The dominant paradigm 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. 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. For most people, that diet should cause their body to flip to nutritional ketosis, using ketones for normal metabolism instead of glucose. 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– a diet of mostly carbohydrates in which more than 10% of the calories come from sugars (table sugar, high fructose corn, syrup, fruit juices, etc) or easily digested carbohydrates, which become sugars, will cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancers, food allergies, and interfere with young children’s nervous system development. There are a cascade of possible metabolically induced disease conditions. Your exact genetic makeup will determine which problems you’re most prone to when you eat a high carbohydrate, inflammatory diet. In my family, one area of weakness is the eyes.
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. They trigger different hormonal regulatory mechanisms as well. Only glucose sugar triggers elevated insulin, for example.
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. We could get a little fatter in fruit and berry season, since the only way to store the energy from the sugars in the fruits and berries is 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. Conversely, if you eat foods you’re well adapted to everything works better. The damage caused by long term inflammation starts to repair, at least in part.
Browse the site to explore different topics. Go to the How-To section if you want specific diet and exercise suggestions.
If you’d like a quick, very entertaining introduction to many of the key concepts on this site, watch That Sugar Film, which I review here.