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Tuesday, 02 September 2014


Or cooking lessons with a patient and enthusiastic teacher . . .

Fasting can indeed be good. The most I have done is a seven day fast on water only. Not to be recommended to do regularly but it was a good experience.
When your body has to manage without food things start to happen.
The first days can be hard. You long for food and can experience head aches when the body start to change. But by the fourth or fifth day you start to feel great. Lots of energy as the body never has to break down any food.
Just make sure to drink plenty of water! Later on you will of course start to lose energy as the built in reservs start to run out.

The first meals after breaking a fast can be very special experiences. You really begin to enjoy the sensational tastes that you took for granted before.

With our modern life style I think one or two day fasts every now and then is healthy. But of course, don't do it if you have some health issues. At least not without consulting with a doctor.

"My congenital and irremediable inability to cook impedes proper eating, no question."

I think some gentle chiding is in order. By your own admission, you are a B&W whiz in the darkroom. Recently, you've mastered the art of excellent coffee, including roasting and grinding. Well, cooking uses the same skill set, and it's equally rewarding. You just need someone to point you in the right direction. After a few weeks, you'll wonder why you stood in your own way for so long.

An easy one for you, enjoyable too. No need to come off it unless you want? http://thepaleodiet.com/

The 230s seem to be a hangup for guys our age: I lost 35 - 40 lbs from 270, hung there a while without much trouble, then made it to 220 in prep for hip replacements. Once I recovered I shot back to 230-ish, even though I don't think I changed my habits much. Now I'm working like crazy to lose 10+, but it's really difficult. However, think how much better we feel now than we did when we were fat!

Soylent Green? Mike didn't you see the movie?

I agree about needing someone who enjoys cooking. My own data set looks similar: through dietary change, I dropped about 20 pounds off my peak, then, after some time, I drifted back up 5 pounds, and have stayed constant since. I eat better - much better in every measure, (taste, regularity, quality, etc.), but I've not been able to move my equilibrium point down.

My working hypothesis is that if I increase my activity level, the amount of fresh air I get, and the quality of the sleep I get, I should be able to resume losing size, because I'll be teaching my body to allocate those calories differently. I'm intending on focusing on activities I genuinely like to do (long walks in the woods, paddleboating, badminton, dance video games such as DDR, archery, and so on) rather than "exercise" for it's own sake. (Boring!) I was able to greatly increase the amount of walking in my life by treating it as preparation for a three-day, once-a-year vacation* where I knew I'd be able to do a lot of photography, provided I had the stamina to walk on and off from 8am to 9pm. (Practice included a 3.5 mile loop, up and down hills 6 days a week.)

Some personal experiences of other people in my family suggest that the shape of one's body reflects what you "do" with it, and that focusing on pounds as a measure of health and/or body fat is pretty misleading. One friend asked me to go to the local ice rink and watch the grown-ups during open skating sessions. They challenged me to identify the age of the participants from a distance, and compare the age of their bodies to the age of their faces. I think you'd find the experiment intriguing.

I think the right measure is "what can I do with my body" regardless of how the size of my body is distributed.

p.s. I think you might be interested in the traditional European fasting patterns, for instance, the rules surrounding Lent in the pre-Reformation period. Some of those rulesets were pretty thoroughly tested for practicality by a group of people who had to walk everywhere, all the time.

*DDB calls them "conventions" :)

I lost 60 lbs. over the past 6 months. My PCP said the two magic words: "insulin diabetes."

My self-portrait with two models:


Have you tried E'OLA?

I saw that "Soylent" thing on Colbert a couple of weeks ago, and it didn't look appealing to me,- but good luck.
I need to loose weight myself, like most Americans. And I'm in no position to give advice, but I do think eating sensibly is key. Having plenty of fruit and vegetables is important; and my sister who lives in the UK would suggest limiting your intake of anything made with white four. She would go so far as to say avoid wheat.
One other thing may be important for you, that you take the time to shop for food, and look for foods that can be prepared with not a great deal of work. There are some supermarket chains that make a real effort to have healthy prepared meals for busy people.
When you stop for a meal,it should look good as well as taste good.
Somewhere in there- there's a similar relationship with photography and making pictures!

I'm not sure you were trying to start a new fad, but, funnily enough, four or five days a week I adhere to The Morning Coffee Fast Diet. All I have in the AM is a a couple of cups of caffeinebeanjuice, and eat only after 16 hours of fasting, which usually means around 1pm. I completely agree that an empty stomach is great for focus.

There's an hour long documentary to go with the book, BBC Horizon, and it's a very good summary of current research, not at all faddy. It's on the Beeb's iplayer which isn't available to all, but I've found it here too (long gone from youtube):


Thanks for posting this today. I managed three 1-day fasts earlier this year and then lapsed. They were much easier than I anticipated. Definitely time to try again. Also last night on the box this doco about sugar in NZ:


One of my other favorite places on the internet recently did a 4-day test of Soylent. I thought it was a good read at least, and interesting to boot.


Just read that Soylent link. Now that is faddy, wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. There'll be a ton of unknown micronutrients missing. Better than a doughnut I guess.

I'm with you on the intermittent fasting. It's the only diet that actually makes me feel better rather than worse while loosing weight, and I've tried a lot. I did find that I had to do it for a few weeks before I got over the hunger pains.


Diets---in the sense of something extreme that you cannot sustain long term---don't work. You and I grew up (I'm 50) in the period when we were handed a bogus food pyramid that said we should eat a low fat high carb diet. This worked fine for me till I turned 40, and then I gained 30 pounds and didn't know why until I made one of my
sabbatical side projects (I'm a physicist) to learn about nutrition.

Bottom line is that the old food pyramid is not based on good science, and it is quite likely that you are carbohydrate intolerant. This was my
problem too. After eating lots of brown rice, whole grains, pasta for years, I adopted a high fat low carb ketogenic diet. Roughly 80% of my calorie intake comes from grass fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil (NO corn, safflower, canola, etc), bacon, grass fed beef, heavy cream, sour cream, etc. about 20% from protein (I have 3-4 eggs almost every morning).

Eating this way, I lost those 30 pounds effortlessly, without hunger. BUT, I have to keep my carbohydrate intake less than 50 grams/day (two apples would put me over the limit!). This means NO sugar, no honey, no maple syrup, no pasta, no bread, brown rice, potatoes.

But leaf lettuce, red peppers, kale, chard, tomatoes, and low carb veggies are fine.

Just google HFLC diet, or ketogenic diet and you'll find a ton of info.
I recommend the video interviews on dietdoctor.com, the cookbook
"The Real Meal Revolution" by Tim Noakes (have to order from South Aftrica). Also read "Why we get fat" by Gary Taubes and "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet" by Nina Teicholz.

I'd be happy to talk to you more if you have questions. I'm giving a public talk about ketogenic diets next month at the University of Southern Maine, in part because even Maine Medical Center doesn't give good science-based advice to obese/overweight patients.

One of my colleagues who has been on statins and blood pressure meds for years adopted this HFLC diet and lost 20 pounds and is off all his medications for the first time in his life.

ARS Technica had an article about a guy trying Soylent, and his bottom line was that it is barely tolerable, and that the resulting olefactory insult (if you catch a whiff of my meaning) had his wife threatening to move out of the apartment. I can't find the ARS search line, if there is one, so I can't link to the article, but if you are pining romantically, you might think twice about the stuff...

A diet I recommend -- I may write a book about it -- is called the Camp 10-Gram Diet, in which you can eat anything, but try to keep your fat intake under ten grams a day. An alternative would be to say you could eat one piece of meat a day, but otherwise, keep it under 10 grams. If you do that, you will avoid certain kinds of bread (but not all bread) most, but not all kinds of candy and cookies (Twizzlers and other kinds of similar candies are fat-free, and there are fat-free Fig Newtons), there are fat-free crackers, and so on. I lost ten pounds without much trouble, just avoiding the stuff I normally ate, and simply substituting a fat-free version. You *can* find fat free versions of most foods, and even get extremely low fat meat, if you're willing to eat game meat, which is available in most large cities. You can also get no-fat and I think fat-free hotdogs that are meat based, and I've found that with a fat-free hot dogs buns, mustard (no fat) and onions, I could have a pretty good meat-tasting meal with essentially no fat and no cooking time...

Be careful with this fasting stuff, Mike. It can affect your gallbladder. Also, idle acid in the stomach can eventually make it sort of digest itself.

I read the soylent article too. Ugh, life is way too short for that sort of regimen. But you are a little younger than I, so what the heck, full speed ahead until you encounter consequences.

fwiw: If you are an imbiber, alcohol adds a lot of useless calories. Luckily, I never took up the habit but love good food made from fresh vegetables, like soups.

Sadly, all the sitting doing photography on the computer pretty much negates losing weight, or getting exercise. Ain't technology grand.


I want to address Lulu's problem rather than yours (not that I'm unsympathetic with yours, since I have the same problem, but . . .). Have you tried acupuncture for Lulu's arthritis? Coincidentally we just 15 minutes ago returned from our Daisy's treatment (12-year old Golden). It seems to do her a lot of good--she gets up and down steps and around the neighborhood more easily after a treatment. Our vet says it works for about 75% of dogs, and with those for whom it doesn't work there are no side effects.

In any case, best wishes to all of you!

I just read the following story at CNN:


The idea is that you condition your brain to like healthy foods.

I think it works, many years ago I cut out the traditional French cuisine ingredients: butter, cream, animal fats, and I don't miss them anymore.

I found that the Vietnamese cuisine is similar to French cuisine (strong French influence) but without all the heavy saturated fats.

Soylent, Mike? Is it by any chance Soylent Green? You know what that stuff's made of... You know, don't you?

With best regards,


for those with no exposure to intermittent fasting I suggest the following:


I caught this on PBS and it was a "driveway moment" as they like to refer to it on NPR ... walking past the TV, stopped for a moment to check it out and sat there transfixed 'til it ended. Compelling stuff.

i wonder if anyone's come up with a way to combine food pr0n and dieting. i'm sure there must be some sort of positive reinforcement going on with constant instagram likes of what you're eating!

anyhow, i agree that you have to start learning how to cook. i'll write you a cook book if you want!

Also, a new* study has surfaced, directly comparing low-carb and low-fat diets. Results:
The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet. Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.
From: Annals of Internal Medicine 2 September 2014, Vol 161, No. 5
The NYT summary article has this quote:
While the low-fat group did lose weight, they appeared to lose more muscle than fat. An outcome which is bad, needless to say. (Other studies that I don't have citations for suggest that muscle weight loss is a risk factor for certain heart problems, since the heart is, ya know, muscle!)

*there's lots, actually, but this is both new and a direct comparison, which is handy.

I typoed on that last comment. The first line should have referred to comparing low-carb to low-fat diets. Oops!

When you get tired of Soylent Green, you might want to try some of the dishes modestly proposed by the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Mike, posts like this in a big profile site like yours are of concern to me.

For someone who has such a reasonable, sensible and enjoyable approach in the world of photography, it feels really weird to read your posts on a very serious issue for many people, such as is diet.
I respect your wishes to follow fast diets (or slow ones, for that matter). But I have some background knowledge on the topic, and I can tell you one thing:

The perfect diet exists and has been used by humans for many thousand of years: eat reasonable amounts of just about everything; avoid excess in any category of food; and do physical activity regularly.

It really is THAT simple. And trust me, no magic diet will solve the wieght issues of anybody.

I know that the simple "diet" I outlined above (which I certainly did not invent) is not easy to follow in the modern Western world: it's all too easy to spend countless hours working in front of the computer (I know it well, as I do it often).

But we have to make this clear: a magic diet with no physical activity is not going to work. You will get bored sooner rather than later. And your overweight will come back sooner rather than later.

So we can keep on playing with magic diets forever, but the fact is that we are using the wrong strategy to solve a simple problem.

There is a reason why all mass-media marketed 'diets' are referred to be the scientific community as 'fad diets'.

Good luck with Soylent. I've been following the project since before it was anything you could actually point at (over at YCombinator's Hacker News). It's the dream of a fellow who not only gets no pleasure at all from food, but finds it an inconvenient and time-wasting insult, something we should have been able to engineer out of the human condition by now. Soylent is something that will have to do in the period between now and the time geneticists are able to fix things so that we can get all of our energy from either light or ambient heat and just sort of absorb other nutrients. (Perhaps by putting our feet in large trays of potting soil? No, that would still consume time filling and dumping, wouldn't it? Pedal hydroponics, then.) All of that is to say that flavour, aroma and texture are only considered inasmuch as they can be tailored to avoid gagging and reverse peristalsis. MealSquares is a similar "DISRUPT ALL THE THINGS!!!!" Silicon Valley approach product, but with at least some thought given to palatability. (Or, rather, it will be a product; it's in late development.) Just be aware that engineers (especially "engineers", which most people in the software world fancy themselves being without actually following any of the practices of engineering) are unusually prone to woo and bro-science.

Marek is right about a lot of things. In addition to diet books, choice of film, developer, lens, composition, processing, etc.

Michael Mosley´s 5:2 diet works fine for me. Here in Sweden, he had some documentaries on TV, which originated from BBC. I lost 5 kg´s in just 2 months, effortless in my mind.

Rather than any diet of the day / week / year, or some unidentifiable food substitute (!), how about doing a cooking course? As a side bonus, you could do some food, cookery or 'people prepping food' photography :-)

Really good post.

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