The Rise of Obesity and How to Make It Stop

Obesity is on the rise across the world almost universally and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.  There are 10 times more kids obese now than there was 40 years ago and if we don’t do something, and quick, we are just going to become sicker and sicker as a race.

It is easy to blame carbs for the obesity crisis and lots of people do, especially if they’ve had success losing weight on a high fat diet.  It is also easy to blame fat for the obesity crisis and lots of people do especially if they’ve had success on a low fat diet (and this has been the recommended advice for decades).  Then there’s the calories in calories out (CICO) argument, where some believe it is purely energy balance (and perhaps it is), but often the subtlety of the metabolism changes caused by foods are not considered, or the satiety or lack thereof induced by certain food combos.

My own person belief has been that both approaches work for a very simple reason i.e. carbs+fat combos are autumnal, and by avoiding foods with this signature, you avoid hyperphagia (uncontrolled urge to eat), calorie input and maximise the time you have oxidising fat.  I’ve written lots of blogs on hormones impacted by this combo, adult brown adipose tissue etc. to make the case that human beings are seasonally adapted creatures.

I’ve been seeking proof of this concept for some time and over time more and more emerges.  Marty Kendall of Optimising Nutrition shows how analysis of a half million days worth of myfitnesspal data showed that the people who ate most calories were those who ate carbs+fat in an almost equal ratio.  I sent Marty a message about the autumnal squirrel formula of 50% fat 40% fat and 10% protein and showed him how many junk foods match the signature of acorns (a major autumnal food for hyperphagic bears and squirrels), and human breast milk (a food designed to make human infants as fat as possible in as short a space of time as possible to aid early survival, which is a universal formula among humans) and how various junk foods like donuts and ice-cream match this signature perfectly.  He expanded this list using his nutrient optimiser tool and found a list of 30+ junk foods that match the signature and only 2 natural foods were shown on this list… you guessed it: acorns and breastmilk!

Read this fascinating article on optimising nutrition

Recently, I had a hunch that if I compared macronutrients eaten by nations across the globe (irrespective of calories) and compared this with obesity rankings I would find a trend whereby as fat and carbs converge, obesity would rise accordingly.

So I searched for the data and found 2 individual sets of data that would allow me to correlate the information.

a) WHO data on prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥ 30kg/m2) (2016)  ref: 

Tabular data obtained from wikipedia:

b) FAO Statistics Division 2010, Food Balance Sheets, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy

Tabular data obtained from

I whittled down the common countries so that I would have the headings and ranked the countries from lowest levels of obesity to highest and converted that to a percentage value.

Country, Obesity Rank, Carbs, Fats, Protein

Then it was simply a matter of plotting that data against the carb, fat and protein percentages (click to enlarge).

I think the graph says it all really but let me explain what my interpretation and conclusion is:

  • As carbs and fats converge, obesity levels rise, this trend is clear from the graph
  • Protein remains the same, the reason the patterns of carbs and fat mirror is because they make up 100% so as carbs increase fat decreases and vice versa
  • This is irrespective of calories, I am not denying that there may be a relationship between calories and obesity trends too, but this is clearly showing a trend based on macro combinations.   The relationship I believe here is that carb+fat combos like fatty meat and bread, donuts, syrupy coffees etc. drive hunger, or more accurately hyperphagia as it is faux hunger, a hunger that can never be satisfied for a creature that is hardwired to understand winter is coming.
  • It is important to note that this is % calories from fat and not grams (1g of fat is 9 cals, but when we’re talking percentages we are looking at it from an energy point of view).

My conclusion therefore is that it seems evident that obesity rises as carbs and fats converge irrespective of calorie intake, globally.

This is potentially driven by a hyperphagic survival response in humans.

There are no diets recorded with higher levels of fat than carbs, though it is obvious that this would be the case in countries further from the equator in winter, as photosynthesis is required to create sugars and starches, therefore in non farming communities in times past, they would have had very little access to carbohydrates in winter as opposed to late summer during the harvest.  I believe this is the key to why high fat low carb diets are effective.  The simulate winter and spring.

The following images is a hypothetical graph showing the circannual changes in fat, protein and carb levels available during our early history, and the hormonal responses of our bodies.

BAT Fat Natural Annual Cycle - Don't Eat for Winter

Counties where there are many crops of fruit per year (closer to the equator), tend to be high carb low fat, however, people from these countries are not immune to carb+fat combos and seem just as programmed to gorge on this type of food.  I’m not sure the implications of this but it stands to reason if our species dates back to the beginning of time where an uncountable number of migrations may have occurred during various climate change events.

The bottom line is that eating autumnally in every meal and snack, as per diets in many countries now, which are all tending towards more carb+fat combos in every meal, snack and beverages (milkshakes, syrupy coffees etc)., means autumnal hyperphagia and resulting weight gain.

Problems: in the graph above you can see the clear trend but some of the carb+fat data varies quite wildly from country to country.  This could be for various reasons including but not limited to:

  • Levels of manual labour vs sedentary lifestyles
  • Types of carbs and fats e.g. fibrous wholefood sources vs refined starches, sugars and fats
  • Longevity (typically weight gain increases with age, a younger population should correlate with less obesity)
  • Levels of sunlight available
  • Ethnicity factors (ability to deal with sugars and fats based on geographic latitude and ancestral diets).

A recent study by Dana Small et al showed that humans value carbs+fat more by sight alone, and this is evident in shops as they are front loaded with high carb+fat junk foods.  Fauxtom foods?

Another recent study found that mice got fat on diets made up of up to 60% fats but then became less obese as fat percentages went higher.  Finding out this figure in human beings would be useful.

I predict that it is approximately 50% fat, 40% carb and 10% protein that causes the most damage (the signature of acorns and human breast milk) and it would be useful to run trials to discover this once and for all.

Time will tell.

If you want to find out more about this hypothesis, and discover a sustainable anti-autumal eating strategy/pattern that includes carbs and fats in daily diet, check out my book ‘Don’t Eat for Winter’ on Amazon or explore the other blogs on this site.




Introducing ‘The Carb Pyramid’

The Carb Pyramid

I have always been a little frustrated with the food pyramid in terms of how carbohydrate heavy it is with all the harvest foods at the lower levels.  It got me thinking about how it could potentially be improved to help people lower the amounts of sugar and starch in their diets holistically.

Governments and health organisations seem to be in denial that starch converts readily into sugar (a quick search for the top item on the glycemic index is quite shocking, have a look yourself when you’re finished reading this).

This seems  obvious, but lots of people are missing this point:

Carbs  harvest in a circannual cycle (as they rely on the sun) and so only exist in abundance in autumn. 

There’s no starch in March.

As a result, I believe that starch and sugar are part of the formula that causes animals to gorge in preparation for winter.

Recently, the food pyramid was altered, and now vegetables and fruit appear on the bottom rung, which was a welcome move, however there are things like bananas and orange juice on that level which I think do not belong there as they have significant amounts of sugar/starch in them.

So, for what it’s worth, here is my own version of a food pyramid but rather than including staples like protein and fat in the pyramid itself (which are just as important as carbs in the diet if not more so), I’ve created the main pyramid to consider what types of carbs should be prioritised in the diet.

The Carb Pyramid
Click here to download The Carb Pyramid PDF

The Carb Pyramid Explained

The Levels:

  1. Junk appears at the top as normal and should be limited to occasional treats.
  2. Semi-processed foods where wholefoods have their skin removed, or there’s been sugar added.
  3. Typical carbs like potatoes and whole grains, where both the fibre (e.g. bran) is eaten with the food
  4. Fruit and Veg that have a high GI but a low glycemic load (i.e. you’d have to eat a lot more to get the same amount of carb as level 3)
  5. Finally, we have low GI fruit and veg which can be eaten in much larger quantities because there’s low amounts of sugar/starch

Fat and Protein Vectors:

The double arrow on the left means protein should be eaten with all levels (especially 3-5).

The fading arrow on the right means fats should be eaten with lower gi foods

Why avoid Carbs+Fat?

The key reason behind avoiding high carbs+fat is satiety.  Recent studies have shown this combination is more valued by humans and can cause hormonal responses that drive greater reward signals to the brain and potentially addictive like behaviour. They also affect other hormones like ghrelin, leptin and insulin. For this, and various other reasons explained in Don’t Eat for Winter and on this website, this autumnal combination of simultaneous carbs+fat is limited in order to control appetite and retard potential fat storage.

The premise of DEFoW is that the spike of carbs in autumn, combined with fats, causes hyperphagia in the animal kingdom (we observe this with bears and squirrels and pigs fattening from things like acorns, which are the only wholefood in nature with a high carb+fat signature), and that this phenomenon could still be active in human beings. We are seasonally adapted creatures as we can develop a winter thermal layer of fat called brown adipose tissue that uses regular white fat as a fuel source. It therefore stands to reason that we would need to also store fat during autumn to survive winter, just like other animals in order to give us our best chance at making it through to the following spring.

Unfortunately in today’s world, we eat this autumnal combo in every single meal and snack (junk foods match acorns in an uncanny way), all year round, and so we are putting on weight indefinitely in anticipation of a winter that never happens.

Spring into your Summer Body with Don’t Eat for Winter…

…the Anti-Autumnal Diet

Human Hyperphagia – How to control binge eating!

Do you often just keep snacking uncontrollably? “I’ll just have one more biscuit” or when eating a takeaway eat more than you thought you would? Often it’s even stronger after a crash diet.

Don’t worry, it’s a normal part of being a creature from planet earth, especially if your ancestors adapted to seasonal climates.

This week is fat bear week and they can put on an incredible 4lbs a day before hibernation. This is so they can survive a cruel winter and sleep for up to 6 months. They undergo hyperphagia, an uncontrollable instinctual desire to eat  in order that they can survive winter.

Though we humans do not hibernate, we are seasonal creatures too to varying degrees. It was recently discovered that adult humans can develop brown adipose tissue or BAT FAT, a special type of fat that has thermic properties that assist winter survival.  There two ways to develop this are via autumnal triggers from diet (high insulin and leptin levels, pointing to autumnal carbs+fat) and exposure to cold (also autumnal).

We don’t need to develop BAT any more (modern heating, and food availability) and typically we never do as the conditions for it do not ever happen in the modern world. However, we can develop the precursor to brown fat in abundance i.e. white adipose tissue (WAT, the stuff that jiggles), which is necessary in order for brown fat to develop.

I propose we suffer from hyperphagia collectively because of our modern food environment, and I believe many of us trigger it daily because of the hormonal and chemical impact of the foods available to us.  Essentially, we trigger ancient autumnal instincts that encourage us to develop fat because our bodies believe winter is coming, just like bears instincts are telling them this week.

The main food available to bears at the moment is ACORNS… a fun acronym for acorns is Autumnal Causing Rapid Obesity in Nature.  Check out the chart from  on the Wise About Bears website, courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources…

A Bears Quest for Food

From the chart you can see that the main food bears are eating during Fat Bear Week (#fatbearweek), is acorns, and it seems this food from the great oak tree protects these vulnerable creatures through fat storage for winter survival. The profile of acorns has been discussed often on this site and in  ‘Don’t Eat for Winter’.  It matches just one other natural food in an uncanny way: Human Breast Milk! A food designed to help human infants become hardy and survive a vulnerable period (a perfectly healthy food for vulnerable infants of course).  The only other foods matching this signature from the USDA food composition database is a list of junk foods.  Energy dense and hyper-palatable triggering fat storage instincts.

This food macro ratio is good for bears and babies through natural foods like acorns and breast milk, which have other nutrients they need too, but for adults who are no longer vulnerable in winter time, perhaps not so much.  I suggest that this is why junk makes us gorge and become fat. They trigger these instincts within us and you simply cannot outwit instinct with willpower. It is therefore ridiculous to blame obesity on lack of willpower or laziness.  Squirrels and bears are anything but lazy as they gorge in autumn to survive the winter, if anything they’re more active than ever before they begin resting up.  If they cannot out run autumn, how can we, when we have sedentary jobs which compounds the issue.

Although humans don’t eat acorns (some tribes did over winter like celts and native americans), we do eat combos with the exact same signature, and these are the foods that do the damage to out waistlines.

E.g. popcorn on it’s own is meh, butter on it’s own is yuck, but together (carbs+fat) and you’d eat a whole bucket of it and we pay through the nose for the privelege for something that costs close to nothing to make. A recent scientific paper shows how we value such foods more, and other papers show cafeteria diets cause excessive eating in rodents.  Yet another paper shows how fats increase the dopamine effects of carbs through endocannibanoids.

Others notable combos include…

Donuts (carbs+fat)
Chocolate (carbs+fat)
Pastries (carbs+fat)
Buttery popcorn (carbs+fat)
Crisps (carbs+fat)
Syrupy coffees (carbs+fat)
Pizza, burgers and fries (carbs+fat)
Biscuits (carbs+fat)
Ice cream (carbs+fat)

There are also more natural, nutritious combos too that hit this formula like fruit and nuts, apple tart, potatoes and fatty meat etc. that we should be careful of too if management of bodyfat levels is sought.

These sort of foods set me off into a gorge frenzy because they prime my instincts, my pupils dilate and it doesn’t matter how much willpower i have, I’ll make excuses to get more of it into me… a little demon on my shoulder having a dialog with me whispering, “one more will do no harm” until I get to the last one and then it’s “sure you might aswell eat the last one, what difference will it make?”

I don’t feel guilt when this happens anymore, I know it’s not because I’m weak, it’s because millions of years of evolution lead to me liking foods like this more than others because they assisted my ancestors survival and I inherited the gift to be able to survive times that were less plentiful.

High carb+fat foods and food combinations can only exist in nature in autumn and so what is happening is the earth itself becomes a protective mother for her inhabitants and we gorge and get hardy for winter. Nowadays, foods that traditionally would only appear in autumn are now available all day every day, all year round.  I believe this is a major factor in, if not the fundamental cause of, the obesity and the world’s ongoing battle with weight.  Most of us find it difficult to get into really good shape and it is the environment, not us that is to blame.

This is what DEFoW is about more than anything else. Avoiding hyperphagia, and controlling appetite, so that we’re not continually snacking for the sake of it. This is what I mean by anti-autumnal eating and why it’s the lowest common denominator of many diets that people swear by like low carb and low fat (which are at loggerheads for this obvious reason – they both avoid simultaneous carbs+fat).

DEFoW is the first method of eating that consciously removes the formula that causes this gorges by avoiding the autumnal combo of carbs+fats in the same sitting.  It doesn’t avoid either carbs or fat just the combo (which you can then choose to savour from time to time in moderation, we all need to cut loose now and again).

The data, the science, the deceptions, the commercialism, the law changes, the diets and the problems we face with weight globally all point to this highly palatable combo as being the key to the problem we need to solve.

Knowledge means avoidance is possible and you can choose when to indulge and when to stop through preventing triggering of instinct on your terms.  As stated in Don’t Eat for Winter, we cannot fight instinct with willpower alone and things can be a lot easier once we stop triggering these instincts buried within our programming.

I hope this helps people out there. Eating anti-autumnally has freed many from the infinite autumn we are subjected to daily and continues to receive positive feedback, which is hugely encouraging.

Why is it so hard to lose weight?

Losing fat can be very difficult in our modern food environment.  If we’re honest about it there’s really only one elephant in the room:

There’s too much processed junk around within easy reach.

Why is it so hard to lose weight though, what is going on when we exercise with great enthusiasm and restrict our eating and then as soon as we have a slip up or go on holiday, or go to an event, all of the hard work is undone.

For me it’s very simple.  We’re eating autumnally every single day in every single meal AND snack.

Think about it.

Toast or cereal with breakfast:  derived from wheat or other crops, which only harvest after the summer.

Pasta, wraps, sandwiches with fatty fillings for lunch:  a prime example of an autumnal combo.

Potatoes, rice, spaghetti, pasta, root veg for dinner: all full of starch which is turned into glucose by your body.  Autumnal.

And these are derived from whole foods and may not even be processed.  Now look at junk.

  • Crisps/Chips:  Potatoes and fat
  • Chocolate: Sugar and fat
  • Biscuits: Flour, sugar and fat.
  • Pizza: Flour and fat.
  • Doughnuts, Pastries and Cakes: flour, sugar and fat.
  • Syrupy coffees:  Fat and sugar.

See the pattern?

The only time in nature that combo appears is autumn time and it is impossible for a squirrel to lose weight during this time. It sets them of on a gorge frenzy.  I become like the squirrel when I begin eating junk food, once I start it’s very difficult to stop. I believe this is because it sets off our autumnal instincts as many of us evolved in the same seasonal eco-systems.

Recently, a study has shown that humans value fat and carbs together more than either alone.  E.g. you wouldn’t eat spoons of sugar or a stick of butter alone, but combine them and you’d eat plenty of toffee.  Same with popcorn, bland on it’s own, but add butter and it’s fantastic at the movies. It’s very obvious, we know it to be true, the science verifies it. The fundamental WHY?

Autumnal combos make us eat more because our bodies think winter is coming!

The thing is, even if we exercise it’s very difficult to work off excess fat if eating these combos, even if we reduce them.  In fact it is torturous and our body reacts to long term calorie restriction by slowing metabolism and as soon as we let our guard down, we gorge again putting the weight back on, and maybe a bit of interest too.

So here’s the key.  Try eating anti-autumnally when attempting to lose weight.  Don’t worry about controlling calories, worry more about controlling appetite by avoiding the foods that set us off.

Try eating a pattern like this instead:

  • Healthy fats and protein breakfast like an egg omelette or avocado and walnuts, or some smoked salmon and rocket.
  • Protein and low gi veg / salad for lunch (opt for leaner cut of meat of fish)
  • Carbs in evening meal but low fat protein source and sauces (use carbs particularly around your exercise, which all of us should be doing daily).

I find when eating this way, I am rarely hungry, and if I feel like snacking, I snack on things like 0% fat greek yoghurt and berries and maybe have a protein smoothie with a banana to support my exercise.  It means macros are controlled through separation too, and there’s plenty of nutrients in the fats, fibrous low gi veg, and protein sources too.

Simple really and all I’m doing is avoiding the carbs+fat formula that is so common in the western diet.  It’s OK to enjoy that combo occasionally, but if fat loss is the goal, then this might help you like it helped me and many successful readers of Don’t Eat for Winter.







Protein Oat Cakes/Pancakes/Cookies Recipe

As a pre-training snack, or just a snack in general as an alternative to store bought protein bars, these protein+oat cakes/pancakes/biscuits are a delicious way of getting protein and carbs in before activity.

These are so simple to make and there’s lots of options so you never get bored.  Be creative.

The basic recipe is 40g oats, 30g whey protein powder (go for low fat natural vanilla flavour, or other flavour of your choice), and 100ml water.  Just stir it all up in a container until it’s well mixed (simply use a fork).  You can use the microwavable instant oats, as they soften quickly and the little red scoop is about 20g so it’s easy to measure out 40g.  You could use ordinary oats just leave them in the mixture a little longer to soften.

Be creative, add a few blackberries, or some thinly sliced apple (leave the skin on) and cinnamon for example… Chocolate is also great, use your favourite protein flavours. You can eat them plain but berries just give an extra nutritional punch.


Heat up an oven to about 180 and once hot, put the proatein mixture into a cake tin.  Use a good non stick cake tin, about 8 inches diameter, the mixture should be soft enough to fill out to the edge by itself, but not watery.

Wait 15-25 mins (depending on the texture you want, 15 is more like cake, 25 is closer to a cookie) for a lovely tasty home made snack, that tastes like an absolute treat.  Why not cut up into protein bars and give to the kids in their lunch box.  My son loves them!!!  These are vegetarian friendly too (I’m not sure what they would be like with vegan protein powders but let us know if you try) and a good way of getting in extra protein.

To stick with the Don’t Eat for Winter anti-autumnal plan remember to not eat fats in or around eating these and don’t use fat sources in your recipe like nuts, seeds or spread butter on them.  You could add fat as an occasional treat of course or before a long hike, and it would be nutritious and healthy but if you are trying to manage weight, then keep it well away from fats.  Remember with DEFoW – The anti-autumnal diet you avoid simultaneous carbs+fat (the signature of autumn itself and most junk foods). However I do advise getting healthy fats in each day at breakfast, eat leaner protein and low gi salad/veg for lunch and begin eating carbs later in the day, to fuel activity (you can flip it around if you train in mornings).  That’s essentially my secret and has me in control of my body fat for 3 years now and has helped lots of other readers do the same.

Enjoy and please feel free to post your creations on the facebook thread.


My Secret to Rock Hard Abs at 42 (after suffering for obesity for 10+ years)

Many of you don’t know me from Adam, but I am the real deal. My name is Cian Foley, I’m 42, and I constantly cause people cognitive issues, because they have to double take when I tell them my age and show them how I used to look compared to now.

I am not a health freak (which is an uncool shaming term). I like good food and partying hard. I sit at an office desk all day coding for a company in tramore called NearForm. I’m a nerd at heart. I love 80s action movies and retro video games, but my passion these days is not for TV or wasting my time on video games. These days I am passionate about getting the word out there about how I beat the horrible, preventable, affliction that held me back for years. Obesity.

I keep reading statistics about the crisis getting worse and worse globally with adults my age and kids suffering terribly… people dying directly from obesity waiting for bariatric surgery. I see experts arguing and people confused by mixed messages. I see snake oil sales of junk foods, preying on people’s weakness, and heavily marketed crash diet antidotes taking advantage of the inevitable results. I also the valiant but futile attempts many people are making, working hard but getting limited results from their efforts. This all stems from a basic misunderstanding of diet that has trickled down from scandalous science.

In my opinion, which I can back-up with data, scientific reports and first hand accounts, the answer to the obesity crisis is beyond simple, and the results to date have been incredible.

The problem is simple: we are eating autumnally in every single meal and snack, which means we are constantly priming our bodies for a winter that never comes.

Appetites out of control because natural fat storage processes and gorge instincts are being triggered all day every day. A squirrel cannot out-run the short autumn it experiences so we can never out-train the infinite autumn that is the western diet. Squirrels have the luxury of experiencing winter and so emerge in spring in great shape, we never experience winter anymore and so we pile weight on year after year until obesity sets in.

The solution is even simpler: stop eating an autumnal diet all the time.

In my book ‘Don’t Eat for Winter – The Anti-Autumnal Diet’, I tease out how simultaneous carbs+fat are the problem and a recent study backs this up (without providing the fundamental why). Carbs+fat are the signature of autumn as carbs do not exist in abundance until summer is out. Photosynthesis is required to create them i.e. long sunny summer days. Combined with staple fats and fats in nuts etc., autumn has this signature, which incidentally matches the signature of human breast milk. In fact, the motif of autumn itself, the acorn, has the exact same macro-nutrient ratio as human milk and it is no co-incidence that a plethora of junk foods match this signature. I believe this is because they appeal to our autumnal instincts, which can be explained with fancy terminology describing the hormonal and chemical processes that they trigger but the core reason is that simple.

When I cut out this formula, I shed all my weight and revealed abs in my 40s, but it hasn’t stopped with me. 4 readers have recently reported colossal combined loss of over 350lbs without ever meeting me, and there have been so many other reports of weight losses from the original batch of books launched I’ve lost count of the total weight loss.

These individuals are heroes in their own stories with an external problem they had to face but did not have the tools to deal with them. Don’t Eat for Winter helped them become the heroes they were meant to be. A man who was obese from 16, now 24 years later, entering his 40s 70lbs down, changed. A father who was 19.5 stone or more, now down to 14 stone, healthier with a thrilled wife, A father and daughter team down 10 stone between them and many other amazing stories of people who have beaten the external monster they faced everyday: the western diet and the gauntlet of junk we must endure daily, everywhere from supermarkets, to petrol stations, to fast food eateries, to airplane cuisine.

Here are the three most important tenets I live by and covered in Don’t Eat for Winter:

  1. Avoid simultaneous carbs+fat where possible
  2. Exercise daily (in nature if possible)
  3. Eat a whole food, nutritious diet containing healthy fats, adequate protein and precise carbs for your energy needs.

The secret to my rock hard six pack are as above combined with 5 minutes of ab exercises daily post exercise:

  1. 1. Lower ab exercises like leg raises, plank, or ab rollouts if more advanced, most people focus on upper abs, but the lower are almost always neglected.
  2. A twist exercise for obliques such as russian twist with a band held between both hands, I don’t load with weight to avoid injury.
  3. An upper ab exercise sit ups sliding hands up knees
  4. Maintaining tight core while walking and sitting, improving posture and keeping the area toned
  5. Discipline with diet through avoiding the autumnal combo of carbs+fat and separating as far from each other as possible in my daily diet.
  6. Consistency & work, you get nothing for nothing, our bodies are designed to respond to work via adaptation… in this case the adaptation to core work is a developing six pack that is revealed through sensible nutrition.

Cian Foley, BSc, Pg. Dip, QQI Sports Nutrition Level 6, is a former world and european kettlebell champion and currently NBFI Men’s Physique Bronze medalist. Formerly 18.5 stone, Cian is now a <12 stone lean exercise enthusiast.

DEFoW Dos and DEFoW Don’ts – Examples of Eating an Anti-Autumnal Diet

So most readers of this blog are aware of the squirrel formula I present in Don’t Eat for Winter, if not read about it here.

Eating foods with this formula, or foods with this combination is, I believe, a sure fire way to put on weight because you prime your appetite and set your body up for fat storage for many reasons.  Lots of hormones and chemicals are released by your body in response to eating foods and nothing invokes more processes than carbs+fat.  Let’s call them autumnal survival fat-storage instincts.

Eating for Spring, Summer and Autumn means not Eating for Winter so the simplest way to think about diet is to think about the foods available in each season.

DEFoW Do: Low GI fruit, berries and vegetables are stuff you should be eating  over the course of every day.  Of your seven a day chose 2:5 ratio of fruit to veg i.e. 2 pieces of fruit for every 5 pieces of veg.  You can eat low gi veg with absolutely everything.

DEFoW Don’t: Don’t eat too many portions of sweet fruit, fruit juices and stuff with sugar in general.  It’s too easy to over-consume sugar these days in both natural and artificial form.  If eating sugary stuff, eat it to fuel activity and avoid eating fat in or around the same time to avoid invoking autumnal gorge instincts.

DEFoW Do: Get in healthy fats once a day, fats with omega 3s, mono-unsaturated fats, vitamin d3 etc.  Think fish like salmon, walnuts, avocado, olives (or a really good olive oil), eggs.  Get in vitamins A,D,E&K at this time, the fat soluble vitamins.

DEFoW Don’t: Avoid eating carbs when eating fats, even healthy fats. E.g. avoid fruit juices and toast with a fat based breakfast. For example if I had eggs and bacon there is no way I would have toast or apple juice with it.

DEFoW Do:  Choose an appropriate protein source with each meal.  E.g. at breakfast time if eating healthy fats, a fatty protein source is OK at this time, e.g. bacon, a lamb chop, salmon and so on.  At lunch time with low GI veg you probably want to start tapering out fat and maybe eat something like chicken, tuna, cod, turkey or lean cut of meat, and in the evenings then the leanest possible source.

DEFoW Don’t: Avoid processed proteins including meats as they have lots of additives you don’t want to be eating as staples.  Have things like protein bars as an occasional treat and not a staple protein source. Don’t rely on whey protein supplements, have maybe one or two scoops a day if you lift weights or train hard, and go for ones with natural ingredients (pure whey even better and add your own natural sweeteners).  Don’t eat fatty protein sources all day every day (e.g. bacon, fatty fish, pork, lamb), keep to once a day and not with sugary or starchy carbs.

DEFoW Do: Eat an appropriate amount of carbohydrates for your lifestyle and opt for carb sources with fibre e.g. oats and wholegrains if you don’t have allergies to grains; vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes with skins are decent sources of vitamins too, bananas and apples provide lots of energy and nutrients too. Avoid refined carbs like sugary drinks in particular.

DEFoW Don’t:  If sedentary in particular ensure you look at carbohydrates holistically over the day and use primarily for activity.  Your body can only process so much sugar/starch and if it has to deal with a surplus you put your body under undue pressure and it tends to want to store excess energy.  Limit carbohydrate intake to around activity for optimal usage.  You only need about 400 calories from carbohydrates for brain and nervous  system and a little more for the body, which runs very efficiently off fat at rest.  Only when you work physically do you need to supplement diet with more carbs.

DEFoW Do:  Split your day up so that at different times fat is a focus, fibre is a focus and carbs are a focus, with an appropriate protein source to go with each.

DEFoW Don’t: Don’t Eat Autumnally in every meal and snack i.e. high fat high carb and low protein, especially avoiding junk foods with this signature.  Whatever about the natural foods nature produces in autumn, the Frankenstein foods of today multiply the effects they have on our taste buds and fat storage abilities.



Top 5 best diets for losing weight and burning fat?

I saw an article online on Mens Journal describing the following 5 diets as the best ways to lose weight and burn fat:

  1. Low-calorie diet.
  2. Low-fat diet.
  3. Low-carb diet.
  4. Ketogenic diet.
  5. High-protein diet.

Before I delve into an interesting observation on the 5 diet types I want to say that I disagree with the term weight loss, as fat loss should be the focus (if overweight), while gaining or maintaining lean muscle mass, bone density and of course hydration levels.

I also have issues with the world diet unless used the context of a healthy diet.  Crash diets and long-term calorie restriction or nutrient deficient diets should be avoided where possible.  A better approach is a sustainable long-term lifestyle change with whole foods that are seasonal and local where possible.

What struck me from the list above is the fact that each diet is inherently but unintentionally anti-autumnal.

An autumnal diet is a diet high in both carbs and fat and relatively low in protein. Don’t Eat for Winter presents the ultimate autumnal formula as approximately 50% fat, 40% carb and <10% protein (from a calorie point of view).  Avoiding this is key to an anti-autumnal diet.

Let’s take them one by one:

  • Low-calorie diet: restricting calories is a way of creating an energy deficit, possibly simulating a time where food is less available in nature e.g. winter/spring, by doing this you automatically eat less carbs+fat, which means it is less like an autumnal diet.
  • Low-fat diet: a healthy low fat diet means high carb, fibre and protein with low (but not no fat).  If fat is too low, particularly healthy fats, perhaps long term this is unhealthy as there may be too few healthy fats in the diet. Going low fat means avoiding carbs+fats together by default and so autumnal combos like granny’s famous pecan pie are off the table.
  • Low-carb diet:   These diets avoid the autumnal signature of carbs+fat for the same reason as the low fat, high carb diet. Low carb diets are typically higher in fats and proteins too.
  • Ketogenic diet:  The ketogenic diet is very low carb and controlled protein with high amounts of fat.  A person would shift into ketogenic mode in the absence of carbohydrates as the body generates ketones to fuel anaerobic processes.  This diet is anti-autumnal as it avoids the combo of carbs+fats too.
  • High-protein diet:  Protein requires a lot of energy to digest, but a high protein diet also means less carbs+fat together in the same sitting as high protein is means less of the other two.

One thing all of the above have in common is a potential lack of balance as a single macro nutrient is the focus of each.

Don’t Eat for Winter, the anti-autumnal diet, is all of the above but at different times, providing total dietary balance and yet still avoiding the high carbs+fat autumnal squirrel formula.  The format is as follows:

  • Low Carb High Fat: Eat a healthy fat based breakfast with protein and healthy low gi veg if desired e.g. an omelette, salmon, avocado and some nuts etc.  Avoids carbs+fat.
  • High Protein/fibre: Eat a lower fat protein source (meat, fish, poultry) at lunch time and include fibrous veg (watch the sauces) and/or/berries. Avoids carbs+fats and creates a buffer between breakfast fats and dinner carbs.
  • High Carb Low Fat: Eat carbs (some starches and potentially fruits) in the evening with low gi veg and a healthy low fat cut of meat/fish/poultry, use lower fat sauces too. Avoids carbs+fats, aids recovery, reloads glycogen and some research suggests that it aids sleep too.

This means each macro is a focal point of each meal, with constant protein and fibrous fruit and veg.

Special focus around training is required to get the required amount of carbs for energy purposes and increased protein for muscle recovery too, carbs and protein before and after can help fuel exercise, reload glycogen and accelerate repair.

Finally, sometimes it’s good to enjoy a treat, this is the time to get the autumnal formula in but make it once or twice a week instead of every single meal and snack like the current western diet if fat loss is your goal.  Make treats good ones, be it a delicious dinner out or a home made dessert, savour it, enjoy it and get back on track.  Be aware of your feelings afterwards too, are you surprisingly hungry afterwards.  At least being aware of it gives some sense of domination over what you are, a seasonal creature designed to gorge on particular foods to survive winter.

4 Amazing DEFoW Weight Loss Transformation Stories: a total of 350lbs fat lost

6 years ago, I was trapped in a body that I knew I did not belong in. I had to do something about it, but didn’t know what to do.  I was confused by all of the mixed messages from experts, many of whom based their advice on a foundation of sand (the sugar scandal comes to mind). I grew up thinking I had to starve myself to lose weight and/or go on a low fat diet. As a result, I always associated dieting with negative feelings and ultimately, FAILURE. I tried lots of diets and had some success but ALWAYS piled the weight back  on, normally with interest, which was incredibly frustrating.  What’s worse is that lots of low fat foods are high in sugar and starch and I was probably exceeding my need for glucose every day, even when dieting.

They say “necessity is the mother of invention” and I needed change but I was baffled with all the conflicting messages out there. The most success I had on any diet was a paleolithic style diet, but I still got stuck at a point. I had a Eureka moment one day and realised that carbs spike in nature in late summer and autumn yet we eat them all day every day in the western diet, and I thought, “this has to have something to do with the obesity crisis we’re in”.  I started eating an anti-autumnal diet that I created myself, and the weight I was carrying literally melted off after years of holding onto it even while competing internationally for Ireland with kettlebells, and, training like a demon.

It was then that I put on my research hat and went down a rabbit hole for a year and came back up with the Don’t Eat for Winter (DEFoW) Concept – The Anti-Autumnal Diet, still a whole food natural diet, but with an understanding of the dynamism of nature. It is unlike other diets as it is consciously avoids foods with the autumnal signature.   It’s not torture it’s actually pleasurable.  It’s about avoiding the autumnal signature of carbs+fat, which I term ‘The Squirrel Formula.’  This food signature is unique to autumn and I believe puts animals, including humans, into a state where we crave and binge on foods. With DEFoW you avoid that by eating a spring like breakfast, a summer like lunch and a modified autumn for dinner to suit your lifestyle and activity levels.


Little did I realise that my little acorn of an idea, which had such an impact on me, would have such an impact on so many others this quickly.  I’ve had a multitude of messages from readers about their weight loss transformations over social media, and it’s difficult to keep track of them all, but I would estimate total weight losses have exceeded well over 1000lbs thus far.

Recently, I’ve received some amazing messages.  I knew it would take some time for bigger weight-loss stories to come through, after all it took me about seven years to complete my transformation, but I promised in my book that it would be a lot faster for people with the knowledge I picked up along my journey.  I didn’t realise just how fast it would happen for those who took it in earnest.

Here are 4 amazing messages I received recently in reverse chronological order.

This first one made me quite emotional last night from a delighted spouse:

“Hi Cian, my husband is one of your shy followers. He tried many times to lose weight. He  tried many diets working out etc. Nothing worked not until he took note on your book. He ordered it straight away when I say we have been together eleven years I have never ever seen him read a book before it’s amazing he read it back to back and could not stop talking about it. It has been one of the easiest and most sensible things he has done in his life. At his heaviest we recorded 19 and a half stone but I do believe the scale went above this. After your book and following your diet he is now a healthy and amazing man at 14 stone. I am so proud we have 5 children and he is so much more active with them both mentally and physically. He amazes me that in all these years your diet is so easy and healthy to follow before he was pre diabetic and had terrible heart troubles all of wish have disappeared. He followes your page everyday but would never write to you. He is sitting beside me right now and I could burst with pride at how well he looks and I would genuinely like to just thank you from the bottom of our hearts”

A 5.5 stone loss, 35kg/77lbs+ and more importantly a happier family!

I received the following message on Friday last,

“I started with the concept of DEFoW from commencing with your challenge back in January, when I was 119kg / 43% body fat, this morning the same smart scales tells me I’m 88kg and 25% body fat! I feel great 👍 and full of energy, I’m 40 next year and have been more or less above 100kg with an obese BMI since I was probably 16.

Your story has provided me with plenty of positive inspiration, especially as can remember seen you around town when you were probably at you heaviest, now your a kettle bell champion and taking part in men’s physique completions. Now for the final push finish the book, go strict on the Defow plan and come out the other side of Christmas lean and with a BMI inside the healthy scale!

PS why can’t they teach this basic nutrition in School? A minor investment in education will eventually translate to major savings in the health service!”

A total loss of 31kg or 68lbs but more importantly, the person has escaped the obesity that they were trapped by for 20+ years.  

I received this message from a proud daddy…

“I’m down about 4 stone… my daughter by the way has an even bigger thank you… she’s just too shy….nearly 6 stone gone buddy 😊😊😊😊😊

I’m so proud”

A combined 10 stone loss, 35kg/140lbs+ from a father daughter team driving each other on every day.

Finally, a message via twitter…

“Nov. 8, 2017. 245 lbs. 40 waist -> July 4, 2018. 171 lbs. 30 waist.
not an exaggeration that you guys have saved my life. A1C down from pre-diabetes into the 3s. BP, triglycerides, cholesterol vastly improved. Seven months really. Started in late Nov. The pounds literally melted away. I do exactly what you do for cardio-hiking, or uphill walking on treadmill as proxy when can’t get out. Weight work 2-3x a week as well, just a full body circuit 2 sets each exercise to failure. Eminently sustainable, as is the diet.”

This is a 71lb or 32kg loss (and they’ve reported more since), with improved health, which is fantastic!

In total, the overall weight loss from these 4 stories is a staggering 161kg or 350lbs!!!

I never met or do not know any of the people in these stories personally. All of them wished to remain anonymous and I totally respect that.  Should a journalist wish for me to verify these stories, I can show them the messages in person, once the anonymity of the individuals is maintained. Losing weight is a very personal issue and before and after pictures can be very embarrassing and I do not wish to breach anyone’s trust.  I’m thrilled that they would trust me enough after reading my work, to first of all try the concept, see great success and then have the graciousness to me on their success stories and attribute their results to The DEFoW Diet.  It means so much to me that lives are being changed by the concept.

You don’t have to buy a copy of Don’t Eat for Winter to try out the anti-autumnal diet. There’s plenty of information on the site and I post most days to twitter, facebook and instagram (links in header).  Please do follow me if you wish to get daily motivational tips, or to get in touch.

I do encourage people to read the book before asking specific questions, and also to help support my continued efforts to spread and support the concept.  I try and answer every request that comes in but it is difficult to do so in a timely fashion with other commitments in my life.

Best wishes,


From Obese IT Specialist to Men’s Physique Medalist

A computer programmer from Waterford City was a medalist at the Natural Bodybuilding Federation of Ireland (NBFI) national championships in the Everyman Theatre, Cork last Saturday the 1st of September.  Cian Foley, 42, competed in the Men’s physique (short) category against 8 other competitors.

Cian Foley Side Pose: Photo by Kest

What is extraordinary about Cian’s story is that he was once morbidly obese, weighing 256lbs in 2012. Since then, he has not only managed to get his body into good shape, but into competitive contest condition weighing in at 163lbs (93lbs lighter).

A DEXA scan at Waterford Health Park last Friday revealed just 10% bodyfat:

“My good friend Dr. Mark Rowe took me through DEXA scan results. I wanted to make sure my bodyfat levels were at safe levels, and Mark was delighted with my results revealing I was in the 1st percentile for men my age, which I’m very pleased with”, said Cian.

Cian is no stranger to strength & fitness sport having competed internationally for Ireland in Kettlebell GS over the past number of years and has won 2 European (Hamburg 2015, Poland 2016), a pan-American title at the Arnolds in Columbus Ohio (2014), and a World Championships in Dublin in 2015 in the 2x24kg men’s long-cycle category.  Since then he’s shifted into physique training, a no less demanding sport.

“I really enjoyed lifting kettlebells, it made me very goal focussed and sent me down the path to controlling my weight in order to be competitive, and eventually investigating exercise/sports nutrition and nutrition in general.  I shifted to men’s physique recently because I felt I had potential with it and is in line with my goals to inspire others who suffer with being overweight/obese.  It’s just as demanding as kettlebell sport, and it really is a sport though it may appear a little more glamourous.”

Cian is  author of Don’t Eat for Winter, which he suggests unlocks nature’s little secret to losing weight.  The hypothesis is that autumnal foods are eaten in every single meal and snack in the western diet, and so human beings prone to putting on weight can never become their summer selves, as they are eternally preparing for a winter that never comes.

“I believe Don’t Eat for Winter – DEFoW, was the key to my weight loss success having me walking around for the past 30 months at a weight that was just 6 weeks away from Men’s Physique competition readiness. It is the first ‘Anti-Autumnal Diet’ with the key premise being avoiding carb+fat combos, which is the signature of autumn itself and have proven to cause gorging.  Exercise alone will not shed weight, squirrels become hyperactive in autumn but still become obese to survive the winter.  It’s the same for us, except our autumn never ends.”

“In order to get into men’s physique shape I spoke to Frank Haley toying with the idea of competing in the NBFI championships.  I was drawn to it because of it’s ethos with regards to testing for PEDs. Frank was an old school band mate, and successful bodybuilder so he graciously agreed to speak with me to discuss diet and training.  He suggested I should enter the men’s physique category and then he trained with me for a week (with an injury) and told me what I would need to eat in order to put on the muscle required to be competitive while also losing fat. It is always good to draw on the practical knowledge of someone who got to a high level in a sport.  It has been a very tough but rewarding 6 weeks and everyone is amazed with how far I’ve come in that time (including Frank, who was as excited as I was).”

Cian is a guest panelist at the Harvest Festival – Glanbia Sports Nutrition Event – alongside former Waterford Hurler Manager Derek McGrath and others next Friday 7th at 5.30pm in the Book Centre.

Harvest Festival Link:

photos by Kest Photographer