Health Kick: Some good news

The last article focused on bad news. This time I’m going to focus on good news — or at least, what good news I’ve been able to find.

You can enjoy eggs again

As mentioned in the last article, for most people eggs do not contribute to high cholesterol levels. They’re also good for you, and very nutritious. Just try and pick up the free range ones.

I like omelets and quiche, and it has been good to be able to eat them again without feeling guilty.

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No more skim milk

Since the low fat diet is unhealthy, there’s no point using white-colored water on your cereal.

However, I decided that full fat milk was probably a bad idea. Yes, the evidence seems to be accumulating that fats are harmless, but I decided to take a cautious approach and aim to avoid going over my recommended daily saturated fat. That’s easily done with a couple of cups of full-fat milk in one day, so I decided that 1% or 2% milk was probably the right balance. I switched to 2%, almost all of which is in my morning latte.

Recent research suggests that saturated fat helps foods to trigger satiety, and this seems to be the case for me — adding a little saturated fat to the protein in my coffee drink makes it much less likely that I’ll want to eat at 10am.

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No more margarine

Again, since the low fat diet is unhealthy, there’s no real gain in putting margarine on your toast.

I found a spreadable whipped butter blend that’s a mix of butter, olive oil and canola oil. That lowers the fat enough that I’m not going to exceed 100% of my sat fat in a day, but keeps it high enough to taste good and be healthy.

You don’t have to go to the gym

As I already mentioned, going to the gym won’t help you lose weight. It’s also not necessary for fitness. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking a day will do wonders for you. Harvard meta-analyses say it’s associated with 22% lower death rate and 32% lower risk of stroke, and an 82% lower risk of heart disease. Just from walking!

Their conclusion:

Walking has it all. Simple and natural, it doesn’t require any instruction or skill. It can be a very modest form of exercise or it can demand enough skill and intensity to be an Olympic sport. You can walk alone for solitude or with friends for companionship. You can walk indoors on a treadmill or outside in the city or country, at home or away. You can get all the benefits of moderate exercise with a very low risk of injury. And to boot, walking is inexpensive.

Add a couple of strength-training sessions a week with some cheap weights and you’re good.

Of course, if you like the gym, that’s fine; don’t let me put you off. I’m just saying there’s no health-related need to go to the gym. Walking briskly will be enough to get your metabolism up to healthy levels, and reduce your hunger.

The latter point still amazes me. It makes no logical sense that burning off energy makes you want to ingest energy less. Nevertheless, that’s how the body seems to work.

You don’t have to eat salad

Remember that your “diet” diet needs to be your permanent diet. You could probably lose weight by eating nothing but salad, but really, there’s no need to suffer that kind of misery.

I’ve been eating pot pies, curries, stir fry, pasta, pizza, a stack of pancakes for breakfast, and still steadily losing weight and getting thinner. It’s all about picking the right choices and ingredients and eating appropriate amounts in the right way — more in a later article.

If you do eat salad, you can put the dressing on, or even use actual mayonnaise. Almost all salad dressings are made with healthy oils like olive or canola, so just watch for the sodium levels and total calories and you’re good. The fat helps you to absorb the nutrients in the salad.

You don’t need to go hungry

For a while now I’ve been going to bed feeling comfortably full. Sometimes I don’t even feel hungry when I wake up in the morning. There are several forces at play here:

  1. Exercise helps keep your metabolism up, and reduces hunger. It seems mad, but it’s true. I’ve had evenings when I’ve felt ravenous, gone out for a brisk walk, and when I get home again I’m fine and just need a snack.

  2. Once you stop poisoning your body with so much sugar, it starts to process the “I’m full” signals properly. (See Dr Lustig’s talk.)

  3. Healthy food makes you feel fuller. Fiber helps fill the gut, and both fiber and fat help slow nutrient absorption and smooth out your hunger levels. Whole grain foods tend to be higher in protein as well.

Eventually I found it became fairly easy to end the day around 800 calories below my target intake, without feeling hungry. That amounts to about 100g of weight loss per day, which is about what I’ve averaged over the 2 weeks leading up to writing this article. That’s right in the middle of the range which the Mayo Clinic recommends as healthy and realistic for the long term.

A few years back there were some experiments on mice which suggested that caloric restriction might be good for lifespan. Specifically, cutting caloric intake by 30-40% seemed to make some animals live from 10-40% longer. The National Institutes of Health launched a $20m research program, and I’m delighted to say that 7 years later the result was that caloric restriction is no use at all to primates.

You can eat sweet things

Processed sugar is the real problem. Sugar in raw fruit isn’t a big problem, because the natural fiber slows down absorption and gives the body time to deal with it.

Fruit juice in bottles, on the other hand, should be avoided. Even juice which proudly proclaims that it’s “not from concentrate” is typically highly industrially processed and bears little resemblance to natural fruit juice. It’s typically stripped of oxygen and flavor-providing chemicals, stored in huge tanks, and then re-flavored with orange extract when it’s time to sell it.

I found that I could get the unnecessary sugar out of the rest of my food, and by doing so save it for dessert and the occasional treat. I also found that as I weaned myself off of sugar, the amount I needed for something to taste sweet dropped significantly.

Health Tips...Drink Liquor Responsibly....Eat Fruits Liberally...
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8. You don’t have to go low carb

It’s not all carbs that are the enemy; it’s the carbs with high glycemic index that spike your blood sugar. Like, for example, processed sugars.

Things which reduce the effective glycemic load are:

  • Lack of processing.
  • Natural fiber content.
  • Higher fat or acid content.

By eating whole grains and unprocessed foods, and allowing fat back into your diet, you can avoid the need to go low carb.