On this diet, which I've followed just a few weeks, I cheat all the time, but I feel and perform better in ways that I can quantify at the gym: more strength, better endurance. Noticeable improvements every time I've gone, so far.
Most diet advice is vague and full of generalizations and never backed up. It makes sense, but you hear often opposing viewpoints made in the same hand-wavy fashion. For instance:
Okay, why avoid grains? Are some grains worse than others, or are they all magically bad? Either way, why, and what evidence supports it? Does this apply to any carbohydrate, or just strictly grains? What's wrong with industrial processing, and is there evidence to prove it? Does it apply to everything that could possibly be considered industrial processing, or just certain types of industrial processing that are particularly bad? Is it possible to make up for whatever negative effects it (anything one is advised not to eat) has, and does it apply to 100% of people, or a set of people that you make a set of assumptions about?
I'm not attacking your viewpoint specifically -- I think you're most likely right -- but this is just why I have a hard time believing most diet advice. It's always so wishy washy, and it always brings up more questions.
Another example: advice around drinking soda. There are many types of sweeteners used in diet sodas, and lots of studies done on their effects on humans and other mammals -- none particularly damning. But no one giving nutrition advice will say "avoid ingredient X because Y", they'll say "avoid (vague category of food which may or may not contain ingredient X)". And then someone else will come along and say the opposite. And then there's always some link to some study done in the 1940's that's since been discredited or something.
If you do eat processed foods, then you take your chances or you must spend a lot of time educating yourself about various ingredients and the studies about them.
Sugars are a pretty essential part of any healthy diet. If you're not eating sugars (complex and simple), you're not eating right.
It's going to be lower quality than unprocessed fresh food, for several reasons:
1) Food spends longer between harvest and mouth, so any nutrients that are lost over time will be reduced in the final product.
2) Food crops are of varying quality, and the highest quality will go directly to places people will see it (e.g. tomatoes in the supermarket vegetable section) and the lower quality (less ripe, overripe, blemished, part squished or bruised) will go to the industrial processing where it ends up not being noticable (e.g. XYZ in tomato sauce).
3) There's a lot of scope for badness to be included in processed foods. When dealing with trailer loads at a time, detailed checks are impractical so contaminants become more possible. Food processing is factory work which is generally low skilled, low paid and long hours, so there's more room for things like poorly cleaned machinery, accidental contamination by people, gross fooling around, a nod and a wink and sod the overbearing health and hygiene rules when workload is high.
4) Labelling laws in some countries only require ingredients of more than X amount to be included, so there is room for contents that you don't know about and therefore can't choose whether or not to eat.
5) Industrial processing is full of bizarre things. Who eats cotton? Nobody. So how come it's OK to put cottonseed oil in food? Why is nickel used as a catalyst in the making of margarine? Nobody uses nickel as an ingredient or as a material for cooking utensils.
6) It exists to make money, not to make you healthy. Food processing is better if it takes cheaper ingredients and makes a more expensive desirable product. They are hacking your perceptions, studying flavouring and colouring and mouth-feel and so on, to make something look and taste nicer, while not actually doing you more good (or even, less harm).
and is there evidence to prove it?
I think this comes under the side of "prove God doesn't exist". Humans lived for a long time without mass food processing, and now we have it it's accepted as fine and the suggestion is that we have to prove that it's bad. Surely the default state is to be without food processing, and supporters should have to prove why it's good? (Apart from the fact that it makes lots of money, that is).
Is it possible to make up for whatever negative effects it (anything one is advised not to eat) has
Who knows? Ask yourself why some 70 year olds are out hill walking, travelling, working, are healthy-albeit-old and some are demented, plagued with ill health, bedridden, seriously forgetful, suffering arthritis, heart disease, loss of balance, etc.
Is it really all luck and genetics?
1. Eat real food, not over-processed empty calorie junk.
2. Don't eat too much of whatever you eat.
3. No need to give up meat & dairy, but don't go overboard.
For a much more accurate and interesting read, check out Good Calories, Bad Calories.
science mag and a lot of others thought he was worth listening to...
the argument is that it's not something simple like calorie in, calorie out (seen this argument on hn a few times), but rather how certain calories trigger certain behavior with insulin in our bodies.
After all, if he's right - it quite changes how we approach the problem, and considering the backing this research has from other reputable sources - it's quite foolish to just ignore such a paradigm shifting idea like that. perhaps it was worth ignoring before the guy wrote a giant book looking at one study after the next....before he presented such a good case for the argument...but at this point, obviously wrong is not true.
if you've got a good reference, a link to an article perhaps, to why Gary Taubes is wrong -- I'd love to see it.
The flaw in the understanding of this equation as written in "The Hackers Diet" and many other sources is that the components on the right side of the equal sign are not independent variables. They are dependent variables. If one eats less, the rate of metabolism falls to compensate. If one exercises more, the appetite increases, and one eats more to compensate.
Here's another article that explains this:
It takes a species more than 100 odd years or so to get rid of that "eat whatever the frak you can and store as much of it as you can because there is a good chance that you're not going to find much other than grass for a WHILE".
Your body is NOT going to just "discard" (poop out) "un-needed" calories.
The other thing that bothers me is people talking about "starvation mode". That just sounds like a buzzword (because it is). If you stop eating, you're going to start getting tired. THIS is the mythical "starvation mode". If you tell your body to just fuck off, and go jogging or whatever anyway (omg free will!) you are going to lose weight really really quickly.
Are you sure of that? I'll offer myself up as a datapoint. My weight is exactly (to the kg) the same as it was 12 years ago. I do not exercise, at all, and eat pretty much whatever I want, whenever I want (and that's a lot.) For comparison purposes, my sister-in-law runs a few miles every day, and consumes less than half the calories that I do-- and her weight has also remained constant for the past decade.
Her incoming calorie-count is much less than mine, and her calories expended is much higher than mine. If my body does not discard un-needed calories, how is it that she's not losing weight, and I'm not gaining weight?
(By the way: I worked for Ben & Jerry's for several years, and ate a pint of ice cream every single day. No weight gain, and only a marginal rise in my cholesterol count.)
(Though I think this effect is dominated by the manipulation of the satiety set point by other mechanisms, which the naive (in the math sense) calorie-in-calorie-out rhetoric ignores.)
Change in Calories Stored = Calories In - (Calories Excreted + Calories Burned)
As someone else said, though: these variables are not independent.
If you eat less and exercise more and still aren't losing weight, I guess that means you are excreting less.
It will calculate everything for you and even provide the pretty little weighted graphs just like in the book.
I'm posting monthly updates to flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexfarran/sets/721576162210862...
Very simple and absolutely doable even without any room or extra gear.
Don't let the simplicity deceive you.
This diet is straight out of the Stalinist four year plan school. Normal people have zero chance of tolerating this. The bondage and discipline rigid planning approach doesn't work in any field. People aren't machines.
The approach outlined here is pretty similar to what Weight Watchers uses. Theirs is a little looser, tracking calories on a weekly basis and offering incentives to eat filling foods. But it's basically the same idea.
I lost 70 pounds in about a year on a system like that, and most of the experience was simply being surprised at how easy it was. There was a bit of a fiery adjustment during the first week, but thereafter, I felt better than ever. I wasn't hungry a lot. I didn't feel overly disciplined. Really, I was eating exactly what I wanted, just subject to the full consequences of the decisions. A year of just paying attention and making informed decisions saw me at my ideal weight, and my main reaction was, "People think this is hard?"
It's not a moral/discipline approach at all. More like lifestyle engineering. You have the numbers in hand, you know what you want to achieve, you know what you're willing to part with and what you aren't. I personally incorporated a weekly pizza & pop D&D night I didn't want to part with . . . and still lost about a pound a week. When you compensate via cost instead of guilt, treats are guilt-free; pizza for lunch just means soup for dinner, pie on Wednesday means no candy bars on Thursday or Friday. It's really just a question of engineering, knowing your body, and setting up the system to do what you want.
The most curious effect of the whole affair was that my appreciation and enjoyment of food went up. My initial approach was that since I could only afford a couple ounces of cheese, I was going to make darn sure it was goooood cheese. But there was a strange feedback there; good food makes you happy faster. An ounce of fancy chocolate left me feeling treated in a way five ounces of crappy chocalate never did--and of course, neither ever satisfied hunger, so the smaller amount didn't matter. Net effect: not hungry, losing weight, enjoying food more.
It really is a total hack.
This year I've re-lost those 40 pounds, and am working on losing another 40, not by counting calories or otherwise trying to find low cal versions of everything (hard to do anyway now that I'm in Norway), but by being more conscious about what I eat (trying to eat more fruits, veggies, and whole grains, while eating fewer processed foods and sugars) and exercising regularly, which is much easier to do. Well, the exercise part still sucks, but I remind myself that once I get to the weight I want to be at, I only have to go enough to maintain that weight.
But once you've got the initial engineering figured out, it's just a case of knowing what things cost in unusual circumstances. A little mental effort for a healthy body weight is a tradeoff I'll gladly make for the rest of my life.
If it was as you suggest, you could eat nothing and not starve as long as you have fat reserves.