New Year’s Resolutions

      96 Comments on New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the first Monday in January, which means a lot of people who didn’t write out their New Year’s resolutions over the weekend are probably doing it now. If you’ve made a list of resolutions and it looks something like

  • I’m going to start saving 10% of my income
  • I’m going to stop wasting my evenings watching reality shows about people who can’t throw anything away
  • I’m going to lose 35 pounds

… then I have a piece of friendly advice for you: scratch that last one right now. The first two are fine, but the last one has to go. Replace it with something like:

  • I’m going to buy the latest Atkins book and follow the program exactly
  • I’m going to stop drinking alcohol except on rare occasions
  • I’m going to stop eating all sugars and grain foods

If you adhere to the resolutions on the second list, you may indeed lose 35 pounds. Or you may not. But what matters is that the goals in the second list are the kind you can definitely achieve if you want to.

Over the years, I’ve learned there’s a right way and a wrong way to make New Year’s resolutions. Well, actually, there are two wrong ways. The first wrong way is to wake up on January 1st suffering from a hangover-and-guilt combination, and then attempt to treat the guilt by proclaiming lofty goals you’ll never actually pursue once your head clears … such as “I’m going to quit my meaningless corporate job and spend the rest of my life feeding and educating the poor in Tanzania,” or “I’m going to discover what happened to my pants and apologize to whoever has them.”

The second wrong way is to wake up on January 1st and proclaim lofty goals that depend on specific outcomes you can’t actually control. I could, for example, declare that I’m going to sell 5,000 copies of Fat Head this year — and of course, I’d love for that to happen. But ultimately, I can’t control how many copies are sold. Only the buying public can. All I can do is promote the film to the best of my abilities. In other words, I can control my actions, but not the results of those actions.

The same principle applies to losing weight. Now and then, I hear from people who ask me something like, “I’ve lost 25 pounds and feel great, my doctor is pleased with how much my triglycerides and blood pressure have improved, but my weight loss has stalled and I’m still 20 pounds heavier than my goal weight — what should I do?” My answer: whatever you’ve been doing. If you’ve lost weight and feel great, you’re on a good diet. Don’t obsess with reaching a goal your body may resist for its own reasons.

Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great to have a target in mind. As countless motivational speakers and authors have pointed out, if you don’t decide where you want to go, you’re going to end up somewhere else — probably someplace far away. The trouble is, many of them preach about the wonders of writing down goals without distinguishing between actions and results. They mean well, but focusing too much on results is a prescription for feeling like a failure. As any coach, CEO, or battlefield commander will tell you, things rarely work out as well in reality as they did on the drawing board.

That’s why out of all the motivational books I’ve read, I found the ones by Tony Robbins (you know, the guy who looks like a handsome version of Andre the Giant) to be the most useful. His programs are all about taking action. In fact, he discourages people from defining success in terms of a specific outcome.

In his book Awaken the Giant Within, Robbins recounts dealing with a client who was lean, muscular, happily married, and financially well-off, yet considered himself a failure. Why? Because the guy had set personal targets for an extremely high level of income and an extremely low level of body fat, but couldn’t meet either. Mentally, he’d set himself up to fail. Once you decide you’ve failed, it’s tempting to just give up.

That’s why Robbins encourages his readers to define a goal, create a plan for meeting the goal, but then — this is the important part — define success in terms of faithfully taking action and following the plan, not in producing specific results. He calls this setting yourself up to win.  If you feel like you’re winning the game, you’re more likely to keep on playing.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should keep blindly following a plan that isn’t working. If you’re not getting good results, it’s time to re-evaluate, do some research, and then perhaps choose another plan. If you want to lose 35 pounds and stall after losing six or seven pounds, or if you feel lousy even though you’re losing weight, there’s a good chance you’ve picked the wrong diet — I certainly did more than once. But if you are getting good results, don’t set yourself up to feel like a failure by confusing good with perfect.

I know from experience that if I define success as having a narrow waist with washboard abs, I’m going to fail. I don’t have the genes to reach that goal, short of outright starvation. Ten or 12 years ago, I managed to semi-starve myself down to 165 pounds — nearly 35 pounds less than I weigh now. The number on the scale looked impressive, but I still had little love handles and some belly fat, and my muscles were starting to shrink noticeably. Family and friends began encouraging me to try to put some weight back on, or at least stop losing.

I understand now that body fat is an active and necessary part of our metabolisms, that we accumulate extra body fat partly to compensate for insulin resistance, and that there’s a limit to how much fat each of us can lose before our bodies will elect to digest muscle tissue instead of more fat. As Gary Taubes says in his new book, the proper diet will help us become as lean as we can be, but not necessarily as lean as we’d like to be.

That’s not a reason to give up and start eating Twinkies, of course. It’s a reason to define success as taking the right actions, not achieving specific results. So if your goal this year is to lose weight, I’d discourage you from picking some arbitrary number you think you should reach. But I’d heartily encourage you to

  • Decide how you’re going to lose weight
  • Write down your action plan
  • Keep a food journal so you know if you’re actually following your plan
  • Pat yourself on the back every time you do follow your plan
  • Pick one or two days per month to eat whatever you like without any guilt or recriminations afterwards — but only one or two days per month
  • Accept what you cannot change

The real point of adopting a better diet is to become healthier and to feel better. If you define success as doing the right thing and then do it, trust me, you will feel better. Losing weight is just a nice side benefit.


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96 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Lori

    Re: feeling bad on a low-carb diet, it’s not a bad idea to troubleshoot the problem before going back to the SAD. Personally, I need a big dose of magnesium and a fair amount of green veg, and everything works like a well-oiled machine. Your results may vary.

    As for the potato diet, it goes to show no one diet is right for everyone. Between the bloating, acid reflux and roller coaster blood sugars, I’d have felt dreadful.

    Considering that one potato shoots my blood sugar over 170 and keeps it there for two hours, I can’t imagine eating 20.

    Reply
  2. Lori

    Oh, and intermittent fasting? That was the one time I ever went on an eating binge. I can’t eat enough at breakfast to go without food the rest of the day. Again, there’s no one right eating plan for everyone.

    Reply
  3. Roberto

    Here’s an idea…

    Decide you are going to feel better from the inside out. Set aside your weight and appearance, for the time being. Visualize the sort of life you want to be living, the sort of life a person who “feels good” should be living.

    For me it is: Sleeping well. Engaging in fun, exhilarating exercise like hockey, yoga and golf – not repetitive drudgery like treadmill running and weight lifting. Feeling engaged socially. Being optimistic about the future. And, as Tom said, accepting things I don’t like about my appearance that may never change.

    Now…Eat the diet that best enables you to live that life, whatever it may be.

    Pay attention to what makes you FEEL GOOD. Its a very simple strategy. What could make more sense. Anyone can do it.

    If you FEEL BETTER eating grains and potatoes, go nuts. If you feel like shit on a low-carb diet, get the hell off of it. Don’t cling to some half-baked ideology because “Good Calories, Bad Calories” made so much sense.

    Eliminate the flagrant offenders from your diet like sugar, vegetable oil, white flour, hydrogenated fats, and processed food in general. Eat a whole foods diet.
    Consider how unfathomably complex and mysterious our bodies are, then close your ears to nimrods who still bicker about carbs and fat. If eating low-carb makes you feel good do it, if it doesn’t don’t do it. So simple.

    Once you’ve established that, as I said, listen to your own body and sense of well-being. Gary Taubes and Robert Atkins can’t help you there.

    That’s what I tell the vegans who email me about the wonders of their diets: Hey, if you feel good eating that way, please continue. I tried living as vegetarian and felt awful, so I gave it up.

    Reply
  4. Roberto

    And on a side note…Did anyone else catch that post at Whole Health Source about the guy who saw a drastic improvement in his health eating nothing but potatoes, or in other words, 95% of his calories from high-glycemic carbohydrate?
    Seemed kind of neat. I really liked how his blood sugar improved amazingly.

    Reply
  5. Sonya - NZ

    Hey Tom, Happy New Year. Thanks once again for the inspiration.

    For me, day one of ‘lose your middle age middle diet’ down, Gary Taubes new book ordered and I’ve lined a friend up (who is a personal trainer) to help me to get some excercise (using Frederick Hahns slow burn technique). Unfortunately a dear friend in Ohio sent me some butterfingers and reeses cups that just arrived today…mmm…what to do…

    Put down the Reese’s and slowly walk away … or save them for that once-per-month indulgence.

    Reply
  6. Ricardo

    Losing weight is not just about controlling Insulin in fact you can get insulin levels all the way down to fasting levels with having any fat being released from fat stores turns out what you really need to do is keep insulin levels low while increasing Growth Hormone levels growth hormone promotes the use of fat as a fuel or thats just one of the many wonderful things it does but ya there’s this popular guy name Brad Pilon who talks about this and has a book called Eat stop eat where you fast once or twice a week while exercising to burn fat and dispells the myths that dieiting will slow your metabolism down in short fast periods he says the only way to lose weight is caloric restriction and healthy eating

    That’s the longest single sentence I’ve ever read. Yes, other hormones are necessary to burn fat. The trouble with a high level of circulating insulin is that insulin can effectively block the actions of those hormones. I know Richard Nikoley has had good success with including intermittent fasting in his program. I may try it someday.

    Reply
  7. Lori

    Re: feeling bad on a low-carb diet, it’s not a bad idea to troubleshoot the problem before going back to the SAD. Personally, I need a big dose of magnesium and a fair amount of green veg, and everything works like a well-oiled machine. Your results may vary.

    As for the potato diet, it goes to show no one diet is right for everyone. Between the bloating, acid reflux and roller coaster blood sugars, I’d have felt dreadful.

    Considering that one potato shoots my blood sugar over 170 and keeps it there for two hours, I can’t imagine eating 20.

    Reply
  8. Lori

    Oh, and intermittent fasting? That was the one time I ever went on an eating binge. I can’t eat enough at breakfast to go without food the rest of the day. Again, there’s no one right eating plan for everyone.

    Reply
  9. Sonya - NZ

    Hey Tom, Happy New Year. Thanks once again for the inspiration.

    For me, day one of ‘lose your middle age middle diet’ down, Gary Taubes new book ordered and I’ve lined a friend up (who is a personal trainer) to help me to get some excercise (using Frederick Hahns slow burn technique). Unfortunately a dear friend in Ohio sent me some butterfingers and reeses cups that just arrived today…mmm…what to do…

    Put down the Reese’s and slowly walk away … or save them for that once-per-month indulgence.

    Reply
  10. Holly Johnson

    Ah, Anthony Robbins – uses pretty much all the psychology principles college teaches you in an applied manner. (The only thing I don’t like about his books is the push for the SAD for weight loss; his ideas to keep someone on track are decent though.)

    I dislike New Years resolutions. I know for some people they work (i.e. Jimmy Moore), but I think that people should be able to resolve to do something good for themselves at any time of the year. I think goals are important and that every moment can be a fresh start. (And I do resolve every year to become a better me…) I just guess I don’t like the hype. May 2009 I made a goal to become healthier. A year later, I was happy with the results. It worked out for me and the before/after pictures still make me smile. I think the “secret” tends to be “What’s your motivation for making this goal?” and consistently remembering it – especially when you’re in a moment of “weakness” and about to falter. And don’t beat yourself up and have the all or nothing attitude… Even addicts fall off the wagon. It’s how fast you get back on that counts. All those things coupled with your information here does equal success.

    Happy New Year, Tom!

    That’s another reason I think Robbins is more effective than the others in his field. Instead of merely declaring and affirming goals, he has you write out a list of what good things will probably happen if you follow a plan of action, and a list of what bad things will probably happen if you don’t.

    Reply
  11. Elenor

    Hey Sonya NZ? Let me recommend you store the candy till you read Gary’s new book. I just started reading his book for the second time (since I read it through when it arrived the 30th). As I wrote somewhere above, “It’s hard to ‘cheat’ or eat something with bad stuff in it when your *functioning brain* keep flashing on the facts of the health damage that results.”

    My husband is having really high quality vanilla ice cream on his peach pie (left over from our New Years dinner) — and I am, actually, amazingly, not having a hard time choosing to skip the ice cream. (Thankfully, I don’t like peach pie, so no temptation there.) I think — “ooooh! There’s yummy ice cream in the freezer…” and then my functioning brain says: “Yes there is, and you know what that will do to your blood sugar — and to your poor tired old pancreas, don’t you?” (I’m pre-diabetic and working hard to not proceed to actual diabetes!) “Ah. Yes I do, poor pancreas. Never mind!” (Amazing!)

    It may NOT be the case that there comes a ‘tipping point’ for the pancreas when it throws up its metaphorical hands and says “I quit! I can’t do this anymore!” and it ceases to make insulin for a fat old lady who is massively insulin resistant….. But it MAY be the case, and I’m going to act as if it were true, just in case it is!

    p.s., If you put the candy out for the squirrels? They won’t eat it! Huh. Rats will though.

    That’s exactly why I like to keep reading up on the effects of foods. It’s so much easier to say no to sugar if you think about what it does inside the body.

    Reply
  12. Holly Johnson

    Ah, Anthony Robbins – uses pretty much all the psychology principles college teaches you in an applied manner. (The only thing I don’t like about his books is the push for the SAD for weight loss; his ideas to keep someone on track are decent though.)

    I dislike New Years resolutions. I know for some people they work (i.e. Jimmy Moore), but I think that people should be able to resolve to do something good for themselves at any time of the year. I think goals are important and that every moment can be a fresh start. (And I do resolve every year to become a better me…) I just guess I don’t like the hype. May 2009 I made a goal to become healthier. A year later, I was happy with the results. It worked out for me and the before/after pictures still make me smile. I think the “secret” tends to be “What’s your motivation for making this goal?” and consistently remembering it – especially when you’re in a moment of “weakness” and about to falter. And don’t beat yourself up and have the all or nothing attitude… Even addicts fall off the wagon. It’s how fast you get back on that counts. All those things coupled with your information here does equal success.

    Happy New Year, Tom!

    That’s another reason I think Robbins is more effective than the others in his field. Instead of merely declaring and affirming goals, he has you write out a list of what good things will probably happen if you follow a plan of action, and a list of what bad things will probably happen if you don’t.

    Reply
  13. js290

    re: Pilon/eat top eat/intermittent fasting

    Pilon has good info, but he’s not saying anything new. George Cahill in Fuel Metabolism in Starvation talks about similar things.

    Binge eating after a fast (intermittent or otherwise) seems like a Pavlovian response and may indicate the person’s hormones aren’t completely in balance. I definitely would not recommend someone “actively” try intermittent fasting. Either your hormones are in balance, you’re not hungry and are burning fat, and can just go without feeding yourself for “extended” periods of time, or you need to get yourself into that state.

    I have to agree with Tom’s response that insulin seems to be the big ticket item. In excess, it seems to have adverse effects on all other hormones and enzymes.

    I actually decided to try a fast today just to see how it feels. As of midnight tonight, it’ll be 24 hours. I will definitely not stuff myself at midnight, though; that would seem to defeat the purpose. Suprisingly, my first hunger pangs passed pretty quickly.

    Reply
  14. James Gegner

    Great post, Tom! As for me, I’m not really one to make New Year’s resolutions either, because as you said, trying to obtain a specific outcome is only setting yourself for failure.

    In response to Kat’s comment about lumping saturated fat with trans fat, I’ve been seeing commercials lately for some sort of fake butter spread called Benecol. According to the advertisement, Benecol actually blocks cholesterol absorption in the body. That can’t be good for anyone’s health.

    In regard to you mentioning that your wife fries sweet potatoes in bacon grease, I’m wondering if you’ve ever thought about trying your hand at making homemade bacon. There’s a really good cookbook called Charcuterie that has a recipe for homemade bacon. The book even includes plans for building your own backyard smokehouse.

    Funny you mention that; my wife is doing a lot of reading online these days about cooking with a wood stove, raising chickens, smoking your own meats, etc. Sometime in the future, she’d like for us to buy some land and live a little more old-school.

    Reply
  15. Elenor

    Hey Sonya NZ? Let me recommend you store the candy till you read Gary’s new book. I just started reading his book for the second time (since I read it through when it arrived the 30th). As I wrote somewhere above, “It’s hard to ‘cheat’ or eat something with bad stuff in it when your *functioning brain* keep flashing on the facts of the health damage that results.”

    My husband is having really high quality vanilla ice cream on his peach pie (left over from our New Years dinner) — and I am, actually, amazingly, not having a hard time choosing to skip the ice cream. (Thankfully, I don’t like peach pie, so no temptation there.) I think — “ooooh! There’s yummy ice cream in the freezer…” and then my functioning brain says: “Yes there is, and you know what that will do to your blood sugar — and to your poor tired old pancreas, don’t you?” (I’m pre-diabetic and working hard to not proceed to actual diabetes!) “Ah. Yes I do, poor pancreas. Never mind!” (Amazing!)

    It may NOT be the case that there comes a ‘tipping point’ for the pancreas when it throws up its metaphorical hands and says “I quit! I can’t do this anymore!” and it ceases to make insulin for a fat old lady who is massively insulin resistant….. But it MAY be the case, and I’m going to act as if it were true, just in case it is!

    p.s., If you put the candy out for the squirrels? They won’t eat it! Huh. Rats will though.

    That’s exactly why I like to keep reading up on the effects of foods. It’s so much easier to say no to sugar if you think about what it does inside the body.

    Reply
  16. js290

    re: Pilon/eat top eat/intermittent fasting

    Pilon has good info, but he’s not saying anything new. George Cahill in Fuel Metabolism in Starvation talks about similar things.

    Binge eating after a fast (intermittent or otherwise) seems like a Pavlovian response and may indicate the person’s hormones aren’t completely in balance. I definitely would not recommend someone “actively” try intermittent fasting. Either your hormones are in balance, you’re not hungry and are burning fat, and can just go without feeding yourself for “extended” periods of time, or you need to get yourself into that state.

    I have to agree with Tom’s response that insulin seems to be the big ticket item. In excess, it seems to have adverse effects on all other hormones and enzymes.

    I actually decided to try a fast today just to see how it feels. As of midnight tonight, it’ll be 24 hours. I will definitely not stuff myself at midnight, though; that would seem to defeat the purpose. Suprisingly, my first hunger pangs passed pretty quickly.

    Reply
  17. Roberto

    The point is that he saw improvements in his glucose control with an extreme increase in carbohydrates. All of his numbers initially were quite bad initially, and improved remarkably on his potato diet. If the low-carb dogma were even remotely true, that just wouldn’t happen.

    On his standard american diet, he too probably would’ve seen substantial glucose spikes if he measured his blood sugar after eating a potato. Had he done that he might’ve stamped “insulin resistant” on his forehead and feared carbohydrates the rest of his life. He’d quickly embrace a low-carb diet. And in a perfect example of self-fulfilling prophecy, any time he’d test his blood sugar after periodic carb binges he’d see skyrockecting numbers. Makes sense, because low-carb diets tend to temporarily impair glucose control whether the person is truly insulin resistant or not.

    Ah, well then, if the guy who works for the potato industry says potatoes improved his health, I’d best run out and stuff myself with potatoes. Oh, wait … I used to eat lots of potatoes and other starches, but no sugar at all. I was fat, sick, and pre-diabetic. Then I (egads!) learned to fear the starchy carbohydrates, quit eating them, and no doubt promptly screwed up my glucose control forever. And yet … in a perfect example of self-fulfilling prophecy, I lost weight, kissed a whole lot of nagging ailments goodbye, ended up with high HDL, low fasting glucose, low triglycerides, and feel better than I did when I was 20 years younger.

    For someone who espouses (supposedly) a view that we should listen to our bodies and eat whatever makes us feel good inside, you sure seem bent on convincing me my diet isn’t good for me. Take your own advice: eat whatever makes you feel good and don’t worry about what I eat.

    Reply
  18. Sarah

    I just saw a commercial for McDonald’s new maple and fruit OATMEAL.

    … What the hell?! I know the government hates you McD’s, but don’t succumb D: Don’t serve this low-fat healthy retardation… Agh…

    I know Dean Ornish was advising McDonald’s at one time. Perhaps that’s one of his ideas.

    Reply
  19. Roberto

    “That’s what I tell the vegans who email me about the wonders of their diets: Hey, if you feel good eating that way, please continue.”

    My main gripe is with your first resolution:

    ◦I’m going to buy the latest Atkins book and follow the program exactly

    It should be:

    ◦ Listen to your own damn body, and follow whatever diet empowers you to live an active, healthy, optimistic lifestyle. Be it high-carb, low-carb, and anything in between.

    Imagine a person who goes on a low-carb diet and loses weight…Buttt…they have no energy, bad breath, maggot-gagging body odor, they feel cold all the time and have ugly mood swings. Happened to me. Happens to many.

    It’s an even more absurd scenario when the person doesn’t even lose that much weight.

    That’s why I’m suggesting we set vanity aside and pay attention to our energy levels, complexion, sleep quality and moods to determine the best diet for ourselves. If low-carb dieting improves all of those for you, wonderful.

    That’s why I said to replace “I’m going to lose 35 pounds” with SOMETHING LIKE “I’m going to buy the latest Atkins book and follow it exactly” — i.e., something you can actually do, as opposed to a specific result you may not be able to produce.

    I’ve had good results going carb and feel great, but I wouldn’t tell anyone to stick with a diet — low-carb, vegan, Ornish, Zone, Weight Watchers, etc. — that isn’t producing good results.

    Reply
  20. Lori

    “Binge eating after a fast (intermittent or otherwise) … may indicate the person’s hormones aren’t completely in balance. I definitely would not recommend someone “actively” try intermittent fasting. Either your hormones are in balance, you’re not hungry and are burning fat, and can just go without feeding yourself for “extended” periods of time, or you need to get yourself into that state.”

    In many cases, that that’s probably true. I remember the days of having to eat every few hours on a high-carb diet. However, my thyroid and insulin are normal and I’d been on a low-carb, nutrient-dense diet for several months when I tried the fast. In my case, the more likely explanation is this: anytime I see a low-carber describe one of their meals, it’s twice as much as I eat–not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just don’t feel good after a big meal. I don’t believe a person necessarily has a problem if they don’t like to fast.

    I’m nearly 22 hours into my first experiment with a fast, and frankly, it’s easier than I thought it would be. Hunger pangs twice (around lunch and dinner times), but they went away pretty quickly. I’m guessing that during my high-carb days, it would have been a different story.

    Reply
  21. James Gegner

    Great post, Tom! As for me, I’m not really one to make New Year’s resolutions either, because as you said, trying to obtain a specific outcome is only setting yourself for failure.

    In response to Kat’s comment about lumping saturated fat with trans fat, I’ve been seeing commercials lately for some sort of fake butter spread called Benecol. According to the advertisement, Benecol actually blocks cholesterol absorption in the body. That can’t be good for anyone’s health.

    In regard to you mentioning that your wife fries sweet potatoes in bacon grease, I’m wondering if you’ve ever thought about trying your hand at making homemade bacon. There’s a really good cookbook called Charcuterie that has a recipe for homemade bacon. The book even includes plans for building your own backyard smokehouse.

    Funny you mention that; my wife is doing a lot of reading online these days about cooking with a wood stove, raising chickens, smoking your own meats, etc. Sometime in the future, she’d like for us to buy some land and live a little more old-school.

    Reply
  22. Ricardo

    ya i mean testosterone growth hormone thyroid hormone those are all fat burning hormones while i agree with some aspects of Gary Taubes points i don’t believe that its just about 1 hormone i can understand why Sylvester Stallone used Growth Hormone to get in shape for The Expendables seeing as hes in his 60s now. Also other stuff need to be looked at to like Environmental estrogen most of you probably heard of Ori Hofmekler who talks about how xenoestrogens in our food are making us fatter and sicker and sapping most mens free testostrone and causing breast cancer in women

    Is there some way i could convince you to add some punctuation to your sentences because i get a little lost trying to separate the clauses in my brain but anyway yes there are several hormones involved but if insulin can block the action of the fat-burning hormones then keeping fasting insulin low is important even if it’s not just all about insulin.

    Reply
  23. Roberto

    The point is that he saw improvements in his glucose control with an extreme increase in carbohydrates. All of his numbers initially were quite bad initially, and improved remarkably on his potato diet. If the low-carb dogma were even remotely true, that just wouldn’t happen.

    On his standard american diet, he too probably would’ve seen substantial glucose spikes if he measured his blood sugar after eating a potato. Had he done that he might’ve stamped “insulin resistant” on his forehead and feared carbohydrates the rest of his life. He’d quickly embrace a low-carb diet. And in a perfect example of self-fulfilling prophecy, any time he’d test his blood sugar after periodic carb binges he’d see skyrockecting numbers. Makes sense, because low-carb diets tend to temporarily impair glucose control whether the person is truly insulin resistant or not.

    Ah, well then, if the guy who works for the potato industry says potatoes improved his health, I’d best run out and stuff myself with potatoes. Oh, wait … I used to eat lots of potatoes and other starches, but no sugar at all. I was fat, sick, and pre-diabetic. Then I (egads!) learned to fear the starchy carbohydrates, quit eating them, and no doubt promptly screwed up my glucose control forever. And yet … in a perfect example of self-fulfilling prophecy, I lost weight, kissed a whole lot of nagging ailments goodbye, ended up with high HDL, low fasting glucose, low triglycerides, and feel better than I did when I was 20 years younger.

    For someone who espouses (supposedly) a view that we should listen to our bodies and eat whatever makes us feel good inside, you sure seem bent on convincing me my diet isn’t good for me. Take your own advice: eat whatever makes you feel good and don’t worry about what I eat.

    Reply
  24. Sarah

    I just saw a commercial for McDonald’s new maple and fruit OATMEAL.

    … What the hell?! I know the government hates you McD’s, but don’t succumb D: Don’t serve this low-fat healthy retardation… Agh…

    I know Dean Ornish was advising McDonald’s at one time. Perhaps that’s one of his ideas.

    Reply
  25. Roberto

    “That’s what I tell the vegans who email me about the wonders of their diets: Hey, if you feel good eating that way, please continue.”

    My main gripe is with your first resolution:

    ◦I’m going to buy the latest Atkins book and follow the program exactly

    It should be:

    ◦ Listen to your own damn body, and follow whatever diet empowers you to live an active, healthy, optimistic lifestyle. Be it high-carb, low-carb, and anything in between.

    Imagine a person who goes on a low-carb diet and loses weight…Buttt…they have no energy, bad breath, maggot-gagging body odor, they feel cold all the time and have ugly mood swings. Happened to me. Happens to many.

    It’s an even more absurd scenario when the person doesn’t even lose that much weight.

    That’s why I’m suggesting we set vanity aside and pay attention to our energy levels, complexion, sleep quality and moods to determine the best diet for ourselves. If low-carb dieting improves all of those for you, wonderful.

    That’s why I said to replace “I’m going to lose 35 pounds” with SOMETHING LIKE “I’m going to buy the latest Atkins book and follow it exactly” — i.e., something you can actually do, as opposed to a specific result you may not be able to produce.

    I’ve had good results going carb and feel great, but I wouldn’t tell anyone to stick with a diet — low-carb, vegan, Ornish, Zone, Weight Watchers, etc. — that isn’t producing good results.

    Reply
  26. Lori

    “Binge eating after a fast (intermittent or otherwise) … may indicate the person’s hormones aren’t completely in balance. I definitely would not recommend someone “actively” try intermittent fasting. Either your hormones are in balance, you’re not hungry and are burning fat, and can just go without feeding yourself for “extended” periods of time, or you need to get yourself into that state.”

    In many cases, that that’s probably true. I remember the days of having to eat every few hours on a high-carb diet. However, my thyroid and insulin are normal and I’d been on a low-carb, nutrient-dense diet for several months when I tried the fast. In my case, the more likely explanation is this: anytime I see a low-carber describe one of their meals, it’s twice as much as I eat–not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just don’t feel good after a big meal. I don’t believe a person necessarily has a problem if they don’t like to fast.

    I’m nearly 22 hours into my first experiment with a fast, and frankly, it’s easier than I thought it would be. Hunger pangs twice (around lunch and dinner times), but they went away pretty quickly. I’m guessing that during my high-carb days, it would have been a different story.

    Reply
  27. Ricardo

    ya i mean testosterone growth hormone thyroid hormone those are all fat burning hormones while i agree with some aspects of Gary Taubes points i don’t believe that its just about 1 hormone i can understand why Sylvester Stallone used Growth Hormone to get in shape for The Expendables seeing as hes in his 60s now. Also other stuff need to be looked at to like Environmental estrogen most of you probably heard of Ori Hofmekler who talks about how xenoestrogens in our food are making us fatter and sicker and sapping most mens free testostrone and causing breast cancer in women

    Is there some way i could convince you to add some punctuation to your sentences because i get a little lost trying to separate the clauses in my brain but anyway yes there are several hormones involved but if insulin can block the action of the fat-burning hormones then keeping fasting insulin low is important even if it’s not just all about insulin.

    Reply
  28. Tammy

    No squirrels in NZ?

    Tom – The intermittent fasting thing is not really that hard if you are eating low carb anyway. I’ve been doing it for a while off and on, just when I need a break like after the holidays. Because of my work schedule I do mine for no more than 24 hours at a time, from lunch to lunch the next day. If I eat a decent lunch say around noon, I don’t get hungry untill evening maybe 7pm or so. I just drink water and take my vitamins and I have to go the bed pretty early because of work so I’m in bed asleep by 830 or 9pm. Once I’ve slept I’m definitly not hungry the next morning and have no problem going until lunch the next day. After pigging out for an entire week during the holidays it actually feels good to not be stuffed.

    I found going 24 hours surprisingly easy. I had some turkey around midnight — first food in 24 hours — and woke up this morning feeling like I do on any other morning. I probably won’t eat until lunch.

    Reply
  29. Laurie

    Resolutions that can be kept. I agree wholeheartedly. My particular nemesis is sweets. I resolved this year on ‘mole day’, October 23rd, not to eat one molecule of sugar for a year. It has been working spectacularly well now for 2.5 months. I’m like a new, better person. I had cut way back on my sweets and all carbs after I finished reading Taubes, June 16, 2008, but I was still a dabbler and I definitely can not splurge even once a month. Wheat and wine were never a problem for me to eschew- thankfully I’m glad I don’t have multiple nemeses- one big honkin’ one is bad enough.
    There is a ‘pi day’, March 14th and I like to start new things on a day I can easily remember, like birthdays or anniversaries. March 23rd, 2009, I decided to give up all nasty vegetable oils. March is the 23rd anniversary month of my wedding.
    The other thing that I find interesting is that I believe because I read Taubes and because I started eating more animal fat and protein, these ideas to resolve to do healthy things just jump into my fatty brain now. When they happen I don’t put them off until New Years though. I go with them when they occur and then attach a date I can remember.

    I mentioned that I found Tony Robbins’ ideas effective, and one reason is that he has you write down the negative consequences of failing to take action or change a habit … the idea being that the more real those consequences are in your mind, the more motivating they are. (He also pointed out that while he’s a positive person and believes in positive thinking, the fact is that most people are more motivated to avoid pain than to seek pleasure.) So while just advising people to avoid sugar may be somewhat effective, spelling out the consequences of eating sugar is more effective.

    Reply
  30. Elenor

    No kidding? How ’bout that! Squirrels are great fun to watch (the little acrobats!), but they’re also essentially rats with fluffy tails… (except they won’t eat sugar).

    We have four of them living in the trees in our back yard. Amazing to watch them leap from tree to tree. I’ve never seen one miss and fall to the ground, which makes me wonder how often that happens, if ever.

    Reply
  31. Tammy

    No squirrels in NZ?

    Tom – The intermittent fasting thing is not really that hard if you are eating low carb anyway. I’ve been doing it for a while off and on, just when I need a break like after the holidays. Because of my work schedule I do mine for no more than 24 hours at a time, from lunch to lunch the next day. If I eat a decent lunch say around noon, I don’t get hungry untill evening maybe 7pm or so. I just drink water and take my vitamins and I have to go the bed pretty early because of work so I’m in bed asleep by 830 or 9pm. Once I’ve slept I’m definitly not hungry the next morning and have no problem going until lunch the next day. After pigging out for an entire week during the holidays it actually feels good to not be stuffed.

    I found going 24 hours surprisingly easy. I had some turkey around midnight — first food in 24 hours — and woke up this morning feeling like I do on any other morning. I probably won’t eat until lunch.

    Reply
  32. Laurie

    Resolutions that can be kept. I agree wholeheartedly. My particular nemesis is sweets. I resolved this year on ‘mole day’, October 23rd, not to eat one molecule of sugar for a year. It has been working spectacularly well now for 2.5 months. I’m like a new, better person. I had cut way back on my sweets and all carbs after I finished reading Taubes, June 16, 2008, but I was still a dabbler and I definitely can not splurge even once a month. Wheat and wine were never a problem for me to eschew- thankfully I’m glad I don’t have multiple nemeses- one big honkin’ one is bad enough.
    There is a ‘pi day’, March 14th and I like to start new things on a day I can easily remember, like birthdays or anniversaries. March 23rd, 2009, I decided to give up all nasty vegetable oils. March is the 23rd anniversary month of my wedding.
    The other thing that I find interesting is that I believe because I read Taubes and because I started eating more animal fat and protein, these ideas to resolve to do healthy things just jump into my fatty brain now. When they happen I don’t put them off until New Years though. I go with them when they occur and then attach a date I can remember.

    I mentioned that I found Tony Robbins’ ideas effective, and one reason is that he has you write down the negative consequences of failing to take action or change a habit … the idea being that the more real those consequences are in your mind, the more motivating they are. (He also pointed out that while he’s a positive person and believes in positive thinking, the fact is that most people are more motivated to avoid pain than to seek pleasure.) So while just advising people to avoid sugar may be somewhat effective, spelling out the consequences of eating sugar is more effective.

    Reply
  33. Elenor

    No kidding? How ’bout that! Squirrels are great fun to watch (the little acrobats!), but they’re also essentially rats with fluffy tails… (except they won’t eat sugar).

    We have four of them living in the trees in our back yard. Amazing to watch them leap from tree to tree. I’ve never seen one miss and fall to the ground, which makes me wonder how often that happens, if ever.

    Reply
  34. Roberto

    “For someone who espouses (supposedly) a view that we should listen to our bodies and eat whatever makes us feel good inside, you sure seem bent on convincing me my diet isn’t good for me.”

    Please, quote back to me exactly where I tried to convince you that your diet isn’t working for you.

    I remember saying this in this thread:

    “That’s why I’m suggesting we set vanity aside and pay attention to our energy levels, complexion, sleep quality and moods to determine the best diet for ourselves. IF LOW-CARB DIETING IMPROVES ALL OF THOSE FOR YOU, WONDERFUL.”

    Nonetheless, I do find it interesting that you admit to remaining overweight on a low-carb diet. I’ve heard Gary Taubes say many times that you can’t store fat without carbohydrates. Literally, that’s what he said. Lunacy.

    As I said, I was mostly responding to your first resolution where you immediately recommend the Atkins Diet specifically. A lot of people treat low-carb dieting as the default, one size fits all, magical weight loss solution. It isn’t.

    You’ve made it clear that you don’t necessarily think that. I’m glad we’re on the same page. Still, your first resolution should be changed.

    And there is ample evidence suggesting that people with relatively intact metabolisms can thrive on any degree of starch consumption. You’ve seen the same evidence I’m talking about. Perhaps the potato industry guy isn’t the most reliable example.

    Well, you’ll just have to pardon me if I pretend like it’s my blog and leave that first resolution the way I wrote it. You are, of course, free to start your own blog and post any resolutions you find acceptable.

    Yup, still a bit overweight, thanks to too much damage from too much junk as a kid and too many bad diets as an adult. I am, however, leaner and healthier on this diet than on any other I’ve tried, which is the point. I don’t store additional fat on a low-carb diet even when I eat until I’m full. That wasn’t the case with low-fat diets, vegetarian diets, or any other diet I tried. The only way I could avoid gaining weight on those diets was to go through life hungry.

    I agree that people with intact metabolisms can eat starch, as many do. I’ve known plenty of thin people who can eat practically anything. But those of who don’t have intact metabolisms and gain weight easily because we react badly to carbohydrates can’t. I know that from experience, which is why I’m not persuaded when people point at the Kativans, the Asians, or any other group of starch-eaters as evidence that starches are fine and dandy. Fine and dandy for them, but certainly not for me.

    Reply
  35. Hector

    Low carbs diets are wonderful for most people including myself which I lost 20 pounds in 2 month. But recently I reached a plateau and I cannot go more lower than that which is a bummer because I need to go lower so I can join the army. But is that gonna stop me?… off course not. Im still young and I hope my body is not that damaged from years of high carbs foods. Tom i ask you if there is some tips, like coconut oil, to break the barrier since that’s my resolution for this year.

    Plateaus are tricky. I know Jimmy Moore hit a months-long stall when he went low-carb in 2004, then started losing again. I’m going to do a little experimenting with intermittent fasting, which Richard Nikoley says worked for him.

    Reply
  36. Roberto

    “For someone who espouses (supposedly) a view that we should listen to our bodies and eat whatever makes us feel good inside, you sure seem bent on convincing me my diet isn’t good for me.”

    Please, quote back to me exactly where I tried to convince you that your diet isn’t working for you.

    I remember saying this in this thread:

    “That’s why I’m suggesting we set vanity aside and pay attention to our energy levels, complexion, sleep quality and moods to determine the best diet for ourselves. IF LOW-CARB DIETING IMPROVES ALL OF THOSE FOR YOU, WONDERFUL.”

    Nonetheless, I do find it interesting that you admit to remaining overweight on a low-carb diet. I’ve heard Gary Taubes say many times that you can’t store fat without carbohydrates. Literally, that’s what he said. Lunacy.

    As I said, I was mostly responding to your first resolution where you immediately recommend the Atkins Diet specifically. A lot of people treat low-carb dieting as the default, one size fits all, magical weight loss solution. It isn’t.

    You’ve made it clear that you don’t necessarily think that. I’m glad we’re on the same page. Still, your first resolution should be changed.

    And there is ample evidence suggesting that people with relatively intact metabolisms can thrive on any degree of starch consumption. You’ve seen the same evidence I’m talking about. Perhaps the potato industry guy isn’t the most reliable example.

    Well, you’ll just have to pardon me if I pretend like it’s my blog and leave that first resolution the way I wrote it. You are, of course, free to start your own blog and post any resolutions you find acceptable.

    Yup, still a bit overweight, thanks to too much damage from too much junk as a kid and too many bad diets as an adult. I am, however, leaner and healthier on this diet than on any other I’ve tried, which is the point. I don’t store additional fat on a low-carb diet even when I eat until I’m full. That wasn’t the case with low-fat diets, vegetarian diets, or any other diet I tried. The only way I could avoid gaining weight on those diets was to go through life hungry.

    I agree that people with intact metabolisms can eat starch, as many do. I’ve known plenty of thin people who can eat practically anything. But those of who don’t have intact metabolisms and gain weight easily because we react badly to carbohydrates can’t. I know that from experience, which is why I’m not persuaded when people point at the Kativans, the Asians, or any other group of starch-eaters as evidence that starches are fine and dandy. Fine and dandy for them, but certainly not for me.

    Reply
  37. Hector

    Low carbs diets are wonderful for most people including myself which I lost 20 pounds in 2 month. But recently I reached a plateau and I cannot go more lower than that which is a bummer because I need to go lower so I can join the army. But is that gonna stop me?… off course not. Im still young and I hope my body is not that damaged from years of high carbs foods. Tom i ask you if there is some tips, like coconut oil, to break the barrier since that’s my resolution for this year.

    Plateaus are tricky. I know Jimmy Moore hit a months-long stall when he went low-carb in 2004, then started losing again. I’m going to do a little experimenting with intermittent fasting, which Richard Nikoley says worked for him.

    Reply
  38. Tyson

    I’m with chmeee. I made a new year’s resolution about 10 years ago to never make a new year’s resolution again…. and I’ve kept it! Studies have shown that preplanning a goal (I”ll start that on Monday, the beginning of the year, after I binge, etc) is less effective than moving on a goal NOW. You may not be able to do everything that goal entails immediately (if prep work is needed for instance) but just moving a little bit in the heat of the decision has more long term traction.

    I agree. In his book, Tony Robbins tells his readers at several points to put the book down RIGHT NOW and take an action, then read the next chapter.

    Reply
  39. Tracee

    I’m embarrased to say this, but now that I have a little more time in the evenings (new job), I have found myself watching more “Bachelor” and other reality shows. I know a friend who quit smoking and then added up how many tens of thousands of dollars he had wasted in his life on cigarretts. I guess we can do the same for bad tv, when we really have better things to do. And we value time more than money, but I never really thought about it this way until this post.

    I’m not sure if this is up your alley, if you’re looking for good grain-free cookbooks, amazon has some great ones for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. (it’s not low carb, just grain-free and junk free).

    I think a mindless TV now and then is fine. It’s a question of balance.

    Reply
  40. Tyson

    I’m with chmeee. I made a new year’s resolution about 10 years ago to never make a new year’s resolution again…. and I’ve kept it! Studies have shown that preplanning a goal (I”ll start that on Monday, the beginning of the year, after I binge, etc) is less effective than moving on a goal NOW. You may not be able to do everything that goal entails immediately (if prep work is needed for instance) but just moving a little bit in the heat of the decision has more long term traction.

    I agree. In his book, Tony Robbins tells his readers at several points to put the book down RIGHT NOW and take an action, then read the next chapter.

    Reply
  41. Tracee

    I’m embarrased to say this, but now that I have a little more time in the evenings (new job), I have found myself watching more “Bachelor” and other reality shows. I know a friend who quit smoking and then added up how many tens of thousands of dollars he had wasted in his life on cigarretts. I guess we can do the same for bad tv, when we really have better things to do. And we value time more than money, but I never really thought about it this way until this post.

    I’m not sure if this is up your alley, if you’re looking for good grain-free cookbooks, amazon has some great ones for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. (it’s not low carb, just grain-free and junk free).

    I think a mindless TV now and then is fine. It’s a question of balance.

    Reply
  42. Ricardo

    Well lets talk a little about Insulin. Now Insulin is a hormone that’s sorta central to energy metabolism in the body its vital to human health and life and i think its also a fairly misunderstood hormone. Now i know Insulin is sorta tied in with fat-loss and its gets sorta tied in with the fat-loss story. Now i assume most people know that Insulin changes by how much food you eat generally from the carbohydrate and protein portions of foods and is measured in milieu units per liter. Now if your fasting and i mean like a complete 3 day fast your gonna be looking at a Insulin level of i imagine 5 and 10. But typical anythings that’s under 30 is considered the fasted state but between 30 and 70 is something after a normal decent meal and anything over 100 is something you would find in diabetics or research. Now Tom what i think most people should know about Insulin even at very low insulin between 5 to 10 you would still not get increased lipolysis if your Growth Hormone levels are low. You see Insulin and Growth Hormone actually work together to promote fat-loss so even though insulin is very very low you wouldn’t be releasing as much fat from your body fat stores as if insulin was low and growth hormone was higher which is what you find in a true fasted state. The other thing you should know is that Insulin is very or rather lipolysis is very sensitive to insulin. So while a 5 to 10 milieu of insulin is true fasting while the 30s is still in the fasted state as you climb that small climb even a 30 mileometer you can still see a very quick blunting body-fat release. So just to give you an idea while Insulin is a integral part n your physiology its not the only thing needed for fat loss it does not matter about just having low insulin our physiology and hormones and metabolism are like a spider web kinda everything is interconnected. I mean you can have Insulin really low without GH increasing your not releasing body-fat stores and im sure there are 4 or 5 other hormones the we know and probably another 10 or 20 that we don’t know of. So just remember your metabolism is incredibly complex. But the thing we do know that if one wants to lose weight there gonna half to eat little bit less and there gonna half to move a little more and while all these hormones are important getting caught in just 1 hormone being sorta of the key hormone typically blinds us to the important effects of other hormones.

    Reply
  43. Ricardo

    Well lets talk a little about Insulin. Now Insulin is a hormone that’s sorta central to energy metabolism in the body its vital to human health and life and i think its also a fairly misunderstood hormone. Now i know Insulin is sorta tied in with fat-loss and its gets sorta tied in with the fat-loss story. Now i assume most people know that Insulin changes by how much food you eat generally from the carbohydrate and protein portions of foods and is measured in milieu units per liter. Now if your fasting and i mean like a complete 3 day fast your gonna be looking at a Insulin level of i imagine 5 and 10. But typical anythings that’s under 30 is considered the fasted state but between 30 and 70 is something after a normal decent meal and anything over 100 is something you would find in diabetics or research. Now Tom what i think most people should know about Insulin even at very low insulin between 5 to 10 you would still not get increased lipolysis if your Growth Hormone levels are low. You see Insulin and Growth Hormone actually work together to promote fat-loss so even though insulin is very very low you wouldn’t be releasing as much fat from your body fat stores as if insulin was low and growth hormone was higher which is what you find in a true fasted state. The other thing you should know is that Insulin is very or rather lipolysis is very sensitive to insulin. So while a 5 to 10 milieu of insulin is true fasting while the 30s is still in the fasted state as you climb that small climb even a 30 mileometer you can still see a very quick blunting body-fat release. So just to give you an idea while Insulin is a integral part n your physiology its not the only thing needed for fat loss it does not matter about just having low insulin our physiology and hormones and metabolism are like a spider web kinda everything is interconnected. I mean you can have Insulin really low without GH increasing your not releasing body-fat stores and im sure there are 4 or 5 other hormones the we know and probably another 10 or 20 that we don’t know of. So just remember your metabolism is incredibly complex. But the thing we do know that if one wants to lose weight there gonna half to eat little bit less and there gonna half to move a little more and while all these hormones are important getting caught in just 1 hormone being sorta of the key hormone typically blinds us to the important effects of other hormones.

    Reply

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