successfully treated or may eventually be treated with ketogenic diets (some of the research is in its early stages), including epilepsy, diabetes, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, some cancers, fibromyalgia, autism and Alzheimer’s.
The emerging research is another reason that while I don’t buy into the “everyone should be in ketosis all the time” argument, I also don’t buy the “ketosis will ruin your health” argument. That argument reminds me too much of this one:
Sure, your low-carb diet might help you lose a lot of weight, raise your HDL, and lower your blood sugar, blood pressure and triglycerides … but it will give you a heart attack.
I just don’t think our bodies are that stupid. I don’t believe we improve a gazillion health markers while we’re killing ourselves.
Given what we’re learning about the gut microbiome, the one real concern I’d have about going on a ketogenic diet would be depleting the healthy gut bacteria – but the problem there is a lack of fiber, not ketosis per se. So as I’ve mentioned before, if I were aiming for ketosis, I’d be sure to include a lot of fibrous plants in my diet and supplement with some form of resistant starch – which doesn’t kick most people out of ketosis.
The final chapters of Keto Clarity include a shopping list and a bunch of recipes contributed by readers and friends of Jimmy’s. Some of the recipes look pretty good and I plan to try them. I don’t aim for ketosis, but I certainly don’t avoid delicious high-fat foods, either.
Jimmy is a gifted writer, and everything in the book is explained clearly and as simply as possible, with some humor sprinkled in for good measure. If a ketogenic diet is something you plan to try – or are already doing but need more guidance – this is the book for you.
PROGRAMMING NOTE (so to speak): I need to step away from blogging for awhile so I can focus on that book and DVD companion Chareva and I have been planning. Ideally, we’ll be ready to release both by the time the low-carb cruise rolls around in May. She’ll need to produce a ton of cartoon characters and other artwork, so I promised her I’d have a draft ready by Oct 1st. (She’s talented, mind you, but she can’t draw scenes I haven’t written yet.) With full-time programming work, kids, the farm, blogging, etc., I’m behind on my writing schedule. If I don’t give myself some focused writing time, I’ll miss my deadline. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that The Older Brother agreed to sit in the Fat Head chair until I get caught up. I enjoy reading his posts and consider them a nice change of pace. I’ll answer comments on my own posts, but otherwise the blog is all his for awhile.
Man, it’s nice to have a reliable guest host …
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Perhaps you remember the terms for body types from high-school biology. These are from the Encyclopedia Britannica:
Ectomorph. A human physical type (somatotype) tending toward linearity, as determined by the physique-classification system developed by the American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. Although classification by the Sheldon system is not absolute, a person is classed as an ectomorph if ectomorphy predominates over endomorphy and mesomorphy in his body build. The extreme ectomorph has a thin face with high forehead and receding chin; narrow chest and abdomen; a narrow heart; rather long, thin arms and legs; little body fat and little muscle; but a large skin surface and a large nervous system. If well fed, he does not gain weight easily; if he becomes fat, he is still considered an ectomorph, only overweight.
Endomorph. A human physical type (somatotype) tending toward roundness, as determined by the physique-classification system developed by American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. The extreme endomorph has a body as nearly globular as humanly possible; he has a round head, a large, round abdomen, large internal organs relative to his size, rather short arms and legs with fat upper arms and thighs, but slender wrists and ankles. Under normal conditions the endormorphic individual has a great deal of body fat, but he is not simply a fat person; if starved, he remains an endomorph, only thinner.
Mesomorph. A human physical type that is marked by greater than average muscular development, as determined by the physique-classification system developed by American psychologist W.H. Sheldon. Although the Sheldon system of classification does not make absolute distinctions between types, a person is classed as a mesomorph if mesomorphy predominates over endomorphy and ectomorphy in his body build. The extreme mesomorph has a square, massive head; broad, muscular chest and shoulders; a large heart; heavily muscled arms and legs; and minimal body fat. He tends to develop muscle easily.
These are not mutually-exclusive types. Most of us are a mix. I’m an ectomorph-endomorph. I have long arms and legs, but also tend to get fat in the middle … and I definitely have the slender wrists and ankles, despite being thick through the upper thighs and butt area.
Some really beefy guys are mesomorph-endomorphs. They’re very muscular and strong with the fast-twitch muscles and quick reflexes of a mesomorph, but also tend to get fat around the middle. Think offensive lineman.
It’s the mesomorph type I’ll be talking about here, so let’s look at another brief definition from an article in Men’s Fitness:
Mesomorphs look well built without setting foot in a gym, and pack on muscle the instant they pick up a dumbbell.
Mesomorphs look well built without setting foot in a gym … Yup. I’ve known people like that. In order to stay lean and muscular, all they really have to do is not screw up. But many mesomorphs do work out, because the results are so rewarding and impressive. The same article in Men’s Fitness mentioned a study of the effects of resistance training. Given the same workouts, the ectomorphs put on almost no muscle at all, while the mesomorphs made big gains in muscle size. It’s character vs. chemistry again – the chemistry in this case being genetics.
The Older Brother and I had a mutual friend in high school who was a perfect mesomorph. The guy had a small waist, wide shoulders, big muscles, chiseled abs and veins popping out all over the place. So what did he eat? Any damned thing he wanted to, including a lot of junk. And his exercise program? He didn’t have one. If he’d ever decided to take up weight-lifting, he would have looked like a Greek god in no time. I ran into him in a bar 20 years after high school (where yes, he was drinking beer) and he still had exactly the same build.
So here’s the point: a whole lot of people who consider themselves experts in exercise or nutrition because they look so darned good and are so darned athletic are mesomorphs. But what you’re seeing in their impressive-looking photos and videos is a genetic gift. If they don’t totally hose themselves with a crappy diet, they stay lean. If they work out at all, they put on muscle.
So when they point to their muscles and abs as proof of their superior knowledge about nutrition – or worse, point to an endomorph’s fatter build as proof that he can’t possibly know as much as they do – it’s bull@#$%. Period. (Given my last couple of posts, you can guess who inspired this post.) When I see a natural-born mesomorph posting a picture of his beautiful body as proof of his expertise in fitness and nutrition, I roll my eyes and think, “Well, that’s fabulous. Be sure to send your mom or dad a thank-you card for passing on those genes” — especially if the mesomorph has to puff out his belly to produce a “before” shot of himself looking kind of, sort of, maybe a little bit fat.
I’m not saying anyone who happens to be a mesomorph is disqualified from giving diet and exercise advice to those of us not so genetically gifted. Some really know their stuff. Mark Sisson is mostly a mesomorph (with a bit of ectomorph mixed in), and I’d certainly take his advice. But here’s the difference: Mark knows his ripped build is largely a genetic gift. He’s said several times that he was lean and muscular even when he was living on what he now knows was a garbage diet. He just wasn’t healthy on that diet.
It doesn’t prove anything if a particular diet or exercise program works well for a mesomorph, because pretty much everything that isn’t actually harmful works for them. Vegetarian diet, vegan diet, high-fat diet, low-fat diet, paleo diet, whatever … if these guys get adequate protein, work out now and then, and don’t fill up on junk foods that overcome their natural tendency to stay at a low level of body fat, they’re going to look great. Their impressive physiques don’t in any way prove they have the answers for the rest of us.
Let’s use academic achievement as an analogy. I wasn’t genetically blessed in the body-build department, but I was in the intelligence department. So was The Older Brother. We both breezed through school. Sure, we studied, but not as hard as some kids who were B or even C students.
I remember one of my roommates in college looking at the single spiral notebook I took to all my classes and saying, “That’s all the notes you take? How the heck are you getting A’s in everything? You hardly write anything down!”
“Uh, well,” I mumbled, “if the professor says something and it makes sense, I just remember it. I don’t really have to write much of it down.”
That’s a genetic gift. My dad was like that. He loved to read, and he could quote from books he’d read 10 years earlier. When the game Trivial Pursuit came around and we played as a family, he’d mop the floor with the rest of us. He’d read a ton of books in his lifetime and it seemed he hadn’t forgotten a word. So he’d finish in maybe 20 minutes, then the rest of us would pretend he’d never been a part of the game and play on.
The point is, I would never, ever point to what worked for me in college – just remember what the professor said! – as proof that it’s the best approach for everyone. I wouldn’t take a picture of my high-school report cards or the plaque I received when the professors in the communications department at my university named me the top senior in the department, put those pictures on a web site, and point to them as proof that I’m an expert in education or in how to get good grades.
I got those grades largely because I’m a “brain mesomorph,” so to speak. Brain mesomorphs can pick pretty much any method of studying and still do well, as long as they don’t do something to screw up that genetic gift – like, say, don’t study at all.
The Older Brother and I were both A students, but we approached schoolwork in totally different ways. I don’t like scampering to meet deadlines, so if I was assigned a term paper, I’d start weeks ahead of time and work on it a little bit every day. Sometimes I’d be finished days before turning it in. Then I’d get an A on the paper.
The Older Brother would wait until the day before the paper was due, then start writing. Sometimes he’d work all through the night and turn in the paper without having slept a wink. Then he’d get an A on the paper. Completely different approaches, same happy result.
Neither of us would ever be so foolish as to point to those papers and say, “Here’s proof of my expertise in how to get good grades.” And neither of us would be so foolish as to point to an average-IQ kid who worked his tail off to get a B in a tough class and say, “Well, I sure hope nobody listens to that kid if he offers advice on study habits. If he had any expertise in good study habits, his report card would look as good as mine.”
In fact, I’d consider that average-IQ kid who had to seriously apply himself to get all B’s the true expert on how to raise your grades. He actually had to overcome his lack of genetic gifts to reach that goal. That’s the kid I’d ask for advice on study habits if my kid wasn’t blessed with a high IQ and was struggling in school, not the high-IQ kid who barely has to study to get straight A’s.
So to paraphrase what I said at the end of my previous post, if you’re 100 pounds overweight, maybe the best weight-loss coach for you is someone who had to struggle to lose 100 pounds, even if he’s still built like an endomorph because (duh) he’s an endormorph. The mesomorph who’s never been fat a day in his life can’t relate to your struggle, and if he’s like some mesomorphs, he’ll mistake his genetics for proof of expertise.
And if he’s an a-hole of a mesomorph, he’ll consider you a failure unless you end up looking like him, even though you couldn’t possibly look like him unless you had his parents.
Knowledge can be passed from one person to another. Genetics can’t. Don’t mistake one for the other.
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Since my last post raised a hubbub and, of course, prompted more online temper-tantrums from the half-baked brains at Julian Bakery, I’m going to share a few more observations about Mr. Collins and Mr. Squealer, then get back to more important stuff.
I’m not going to link to their videos or posts, by the way. Some of you have already found them and left your own comments – at least until the open and honest Collins and Squealer stopped allowing those comments. If you want to find their garbage online, I’m sure you can. I’ll just recount some of their predictable excuses, counter-attacks, whatever you want to call them, and respond.
Here’s my favorite: Why would anyone take weight-loss advice from a comedian?
Har-dee-har-har! Comic genius. That line just never gets old. I’m sure it will be every bit as funny the next thousand times as it was the first thousand.
(Oh, and the barely-literate Mr. Collins — who “rights” his own books and who called me a coward for attacking him from behind a computer after he attacked Jimmy Moore and Diane Sanfilippo from behind a computer — also called me an idiot. Now that is comic genius. I’m still laughing.)
In the past few years, I’ve posted plenty of letters (many including dramatic before-and-after photos) from viewers expressing their eternal gratitude to the comedian. I’ve received way more of those letters than I’ve posted. Some of the letters were so sincere and expressed such heartfelt emotions, I was choked up after reading them. Those are the people who matter to me. One of those letters outweighs a thousand snarky comments from internet cowboys who think they’re either being funny or are going to wound my ego with comments like “Oh, yeah, a comedian. Some expert, huh?”
But what the heck, I’ll deal with the issue at hand, since Mr. Collins and Mr. Squealer raised it again.
Okay, boys, you got me: I don’t have a university degree in health science, or nutrition science, or whatever degree would be considered an official qualification. But that is a strange criticism indeed coming from the two of you, since you don’t either.
Mr. Collins earned degrees in criminal justice and forensic science, according to his bio. So he’s a trained cop. That’s every bit as relevant to health and nutrition as my degree in journalism.
Oh yeah, great idea, get your diet advice from a cop. Don’t they all eat donuts? Har-dee-har-har!
Now of course, Mr. Collins may know a ton about health and nutrition. But if he does, he learned it outside the university environment – just like I did, and just like a lot of other bloggers and authors did. Even the doctors who know what the hell they’re talking about when it comes to nutrition will happily tell you they didn’t learn what they know in med school.
But the real impressive credentials here belong to Mr. Squealer. Because, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Squealer achieved his lofty position in life by having the good fortune to be born to a mommy who started Julian Bakery many years ago and then made her son the CEO.
Oh yeah, great idea — get your diet advice from a member of the lucky-sperm club whose mommy started a bread business and then turned it over to her precious little boy! Great qualifications, there, Dude! Har-dee-har-har!
Once again, Mr. Squealer may actually know a lot about nutrition. But if so, he has no official qualifications, and having your mommy make you the CEO of her company is no more relevant of a background than traveling around the country doing shows in comedy clubs.
Oh, but wait … Collins and Squealer already explained in Mr. Collins’ barely-literate post why people should listen to them and ignore people like Jimmy Moore and Diane Sanfilippo. Here’s the reason:
Just look at us. Look at our pictures! It’s obvious we know what we’re talking about, because we have abs!
Uh-huh. So does this guy:
That’s my son Zack, and he’s always had those abs. He had those abs when he was living on pizza, potato chips and Coca-Cola. (He’s since cleaned up his diet.) He had those abs when he tried and failed to gain weight by massively overeating. (He was trying to get heavier while playing power forward on his high-school basketball team.) His mother (not Chareva) had that same ridiculously-low level of body fat even when she developed the very bad habit of drinking a helluva lot of beer every day.
Some people are lucky like that. They were born to be lean. The difference is that Zack has the intelligence to realize that just because he’s cut, that doesn’t make him an expert on how to lose weight. His advice (since he has a nice, self-effacing sense of humor) would probably be something like, “It’s easy. Go out and inherit my mother’s genes.”
Oh, but wait … in Mr. Collins’ barely-literate post, Mr. Squealer assures us he found the answer to his own (ahem) weight problems, lost the weight, and has kept it off for three years. And by gosh, he’s willing to post pictures to prove it.
I included two of those pictures in my previous post:
Like I said in that post, that sure doesn’t look anything like a 33-pound weight loss to me. That looks like the difference between sucking some air into the belly in one shot, then tensing the abs and employing better lighting in the second shot.
But perhaps I was unfair. Mr. Squealer actually included three pictures. Here they are:
His body isn’t at the same angle in the middle shot, but the other two are pretty much straight-on. Since Collins and Squealer like to have fun with photos, I had some fun myself — the difference being I’m not going to tell any lies while having fun.
I took those two pictures, put them in Photoshop, and resized them until Mr. Squealer was the same size in both shots. (I matched top of the head to belly button, and also made sure his nipples were the same distance apart in both shots.) On the “fat” Mr. Squealer shot, I drew a red line just below the belly button and just touching the edges of his waist. Then I copied the red line to the “lean” shot. These lines are exactly the same width. You can download the picture and measure yourself. Here’s what we’ve got:
My, my, my, isn’t that strange? Mr. Squealer claims he was 220 pounds in the “fat” shot and 185 pounds in the “lean” shot. The guy lost 35 pounds – nearly one-sixth of his entire body mass, you understand – yet his waist doesn’t appear to have gotten any narrower as a result. Oh, but he knows all about weight loss, because he used to be fat and had to lose 35 pounds. Just ask him. Honest guy like that would never lie.
If those are before-and-after shots of a man who lost 35 pounds, then I’m the King of England. So I’ll just come out and say it this time: Heath Squier is lying about his weight loss. He’s probably just sticking out his belly a bit in the “before” shot. I’d bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts), he’s never been fat a day in his life. If he has been fat – really and truly fat — he can post pictures to prove it.
So Mr. Squealer’s qualifications come down to being born 1) naturally lean, and 2) to a mommy who started a bakery and was willing to make him the CEO. (Given his recent behavior, that might prove to be a bad decision.)
But you wouldn’t want to take advice from a comedian … har-dee-har-har!
Oh, I’m sorry … an overweight comedian! That’s the latest topper on the hilarious joke.
You see, in addition to showing up in comments and threatening to find me at a conference someday and commit some kind of physical violence for calling him an a-hole (proving that he’s very gosh-darned proud of how he put his life on line to protect my freedom of speech while in the military – just ask him), Mr. Collins added a comment on one of his videos describing me as another low carb failure who can’t even stay below 200 pounds.
Fascinating. In a reply to one of his barely-literate comments on my previous post, I suggested to Mr. Collins that if someone calls you an adolescent, an asshole, a fraud, or whatever, it’s not a good idea to prove him right with your next response. I guess he didn’t get the concept. Because I basically called these guys liars in my previous post, and he responded by telling a lie in public.
Where on earth did he come up with the (ahem) fact that I can’t stay below 200 pounds? I’ve never said that. No one else has said that. The scale doesn’t say that. I was just at the gym today. That’s the only place I weigh myself, because we don’t have a scale at home. I was at 196. I’m pretty much always within a pound or two of that number, sometimes a little above, sometimes a little below. And I wouldn’t panic if I did weigh 200 pounds. In fact, I posted a picture of myself awhile back and noted that it was me at exactly 200 pounds. Here it is:
Good grief, what a fat comedian! Is he taking over for Louie Anderson? Har-dee-har-har!
I’m 55 years old and spent most of my life as a fat guy. Now I’m not a fat guy. I’ve gone from this …
… to this.
The towel shot, you may recall, was taken on the morning of my 55th birthday.
In other words, unlike Mr. Squealer, I actually was fat and then got considerably leaner. I didn’t have to stand in front of a mirror and suck in air and puff out my belly to produce a “before” shot where I look sort of, maybe, kind of, a little bit fat – and then lie about my weight loss. I was the real deal.
So if I’m a low-carb failure because you can’t see all my ab muscles (which weren’t visible even when I was a rail-thin 10-year-old), I’m fine with that. I’m not really concerned about the opinions of a couple of dumb-jock types who have no flippin’ idea what it’s like to actually be a fat guy struggling to lose weight.
And speaking of the dumb jocks … their explanation of the “2009” Jimmy Moore picture that was actually taken in 2013 is that it’s no big deal and was probably an honest mistake. And then, to prove once again that he’s barely literate, Mr. Collins claimed that in my post, I said the picture maybe was from 2011, or maybe from 2012, then decided it was 2013. Must’ve been tough getting through cop school without being able to comprehend plain English. I explained, in clear and unambiguous language, why the picture couldn’t possibly be from 2011 or 2012, which means it was from 2013.
But let’s analyze that “honest mistake” excuse, shall we? How was this honest mistake made, exactly? What series of errors caused Collins and Squealer to believe that picture was taken in 2009? The only place I can find that picture online is on Jimmy’s site, where it’s clearly identified as being from 2013. If you don’t actually know when a picture was taken (and you’re not a dumbass), you find a way to verify the date. When I found the picture of Diane Sanfilippo I posted, I not only made sure it appeared in a collection of pictures taken at Paleo FX 2014, I blew it up in Photoshop and checked the date on the badge.
And like I said in the post, that picture took only seconds to find. But Collins and Squealer claim it was really, really difficult to find recent pictures of Diane, ya see. Uh-huh. That explains why so many people responded by quickly finding recent pictures of her and posting them on Facebook.
So that claim was clearly a lie. Mr. Squealer’s claim that he was 35 pounds heavier in his “before” picture is clearly a lie. Mr. Collins’ recent claim that I can’t keep my weight below 200 pounds is clearly a lie. So since lying is what habitual liars do, I’m going to step out on a limb and declare that the “honest mistake” about the date on Jimmy’s picture is a lie. The dumb jocks just didn’t think anyone would bust them on it.
And speaking of Jimmy … yes, he looks heavier in his AHS 2014 picture. He’s probably gained back some weight since losing the 80 pounds. According to the dumb jocks, this means nobody should listen to him about how to lose weight.
But since the dumb jocks claim to know everything there is to know about nutrition and health and weight loss (they have abs, after all!), they should know damned good and well that if you spend decades being obese and then lose a massive amount of weight, your body will always fight to regain the weight. A person who loses 100 pounds to end up at 240 has a totally different metabolism and set-point than someone who peaked at 240. That’s why nearly everyone who loses weight on The Biggest Loser gains most of it back. That’s why in diet studies, losing just 10% of your body weight and keeping it off is labeled as “success” — and most people in diet studies fail to achieve that success.
The tendency to become obese is largely genetic. So is the tendency to be lean and cut. That’s why twins who are separated at birth and raised in different families still end up having remarkably similar physiques. That’s why my son Zack was lean and cut on a totally lousy diet and is still lean and cut on a much better diet.
Unlike Collins and Squealer, Jimmy was born into a family of very fat people. (And I’m pretty sure his mommy didn’t start a bakery she could have him run later so he could think of himself as a successful businessman and expert on nutrition, but I’ll confirm with Jimmy.) Jimmy’s mother had bariatric surgery, for pete’s sake, and still managed to become obese again after initially losing 100 pounds. That’s his genetic background.
Yes, Jimmy’s weight has gone up and down. He will be battling that genetic burden (not to mention the damage he caused himself when he was drinking 12 Cokes per day in his thirties) for the rest of his life. But battle he does. For years, he weighed more than 400 pounds. If he’d just gotten down to 360 and stayed there, he would have been a “success” by diet-study standards. But he got down to 220. Then he slowly drifted back up to over 300. Then he shifted his diet again and lost 80 pounds. Now he’s gained some of that back. I suspect he’ll lose it, but let’s suppose he doesn’t. Let’s suppose he ends up at 250 and stays there.
That would still mean he’s more than 150 pounds down from his peak weight. It would still mean he’s shed nearly 40% of his peak weight – in a world where most obese people can’t lose 10% of their peak weight and keep it off. Ask any obesity researcher how he or she would feel about a protocol that allowed people to lose 40% of their initial weight.
So if the two dumb jocks/adolescent bullies who think they know everything there is to know about weight loss (because they have abs!) are so cock-sure about their expertise, here’s how they can prove it: stop making idiotic videos that attempt to fat-shame people who dare to report that Julian Bakery bread spikes their glucose just like any other bread or is the target of an FDA action. Stop making more videos and posting more barely-literate comments to justify your adolescent-bully behavior.
Instead, take that awesome expertise of yours, go find some seriously obese people who weigh 350 pounds or more, and coach them into losing so much weight, they look like you — with abs! Show us what real expertise can accomplish. Or hell, just coach them into losing 100 pounds and keeping it off. Show us how you – not some fat comedian and certainly not Jimmy Moore – have the answer these people need.
Because based on what I’ve seen so far, if I were 100 pounds overweight and my choice of a weight-loss coach was either an empathetic, kind-hearted guy who’s actually lost more than 150 pounds and understands the struggle … or a dumb jock who engages in internet fat-shaming and has to puff out his belly to make his naturally-lean body almost look a teensy bit fat, I’m going with the nice guy who’s been where I am – even if he still weighs 250 pounds and I can’t see his abs.
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