One of the problems of modern living is the way in which we have departed from the things we did as we evolved. Diet is one of those things, and I believe that diet and the lack of the right exercise are the main reasons for the widespread prevalence of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
I have always liked meat the best of all foods, and as a child I never wanted to eat my vegetables, other than the usual starchy things like bread and potatoes. As I grew out of my teens my weight suddenly shot up from 125 pounds to 186 in about six months. I was out on my own and trying to eat on the cheap, which naturally resulted in a rather carbohydrate-rich diet. (I once tried vegetarianism for about 6 months, but I felt like my body was dying, so I abandoned that trip). I was absolutely freaked at the sight of my stomach lying on the bed next to me. I went on restricted calories and lost weight down to about 150, but it was very difficult to get below that. When I became interested in ballet, and started to take classes, I found the extra weight a liability, but was unable to lose and still eat enough to have the energy for the strenuous exertions of ballet. I think that there are very few types of athletic activities with the demands of ballet training.
One day I picked up a magazine, since defunct, called Collier’s, and there was an article about a way to control one’s weight through diet, and the diet was one high in fat and low in carbs. The article was a review of a book titled Eat Fat and Grow Slim by an English physician, Dr. Richard Macarness. I was able to locate a copy of the book and found the theory sounded right, as I had always felt that veggies, which are almost entirely carbohydrates, weren’t really food, at least not in the sense that meat was. As a kid I had the idea that we ate veggies because meat was expensive and rationed (which it was during the war).
Eat Fat and Grow Slim had as its basis the writings of an arctic explorer and anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson. Macarness was also familiar with the traditional “cure” for diabetes, which was to place the patient on a diet with virtually no carbohydrates. If there are no carbs in the diet, the body doesn’t need the ability to make insulin, so the disease was no bother (other than the discomfort of the dietary discipline). Since we did not evolve eating carbs in the modern constant-intake fashion, our pancreas is subject to failure from over work, and perhaps it is sometimes destroyed by our own immune system due to the damage the constant flow of insulin does to the blood vessels. Remember the immune system is there to find and destroy the source of damage to our body. Diabetics, once the pancreas quits, suffer severe and rapid damage to their bodies from the high levels that injected insulin produces. Macarness also referred to a diet known as the “Blanding diet” used traditionally for the reduction in weight of very obese people. I went out and bought Stef’s book and read it with growing excitement. The year was 1958….
The book by Stefansson was in its third edition in 1961, the date on the copy I now have, and this may have been the end of the publishing run, for I have not seen any copies later than this. The title is The Fat of the Land. An earlier version of the tale is called Not by Bread Alone. The Macmillan company has gone though a lot of changes since the time of the publication, and now no one at the firm seems to know anything about the book. Recently I have heard that there is a doctor in Hollywood who is putting entertainment people on this basic meat diet and getting phenomenal results in rapid weight reduction. The nice thing about this diet is that the human body does not seem to be able to store fat that is eaten in the food, so the fat you eat must be burned up. On the other hand, the body is totally unable to directly burn carbohydrates for energy, but must first convert them to fatty acids. (Guess where most of this fatty acid winds up!)
This information seems to have gotten lost in the translation, as many people think that carbs are “energy food”. Nothing could be further from the truth, but since insulin is highly simulating, the insulin rush feels like “energy” to the person who has just taken in some sugar. Actually the insulin stimulates all the fat storage cells in your body as well as your brain and the little buggers start to work overtime to remove the excess glucose from the blood as quickly as they can. It is one of the ironies of life that glucose, required by the brain in small, but constant amounts, should be deadly poisonous at a higher level! (Diabetic coma).
The female hormones seem cause a strong craving for carbs, as the female body isn’t fertile without a layer of fat. This makes this diet very hard for women to follow. Traditionally the women are the gatherers of fruits and (starchy) roots, while the men are the hunters. This is shown today in the different ways men and women go about buying things. The gals “shop” which is a trip through the entire store or mall in search of things to buy. They may not actually buy (gather) anything. The guys on the other hand know what they are after, and then seek it out (hunts it down) and buys it, usually then taking it home right away.
The meat diet in its purest form is similar to the diet of the stone age Eskimo, and contains no vegetables at all. That this is a healthy diet is not in dispute as the Eskimo, most of whom no longer are living the traditional life, never showed any signs of deficiencies. I have eaten this way for 39 years, perhaps not all those years as strictly as I should have, but my body is very much like it was when I was 30, about 2 inches thicker in the waist, but I don’t have the kind of body that others my age have.
One of the things which we as hunters/carnivores have as a very real lifestyle requirement, is a high degree of physical activity. As hunters we had to be fit to chase and overcome our prey. Today many people do not continue a good exercise routine past teenage years. Almost all kids are almost excessively active, it is the natural thing to do, you must learn to be lazy, and I assure you the societal pressures are there to do just that. I was very active as a kid, and then when at 23 I started on with ballet, I found that the exercise was the only thing that kept my head clear. I later was into running and continued dance in various forms (good Ol’ Grateful Dead!). Eventually I realized that it wasn’t enough, that there had to be a more strenuous, challenging sort of physical activity in the mix, as I was losing strength and didn’t like the way I looked. I was 55.
I don’t think that the weight training was as hard to do at the beginning as the ballet was, but so much time had passed that I could be mistaken. Anyway the weights were HARD work at first, (and boy, were my joints and muscles sore!) but the results were fantastic. After the first few months had passed I felt great, better than I had in years. I had all sorts of people tell me things like: “you can’t grow muscles after 40” (a doctor said this!). “Don’t push yourself too hard, you’re not a kid anymore.” Then there were the guys who for some indecipherable reason were convinced that you couldn’t possibly grow any muscles if you didn’t eat a lot of carbs (they were fat, of course - well muscled, but fat). When I started to grow more muscles than I had ever in my life had, and pretty quickly at that, the voices were silent. I cannot understand why a muscle, which is almost purely protein, should need carbohydrates to grow, and in fact it doesn’t. It does, however need fats, so if there isn’t enough of them you are in trouble. Straight protein (no carbs, no fat) is not good for you, and in fact can prove quite toxic. I recommend no more than 5 grams a day of carbs, more than that seems to defeat the fat-burning stimulation of the diet.
At this point I should say something about fats. There are basically three types of fatty acids, saturated, which are the principle kind you have in your body; monounsaturated, like linoleic found in macadamia nut oil and olive oil; and the polyunsaturated kind, found in a lot of vegetable oils. These three types of fatty acids are combined (esterified) with glycerine in nature to form triglycerides, but the ones in your body fat will be the saturated kind, since that is what your body synthesizes. The best type for fuel is the saturated kind, it burns clean, not surprising since this is the kind that you are carrying around with you. There are some of the so-called Omega-3 fatty acids in all animal fat, not only in fish. The monos are good, in fact there are health benefits from having a certain amount of them in your diet. The dangerous ones are the polys. Polyunsaturated fatty acids have double bonds in the carbon chain which oxidize to form organic peroxides. These compounds are the most highly reactive of the so called “free radicals” which are associated with aging of the skin and other organs. The reason many people are taking high doses of vitamin C and E is to try to neutralize the free radicals. The joke is that they are probably creating the radicals faster than they can destroy them by consuming polyunsaturated oils in their diet.
There is a remarkable book by Uffe Ravnskov, a scientist-sceptic who has compiled a lot of information on the fat and cholestrol vs good health controversy. The books’ title is “The Cholesterol Myths”, and it is available through Amazon.com if not at your local bookseller. It is very enlightening, and unlike many of its genre, it has extensive references you can check. As you would guess from my mentioning it, he says fat is good for you and cholesterol has naught to do with heart disease.
There are still a lot of people who will tell you that you must “replenish” the glycogen in your muscles after exercise, even though the most rigorous experiments indicate that the glycogen levels in the muscles don’t change during exercise. In fact the experiments show that the source of energy for muscular contractions is free fatty acids in a protein complex (acetylcarnitine), which is the energy source for the translation of the adenosine diphosphate back to triphosphate. The enzymes used in the muscles as they work don’t originate there, but come from the liver, a good reason not to consume alcohol, which dramatically reduces the liver’s ability to supply these enzymes. I have added nearly 30 pounds of muscles to my body in the last 7 years, no too bad for an old dog. You see most older guys in the gym using light weights, and they don’t look so great. I didn’t believe that I had to treat my self any differently at my age than anyone else. I found that I needed to have a longer period between workouts to recover, but the exercises needed to be done with the same intensity as everyone else. I currently take two days off between workouts and I try to hold the workouts down to around an hour each time (exclusive of the aerobic warm up, which is necessary to bring the liver online and provide cardiovascular health.