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Lesson: Diets are not Sustainable

Observation 1 : The Minnesota Starvation Experiment

Observation 2 : The Biggest Loser

Observation 3 : Sam Feltham

Diets are not Sustainable

Observation 1 : The Minnesota Starvation Experiment (check ref for site)

In 1944, this experiment was done by Ancel Keys. Pretty famous nutritionist for good and bad reasons. 36 men for about 6 to 12 months. They were given 3200 cals for the first 3 months. During the 6-month semi-starvation period, each subject’s dietary intake was immediately cut in half to about 1,560 kilocalories per day. Their meals were composed of foods that were expected to typify the diets of people in Europe during the latter stages of the war: potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, bread and macaroni.

Long story short, these men experienced really really bad symptoms. Exhausted, irritability, some of them apparently cut off their fingers. Pretty intense. Their metabolism went super super down. Low libido as well. It was confirmed from the study that prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in symptoms of depression, as measured using the something called the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Indeed, most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress as well.

Worse yet, when they went back on their normal eating pattern, they put on more weight than they began with.

Observation 2 : The Biggest Loser

This was a pretty famous show in the US where they use calorie restriction to lose weight. Lots of weight. What happened? Well several contestants lost a lot of weight. 100s of kgs. But a few months to an year later, many of them started putting on the weight back. What happened? Their metabolism slowed down. Their insulin and leptin levels were off (Will get to that in a bit) and they felt hungry most of the time. This is how the body responds to chronic calorie deprivation. Some of them even worked out for 2 hours a day and ate as clean as possible. Still put on that weight back. Whats the point in all that effort if it isn’t sustainable?

Observation 3 : Sam Feltham

This guy ate 5794 Calories everyday for 21 days. Mostly low carb, high fat and protein diet. Minimal to no processed foods and sugar. He put on 1.8 Kgs of weight and lost 3cm from his waist. According to the calorie formula he should have put on 7.3 kgs based on the excess amount of calories that he was consuming daily. He didn’t. Well you could be wondering if he were one of those high metabolism eat whatever you want but stay lean kind of guy. After 3 months he did it again but this time with a lot of refined and processed foods. The calories were the same. Coca Cola, cereals, pizza, low fat yogurts, muffins, pudding, lasagna etc. (sounds yummy). This time, the weight gain almost exactly mirrors that predicted by the calorie formula of 7.1 kilograms. His waist size positively increased by about 9 cm. After only three weeks, he was developing love handles as well. Same guy, same calories, different sources.

I’m sure by now you’d have understood that not all calories are the same. The source matters. Also, tracking your calories through the day isn’t the most ideal way to live, unless you’re a professional athlete perhaps. They generally have a dietician, trainer and so on with them throughout. Also, this isn’t healthy for your mind. Find out why, in the next session