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Thursday, 28 April 2011


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The best method I have heard for getting kids to avoid sugars was told to me by a friend. When he was a kid, his mom would take regular soda (coke, fanta, whatever), and water it down two thirds with soda water or mineral water. When my friend went to other kids houses for parties he would get sick on "full strength" soda, the sugars would make drinking it repulsive, he would practically gag. It seems a little cruel, but this guys is one of the healthiest people I know now.

I concur with you Mike, food is only as good as the sum of its parts. One way to escape is perhaps to avoid processed food: cook from raw ingredients, know what's going into what you eat.

But even then, it's hard: most chickens are fed feed laden with antibiotics. My doctor sister commented that we're lasting longer in morgues because we're absorbing all those antibiotics that we're eating -- living human pickles! Imagine that!


Mmmmh... Mike, I think the intention of this post is good, but you have a large audience and yours is an influential blog: I am not sure the effects of this post will be positive, even if I am fully aware that your intention is. I disagree from many of the comments here (for instance, the oversimplification about some food of certain colour that is to be avoided).

There's nothing wrong in natural fruit juize, if you made it at home. Is very healthy. Same about truly natural juizes that you can purchase in a supermarket.

I do agree, however, in the absolutely overblown use of sugar in just about any processed food today. If you have read a recent article in NYT, there is a longstanding controversy on the dangers of such excessive usage, to the point that some specialists state, unambiguously, that refined sugars are "toxic".

In the end, I think the Western society is making complicated things that are essentially simple:

we need to make regularly some active exercise, be it walking or playing sports. We need to have a balanced diet, with far less fat and sugar than is usual, and with far more fruit, vegetables and fish. And we need to realize that eating is not equal as feeling exhausted after eating.

(Yeah I know: easy said...).

And the vast majority of things you eat turn to sugar when you eat them. Your body runs on glucose. :)

I have fallen off of this bandwagon, but, it did work well while I was able to maintain discipline. It is this:
Do not eat anything unless you are willing to sit down at the table and eat. Adherence to this rule will: reduce trips through the drive-through of fast food restaurants; eliminate much general snacking. Unhealthy food is also, generally, convenient food and lends itself to face stuffing while you are involved in other activities. If you are not hungry enough to stop what you are doing and eat a healthy meal in a civilzed manner, you are not really hungry. This would not apply to starving artists who have no table..... but would apply to hoarders who are not able to find their table.

Actually fruit JUICE isn't just flavored sugar water. The ones labeled JUICE DRINK are flavored sugar water. Actual juice is good for you. The trouble is that most of what's on the supermarket shelves isn't real juice. It's either artificial flavored sugar water or extremely watered down juice ith artificial flavor boosters. Real fruit juice has nutrients and varying amounts of fiber depending on the fruit. Fiber BTW isn't fibrous, it is a form of sugar that your body can't digest so it just passes through. That's good for you. It cleans out your innards.


Mark Twain wrote a screed against sugar, and his take on it was that it should be a substance that is easy to make, and yet not one in twenty manufacturers could make the stuff without getting sand in it...

With best regards,


PS: Everything in moderation, including moderation!


...the whole column sounds like the tooth-problem talking! And I oughta know...

How to read "juice" labels in Canada:

1. "Contains 100% real juice" -- beware!

2. "Fruit drink" -- mostly water and sugar

3. a) "100% real juice" -- exactly that! No sugar
or water added BUT may be made from juice concentrate with water re-added

3. b) Sun-Rype from British Columbia doesn't make it from concentrate.

4. Freezer aisle "100% juice" (NOT DRINK) probably retains the most nutrients.

Wow, that juice thing sounds bad. Here in Finland it is illegal to call any drink juice if it's made out of anything else than real fruit. All juice is also actually made out of what they claim. Only apple juice is made out of apples. We also have strict laws that prevent calling any food 'diet' if manufacturer hasn't proven its effect with scientific research.

Losing weight is easy. Eat less and exercise more. It should be a permanent change of lifestyle rather than a diet. There is no silver bullet.

I've always felt that it is much better to eat the fruit instead of drinking the juice--and by 'juice', I mean freshly squeezed or rendered juice, not cooked[=canned!], preserve-o juice. The preserve-o juice is, as you have described, nearly worthless as nutrition and may safely be considered virtually the same as sugar water.

Hey Mike -

Interesting; your recommendation follows exactly in line with a book I recently read, "Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It" by Gary Taubes. The book provides a reasonably quick but informative overview of the science and history supporting what, for better or worse, is most easily called an "Atkins-style" diet.

I didn't think I could do it either, but I've made it stick for a couple weeks so far (with significant weight loss). The trick, he says, is to treat carbs (especially sugars) like tobacco - when you quit, you have to QUIT: you can't half-ass it or you'll end up right back off the wagon. My experience bears this out.

Have you tried Mark Bittman's "Vegan Before Dinnertime" diet? It sounds reasonable and sensible, although I'm pretty sure you have to couple the diet with regular exercise.

Musician Andrew Bird has an apropos lyric: "I'm all for moderation but sometimes it seems moderation itself can be a kind of extreme."

Pass the doughnuts.

16 or more paragraphs and you still didn't get to sodium. :)

I have become a decent Italian cook in the last year and make everything from scratch except for the pasta. The only sugars that sneak in are natural sugars from the tomatoes and other veggies used. Not sayin' it's low fat but the sugars are reasonably low. (I think)

Tough one. Flavored stuff is big in the USA, compared to other places I've been to. Here in Argentina diet is by no means super healthy, but I guess food being less processed, with more natural flavour, it's less tempting too (that's subjective, when youre used to it, overflavored food seems unattractive). The healthiest way of getting by for me is buying only raw stuff and being forced to cook to eat. And, if you can make time to break a sweat everyday, after a while your metabolism changes and you can eat a lot without gaining too much weight. Not lots of exercise, but just 40 minutes of running or something like that 4 times a week and it changes A LOT. Even more if you're a big guy. For me, staying in a tolerable shape only through diet is absolutely impossible.
The point of exercising is, the more muscle mass you have, teh more energy it needs to support itself, so once you get more tone (and I don't mean sculpted or anything like that) you burn a lot of fat all the time, not only when actually exercising. And you get a lot more energy and better mood.

Thanks for the apple juice warning Mike. I'll look at that in more detail.

No breakfast. Black coffee twice or three times in the morning.

2 small fillets of raw fish for lunch. I like Rollmops, which is Danish pickled herring, on a couple of slices of dark bread. Or sardines, or pilchards.

2 kms on the Concept Rower after getting home.

Grilled chicken with green beans for supper, or salad with tomatoes.

Several litres of water a day, of course. Water after 8 pm is allowed to have some whisky in it.

I can continue this diet for nearly two days at a stretch.

The one thing I don't have an issue with is sugar. I don't like sweet tastes, most of my food is fresh, and as far as I can see, there's no sugar in the store cupboard. I have never in 45 years had a filling, thanks to fluoridation treatment when I was a child (so the dentist said, although there's some scary research on the 'net that I don't want to read to say it wasn't all good for the children of the sixties).

I could cut down on the pasta though.

I wonder about "grains and grasses." I thought grains were bad only if they are ground into flour, because then they are essentially pre-digested and turn into sugar instantly (bread, pasta, etc.). Something like whole brown rice or quinoa could never get converted to sugar quickly enough to have a high glycemic index, unless one has teeth like a power mill.

I thought we couldn't digest grasses at all, because we only have one stomach and don't chew our cuds--they just pass through the system undigested.

Too much sugar is bad, but it's a bit misleading to say 100% juice is the same as soda pop. The reason is that most soda pop is made not with sugar but with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which studies show are way worse for you than sugar. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-fructose_corn_syrup)

That said, your message is clear and correct. The solution is not to back away from HFCS in favor of sugar, but to eliminate HFCS and drastically reduce your sugar intake by hydrating with water (as you say) and by avoiding boxed and bottled foods, which tend to be really high in both sugar and salt.

FWIW, I've lost more than 20 pounds since the new year by simply reducing portions, tracking the calories of everything I eat against a daily maximum (easier than you think) and going for regular brisk walks. Oh, I also avoid most pre-packaged foods.

It's hard to believe. I sit there eating a (reasonable) portion of spaghetti carbonara, or a nice pizza margherhita, or chicken tagine with lemon and olives, and I'm losing about a pound a week. The only thing I really miss is potato chips, and even those I eat a small amount of occasionally.

(Oh, I cut way back on the beers too...)

You may try this one, I found it quite motivating: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?_r=1
Cheers, Ralf.

Basic rule when you go to the supermarket. Stick to the outer wall - the stuff on the inside of the store isn't really food. Hasn't been for years.


PS - I can't do it either... :-(

No kidding! You want "real fruit flavor?" Eat some real fruit, preferably certified organic (not that "regular fruit" will kill you, but at least support the farmers who'll consider healthier produce over high-yield).

Moving back to North America from rural France was a dietary shock to my system. Over there I thrived on full-fat, starch-filled meals, almost always with five ingredients or less (and one was always butter). The flavor was huge, but the portions were, to an American, small. I also walked everywhere and drank red wine without sulfites. I lost 20 lbs in 5 months, and it only returned years later, when I got back to the continent of the "Soda and Chips" aisle.

I've since reverted to the "rural european diet" and am back to my ideal weight, and even my cholesterol is lower. My only permitted vice is the occasional can of Pepsi when I can't find an espresso machine. YMMV, since we're all built differently.

There is of course a type of fruit juice that is healthy: The kind you make yourself out of fresh fruit. It is, as you say, not meant as a hydrator, but as a source of vitamins, like the normal fruit would be. And in that view, the unprocessed sugars in fruit are more healthy (or less unhealthy) than the processed sugars in nearly every other foodstuff these days.

As for diets, here's one that will work:

Do your groceries by bike or foot, instead of by car. You'll buy less (cause it has to fit on the bike/in the bag) and you'll burn some calories in the process.

Cause contrary to popular belief, diets are only part of the solution. To lose weight, you actually need to burn those excess calories, no matter how horrible that may seem. (Flip side: If you burn enough calories, you can eat pretty much anything you want. Ever seen professional athletes eat?)

(In a similar vein: People who take their car to a gym to pay and sit on a stationary bike to 'cycle' the same distance they just did by car are either not very smart, or must prefer the smell of stale sweat over fresh air.)

If Mike is ranting, the comments can be rants too, right :-)

All so AMERICAN. Don't even get high-fructose corn syrup in Europe, let alone apple juice masquerading as something else. In the U.S. just pick up a European item and read the ingredients- it won't take long.

Mike Jones, Oakland, CA

I've been following the advice in the Gary Taubes book Why We Get Fat, not very strictly, and have managed to loose at least 11 pounds so far. I bought the book after you mentioned it on TOP and after I read the reviews on Amazon.

I would have lost a little more if I hadn't been to two birthday parties in one weekend; I should have eaten a good meal before I went and I will know better next time.

You might find it easier than the low glycemic index diet, though it seems similar in some ways. The general idea is to avoid carbohydrates, especially the sugars. In the shop I just read the packet or tin; too many carbs and I put it back. I eat eggs and meat. Some vegetables. I eat porridge for breakfast because if I cooked that soon after waking up there would be a fire. I am not, and have never been, Mr. Willpower, but this is the first time I've ever consistently lost weight.

Gary Taubes wrote about sugar here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html
I've read a shorter version of this piece that appeared, if I remember, in the Daily Telegraph here in the UK.

I know exactly how you feel. Changing my diet hasn't worked but joining a gym in the building where I work and trying to cut down on the bigtime offenders, i.e. donuts...is making some difference. Don't beat yourself up. Do the best you can and attribute the occasional lapse to human nature.

If you eat'em, burn'em... Cardio is the way to go.

Reminds me of the ham scam. Although pork has to be 100% pig, ham does not as it is a processed meat and 'ham' is just a label on a processed product. So it often includes mutton or beef, whatever is cheapest. And quite a large proportion of water is sometimes added, for the usual reason.

Was watching a documentary a year or so ago here in the UK about obesity - an epidemic every bit as bad in our country as it's said to be in the US.

A surgeon specialising in the fitting of gastric bands to the seriously obese recommended eating "nothing beige". Seems like good, simple advice as I really cannot think of a single beige coloured food which is healthy and non-fattening!

Re: Fruit Juices

A small thing that I've remembered for decades now -- my first taste of real grape juice, freshly squeezed, bought from a grape grower at the side of the road. It tasted like grapes!

Re: Diet

Some years ago, the diet rage was "no fat." This before "no carbs." No fat worked because it was an absolute and therefore easy to understand and hard to cheat; and because 50% of the average American diet was (is?) fat so calories fell by half.

Simple is best.

There's probably nothing particularly wrong about apple juice, per se. I imagine 100% pure cherry juice, for example, would be sickly sweet, thick and syrupy - not very palatable. It's the flavour we're after, so blending a relatively bland fruit juice as a carrier isn't really a hanging offence. Now, adding sugar - that's a different matter. Or water. And labelling the contents in a misleading way, if not exactly false advertising is something else again.
I think one of the problems with doctrinaire exhortations to avoid certain food types (colours?) is that it's so difficult in this age of commercially processed foodstuffs, restaurant dining and social gathering. You can end up being a bit weird about it. A more manageable and practical solution I feel is to continue to enjoy the tastes and the social situations but reduce the portions to about half. It's OK to leave food on your plate and say you've had enough, thankyou. If you get hungry later, have a couple of nutritionally sound "fillers" on hand that you can consume to "fill the gaps". And have an extra glass or two of water with your meal instead of "finishing the plate".

Maybe it's about balance and portion control, Mike?
There is the French paradox, the Mediterranean "paradox", the Asian "paradox", and on and on. The Europeans and Middle Easterners have no weight problems eating dairy or corn, in fact their guts probably thank them for all that good yogurt.
But they enjoy eating reasonable portions slowly, preferably with friends and family.

Then there is the Asian cultures with fermented soybeans (soy sauce, miso, black beans etc) and very little oil who achieve even better results . Huge variety of tasty meals that include sugar and high glycemic flours and rice -- and yet no obesity issue.

The one thing all the old populations agree on is that grains and pulses are a must in your diet - cheap, nutritious, healthier than meats.

I hope you won't fall for the panic that has swept the US in view of the obesity epidemic. That panic has resulted in what looks like a "scientific" overreaction where food is dealt with by the numbers and entire categories of ingredients demonized and consequently banished.
In fact, most unhealthy consumption is either driven commercially (restaurant serving sizes, packaging, horrible chemical ingredients etc) or psychologically (stress, fear etc) and has little to do with categories of food as such, assuming (at least relative) purity of source materials.

To expand on what the ancient Greeks used to say... everything in the right portions and proportions. : )

I visited LA from Australia a few years back, and got a rude shock on tasting the milk - it's sweetened...

Have you read a book by a guy called Gary Taube...or something like that? He agrees with you about the sugar but his theory is you can eat fat and protein...in fact fill up on the protein and don't go hungry. I had put on a bit of weight and lost 7 kgs over about three months following that advice. And I didn't feel hungry or deprived....

You may want to read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?_r=1 . You will get strong motivation to avoid sugar when you learn how it changes your physiology.

Given the problems Americans face with obesity, diabetes, dental issues, and a host of other health related problems, processed sugar should considered an abused substance. It is not like cocaine or other drugs, but the detrimental effects of long term use can be just as devastating. I am willing to bet our health care system would not cost so much if we were better at preventing the health problems caused by sugar.

When we living in Massachusetts, nearly every town had more than one a Dunk'in Dounuts--usually they were situated on the main roads into the center. In some cases, you could not enter a place without passing one. Yes, I love the Coffee rolls, but I have not illusions as to how bad they were for me.

On a related note, as I stated in a different post last year, the real foods in American supermarkets have be pushed to margins, and the center isles are lined with processed foods, many of which contain sugar. The center isle of one store near us had salted fats (chips of all sorts) on side, and sugars (drinks) on the other. The shelves towered over my head. After being in Japan for two years, it made me sick.

If you readers wish to explore the history of sugar in Brit/Am good culture, I suggest Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History .

Actually you should not cut out sugar altogether. My wife and I had to lower our triglycerides. After doing a little research we did decide to cut back, not eliminate, sugar, especially High Fructose Corn Sugar. HFCS will got straight to fat. So, we basically eat foods with little to no sugar. We've found a Portuguese bread called Saloio bread. It's made with wheat, malt and barley flour and it's delicious. Without doing anything else except watching our sugar intake, oh yeah, we eat a lot of Cheerios and Oatmeal, we have over the past 6 months lost a combined 95lbs. I've dropped 40lbs and my wife 55lbs. If we get a craving for something sweet, we will go out and have a small portion and that satisfies us. Most vegetables we can eat, still eat hamburgers and fish. For lunch we go to Subway and Quiznos alot and sometimes Wendy's. We drink diet drinks, 2%milk and Floriday Orange Juice daily. Peanuts are good and small portions of chips. Also, we don't eat anything after 8:00PM. Not only did we loose weight but our triglycerides went down drastically. What's funny is that now we don't crave sugary foods as we once did. The foods are out there and looking for them isn't that hard. You can do it as well, I know you can... :-)

"I thought we couldn't digest grasses at all"

Rice is technically a grass. That's why that bit is in there.


How do you make something taste good? You add salt,fat or sugar to it.So

If it tastes good spit it out.

I have tried everything, eat less exercise more.

About 10 years ago I was a post-doc on a health policy fellowship. I'm 5'6' and I weighed ~250 pounds. I was sitting at lunch with two docs talking about obesity. One of them said, "You know, it's basically calories in, calories out." I was so mad steam practically came out of my ears. They had no idea how HARD it is. And I don't even eat that much (I thought).

But you know what? They were right. Two years ago I discovered caloriesperhour.com. I made a modest but sustained reduction in my daily caloric intake (use the calculators, weigh your food, and count the calories), generally aimed for a balanced diet, ate more veggies, and gradually started exercising. I didn't stop eating things I liked, just ate them in smaller quantities. Once a week or so I let myself eat whatever I wanted. In ten months I'd lost 90 pounds. Two years later I'm still slim and I play a vigorous sport 5 days a week. I feel 20 years younger, and I can keep up with kids half my age.

Diets don't work. Anything that relies on cutting out things you love completely won't work. Eating the RIGHT AMOUNT of food to create a relatively small but consistent calorie deficit (and the key is that you can CALCULATE this pretty precisely), eating a balanced diet, and getting some exercise: that works.

Good luck Mike!

My daughter has had digestive issues ever since she was out of diapers. All along, we've had the same philosophy as you, Mike, wrt juice: kids should hydrate with water, not sugar. So when the first thing the doctor suggested was that we should cut out the juice, we laughed and said, no, she never gets any.

Anyway, after several years of listening to the doctor say, "She'll grow out of it," and several years of trying various elimination diets, I finally stumbled across fructose malabsorption, which loosely means that if she eats a food in which the fructose to glucose ratio is too high, her intestines don't absorb it. And once I came across that information, I was able to correlate her stomach problems with precisely the kinds of foods that were higher in fructose than glucose. Two or three raisins, for example, will upset her stomach. Two or three red grapes, but not the green grapes. Mango is out, but blueberries are fantastic.

It's great having the answer that controls her problems. All we have to do is avoid fructose rich foods, and her stomach is fine.

Uh, yeah. Do you know how much fructose is used to sweeten, well, everything? The other day, my wife asked me to pick up some bread for sandwiches. I carefully picked out a bread that said, "No high-fructose corn syrup!" in big letters, but I was in a bit of a rush, and didn't check the ingredients entirely.

The next night, after my daughter had eaten her lunch sandwich, she had stomach problems again. We did our "What did you eat today?" routine, which she's quite used to, and it all sounded fine. So we looked at the one new item: the bread, and down the ingredient list was "concentrated raisin juice".


What I find personally annoying is that my daughter's condition coincides so closely with the "No high-fructose corn syrup!" movement, which makes it pretty hard to convince some people that she's got a real issue. Tell her teachers or other parents that she needs to avoid that kind of food, and half of them roll their eyes about the hippie parents (yeah, we're vegetarian, too). And three quarters of the other half don't know what's in the food that they're giving out. "Oh, I won't give her anything with fructose in it: just these gummy bears. That's just sugar, right?"

Of course, that's our problem, not theirs, and she's learned very well what to avoid. I swear, she's got more self-control at five years old than I do at forty.

Punches harder than I do, too..

I'm a nutritionist working in the area of public health, though not in the US. Excuse me if I ramble too much.

If it's any consolation, relatively recent theories about why it's so hard to have a healthy diet blames in part the environment as being too full of food high in sugar, fat and salt. Since we are products of our environment... :)

More seriously, my general, non-individualized opinion/advice is that if you want healthy food, you have to prepare it yourself from the raw materials (e.g. make your own chicken instead of buying takeout or frozen meals), or find a restaurant that agrees with your health philosophy (assuming one can afford that).

A few more points:

- Not all grains and grasses are bad. Whole-grains are healthier versions, though I'm a bit skeptical about "whole-grain breakfast cereal" with a ton of added sugar.

- As others have mentioned, 100% fruit juice is healthier and, at least in my country, cannot contain anything other than juice. Juice drinks are the one with added sugar. However, in the context of weight loss, juices do contain calories and hydrating with water is more appropriate.

- Physical activity is also important. Not just exercise, but making yourself move more throughout the day. Biking to the store, rather than driving may be one way, now that summer is coming up. Or more pertinent to this blog, how about a photographic biking tour of an area of natural beauty near you?

- Don't forget vegetables. If prepared with little fat and added sugar, they can bulk up your meal and may make you feel full for fewer calories.

As usual, please check with your doctor before trying any of this.

I have a food intolerance (medical for "if you eat this, something bad happens") for dairy, gluten, and soy. As a result I can't eat processed food. (or, rather, if eat processed food, the bad things happen, and they're bad enough that I'm not even vaguely tempted, not even by bread and beer.)

One of the things I do eat, which breaks your white food rule, is quinoa; it's very fine, it's seeds (related to beets, apparently) rather than a grain, it's really easy to cook (like rice, only faster), and unlike rice it's a complete food; all the amino acids and lots of protein.

I've taken to dumping whatever got sauteed in olive oil over a cooked half cup of the stuff for dinner; it generally tastes pretty good.

S & S: Sugar and Sodium. Neither is positive.
Problems is the majority of manufactured edibles product contains LARGE amounts of same.
INgredients in a package are listed in order of quantity. The item with the largest representation is first ie water. The the remainder including frutcose, gluecose as well as sodium in various items. Keep in mind both S &S are part of the formulation to make the product viable
as well as good tastingto your palate. Solution is simple.
If you must purchase manufactured food product, eliminate those with S or S at the beginning.
OH and limit yourself to one proper meal a day, preferably a sit down meal and best between 11:00 and 13:00 or mid0day.
The next largest meal should be breakast and evening meal the smallest, or make it a raw apple or orange.

As we age we consume as if we were active teens. We aren't and as a result the older you are in chronlogical years, the less you should be consuming.

Exercise, exercise,and exercise. Cardio and weights, especially if you are over 50 like me. I have been going to the gym two or three times a week for two years. I've lost a lot of weight, toned up, and have shed my appetite for really bad food. I like ice cream, pudding, cookies, and bread. I've just cut way back. I have never had luck with dieting. I once went on a protein diet and ate mostly meat for three months. I lost 20 pounds. Then I got sick of the diet and stopped. Within a year, I'd gained back the 20 pounds. Diets are stupid. Lifestyle changes are wise.

I stumbled upon sugarstacks.com a short while back. It shows how much cubes of sugar are in an assortment of products. Some things are eye-opening. Such as that there is the same amount of sugar in apple juice as in Coca-Cola (and that they are 'natural' sugars makes no difference whatsoever). As another example, the amount of sugar in a McDonalds milkshake is staggering.

Everything in moderation, including moderation.

I love that quote.

Another lesson I have personally learned, albeit accidentally, is don't eat late! I lost 15 lbs shooting the show "Blind Date" because I had to shovel 1/2 of a dinner down before returning to operating the camera (they hated the camera locked-off on the daters at dinner). After my 1/2 dinner at 6pm I continued shooting for 3-4 hours. I didn't work out for those 3 months yet the weight flew off. I recently heard a rule of thumb that reflects this:

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a peasant. I know our society has adopted the opposite as the norm, which is unfortunate.

One trouble with high protein low carb diets is that (to quote one Brit dietary expert) they give you breath reminiscent of hyena's poo.

Have a listen to Caldwell Esselstyn at http://www.radionz.co.nz/nationalthe advantages of a plant based diet.

That RadioNZ link seems to have broken in the posting, here it is in shortened form http://tiny.cc/5ttoi

Doughnuts, my favourite fruit. :) But the jelly kind, with apricot jelly. And powdered sugar on top. The kind the Germans call krapfen. Mmmmmm.

The supermarket food is killing us all. They choose the kind that can stay on the shelves longer, that looks "good" and that is cheap. Fruit is half-green, meat is bloodless and tasteless, drinks are just sugar, bread is just air with additives... I find even the cellophane-styrofoam packing repulsive.

Farmer's market should offer an alternative.

If you want to hydrate, try a litre of water with the juice of half a lemon. The tart taste is great for slaking thirst. The peasants around here used to take water with a dash of wine vinegar when working in the fields.

BTW, whoever was surprised at juice after coming out of a faint, it's really not unusual. A glass of sugar in water is the traditional "remedy". The sugary rush should provide you with energy to overcome the momentary weakness.

"Smack Dab in the Middle" by Ray Charles:

"A lot of bread And gangs of meat
Oodles of butter and somethin' sweet
Gallons of coffee to wash it down
Bicarbonated soda by the pound ...

And throw me ... SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE
So I can rock n roll and satisfy my soul."

I'm just saying ...

I'm not sure about availability in the US, but I agree with the comments that you need to distinguish between real fruit/vegetable juice, which is full of nutrients, and other packaged products. Also, the refrigerated cabinets are not a good guide. Remember the infamous Sunny Delight? Which they encouraged retailers to put on the refrigerated shelves along with the real juice to hoodwink the customers.

I also agree / concur / empathise with Mike's problem. Tucking into a full fat butter croissant over breakfast as I type. Zero nutrition, but.....

Mike, it is very easy. Just enjoy food which your great-grandmother would recognize as food. No processed foods. Have a look at mediterran cuisines.

Good luck!


About 10 years ago I was a post-doc on a health policy fellowship. I'm 5'6' and I weighed ~250 pounds. I was sitting at lunch with two docs talking about obesity. One of them said, "You know, it's basically calories in, calories out." I was so mad steam practically came out of my ears. They had no idea how HARD it is. And I don't even eat that much (I thought).

I'm with you on this one, though my sin is not sweet foods, but fatty, starchy foods.

I've started to bike to work, now that my commute has gone down from 13 to just 4 km. But I'll have to face the fact that this'll do nothing for my waistline if I don't just start eating less. That's the whole theory behind my conundrum: I'm just eating too much (and unhealthy at that). But, like you, I can't muster the strength to keep a more asketic lifestyle.

And right on about the juices! It's the same with milk, by the way: Drink a large glass of full-fat (3.5%) milk, and you've just ingested ~10 grams of fat and 10+ grams of sugar.

I'm not trying to downplay the healthy ingredients in juice or milk, but one has to be aware of the negative sides. Just a hundred years ago, lots of fat and sugar were positive, but we live in such overflowing wealth nowadays that we must work hard to keep from overfeeding our bodies.

Oh, and juice doesn't make you any less fat just because it's freshly squeezed. It just tastes better, and maybe contains more vitamins.

Everything in moderation! It's just hard to get there when you're as off-balance as many of us are.

Mike (and everyone here),

Read 'Sweet Poison' by David Gillespie... it will change the way you think about what you put into your body.

Excercise IS NOT the answer to weight loss. Stopping your intake of fructose is.

See the recent Gary Taube book for (research based) straight talk on how food and your body interact. It's an eye opener.

It's processed foods. Corporations maximize profits by substituting salt, corn starch and sugar because they are cheap calories, brings cost down. If people started preparing their own food from scratch from base ingredients, a lot of diet problems would disappear, with just a little care in selecting what you cook.

And you know what else? Home-made food tastes better. Haven't you noticed that no matter what processed or fast food you buy tastes exactly the same? That's no surprise, since it's all the same stuff.

And you know what else? Home-made food is cheaper.

Your waistline will thank you and your innards will thank you.

Learning to cook a small tasty variety of simple meals is easier than trying to learn Photoshop.

High Fructose Corn Syrup will kill you. It's evil stuff.


If there is a Weight Watchers in your area, give it a try. Their program is very good and sustainable. They emphasize whole foods. Fruits and non-starchy vegetables are free. It is a true lifestyle change, not a diet. I joined 5 years ago and have kept 80 lbs. off for the last 4. The weekly meetings are a great boost.....and a mandatory weigh-in keeps you on course. The meeting leader is a very important part of one's success, so try one and if they don't fit try another.

I used to be the only man at the meeting, but now it is about 1/3 men. Regular exercise is a very important part of their method both aerobic and weight-bearing, which is often overlooked. Sales pitch over.

Jim Weekes

Mike, If you can find it, Ceres (South Africa) makes real fruit juices: mango, guava, papaya, pomegranite & lime, etc. They are delicious, with NO ADDED SUGAR, and so fruity I dilute with seltzer or sparkling water. Their website is:

Mike, in order to get control of my weight I first had to realise that simply wanting to live wasnt enough to motivate me. The payoff is so vague and given I'd not that old (44) a long way off. So I took up triathlons - I suppose I'm the living embodiment of sport being far more important than life and death.

Its not a universal solution, but I think it points to the need for those like us to find a very specific, very concrete thing to peg our motivation to. So when that donut sings to us we have a very definite response.

Also, as part of that training I've paid more attention to nutrition and the science around it. One thing that has really resonated with me is the theory that some of us actually get greater 'reward' from the anticipation of food rather than the actual eating. As a result we are always disappointed by the eating, not sated and when we start thinking about food again get a lift and reach for food (that doesnt sate us and so on...).

Knowing that about myself has allowed me to consciously break that cycle. It doesnt solve the problem, I still really want that food and the mere thought of it makes me really yearn for it but "knowing" that it will never satisfy me (and will harm my competitiveness) gives me a handle to grab on to.

I've been steadily losing weight for the last year by following Michael Pollan's food rules:

Eat food, not too much, mostly fruit and vegetables. By following that, I can do one of the two steps of my weight loss/fitness program:

1. Eat less

2. Move more

For me, the secret is to exercise my willpower in the market, because if the stuff is in my house, it will win. But, if I don't buy it, I can't eat it. Thankfully, I'm cheap, except when it comes to cameras, lenses, books, records and musical instruments. YMMV.

Due to a medical condition my wife had, we spent two weeks entirely without sugar (easier in Europe with a good kitchen). At the end of it, even carrots tasted really sweet.

Right now, I'm just going for the small plate diet. It gives me more energy (for not having to digest as much) and keeps my weight stable. Once I add some actual exercise I may even lose weight - or just change my fat into muscle and stay at the same weight.

"Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

A great incentive for slashing sugar from a diet is to read William Dufty's 'Sugar Blues.'

"That's one trip when you go inside and sit down where other people can see you"

OK - that made me heartily laugh.

(And so did "will/won't power", but shhhh.)

And I agree with the other comment that quitting smoking is easier than dieting: time was, I was both a very heavy smoker, and very heavy. Now I'm just very heavy.

What Bob Rosinsky said.

I agree with the previous posters who advocate reduced quantities of natural food and regular exercise. About two years ago my wife showed me the "Weight-Watchers" points system. The word "calories" was always a block for me, but "points" were harmless :) I figured my allowable total and ate whatever I wanted - just kept a daily record of the number, and never went over. I read all labels, have a "points" calculator on my smartphone, and cook our meals from scratch (cooking is my #2 love after photography). If I go to a big social affair or party once in a while, I eat whatever I can get my hands on. I hit the gym 3 days a week; weights and cardio stuff. I also take a fish oil supplement and eat little beef (had by-pass surgery in '98; enough fun for this lifetime). In about 15 months, I lost 40+ pounds and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, capacity. I get full easily; even when I cheat on my points, I cheat less. When I eat chocolate (one of the basic food groups, right?), I only enjoy the 60%+ cocoa kinds, and less than before. Another year, and the weight's still off.

Lessons: Keep a daily log - I think obesity is a disease; eat whole foods; your body will adjust to reduced quantities of better quality foods if you stick to a specific limit for your health condition. Unless you have a specific medical requirement, forget the color rules - a lot of people eat rice, and they are lean. Some form of perceived discipline is required, I just found writing numbers down is easier than eliminating foods that I love. It is a lifestyle change, but one that will come naturally.

Good luck; it's easier than learning to do good photo processing on a computer after learning and working in the darkroom.

Two things. The best way to clean your diet is to get quite ill from it, and thus be forced to cut out all the sugary, processed foods. Worked for me.

The other thing I've read in many places and that I find to be true, is that if you do strength training with challenging weights, your body will crave healthy food and your appetite for sweets and things will diminish. I'm in the midst of a program for weight-gain right now, pumping iron and eating several thousand calories a day, but my life-long sweet tooth has gone away; my body only wants food it can use, and I only have so much room in my stomach, and there's just no room for sweets anymore.

On that subject I've heard some very good things about "The Body-Fat Solution" by Tom Venuto, but haven't read it myself.

This article is long but it might help you have a bit more will power when it comes to avoiding sugar!


Check out the Mediterranean diet. Italians have a low incidence of coronary artery disease because they stuff themselves with a lot of fruit and veg, washed down with virgin olive oil and Chianti. It's all good for you.

Prepare your meals from scratch (well, as far as possible) and avoid overuse of salt and sugar (obviously!)

Consider having 'vegetarian days'. You don't have to be one (life's too short ;) ) but acting like one a couple of times a week can be good for you.

Do exercise.

Do more exercise.

Above all, enjoy life!

I cut out all the white and processed shite a couple of months ago and lost almost 10 lbs in the first few weeks without even excercising. I eat whatever meat and fish I want, lots of veggies and a fair but not excessive amount of complex carbs. Like drugs you just have to learn to say no when someone puts a box of doughnuts or cookies on the table. The first time is hard but it gets easier the more times you say no. Don't even bring the crap into the house and you won't miss it.

If you have a sweet tooth and a weight problem, I've got the perfect diet for you. It's essentially a lazy man's low-glycemic-index diet. All you do is cut three things out of your diet:

Grains and grasses, and
Fatty dairy.

And don't go absolutely nuts with portions or fatty foods.

That's it. That'll do it. Want an even easier version of the same diet? Avoid white and yellow foods, or food with white or yellow foods as an ingredient. No corn, no white bread, no pasta, no breakfast cereal, no chips, no whole milk, etc.

If this was forced on me my next trip would be a swan dive off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Thank goodness I live in New Mexico, where we have BLUE corn! Blue corn chips, blue corn enchiladas, blue corn tacos...

Dear Folks,

What drives me crazy is the irrational obsession with dieting that's built around two myths:

1) Dieting usually works.

2) It doesn't hurt to try, so you might as well give it a shot.

Both of these are known to be false. The vast majority of all diet attempts fail (success defined as taking off *any* significant fraction of your target weight and keeping it off). Worse, any particular diet approach fails for the overwhelming majority of attempters.

I'm not saying any one of you individually will fail if you attempt to diet. I am saying you're betting against the house and you're rolling weighted dice. The odds are strongly against you.

The failure rate is not due to lack of "willpower" or some other character flaw. It's because obesity is not like a disease but more a syndrome. It's a common collection of symptoms, but the underlying causes are myriad. About half have nothing to do directly with diet. Genetics, more importantly, epigenetics. A common viral infection when you're a kid (that's a big one most people don't know about). Sleeplessness -- that one not only drives obesity but diabetes entirely separately.

There's a real sleep deprivation epidemic in this country. Almost every single child of school age and adult working a "regular" job is significantly underslept. Funny how that one doesn't get the attention of dieting. Maybe because it would be seriously inconvenient to businesses and schools, and there's nowhere as much money in selling people on sleeping enough as in selling them diet stuff?

That's just a cynical guess on my part. I'm sure I must be mistaken.

So why not give dieting a try, anyway? Well, for the same reason that Kaiser Medical took it off the list of recommended practices by their physicians. Some years back (10? more? Don't recall.) Kaiser removed dieting from the general recommendations their doctors gave overweight patients. They will still recommend it in certain specific cases, but as a general thing? Nuh uh.

Significantly changing your body weight, up or down, stresses the body. Down is worse than up, but neither's good. Changing by even 10% a year is a stressor (although usually safe). Going down and up repeatedly is WORSE than staying where you are in almost every case no matter what weight you're at.

Kaiser ran the numbers on their patients -- one of maybe 2 or 3 diet studies with good methodology... and that wasn't paid for by a company in the diet business (coincidence, no doubt). Yup, losing weight was healthier than keeping weight. But trying and failing to lose weight and keep it off was unhealthier than just keeping weight on, and almost all patient failed. The aggregate result? Recommending dieting was causing patients a lot more physical harm than teaching them how to live with the weight they had.

Get the point?

You wanna diet? Be my guest. I'm a strong believer in living the life that makes you happy over one that makes you healthy, if you're forced to choose. If dieting is going to make you happier, for whatever reason, do it!

Just don't delude yourself, going into it, that you are choosing the likely-healthier path. You're not. Do it because you WANT to.

Or, y'know, you might just see if you can change your living habits enough to insure you get enough sleep every night.

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Ain't evolution a bitch?
Fat, sugar and salt are all rare in the wild so over millions of years we've become genetically predisposed to crave them as they are an instant calory hit (salt for nervous system), and manufacturers take advantage of that.

Nowadays I cook from scratch so do a high proportion of veg compared to meat/pie/pasta/whatever, don't use salt in cooking but sprinkle a little at the table so the grains are intact and I get the taste without the quantity.

I think it is easier to cut down on the bad things rather than cutting out completely and bulking up on veg etc, (I've heard that eating too few calories makes your body think you are in a drought type situation so it immediately tries to hang onto your body fat and makes you feel very hungry to eat ASAP in case the food is about to run out completely).

I've also heard that carbs (flour, potato) are worse for teeth than sugar as the sugar dissolves quickly but the flour gets between your teeth and then bacteria feed on it and produce acid that rots your teeth.

good luck

For anyone concerned with the ravages of the SAD diet (Standard American Diet), especially cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes, three books are important reading: The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II; Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D.; and The Spectrum, by Dean Ornish, M.D. While it is possible to lose weight on "diets," permanently changing one's eating habits is the only solution that really will work over the long haul. What matters most is the condition of one's blood vessels, specifically the endothelium. It does little good to have a normal weight and vessels that look like pizza.

I just have to tell my story about weight loss. When I was 11, I weighted 165 lbs when I was 18 I was 320lbs where I stayed for the next 46 years. I yo yo dieted many times, never keeping it off for long. In January of 2003, at 300lbs something gave and I lost a few pounds. I decided that I was going to work at it. I've always been a meat and potato man and bragged that I'd never ate anything that was green. So I made a plan, I cut everything I ate by a half to two thirds, cut out eating between meals and never had seconds of anything.
I became a big time calorie counter. In December of 2003 I weighed 188lbs. I lost 12" around the middle and went down 4 pant sizes. The only thing that didn't change is my shoe size. Now in 2011 I weigh 191. The dark secret of dieting is that you can never stop. If you do you will put it all and more back on. It demands a permanent change in life style. I eat everything now and enjoy it and I will never quit dieting.
Personally I don't think there is a magic kind of food you can eat to lose weight, you just need to eat no more than you need. In the 1700's the average American ate 8 to 9000 calories a day, today with the lack of exercise the average American can gain wight on 2000 calories a day. So eat less exercise more and you will lose weight.
John Pasaneau


I wonder if you are being too militant about it? Surely just halving the amount of foods on that list in favor of healthier stuff will benefit you? After a while, you may find it easier to halve them again.

Sugar isn't too hard for me to avoid since I don't like sweet stuff. But, once upon a time, I decided I ought to get over my salt addiction. It wasn't hard to do, and didn't take long (just cooked for myself as much as I could for a week), nor was I militant--I allowed a pinch of salt or so per meal.

The trouble was that once I was over needing the salt, almost all prepared or processed food tasted intolerably salty to me. I was surprised how extreme the difference was.

(Restaurants, even gourmet restaurants, are big sinners in this regard. I don't think it's intentional, either--one develops a tolerance, like an addiction, to salt, and chefs and restaurant-goers are not immune.)

Yes, sugar is everywhere, and avoiding grains and dairy in the midwest sounds difficult, too. But all the more reason for a progressive approach. Less pressure, less deprivation, and you give both your body and your lifestyle time to adjust: discover alternate foods that you actually enjoy, learn new recipes, new sources, etc., all at a healthy, non-crisis pace.

(And, speaking of salt, a reminder that a tiny bit of salt can bring out the natural sweetness of many foods (without making them salty).)

"And the vast majority of things you eat turn to sugar when you eat them. Your body runs on glucose. :)"

Very true! LOL I'll confirm this comment

But also like it was said exercise for sure, and then that's another animal to conquer. Lifestyle changes work, diets are temporary. Choices choices...

0) Dog. Walk it more.

1) We're omnivorous, use organic ingredients, cook/bake things ourselves. At least most of the time, no milk nor sugar in tea, and never ever in coffee (polluting a good black coffee is an *insult*!).

2) And: take 2in off your trouser girth and get to know what it feels like when you're getting a bit wide again. Then you'll know when you've been snacking on too much bread/butter/cake and need to concentrate on apples and grapes (yum) for a while instead.

Balance is not that hard to maintain.

3) (For PMA) remember: a diet is what you eat, not the other way around. :)

I'm on a diet myself. The one who's fashionable in most of Europe at this time. The Dr. Dukan has sold 8,000.000 books in a couple of years. It's easy on you: you get to eat as much as you want, but just proteines, for a "cleaning" period of five to ten days and then it gets easier after that. BUT -a big BUT- you must avoid sugar. I got whitdrawal symptoms!! It was the only hard part.

Ah, you must eat three whole spoons of oat bran every morning, a filler that stays in your stomach quite a long time, erases hunger sensations, reduces cholesterol and imbibs grease.

So far it has been quite easy to follow it, and it's working for me and a lot of people I know.

I got strangely woozy and nearly passed out in the chair. I have no idea what was wrong with me on that visit, but something sure was.

You "vageled". Google it. Worst feeling in the world, but pretty much never fatal.


I hear you loud and clear. Try being a Diabetic and see what you can't have!

But back to the main culprit — Juice. Forget the packeaged stuff, let's talk about making your own — fruit or vegetable, it doesn't matter. Make a big glass of fresh juice and it is as fattening as anything from the candy counter. You see, taking carrot juice as an example, your glass of juice is made from more carrots that you would comfortably eat. You ingest the nutritional and calorific content of four or more carrots in a few swift gulps. How can you do so? Easy ..... all the fibre has been removed and just the nutrient source is left to be stored by your body.
Since January 1 this year I have lost 19 kilos (41.8 pounds) and my long term blood sugars are down from 12.9 to 8.4 by doing one very simple thing. I went onto Lite n' Easy for about ten weeks. That educated me in WHAT and HOW MUCH to eat. Now I do it on my own with fresh whole food that has not been frozen. A hard lesson for a carniverous Aussie that was raised on 2 pound steaks.


I've dropped 28lbs by pounding the pavement a few times a week. I was only 14st to begin with but I'm at my fighting weight 12 stone (I'm 6'1)

A diet is not a lifestyle change anymore than going on holiday is. You'll almost always come back to where you spend most of the year


Bravo on cutting the sugar, and even moreso on cutting the grains. Just as important, more for overall health than just weight loss, would be to cut out the oils derived from those grains; large quantities of polyunsaturated fats (like most americans consume) induce an inflammatory state. Increasing the omega-3 content helps by reducing omega-6 imbalance, but neither one should be the major source of fats in your diet.

Speaking of fat, your calories do need to come from somewhere, and if you're not an athlete who needs to worry about glycogen replacement, it's far better to get the bulk of your calories from clean sources of saturated and monounsaturated fat than from carbohydrate sources. This keeps your insulin levels lower. Note that most recent studies find no correlations between saturated fat intake or cholesterol intake and heart disease after adjusting for lifestyle factors, and there is no scientifically supported causative mechanism to link the two. The fact that the dogma persists has more to do with politics than science.

This probably sounds heretical to some, but it's worth looking at the actual physiology rather than, say, observational studies from Dr. Campbell and ilk, which merely compare correlations in statistics, and whose conclusions often do not match their actual data. The China Study in particular is a notable example.

Regarding the calories-in calories-out idea, well, here's the deal. Calories-out is a dependent variable, heavily influenced by changes in calories-in (and the form they arrive in). I could get more in-depth on it but this guy does a far more entertaining job of it:

Before anyone starts whining about the laws of thermodynamics, just read the dang thing.

More on the subject: Before feeling guilty or blaming yourself for not being able to control your impulses and get over your addiction, please consider that you are confronting an industry that invests literally hundreds of millions of dollars per year researching ways to make their products as addictive as possible and keep their consumers hooked. Same with tobacco, people tend to blame themselves for being unable to quit, ignoring this well known fact: you are not smoking tobacco or eating doughnuts, in fact you are consuming extremely well designed drugs intended to keep you kooked forever.

In case you want to check it, here is a link to the UK site for the Dukan diet, can't find a US equivalent. There's even a recipe for a donut!


has anyone come across a diet that accepts hunger? i know some of the "primal" stuff experiments with intermittent fasting, but it's always bothered me that diets go to unusual lengths to avoid what seems to be fairly obvious and necessary to me. if you want to lose weight, you're gonna have to deal with being hungry. doctors joke about people being healthier in countries where they have trouble eating enough. it makes those commercials about ending childhood hunger seem a little dubious, being in the middle of a childhood obesity epidemic and all that. not that i like seeing children go hungry, much less starving. it's a delicate topic, regardless of age.

have you noticed that we keep a lot of food in our spacious refrigerators and pantries? nutrient and flavor reduced vegetables in the former, starchy things in the latter. can't forget those TV dinners in the freezer. try doing an inventory of all the food you have stockpiled in the house and calculate the total calories on hand. i bet it could feed a primitive tribe in the middle of who knows where for several weeks! all to keep from being hungry. not having to drive down to the supermarket every day probably has something to do with it, too, which is a whole other problem.

Raizans, I fast regularly though I don't consider myself to be on a "diet." I typically run and work out in a fasted state and on many days only eat one big meal in the evening. I'm not trying to lose weight at this point, so I still make sure I average 2-3k calories per day, but the big difference is the timing. Taking advantage of the hormonal states that occur during fasting has in fact allowed me to put extra muscle on my ectomorphic frame for the first time.

There's a lot of emerging science on the health benefits of intermittent fasting (and the myths that it "slows down your metabolism" or puts you in "starvation mode" have been thoroughly debunked), most notably showing similar life-extension benefits as calorie restriction but without the stress-induced quality-of-life reductions associated with chronic caloric defecit.

Regularly going more than 8 hours between feedings has been the norm through all of humanity's evolutionary history until rather recently, so this should really come as no surprise. Most people today are so easily laid low by hunger because their bodies have never had to do so.

I consider hunger a friend. When your body isn't on the energy roller-coaster of a sugary diet and it's been conditioned to utilize your fat efficiently, the hunger during a fast isn't debilitating. It's energizing and focusing. "Hungry like the wolf" comes to mind.

Looks like Ctein's deeply researched his justifications for not even making a start on getting into shape.

'I consider hunger a friend' (Eric).

Lads, this is all getting way too strange. Eat less, and particularly, eat (far) less shit. Do a bit more exercise - nothing excessive, just enough to make you feel better than if you hadn't bothered. That's it.

Dear Jim,

"Getting into shape" is NOT synonymous with dieting or losing weight, no matter what the diet industry may wish you to believe.

pax /Ctein


Will you all *please* stop obsessing about this? It's simple. Get fresh things—no packages. Make things for you, your family, and friends. Every day. You'll have fun. You don't need to go to Cordon Bleu. Find "French Cooking in 10 Minutes"—He's serious about that—and you'll be a happy, healthy person. (Oh, yeah, you might walk to the store and have a nice conversation with the staff who you now know because you don't fly through snagging doughnuts with sprinkles because you just have to get back to the *whatever* like you used to do.)


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