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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Why has nobody noticed this about The Food Pyramid?

The food pyramid below (visit here to access original pdf files) changed in 2016 and now has fruits and veg at the bottom, which is great.

I don’t want to be overly critical of it but do you notice anything strange about the bottom 2 rungs?

It recommends 5-7 servings a day of the bottom rung, and 3-5 of the second (up to 7 for boys and men up to 50).

Analyse the foods in that second rung: bread, cereal, pasta, potatoes and rice. Potatoes harvest between summer and autumn, and are non-indigenous, grains similarly require a good summer and pasta and bread are derived from it. Rice is non-indigenous too.

On the bottom rung we have some great foods, but I worry about orange juice and bananas as both are non-indigenous and high in sugar/starch.  I’m less worried about apples, yet they are autumnal too.  Berries are summer fruits typically.

What have all of these foods got in common? 

They don’t exist in nature all year round!  Typically sugary and starchy foods require lots of sunlight to produce, it’s a process called photosynthesis, which we all learn about in school.

“Green plants absorb light energy using chlorophyll in their leaves. They use it to react carbon dioxide with water to make a sugar called glucose. The glucose is used in respiration, or converted into starch and stored(my emphasis) Oxygen is produced as a by-product. This process is called photosynthesis.” – BBC GCSE Bitesize

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms’ activities (energy transformation). This chemical energy is stored in carbohydrate molecules, such as sugars (my emphasis), which are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water.” – Wikipedia

Basically, foods rich in sugar and starch come into existence in nature in summer and  become abundant in autumn.  This is a direct result of the sunlight the plants are exposed to.

In autumn, creatures like squirrels put on weight as a result of this in a knock on chain reaction, preparing them for winter.  Their diet changes and they become hyper-active, yet bulk up quickly for winter. They lose it when resting over the winter, happily living off their body-fat.

I believe human beings have a similar abilities, as it was recently discovered that we can develop brown adipose tissue (BAT) to protect us from the cold of winter. It’s main source of fuel is white adipose tissue (WAT), the jiggly stuff we don’t like to have too much of, which must develop first.  Therefore, I believe it is the additional variable of abundant carbohydrates, in conjunction with fat in the diet, that triggers autumnal instincts within human beings.  Our base instincts to survive winter are invoked, and we are guiled into overeating such foods as they are hyper-palatable for one main reason: survival! This has been shown to be true in recent studies of cafeteria diets, and can affect us in similar ways to drugs.   Squirrels obviously go nuts (pardon the pun), some of which are very high in carbs and fat (e.g. acorns or oak nuts), at this time of year because of similar chemical triggers within them, it stands to reason we would be affected based on our evolutionary heritage too having shared similar eco-systems and foods.

Basic logic would suggest to me that we shouldn’t be eating up to 14 servings of foods that only exist in nature in summer/autumn every day of the year and I’m surprised so few people are aware of this.  I propose the food pyramid become more dynamic and take into consideration our evolutionary heritage and our sensitivity to seasonal triggers.

If we exposed squirrels to an infinite harvest, the same way we are exposed, I wonder how obese and sick they would  become. We know squirrels and bears become pre-diabetic in autumn and reverse it in spring. I suspect if their autumn became infinite like ours we might find a large portion of their population would become unnaturally obese/overweight and suffer from related conditions like diabetes etc.  Look at our world, with so much obesity, and with diabetes continuing to rise, and all sorts of other related health concerns, is it any wonder that this is happening when we are living in a constant autumnal state?

If us living in an eternal harvest  isn’t bad enough, it is compounded by the fact that we have all sorts of processed derivatives which are energy dense and nutrient light.   I term this the infinite autumn, on steroids.

Let’s address this and consider the seasons more in our daily diets.  My own approach, known as The DEFoW Diet, is to eat seasonally on a daily basis i.e. a spring meal, a summer meal and an autumn meal (modified slightly). I also have occasional treats and I think the food pyramid is correct about limiting junk foods to 1-2 times a week (maximum).

This seasonal approach has helped me lose 90lbs and maintain my weight in the ideal range for years.  I am in full control of my weight in my 40s having struggled all my life because I now understand what was going on.  I was eating for winter all of the time.

 

 

 

ACORN – Autumnal Causing Obesity Rapidly in Nature

The humble acorn is a major part of Don’t Eat for Winter’s messaging.

Why?

Well besides being the food of squirrels and bears in autumn, and the food that fattens up iberian pigs to make them succulent and tasty, it also symbolises autumn itself. More than that, it actually has the exact signature of the foods I ask people to consider avoiding as part of an anti-autumnal eating pattern…

That means avoiding a high proportion of simultaneous carbs + fat, with low proportion of protein…

50%fat 40% carbs and < 10%protein is The DEFoW Squirrel Formula

Many junk foods follow this signature in an uncanny way!!!

Acorns used to make up a big part of the diets of old cultures in autumn and winter, e.g. native Americans, Irish Celts and many others. In Ireland, for example, the country was once almost 100% forested and a huge portion of those trees were fabulous oak trees, which would have supplied a huge amount of food to critters and humans alike (before modern farming) and most importantly, could be stored away over the winter…

From Wikipedia:

“In years that oaks produced many acorns, Native Americans sometimes collected enough acorns to store for two years as insurance against poor acorn production years.”

“…The stored acorns could then be used when needed, PARTICULARLY DURING THE WINTER (my emphasis) when other resources were scarce.”

If we adapted to surviving winter we would have had to put on weight for 2 reasons: energy backup and thermal insulation, so I believe the acorn served that purpose and it’s no coincidence that gorge inducing junk foods follow almost the exact same formula.  It wasn’t limited to acorns though, the combination of fats and carbs from grains, fruits, nuts and the staple fats in the diet from animal meats, fish etc., would combine to approximate this formula in autumn and would not have been possible at any other time of the year as there is no starch in march (trees are bare, fields are barren).

So if you’re looking at foods to eat, think about the squirrel formula i.e. that of acorns, and remember that it’s in terms of calorie percentages…

For example, if you see approx 11g fat (100cals), 20g carb (80cals) and very low protein e.g. 5g (20cals), or any multiple or fraction close to that, you know it is approximating the autumnal gorge formula.

A: Autumnal
C: Causing
O: Obesity
R: Rapidly
N: in Nature

see what I did there 😉

Why is it so Difficult to lose weight?

Here are some questions I used to always ask myself, maybe you can relate to them…

  • Why can I not get in the shape I’ve always dreamed of?
  • I’m trying really hard, working out regularly, dieting etc., why is it not working?
  • Why is it so difficult to shift the last bit of fat?

Now, ask yourself this:
Can a squirrel lose weight in autumn, or a bear or any creature that needs to survive winter no matter how active they get?

These creatures whizz around and are extremely active in autumn, yet STILL pile on weight because of one thing.

Their food environment changes. 

The harvest arrives and this invokes primal instincts and they have no choice but to gain weight.  You’ve heard the phrase “you cannot out-run a bad diet.”  Well, their diet isn’t bad per se, as it is natural and helps them to survive the winter…

THEY CANNOT OUT-RUN AUTUMN 

With this in mind, examine at our food environment…

In our world, harvest foods are eaten all day everyday (cereals, breads, pasta, potatoes, rice etc. eaten in every meal along with sugary snacks) and worse, we’re told to eat them as the major part of our diets (up to 65%)!!! The bottom two layers of the food pyramid are heavily laden with harvest foods from orange juice and bananas to cereals and potatoes.

Finally, think about the obesity problems the world faces… we’re crippled with problems related to weight and a huge number of people constantly losing their battle. We get frustrated each time we try, and suffer because it’s calorie deficit based, yet we still eat autumnal foods torturing ourselves and then typically we suffer from a rebound and lose hope (I was that soldier). Huge industries respond to the despair of people offering quick fixes, but it’s impossible to solve this until we get to the root of the problem and recognise the cause.

I believe the problem is rooted in the fact that we live in an artificial infinite autumn and no amount of activity can fix it. I certainly could not out-train my diet, but it was because I didn’t know any better…

If a squirrel can’t lose weight in autumn (eating naturally), and they’re active all day long, how do we expect to lose weight especially given we are very inactive in general (a lot of us have desk jobs and sit when we get home and watch TV). Even if you workout for an hour or two a day, eating autumnal foods (and processed derivatives) all the time will hold you back. This was certainly the case for me and I believe it is generally the case for most people who find it difficult to lose weight.

YOU CANNOT OUT-RUN THE INFINITE AUTUMN

My personal case was that I trained extremely hard. I climbed a local mountain twice or three times a week, lifted kettle-bells like a mad man AND lifted weights, I was constantly active and even won a european and world kettlebell title, yet never got into the shape I thought I should be rewarded with for all these efforts (see pic on left below, which was not too bad I know).  I was on a stone age diet but wasn’t considering the seasons (I was eating things like nuts and dates in protein balls and other autumnal combos).  As soon as I discovered the DEFoW concept, and avoided autumnal food combos, the last bit of weight I was holding on to melted off. I had finally found a sustainable approach to diet and I got excited about the approach and wrote Don’t Eat for Winter soon after to share the concept.

The key to success
I remember calorie restriction diets, I was still eating foods that caused autumnal gorge instincts but I had to try overcome the urge to eat with willpower and that resulted in misery because you’re battling with yourself and it eventually results in a rebound. Eating non-autumnal food combos means satisfaction and no inner struggle, resulting in sustainability. The key to success.

Nothing will change in any meaningful way while we continue with the same patterns…  we need to address the route of our struggle with weight loss and I believe it is the fact that we live in this Infinite Autumn.

The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Try avoiding autumnal foods most of the time and spring into your summer body like I did…  Maybe start with cutting out one autumnal meal (e.g. cereal, sandwich or heavy dinner, with something less autumnal).

Here’s some example foods to avoid the autumnal combos to get you started.

What is the Best Exercise to Lose Weight?

The best exercise to lose weight fat is to exercise your mind.  I’ll talk about specific exercises below, but it’s important to realise you can’t out-train a bad diet.  Remember, squirrels are extremely active in autumn time, yet still put on body fat to survive winter.

It’s important also to distinguish between weight loss and fat loss.  There’s no point losing weight if you’re going to lose muscle, bone mineral density or water weight. We want to focus on healthy losses of body fat, in particular visceral fat (internal fat), which tends to accumulate around the organs and pushes out the waist. Lower levels of visceral fat, typically correlates with better health.

The importance of nutrition, when it comes to fuelling up correctly, recovery and supporting other body processes (like hormones, immune system etc), should not be underestimated.

Think about:

  1. How much sugar energy (glucose you will burn daily) based on activity levels
  2. How much fat you will burn based on recovery and amount of time performing of  less intense activities
  3. How much protein you need for repair and recovery
  4. Other nutrients you need to support your body (healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, hydration and sunlight to produce d3)

So how do you calculate these figures?  Well the traditional way is to look at calculating your base metabolic rate (BMR) + the physical activity level (PAL) + the thermic effect of food.  There are many calculators for this online to give you a base understanding of energy needs.  This was typically used to calculate energy output, or calorie expenditure per day.  However, we are more than just thermodynamic machines and a lot of other factors come into play too. We can still use this to calculate a rough figure however and use it more wisely than to just say “calories in/out”.

Think about your daily needs for each specific nutrient. If you’re sedentary your need for carbs is quite minimal. E.g. you work in the office and do a workout in the evenings probably means lightly active and so your base need for sugar probably doesn’t go above the lower end of the recommended DRI value of 45% of overall calories.  For example on a on 2000 calorie diet, this would mean 900cals worth of carbs about 225g (1g = 4cals) worth a day (this includes all sugars, breads, pasta, potatoes, sugary fruit and veg and anything else that contains carbohydrates. Read: what are carbs article, if unsure about carbohydrates, it’s a valid question!).  Most people consume a lot more carbs than this, and tend towards the upper limit of 65%, exceeding their energy requirement for this, predominantly autumnal, macronutrient.   To be considered very active and tend towards the upper limit you, would need to be a physical labourer or athlete taking part in multiple exercise sessions a day.

A good average intake of protein would be about 20-30% of the diet.  Typically if more active, more protein is required for recovery, especially if you wish to grow or maintain muscle tissue.  The great thing about protein is the thermic effect is greater than other foods so even if you eat 600cals (125g) worth, 20% of this amount of energy is used to digest and use the food. (The average thermic effect of food is given as 10%).  Personally, I think there should be no thermic effect in calculations and protein reduced to 3 calories per gram.

Fats then should make up the remainder and it’s important that you choose good fats, and avoid trans-fats. You use fat mostly when at rest or at low levels of activity and it’s critical for hormone production and absorption of vitamins A,D,E &K.  Fats have 9 cals per gram and extremely easily absorbed, especially so in the presence of carbohydrates.

The key approach with DEFoW is to avoid the autumnal gorge and fat storage formula of high fats and carbs at the same time (read more about The DEFoW Diet here)

So what exercise is best to lose weight?  Well, after you’ve considered the above, then you need to think about raising your metabolic rate, and the best way to do this is build a bit of muscle (which is a calorie furnace, and lowers your relative body fat percentage). It also keeps your metabolism super-charged for hours after exercise (as your body recovers and mops up glycogen to refill lost stores).  You could choose resistance training, HITT, crossfit or anything where you need to lift weight or perform explosive movements that bring you to or close to failure (e.g. pushups, sprints, squat jumps, bench-press, squats with weight etc.)

I would then consider mixing up strength training with recovery cardio sessions on alternate days as a general rule (if you can fit in mobility session that is an excellent too).  Cardio sessions should be slow and steady (walking, jogging, cycling, rowing, cross trainer etc.) and you will burn fat during these sessions as opposed to carbohydrates.

An hour a day would be a great target to hit for both sessions on alternate days, taking a day or two off on the weekend to get things like gardening done, or get into nature and utilize that bit of fun with your fitness, or even go dancing… just enjoy what fitness brings to your life 🙂