The dogma of weight management is (calories in) – (calories out)= (weight gain or loss). Supposedly, if you eat more calories than you “burn,” you gain weight because the calories don’t have anywhere to go but into your fat cells. This makes people sound like machines that burn fuel. We aren’t machines. That equation has no biological basis. We’re much more complicated and interesting.
A diet in which you consume less than 50-100 grams of carbohydrates (sugars) per day + over 60% of your calories from healthy fats + sufficient protein + fiber + essential nutrients results in the healthiest human beings. That’s probably very different from what you’ve been told is a healthy diet. On this site, we’ll explore what has been learned in recent years regarding the biological basis of healthy nutrition. We’ll also think about how to avoid the sugars that are truly toxic to your health.
Here’s the “equation” for disease– diet of mostly carbohydrates in which more than 10% of the calories come from sugars (table sugar, high fructose corn, syrup, fruit juices, etc) can cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancers, food allergies, and interfere with young children’s nervous system development. And those are just the more obvious diseases sugar causes.
There’s an intermediate equation too–a diet high in carbohydrates isn’t optimal, but if carbohydrates are from plants, not processed foods, it’s high in fiber, and less than 5% of the calories come from sugars, you dramatically lower your risk for developing the illnesses listed above. If you’ve already dug yourself into a hole physically, the first equation will do the best job of digging you out.
The reason the (calories eaten) – (calories burned) = (weight gain or loss) equation doesn’t work is because your body doesn’t handle sugars, fats, and proteins the same way. I talk about sugar a lot because the carbohydrates (“carbs”) you see listed on food labels and in weight loss articles are made of sugar molecules stuck together. To digest carbohydrates, your digestive tract breaks them down into individual sugar molecules and absorbs those into your bloodstream. The complicated biochemical paths that use sugars, fats, and proteins are separate and different. They are used differently and have different effects on your body.
It also matters that for millions of years, the type of foods humans and their ancestors ate drove the evolution of the metabolic paths in our body that used the food. Herbivores eat plants with more carbohydrates and fiber, usually with way less fat and protein, unless the herbivore is a nut-eater. Carnivores eat other animals, getting most of their calories from fats and proteins. Our lineage of hominids were omnivores that became predators, eating meat preferentially, although we could still survive on other foods. And get fatter in fruit and berry season, since the only way to store the energy from the sugars in the fruits and berries was as fat. As I’ll discuss in the Biology section, for at least 1.8 million years, we were the most effective predators the planet has ever seen. We’ve only been growing plants as food for a few thousand years. We’ve only been eating refined sugars, most of the common vegetable oils, and processed foods for a couple of centuries or so, unless you were a rich person with access to high sugar foods. When you eat foods evolution didn’t prepare you for, your brain and body gets confused and sick. That can be changed.
Browse the site to explore different topics. Go to the How-To section if you want specific diet and exercise suggestions.