Amidst all the distraction and misinformation, one thing is clear: The whole topic of weight loss has become a Gordian Knot (from Greek Mythology, defined as an extremely difficult or involved problem) and even medical and academic information from Harvard Health, who you would expect to have investigated and invested in researching health and fitness, don’t even explore various avenues that might lead somewhere good.
Vested interests definitely muddy the waters when searching wells of information for truth. As do narrow or set thinkers, people who just accept whatever is said by people with titles or qualifications and a decreasing amount of people who, just like you or me, are interested enough to start looking.
More and more books on the subject of weight, diet and health encourage readers to go and do their own searches for information and articles discuss the amount of conflicting information available, especially in the mainstream media, which causes the cognitive dissonance that leads to a Gordian Knot.
What is no one investigating?
In a book I am reading by Gary Taubes called Why We Get Fat (And What To Do About It) the author investigates various supposed scientific investigations by highly respected academics and shows how they do not provide any or sufficient evidence to back up any findings. The author looks at the quandary of why various indigenous such as Native American tribes, who became fatter as they got poorer.
Taubes gives an account of how obesity started to grow among poor and hard-working people and wanting to find out how people who under ate and were physically active could pile on pounds of fat.
Since taking tests provided by Langton Smith Health to test my responses to various foods including sugar (naturally occurring in fruit, dairy and crops etc) I have started experimenting with what I eat and seeing how my body responds. Since I started doing this I have lost round half a stone to my median weight, in other words, after a weekend dining out with alcohol, or going on lots of walks, no matter what I do, my weight springs back to the same measurement after a couple of days of regularity.
Alongside this I have been searching for information online as well as reflecting with new knowledge on what patterns I can recognise in my life so far to see what has made a difference. A month or so ago I started to lose weight (dropping by another half stone that has bounced back since) and I have tried to work out what I was doing to create that result too.
Here are some articles on how much misinformation there is out there:
The White Lie Diet – getting out of having to explain when you make choices about what to eat around other people.
10 Popular Lies and 5 Truths – this one makes sense but doesn’t make many suggestions. It is also generalising about number 8. It is not just lactose to watch for but casein and drugs they give mass farmed animals too that area a problem for most people. Still need to discover what is good for you individually and take most of these articles with a pinch of salt. Number 10 varies from person to person too, so is not always a lie and some fruits have much more sugar (fructose) than others.
The Daily Nutrition – this one is better than the Spartan and contains quite a few good suggestions, but doesn’t hit any nails on the head. It is always hard living by lots of rules, easier to have a fundamental principle plus some other factors to live by.
Forbes – dispel more myths but don’t make any suggestions to replace them.
Am sure you get the picture. As our lifestyles are vastly different from that of our paleolithic ancestors and the quality of food is greatly reduced in nutritional value – especially due to over farming to feed people during the world wars in Great Britain (try going to Ireland or Menorca and eating locally produced food to see the difference) it is probably a distraction to follow any eating plans because they have worked before or for someone else. However, you can use successful examples to see what they all had in common.
What we need is to each discover and create our own plans for ultimate health and guidelines for our meals (allowing exceptions for dining out and holidays etc when the same is not possible).
Hindsight can be useful in finding what has worked in the past if you can remember accurately enough, which is a brilliant reason to keep a health diary to look back on and might be particularly revealing when we eat out or go on holiday or have more exercise to see what patterns emerge.
Distractions seem to provide a big obstacle to finding the truth for ourselves. When we think about exercise or calories or food groups we are not looking at the bigger picture, where we can often find more answers. There is just too much information out there and yet some ideas are never even discussed, let alone researched properly. Interesting books such as Gary Taubes give plenty of clues, which we can use to experiment with ourselves, keep a record and find what works and what doesn’t work for our bodies. Avoid any books that are too prescriptive. Your body will thank you when you give it what it wants (hence pregnant women get ‘cravings”) and will keep asking you for things it needs.
As this article says, your relationship with your body is of paramount importance.
Over my lifetime, I have been particularly active at certain times, cycling 5 miles each way to work and back, playing tennis regularly, walking around London a lot, commuting to work and back and going on cycling, walking or yoga breaks. None of these have changed my overall feeling of health and slowly, over time, I found I was gaining weight but feeling better and becoming more healthy in terms of fighting bacteria.
My research has taken me in circles and every so often I read something or have an experience that inspires a change of plan.
Last weekend, I was reading Gary Taubes’ book when I met friends for lunch. The subject Taubes was covering was – something I have thought about in the past – how people on lower wages or living in extreme poverty – can increase their body sizes, not in relation to their physical activity or paucity of eating. I looked at the menu and none of the main courses jumped out at me but 2 of the starters did, containing seafood, which always fills me up.
I found that I was full from the two starters and a side salad even thought he quantity was much smaller than what I thought I would want to eat, considering how hungry I was. (My eyes are certainly bigger than my stomach when the food is of a good quality). I realised that if I didn’t panic eat (ie order how much food I think I will need) and start with what looks the most nutritious – or appealing – I might find I am full up before I imagine I will be.
After that eureka moment, another thought struck me. Gary Taubes started on a chapter about exercise saying that, contrary to accepted ideas, more exercise would not shake off fat even when the amount of calories taken in is expended in physical activity. This made me wonder if there was another reason why I lost weight every time I had a regular job and put it on when i worked from home. Maybe I was distracted by the increase in exercise and was looking in the wrong place for the right answers.
Then I had a thought I had not considered before. When I had worked in a job for 5 years, my weight had remained the same, whatever I ate, however much I drank and no matter what changes occurred in my exercise regime. I was distracted by the amount of regular walking I did within these 5 years and didn’t even think about when I was eating, rather than what I was eating as i was always thinking about trying to find healthy food. I felt fat because of inflammation and water retention. However, when I went back to working from home in 2003, even though I was walking every day for my job, I started to pile on the pounds until a high point in 2007, when I went to work in regular office work again and started to lose weight, which I didn’t notice until I saw photographs years later. However, by eating healthily I felt much better. (Until I got on the scales or looked in the mirror).
Are some clues falling into place for you yet?
When I worked in regular office jobs, I had breakfast each morning, lunched on something reasonably priced (cheapish cafes) for lunch had dinner as soon as I got home each day. I found my routine didn’t really break on weekends.
Therefore, one factor that led to weight loss was definitely a regular routine of meals each day. What I actually ate (plenty of carbohydrates) dictated my health and I fluctuated noticeably in terms of water retention – I refused to drink bottled water but had a water filter at home – and inflammation (which I didn’t know about).
To improve upon my health and reduce the fluctuation or feeling of heaviness, I can now focus on better quality foods with good nutritional value and without the ones that don’t particularly agree with me.
This is a journey of self discovery that is well worth setting out on. I suggest finding some travel companions to do the same and all keep diaries, for example, what time you eat, what you eat, your weight each day, if you take any exercise and the date.
The three conclusions I reached are:
- Setting up regular eating times lets you body know when to expect food, which is good for your metabolism.
- The more nutritious the quality of the food, the less of it we need to eat.
- Variety is good as our bodies get the most nutrition from eating a variety of fruit, nuts, vegetables and salad with some good quality meat, eggs and fish – but I think I have these too often so am going to try at least 2 days a week without to see what happens.
Please share any discoveries or stories on here or with me on Facebook on or twitter @sophsweet or @SophieRadioShow