Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another Simple Food Weight Loss Experience

Whole Health Source reader Sarah Pugh recently went on a six-week simple food (low reward) diet to test its effectiveness as a weight loss strategy, and she was kind enough to describe her experience for me, and provide a link to her blog where she discussed it in more detail (1). 

Consistent with the scientific literature and a number of previous reader anecdotes (2), Sarah experienced a reduction in appetite on the simple food diet, losing 15 pounds in 6 weeks without hunger.  In contrast to her prior experiences with typical calorie restriction, her energy level and mood remained high over this period.  Here's a quote from her blog:
Well, it looks like the theory that in the absence of nice palatable food, the body will turn quite readily to fat stores and start munching them up, is holding up. At the moment, the majority of the energy I use is coming from my insides, and my body is using it without such quibbles as the increased hunger, low energy, crappy thermo-regulation or bitchiness normally associated with severe calorie restriction.
I can't promise that everyone will experience results like this, but this is basically what the food reward hypothesis suggests should be possible, and it seems to work this way for many people.  That's one of the reasons why this idea interests me so much.


By the end of the six-week period, Sarah was frustrated to find that her performance on strength training exercises began to decline in the gym.  This was probably in part due to a small loss of muscle mass that is a normal part of fat loss.  Although it can be minimized by eating enough protein, muscle loss is a normal part of fat loss, just as overfeeding causes some muscle gain in addition to fat gain (3).  This process can be reversed by taking up strength training, but in Sarah's case, she was already strength training to begin with.  The other reason her performance decreased may have to do with the fact that her appetite and calorie intake declined substantially, but her athletic lifestyle continued, so she was no longer filling up her glycogen stores.  This problem should eventually fix itself once enough weight is lost and appetite returns to a more typical level. 

Sarah found the simple food regimen easy to stick to overall (although I think some people will go through a difficult adjustment period of 1-2 weeks), but faced some challenges due to the arrival of the holiday season and its glut of tasty food.  The thing I like about simple food diets is that they offer the ability to cause fat loss in a way that works with the body, rather than against it.  I feel that if properly applied, this technique should be more sustainable and require less willpower than typical calorie restriction, although to be clear, both strategies are capable of causing fat loss.  However, there is no getting around the fact that eating this way requires some willpower.  The easiest and most effective way to apply it is to limit exposure to highly palatable/rewarding foods, because having them around, smelling them or tasting them triggers cravings and a high likelihood of overconsumption.  Constant exposure to these cues is one of the obstacles to applying a simple food diet in the modern US, and it is something I'm still thinking about how to address. 

For those who would like a bit of guidance on how to implement a simple food diet, I published my ideas here:


Implementing a Simple Food Diet

87 comments:

Alex Gorski said...

The T-Nation folks have been tweaking an approach using food-reward strategies. I have not done it but thought readers might find it interesting. Basically four weeks of protein shakes, recovery drinks, and supplements combined with 1 whole food meal a week. Mainly designed to reset the food-reward mechanisms.

http://velocity.t-nation.com/free_online_program/sports_body_training_diet_velocity/velocity_diet_30#secrets-and-science/secret-to-body-transformation

Sara said...

Alex, that program looks like a marketing ploy to sell supplements! Why not just use real food? I doubt that protein powders and recovery drinks will retrain the satiety response. I may be wrong, just my opinion so don't take offense. I even sell protein powder, so I'm not anti, but a diet based on it seems kind of... ridiculous.

Anyway, I am going to give this a go. I have a question for you Stephan. Do you think it is necessary to give up caffeine? I am seriously addicted but now would be the time to do it (uni holidays, don't need to think too hard). It is not high calorie, but it is high reward..

DH said...

I like how you're so modest about the potential of a simple, low reward dietary plan. it tests to your credibility rather than being dogmatic. keep the anecdotes coming! I've been on a simple diet too for the past 1 week and I'm already seeing physical changes, not just weight but also my skin tone and balance of mood throughout the day. Less highs, less lows.

Nill Bind said...

When I read research that having eggs at breakfast could aid weight loss by helping people eat less all day, I was all for them, but this is getting a bit extreme!

Thnx
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Sara said...

^^^
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john petter said...

Great post. Thanks for the advice.. Neprinol

Kris said...

Stephan,

it would be great if you could write a post on your thoughts about the Shangri La Diet approach.

According to the author, it also lowers the body fat setpoint to lead to automatic weight loss.

I've found this method to be effective.

Anoopbal said...

Hi Steven,

I am curious to know how much of this can affect your set point.

From what I have read, even if you lose weight, your body tries hard to get back to your baseline weight or your set point. We know studies clearly showing how leptin, ghrelin and other appetite suppressing hormones are still raised with weight loss and weight maintenance.

Do you think such a low reward diet can normalize hunger and hormones back to normal?

Thanks

mrfreddy said...

I'm a long time low carber who still needs to lose 15 or so pounds. I've tried the "simple food" (good name for it, btw!) for a couple of short stints so far, and it does seem to work. Some observations: 1) It does require some willpower. I find myself eyeing the salt shaker with lust in my heart! 2)The weight comes back real fast when I go off the "simple foods" thing, even tho I keep it low carb. 3) the amount of weight I have lost in just a week on this plan tells me it must be water weight, which suprises me cuz I have been low carbing for almost ten years now. Thought all the water weight was gone.

Rap said...

People need to go to that blog of hers. Hardly a ringing endorsement of a bland food diet. Here's a quote from her final week:
"The past week has been really hard, psychologically and physically, and due to social commitments December generally was going to be a bit impossible in terms of avoiding yum."

But this is precisely the reason most calorie restricted diets eventually collapse. And you can't just tell people to avoid tasty foods; it's not going to happen in this environment.

It's also clear that, unlike the subjects in the straw-feeding experiment, she is often hungry as when she discusses having to learn to dissociate herself from hunger. Great lesson to learn, but it is one that I learned through intermittent fasting. She also talks about her enhanced ability to skip meals (which suggests an IF element here), so she is apparently pushing the limit in her attempt to lose weight. The lack of a bowel movements for several days was disturbing as was her anxiety over eating just an apple or a couple of strawberries (sheesh!). I also found interesting the fact that she cut out grains while on the diet. Taub's would be thrilled.

That said, this was obviously a good experience for her and she is a better person for it. But if this is a common example on what people experience on a strict bland food diet, I see little to recommend it over IF or a paleo or low carb diet, at least as a first shot at dieting.

Stephen said...

From her web site:

"I figure I'm taking in around 800-900 calories a day and with an internet-calculated basal metabolic rate of 1380 cal per day, and an internet-calculated total daily caloric need of 2100 calories, I have a daily caloric deficit of 1200 cal. So every 3 days, I would lose one lb (3500 cal)".

Anyone will lose weight on a calorie restricted diet.

jack said...

Weight loss treatments can include simple food also.

Thomas said...

"But if this is a common example on what people experience on a strict bland food diet, I see little to recommend it over IF or a paleo or low carb diet, at least as a first shot at dieting."

True, but any diet is going to cause a sense of "lack". This is true due to a sense of what could have been eaten as well as the initial shock of calorie restriction. Everyone keeps looking for the "holy grail" of diets that can avoid this discomfort, but I don't see it (the bland, non rewarding diet, while possibly reducing hunger, still takes effort with respect to other foods that can possibly eaten). When it comes down to it, a mental toughness has to be employed somewhere to get through it and then remain on some sort of restricted diet at least some of the time.

FrankG said...

Thomas said "...any diet is going to cause a sense of "lack"."

That has not been my experience with an LCHF diet. Right from the very beginning I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of hunger or deprivation -- remembering what I had experienced on many, many flavours of calorie-restricted diets plus intense exercise regimes over many years prior. Being able to eat until I was satifised -- not the same as stuffing my face with fat -- was a complete revelation. That alone was worth the price of admission, with the very many health benefits I have enjoyed as pleasant bonuses.

Yes I could still look at a Danish pastry or piece of banana bread in the office break-room, and recall that it would taste good or I might even get a transient sugar buzz from it, but without the nagging visceral hunger (which is a primal drive much like the need to breathe or drink water) it took very little of what might be described by some as willpower, to just walk on by.

That was over three years ago and I still eat the same way. I eat a tasty, varied and very satisfying menu, without feeling in the least bit deprived or restricted. Those pastries don't even get a second glance these days and on the very rare occasion when I have tried an old "treat" it was invariably met with disappointment and a feeling of "so what was all the fuss about back then?"

Galina L. said...

I have the same experience as FrankG. HFLC diet is the easiest one if you want to avoid the sense of deprivation and be able to stick to it for years. For example, Holiday season is not a problem at all, cooking for family members who don't follow your diet is not a problem. As a person who went from one diet to another all my adult life, I can tell the difference. It still requires some discipline and impulse control, but controlling impulses requires much less will-power than fighting constant hunger.

Thomas said...

@Frank and Galina,

That's awesome. I feel better on higher carbs personally, not too hungry like some experience. To me, a low carb diet feels very restricted (for various reasons) and I do not feel well at all. But that's just me.

The point is, on any diet, something has to be restricted-you can't just eat anything you want like a lot of people do (High carb, high fat is not a good combo). The trick, as you have found, is to find the best method for you-something that allows you to reduce intake with the least discomfort possible.

Alex said...

Hmm... if that blog didn't mention food reward or Stephan's blog, you would assume she was just doing your typical low calorie diet. Just using stew and soups instead of salads as most people do.

FrankG said...

@Thomas... I was responding to your comment that any diet causes "sense of lack", not that by its very definition a low-carb diet is low (restricted) in carbohydrates.

To my thinking a "sense of lack" implies that I must be missing something, or that I long for something which I used to have? A longing that could only be satisfied by having that something back again?

I feel no such thing with what I eat. As I thought I'd explained above, I very much enjoy my rich, tasty, varied, flavourful and satisfying diet. Just because I chose not to eat as many around me do, why is that seen as if I must be missing out on something? What I am missing out is guaranteed ill-health from eating food that I no longer even enjoy.

I see this same attitude with advice given out to newly diagnosed Diabetics -- the idea being that why shouldn't they "eat normally just like everyone else" -- despite the fact that "eating normally just like everyone else" invariably leads to high Blood Glucose, more medications and increased risk of long-term complications.

Look around the World... humans are opportunistic omnivores... we can and do eat pretty much anything. Even without applying my own imagination I can pick and choose from the huge variety of traditional recipes out there. I no longer limit myself to what is defined by the Western diet.

Chocolate cake is no longer a treat to me... a nice juicy medium-rare rib-eye is more like it ;-)

Jimmy Gee said...

After quickly reading Sarah's blog, I'm not sure I see this as all positive. It appears she restricted calories (maybe due to satiety from nutritious "bland" food) and lost weight - and strength as well (muscle mass loss?). I would think that trying to use the "low reward diet" in a manner that sustains sufficient caloric intake and not a dramatic deficit would be a more appropriate evaluation.

FrankG said...

BTW I am not making my remarks to necessarily promote the LCHF diet.. just to say what my personal experience has been.

Perhaps my diet is working for me because it is also coincidentally low-reward, although I'm not sure that the way I prepare it meets with Stephan's "Implementing a Simple Food Diet" guidelines. And I am not yet ready to dismiss the well-documented peripheral effects of insulin, which fit closely with my own experiences.

I also wonder if we are at cross-purposes here in terms of what we mean by "diet"..?

When I write "diet" I mean it in the technical sense of "what we eat" not in the common usage or implied sense of a "short-term weight-loss intervention".

I ask this because I note in this and other anecdotal examples of success with a simple or low-reward diet, it seems that sticking to it long-term can be an issue. Is it perhaps more aimed at a "short-term weight-loss intervention" than a long-term way of eating for life? For myself, I see no reason why I would not continue eating the way I do... and I hear the same from many others.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Alex,

Yes, bodybuilders have been using low reward diets for a long time to cut fat prior to shows. Plain chicken breast, plain fruit and vegetables, plain oatmeal, same thing every day.

Hi Kris,

Seth Roberts' approach works on a similar principle. It's definitely effective, but I don't know anything about long-term outcomes.

Hi Anoopbal,

That's a key question. My understanding of the literature suggests that simple food can lower the setpoint. This is something I've been writing about on the blog in the last few months.

Hi mrfreddy,

Weight lost in the first 1-2 days of a low-salt diet is going to be mostly water weight so you can ignore it. By the same token, much of the early weight loss on low-carb is water weight, for different reasons.

Hi Rap,

Maybe Sarah can comment here, but my impression was that the main reason she had a hard time in the last week is that she was frustrated that her strength was declining-- not because she was hungry or had low energy. Declining strength is normal for a calorie intake like that-- it would have returned to normal eventually.

Hi Stephen,

Yes, of course it was a low-calorie diet-- any weight loss diet is a low calorie diet. The key question is, how to eat fewer calories? You can just decide to eat less of the same food, which will work, but most people will end up hungry, cold and misearble and regain the weight. Or you can address a root cause of the problem to begin with, eat simple food, and appetite will decline naturally as the body's fat mass setpoint is reduced.

I believe low-carb and other restricted diets operate at least in part on the same principle, which is why people lose fat on low-fat, vegan, and Paleo diets as well, even though they are sometimes diametrically opposite approaches to food restriction. Personally, I think it's best not to greatly restrict a macronutrient if you can get away with it.

Thomas said...

@FrankG,

Yes, I understood what you meant the first time. And I think that it's awesome that you've found what works well for you. While you feel no "sense of lack", I think you may be in the minority when it comes to dieters on any diet. If this weren't so, people would find diet restrictions (whether carbs or fat or calories) easier to stick with, and especially easier if the reward is lower body fat and a better self image.

My experience, however, is that this isn't so, and really no better on high fat/low carb (generally speaking) than on other types of diets. People simply have a hard time with long term restriction, no matter what it is, when the restriction comes in the form of foods they like to eat-foods that are readily available and cheap.

FrankG said...

@Thomas... but surely that is also what Stephan's blog is about? Finding a way to work with your body rather than struggling against it; such that the necessary calorie deficit happens spontaneously without feeling "restricted" or "lacking" or even hungry..?

As for my being in a minority, I disagree... I have conversed with and read from, many others in forums and otherwise online who have similar experiences... and daily that number seems to be growing.

Alex said...

I don't think strength loss is typical of low carb diets. In fact I'm pretty sure it's not, and personally I did not experience it the way I did on a calorie deficit. Why is there no hunger on low carb diets? Why do people not even bother thinking about calories? Every one of the examples of low reward/blandness diets that I've seen immediately provides a calorie count, probably because they are so hungry they are counting the food to see if they can fit more in while still losing weight.

Todd Hargrove said...

I think its an interesting question as to what weight loss method takes more discipline and willpower - eating simple bland food to satisfaction, or eating high reward food but then using willpower to limit calorie intake.

I'm sure its different for different people, but after playing with this myself a little I think its easier for me to just eat the bland food. (Disclaimer - I will admit I am lean and don't really have any weight issues, but I do have mild cravings for high reward food from time to time.)

To do this, I only need willpower for a short period of time - the preparation and consumption of my meal. After that I'm not hungry at all for for hours and have no interest in food, tasty or otherwise.

But if I decide to eat an ultra tasty meal and be mindful of portions, I have to exercise discipline for many hours - I will get the message to eat over and over until the next meal.

So for me, both methods take willpower, but I think eating simple food requires less, because the time period over which it must be exercised is shorter.

FrankG said...

Agreed Alex, and that is why I try to use terms like "reducing excess fat mass" rather than "weight loss". I could lose significant weight by cutting off my leg but I don't see that as optimal to my long-term health!

I do see some studies taking this into consideration and testing to see how much of the weight loss or gain, was fat tissue and how much was lean (muscle and organs) but still too many seem to only look at overall "weight".

I am concerned that simple calorie restriction -- which tends to reduce all macronutrients -- can lead to loss of fat and muscle. This has longer-term ramifications including reduced metabolic rate such that: when the "weight" is invariably regained, it comes back as fat mass rather than lean, and even more extreme calorie restriction is required simply to maintain the current weight, let alone to lose any more.

There has been a run of "cures" on the Diabetes forums after a Newcastle University study used an 12 week 800 calorie per day drink-shake diet. I am convinced this is a dangerous approach.

FrankG said...

Correction: 8 week diet of 600 calories per day

http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/press.release/item/diet-reverses-type-2-diabetes

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Alex,

If low-carb caused an equivalent appetite suppression to the simple food diet, there would probably have been a similar reduction in strength. Keep in mind, she was eating less than 1,000 kcal per day for 6 weeks-- probably about half her weigh maintenance level. Low-carbohydrate diets reduce appetite and calorie intake, but not generally to that degree.

Her strength will return once she approaches her new lower setpoint and her appetite bounces back. This is what we see in obese rodents placed on a lower-reward diet-- they have a dramatic suppression of appetite at first, but this gradually rebounds as they approach their new lower setpoint.

Stephen said...

@ Stephan

My point was that you can't say she lost weight because the food was bland, rather it was because the diet was calorie restricted.

Whether someone eats 900 calories of potatoes or roast beef, it's still only 900 calories and weight will come off.

A good test would be a 2,000 calorie diet of bland food against a 2,000 calorie ketogenic diet. Then see which person loses more fat and improves their blood lipid profile.

Rap said...

With respect to the reason for her quitting the diet, it's pretty clear from the first paragraph in her final entry that she perceives the diet as unsustainable at this point in time. In any case, I don't see this as a very good test of a bland food diet. She was clearly restricting beyond the hunger she felt and what she would have naturally eaten, even on a bland diet, and she was also restricting grains.

What I found particularly shocking in this case was her fear of eating even a few strawberries. It finally dawned on me that this is the natural outcome of eating a minimally palatable diet. But it seems very unnatural to me to be eating some tasteless mush and rejecting a highly nutritious berry. As I recall, one of Pavlov's recommendations -- and Pavlov knew a thing or two about digestion -- was that one should always relish one's meals. Digestion simply works better that way. But if you're doing everything you can to avoid food that you relish, even natural foods, what will be the long-term outcome?

I'm reminded too of Socrates who ate plain food but only ate when hungry. He said that hunger was the best sauce and he really enjoyed his meals when he did eat. This to me seems the ideal.

Galina L. said...

@Steven
You said "A good test would be a 2,000 calorie diet of bland food against a 2,000 calorie ketogenic diet." I wonder, what is your guess about the possible result? Several questions came into my mind.
1. Is it possible to loose weight on 2000 calorie diet of bland food for anybody ?
2. In order to loose the same amount of weight as on a plain food diet, do the same person would have to eat less food energy-wise on a ketogenic diet ?
3. Do you expect that person to have the same degree of the appetite loss (or the level of satiety) on the 2 different diets in order to achieve the same weight loss?
I am afraid I asked naive or provocative questions and, of course , a lot depends on the person , because , when it comes to a weight loss , we often compare apples with oranges. Most probably, each person praises the diet that works for him/her. I think you predict different outcome of that experiment than I would.

mrfreddy said...

I think the sustainability of this simple food thing is a real issue. For me, I didnt even consider trying it over Thanksgiving, forgeddaboutit! Some goes for Christmas around the corner.
I have no idea if I could keep this going as a lifetime eating plan. Right now I just want to lose some weight, after that, we'll see. Maybe a 60/40 split between simple food and straight up low carb.

Roseanna Smith said...

In the comments here, Stephan said "Yes, of course it was a low-calorie diet-- any weight loss diet is a low calorie diet."

This is what I think is so frustrating to those of us who've had many years of weight struggle and dieting experience. At different times in my life I've lost 20 or so pounds on a 500 calorie low fat diet (which of course came back as soon as I resumed regular eating), and later in my life I lost over 70 pounds on a 1,700 calorie high fat, VLC diet, with no workouts (a loss which I've maintained for several years now). However, I have never lost weight on any low-fat diet of 1,200 cals/day plus workouts, and that was the diet I repeated most often, since it's the mainstream dietary advice and seems to comport with naive common sense.

I know it's just my experience, and it wasn't in a metabolic ward, and people will say I must have underreported my calories on the failed low-cal diets (but then wouldn't my calories be under-reported on VLC, too, making it even more of an argument against calories?). And yet I'm stuck with it -- this happened to me, and at middle age, I continue to maintain my 70+ pound weight loss, without hunger or deprivation, just by dropping the carbs, while eating plenty of fatty meat and eggs.

I want to understand the biological mechanism(s) of obesity and weight loss as much as anyone, so I keep returning to the LC/low reward argument (among others). And yet, I feel like I'm insisting I was abducted by aliens when I read statements that boil it all down to caloric reduction. It just doesn't fit with my experience, and that of others who report similar results.

Thomas said...

@FrankG

"but surely that is also what Stephan's blog is about? Finding a way to work with your body rather than struggling against it; such that the necessary calorie deficit happens spontaneously without feeling "restricted" or "lacking" or even hungry..?"

Yes, I agree. But the necessary calorie deficit does not always happen spontaneously on low carb diets, and I think in the long run they tend to, at least for many people, work no better at creating a calorie deficit than most other diets.

As for you not being in the minority, I'm reminded of the liberal democrat who couldn't believe George Bush got elected president because she didn't know anyone who voted for him...

I personally don't feel too well eating low carb (yes, I've done my fair share of it), and I do feel weak without a reasonable amount of carbs in my diet. But I also notice a that I'm weaker when my overall calories go real low-I don't know how this can possibly be avoided. lower cal eating and higher intensity exercise don't exactly complement each other.

By the way, where a person is at on the fat loss spectrum is super relevant to these conversations. Someone who is overweight or obese is simply going to have an easier time losing fat when implementing a diet that relies on spontaneous calorie restriction than someone who is relatively lean and wants to get leaner. As one leans out, counting calories or at least being very aware of intake becomes more important, as fat loss becomes a lot harder at this stage (and hunger becomes more of a reality). Muscle loss also becomes more likely as well. The last time I measured I was 6% body fat, and remaining here is very difficult using spontaneous calorie restriction (not impossible-I'm sure some people can do it, although I would consider this to be more of a genetic influence). If I were to eat according to hunger, I would likely gain weight. I don't have a problem with being hungry at times, however-it certainly is within our primal experience and shouldn't, IMO, be avoided (as long as it doesn't totally derail the diet.)

Galina L. said...

The blogger ItstheWooo said in her post http://itsthewooo.blogspot.com/ interesting thing -
"Fat people will assume they eat "normally" because they are eating to their hunger;
The reverse is also true; people with low appetites will report higher intakes, because their low appetite makes them feel like they are eating more than they really are."
The level of hunger is very, very important. If we are hungry, it is not only stressful, uncomfortable, lets us to be more prone to succumb to impulses, it is also messing-up the subconscious perception of how much we eat. We are not evolved to successfully micro-menage the amount of consumed food. The high enough to be impossible to ignore amount of hunger is the signal of unsustainable diet. It doesn't matter which diet you would choose - ketogenic, low-reward, zone diet, the lowest amount of hunger should be the priority. Probably, for some people the combination of crash-diet/sustainable weight diet could be the solution.

Thomas said...

@Galina,

I was cringing when you mentioned itsthewooo as I think I developed tendinitis in my right index finger from scrolling through her prior blog posts here at Whole Health Source. But, that is actually a great quote and it's hard to argue with it. Managing hunger is extremely important within a diet. There are many "tricks" that can be employed to do this. Actually, the word "tricks" is incorrect, "strategies" is a better way to put it. And the strategy may differ depending on the individual.

Stephen said...

@Galina L,

I would expect the group on the ketogenic diet to lose more fat and have a better blood lipid profile.

But that's because the LCHF approach works for me. I can't go over 75-100 grams/day of carbs for a length of time without starting to put on weight, while other people can eat many more carbs and stay skinny.

I also think bland is subjective. People have different food tastes. I like hot and spicy food, other people hate it. Food I find bland, like potatoes, need something to give them interest, others like plain boiled potatoes with only some butter.

I suspect (without any proof; I'm an urban planner not a scientist) that evolution plays a larger role than previously thought. Some populations in the tropics, like the Kitavins do very well on a high carb diet while other island populations had disastrous results when they were introduced to a high carb diet. Perhaps evolution works faster than we think in isolated groups.

My blood line comes from England and France. Perhaps northern clime populations have not had enough time to adapt to high carb diets. After all grains and potatoes are relatively new foods to cold climates. These populations had to make do with animals and vegetables. Like the Kitavins, perhaps northern Europeans, being isolated in a cold weather area, genetically adapted to non starchy foods.

I'm in the Eades, Atkins, Taubes, Voleck et al camp, because that approach is well documented, makes sense to me, and it also works for me. Nevertheless I like reading about the different hypotheses. I don't think anyone has an lock on the absolute truth.

I suspect there's much more to human metabolism than meets the eye.

Sarah Barracuda said...

@Rap -

I think it speaks to Stephan's intellectual honesty that he shared Sarah P's experience and linked to her blog--where yes, we learn that, unlike Aravind and Kamal, she had some difficulty. Would you rather he cherry-pick FRH-tester anecdotes?

"But if you're doing everything you can to avoid food that you relish, even natural foods, what will be the long-term outcome?"

I share this concern, and that's why I'm uncomfortable with the notion of low FR as a short-term weight-loss intervention, rather than as a lifestyle. Back in my AN days, I deliberately tried to make my food revolting to the point of being inedible, so that I would um, barely be able to eat it. Needless to say, that sent me further down the deep end. Not that anyone will develop ED UPON embarking on 'Level 5' of the FR diet, but I do see the aspect of psychological strain that you bring up.

For the past few years, my low FR diet-for-life is just nutritious food that tastes like crack when I'm hungry (Stephan quoted Socrates many times before you), and tastes like crap when I'm overly full. Obviously, I stop when the food still tastes OK. Yes, like Todd H, I sporadically get cravings for high-reward food; then I'll just have the damn chocolate.

My personal experience agrees 100% with Stephan in that one should restrict a macronutrient only when necessary (my reading: epilepsy or diabetes); my performance at work and in the gym plummets without a moderate amount of carbs. The latter is not desirable; the former is simply not affordable. So this is why I Low-Reward: the mental clarity and physical energy that comes with being well-nourished; and the priceless peace of mind that comes with (well, 99% of the time), no food magically-compulsively calling my name.

Thomas said...

@Stephen,

While I agree that what works well for one doesn't necessarily work well for another, this quote doesn't make any sense unless you are talking about an inability to control appetite:

"I can't go over 75-100 grams/day of carbs for a length of time without starting to put on weight, while other people can eat many more carbs and stay skinny."

Are you saying that you'd put on weight eating over 400 Kcal of carbs, even if your total intake was still around 1000 to 1200 cal. total (this is doable)? Regardless of a BMR being likely over 1200 Kcal (I'm assuming you are male) and total expenditure being even higher than this?

Sarah Barracuda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Barracuda said...

*I should probably clarify that what I did back in the day was NOT Stephan's 'Level 5'. I will not describe it because 1) there's really no point, and 2) just in case there are ED'd girls lurking, looking for 'tips'. If you wish to go back and ascertain, you will find that NO level in Stephan's outline of the diet involves actively making your food gross.

RLL said...

Res losing muscle while on a diet, an unproven but commonly accepted strategy is a protein drink after weight sessions. Most of the protein drinks are pretty bland, so they might fit in.

Sue said...

What ever approach you take to lose unwanted fat it will involve a calorie deficit. Low food reward will give you a calorie deficit because you don't feel hungry. Take the approach that suits you and stop comparing which diet is best.

Sue said...

mr freddy - "thought all the water weight was gone"
That's just a silly statement. You're always going to have water but not just as much when you are low carb as water is not being stored with glycogen.

Sue said...

Should say then we have those that can eat massive amounts of calories and lose or maintain. Good for them, but we're not all like that.

Rap said...

Sarah said,
"I think it speaks to Stephan's intellectual honesty that he shared Sarah P's experience and linked to her blog--where yes, we learn that, unlike Aravind and Kamal, she had some difficulty. Would you rather he cherry-pick FRH-tester anecdotes?"

No, I think it's great that he posted it. But I also need to be honest in saying how it struck me. It also strikes me that Stephan may need to alter the diet to make it less stressful. Everyone I've suggested it to has just rejected it out of hand and one person even decided to give IF a try after hearing about the bland diet; IF didn't sound so bad after all by comparison.

Perhaps an intermittent version consisting of mostly bland meals with occasional highly palatable meals. The intermittency is what really made IF work for me. In fact, when I did eat, meals became much more enjoyable (more palatable) than before which was a major reinforcer that kept me going. This approach would also be more in keeping with our evolutionary history, as opposed to diet in which a couple of juicy and highly nutritious strawberries are verbotin.

spughy said...

This is Sarah Pugh here - just wanted to post to clarify a few things.

1) I went as hard-core as I could quite intentionally, with no expectation that it would be sustainable long-term. My thinking is, currently, that alternating periods of intensely low-food-reward with periods of reintroducing tastier fare is a good way for people to wean off industrial foods entirely and to know where there limits are in terms of food reward. I have a real problem with food reward and am very prone to binging on sweet stuff when stressed. I am hoping that getting familiar with various low-reward strategies will help avoid those times, or recover if I can't avoid them.
2) My stews were not particularly low-carb. I don't tolerate grains well, as I indicated in one post, so the carbs were potatoes, root vegetables, and the odd bit of white rice. I did limit the amount of rice and potatoes simply because I wanted to make sure that my food was as nutrient-dense as possible; I didn't want micronutrient deficiencies mucking up my results.
3) It really is difficult to eat things like really good apples in the middle of a stint of bland, mostly meaty stuff. I think it was more the acidity than anything else.
4) I'm not particularly overweight. For those who care - I'm 5'0" and at the beginning of the experiment I was 150 lbs at 35% body fat. I'm now 135 lbs at 32% body fat. I have just under 95 lbs of lean body mass, which I would like to be closer to 100 lbs. I lift weights regularly, but I also hike and do HIIT workouts. I should have been clearer that the hikes and HIIT workouts did NOT suffer from the calorie reduction, only the weights workouts, and for 5 of the six weeks I was able to maintain the weights I was lifting or make small gains.

Hope this clarifies things - if anyone has any questions feel free to leave comments on my blog.

Galina L. said...

May be somebody should try real Kitovan-style diet, especially people who smoke already and don't plan to stop. Diet would be one meal a day without any modern additions like sugar, refined carbs or delicious dressings, smoking during the day for appetite control and better mobilization of fat from fat tissue. It is a joke, but I remember , long time ago a retired ballerina told me how she always had a cigarette with unsweetened coffee for her breakfast on the mornings of her dancing days. There are so many details that could matter besides macro-nutrients proportion.

Rap said...

Hi Sarah,
Whatever comments I've made about your attempt at a low reward diet, I admire your ability to stick it out like you did. Very austere. Might I ask your opinion of how it compares to IF, which you presumably found less satisfying. And when you did IF, what regimen did you follow? Were you deliberately trying to skip meals on occasion on this diet because of your previous experience with IF?

spughy said...

@Rap - I have had not-so-good success with IF previously - I've found that IF'ing when on a normal diet leads to me thinking about food *constantly* during the fast and then overindulging, despite firm plans not to, when the fast ends. Now, differnt people have different ideas about what constitues an IF and I actually normally go 13-15 hours per day without eating (I don't eat after dinner around 6:30 pm and usually wait until after my workout at around 10:30 or 11 the next morning for breakfast) - that's no problem. But skipping any more meals than that, or not eating for a noon or evening meal, never worked very well for me until I went on the bland food. Then, skipping lunch was no big deal, and I think I skipped dinner once or twice too. All in all, a very different experience.

Also, thanks for the kudos for sticking with it - but that was actually pretty easy. This mode of eating scores pretty big for convenience, I have to say...

Galina L. said...

I practice IF while LC. I increased my eating intervals very gradually, by hour each week, it is important to get adjusted. Nowadays I eat my first meal during week days between 12 am and 2 pm, it is usually eggs with butter + coffee and heavy cream, second meal is between 4pm or 6 - 6.30 pm. Sometimes I have coffee with cream earlier without food or green tea with coconut oil. I try to fast 22 - 24 hours ones a week. It took me at least 2 years to adjust enough to LC diet in order to greatly increase my stamina for physical exercises.

paleotwopointoh said...

Fatty meat is not that high-calorie once you've cooked it, and neither are eggs. The dirty little secret of high-fat VLC with sustained weight loss is...satiety at a lower caloric intake. A dozen eggs is maybe 700 calories, and most people boasting about stuffing themselves with eggs and bacon are eating 2-3 eggs and 3 pieces of bacon. Not a lot of calories. I think this is worth hammering home because it keeps coming up.

There is a real confound in calorie measurement when it comes to meat and fat. long-term storable versions of food like bread, cheese, and tubers tend to be pretty stable when you measure the calories. you are probably pretty close to accurate relying on standard measurements for low-fat high carb. This is just not as true with fatty meats, eggs and other higher protein foods. They are relatively low-calorie in practice because even the fatty versions are badly absorbed at best and the protein amounts are so high for people coming from a low-protein background that satiety is easily achieved with fairly small portions.

Roseanna Smith said...

Paleotwopointoh, I understand what you're saying about calorie overestimation with fatty meat and eggs, but I just don't think it's true in my case. My first few months on ZIOH-style zero carb I was adding nearly a stick of butter a day to the meat I ate, and I made sure to drip all the fat from the pan onto everything. After six months or so, my appetite for fat decreased naturally, but I'm sure I was eating at least 1,700 calories a day, just from what I was putting into NutritionData.com.

I guess we'll have to wait for better-controlled trials before this is settled in the minds of others, but as I said above, I know what happened to me, and I also know how to add perfectly well. I stand firm on my experience, whether anyone else believes it or not.

paleotwopointoh said...

You weren't absorbing that fat. It is pretty well established that people really can't actually suck down sticks of butter and call it good. You get a little, but nowhere near the total amount. People who are trying to gain weight don't do what you did because it doesn't work to increase calories much. Eat 1700 calories of cheese and get back to me on how it's weight-reducing, or some other more stable high-calorie food.

I eat steak in butter and guess what? Not that many calories, and I am someone who needs to get a lot of calories reliably. I eat a lot of cheese and potatoes, though I don't skimp on the meat. But by your logic, I should be able to get by eating 16oz of salmon fried in butter and I can't. It's too sating while not being nearly enough calories for a day's intake (it's about 800 including the butter). But many people report that sort of meal as '1500 calories' when it's simply not.

Pouring melted butter means it was cooked and you aren't getting the total amount anyway, much less after you've poured it onto something. I think people just are so steeped in reaction to low-fat diets that they just assume high-fat is both highly absorbable and metabolically advatanged to boot.

Roseanna Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roseanna Smith said...

LOL. Well, okay; at least you're acknowledging that I put the fork with the food in my mouth, and not implying that I put it elsewhere by mistake. This is the first I've heard of non-absorbable fat from butter, but I guess that's possible. Doesn't change the fact that I *ate* a lot more calories than I did on the low-fat, low-cal regimen. What my body did with them -- that, indeed, is the question.

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Galina L. said...

@ paleotwopointoh

I am not discussing calories at all (I can't because I am not counting), I am talking about satiety and eating less without being stressed by it. I am not a meticulous person who is able to micromanage food intake, that is why I am interested in the kind of food that makes me not hungry. My meals are low in carbs, simply cooked, almost the same day by day. I really like how my food tastes, but I can't over eat it, it keeps me full for hours. Why do you think that cooked meat contains less calories? Maybe if it is barbecued. Not everybody is wasting fats and juices. Not me for sure, after I payed for a grass-fed meat. I am not interested in consuming huge meals without gaining weight, about what many people boast , but in naturally eating less with minimal effort. During Holiday time I just skip things with carbs and try to alternate feast with longer periods of not eating. like having just one meal a day.

François Létourneau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank said...

Roseanna Smith said...

I guess we'll have to wait for better-controlled trials before this is settled in the minds of others

Not quite sure. How many studies does it still takes? There are over 10 studies out there with calorie and protein match diet using metabolic chamber showing that there is no difference in weight loss when you switch fat to carbs.

What would another study add really? Actually what people want is a study supporting what they want to believe. Because otherwise, you wouldn't be asking for another study, you would say ''well, it looks like i'm not right and it must have worked by some other ways...''

paleotwopointoh said...

I think there is an unexplored measurement issue with meat, eggs and probably even high-fat plant food like avocado because many studies of food don't really use a lot of the meat that many people eating vlc paleo do. There really does seem to be a big difference in caloric reliability between shelf-stable food like cheese and bread vs, say, ground beef or even a roast.

I like meat, and I have tried to eat the high-fat vlc way because I needed the calories and thought it could allow me to do so with just one meal a day. Simply not the reality. Especially with high-fat meat, it just seems to not be as high-calorie consistently as equivalent portions of more shelf-stable not-meat stuff.

I have noticed on paleo/primal forums people reporting weight gain on cheese, which would go to my point. I am a nursing mother and to remain weight-stable I need to average 2000 calories a day.

I am very aware of when I don't hit that target and I simply cannot even come close without some carbs. My personal experience is that high-fat vlc eating is just not that many calories, but you can feel quite full for a long while (sometimes all day).

Galina L. said...

@ paleotwopointoh

Agree. I am interested in not overeating without calories counting. It is my point. High fat food is very suitable for people who want to restrict calories without discomfort of stress. If you want more calories, add more carbs or eat more often. Adding nuts would help with calories as well. I remember pouring hot tea with milk over couple fistfuls of walnuts while breast-feeding my son. Probably, not all from paleo-crowd would agree with such drink.

paleotwopointoh said...

My husband mostly sticks with adding cheese to some of my meals, or potatoes, or both. I don't find nuts very palatable anymore. I also drink a fair amount of milk. I have a low satiety threshold, which doesn't help matters, so even a modest meal tends to make me not have an appetite. So we try to pack in as many calories as we can on 2-3 meals a day. I can't muster the energy to eat many smaller meals, which does work for many nursing women with high caloric needs.

richardstevens445 said...

I was a runner my entire life, even coached long-distance running, but it was so bad for my joints that I had to stop. That was the wake-up call that made me switch my nutrition and fitness routine.

Now, besides eating only organic foods, I take walks an hour each day. I don’t like using treadmills or taking the same route more than once a week, so I incorporate my walks into my daily routine.

If I go to the grocery store, I park in the lot and walk around that neighborhood for an hour. Just a half hour from the car and another half hour back, and I’ve gotten in my exercise for the day.

Walking = great way to get your heart-healthy cardio!

Richard said...

The concept and ultimate mechanism of weight loss is simple, of course, and it is "eat fewer calories."

The problem is that eating fewer calories is very difficult unless some sort of plan is formulated, adopted, and adhered to. Or unless some disaster strikes and compels a certain program.

As an experiment, I chose to go with a Low-Carb-Paleo diet. Why? I was not seriously over-weight, but rather I was told after an ultra sound test that I had a "mildly" fatty liver. Whatever that meant.

So I adopted, as an experiment, the Archevore-Paleo diet. I lost weight and felt better, and I think my athletic performance improved. My liver shrank back to its proper size. I did not experience any sense of reduced performance in any area. And I am 67. For some people that might mean rather low expectations, but I play tennis three times a week and do weight lifting two to three times a week, and I have a 22 YO girlfriend here where I live in SE Asia.

The Food Reward program seems to me much like the Archevore-Paleo diet, except that the A-P diet specifically proposes a higher (saturated) fat consumption to take the place of the removal of grain Carb calories.

Indeed, the big consumption difference with the A-P diet is that until the desired weight is achieved, Carb consumption remains very low. What I have found is that I can control my weight within a pound or two just by adjusting the carbs I consume.

For me the idea is that a diet like this has to be sustainable, and I think if one focuses on eating all the fat you want, even sometimes what feels like excessive fat, the result is dramatic and comes without cravings. I have been on this diet for about two years now, and the only change I have made now that I lost about 12-15 pounds is to eat more (not much more) potatoes and rice than I did during the intense part of this diet program. At some point one starts looking too thin. And I make sure that I drink enough water.

As for simple food, I wonder about that when I visit Thailand and eat those delicious curries and spicy foods. Not that many fat Thai people, although I am sure the number is increasing. Similarly, a broiled steak or chop, with the fat untrimmed, is very tasty. And simple.

I am not sure about the objection people must have to the Archevore- Paleo diet. It avoids the cravings, although people have told me I am a very disciplined person, so maybe I deal with the cravings and just don't know it.

But I have great sympathy for people who try to lose weight and choose a program that just cannot succeed with in the long term, such as eating food that is without much flavor. As I see it, there is a certain amount of "reward" that people properly expect from eating. The problem is that if one makes food the main reward in life, and it is the main source of pleasure, then it is very difficult to remove that reward. One's life would lose a source of pleasure, and there might be nothing to replace it.

Further, the hunger one experiences many hours after a high fat meal seems much different, and less anxiety producing, than the hunger one has even a few hours after a meal biased towards Carbs.

My point in this rambling is to propose that any change like this has to be one day at a time, but with some level of commitment. I think in terms of trying it for 90 days, at first, figuring it wouldn't kill me within that period. Instead, you can feel the differences, all good, within a few weeks.

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Thomas said...

@Richard,

That was a very nice, well reasoned post and I think your thoughts on people making food their main reward in life is correct, although I'm not sure people actually choose this. I think it may be a default mechanism, as almost everyone loves food to some degree, but many people are miserable in life otherwise for various reasons.

MattB said...

I came here via the Taubes blog and have enjoyed following the discussions. But today I realize how unnecessary the concept of food reward really is as some sort of unifying conceptual framework for dietary modifications, weight gain, or health in general - which is ultimately what the discussion is all about for most of us. I do think it is an important footnote and the topic is relevant for neurobiologists, but it is not a way of leading ones own life or setting national or international dietary guidelines or explaining the obesity epidemic in any meaningful way.

I read many of the supporting references mentioned in this blog (which I have access to at work), but note that most of them read like 1920's era cancer research and hardly worth reading let alone referencing. Today's anecdotal report of a food reward "success" story really takes the cake. I read her blog and I really started to feel sorry for her and anyone else that would read this blog and then try to modify their own lifestyle based on food reward. At least adiposity 101 makes a little bit of sense and can support and be supported by other theories. I don't think Taubes has the answer to life the universe and everything, but at least his theories are based in something practical and consistent with at least some of the large epidemiological studies published out of the women's health initiative, nurses health study, etc....

Anyone else having trouble making food reward a particularly rewarding theory?

Robbybird said...

Hi Stephan,

Thanks for great posts and putting these ideas out here. Things are never simple and I appreciate you trying to tackle this topic.
I hear you saying that palatability and food reward do not necessarily go together, but are not necessarily mutually exclusive either. For example, before I stopped eating gluten I could eat a whole loaf of plain French bead by itself. It was like crack. Put butter on it and I might eat half (most likely because the fat made it more nutritious and my brain said stop). Not very palatable by itself, but it was rewarding in my brain I guess. Now, a few years after being gluten free I have zero craving for bread and if I do eat a piece I think “why did I like this so much”? Absence does not make the brain grow fonder in this case.

I have a question: Do you think food reward can spark us to over eat other things? For example, if I drink wine (which I love and I find very rewarding) I will overeat – a lot. It seems like I binge when I drink wine. I will overeat things I never would alone...like beef jerky. This does not happen with other alcohol. And I don’t crave other alcohol, but I look forward to a glass of wine. It seems to me that food reward is very individual. The foods that are rewarding are unique to each of us. I never liked fast food much, but could eat a zillion tortilla chips. Perhaps there are many components that make a food rewarding to the individual...for example I love crunchy things. I am now perfectly happy with carrots and jicama.

As a final note: in my experiment of n=1, I find that less exercise = less appetite very quickly IF I am not eating high reward foods. I recently broke my hand and can’t do the power lifting and mountain biking that was an almost daily activity. My appetite is much, much less. But put me in front of a big plate of nachos and I am sure I would eat the whole thing.

And one more thing: I recently found out I have hypothyroidism (not auto-immune) and I think it was brought on by 3 things together: psychological stress, overtraining, and intermittent fasting. All three are stressors. People need to be careful with IF, please only use it is everything else is dialed in.
Thanks!

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi MattB,

I have a rhetorical question for you. Why is it almost always the low-carb advocates who can't accept the food reward hypothesis? Why is it that non low-carbers for the most part see it as a common sense idea that has been backed up by several decades of heavy-duty research? Is it really so hard to imagine that people eat more of food that tastes good?

Your comment that "I read many of the supporting references mentioned in this blog (which I have access to at work), but note that most of them read like 1920's era cancer research and hardly worth reading let alone referencing." indicates to me that you have not followed very many of the references I provided. Food reward is a very active field of research and high-impact publications are coming out almost weekly. I recommend the references in these posts if you would like to learn more:

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/10/case-for-food-reward-hypothesis-of.html

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/10/case-for-food-reward-hypothesis-of_07.html

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/07/food-reward-dominant-factor-in-obesity.html

Hi Robbybird,

Alcohol does target reward regions and lowers inhibition. The reduced inhibition is probably a major factor in alcohol-induced overeating. I don't know enough about its effect on the food reward system to know if that's another factor involved, but it seems plausible.

Alex said...

Stephan,

I had a thought the other night. There are these studies showing rewarding food and palatibility increasing consumption significantly. But there are also a lot of studies showing things like advertising, music, room temperature, social situations, smells, and other things also having significant effects. This is the basis behind almost all modern advertising, increasing consumption. Do you think reducing food reward is going to be effective when there is all this other stimulus around? Does it just make the other stuff more effective? How can this be measured?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts and if you know of any studies on the subject.

Dr. John said...

98% of all calorie restricted diets fail. People who eat less (because of low food reward) will not stay on this diet.
This (low food reward, LFR) is the original "grapefruit diet" method. Eat the same (or very bland) food everyday, and over a few weeks (if you can stand it that long), you will loose weight; but you gain it all back, and then some.
Witness America the past 40 yrs on these LFR diets....sad.
Feeding behavior is regulated by many mechanisms. Neuronal and hormonal. Many external stimuli activate emotional responses in the human. These lead to feeding or not feeding. There are short-term, as well as long-term regulation.
Short-term involves gastric/duodenal distention, or filling, inhibitor signals via vagi afferent tracts. Humoral and hormonal signals from CCK, insulin, and glucagon. CCK is released in response to dietary duodenal fat, and the pancreas releases both insulin and glucagon which have strong inhibitory effects upon the lateral hypothalamus; feeding center, which stops further feeding.
Long-term signals are concerned primarily with maintenance of nutrient stores. This is nutritional regulation. When there are deficits of either amino acids, sugars, or fats, animals increase feeding. When blood glucose levels rise, ventromedial hypothalamic glucoreceptor neurons increase firing rates (satiety), and glucosensitive receptors in the lateral hypothalamic feeding center, decrease firing rates (feeding activities inhibited)
Sensed nutrient stores regulate feeding behavior. Not the other way around.

The brain is an insulin target. Insulin receptor signaling regulates the formation of brain circuits. People with advanced diabetes suffer memory loss and cognitive deficits, possibly because insulin receptor signaling in the brain is disrupted, synaptic connections are lost and brain circuits don’t work optimally.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080618172946.htm

...if LFR is correct, and simple taste regulates ultimate energy stores, then why in the world does the human body have a myriad of hormones secreted in response to food intake???

Dr. Guyenet, have you ever dealt with obese patients in a clinical setting? It's much different than reading research articles. Patients don't read the journals I, or you, read. Thus they are unique, and don't always follow a particular study's results.
Dr. John

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Dr. John,

Typical calorie restriction fails because people end up fighting their own homeostatic responses. Reduced reward eating offers a way out of this by naturally lowering appetite and the fat mass setpoint. It also comes the closest to addressing the root cause of the obesity epidemic. I understand that it requires some effort in food selection, but this is true of any diet.

I'm sure you are aware that I understand the short-term and long-term feedback on food intake by gastric and adipocyte peptides, because this is what I study professionally. These are homeostatic processes that feed back on food intake. In a natural environment with natural food stimuli, they appropriately adjust food intake and energy expenditure to maintain a healthy fat mass.

However, there are "non-homeostatic" processes (hedonic and reward) that also influence food intake and body fatness, by acting at least in part through the homeostatic system in the brain. These mechanisms are fairly well characterized at this point. I invite you to read some recent review papers on the subject so that you can familiarize yourself with this research. I'll be putting up a post later tonight with some recent review papers in it.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Alex,

Yes, there are many other factors that influence food intake on a meal-to-meal basis. However, most of these have not been shown to influence body fatness. They may well do so, but I'd like to see it demonstrated directly.

For me, where the rubber hits the road is that people are typically not going to overeat on food that is not highly palatable/rewarding, regardless of advertising, social milieu, etc. In a situation where palatability/reward is at an "evolutionary" level, people typically eat the amount of food their body needs, not more.

Rap said...

Stephan wrote:
“For me, where the rubber hits the road is that people are typically not going to overeat on food that is not highly palatable/rewarding, regardless of advertising, social milieu, etc. In a situation where palatability/reward is at an "evolutionary" level, people typically eat the amount of food their body needs, not more.”

But that is where the problem arises. Someone living in a hospital and sucking Nutrament through a straw represents a situation in which palatability/reward is well below an evolutionary level. Same for the cafeteria diet studies in rats which typically utilize an “ad lib” feeding regimen (which is apparently coming under increasing scrutiny from researchers). The real message from the rat studies is that if you’re confined to a small room with almost nothing to do but eat, with food constantly in front of you day in and day out, then if you wish to keep your weight down, you should beg your captors to provide you with one bland tasting food only. You will habituate almost immediately to that one food item and overeating will at least be kept to a minimum, as compared to having several, sometimes tasty food items available (which, apart from the constant availability, is actually closer to our evolutionary history). Additionally, if you're genetically predisposed to gain weight quickly on a high fat diet - as are the Wistar and Sprague-Dawley rats often used in these studies - then also ask that the single food item be low in fat.

So how do the results of these kinds of studies translate to the normal situation where food, or the ability to eat food, is only intermittently available, where one’s personal genetic predisposition to gain weight on a high fat versus low fat diet is an open question, and where you’re going to be exposed to a wide variety of tasty food items whether you like it or not. As I mentioned in my last comment to the last article (but maybe few people saw it since the discussion had already moved on to this article), even if there is a food reward effect involving variety and palatability (and I wouldn’t doubt but there is), the kinds of studies that have been done may have greatly exaggerated the size of that effect.

Dr. John said...

Dr. Guyenet
Thank you. I'll look fwd to your next post. As you can surmise, I think the hormonal effects far out-weigh the non-homeostatic affect. For if the "fat mass set point" were true, then no humans could have net gain of body weight.
Granted the limbic system generates demands for rewards, but not to the extent hormonal control can generate.
Thanks for the reply and the next post. Well appreciated.

spughy said...

Just in case anyone's still reading this, I wrote a clarification post on my blog.

Dr. Curmudgeon Gee said...

thanks for sharing the n=3 case.

i prefer the term "simple food" than "bland food".

my diet is "simple" (simple cooking method) but not "bland" (not too sweet but still seasoned/spiced properly).

her diet sounds is "simple" & "bland."
it's is too ascetic a bit anorexic (for me).

i don't have that kind of discipline to stick to it for long. i'd probably not eat at all than eating boring food (same every day); but then i usually find fasting easier than eating food that disagrees w/ my palette.

regards,



regards,

Scott said...

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Ned said...

If I wanted to create a short-term diet akin to the bland-stuff-through-a-straw, where could I learn what nutrients are essential to include? Any thoughts? The phrase "essential fatty acids" suggests that a bit of omega this or that would be necessary. And I remember something about electrolytes, or at least potassium. But where would a lay person get a simple explanation of what to include?
I'm morbidly obese, in my late fifties. My doctor's suggestion: just cut back a bit.
I think I would rely on some sort of protein powder for the protein.

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