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Biohacking Lite (karpathy.github.io)
731 points by askytb 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 362 comments



I'm French (and incidentally a doctor,and my post is not judgemental in any way, this is not the point). Everytime I travel to the USA, I'm puzzled by how difficult it is to "eat normally" (= by my own standards). You can find really good junk food everywhere, or pay a really high price to eat in high-level Italian restaurants for example, but it is very difficult to eat standard meat-with-vegetable-without-sugar-added, except in Asian restaurants (and even there, food is often sweetened). Of course it is biased because I have no access usually to a kitchen when I travel.

I think sugar is the main problem (not fat) and I'm not convinced calory count is key. We did not evolved to eat processed sugar, which is not easily found naturally in the environment.

My 2 cents: - eat as much vegetables as you want (learn to cook them, with a little bit of olive oil) - eat as much fish as you want (no need to cook! Low temperature baking, 1h at 70-80°, the best cooking you'll ever have) - eat meat in reasonable, "as-if-you-had-to-hunt-it-with-a-bow" quantities - ban every processed food, sauce, appetizer.... If you would not eat a spoon of every single ingredient of some food, don't eat it. - ban all added sugar, except (real) honey in reasonable proportions.

This implies to know/learn how to cook (not so hard but this is easier when the local/family culture allowed you to learn passively).

It looks like this is hard to do in the USA: you don't easily find, for example, yogurt without sugar added. (Or I didn't look at the right place, once again this is not judgemental).

Generally speaking, it is easy to find online high-level cooking courses, but hard to learn the basics of how to cook your onions or tomatoes in different ways in everyday life, or make an healthy meal with what's left in the fridge; this could be interesting to have.

--edited for typing errors


In general, I agree with a lot of what you're saying here about eating more vegetables and way less sugar being the way to go health-wise, but I do want to respond to some specific things you've said.

> You can find really good junk food everywhere, or pay a really high price to eat in high-level Italian restaurants for example, but it is very difficult to eat standard meat-with-vegetable-without-sugar-added, except in Asian restaurants

Restaurants are typically not where I go to eat healthy food anywhere in the world, although I do think you have a pointed that American restaurants are often relatively junk food oriented.

> ban every processed food, sauce, appetizer....

There is nothing inherently wrong with "processed" food; it is entirely possible to use industrial processes to make a perfectly healthy and wholesome food product. Take for example, (this is by no means an endorsement) Larabar [1]. They make snack bars that typically contain 2-3 ingredients that are all just dried fruit. Should they be banned as "processed" food because of how they are made?

> If you would not eat a spoon of every single ingredient of some food, don't eat it

This is a ridiculous statement and is one of the main reasons why I'm commenting. I wouldn't eat a spoonful of yeast, should I not eat bread? I wouldn't eat a spoonful of salt, should I not eat... anything?

> It looks like this is hard to do in the USA: you don't easily find, for example, yogurt without sugar added.

I've never lived in an area in the United States where I've ever had any problem finding anything like this.

[1] https://www.larabar.com/


Your Larabar example is way off base:

1. The number of ingredients in something does not directly indicate how (un)healthy it is. The fact that Larabar contains 2-3 ingredients says nothing about its nutritional value.

2. In fact, many people would not consider Larabar to be a "processed" food to begin with because it literally is just 2-3 fruits and nuts mashed together. You could make something very similar in your own kitchen. The way you're speaking makes it sound like "processed" food is anything that is cooked or combined in some way. That is not how people use the word IME.

3. Have you looked at the sugar content of Larabar? It's not low, nor would I consider it healthy or wholesome. They likely chose dates specifically because of their extremely high sugar content so that they could pretend they are healthy while actually including unhealthy amounts of sugar in their product under the guise of dates.


Likewise, HFCS has about the same blend of sugars as honey, yet it is considered unhealthy and honey is considered healthy somehow. I'd like someone to explain how that works.


Honey is only considered "healthy" by people who know nothing about nutrition but who think "natural" is automatically good [0]. Honey is no better for you than HFCS, but no worse either (except in infants because honey often contains botulism spores that infants cannot fight [1].)

[0] https://www.glycemic-index.org/high-fructose-corn-syrup-vs-s...

[1] https://www.fda.gov/food/alerts-advisories-safety-informatio...


The observation is, I think, based on the top level post mentioning:

> ban all added sugar, except (real) honey in reasonable proportions.

As if there is something "magic" about honey that makes it OK as opposed to all other sugars. There is not.


FWIW, I don't think honey is considered healthy. In any nutrition recommendation I'm familiar with, it is considered a part of added/free sugars, aka something to limit.


Maybe, if HFCS were consumed in equal amounts as honey, it would also be considered healthy. Hormesis is a strange thing - too much of a good thing will turn it into a bad thing.


> There is nothing inherently wrong with "processed" food

There's a distinction between processed and ultra-processed (or highly processed). For example, canned fish is processed (added salt and oil), while a frozen TV dinner is ultra-processed (many ingredients added, some of which you probably don't have in your kitchen).

Processed food is fine assuming you're aware of what's in it, how it's processed, and make sure you're not overeating any of it.


> There's a distinction between processed and ultra-processed (or highly processed). For example, canned fish is processed (added salt and oil), while a frozen TV dinner is ultra-processed (many ingredients added, some of which you probably don't have in your kitchen).

Sure, but OP said ban all processed food. That's what I'm responding to, not "ban all ultra-processed food." That said, I do find your categorization to be troubling. Just because something is a frozen dinner doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad for you. Whether or not something is good or bad for you is based entirely on its chemical composition; it has absolutely nothing to do with how it has been put together or what form factor its being distributed in.

It may sound like I'm being pedantic, but I think these kinds of short cuts are actually genuinely harmful. I've known many people who have thought "cheeseburgers from McDonald's are unhealthy not because cheeseburgers are unhealthy but because they are processed" and then gone right ahead and made themselves cheeseburgers that have three to four times the calories, fat, and salt of the McDonald's counterpart.

Does that make McDonald's a healthy option? Absolutely not. But why is McDonald's unhealthy? It's because the food they serve is unhealthy. It's not that the food that is served at McDonald's is unhealthy because McDonald's is unhealthy.

> Processed food is fine assuming you're aware of what's in it, how it's processed, and make sure you're not overeating any of it.

s/Processed//

If people want to eat healthier, they need to pay attention to the ingredients in the things they're eating. If we're going to regulate something, we need to regulate the ingredients that go into things people eat. Using buzz words like "processed" and "ultra-processed" with definitions that are, at best, not well understood by the general population just leads to people working around personal/social rules/regulations.

Just because your t-bone steak is local organic grass-fed whatever does not make it good for you. That food is just not healthy, even if it is the only ingredient. We did not evolve eating food like that with any kind of regularity. If you want to be healthy, you need to just not eat it.


I resonate with the way you think.

A lot of non-technical people get hung up on the marketing terms than actually thinking through the fundamentals.

For e.g. "Handspun ice-cream! OMG!". Uhh..what difference does it make if it is hand-spun or machine-spun? It is not tool of spinning ice-cream, but what the process is. To majority of non-techy people, processed or machined or anything to do with automating a method is highly repulsive - thanks to the hipster marketing.

The general take away is - "Automated machines will never replace the touch of the hand"... oh really? then how come we can make insanely precise things called semiconductors in almost a completely automated fashion. Some fabs don't even have operators inside, just technicians or engineers. This is an extreme example just to make a point.


But then there are things that do make a difference. Take for instance homogenized vs non-homogenized milk. This processing destroys lactoferrin which is a molecule that strongly binds iron and reduces its absorption. Before someone argues this is actually bad, understand first why milk has lactoferrin and how this apparently only cosmetic process of homogenization has nutritional and health consequences.


Definitely, if you want imperfections, artisan value and appreciate craftsmanship, there is nothing wrong with handmade goods.

Just don't tell me that your Japanese knife when hand sharpened cannot be as good as something done by a robotic arm. Otherwise, I have some news - Japanese knife's edge sharpness(not durability) is no match for a surgical scalpel which is made by millions in quantities in fully automated fashion for less than $20. Or even a razor blade that costs $0.10. If scalpels were made from bluesteel (RH 62+), which is a horrible idea for a scalpel but just to make a point, then they would totally match a Japanese knife's durability too.

I could find countless examples where machines can have proper process control (SPC with control charts), high repeatability and can work well given all PMs are done and they're well maintained - totally out perform humans in many handcrafted jobs. Even things that we traditionally associate with artisan such as Guitars can be manufactured better and for cheaper by machines. "Only a master luthier can tell if the wood is good by knocking on it and feeling the resonance" - absolutely not. We can have ultra precision transducers and a whole bunch of DSP to figure that out and actually quantify that bullshit claim of artisanal value.

"But they have no human-like imperfections" - sure, just add random variation in the runtime code and imperfections can be automated.

What bothers me about this artisanal movement is not about craftsmanship, but about the marketing of it - just say it's handmade. Not because it is better but we want to preserve old ways of doing things. Don't say machines are not capable because I will show at your door and automate your job away.


I feel like you're blowing past some pretty significant psychological factors. People find it interesting and valuable to own a one-of-a-kind item that nobody else can ever have. An artist might paint pretty much the same thing a hundred times, but those small differences make each one slightly more valuable than a mere print. And the fewer instances there are in the world, the more valuable it is, at least in theory. Also, people like it when, for example, a favorite table was made over tens of hours of work by an expert carpenter, and they imagine that it was a labor of love by someone happy to have their work be a part of someone's life. It's personal somehow. There's also a lot of signaling involved in these "artisanal" or "handmade" marketing labels, because they are legitimately associated with higher-quality goods. Manufacturers mechanize processes to cut costs, and if they're so concerned with cutting manufacturing costs maybe they cut corners on quality too - this is how "Made in China" got a bad reputation even though of course China is perfectly capable of making high-quality goods. Finally, if an object is individually made by hand then there's a kind of automatic quality control that doesn't necessarily exist in an automated process.

And I seriously doubt that anyone will claim that a knife sharpened by a robot arm reproducing the exact movements of a human will produce an inferior product. The problem is that most automated sharpeners are some variant of a rotary grinding wheel run linearly along the blade and, unless you're sharpening a machete, there are all sorts of aspects of the blade geometry that are ignored by this process but can be accounted for by a skilled worker at a whetstone.


> Japanese knife's edge sharpness(not durability) is no match for a surgical scalpel which is made by millions in quantities in fully automated fashion for less than $20

If you started hamming your scapal against a chopping board everyday, it would get blunt very quickly. Comparing two knives with completly different use cases makes no sense.

> "But they have no human-like imperfections"

Easier said than done. You would need some sorts of adversarial model that would quantify which random variations were pleasing and which were not. People. Often prefer inperfections, but that does not mean all or most inperfections are desired.


/Play that piano, Kurt/


Actually I do take issue with your example of grass-fed steak. Not sure why you would think it is not healthy, not even going to debate that. But do not dismiss it thinking the actual grass-feed has no impact. It increases the saturated of the meat of ruminants. If you want to go on a learning trip, look into the research made in the 40s about fattening cattle with saturated vs unsaturated fats.

I think it is a bit meaningless to talk about the merits or demerits of particular ingredients (other than the obviously bad such as rancid fats, pollution by heavy metals, or high in toxins) Humans evolved to eat a varied diet and the more variety of nutrient dense food you have the better off you will be. The main issue with nutrition is how can we teach people to eat better while keeping the production costs down.

I recognize I'm bloody lucky to be able to afford the food I get to eat every week, but just thinking of the resources required to have everyone eat this way is very hard. How sustainable would it be for everyone to eat fresh seafood every weekend or constantly import oranges to northern latitudes? Part of the problem is that people choosing processed food leads to an increasing divide in costs between the processed and the freshly prepared, only due to economies of scale. And it will only keep getting worse. My parents' generation all had fresh milk delivered daily at their homes (relatively affordable even for the middle class), today how many people could afford something like that? It took only a little time when cheaper options appeared for it to become uneconomical and nowadays even if you wanted to pay a premium, how big would it be?

A big mistake is to only focus on macronutrients when micronutrients are as important. Even then, it is a relatively unexplored field, how many chemical species you think an apple has? We have explored relatively few classes and particular examples of vitamins and it would be misleading to just go by the RDA of a few classes of chemicals which were explored because of simplicity, technical development at the time? How many vitamin E analogues are in a kernel of wheat? When did we stop doing this basic research into food and nutrition? There are millions of different molecules in natural food, how much is destroyed by processing? Like the homogenization of milk, which is practically very vigorous stirring and yet it destroys lactoferrin.


I generally agree with your points, especially with the flagrant discrimination between processed and unprocessed food, but I think you're being unproductively predantic, especially if it comes to what might be useful for the "general population". My impression is that it's easiest to be consistent if you adopt a fairly simple (unnuonced) set of principles that guide your doet and lifestyle, then adapt it as you gain more control. Exercise good, processed bad, is probably a great place to start for most people —including the author if they hadn't already done the research. As a Canadian, even though we get a lot of stuff from the states AND even though the states has some kind of "added sugar" labelling, I was pretty disgusted to see some things in supermarkets. Yes Walmart has a pretty decent grocery section now, but it sits next to McDonald's where you can get 30 chicken nuggets for $10, the boxed foods aisles that have an exhaustingly low supply of no sugar options, and the fried chicken section where $3 goes seemingly a lot farther if you don't think about it.


> My impression is that it's easiest to be consistent if you adopt a fairly simple (unnuonced) set of principles that guide your doet and lifestyle, then adapt it as you gain more control. Exercise good, processed bad, is probably a great place to start for most people —including the author if they hadn't already done the research.

Exactly. Approximations are good, because they allow you to start doing things now, rather than procrastinating because you need to do proper research first.

You don't need to research the best exercise in the world before you start exercising. Just start exercising, and don't hurt yourself.

You don't need to do the nutrition research. Eat lots of vegetables, cut down on sugar and salt.

...and of course, you can still do the research later, if you want to. But if the proper research will take you say 10 years, it is better to spend those 10 years already exercising and eating vegetables and avoiding sugar.


> Does that make McDonald's a healthy option? Absolutely not. But why is McDonald's unhealthy? It's because the food they serve is unhealthy. It's not that the food that is served at McDonald's is unhealthy because McDonald's is unhealthy.

It sounds to me like this is the crux of your argument.

I think I'd agree and hopefully add some clarifying points.

1. Processing

Processing doesn't necessarily make things less healthy. It depends on the type of processing and what is being processed.

If you blend a steak, it isn't less good for you (although it is more susceptible to food poisoning). Adding heat to things like meat can actually make them more bio-available since they're easier to digest. Adding heat to vegetables can break down certain vitamins and make the result less healthy.

Additionally, heating food in certain ways can make it less healthy because of the cooking process. Anything that chars the food or introduces partially combusted hydrocarbons (burned cooking oil, grilling/smoking, etc.) adds carcinogens to the food.

2. Macro-nutrient profile

Food satiety is relatively well understood: protein, water and fiber are all appetite suppressants. People need a certain amount of fat and probably desire at least a small amount of carbs (although the last part can be overcome in some people).

For a sedentary person, a diet high in carbs and fat is probably not good, as it will result in weight gain.

For someone with higher energy needs - say someone building a trail through the woods with a mattock - they may need to eat 6000 Calories per day just to maintain their body weight.

For a sedentary person, a diet high in protein will be distasteful and probably wasteful.

For professional athletes competing in strength sports, they may eat over 2g / kg of body mass of protein as part of a diet tailored to their goals.

Broadly speaking, in order to promote the health of a person, the macro-nutrient profile of their food should match their body and their activity levels.

3. Micro-nutrients

Eating vegetables are good for you. The more raw the vegetables are, the better they are for you (probably). There is often a trade-off that needs to be struck between palatability and optimum health benefit.

There is also a wide array of micro-nutrients that can come from eating meat of various sorts.

There are many conflicting opinions here, without a broad consensus, so I'll leave it at that.

4. Weird stuff

Often times people will bring up ingredients in processed food that they don't know what it is, or even how to pronounce it.

I don't think people are bad to want to avoid stuff like that.

But for the most part, I have real doubts that this is the cause an health problems in even a small fraction of consumers.


So, this mean that McDonalds is as healthy as the burgers I make at home? I was under the impression that their food is loaded with sugar and strange additives.


> So, this mean that McDonalds is as healthy as the burgers I make at home?

Sure, as long as you use similar ingredients.

> I was under the impression that their food is loaded with sugar and strange additives.

It's not. The beef patty really is just beef. The bun is white bread, just like you can buy at the grocery store. And the condiments are self-evident. It's just that that they've nailed the production process so precisely that what you get tastes almost exactly the same, every time.

A lot of people have this warped, black and white view of "healthy" and "unhealthy", but the reality is that it's a spectrum, and you can get reasonably healthy food at McDonalds but eat like crap at home.


McDonalds lists the ingredients in their foods here: https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/about-our-food/nutrition-...

Their hamburger doesn't look any different than what I would make at home. I don't have any grocery store bought buns in front of me, but I assume it would have similar ingredients. The pickles are not the most natural, but once again, it's not much different than what I would buy in a grocery store.

The biggest difference for me personally is that I would usually make a salad or another vegetable along with homemade burgers and fries, but it wouldn't even cross my mind to order that at McDonald's. I suppose I bring that on myself.

Regular Bun: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Sugar, Yeast, Soybean Oil, Contains 2% or Less: Salt, Wheat Gluten, Potato Flour, May Contain One or More Dough Conditioners (DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Mono and Diglycerides, Enzymes), Vinegar.

100% Beef Patty: 100% Pure Usda Inspected Beef; No Fillers, No Extenders. Prepared With Grill Seasoning (salt, Black Pepper).

Ketchup: Tomato Concentrate from Red Ripe Tomatoes, Distilled Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Salt, Natural Flavors.

Pickle Slices: Cucumbers, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Alum, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Natural Flavors, Polysorbate 80, Extractives of Turmeric (Color).

Onions: Onions.

Mustard: Distilled Vinegar, Water, Mustard Seed, Salt, Turmeric, Paprika, Spice Extractive.


And here we get at the root of the problem with the North American diet... The fact that people think an ingredient list like this is acceptable or 'not that bad' is a problem.

The 'white bread' ingredient list looks nothing like real bread. Sugar? Oil? These are ingredients in muffins and cakes, not bread. The wheat they use has been processed to the point that a few key vitamins have to be added back just to make it legal again.

The ketchup and pickles are basically jam and sliced candy, there's so much sugar in them.

Not to mention the salt levels in everything.

If you eat low quality white bread and cheap condiments with every meal, you might as well have a candy bar and a bag of chips instead. But we've normalized it, we think we're eating home cooked food each time we reach for a plastic bottle or bag.

I also want to point out that "100% Pure USDA inspected beef with no fillers or extenders" doesn't mean what it sounds like. What this doesn't list are all the things that are allowed to be in your cheap, factory farmed beef and still be called 100% pure beef, like ammonia-treated lean highly textured beef (LFTB or 'pink slime': https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_slime), HGH, antibiotics, etc.

By all means go out and enjoy some junk once in a while, but we've gotta stop normalizing ultra-processed foods in our homes.


No one's claiming that McDonald's hamburgers are super healthy and that we should be eating them every day, just that they're no worse the typical home-made burger. But they're also not bad. The problem with the average American diet isn't really the ingredients, but the size.


> The bun is white bread, just like you can buy at the grocery store

> Regular Bun: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Sugar, Yeast, Soybean Oil, Contains 2% or Less: Salt, Wheat Gluten, Potato Flour, May Contain One or More Dough Conditioners (DATEM, Ascorbic Acid, Mono and Diglycerides, Enzymes), Vinegar.

Each to their own!

> You can get reasonably healthy food at McDonald's

... Seriously? Do they even sell vegetables beyond the burger dressing?


I just checked some hamburger buns that I bought from my local grocery store. They were in the middle price range.

Enriched flour (wheat flour, barley malt, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, potato flakes, yeast, wheat gluten, sugar, 2% or less of: salt, soybean oil, soy flour, sodium stearoyl lactylate, corn flour, extratives of paprika and turmeric, calcium propionate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, sucralose, natural and artificial flavor, ascorbic acid, enzymes

So not much better than the McDonald’s buns, and maybe a little worse. I’m guessing that the above ingredients are all required for a hamburger bun that is both shelf stable and cheap.

I’m not sure what the takeaway of that is. Maybe I should get the more expensive and presumably more natural buns? Either way, the McDonald’s buns aren’t any worse than what most people are eating at home.


The only bread I've bought in a long time is supermarket (ciabatta) rolls:

> fortified wheat flour (wheat flour, calcium carbonate, iron, niacin, thiamin), water, extra virgin olive oil (2%), fermented wheat flour, malted wheat flour, salt, yeast

They're not the cheapest of course, but hardly some absurd luxury at 33.8p each, they're a lot nicer than squidgy cheap rolls that are unlike anything you could reproduce at home or see a baker produce, and have pretty much the same ingredients list you'd use at home, if you used commercial yeast and bothered with three different flours.

And there's no selection bias or anything - I haven't looked at the ingredients list before, that's not why I buy them. I buy them because they're nice enough and so far I haven't bothered to bake rolls, mainly because my demand for them is more erratic than slice[able] bread.


They aren't saints, but McDonald's has several different salads and they're pretty healthy if you don't use dressing.


And that's what makes them bad. I've always thought 'processed' was a pretty vague marketing term. A lot like people talking about 'chemicals'.

Yeah, modern food is terrible.


And that's what makes them bad. I've always thought 'processed' was a pretty vague marketing term. A lot like people talking about 'chemicals'.


As a doctor, your primary job is to make sick people healthy, not to make healthy people more healthy.

This is why you want to have a high compliance, meaning that the sick person does what the doctor recommends. This is mostly caused due technical or behavioral complexity.

You can increase compliance by reducing complexity. At the same time, the accuracy decreases.

Example: High Accuracy / High Complexity: "Do not eat frugugle, fergerio, flululu and fnyvoo." Why low compliance? Because the behavioral complexity is very high, especially for sick people: 1. Find the food ingredients list. 2. Loop over the ingredients list and compare the current item with the "do not eat"-list. 3. Make a decision for every ingredient, if this is in the list ("frugugle" is on the list, but one ingredient is "fruguglelase", what's my decision?)

Lower Accuracy / Lower Complexity: "Do not eat products with more than 3 ingredients." Why higher compliance? Because the behavioral complexity is lower: 1. Find the food ingredients list. 2. Count the amount of ingredients. 3. Make a decision after reading max. 3 ingredients.

IMHO it's easier to start with the second approach, because you make progress faster, and keep the momentum going.


This whole argument strikes me as very silly. If I want to eat healthy foods badly enough to change my diet and check the ingredients every time I buy something, I'm not going to want to oversimplify it to the point of near meaninglessness by adopting a rule like "3 ingredients or fewer." I'm perfectly capable of learning what ingredients to avoid.

And if I'm sick, and there are clinical details that are important to my treatment, then I'm absolutely not going to be satisfied with a low-accuracy simplification.


> There is nothing inherently wrong with "processed" food

I don't know if I'd go as far as to say "wrong" but certainly the less processing a food has, the better, primarily because you get to retain more of the fiber content (and so the food is more filling).


>There is nothing inherently wrong with "processed" food; it is entirely possible to use industrial processes to make a perfectly healthy and wholesome food product.

Given how profit in the food industry and addiction is so closely tied together, I don't see how this is possible.


In New Orleans I have had trouble finding it (non-Greek yogurt without sugar) at local chains and places like Save-a-Lot.


I can eat a spoon of salt, or yeast. It is not particularly good but I know what it is, and I know the toxic dose. I won't eat a spoon of sodium benzoate or E324 or I don't know which food additive, I can't buy it in a food store, it is not "food" by itself. So I don't eat it :-)


I'm not sure a big spoon of salt will make you any less sick than a big spoon of sodium benzoate, but that's fair. I definitely agree that people should avoid eating things they do not understand; I think most of my disagreement with your original post is semantic, but I do still appreciate it. :-)


Sodium benzoate is limited in concentration by the FDA to about 0.1% (by weight), so there is certainly not a spoon of sodium benzoate in your food.


> We did not evolved to eat processed sugar, which is not easily found naturally in the environment

The flour you make French bread with is not found any more or less naturally in the environment than the sugar you get from cane or beet.

This whole thing about evolution and nutrition is entirely pseudoscientific woo.

If humans had to eat the same way as our ancestors (ie actual paleo, not some hipster fad diet) humanity would have died out long time ago.

The French thing makes this all the more ironic... I can’t imagine much more triumph in modern processing than the five mother sauces.

Clearly the American diet has a crazy oversupply of sugar... fructose, glucose, sucrose... at the amounts we’re talking about in the average American diet it doesn’t fucking matter (making the whole HFCS controversy always a joke).


I respectfully disagree. Flour is basically crushed wheat. Refined sugar is not crushed beet, and you would have to eat a lot of beet to eat the same amount of sugar that you eat in a typical "industrial food" diet.

I would not take paleo food as a reference, but rather look toward what our grandparents had for lunch when they were kids. I don't think they were doing so badly.

And I don't cook like Bocuse everyday, the five mother sauces are not intended to be eaten on a daily basis :-)


Well sugar beets excluding water content are about 85% sucrose. Sugar production and consumption dates to antiquity, long before mass western obesity epidemics, a luxury item. It essentially became a staple food in the North American diet in the 20th century.

Anyway, honey has a higher concentration of fructose so it has a lower GI than table sugar, but this difference is quite moderate (a few percent) - it seems to get overstated a lot on the web. Honey is basically refined/processed fuel produced by bees - and on evolutionary time scales it has been in use by humans about the same as sugar. Don’t get me wrong, it has chemical and physical properties that make it a beneficial sugar alternative - probably most of which is earlier satiety and therefore less consumption. If consumed in similar quantities it’s still going to make you fat. TANSTAAFL.

My grandparents are probably older than average... but the life expectancy was a fair bit shorter just 100 years ago. Most didn’t even get the opportunity to live long enough to have gastric cancer (smoked meats) or a second MI.


My grandparents ate Oscar Meyer hot dogs on bleached buns for lunch so not sure it's the best choice


> rather look toward what our grandparents had for lunch when they were kids. I don't think they were doing so badly.

This is baseless nostalgia, not something to base health advice on.


The modern wheat is a product of a lot of breeding, just like we do with dogs. Because of it it's pretty different from anything you can find in nature.

Wild varieties of wheat doesn't have nearly as much gluten, and the higher concentration results in a lot more children (myself being one of them) reacting to the protein with an immune disorder(celiac disease).

So you can't just say "sugar bad, flour good" as if it was a binary decision. Everything has consequences on different levels.


Exactly. It took me a long time to piece together that modern wheat was making me sick. I don't think I ever would have if I hadn't been so intrigued by the gluten free diet trend and started researching it. I am able to eat whole grain spelt without problems.


I was curious about your comment on sugar vs flour. I think it's much easier to make wheat compared to sugar at home. https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=5WbYu9XHQPw.

In the end, I think it's good to know how much raw stuff go into making any ingredients. It takes a lot of sugarcane to get a soda's worth of sugar.


As a Chinese person born in America, you're absolutely right. If you don't cook, it's difficult to eat reasonably / "normally" in this country, even if you have money. You kind of have to pick your poison: salt, sugar, unnatural fats, etc.

At least I grew up on the east coast and my parents cooked. Anecdotally, I'm shocked by what my acquaintances from the midwest eat, and the consequences really start to show up when people reach their 30's (although there are signs earlier)

I read Michael Pollan's books (Omnivore's Dilemma, etc.) 10-15 years ago and they opened my eyes to how broken this country is in terms of food.

https://michaelpollan.com/books/

It's funny he is considered "liberal" here but it's just common sense in the rest of the world. The thesis is actually "conservative": eat things that your grandmother would consider food. If your grandmother wouldn't recognize it, don't eat it. Did your grandmother (or great grandmother) cook with high-fructose corn syrup? Or processed oils / margarine?


Margarine? Absolutely. Margarine was huge post-war time. In fact it was so scary to the dairy industry they lobbied to have it turned pink. That failed but you couldn't sell yellow margarine.

Who knows what additives were in our grandparents' foods.


It's a heuristic, a rule of thumb. Think Michael Pollan's grandparents if you like (he's 65).

The change in American diet was not subtle; it was huge. It was due to what's cheaper / more profitable for a huge industry to produce.

It's similar to what's going on right now with the software industry -- cloud services with mobile clients is great economically and great for collecting data, but not necessarily in the short-term or long-term interests of the users.

If you believe in capitalism, you would have to explain how optimizing for cheap and superficially appealing food would NOT happen.


The chemical food additives industry has been around for a long time now - certainly since the times of our great-great-grandparents. The difference is that now we have both more variety, and much more rigorous testing.

There's a reason every country has an equivalent to the FDA that has to approve food additives. These agencies were not formed in advance - they were formed as a reaction to dangerous unregulated food additives, supplements, medicines, and so on. The FDA was formed in 1906. Michael Pollan saying that our grandparents only ate real food is an example of the golden age fallacy.


There's a difference between "being around" and "everyone routinely consumes them". American diets change drastically in the middle of the 20th century.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/06/12/look-...

e.g.

The average American woman weighs 166.2 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As reddit recently pointed out, that's almost exactly as much as the average American man weighed in the early 1960s.

Men, you're not looking too hot in this scenario either. Over the same time period you gained nearly 30 pounds, from 166.3 in the 60s to 195.5 today. Doing the same comparison as above, today's American man weighs almost as much as 1.5 American women from the 1960s.

This is NOT a subtle change! And it has severe consequences.

I think it's clearly due to diet and the "hidden" choices in the food supply, but if anyone has contrary information I'm interested. It's a tremendous change that needs an explanation.


I don't know if Karo counts as HFCS but it was pretty big in its day.


margerine was invented during napolean's time as a more stable replacement for butter for the military, so it is likely your grandmother knew and used it. Mine did.


> I'm puzzled by how difficult it is to "eat normally"

That very much depends on your location. High tourism locations will often have lots of junk food places. If you can move larger distances (i.e. rent a car and the like) you'll find wonderful and cheap restaurants pretty much anywhere. Even in otherwise expensive places like SF or NY.

Here's the problem though: portion sizes are _enormous_ . It took quite a bit of time to adapt, and adapt I did, if my measurements are any indication. If you want healthy portions, you'll either waste food, or you'll have to ask for a take out box. Essentially, a lot of places will serve you portions that are enough for two meals.

Ingredient availability varies a lot. In larger centers you can find almost anything you could possibility want. Even farmer's markets if you are lucky, which will often have locally sourced produce at lower prices compared to big supermarket chains (and sometimes even lower if you get there near closing hour ;) )


> If you can move larger distances (i.e. rent a car and the like) you'll find wonderful and cheap restaurants pretty much anywhere. Even in otherwise expensive places like SF or NY.

After doing a trip in America, I interpret "eat normally" for a French as not eating in the restaurants, but the food available in the supermarket that you cook at home. Finding vegetables, fruits is hard, if not impossible. You don't find it in every supermarket.

Eating normally, for me, is buying the vegetables, meat, etc, and cooking it myself.

Yesterday I made a ratatouille: Eggplant, courgette, poivron, tomatoes.

I remember finding these in USA was really hard.

And the only fruits we found was already cuts pineapply/mango/apples/etc...


I think you did not end up at an actual supermarket. I’ve never been to one that doesn’t have eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, or red peppers.

Neighborhood bodegas, which can look like small shops selling food, are a very different type of establishment, and sound like what you’re describing. Perhaps you are ending up in those? (They’re rife in tourist areas!)


It was 5 year ago, I don't really remember...


I guess one question is: how big was it? If it couldn’t fit more than 25 people, it was definitely not a US supermarket...


No, it was big supermarkets. Definetly more than 25 peoples.


> Finding vegetables, fruits is hard, if not impossible. You don't find it in every supermarket.

I live in the US currently, and can't think of a single supermarket that doesn't have a large fresh fruits and vegetables section, and all of the vegetables you mention are commonly available.

I suspect you were in a big city and going to the equivalent of corner stores (as someone else mentioned, what they call bodegas in NYC at least.

I think you fell into the common traveler's trap of thinking that your lifetime of knowledge of your home country would easily translate to a different country. When you don't know what's available or what to look for, it can indeed be difficult to find things.


> High tourism locations will often have lots of junk food places. If you can move larger distances (i.e. rent a car and the like) you'll find wonderful and cheap restaurants pretty much anywhere.

I'm pretty sure this is the opposite of the actual situation. Cities attract both tourists and high-income residents, and the latter combined with high population density drive the development of much more diverse eating options within a reasonable range than a person in a more rural area has available to them.

Anecdotally, the organic grocery stores and vegan eateries I see in SF just don't exist where my parents live.


> That very much depends on your location. High tourism locations will often have lots of junk food places.

This I don't agree, I was in a backwhole and all I got was a supermarket and fast food. Sure I could take the raw veg, but it was cheaper to get the TV dinners.

Maybe you know your area better to find them but are they known by all, known enough to be advertised to tourists/visitors ?

> Here's the problem though: portion sizes are _enormous_

This is a result.. Not really a cause, I fully agree with you the portions are alien for me, but they didn't decide on those portions from nowhere.

> Ingredient availability varies a lot > Even farmer's markets

This is both true and the problem. The fact you need to say that sometimes Farmers markets can handle you meats, and depending on what supermarket you go to you can get good veggie.. It's strange from an EU POV.

We have EU standards on all food trades, the UK is leaving the EU based on a few lies about the standards. But it actually is standing to prove that hey : 'Don't eat shit'.


The problem with restaurants (globally!) is they have zero responsibility or incentive to serve food that fits the nutritional needs of their customers.

• Restaurants don't sell food, they sell satiation, taste, brand, ambiance, customer experience.

• You rarely can ask for an ingredient list, you often can't see who made your food, it is a black box in a black box.

• All we really care about are omissions: the list of chemicals, macronutrients, hormones, and ingredients that are excluded from our menu items.

Not only does this disconnect us from the ingredients in our food... I think this is a huge problem that compounds toward multiple health crises such as obesity and diabetes. Chefs are seen as food experts, yet the nutrition aspect of restaurant food is entirely ignored. We expect individuals themselves to be their own nutrition experts (curating meals and ingredients for their own health).

I don't know what the solution is. But at the very least I think every restaurant owes its customers the macros and ingredients for every product they serve, in accessible formats. It should be easier to get that information onto your phone than a tweet. Food receipts should list macro and calorie breakdowns. Tools for nutrition analysis should be free, standard, integrated, and widespread. etc


> The problem with restaurants (globally!) is they have zero responsibility or incentive to serve food that fits the nutritional needs of their customers.

I will have to disagree. Maybe this is a cultural thing (I'm from Brazil) but on business days I mostly refuse to have lunch in restaurants that don't offer nutritional food options, and I'm not alone in this matter, the majority of my team mates also care about their diet. Those who don't care about it and eat junk food at work every day are the exception.

Hence, restaurants have the incentive to serve healthier food in order to attract customers like me and my team mates.

That's not to say that I don't like junky food. I love to grab a beer and a burger, but I grant myself that treat at most once a week, not more than that.


As an American that avoids sugar like the toxin it is I agree. The food manufacturers put it in everything. I got an off brand of milk the other day because of the shortage, a local brand it had added sugar, I took two gulps and said "WTF". Bread it's like a staple now in baking white bread fuck it pack it with sugar from corn. Pizza make %50 of the sauce sugar. Drinks, would you like 100MG of liquid sugars in every $5 bottle? Coffee: Have some bean filtered water with that Mocha sugar sludge.


This isn't unique to America though. Here in Austria it's impossible to buy mayonnaise without sugar, for instance. Pesto is getting difficult as well. And many many other things that when you make then yourself would never be sweetened because they are not sweet foods. I don't think we're putting it in plain yogurt yet, but if I had to guess that's probably more due to food labeling laws than the manufacturers not wanting to.

Anyway, here in the EU we have strict rules on when/how foods may be labeled as "no added sugar". I think we should take those rules and turn them around and require "with added sugar" labels on basically everything that is not candy or patisserie, where you would clearly expect sugar as a main ingredient.


Milk does have sugars by itself, just different kind. That's how you're able to ferment it and make yogurt, kefir, sour cream, etc.

I do agree that the quantities of sugar in everything are _way_ too excessive though.


Bean filtered water, that’s what we had during the war. What is your war? :-)


The US has its issues with food (in particular, lower class individuals have trouble finding cheap food that isn't junk food), but I'm surprised to read the rest of your comments.

I travel all around the US a lot for work (or did, pre-covid) and all the way down to your fast food restaurants all the way up to fancy $500/plate places, I've never once found it difficult to eat a "standard meat-with-vegetable-without-sugar-added". I would say that 80% of my meals are exactly that. I've never once been to a single non-fast-food restaurant where they didn't have multiple different kinds of vegetables on the menu.

There's certainly an issue with portion size at most US restaurants, but I've never found it difficult to get a plate of plain roasted vegetables with lightly seasoned fish, for example.

>It looks like this is hard to do in the USA: you don't easily find, for example, yogurt without sugar added.

Yogurt in particular is not really popular in the US, so you will not find it in many restaurants. You can, however, find packaged sugarfree yogurt in most convenience stores and certainly every grocery store if that's your thing. Other than yogurt, there are plenty of sugarfree snacks widely available. Starbucks is on every corner and sells plain vegetables, plain fruit, plain eggs, etc, for example.

I suspect your complaints are mostly rooted in simply not being aware of certain brand names or which stores are known for what type of food, because all of the things you mentioned definitely are available as long as you aren't going to McDonald's or Five Guys for every meal.


I would really like to know which fast food restaurant allows "normal" eating. They all use sugar, they are all way too fatty and salty. And vegetables are hard. (No, fried potatoes do not count)

> "You can, however, find packaged sugarfree yogurt" That stuff is a miracle of modern chemistry. It has, however, only a passing resemblance to actual yoghurt. Nobody who grew up in Europe really wants sugar-free. It's "no sugar added" that matters. Nobody wants fat-free, either. And there are quite a few studies making the point that these "healthy" food actually contribute to weight gain.

"Starbucks is on every corner and sells plain vegetables, plain fruit, plain eggs"... if you're lucky. Usually, it's sold out fairly quickly.

In general, yes, getting healthy food in the US is much harder than it is in Europe. The vast majority of food here is processed to within an inch of its life, and the remainder is incredibly expensive, because it's treated as a luxury good.

I've spent a few decades in Europe, as well as a few in the US. I'm fairly confident I know which food I can get where in either place - and the US is severely broken. Trust me, I wish it weren't. But healthy food is difficult, and becomes extra-hard as you leave bigger cities with specialty stores behind.


Name literally any fast food place and you can get a plain salad with tomatoes, lettuce, sometimes spinach, carrots, broccoli, etc, as well as various types of plain grilled meat if you want protein. It won't be delicious, but vegetables certainly are not hard to get, even at fast food places. And that's before considering places that actually make a concerted effort to provide healthier options like Panera Bread, which has an even higher variety of different vegetables you can order.

>"Starbucks is on every corner and sells plain vegetables, plain fruit, plain eggs"... if you're lucky. Usually, it's sold out fairly quickly.

I've been throughout the US, both urban and rural, and never noticed a particular issue with it being sold out. And Starbucks was just one example; there are plenty of convenience stores that sell the same. I can't remember the last time I was in a gas station or 7-Eleven that didn't have plain fruit or plain nuts available.

I've been abroad as well (mostly in Asia, though some months in Europe) and I really do not at all have the same experience as you. Eating healthily is trivial in the US. I will acknowledge that it is not actively shoved in your face (sometimes you have to specifically ask that a dish be made without sauce, for example) but I have never, ever had a problem with the availability of healthy food.

If anything, I found that eating healthily in Asia was actually more difficult because in many situations it actually is not possible to get a dish that isn't based on some type of high-sodium/sugar sauce, white rice, or noodles. (The nice thing about Asia though is that even if their dishes are full of sugar and sodium, the portion sizes are relatively small, so it isn't as big of a deal.)


You are right you can find vegetables. But they will have a weird taste and/or have a sweetened sauce (or, you just have to sweeten it in order to eat it). This is the same in fast-food restaurants in France thought, Not a critic toward the US


This is really interesting - I'd love to sit down and compare notes how we arrived at two completely different views of the food world. (It even holds for the "plain nuts" comment - I find it incredibly hard to get nuts that aren't roasted and/or salted)


> I find it incredibly hard to get nuts that aren't roasted and/or salted

I don't see plain nuts as often as I'd like in stores, but they are super easy to find online: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=raw+almonds


Here's where Amazon's reputation for cheap fakes is biting them - I'm not risking food from them, since I can't fully trust the integrity of their goods.

But Trader Joe's usually has them too. Safeway sometimes does.

It's not that it's impossible, it's just that they don't have the same "staples" status they have in Europe. Usually, you find raw nuts in the cooking/baking ingredients area, while salted & roasted are considered "party food". And they're more likely to not have the party food variety than the raw variety.


In my house, we've been buying costco-brand (Kirkland) walnuts in mega-bulk from amazon for at least a year, and we've not yet encountered issues with their quality.

Trader Joe's has decent nuts, but their prices are not competitive when you buy in bulk.

Walnuts, in my opinion at least, don't vary in flavor that much (compared to almonds for example). So... walnuts are walnuts: always buy the cheapest! :)


> I've never once found it difficult to eat a "standard meat-with-vegetable-without-sugar-added".

Actually, I find that a simply prepared, decent (not excellent, cut of meat) steak has now become a rare thing and is ferociously expensive.

I suspect that there is too much wastage of better meat cuts and that restaurant margins are so thin that every owner immediately cuts back the expensive stuff right away.

Anything other than turkey, chicken, salmon, or shrimp is now problematic to find as a protein. And, with the possible exception of certain kinds of salmon, all those flavors are bland enough that they almost always need something in the dish to help them out (cream, butter, sugar, etc.).


As an American who has traveled a lot, I think a large part of the problem here is Americans’ over reliance on restaurants for food. You can rightly criticize the processed, sugary, or fried foods that many people habitually cook, but to claim that Americans don’t know how to make plain foods or have access to the ingredients is ignorance: every proper grocery store sells good proteins, fresh vegetables, and unprocessed grains, and they do it because it’s profitable, because people do largely cook pretty standard meals at home (and as others noted, your yogurt example is wrong). But regardless of how healthy our cooking is, why is it so rare for Americans to eat a home cooked lunch, and so strikingly common to meet people who never cook their own dinner when compared to other countries? Your country has on average healthier foods than we do (not sure by how much once you account for the dishes people actually order), but the portions at restaurants are still too big. People are healthier in France because they cook most of their meals at home, not because the restaurants give them a proper diet. If we all started eating like the French do we’d probably have a more balanced diet, but we’d still be fat if we ate at restaurants all the time.


You took the post from right under by fingers.

The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon makes the exact same point but gets there via analysis of where Americans are spending money for food. Since the 70s we've more than doubled the fraction of our income we spend eating outside of the home.[1] This tracks with the rise in adult obesity in America and is a divergence from trends in other developed countries like France.

[1] Chapter 10


Remember that (almost) everything in America is a business. Sugar is cheap and addictive. I had an "aha" moment when digging into Starbucks' nutritional labels. I realized that, with certain types of drinks, Starbucks had essentially legitimized drinking a milkshake for breakfast. I'm not sure how much that contributed to their success but it must surely have been a component.


> you don't easily find, for example, yogurt without sugar added

I have a difficult time finding these, as well. The culture here (spoken as an American) is to avoid fats, which is why most products advertise "no fat" (yoghurt with no fat seems like a strange contradiction to me).

> in Asian restaurants (and even there, food is often sweetened)

This is also true from my experiences. Chinese restaurants add sugar due to believing that's part of the American palette. (For Chinese foods, there's also a distinction between "typical" and "authentic" styles, and most Americans are unaware of the latter.)


It depends on the places you went. Cuisine where I'm from has a lot of sugar in the diet; however it might not be popular enough to be included in international asian restuarants. But I can't be sure as we don't really measure the amount of sugar went into cooking. It might be there isn't much at all.


Exactly! No-fat is a strange concept. Fat is not inherently bad, too much added fat is. But I'm pretty sure you can eat 500mg of natural good yogurt a day without being sick. Well, I never tried.


Quick remark: Sugar, as other carbohydrates, is cheap. It also tastes well, objectively (as much as taste can be objectively measured).

So if you go for industrial-level food production, you end up with a higher proportion of sugar than what would be considered healthy. Sugar per se ist not bad at all (try to have an apple without it ;)). But our economy demands cheap, somewhat tasty, calories. Hence we end up with a lot of sugar or carbohydrates in general.

Any diet that rules out carbs works well because of that, not because of some intrinsic property of carbs.

As a French person you would probably never consider giving up on a good croissant or baguette, but in France these things are expensive. I doubt anyone gives their kids fresh croissant before school every day.


Are croissant expensive, look to be about 50 euro-cents each in France (about the same as UK; hypermarché/supermarket)? That's cheap, right?

Bake at home ones are half that.

Cheapest "fresh" at Carrefour are 20 euro-cents.

https://www.carrefour.fr/s?q=croissant

Are village bakeries still a thing in France?


> Are village bakeries still a thing in France?

Very much so. You find bakeries in every village / town, usually less than 15 min walking in any city. I don't know many people in France who buy supermarket croissant (except when you buy very large quantities for groups for example). And it's very common for people to go to their local bakery (small, 2 or 3 employee) to buy bread every two days.


Merci, je n'y suis pas allé depuis une vingtaine d'années; J'adore un pain-au-choc chaud le matin.


I've never known that people add sugar to their apples. I have lived in US & Canada and I find that odd people need to add sugar to enjoy an apple.

Croissants or baguettes are not a daily thing if my assumption is correct. My experience is buying them when walking home from work and if I'm in the mood because bread isn't generally healthy for people compared to something else that happens to be better.

edit: okay, I now understand the comment is about apples having natural sugar.


Yeah, I think you misread the original comment. The "average" apple contains nearly 10g of sugar[0].

[0]: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171688/n...


Somehow I've received multiple downvotes on the original comment. I can no longer edit the comment but I think it's funny that people expected me to know he didn't just mean the natural sugars in apples. I mean apples are healthy in general compared to what the original discussion was about.


I think he means that apples have a lot of sugar in them, which is why they taste so good.


I think the OP meant natural sugar, not added! And sadly, many jams and pies have extra sugar added, I much prefer the no/low sugar versions.


Yes natural sugar is just barely better than added sugar (due to the fiber it's typically mixed in with). The apples we eat today are candy bars, they just happen to grow on trees. Trees shaped extensively via artificial selection for thousands of years to pack in more glucose, trees that are nowhere near to what our ancestors have encountered for millions of years.


Fortunately, apples are not candy bar. The metabolic effects of eating 1kg of apples is completely different from eating glucose and fructose extracted from those 1kg of apples.

Natural sugar is magnitudes times better than processed/added sugar.

Fructose consumed through fruits has never had a similar metabolic effect as high-fructose corn syrup.


A Snickers bar has 27g of sugar in it[1], almost 3 times the 10g in the 'average apple' (without the fiber or water to slow down metabolizing it). I haven't encountered anyone claiming that obesity and diabetes are rampant in the US due to over-consumption of fruit (though fruit juice is not doing us any favors).

1: https://www.myfooddiary.com/foods/22930/snickers-regular-siz...


Haha, you're right kids don't usually eat croissant before school. This is more a Sunday morning dish (when daddy had the courage to wake up earlier to buy them). Good bread is not expensive in France by the way ! (There would be another revolution if that was the case ;-)


As a Mexican I agree (even if I think hating on sugar is misguided, in an otherwise healthy diet you would be sufficiently healthy to deal with it in reasonable amounts.) The US simply has such a mind boggling reliance on empty calories and overall low-quality food, with brothless soups, iceberg lettuce salads, and frying everything in cheapo oils like sunflower, canola or similar. If I do not cook at home, or choose very carefully, or as you say spend the big bucks at a fine restaurant, I simply cannot find nutritious good quality food. I now realized I was spoiled growing up by having two parents who love to cook good stuff and find good eats.


What part of the US were you in? I think your experience will vary widely; in NYC there are healthy meat n veggies fast food places every couple blocks. That being said I think you are accurately describing the majority of the country.


The general jab at the Americans. If I look at Europe food culture with a certain lens, I just see shitty doner kebab places in every corner and turkish grocery/meat stores that smell horrible. Obviously, that lens is cracked, tinted with biases.

Some points are valid though. Honestly, as an American, we've got some awful vegetables and tasteless food just about everywhere unless fat/sugar is added to them. Probably due to the way mass production and transportation of food goes in to the US. It wasn't like that. There is nothing wrong with our soil. I spent some time in India, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Korea and the veggies are almost like they grow in your home garden. Go to a store and pick out a tomato and it is impossibly good. America has farmers markets in every city, even in some of the most impoverished cities. But that's not where the majority of the middle class goes to shop for their vegetables.

Try growing veggies in your own garden on American soil and its gonna taste amazing.

Don't worry, Asian population wants malls, walmarts, and giant grocery stores with similar tasteless food. It is happening at a massive unprecedented scale.


I made clear I have no anti-american views (and I don't feel like US citizens, generally speaking, are so much more open to external opinions than Europeans by the way). The problem is not related to the quality of soil or to the borders but to the fact that we humans have a recent tendency to over-engineer a very natural process : eating simple, normal, things.


As an American, I absolutely agree with your original post. I find it so much more difficult to eat good food here unless I pay a ton of money. Good food is also usually the most inconvenient choice.

I also think that our obsession with work hurts us. We don't have time to slow down and cook.


as an american i wish we had a few of their Kebab shopes and a few less Burger joints. within walking distance of my job my option for food i didn't bring myself are two Mcdonalds three other burger chain store, a taco bell, and a little ceasers pizza, there used to be a mom and pop "asian" food place but it caught fire. i would kill for a curry, shawarma, or falafel restaurant. the food available in noncoastal small town america are fastfood monoculture.


Your opinion is balanced. But it'll appear as nonsense to Americans. Americans are ideologues. They love freedom. They like their own camps. They want to find eternal truths in everything. (There's no such thing).

In the dietary world, you'll find anti-sugar camps, anti-fat camps, Atkins diet, ketogenic diet, fitness buffs. This article is an example. It's a deep dive full of science. The conclusions, however, are mostly nonsense.

I'll eat like you suggest. But I'll entertain with the reading. :)


I’m sure we have a camp that is militantly in favor of moderation. It’s our great innovation, as Americans: the ability to be extremely angry about minuscule modalities.


I agree. The moderation camp exists. They're just not as loud. :)

I like your characterization of Americans: extremely angry about minuscule modalities. :)


> I think sugar is the main problem (not fat)

Most of the research is that it's both. (Tt's the worst when fat and sugar are together) Specifically food is more rewarding, denser, cheaper, and easier to find than it used to be, so we overeat it. Same thing happens with almost any animal that's given ad libitum access to the american diet.

It seems there are two societal solutions, extremely heavy handed government interventions to ban tasty food or we invent a weight loss pill.


It doesn't need to be extreme, taxes are proven to be effective and are quite simple. They solve the problem of unhealthy food being too easily available by raising the price to reflect the true cost to society (the externalities, like obesity). Junk food is only cheaper than healthy food because our society has made that choice, and it can just as easily choose to change that.


That's great news though I'm a little suspicious, where have taxes caused a significant change in body weight?

> Junk food is only cheaper than healthy food because our society has made that choice, and it can just as easily choose to change that.

Junk food is cheaper because it's easier to make junk food. If you want to make food more palatable cheaply, make it denser, fattier, and sweeter. i.e. turn it into junk food.


Look into the government’s subsidies of corn. We have decided, as a country, to incentivize growing corn. From here, it’s not hard to understand why high fructose corn syrup is in almost everything packaged in the US.


> That's great news though I'm a little suspicious, where have taxes caused a significant change in body weight?

You could check https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugary_drink_tax as a starting point. From a skim it doesn't look to me like a small tax is some kind of miracle cure for anything in this regard. Though I don't think anyone claimed that it would be the one factor that fixes everything. There is no one factor, and having the tax as part of a toolbox seems reasonable.


> Junk food is only cheaper than healthy food because our society has made that choice

I don't this is really true? Candy is expensive. Chicken thighs, certain cuts of pork are affordable. Along with rice and filling sides like beans. You can eat well and cheap.

It might only be cheap if you're talking about time too?


I can't find the study, so take this with a grain of salt:

There was a study that determined that the reason for the sugar+fat combo was that sugar "scratched" arteries and made them easier for fat to stick to.

Just plain fat is OK, because it doesn't stick to healthy arteries. But combine (highly processed) sugar and fat, then you get an insulin spike AND the fat clogs your arteries more easily.


My recommendation, if you're staying at a hotel, is to ask if they have a BBQ for guest use. Most do, and then you can stop at the grocery store and buy some chicken/fish, some vegetables (also a roll of aluminum foil), and cook it on the bbq.

I travel quite a bit for work (at least, when there's no pandemic) and even though my per diem would cover restaurants, I have almost completely switched over to hotel BBQs and eat better for way less money.


Yup I agree. I call it the food gravity problem of america. Trying to eat healthy here is like trying to beat gravity:

This youtube video goes into more detail about the US problem compared to japan: "Why is it so Easy to be Thin in Japan?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lr4MmmWQtZM


The American processed food industry uses very cheap ingredients that inherently taste awful, but they get us to eat them by adding salt, sugar, and fat, all of which Americans are semi-addicted to.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/02/26/172969363/ho...


> standard meat-with-vegetable

"Standard" in the countries I've lived in would include a starch. Part of your reaction may just be to cultural differences in what's considered a standard meal.

Your "2 cents" is nothing more than an expression of the food culture you grew up with. There are many other amazing food cultures around the world - even in parts of the US, although you don't find them in the chain stores and chain supermarkets.


One interesting and also really annoying phenomenon about going to another country is that it can be really difficult to find what you want to eat in the grocery store. I think the grocery stores in each country have to categorize and organize goods by how people use them, which differs in each country, and when you mix that in with goods actually missing, the experience can be really frustrating. It is not unusual for ex-pats to swear that something is not sold in the country, only to find out that they were looking in the wrong section. For example, in Germany I've known ex-pats to complain that there is no sweetened condensed milk, but I found it at Rewe next to the coffee (do Germans put it in coffee? Sounds good, I guess). At Rewe the peanut butter is next to the jelly, where I would expect it, but at Real it's in the "American foods" section :D I would expect any store that sells yoghurt in the US to have non-sweetened yoghurt, too. Just keep looking :) Dairy products are also sorted differently in each country.


> do Germans put it in coffee?

Yes. What do you do with it?


I live near a college town, with food from dozens of nations. I can have crepes for breakfast, Vietnamese for lunch, good Italian for dinner. Tomorrow: steak and eggs at a diner for breakfast, sushi for lunch then dinner at a nice Czech place with cabbage and sausage. All cooked by immigrants or descendants of those heritages.

But no, not typical. Most Americans buy all their food at the Dollar Store, and its everything you say.


Most Americans buy their food at the grocery store, and there's nothing in them that wouldn't be found in any other country. Most Americans make their own meals with their families, which usually consist of meat, pasta, potatoes, and/or vegetables.


You're right - there are 40,000 grocery stores in America, and only 30,000 Dollar Stores and their like. So less than half of Americans buy from Dollar Stores, if patronage equals frequency of the store.

Buts Dollar stores are growing fast. That won't be true for long.

I wonder at the "make their own meals". Maybe from packets or reheating frozen stuff. But the meat counter sure isn't the largest section in the grocery store, not by a large margin.


That's assuming people go to the Dollar store specifically to buy food instead of going to the grocery store, which is certainly not the norm. People go to the Dollar store to buy food containers, snacks for a road trip, batteries, toothbrushes, etc. That's like assuming people buy groceries at the hardware store; the intended purpose isn't the same.

At all of the American grocery stores I've been to, the unfrozen meat section is as large as the entire refrigerated section, which are all very typical grocery stores.


Sorry, should have been more clear. The Dollar Stores are taking over grocery business across America. Its their most popular item (grocery) and many, many people's sole source of groceries. There are many articles about this, and it was even discussed here on HN some months ago.

I think its maybe a 'first world' view, that every body goes to Dollar Stores for the same things the upper class go there for. One source noted there are many times more Dollar Stores in Texas alone, than WalMarts across the entire USA. Gotta be a reason, and it isn't batteries.

The 'unfrozen meat section' is a prestige-item display case with really a trivial amount of product on display compared to the square footage dedicated to it. Vs every other section of the grocery, with racks 5-10 shelves high crowded with products. I honestly buy meat at the butcher counter maybe once a month, for a special occasion. Not a lot to do with 'what I usually eat'. Maybe its different for others.


Anecdote:

We had Dollar G stores open near me. I do get groceries there as my most common item there, but it is in the form of 'grab some sour cream and a block of cheese' just before dinner is done. Dollar G is ~2 minutes down the road from my house, vs. Kroger or Wally World which are ~20 minute drives.

If I am going to go get groceries, I'm going to go to Kroger by default, Walmart if it's a particularly big run, Publix if I'm feeling like burning money, and Dollar G as a last resort, since the latter combines the expensive prices of Publix with the saddest store brand version of a product you can find, if they even have it in stock.


Calorie count _is_ the key. This is incredibly well established in studies. Weight loss does not occur without caloric deficit, no matter what you eat. Likewise, weight loss will occur in caloric deficit even when eating what people would consider "junk", including sugar. See The Twinkie Diet, for example: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/...

Avoiding food because "we didn't evolve to eat" is not sound science, either.


Neither pure white sugar nor vegetable oil occur naturally in the environment. Can't just blame sugar when fat has twice the energy density of sugar and is used abundantly in the processed foods that we like to overeat.


Right but don't you think that olive oil for example was eaten since centuries? I often refer myself to the so-called "Mediterranean diet" as a good reference when I'm asking myself if I should eat something. This is based on data to some degree also.


I don't know that much about the history of olive oil consumption. My hueristic is, the more fiber removed, the less healthful the food becomes.


Few years ago I had some eating disorder, I could only eat raw vegetables.

My diet habit shifted 180deg in 48h, it's a weird realization:

1) eating raw vegetables tickles your brain differently (raw veggies make you feel full faster)

2) most probably because there's no fat nor sugar added (which makes you want to eat more I guess)

3) even dressing is bad, so raw is best to have a natural negative feedback system

4) even the most mundane raw veggies have a lot of flavour.. I eat carrots like M&M's nowadays, it's sweet. Same for lettuce or tomato. I really think modern western culture is hurtful there.


Fat actually satiates you more than almost anything else, so I suspect your culprit is sugar, not fat. If you cooked those veggies in some butter or olive oil, I would bet you’d get full faster.


Possibly, I think I recall reading about the fat+sugar being ultra nasty because your brain never wants to stop this mouth sensation. That said, I don't feel the same when eating fatty stuff, it's more nausea than what I feel with veggies.


I held much the same view but it occurs to me that in many East Asian countries, added sugar to dishes is common and overall sugar consumption not necessarily that low. Not to say it's healthy, but it seems an insufficient explanation.

The proliferation of junk foods, boxed refined products, seems higher in North America. As you say dining out tends to comprise the Standard American Diet of high fat and carbs, low fiber.


Ah, the Americans... ;-)

As a Dutch person living in Amsterdam, I completely agree. I noticed when I visited SF a few times (and California in general) that:

- Vegetables are more expensive

- Bread is sweetened (there goes my breakdfast)

- Bread sucks (yep, I said it, basic bread should be thrown into the thrash can)

- Basic cheese in the US is a new species, and I am afraid of it

I went around these 2 issues by buying the highest quality French bread and imported cheese (how I missed actual France with their actual French bread... :'( ). While it was expensive, I could at least make a breakfast that I eat in Amsterdam (bread with cheese with butter, unsweetened).

The butter was normal. I have to give the US that.

Though, I do like what you guys can do with oatmeal. It taught me that the normal Dutch breakfast is uninspiring as hell, haha. So all in all, it was reall a positive experience, but it's so much nicer when you meet American people showing how they eat breakfast rather than traveling around in the country and simply guessing how to eat normal (normal being unsweetened / healthy -- I find that normal...).

Also, I found the US amazing with certain dinner options (e.g. sushi burito's).


San Francisco is an anomaly as far as food in the US is concerned. I'm French and have been living in SF for close to a decade (and Louisiana before that, so I've been spoiled when it comes to "american food" that doesn't suck), and there are very few things I cannot find here - people are into food, and if you take the time to look for specialty stores you will find them.

Of course there's the cost difference, but then again that goes both ways - I can find avocados, strawberries, etc. here of a quality and at a price you'd be hard pressed to find in France. Tbh, I'd argue that as far as meat/seafood/etc. is concerned, you can get better quality in SF than you can in 90% of France, where your main option will be an Intermarché or a Carrefour.

I'd also argue that the pastries you find at Tartine/Four Barrel/etc. (they typically source from a variety of bakeries from around the bay) are way beyond, in quality, what you'd find in 90% of French bakeries (the glory days of master bakers are long gone, and a lot of it is frozen crap these days, although it's been getting better in the last few years). I suspect that by this point there are more world class bakers by square kilometer in the Bay Area than there are in France, perhaps with the exception of Paris/Lyon (quite a few that I've met went to France to study baking though, so our national pride isn't completely destroyed). I bake my own bread and can buy freshly milled flour from the The Mill, which would also be hard to find in France unless you had personal connections.

But of course, I haven't gotten to the main part - which is the insane diversity of food stores and restaurants here. No matter what kind of south american, african, middle eastern, asian cuisine you want to make/eat, you'll be able to find it. That is not the case at all in France.


What food/restaurants do you remember in Louisiana?


I was a broke grad student so can't speak much to restaurants, although I know my foodie friends have lots of favorites in New Orleans (I was in BR). I was just fortunate enough to make some local friends with cajun families, and the dinners I was invited to were always a flurry of new foods, spices, etc. I got to try new things I had never had before, like okra or catfish or pecan pie, and there was just a very strong food culture.

This was all very different from the more "corn on the cob & chicken nuggets eaten in front of the TV" USA I had known until then.


I'm still in New Orleans for grad school through December at least, but many places have been done for by the pandemic. Not all yet though.


> Bread is sweetened > Bread sucks

I spent some months working in Houston a while back, and this drove me crazy! I mean, why on earth would you sweeten bread?!

Another thing that struck me was how many ingredients everything seemed to have - you could pick up just about any item in a grocery store, and it was pretty much guaranteed to contain 10-30 ingredients. Even the bread.

> Basic cheese in the US

This too - most cheese was of the horrible processed variety, with little flavour and an odd texture. And of course, dozens of ingredients. And of course, there was sugar in it.

Another thing - corn syrup. Not content with putting sugar in everything, corn syrup was added too.


As a Brit living in the US, I have a real problem with the sugar in bread. As a bread lover I detest it. Everything I eat DOESN'T have to be sweet. I can't stand it and I avoid it as much as possible.

In the last few years, I've started making my own sourdough bread (salt, water, flour, homegrown sourdough yeast) with no chemicals and I'm loving it. I can't remember the last time I've bought bread. (Dutch-oven method)

>most cheese was of the horrible processed variety

I had this experience as well, but in the last few years, things have massively improved IMHO. Don't go the deli section (where they cut cheese), go to the area where there's brie/english-chedder etc. However Wisconsin has really stepped up to the plate and now creates very reasonable European styles cheeses (of course, more expensive). It's worth trying it again if you've not done recently.


Reading this brought back another memory - cinnamon! Now, I like cinnamon as much as anyone, but why the hell is it added to everything in the US!


Oh my.. don't get me talking about cinnamon! It's now at a point I refuse to anything with it in.

The only exception is hot-cross-buns during Easter. :)


It's expensive to make good bread. Not in terms of raw materials, but in terms of labor. A machine cannot make a quality loaf of bread, you must gently knead it and let it ride with human hands. There is also a large cost in the right-on-time delivery of "good" bread. There is still quality bread sold at my grocery store, but that kind of bread isn't a staple because people don't want to go to the grocery store every other day when their non-stabilized bread gets eaten, goes stale, or goes moldy.

I am defending "bad" bread because no one ever does, and it's really not comparable to "real" bread because the uses are different. It's cheaper, last much longer, and is better suited for sandwiches and toast because of the square shape.


I'm not hating on cheap bread. You can find cheap, basic batch loaves anywhere in the western world - but the crap I found in the US was the worst.

It doesn't have to be that bad, it doesn't have to have lot's of sugar and corn syrup in it, and it doesn't have to have 20+ ingredients.


> It doesn't have to be that bad, it doesn't have to have lot's of sugar and corn syrup in it

This is my experience as well.


> A machine cannot make a quality loaf of bread, you must gently knead it and let it ride with human hands.

Nonsense. There is nothing wrong with machine kneading, many European countries (but not all!) manage to produce quality loaves at an industrial scale. Can a good baker produce even better bread in small batches? Almost certainly yes. But even there I'm not convinced that it's the kneading specifically, as opposed to general attention to the whole process.


I haven't tried American bread, but Australian is terrible compared to what you can get for little more than 1€ in Germany.

Presumably that's made without human involvement in each loaf.


It is also becoming increasingly difficult to find "plain bread" in Dutch supermarkets. The majority of them now have additives like soy lethicin, 15 kinds of leftover flours/powders from some other industrial process, even the 'artisan' labeled ones.


That saddens me. I must confess that I'm used to my brands, so I don't look around that much at the Albert Heijn (the supermarket I go to, for reference: an upscale-ish supermarket that tries to be normal and sort of is? Looking at fellow Dutchies here to see what they think).


I think (as an American in Amsterdam) —

Low-end: LIDL, VOMAR

Lower-middle: Dirk van der Broek

Middle: Albert Heijn, Jumbo

Middle—high: EkoPlaza, Landmarkt

High-end: Marqt

I buy my bread from Vlaamsch Broodhuys—an upscale bakery chain—as there’s one by my home.

Diverse good breads are easily accessible in the Netherlands, I find. Back in the US, getting good bread is requires research and a drive. In my college town, both of the only two good artisanal bakeries were started by Europeans who were too fed up with American bread culture!


Seconded!


The additives are there for a reason. More bread with more additives is sold because people prefer that type of bread, whether for convenience, price, or they simply prefer the flavor and texture.


As a lifelong consumer of oatmeal but only ever making it one way, now I'm interested, what did you learn about oatmeal?


You can get a burger, or salad (usually with an option to add chicken) at any "American" restaurant. Does that fulfill your standard meal?


When the production of sugar and related sweeteners is among the most subsidized industries in the country, is it any wonder that these find their way into everything?

And a handy side effect for producers is that satiety is short lived, leading to repeated demand in the short term when included in a product.


I absolutely agree - sugar is definitely the issue. Most individuals don't get enough healthy fats due to marketing tactics. Stuff like Omega 3s and general unsaturated fats are incredibly important for brain function, reparation of tissue, etc.


I imagine eating a spoonful of pure steviol would be unpleasant, the acceptable daily intake is at most 12mg per kg of body weight. It's fine for you otherwise, and at a reasonable dose makes a great sugar substitute.


Yes eating out is mostly unhealthy. Anyone who have tried to recreate restaurant dishes at home, you will know how much extra salt, sugar, fat is needed to get that similar tasting profile.


Irrespective of ingredient choices, another thing that differentiates commercial food (non home-cooked) in the USA vs just about everywhere else, is portion sizes. Your portions are huge.


> I'm French ... I'm puzzled by how difficult it is to "eat normally"

This really needs so much attention and focus given the ungodly delicious amount of butter French people cook with.


It is not actually that hard to do, we just have a rushed culture that ends up encouraging people to pick the fastest option. A lot of us are too lazy to cook properly.


I find that the Wholefoods and big Walgreens stores have the best natural healthy food for the least amount of money.


This may sound dumb, but any suggestions on how to eat (i.e. a recipe book) in what you describe as "normal"?


I had to think a little to answer. I don't know any book to learn to cook "as usual" (by the standards of my family for example). However, a good place to find such recipes could be a website called "Marmiton" , where people write their recipes , that are evaluated by the community. If you go for simple recipes, you should not be far from what I define as normal (with all my subjectivity: I understand this is not a valid standard)


I appreciate you taking the time to answer! I'll check out Marmiton.


Last year I went to Europe for a two week vacation. I stuffed myself like a greedy pig for two weeks, but I barely gained any weight on my return to the US. The next week, I went on a staff retreat for only 3 days and stuffed myself again. That time, I gained more than twice what I'd gained in Europe.

I'm convinced that the quality of European food is, on average, vastly superior to what's available in America.


I don't understand how you could possibly think this is a meaningful data point at all.


I remember a question of MetaFilter about this. A bunch of Europeans said that whenever they went on vacation in the US, they lost weight. You're on vacation, walking around all day.


Not to worry, you guys will be sending us boat loads of Chlorine Washed Chicken and pink liquid cow shortly:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47426138


Cheap Fast Food and Huge Portion Size are the biggest culprits to the heath (obesity) crisis in the US.


> I'm French (and incidentally a doctor,and my post is not judgemental in any way, this is not the point). Everytime I travel to the USA, I'm puzzled by how difficult it is to "eat normally" (= by my own standards).

As biologist with a background in Agriculture and Culinary: they exist, most farm to table restaurants in the US just have a small footprint in overall ecosystem. I spent most of my culinary career within them, ranging from Vegan to vegetation to seasonal based omnivore option. I also worked and ran kitchens in Agrotourisms in Europe and I'm familiar benefits with the Mediterranean diet, Spain having now surpassing Japan in Life expectancy, and diet is a significant contributor to it.

> I think sugar is the main problem (not fat) and I'm not convinced calory count is key. We did not evolved to eat processed sugar, which is not easily found naturally in the environment.

Agreed, and even that is not always so cut and clear as having extra CNV of the amalayse gene (like I do) can be super beneficial, which leans to the need of the Biohacker space (of which I'm a part of and is comprised mainly of many dissatisfied Health Scientists) to play with diet and the epigenetic effects of it, as that has been woefuly neglected for decades in Medicine and Scientific journals but a mainstay in the Biohacker community that has become mainstream due to influencers.

As a kid I never understood the allure of sweets/desserts because of the CNV in my saliva is already breaking down the sugars in my mouth and makes super sweet things always taste a bit like the after taste of bitter chocolate or coffee--none of which I like. I always liked eating fruit, especially tart or sour ones more as a desert and only found out later in Life why that was. the study of how a palette is formed is a very interesting and entirely negated study in my opinion.

> This implies to know/learn how to cook (not so hard but this is easier when the local/family culture allowed you to learn passively).

Agreed! The best thing to do is to learn to cook with local, fresh organic products and help solidify a local food supply chain and relationship with your local farmers! This has a compound effect throughout the entire community and many communities are open vacant lots to community garden spaces.

> It looks like this is hard to do in the USA: you don't easily find, for example, yogurt without sugar added. (Or I didn't look at the right place, once again this is not judgemental).

It's there, its just found at higher end stores and outlets, ironically it costs more to deliver a product with less sugar and additives; but even Walmart has been a big player in the Organic produce Market. There is one next to my gym and I often went in to buy a pre-workout snack or a kombucha and there was always something I could eat without spiking my glucose levels.

> Generally speaking, it is easy to find online high-level cooking courses, but hard to learn the basics of how to cook your onions or tomatoes in different ways in everyday life, or make an healthy meal with what's left in the fridge; this could be interesting to have.

Agreed. Its an undervalued art and craft, in Boulder (one of the most concentrated 'foodie' places in the entire US) there are classes offered via a business that offers Learning Kitchen experiences where professional chefs from the surrounding area are commissioned on a topic/recipe/menu and teach paying members of the community on how to do things via interactive cooking.

Its a very cool model that I think should be expanded on. I'd love to be able to work with some of my old team members in the Industry especially if it could help offset my expenses and help me fund other projects in my Life; online learning could be a bridge or a primer, but cooking is ultimately a craft you learn by repeated instruction and correcting hand positioning (re-enforced with lots of cuts, burns, scrapes) that makes it more like going to the gym than watching a lecture on a subject.

You can learn online, I know I did watching Michelin Star chefs on Saturday Kitchen on the BBC before making the return into culinary in Europe, having only ever worked in catering while I was attending University as it inspired me to experiment with different techniques. I'm now retired from Kitchens but want I want to create a food docu-series, as I feel now is a critical time in Restaurants after having been so impacted due to COVID, that many may not make it.

> ban every processed food, sauce, appetizer.... If you would not eat a spoon of every single ingredient of some food, don't eat it. - ban all added sugar, except (real) honey in reasonable proportions.

I'm not for banning anything, just using it in moderation and having people have a solid understanding on what it does to you metabolically and its impacts on health. Japanese and Italian cuisine are the two pillars my culinary repertoire and sugar is a vital component of Japanese recipes that simply cannot be substituted. I've tried stevia and honey but it just doesn't work, a proper tare is sweetned with sugar not just for taste and lush sheen and gloss when used to grill, but also as the precursors for the bacteria to ferment that takes place over years to give it a unique and umami loaded taste that defines Japanese cuisine.

And pasta and bread, carbohydrates, are just processed long-linked sugars and I can never give those up despite seeing and personally experienced the benefits of keto and carnivore diets in my friends.

I'd throw including intermittent fasting and meditation/yoga in that equation as well and you have a solid foundation for how to be healthier and more productive in Life that I found via Biohacking methods, cooking and farming professionally.

I also have the genetics for longevity on both sides of my family: my grandparents all made it to their late 90s, and my grandmother on my maternal side hit 99.7 before passing due to non health related issues, so I'm hoping that with this information guiding my behaviour I can make it to 150 years of age.


> Everytime I travel to the USA, I'm puzzled by how difficult it is to "eat normally"

I'll second that, I've only been once for a few weeks on a work related trip, and I never paid attention to what I was eating but by the second week I felt run down, lathargic and really 'not great' - Hard to describe properly but I wasn't myself at all. With work I was connected with a doctor that I met because I just didn't feel 'right'.

I wasked asked the usual questions but after talking a bit more about my diet usually (even before mentioning what I was eating in the US) she knew exactly what was going on. My body wasn't used to breaking down the amounts of processed sugars that are more commonly found in everyday foods in the US.

I took a more concious approach to what was coming into my body and over a week I was able to feel normal again.

I come from Ireland, we have a diverse mix of foods available, you pick a country, I can tell you a street to find their food authentically and I love trying them. I also cook heavy with bad cholesterol, lots of butter thanks to French friends, lots of salt in other dishes from others, lots of cheese, cured meats, smoked cheeses and meats, snacks etc. - My diet was never interestingly good.

After my US trip I realised that there is a small poisoning in a sense being taken over the consumption.

> My 2 cents: - eat as much vegetables as you want (learn to cook them, with a little bit of olive oil)

I'm not stereotyping here, my exposure to the collegues from the local area never cooked. This is fine, but when you replace good food for fast food, you start to go into that chain. They didn't know a good way how to peel an avocado, which I found out on a drunken night with them in my apartment. 10+ and none of them knew how to prep an avocado. But that is not their fault at all..

> It looks like this is hard to do in the USA

Spot on. I cannot stress this point enough. You have to go out of your way to eat even moderately health conscious. This is a real shame. We will all take the easier path : 'Ah tonight I'll just get take-away, I'll just grab something on the way home.'

I grew up as a kid in Italy until I was 12, probably the only thing that I too away from it as a positive was that preparing, cooking and eating food is really not for sustenance.

Sustenance is the result, what matters is the social time, the prep is almost like a meditation, and the collaborative effort is like a social movement.

Food is really not just for sustenance. And I implore anyone reading this to try just cook a meal with friends, family or loved ones. It has a nice impact on way more than your sustenance intake.

Sugar is good, avocadoes have a lot of them, even the bad ones, but I would much prefer to enjoy my food than inhale it, in the US, it was seen as a time consumer.

'You are what you eat' - This expression didn't come from nowhere.

PS: 5 a day and the Pyramid might be wrong, there is no 1 scale for everyone. But there sure as shit isn't a cereal loaded with sugar for anyone.

What really annoyed me though, was the cost of it. To eat more natural, is more expensive than processing food. Odd.


I am totally not convinced by this argument against sugar. Yes, sugar is calorie dense. Yes, it's easy to eat a lot of calories from sugar. But in the end, even eating NO sugar, if you eat a ton of things, you'll get fat. An then you go on to recommend honey as though there is something magic about it and not pretty much the same thing with sugar.


> But in the end, even eating NO sugar, if you eat a ton of things, you'll get fat.

Not really. Try a ketogenic diet. You can eat tons food (including tons of fat) and still loose weight.


Yes really. Keto still follows calories in/out. Low carb diets are just a way of restricting calories without counting them. People naturally restrict calories when eating low carb -- this is the sole reason it works. You can eat twinkies and mcdonalds and still lose weight if you eat little enough. You can eat no carbs or sugar and still gain weight if you eat more calories than your body needs.

Every diet that doesn't involve directly counting calories tricks you into restricting them in some way, putting you in a caloric deficit. Period. This is how every diet works.


Just not true. Imagine eating 50g of sugar during a run vs 50g of sugar while sitting in the couch for a sedentary person. Your body's hormones also determine fat gain/loss beyond just calories in/out. And fats and proteins, calorie for calorie, produce less fat storage signals.


It's pretty well established that calories alone, not macronutrient composition, are what is responsible for weight loss: https://examine.com/nutrition/what-should-you-eat-for-weight.... There are plenty of studies comparing low-carb diets to not and no difference in weight loss was found when controlling for calories.


Not quite. Sugar spikes your insulin, insulin provokes fat storage.

This does not happen with fat, so it is harder to get fat by eating fat.

If you want to get fat, like a sumo ringer, simple carbs are the way to go.


Insulin is not required for fat storage. Insulin spikes do not create energy out of nowhere and don't suddenly make the same number of input calories multiply. Also, insulin spikes are nearly unpredictable anyway. Carbs aren't necessarily the trigger, protein and fat can be too. Sometimes foods are synergistic and spike insulin together more than eaten separately. Insulin spikiness is also determined by food in your stomach, further complicating things. For example, having fiber with a meal can "smooth out" an insulin spike.

I summarized some articles that dispel insulin voodoo here, if you're interested: https://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/comments/j853z/insulin_an_u...


The linked-to discussion of insulin has a major error logical error. The title is "Insulin: An Undeserved Bad Reputation", but then the body of the article says for example "Carbs are not alone in being responsible for insulin secretion. Protein can cause just as much, if not more, insulin secretion as carbs". This is a straw man, because the point that is trying to be refused is that "insulin is bad", not "carbs are bad".

Insulin, being necessary for healthy human life, is certainly not "bad". However, a shortage (e.g. Type 1 diabetes) or excess (e.g. Type 2 diabetes) is certainly a problem. Given the current epidemic of Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and NAFLD, triggering excess insulin production is certainly something to be wary of.

Also of concern is impinging on the glucagon cycle, and in the linked-to post there is no mention of the important function of glucagon, which is typically considered as having effects opposite to insulin. Maintaining the insulin/glucagon cycle is important in maintenance of a healthy metabolism.

The article makes a point about how "Insulin is not needed for fat storage", but omits the fact that in reality, practically all fat storage is mediated by insulin and its effects on glucose. Insulin mediates glucose transport and promotes absorption of blood glucose into the liver, fat and muscle cells. Once the liver has filled its compliment of glycogen, it will indeed produce fat locally. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) currently afflicts about 25% of the entire human population, and the linked-to author would have the reader believe that excess insulin production isn't an issue? Very strange.

All in all, this article paints a false picture of human metabolism. People eating a typical Western diet should be concerned or at least aware of the facts of that process, and be wary of having an excess or deficit of insulin; and should know that the excess case is the more common condition. A reasonable scientifically-accurate depiction of the process can be found, for example, in Jason Fung's books, "The Diabetes Code" and "The Obesity Code".


> This is a straw man, because the point that is trying to be refused is that "insulin is bad", not "carbs are bad".

I don't see how this is a strawman. Click through to the source article, that bullet point in particular is refuting the common belief that carbs alone are what spike insulin. Most insulin-centric discussion on fitness forums (which is where this was posted) tends to mention insulin spikes in the context of high-GI carbs.

> Also of concern is impinging on the glucagon cycle, and in the linked-to post there is no mention of the important function of glucagon, which is typically considered as having effects opposite to insulin.

Read the linked "part 1". It specifically mentions that newer research shows that glucagon does not counteract insulin as previously thought, and links some studies.

> The article makes a point about how "Insulin is not needed for fat storage", but omits the fact that in reality, practically all fat storage is mediated by insulin and its effects on glucose.

That isn't really relevant to the core point, which is debunking the idea that insulin is what makes us fat.

I just want to restate the fact that the above reddit post is a summary of articles, which themselves are a summary of studies. It is targeted at fitness people who are discussing insulin only in the context of weight loss. There is of course an oversimplification here due to omitting details the target audience might not need as well as being 2 steps removed from the source material.


The linked-to "Part 1" includes the "myth" that his discussion is referring to, and so is much less misleading. However, personally, I'm not aware of anyone interested in this kind of thing who holds those myths to be true; it's very common knowledge that if you ingest any calories, or taste something sweet, etc, it will trigger the release of insulin. (However, I'm confident that you and the Part 1 author know your target audience, and these myths perhaps make perfect sense to address to them).

Likewise for his comments on glucagon, it does not "cancel" the effects of insulin, it rather has the opposite effect at the same time. Also, in a natural system (i.e. without intervention), secretion of insulin typically suppresses secretion of glucagon, with some rare exceptions. He's stating a supposed myth and then taking it down with another one.

The two papers cited for his interpretation of the role of glucagon are quite old, from 2001. There have been dozens of studies since then, confirming the role of glucagon in lipid metabolism, from many different perspectives.

Here is one published last year

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31068828/

"Collectively, emerging data support an essential role of glucagon for lipid metabolism."

There are dozens of others -- you can get a start on this reading by seeing who has cited the two papers he referred to.

I didn't understand that the main point was "debunking the idea that insulin is what makes us fat", since I don't know anyone who believes that. Chronic poor nutrition can make you fat, sure, and rising basal insulin levels tend to occur as a result of that, but saying "insulin is what makes us fat" sounds a lot like "yellow fingertips cause lung cancer". Nobody I know believes that is true. I have to keep up on these things for my work, in drug development.

Regarding "being 2 steps removed", yes, it seems like some "broken telephone" is going on.

Be well!


> I didn't understand that the main point was "debunking the idea that insulin is what makes us fat", since I don't know anyone who believes that. Chronic poor nutrition can make you fat, sure, and rising basal insulin levels tend to occur as a result of that, but saying "insulin is what makes us fat" sounds a lot like "yellow fingertips cause lung cancer". Nobody I know believes that is true. I have to keep up on these things for my work, in drug development.

Insane amount of people believes and promotes that. As in INSANE. Just check any sports/diet related magazine :)


Insulin is mostly (in humans, not rats) a hormone signalling energy availability. That's why many humans secret insulin when we smell or taste food, way before it hits GI tract.

> Maintaining the insulin/glucagon cycle is important in maintenance of a healthy metabolism.

No point in focusing on hormones so much. I somehow don't see people fretting over their ACTH or progesterone.

> Insulin mediates glucose transport and promotes absorption of blood glucose into the liver, fat and muscle cells.

If you look at data from humans - insulin IS NOT needed for glucose absorption. Studies on diabetic people clearly show that glucose gradient into the cell is higher, not lower, despite them being incredibly insulin resistant. 1st role of insulin in humans that's critical is shutting down liver glucogenesis and gluconeogenesis.

The problem with insulin/glucose narration is omitting the role of FFA. Intracellular FFA levels drive down the glucose absorption gradient. If the glucose absorption gradient is low and we still have glucose - that will stimulate more insulin release to drive that glucose level to normal.

Problem is that as more insulin is present cells eventually start being resistant to insulin requiring more insulin for the same job. Which makes for a problem because if insulin is there to shut down liver glucogenesis and cells are now more resistant to insulin - bad news, we need more insulin to get blood glucose to same levels with a meal that used to be no problem.

Adipose tissue is simply the number #1 a-hole here because it's usually the least resistant to insulin and the least resistant to nutrient storage since it's its primary role. It will just pack more in.

P.S. Isn't Fung a quack? E.g. https://www.myoleanfitness.com/evidence-caloric-restriction/


> No point in focusing on hormones so much. I somehow don't see people fretting over their ACTH or progesterone.

I respectfully disagree. When I go to USA or Mexico in particular, the frequency of obesity is astonishing. Perhaps with more understanding of the mechanisms around the phenomenon, there would be more success in dealing with the problem. As I mentioned earlier, around 25% of the entire human population has NAFLD, which is also an astonishing figure.

I'm not saying that every person must study these metabolic pathways in detail, but rather that the quick and simple rules and choices people make in daily life should take advantage of what is known, hopefully for a better outcome than what is currently observed.

> insulin IS NOT needed for glucose absorption

I'm not aware of anyone claiming insulin is needed for glucose absorption. The brain, liver, and red blood cells, for example, cannot function properly if they are sensitive to blood insulin levels; this may be because the RBC and brain rely on a steady supply of glucose, and the liver must be able to take up or release glucose on its own schedule.

On the other hand, muscle and adipose tissue DO have insulin-sensitive GLUT4 transporters. The GLUT family of transporters are passive, so glucose flows down its concentration gradient, unlike the sodium-linked transporters of the gut and kidney, which actively transport glucose against a gradient.

So in the case of adipose tissue, it does require glucose in order to store fat. The glycerol backbone for intracellular triglyceride synthesis is provided by glucose. In a person without diabetes, insulin is released from the vesicles when the body detects the amino acids leucine and arginine, or the sugars glucose and mannose. So typically, insulin will also be present, and having its usual effect on the GLUT4 transporters.

This is all covered, to some degree, in the appendices to Fung's book on obesity, by the way.

> Adipose tissue is [...] usually the least resistant to insulin and the least resistant to nutrient storage since it's its primary role. It will just pack more in.

Yes that is my point as well.

> P.S. Isn't Fung a quack? E.g. https://www.myoleanfitness.com/evidence-caloric-restriction/

No, Fung is not a quack.

It doesn't seem fair to even compare Fung's work with the claims of Myolean, because Fung is a trained scientist and knows how to read, interpret, and communicate scientific information in the traditional manner that others can understand. Even if Fung's arguments were wrong, at a superficial level he would be more persuasive because he knows how to use the language and standards of science.

However, examining the discussion in some details will reveal that Fung is correct in all the major points covering this topic, as best as is known at present. (Of course there are major unknowns when it comes to human metabolism, but there is also a lot that is known).

From the link you provided, it seems quite apparent that Myolean does not understand what a non-linear feedback system is (e.g. human metabolism), and doesn't understand the role of motivation and willpower (for compliance) involved in maintaining a calorie-deficient or calorie-neutral diet.

At no point does Fung say the laws of thermodynamics don't apply, but rather that they aren't very relevant when you incorporate the variability of basal metabolism, and motivation/willpower, into the model. One of Fung's major points is that in reality, when people try to follow restrictive diets, doing it in a way that leaves you constantly hungry, with low willpower, and continuously high insulin production leads to failure of achieving desired results.

Here is Fung discussing FFA [1].

[1] https://www.dietdoctor.com/fasting-and-cholesterol

Lastly, it would be easier to take Myoleanfitness more seriously if I didn't get the feeling they are trying to sexually manipulate me with a hit of dopamine and testosterone with their ads such as [2] and [3].

[2] https://www.myoleanfitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Su...

[3] https://www.myoleanfitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/On...

The point is, the substance of the Myoleanfitness argument is not even wrong, its just irrelevant. But the form in this case matches the content. Distracting and irrelevant.


> I'm not saying that every person must study these metabolic pathways in detail, but rather that the quick and simple rules and choices people make in daily life should take advantage of what is known, hopefully for a better outcome than what is currently observed.

I agree. I'm simply pointing out the fact that with the picture as complex as we know it is I have a knee jerk reaction to people going from "how to have normal BF%" to "ok, let's talk about insulin". It's the same thing with people talking about brain, attention span and productivity. 10 seconds into the discussions it's "dopamine, dopamine ... DOPAMINE"

> So in the case of adipose tissue, it does require glucose in order to store fat. The glycerol backbone for intracellular triglyceride synthesis is provided by glucose.

Yes. And? Glucose to some extent is always present in the blood. Drop the glucose low enough and brain will die. One could say that adipose tissue will always figure out how to store fat.

As we go on you reference Fung (and defend him) a fair bit. I'd like to take this opportunity to state the obvious. Jason Fung is a trained and certified nephrologist, book author, popular doctor and so on. He does not hold (to my knowledge) a PhD nor has he published any peer-reviewed studies.

Thus calling him a quack on my part was bad (I was pulling your leg a bit) but he cannot be considered a scientist either. He's an expert in his field but his books can't be considered textbooks on human endocrinolongy. He's allowed to have his own opinion but asking anybody to agree or disagree with his views without in-depth study of them is asking too much and he haven't (to my knowledge) presented them in the form of some kind of scientific paper it's not worth arguing whether he's right or not.

That being said - the link you provided on FFA is about cholesterol. I fail to see how that's relevant to discussion about FFA impact on insulin resistance?

Alas, to make my point. Obesity is certainly a multifaceted problem. Thermodynamics certainly matter, human psyche, inflammation, hormones - essentially all of that has its place. Looking from a systems point of view there's no reason (and probably there isn't one) to look for single causative agent though some certainly play a grater role.

In my experience both time-restricted feeding, caloric restriction and macro restriction work and have their place depending on the individual. Generally as a rule IF and low-carb are certainly good ideas, I'm not a fan of keto for everything.


> As we go on you reference Fung (and defend him) a fair bit

I defend Jason Fung because he's one of the few in this area of science and medicine who has gone to the trouble of writing books that ordinary people can understand, and yet still have some scientific rigor. I could cite innumerable scientific papers that very few have the training to read, or the one author who took the time to write something anyone literate can at least follow along with.

There are hundreds if not thousands of researchers and practitioners in this area, so it is convenient to point to someone that anybody literate can read and rely on. His books (several of them overlap greatly) cite hundreds of papers, so that work mostly a compilation of other's work (as it should be).

> He does not hold (to my knowledge) a PhD nor has he published any peer-reviewed studies.

From his books there are some references to his published scientific work on fasting, diabetes, CKD, and so on. See also https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=jason+fung+intermittent... , https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=jason+fung+diabetes , https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=jason+fung+ckd , and https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=jason+fung+pcos for examples.

I'm not sure what a PhD has to do with anything, most of my scientific work was published before I got mine, or even started it, as is common in industry and applied sciences.

> That being said - the link you provided on FFA is about cholesterol. I fail to see how that's relevant to discussion about FFA impact on insulin resistance?

I'm sorry you don't see the connection regarding FFA, perhaps you can re-read what he wrote and click through to the underlying reference to get a better idea (the title is "Fat Oxidation, Body Composition and Insulin Sensitivity in Diabetic and Normoglycaemic Obese Adults 5 Years After Weight Loss"). I couldn't find the text of Fung's book online, but the other paper he references in this connection is "The role of fatty acids in insulin resistance" (2015) which I did find online, here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4587882/ .

> Alas, to make my point. Obesity is certainly a multifaceted problem. Thermodynamics certainly matter, human psyche, inflammation, hormones - essentially all of that has its place. Looking from a systems point of view there's no reason (and probably there isn't one) to look for single causative agent though some certainly play a grater role. In my experience both time-restricted feeding, caloric restriction and macro restriction work and have their place depending on the individual. Generally as a rule IF and low-carb are certainly good ideas, I'm not a fan of keto for everything.

I agree in general. I think IF is fine, I'm favor of balanced diets not very low or high in anything in general, and I believe without regular blood work and expert supervision, keto is downright dangerous for most. Thermodynamics are present, true, but this is in practice perhaps not the most helpful perspective, since things like willpower, hunger, and sustainably maintaining a healthy diet matter more; the thermodynamic perspective fails to model the feedback control system that regulates the human behavior component. Nonetheless, I agree with the overall thrust of your comment.

Best regards, and thank you for the conversation!


Best regard to you too :)


You are missing the point. Carbs and fat are not metabolized the same, that is my point.

> Insulin is not required for fat storage.

Insulin provokes fat storage, regardless of any other pathways that may exist. Spiking your insulin with refined carbs is going to provoke fat storage more than the equivalent caloric amount of fat.

> Insulin spikes do not create energy out of nowhere and don't suddenly make the same number of input calories multiply.

Unfortunately, this "law of thermodynamics" view of things is too simple.

> Also, insulin spikes are nearly unpredictable anyway. Carbs aren't necessarily the trigger, protein and fat can be too.

Fat has minimal impact on insulin levels. Refined carbohydrates can raise blood sugar very high, requiring a double dose of insulin to get back to baseline. Meals high in protein or more complex carbs will be somewhere in the middle.

> I summarized some articles that dispel insulin voodoo here

If there's anything that's being dispelled there, it's not something that I actually said. Seems like this is a pet peeve of yours and you're seeing someone else in me.


If anyone else wants to get into this, there are a few really strong measures that correlate fairly well to the DEXA scans. My favorite (because its easy): measure your waist just above your belly button. This area has virtually no "bulky" muscle and is one of the principle deposits of "internal" body fat.

The two measures I take everyday are:

1. Body weight; and,

2. Waist size.

I use the following routine for weight loss (I've lost about 50kg, and have kept it off for several years):

1. You must have a diet to weigh less;

2. You must have a distinct diet to lose weight;

3. You must do low impact cardio — I walk 3-5 miles a day; and,

4. You must do resistance training.

Those four things have the following purpose:

1. Keep you at a stable weight;

2. Take off weight;

3. Increase background caloric burn from "super sedentary"; and,

4. Encourage fat loss over lean body mass loss.

All of this is requires routine. You must develop a routine for the rest of your life, and not vary from it. It also requires honesty: you need to be honest with yourself about what you're eating, when; what exercise you're really doing; when. And, finally, if you're overweight you're at the mercy of millions of years of evolution, but you're the victim of our modern diet. It's not your fault, but there is something you can do about it.


Big shoutout to saying low impact cardio. Running is the big example that can cause pain where people's bodies are so different that it's not clear what the correct form is for them or if there's even a good form.

I play and follow golf and the big injury issue with Tiger that made him multiple surgeries, and also had to reshape his golf swing from the pain running caused. Here's an article[0] about that from Running Magazine. There's more to the story on this, like his background and mentality on Navy Seal training, with his body type and high impact running it caused huge problems he's still dealing with.

As for funning form types, check out the video of Cliff Young and his running style[1] for the Sydney to Melbourne race at 61 but shuffling.

What I'm saying, and what I'm glad you included, is the importance of cardio being low impacts, and to also not feel bad if you're not a running. Biking, and especially swimming are great alternatives and so much better on your body long term.

[0] https://runningmagazine.ca/the-scene/tiger-woods-regrets-run... [1] https://vimeo.com/258718906


I have a long history of back pain going back to college (32 now). As I've gotten older (and a bit bigger) I've started to get knee pain in addition if I run a lot. So I recently switched to biking which has honestly been way more fun, opened me up to exploring more parts of my city and the surrounding area than running did, and I haven't really had any associated pains since starting roughly a year ago.

I still drink way too much so losing weight is an issue, but I do feel healthier at least.


Back pain is almost always an indicator of posterior chain weakness. Do daily squats (just up & down), and do toe-touch-stretches (legs about 2x shoulder width, right-hand-to-left-toe, stand up with arms in the air, left-hand-to-right-toe).

Personally, I just do weighted squats & heavy deadlift, but if your knees are bad, that's a bad idea. You can chat with a PT for 50–80$ and they can tell you exactly what's wrong & how to fix it in less than an hour.


It's been an ongoing, years-long effort to find the root cause and alleviate the pain. I was finally diagnosed with degenerative disc disease (aka shitty spinal discs). One particularly pessimistic doctor said I was "an otherwise healthy thirty year old with the back of a 70 year old" after looking at my MRI, though others I have seen said it's not THAT bad. I was a fairly accomplished High School Cross Country runner and ran for years after graduating, so I have to imagine that was cause for some of the issues I have today but the doctors have all said it could have been any number of things.

I did recently have two radiofrequency ablations done, which burned the nerves that were giving me considerable pain. So far it's been successful and my biking/walking/lightweight lifting routine has probably helped too.


I know 3 people diagnosed with DDD and recommended surgery who got a second opinion who told them they are fine and just to take it easy for a while. Just something to keep in mind.


"You can chat with a PT for 50–80$ and they can tell you exactly what's wrong & how to fix it in less than an hour."

That's a complete lie. Most PTs don't know anything about anything and will try to milk you for "motivating" you in your workout and keeping a notebook for you on a regular basis. Usually for at least $300-500 a month, even at horrible gyms. By no means will they be able to tell you remotely, let alone, exactly "what's wrong".

"Personally, I just do weighted squats & heavy deadlift, but if your knees are bad, that's a bad idea."

Yea, and guess what? There is no easy solution for this, let alone one provided by a random PT. It's a cascading effect - you have one injury, you can't address the muscle imbalances causing it.

As far as posterior chain weakness, there is also the issue of lordosis, which results in horrible squat form. Deadlifts do help, but again, there is the risk of hyper-extension.

In short, solutions to this are far, far more complicated than your post implies.


I'm guess you're reading PT as personal trainer and it was intended as physical therapist.


Someone replied to you, already; I meant “physical therapist”, not “personal trainer”. I don’t have any experience with personal trainers. Sorry for the confusion.


As a note, at least in the UK, if someone talks about a Personal Trainer they'll say PT (although I rarely here that, most people just say personal trainer) but if you want to talk about a physiotherapist people will usual shorten it to 'physio'.


I apologize for misunderstanding. Sometimes a physical therapist can definitely help!


Running is also by far the most efficient form of cardio in terms of calories burned / time.


Intermittent fasting also helps. Many people do 16:8 (16 hours of fasting) and only eat from 12-8 or 10-6.

With IF, I lost about ~5 lbs doing nothing besides being more mindful. Once I added in daily runs / walks of ~4-5 miles, I lost another ~10 lbs easily.

I think the biggest challenge for people looking to lose weight is mindless eating / snacking. Initially I kept a diet journal and wrote down everything I ate or drank, and realized I would get more snacks throughout the day than I thought. I also drank a lot less water than I thought.

The other thing is portions. When I was at my largest, the portions I would set for myself were larger, and I would more often get a second round. All without really thinking about it, of course. Now I deliberately think about how big of a portion is appropriate and I never go for seconds except on some cheat days.


Agree, I didn't mention this in the post but I've become a big fan of intermittent fasting, which is a fancy way of saying "skip breakfast". I only eat from 12-8pm and most days from 12-6pm. I also found that even if I wake up a bit hungry my morning coffee suppresses my appetite and I rarely struggle to get to lunch. A hard threshold on 8pm also avoids most of the unhealthy snacking that tends to happen in late hours. I find that as the body winds down for the day and is a bit more tired my defenses and motivation are down a bit and I feel tempted by snacks. With IF it's easy to blanket reject such ideas from my brain because I'm outside of my window. There is also a slight element to which the body "gets used to" the feeding schedule, and doesn't bother you as much outside of it with snacking ideas.


I'm with you on the appetite suppression. I got into making decent coffee recently, probably from being stuck at home, and it's interesting how strong the effect is. Especially when coupled with a walk round the local park (e.g. 5k) I often don't feel hungry until mid afternoon. There is also the other reliable effect that I won't mention here!

One other thing I realised post-lockdown is just how much I relied on exercise to keep my back/posture in check. I used to climb regularly, though I slacked off on the cardio. Since quarantining, I've done a lot less resistance exercise and it really shows. One day of poor posture - e.g. hunching over a workbench, or working from a non-optimal place like bed or the couch - is enough to cause quite a lot of backache and it only really goes away after doing some exercise (far more effective in my experience than icing/heating/NSAIDs). My plan is to get back into bodyweight/calisthenics ASAP.

(Very interesting article by the way, the subway map would make a great poster)


I need some polls about the relationship between 'hunger' and boredom. I felt skipping meals was difficult for a few minutes but then I turned the eating-stress into action and it made me slightly manically motivated into doing some task (electronics, cleaning, jogging) and few minutes later the hunger disappeared.


Also a coronavirus convert to "skip breakfast". That has let some weight to "effortlessly" slide off. Down about 7 pounds (3-ish kg) from 195 (88.5). I have many more days behind me that before me, so I refuse to give up on eating things I've spent a lifetime consuming (red meat, super processed snack foods: high density carbohydrates, fat, salt and probably more sugar/HFCS than I care to consider. Mmmmm). It has been all about quantity for me. I have been consistent about getting exercise, but that has minimal impact on weight as has been pointed out.


Well weight is one thing but in my case sport is such a cornerstone of my well being. Even if one is heavy, I think being very active leads to tons of benefits internally.


> I also drank a lot less water than I thought.

For me, the key to staying hydrated is large containers.

When there is a glass of water on my desk in front of me, I sip it as I get thirsty. When it runs dry, I don't interrupt my current task to refill it, so it might sit empty for hours, and I won't drink enough later to make up for it. So, the fewer times I have to refill, the more water I drink.

In college, when I moved between many locations, I used a 1-quart canning jar in a knitted sleeve (classier and a little fall protection -- just remember you still have to wash it). These days, it's a 1-liter jug (err, may technically be a vase) that sits on my desk. I refill it in the morning (or night before) and once in the middle of the day, after it runs out.


IF only achieves point 1 of the four points above, I’ve done it for years but if I only do IF I’ll still carry usually a small belly. Also if you don’t do minimal exercise it does feel harder - your calorie budget goes down super low when you’re really sedentary. No room for snacks or any indulgence.

Whereas if you workout daily even in a minimal form, suddenly you have a much easier budget.


Huh, so I tried intermittent fasting for probably six months and honestly it didn't make much difference for me personally. I'm 185cm and ~66-68kg so I was more trying to keep a consistent weight rather than lose weight though.

For me, snacking was fixed by not buying snacks that I would consider too unhealthy. Generally the only snack foods I have in my house now are biscuits to dip in my tea in the evening (British..). Also I've never really liked fizzy drinks and pretty much drink water and black coffee (soya milk once a day for the B12 and protein).

I do agree with the biggest thing for me being portion size, I'm one of those people that if there's food on the table I will finish it, and I'll finish my wife's food as well if she doesn't want it. My wife also doesn't help as if I mention I'm hungry to her, she'll assume that I want more than usual and have to try and remind her that the usual amount will be more than enough :)


The idea of intermittent fasting from 12-8pm is kind of amusing to me because that's just when I tend to eat anyway. I guess I've been intermittent fasting my whole life!


The problem with daily measurements is it can lead to frustration. The daily number may change constantly but it's the moving average that matters. Few people can track a number without asking themselves what that number means for them.

I want a scale without a screen and a measuring tape without numbers. Track often but only see the trend when you ask for it.


This is a super interesting idea, that maybe hasn't been explored deeply enough. Of course, for some people, the obsession with precise, day-to-day numbers is an almost-unmitigated inspiration.

In my experience, the trick with body weight is that you actually do have almost perfect control over the day to day.

Assuming you take it in the morning before breakfast and after the bathroom, it's almost a pure function of your weight yesterday and the caloric balance from the day prior. If you control your caloric balance with diet and exercise, you can predict your 1-2lb swings (aka constant swings) pretty accurately.


> If you control your caloric balance with diet and exercise, you can predict your 1-2lb swings (aka constant swings) pretty accurately.

The featured article tried and failed to do exactly this. As in, not just the magnitude but even the direction of the swing was often estimated incorrectly. My guess is that you would need to be very careful about accounting for water.


Perhaps if your macro ratio is consistent. The article’s author postulated that some daily weight swings he experienced were caused by increased water retention from glycogen after eating larger amounts of carbohydrates.


After years of experimentation, lately I’ve decided that eating like my grandparents (i.e., eating like a traditional Japanese) is the easiest way to keep myself lean and healthy.

Traditional Japanese meals follow a standard format [1]: a bowl of rice, several small sides (which can change by the day), and an optional cup of miso soup. Sticking to this format every day can be boring, but it keeps my diet reasonably balanced without the need for conscious efforts like counting calories (which I'm too lazy to continue long-term).

[1] https://elemental.medium.com/ichiju-sansai-how-to-construct-...

I think in modern cities we have too much freedom with regard to what we eat, which is great of course but the downside is that we’ve lost a great deal of local culinary tradition, and along with it intuitive understandings of what is and what isn’t healthy eating.


> the downside is that we’ve lost a great deal of local culinary tradition

I don't think we've lost anything; it's just that, in an era of cheap economies of scale from mass-production, artisanal anything (including artisanal cooking) is going to cost more—possibly enough to put most "authentic" / "traditional" cuisine out of reach of the working class, unless they're willing to make it themselves. (And who has the time for that?)

If you live in a city, look through restaurant reviews for a couple minutes and you'll probably be able to find a dozen local places in your own neighbourhood that have been open for 80 years or more, keeping up the tradition of serving the same food, the same way, that they always have. The only thing that such places have changed between then and now, are their prices.


Not sure where you live but I have never lived in a city with a dozen restaurants with an 80+ year history with the same way of traditional food prep/ingredients. Restaurants have exceptionally short lives as it is a brutal industry, and supply chains have absolutely changed over 80 years.


The funny thing is that eating rice isn't even that old of a tradition, and neither is eating it in polished, white form. White rice only became ubiquitous when milling technology improved, and spoilage of the oils in brown rice became a concern for storage.

> Despite its long history in Japan rice was, for a long time, a food reserved for the warriors and the nobility. It was consumed by the majority of the population only from the seventeenth century onwards, not becoming the basis of Japanese food until the early twentieth century

https://www.japan-experience.com/to-know/chopsticks-at-the-r...

> A disproportionate share of the rice crop was therefore consumed in the cities and by the political and economic elite, while the diet of much of the rural population continued to depend on the availability of a range of other grains – wheat, millet, barley, etc. – together with vegetables, fruit, pulses and occasional fish or game, grown at home or collected in the locality.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0955580070133003...


I currently work for a company that makes glucose monitors for people with diabetes, but we (non-diabetic) employees sometimes get to try the products out.

As far as I'm aware, all the current medical literature states to avoid simple carbs (like white rice) to prevent insulin spikes, and to eat things like whole grain breads instead. But, we noticed that this seems to only be true for people of European descent - my Asian co-workers were able to process white rice just fine. Which kind of makes sense - East Asian people eat a ton of rice, and yet they're thin.

This is all purely anecdotal of course, and I'm not a doctor, but we do know that different ethnicities process food differently (e.g. lactose), and it's not so hard to imagine that our current dietary recommendations might be a bit skewed, because the people in the datasets are mostly of European ancestry.


I've read elsewhere that East Asians are more prone to diabetes than are other ethnicities. A quick google search for "east asian diabetes" yields links for higher risk, with diabetes occurring at lower BMI values. Also, the nature of diabetes type II appears to be different [2].

1. https://www.clinicalcorrelations.org/2018/11/30/how-diabetes...

2. https://asiandiabetesprevention.org/what-is-diabetes/why-are...


Genetic nutrition optimization is a really interesting topic related to this. There are many other differences related to our genetics that impact how we process food.


That's a good point, I cook my rice with all kinds of millet, barley, and seeds mixed in. My grandparents would probably think that's backwards, why would I eat barley when I could afford white rice.

But it's supposedly healthier (there's a famous story about how eating too much white rice crippled the Japanese navy [1]), and personally I think it tastes better too.

[1] https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/rice-disease-mystery-e...


I honestly don't know how my grandparents ate. Between their generation and my parents', a lot of traditional food knowledge was lost. My maternal grandmother made all sorts of things from scratch--but I can't recall my mom making anything that didn't come in a box or a can.

I've had great success losing weight and keeping it off with food logging (shout out to Cronometer, the best food logging app I've used), trying to adhere to a keto diet, and time-restricted feeding (18 hours fasted, 6 eating). If I tried to do an ancestral diet instead, I'd fail primarily from ignorance of just what that might be. (Also, I'm from the southern US, so it's not like that ancestral diet is necessarily good for me anyway.)


As a practical matter, does 4 bowls and 2 plates per person, and preparing 4-5 different dishes, every day have a huge overhead in preparation, cooking and washing up?


Not really, I’m not cooking anything remotely fancy and we have all sorts of technology to help us nowadays.

For example, cooking rice is simply a matter of putting rice and water into the cooker and pressing a button [1]. In the past we needed to first rinse the rice by hand.

[1] https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2009/04/16/reference/no-wa...


Rice in USA is often enriched but it's a trade off whether you should wash it these days given the amount of arsenic in rice growing soils.


This is very informative.


> As a result I’ve improved a number of biomarkers (e.g. resting heart rate, resting blood glucose, strength, endurance, nutritional deficiencies, etc). I wish I could say I feel significantly better or sharper, but honestly I feel about the same. But the numbers tell me I’m supposed to be on a better path and I think I am content with that .

I appreciate this honesty


I think a lot of that last point can be attributed to gradual improvement and acclimation to that improvement. If you were able to snapshot mood and mental health like you could a picture of your body, you might see a marked improvement over pre-healthy-lifestyle vs., say, post-1-year-healthy-lifestyle.

For example, I've been losing weight and doing body-weight training the last month-and-a-half and a picture of my body now vs. then shows a fairly drastic change. But I can' say that I feel like I weigh less or feel that I'm stronger. Though, the scale and reps of exercise that I can do say otherwise. Every day starts a "new normal."


A lot of people also aren't "in tune" with their bodies, especially those with weaker autobiographical memories. Many just don't internalize or remember how they feel over different time periods except for extreme events (emotional, strong smells, etc.). Unless they have a hangover, they don't much consider how they feel on a relative scale, let alone try to tie it back to their past diet or lifestyle. Throw in a lot of drugs like caffeine, antidepressants, pain killers, depressants like alcohol, stimulants like ADHD meds and it results in a perfect storm where subtle signals that many people are naturally mindful of just get drowned out. Even becoming aware that you can differentiate signals takes practice just like any other muscle.

This has been my biggest struggle with health. I've always had troubles with autobiographical memory and without it, I can't stay motivated because I quickly forget how good exercise felt or how junk food made me feel a few hours later. I started going to the gym to dogfood when I joined a fitness company and within a few months I was looking a lot better but not feeling it. It wasn't until I started to really push my limit with rowing workouts that I felt the "runner's high" athletes talk about. From that point on, it was felt like I was discovering a new muscle group every few weeks and correlating how far I rowed in a 60 minute rowing session with my diet and lifestyle. Junk food that I would scarf down because unappetizing. Drinking alcohol went from a no-brainer to "how will I feel tomorrow?" Morning stretches and exercise became mandatory just to feel "normal."

Even now, with the gyms closed for months, I can feel that newly acquired skill slipping and predictably, my self discipline slides too. I've almost forgotten how good it feels after a nice workout.


I can very much relate to this. I have tended to always be someone that pays attention to these minor details. To me, it is absolutely insane that people don't remember or internalize how they feel regularly. For example, I can tell you with ease that I had a long string of extreme productivity and focus in March lasting until the middle of April which dipped during May and is now peaking again. I can tell you what I believe to have caused it and what also ruined it. Productivity, Energy, sleep quality and overall mood are things I think about daily.

For me developing this skill was a necessity after I encountered frequent headaches from eating and drinking the "wrong" things. I was basically forced to take my awareness of general overall wellbeing up a notch to really figure out what was causing them. Noticing small signs became important to prevent being sidelined from life with a nasty headache.

I have it down pretty well now and there are certain very small, but distinct, signals and feelings that tell me when headaches are coming so I can work to prevent them.

Anecdotal, but I've talked to lots of acquaintances about this and no one seems to understand what I'm talking about. I've also been meditating for 4+ years perhaps that adds to the heightened awareness.

I don't want to say that people are "unconscious" but is sad that many are missing out on a more nuanced experience of life.


>Even now, with the gyms closed for months, I can feel that newly acquired skill slipping and predictably, my self discipline slides too. I've almost forgotten how good it feels after a nice workout.

Right? I've noticed my own mental health is slipping and I'm certain I can track it to things closing, me working from home more often, and my eating worse.

The unknown and anxiety around the start of the lockdowns and pandemic made me gravitate towards the 'comfort' foods and it's been a slow decline in mood and physical health since. Thankfully I've started to recognize this and remember how I felt before the start of all this so now I'm slowly working towards that point again.


I don't doubt the author gained benefits from the lifestyle change. I just appreciate the lack of hyperbole when describing how they feel. It's hard to get nutrition and health advice without a product/service incentive attached to it nowadays. The excerpt I highlighted matched the qualitative and candid style of the rest of the post.

It's refreshing


Oh, yea. I agree. I suffer from panic attacks and general anxiety and when I picked up lifting/running a while back one of my friends asked if it helped and I gave him the same, honest "uh..not really.", which he was kinda bummed for me about. But I learned to enjoy those things on their own. Or, at least, I enjoyed being able to pat myself on the back after running for 4 miles straight.


Your comment seems to imply that it didn't help. Would you recommend picking lifting/running up? I went on meds recently for the same issues but had a bad (lasting) experience, so I'm looking towards therapy and healthy eating / exercising for the future now.


Here's what I have to say, with the disclaimer that everyone's experience is different and your results may vary:

> Your comment seems to imply that it didn't help.

Not that, so much. More that it'd be disingenuous for me to say that I noticed that exercise had a direct impact on my mental health. Cutting down on my consumption of alcohol (a lot) has probably had the most direct link to increased mental health, for what it's worth.

> Would you recommend picking lifting/running up?

Yes, indeed. It's undeniably good for your body. Just... don't go in with the expectation that it's gonna be an immediate mood-booster, though. If that does happen, great! But expect the actual (and measurable) rewards to be increased strength and endurance. Be happy with that. :)

I've been prescribed medication, but never got it filled (didn't like that prescribing meds was the default "fix"). Been close to going to therapy, but haven't (I'm skeptical of certain therapist's qualifications and I don't think I can really afford it long-term). So far, I've been able to live with my malady's. Just...REALLY uncomfortably on occasion. But if you can afford it and have the time, then you should definitely make use of those resources!


What I notice personally is that whenever my health improves, I only feel it a small amount incrementally.

When I stop training, I quickly feel sluggish, with brain fog, muscle knots, difficulty sleeping, etc.

This is mostly a reminder to myself that my body wants movement and good nutrition, and that lapses are not worth it.


As someone struggling to gain weight it always bugs me how "being healthy" is only associated with weight loss.


I think it is simply because a large number of adults in the US (as well as a lot of other countries) is struggling with this, at about 39% obesity rate and 71% overweight rate [0]. For comparison, only 1.5% of adults in the US are underweight [1].

While I agree that there is way more to "being healthy" than just not being overweight/underweight, I think it isn't a bad idea to approach this in the priority order. Solving the issue of being overweight is much simpler and much more impactful to the overall public health than trying to go after more rare and difficult problems.

0. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm

1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/underweight_adult_15_16...


1.5% of the U.S. population is still over 4 million people, that's a huge market.


I mean, you have two markets and one is about 47 times the size of the other.

If your goal is to minimize the total number of health problems in your country, it would make sense to throw more efforts at a problem that affects 47 times more people, given that everything else about the problems is about equal. We are not comparing cancer to heart disease here. We are comparing two problems that are two sides of the same coin.


Market for...


Market for converting people with obesity problems into people without obesity problems.


food?


I was a bean pole into my early twenties, and would have been 20 lbs skinnier still if not for cycling. I never gained any more weight until I dumped the classical advice and did my own thing.

Everyone tries to compress a workout into a single time interval in the day, where you do n sets of each exercise and then go home. To do three sets in three minutes, you're going to have to pick a very conservative goal. Doing 5 sets spread out over the entire day, I could lift more and saw results pretty much right away, and really for the first time. I'd exercise while waiting for things like the drier to ding or toast to pop up, a file to download, a commercial break or a cut scene to finish. But, I had to have exercises I could do at home, which takes some creativity (or a lot of money).

Your body is conserving resources. The whole point of 'exercise' is to trick your body into thinking that you are an active person who needs to spend the extra resources to build and maintain large muscles, cardiac or lung capacity, or all three. If you are actually active you don't have to 'work out'. Your life is work, and your body adapts.

Once I got past that initial roadblock, I got results even from the gym, but I was able to be more consistent doing it at home.

The trouble with putting on a lot of bulk though, is if you stop. Exercise burns a lot of calories. Persistent exercise therefore changes your notion of what a 'normal' amount of food is. If you stop, it probably due to some major life event, and adjusting your notion of 'normal eating' might get lost in the mix. Which is probably why a lot of pro athletes chunk up when they retire (or get retired). Going from 3-4000 calories a day to under 2500 is quite a lifestyle change.


> Doing 5 sets spread out over the entire day, I could lift more and saw results pretty much right away, and really for the first time. I'd exercise while waiting for things like the drier to ding or toast to pop up, a file to download, a commercial break or a cut scene to finish.

For anyone interested in learning more about this, it's called "greasing the groove". There are plenty of web articles about it, and it's also covered pretty thoroughly in the book _Overcoming Gravity_ by Steven Low.


What were the exercises you ended up doing at home spread out over the day? Given the current situation, seems like a unique time lots of us could try out that type of workout.


If you're trying to weave a workout into your day, isometric exercises are the quickest exercise. You just need floor space. A dumb-bell or two for the upper arms and torso, put somewhere that you won't stub your toe (you will stub your toe anyway)

Pullups are the trickiest. At the time there was a staircase with open treads near my apartment.


i just do laps around the house


I just started my exercise journey a few weeks ago, but I'm leaning towards this style of exercise as well.


It's all in the terminology. You both say "weight", but they want to lose fat and you're looking to gain lean body mass. Many folks would like to do both, there's no contradiction.


That's because, at least anecdotally, many more people are overweight than underweight, so "being healthy" involves weight loss more than weight gain.


Not only anecdotally, according to the CDC "prevalence of obesity was 42.4% in 2017~2018" in the US[1].

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html


This may be true in a statistical sense, but I think it's important to not "explain it away" and instead realize that it is an important societal issue. This doesn't really apply to the original post, but it's important for us as a society to support both health conditions, and not just the more common one.


Do a Mark Rippetoe program for 1 year. Thank me later.

edit: Caution: don't start on squats without coaching.


Seconded almost as strongly as I possibly can, but with added caveats! I was a bean pole for my entire life, struggling to gain weight. The answer was simple: I wasn't giving my body the signal to gain muscle by lifting some HEAVY weights. I read Starting Strength and followed the program. I put on ~30lbs over 3-4 months, and got WAY strong. That's after having done crossfit for at least 5-6 years. I took my squat from 185lbs to 300lbs.

It took 2 months of rereading the squat chapter, filming myself, correcting myself, etc, before I finally got that one down. Now that I understand it, I can spot faults in others, but it took a while for it to click. Rereading the dbook helps, though a couple of Rippetoe's coaching cues set me on the wrong path. A starting strength specific coach can straighten you out in just a couple of sessions. DON'T think any other certification, personal trainer, or coach is a substitute, they are NOT.

Don't do starting strength for a year. (If it takes you that long to do the novice linear progression, you are definitely doing something wrong.) Rippetoe's advice for intermediates is pretty marginal IMO and you can't possibly stay a novice for a year doing the program.

Switch to Barbell Medicine's "the bridge" instead of resetting the weights a second time.


Sorry you're right. I remember doing a 1 year program, only the first 7 months were Starting Strength. Remaining 5 months were a weight loss program.


As a trainer, squats can be self-learned fairly easily, it's a pretty natural movement. Some guidance will help of course, but the general movement is usually there.

That said, I recommend against people teaching themselves deadlift, because it's not nearly as intuitive, has more potential for injury, etc.


My biggest concern about focus on weight loss as the metric instead of "healthy lifestyle" is that losing weight is easiest when you do it in an unhealthy way. Crash diets are a good example of unhealthy weight loss.

Another funfact is that you can literally go to bed for a few weeks, let muscle atrophy kick in, and lose more weight than any diet+exercise regime. Won't make you healthier, but you'll lose the weight. Yay metrics!


Despite all the lecturing, the research doesn't really agree. Crash(extreme) diets work just as well as slower diets and the people gain back weight at roughly the same rate.


Contestants on Alone loose like a lb a day. Loosing weight is so easy if you get used to feeling hungry and eat like a bird. Throw in cardio and you will end up looking cut. Gaining a pound a day of muscle, on the other hand, is probably impossible, even gaining a pound of any kind of mass a day is dubious and will lead to very unpleasant bowel movements at the very least.


It doesn't help that BMI is still used even though it is such a crude measure as to be useless. Stuff like body fat% measurements and waist measurements are more direct indicators of losing fat.


We use PI/CI (Ponderal Index AKA Corpulence Index) in my lab and it's a huge improvement over BMI. Especially for modern heights in men and women. Still crude, but easy to apply. Wide margins.


Gaining weight is easier. Drink your calories and you will balloon in no time.


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