A Facebook Convo With Robb Wolf

What say you? Since even before Robb himself began questioning the sanity of Low Carb as the unequivocal harbinger of objective, just-so health qua inquisitorial dogma in the context of a so-called healthy lifestyle with ubiquitous designs, I’ve been chewing just like I know he has.

I blogged about his own n=1 with potato starch the other day.

He’s still asking questions.

I “get it”. Calories matter. Insulin hypothesis is dead. Gotcha. What I’m still intrigued by however is WHY people overeat. I’d throw my hat largely in the “hyper palatable food + neuroregulation of appetite” camp. Case in point: Zoe has pretty much eaten “paleo” since starting solid food. We do some goat yogurt and goat milk, but have largely steered clear of grains and refined foods. For christmas Nicki made some cookies (almond flour, cinnamon, just a bit of sugar…if you do not like 90% dark chocolate, you’d not find these sweet) and Zoe tried them. Not a SINGLE day has gone by since christmas that Zoe has not asked for a “santa cookie.” I find that pretty damn interesting.

I commented:

“I’d throw my hat largely in the “hyper palatable food+ neuroregulation of appetite” camp.”

I’m so in the same place. It is the question.

  1. Obesity is caused by taking in more energy over long term than you expend.
  2. Why then, given the clear signs on many levels—not least of which is having to shop—do people do it to themselves and in such great numbers?

My suspicion is that it’s a perfect storm of engineered food and a compromised gut biome that has us succumbing to every urge in terms of food intake. Moreover, I believe since there’s nothing to be done about food engineering, there are ways to massage the gut biome back to better health.

Consider that in spite of all the food engineering, there’s still huge numbers who have never succumbed. Why? They eat the stuff too, most of them. But perhaps they eat way less of it and can bring themselves to stop. And there’s another why.

The only thing I’m certain of is that it’s not just the carbs.

Robb shoots back:

Richard that exactly mirrors my thoughts on all this regarding mechanism. I’ve been looking at papers which show excessive cal intake causes zonulin release and subsequent intestinal permeability.

A good question would be: do we see this same effect, to the same degree, with largely unprocessed food? The challenge there is force feeding folks to eat that much on paleo. Lynda Frasetto found it almost impossible to get people to eat MAINTENANCE levels on paleo, to say nothing of trying to induce a 500-1,000 cal excess. Clearly it’s doable, but a bit tougher than with cookies & crack.


“do we see this same effect, to the same degree, with largely unprocessed food?”

I say that to be honest, we have to say yes. I believe some Pacific islanders may be a good example where some can get big and fat on the bounty easily delivered in tropical paradise. If you wrap your mind around it, though, it’s perhaps that a natural setting al-la tropics where not much work is needed for anything, to serve as a plausible model of what modern society has provided in terms of division of labor, huge disposable income, way more free time, etc.

I think one thing you can say is that even in the relative luxury of agriculture as contrasted with H-G, it’s still a lot of work. I can’t recall in my life seeing a picture of an obese farmer or his sons & daughters. Some of the wives, perhaps, who spend their days baking pies.

As to getting people to eat on “pure paleo” I believe this is where reasonable starch comes in, and it’s so damn simple and enjoyable. I Think Paul has it worked out pretty well and I’m always seduced by the simplicity of the PHD template: macros in mammalian milk proportion, 50/30/20 f/c/p. Elegant.

Anyone else have ideas?

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  1. Ellen on January 23, 2014 at 13:46

    Re Zoe wanting more of those cookies: Paul Jaminet always says children NEED more carbs. Maybe the kid was /is carb starved? Does she get enough safe starch??

  2. Chazman on January 23, 2014 at 12:09

    I think the body is simple and we don’t spend the time to “listen” to our body. Shoot,,,,do you think our ancestors had Nutrition Labels on their foods a thousand years ago? Most people spend way too much time over analyzing nutrition. And, yes, we are bombarded with all sorts of myths about food that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. I say KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)…..Learn to listen to your body and eat clean whole foods…..PERIOD!

  3. La Frite on January 23, 2014 at 12:30

    Hey Richard,
    Yes, I have some ideas, maybe just a little simplistic but here they are:
    -1 food is readily available everywhere (in the Western world at least)
    -2 you will most likely buy it and transport by car or have it delivered to your doorstep

    These simple points implictely say this:
    – you do not move your butt to seek foods in the wild
    – you do not move your butt at all
    – you don’t experience food scarcity

    Since rewarding foods are highly available and cheap (think wheat + sugar + cheap fat, sodas, etc), the energy balance is completely screwed up by points 1 and 2.

    I personally do this:
    1- I make a point to walk to the supermarket and walk back with big bags (~3 km distance)
    2- I IF very regularly and vary my macros (sometimes with “no meat days”, sometimes with no food at all for 2 days)
    3- I avoid junk because good real food is just way better to my taste
    4- I cook about everything I eat

  4. BigRob on January 23, 2014 at 12:32

    Hey Richard,

    Can you expound upon the neuro-regulation bit.

    Are we basically saying: If food is too palatable, our brains tell us to eat more and fail to shut down appetite?

    • Richard Nikoley on January 23, 2014 at 20:02

      I’m not sure, BigRob. What I am sure of is that for most people (discounting some brain injury where people waste away or pour on fat) it’s simply a matter of eating too much, too often, and of the wrong foods.

      It’s probably all three. As for food engineering and the whole reward/palatability thing, I think it’s a factor for some, not all. Lots of people are perfectly able to control themselves all life long by eating just some. They’ll have a small soda now & then, a pastry, even candy. But not all the time and they manage to cut it off.

      Some just can’t do it without just stopping almost completely.


      I’m speculating that the gut biome plus a role, and the thing is, everybody’s a snowflake, so it massively increases the complexity of the whole deal. But, I’m hopeful that for a lot of people, hopefully most, feeding the gut with RS and other foods that in time, things will even out.

      That seems to be how it’s going with me. I’m not doing a lot of food posts right now because basically, meals are kinda boring. Just now I had a grilled ground beef patty and mashed potatoes with just a little butter & milk mixed in. No sauce. Didn’t even finish the plate.

  5. rob on January 23, 2014 at 12:36

    Why do people engage in any self-destructive behavior? I do it myself on a regular basis, I figure it is on account of life is hard.

  6. Gordon on January 23, 2014 at 12:37

    This is a pondering in the wild, but it seems vaguely plausible that the reduced hormonal secretion associated with a sedentary lifestyle reduces the brain’s satiation norms. That is, our subjective experience of satiation is plausibly disturbed by a sedentary lifestyle, hence allowing us to cram more food in than we “need.” I imagine that, even with the hormonal and other effects of a “natural” or “whole foods” diet, the base corruption of the “satiation experience” might still permit overeating among healthy eaters. This is purely anecdotal, but there have been plenty of times when I’ve spent a day engaged in reasonably intense physical exertion (I’m thinking mainly in terms of productive work, like yard work or whatever, rather than “exercise”) after which I’ve eaten a 6oz steak and some mash and struggled to finish it. By contrast, during those periods of weeks/months that I’ve been sedentary, I can stuff way more than that down my throat and still not feel satiated.

    As to the Pacific Islanders, the lack of productive labor presumably reduces their caloric needs. The same can probably be said of various Amazonian tribes. I wonder what significance the macros of their diet might have though. Do these islanders eat, say, 500-1000 calories of sugar from fruit every day? How much protein do they get? How gut friendly is their diet (that it’s “natural” doesn’t mean much)? Etc.

    In the only “traditional” agricultural community I’ve ever seen – the Amish community in Michigan – none of the men are fat, and they are all built like a brick wall. When they age the weight goes on, but they stop laboring prior to that. By contrast, almost all the child-bearing age women are fat – I’m talking borderline obese if not full-blown obese. This is purely an estimate, but I wouldn’t be shy estimating that of women, say, 30+ (I’m being generously conservative), the percentage who are almost obese or heavier is higher among the Amish community than the non-Amish community. And they live on, by all accounts, a “traditional” organic, agricultural diet. Now, it’s not paleo for sure. But they don’t eat processed crap and engage in far more physical activity than the average American. Importantly, they also eat far more gut-friendly foods than most Americans. In particular, lots of right-out-the-teet milk and whole fat milk products, like cheese. And veggies of course.

    That kinda became bigger than I’d expected, but it’s some shit off my head on this general topic.

    • Janknitz on January 23, 2014 at 15:46

      “And they live on, by all accounts, a “traditional” organic, agricultural diet.”

      I think you’re idealizing the Amish “diet” to something you have seen in a movie or tourist stop.

      My understanding is that if you opened their cupboards you’d see plenty of packaged crap foods that are a regular part of their diet. And they bake their pies with Crisco as often as lard. They use a lot of sugar, and a lot of industrial oils. They may also eat their own grown vegetables, ferments, raw milk and their own meat, but there are plenty of SAD elements in their daily diet, too. That’s why Amish women are fat.

    • Gordon on January 23, 2014 at 18:03

      I’ve no idea where this nonsense is coming from: “I think you’re idealizing the Amish “diet” to something you have seen in a movie or tourist stop.” I’ve known many Amish – lived a few houses over from one for over 2 years. Everything I said is from personal experience. True, many Amish eat shit. But even in cases where the family eats a traditional diet – without the packaged shit – the women are typically obese or nearly so. And I’ve seen many Amish families in WalMart shopping for all-American shit, yet the mother is thin and healthy.

      Even if you look at the stricter communities, including the Mennonites, the women are typically fat.

  7. DuckDodgers on January 23, 2014 at 12:39

    Personally, I just think that our supermarkets are fucked up. If you look at Eating on the Wild Side, by Jo Robinson, she basically says that the food in the supermarket has all been bred for “sales” and all the nutrition has been bred out of them.

    And when you think about it, our paleolithic ancestors likely ate roots, tubers, corms, bulbs and pollens that we would never find in a supermarket. They just wouldn’t sell.

    But, if you can imagine a high-fiber super root that could be safely eaten raw or dried and stored well for the Winter, you could eat it and feel very satiated and quite happy all day long. You don’t see that in the supermarket.

  8. MAS on January 23, 2014 at 12:41

    Robb’s point about having difficulty to eat maintenance levels on Paleo rings true to me. When I was eating super clean, I was dropping weight too fast. Below ideal. Only when I started adding ice cream and milk kefir was I able to stabilize and gain weight.

    • Gordon on January 23, 2014 at 12:44

      Where you losing weight or muscle? Because if it was fat, it would make sense that you had trouble eating to “maintain”. There was no need to consume calories for maintenance, since you would have been burning fat. In my experience, everyone I know who eats paleo-esque burns off the fat and generally feels satiated pretty quickly. But they don’t lose muscle mass.

    • MAS on January 23, 2014 at 12:49

      Perhaps both. I was ripped, but my face was getting gaunt.

    • Gordon on January 23, 2014 at 13:07

      Similar experience then. I’m thin anyway, but when I went LC I lost my “skinny fat” and maybe a bit of muscle. I’ve since abandoned LC in response to Richard’s and others’ critiques and I do far more building/maintaining (mainly milk products and potatoes, though now I throw in corn tortillas too). I’m dubious about LC as a long term building/maintenance strategy (for the record, none of those I mentioned above, who tried LC, where able to stay on it for more than a few months – they all “rebelled”.)

    • MAS on January 23, 2014 at 13:10

      I too agree with Richard and recently did a post based on his podcast interview.

  9. Justin on January 23, 2014 at 12:42

    Does the answer have to be biochemical? I think there is a psychological elephant in the room.

    As I remember it: Someone at primalcom Tahoe 2013 asked Mark Sisson and Robb what the future of paleo/primal is. Robb said the gut microbiome and Mark said it was starting to deal with emotional sticking points that stop people from being successful.

    Too woo for you?

    • Gordon on January 23, 2014 at 12:46

      Sounds legit. But then, those Pacific Islanders have nothing to be stressed about, and they’re pretty fat… (The complications of studying humans).

      And while you’re talking psychology, why not throw in environment? Pollution and shit. And there’s always genes.

    • millie on January 28, 2014 at 17:06

      Have you been to Samoa? It is a third-world country, they have plenty to stress about, like lack of adequate healthcare and poverty.

  10. EF on January 23, 2014 at 12:55

    So is the best advice:

    Eat less real food (with emphasis on both resistant starch foods and supplements) and exercise more?

  11. Michael on January 23, 2014 at 13:13

    “I believe some Pacific islanders may be a good example where some can get big and fat on the bounty easily delivered in tropical paradise.”
    Really? That’s not what Ian Prior’s studies showed, nor what I’m aware of from personal experience.

  12. gabriella kadar on January 23, 2014 at 13:18

    Supposedly there is something called an ‘addictive personality’. Or at least this is what I learned when I worked at what was then called the Addiction Research Foundation.

    Nowadays only 16% of the adult population smokes cigarettes. Maybe the balance of would be/ex smokers are just stuffing their faces with junk food etc.

    Maybe eating past hunger and eating frequently is a displacement activity.

  13. Charlie on January 23, 2014 at 13:44

    My father-in-law who was practically immobile – with a walker he could walk from his bed to the bathroom, to his chair, and back again, and that was the extent of his daily activity – weigh 250 lbs, diabetic, bi-polar and on and on. I put him on a fairly strict paleo diet and let him eat all he wanted to…he lost 75 lbs in 18 months and was taken off all his T2 meds.

    I believe it’s what you eat that controls how much you eat and how much you eat either makes you fat or keeps you lean.

    I wish this RS / PS conversation was going on back then…I’m sure it would have helped him gain control of his glucose / insulin metabolism even sooner.

  14. GTR on January 23, 2014 at 14:08

    I don’t know how revelant information below is to the topic at hand, but it’s definitely interesting:

    There’s a recurring error in the discussion about the diet of OUR ancestors: people acquire information about the typical diets of average people in the past and conclude that this is what the ancestors of contemporary people ate. Such conclusion is based on assumption that there’s some demographic link between typical people of the past and typical people of today.

    This assumption is broken, as we are not descendants of averages, but we are disproportionally descendant from the rich people of the past. This has been confirment by many pieces of evidence, sometimes fragmentary: like informations about hundreds or even thousands of sons of ancient rulers versus slaves that had below replacement fertility etc. The best (most precise and based on the best evidence) available work concerns middle ages in the UK, and was done by Gregory Clark, the book is named “Farewell to alms”. It shows that 90% of English in the 18th centaury come from just 10% of the richest people at the beginning of the middle ages. He calls it “Survival of the richest” Here’s a short version of this:



    “Survival of the richest” is very meaningful in the context of the ancestral diets, as what we really want is to find out diets of OUR ancestors, not just the diets of the majority of population, that left no descendants living today. It means that when studying the past ways of eating with the goal to find our ancestral diet we have to discard the poorest, and concentrate on upper social classes – as much more likely to be either our ancestors, or behaving as our ancestors (same social class) if not directly related.

    Additional information about post-soviet countries (especially Ukraine and Russia): during communism rich peasants – so called kulaks – were targetted for elimination by communist under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, as communists were against private property, and kulaks owned land. The actual number of such peasants killed is unknown, it might be few to even dozen millions. How did it influence the character of contemporary population of post-soviet countries was not researched, but because of the numbers themselves some effects should be there.

  15. Ellen on January 24, 2014 at 06:37

    breast milk is 39% carb. which is why Paul says that kids need more carb. And that it should gradually reduce t0 30% as they mature.

    I think his theory is that those ratios for other animals correspond to the ratios used by their bodies AFTER their food is transformed by digestion, and he includes the transformation of fiber into fatty acids

  16. John on January 23, 2014 at 16:06

    It might fall under “neuroregulation of appetite,” but I think nutrient density is big. Appetite ain’t just for calories, it’s also for macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and whatever else is out there that our bodies need. So, say, if our calorie hunger has already been sated, but our B12 hunger has not, I’m sure our body would much rather just throw those extra calories into fat than go with sub optimal B12, so we’d keep eating. The SAD is calorie rich, nutrient poor, and on top of that, the main satiety macro-nutrient, fat, is demonized, and combining that with cheap, abundant food sounds like an awesome way to make a nation of people obese.

    I also think that “calories out” part of the CICO equation can explain a LOT, while people’s knowledge of that side seems to start and stop with “exercise.” I still think Ray Cronise’s temperature point is hugely important. Are we spending too much time indoors where it’s warm? Are low basal body temperatures indicative of a metabolism problem? How does light affect our metabolism and energy? How does sleep? How does altitude? Is something as simple as carrying a cell phone in your pants pocket crashing your testosterone, and crashing your energy and metabolism as well? And, of course, how exactly do those 100 trillion little things in our gut affect the whole system?

  17. Adrian on January 23, 2014 at 17:04

    Maybe Zoe just liked the taste. You know we did evolve liking sweet stuff. It just wasn’t so available back then.

    (I “get it”. Calories matter. Insulin hypothesis is dead. Gotcha.)

    I don’t understand why they would be mutually exclusive. I would say that Calories matter AND Insulin matters – and muscle mass matters, and gut biome matters and HIT matters. Saying Insulin hypothesis is dead is a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Creating energy excess via glucose (carbs) creates excess insulin which inhibits hormone-sensitive lipase which inhibits the capacity to burn fat, which encourages eating more (usually of the same crap) to find the energy.

    I suppose if you are eating healthfully in the range of 50:30:20, feeding your biome, and doing regular (weekly) effective HIT then it does get back to CICO.

  18. J. Stanton on January 23, 2014 at 17:04

    “Gotcha. What I’m still intrigued by however is WHY people overeat. I’d throw my hat largely in the “hyper palatable food + neuroregulation of appetite” camp.”

    I don’t believe the evidence supports this hypothesis…or, at least, this isn’t the beginning of the causal chain.

    Let’s recall the graph of obesity in America, which was basically flat before 1979, at which point it takes a dramatic upturn. As I pointed out in my AHS2012 presentation, food didn’t suddenly become tasty in 1979. (And people didn’t suddenly become gluttonous and lazy in 1979, either.) Your brain doesn’t just break one day because you put too many spices on a potato, or ate too many chocolate truffles, or whatever. It takes long-sustained hyperglycemia to damage the VMH…and if we claim that was caused by too much “hyperpalatable” food, we’ve just created a circular, self-justifying hypothesis.

    Adele Hite’s wonderful “As The Calories Churn” series at eathropology is instructive, because any hypothesis of the nature of obesity must start with the question “What did we eat differently, starting around 1979?”. Most hypotheses, while intellectually plausible, fail trivially against the data.

    Alas, the video of my AHS2013 presentation on metabolic flexibility is lost, along with everyone else’s (my bibliography is here) but it’s becoming more and more clear that empirically measurable defects of energy production at the cellular level are, if not the proximate cause, at least farther up the causal chain. The brain is usually just attempting (and, eventually, failing) to maintain homeostasis of an already-broken system.

    To use an analogy: you can make a car stop running by disconnecting the spark plug wires, but that doesn’t mean the reason for most car trouble is disconnected spark plug wires. (And yes, I believe obesity and MetS are strongly multifactorial. Nor are they the same thing.)

    And John ^^^ is correct: appetite is strongly influenced by nutrient content. Reward is not an intrinsic property of food: it is a property we assign to food based on our nutritional and metabolic state. This is well-understood by anyone familiar with the extensive scientific literature on hunger.

    JS – gnolls.org

    • Richard Nikoley on January 23, 2014 at 21:16

      I use the whole “reward” thing very loosely, not the technical definition, whatever it is.

      I think what happened in the 70s is that food got cheap, fast food became ubiquitous, people began eating away from home more often, one could buy a 32 oz soda for the price that 12 used to cost.

      So I think fundamentally, the cause of the obesity epidemic is cheap food energy. The palatability comes into play because people perceive they are getting a great deal, such satisfying stuff for a relatively small portion of their disposable income.

      I forget the exact figure, but since 2000 number of restaurants per capita are up about 15% and what do all those chain restaurants specialize in? Large portions as a tradeoff for good service.

      So, follow the money, I guess.

    • J. Stanton on January 24, 2014 at 04:13

      The interesting question is: which way around is that causality?

      The classic narrative is basically religious: evil corporations tempting us into sin with their giant servings of cheap calories. However, I believe the evidence points to the narrative being the other way around: corporations created these larger-sized portions in response to consumer demand.

      Again, I have to start with the data. Spending on “food away from home” increased dramatically through the 1960s and 1970s, while obesity was flat: the trend flattened right around 1980, right when obesity took off. (The graph is in my AHS 2012 presentation.) I can’t bring myself to blame the availability of cheap fast food when the data doesn’t support that interpretation.

      For instance, McDonald’s didn’t start selling Super Size meals until 1994 — and other chains didn’t follow suit until even later. Did the fast food industry just not realize, for decades, that they could tempt people into consuming so much? Or, perhaps, was there insufficient demand for such giant portions in 1960, or even 1970?

      JS – gnolls.org

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 12:54

      Mr. Stanton:

      I have moved the conversation over to here, sir, should you be so kind as to join.


  19. marie on January 23, 2014 at 17:38

    I was just out shoveling snow in short bursts, interspersed with slow walking – my winter version of HIIT, when it’s sunny. It was -18C. After 50′ of this, I came back indoors feeling hot, ‘trembling tired’ and very hungry. That hunger always feels good and it is satisfied only with real food. No cravings for sweets or junk foods – just thinking about them causes revulsion when in that state. The same experience is after a 24 hr fast, though nothing beats a 48 hr fast for the intensity of the effect, if you can get that far :D.

    But that’s just it, only a very few people can do that anymore, even when prepared to exercise considerable will-power. The entire metabolic system seems broken, from head to gut.

    Maybe the majority of westerners have, at the most basic, lost their true sense of hunger?
    In the typical diet, it’s been replaced with the cravings of reactive hypoglycemia and various hyperpalatibility-driven addictions (which are aggravated by reactive hypoglycemia).

    By identifying that healthy hunger as a goal, perhaps people can use it as a marker that they are doing healthy things and will search-out those things that produce it?

    So, intense physical exertion in the cold produces visions of steaming Tuscan soup – good, repeat.
    Treadmills and stair-masters produce visions of ice-cream or cookies – bad, never do that again (any junk-food cravings are due to the sense of deprivation from such unnatural ‘exercise’ imo, there’s precious few excess calories burned on those things, with or without sweating).

    Decidedly ‘arm-chair’ musings by the, now roaring, fireplace… :)

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on January 26, 2014 at 20:49


      na, chicken + taro curry + coconut cream soup tastes better than Tuscan soup. XD

      (i agree w/ you that most people do not seem to know what hunger & satiation feel like. a colleague of mine told me he “fasts” all the time @ 2 hour interval.)


  20. Adrian on January 23, 2014 at 17:55

    Just went and read the link at the top “Since even before Robb himself began questioning the sanity of Low Carb” and this journey just keeps getting more and more interesting.

  21. gabriella kadar on January 23, 2014 at 17:58

    Since 2010 and sporadically since 2008 (with the very occasional splurge) I’ve been low carb (with a little bit of slivovic at the end the of the day, not enough to get drunk, just a bit to get relaxed). The first year or so I had cravings for sweet but for whatever reason it’s totally gone.

    To me this means that I don’t buy sweet or processed junkfood and I discipline my cooking so I’ve got food in the fridge to warm up on evenings when I’d rather not have to cook.

    People who follow the orthodox Christian fasting calendar, fast 180 days per day. They don’t eat meat and oils and alcohol. But they do eat fish, seafood, vegetables and maybe a pita bread or rice. This was they keep their weight entirely under control. The Roman Catholics did this too. So on fast days they’d eat about half their normal calories. I know people who do this and they are thin.

  22. marie on January 23, 2014 at 18:58

    gabriella, yes!
    Having been taught in childhood, I think those traditional fasting regimens work remarkably well. Also, they are not just fasting alone, they prescribe Fast and Feast. Lamb and offal, for example, are always had in feasts after the most severe fasts, like at Easter.
    After I drifted away from it for about 10 years, in auspicious modernity, I remember it was suddenly very hard to restart straight water fasting. Keeping a moderate carb/uprocessed diet really helps in that regard, one can fast at the drop of a hat if not riding the SAD BG roller-coaster.

    Otherwise, anyone can do well to follow the orthodox traditional schedule, just as a training guide, because lo and behold, it gradually drops all grains, sugars and most starches when it’s leading up to a severe fast. The fasting exemptions are instructive too, I always thought : sick people, breast-feeding women and travelers.

  23. Todd on January 23, 2014 at 19:19

    I eat more throughout the day whenever I get less sleep the night before. Same when I’m stressed. Those are often days that vegging out on the couch reading seems more appealing than working out. I don’t think I’m alone on those fronts. Keeping relatively paleo on those days, that’s not falling too far away from the wagon. Problem is that most people nowadays (and I’m just assuming here, could be dead wrong) get less sleep and are more stressed than in days past. Doesn’t help that foods are more nutritional deplete these days either.

    I think nutrition density is definitely important, but I often find I’m still hungry after eating a half pound of liver and onions. Thing is, a half pound of liver and onions really isn’t that large of a meal for me. Perhaps it’s more than enough to be physically satisfying, but there’s a psychological element where I know I didn’t eat to fullness. Resetting the satiate button can be kind of difficult when there’s more readily available to consume.

    I agree with Marie, though. Whenever I’m doing real work like cutting, splitting or hauling wood the only foods that truly satisfy at the end of the day are real food. And on days when I’m up in the country doing real work, I often don’t think about food until real hunger sets in or the job is done. I also know I don’t consume as many calories on those days even if I do only eat one small breakfast and one large dinner. Get back home from those weekends and there’s more trips to the fridge and pantry. But on that last note, having ready-to-go pinto beans or rice and cooking up an egg or two to go with, is a quick, easy nutritious meal that satisfies more than a bag of chips or something else processed.

    One of the best tenets of paleo has been IF for me. It’s taught me how to get past pseudo-hunger and actually into real hunger. Very liberating. I haven’t gone much past 24 hours, mostly for psychological reasons, but it’s pretty cool to really get to know what true hunger feels like.

    • Jon on January 24, 2014 at 06:02

      + 1 for stress being a major contributor to cravings.

  24. marie on January 23, 2014 at 20:19

    “.. satisfies me more than a bag of chips or something else processed.”
    Yup, I have similar observations, in fact chips were my downfall for years.
    Since reverting to real food and IF seven years ago, I often found them less satisfying than something nutritious and ended up having them much less frequently.
    In addition,
    _Since restarting real activity/exercise four years ago, they became ‘out of sight-out of mind’.
    _Since adding RS this last summer, well, I just spent 24 hours in planes, airports and a train ‘trapped’ with four packs of rare, prized Oregano chips (for my daughter) and wasn’t tempted in the least. Didn’t even realize the feat until I handed them to her and she laughed ‘HOW did they make it?!’
    The progression was not quite so linear as described, but close enough to convince me of the correlations :)

  25. harold on January 24, 2014 at 14:52

    Hi, this is OT but I just saw there is a book (for free) which Richard has awarded 5 stars.

    groeten uit Nederland!

  26. Gemma on January 24, 2014 at 00:24

    As to the paleolithic people and their body composition: is this woman fat or not? (25 000 years old sculpture: The Venus of Dolní Věstonice)

    • Dan on January 24, 2014 at 03:13

      I remember an “african” doing a talk at my primary school. Telling us about his home country. Saying that fat women are more desirable than skinny women. He said that when there is no food, everyone is skinny. Fat women stand out and are desired. It could be the same “theory” that led to a sculpture of that buxom specimen…

    • Dan on January 24, 2014 at 03:21

      I use the term “african” to relay the fact it was a public school in a small country town so the veracity of his background could have been questionable (or not of course) I mean I remember it to this day 20 yrs later so it sounded believable to us. I realise it reads very negatively without this context.

      I also remember a timber device they carried to use as a pillow being shown around. Something along the lines of tribal folk sleep on the ground and use this sleeping device which was about the distance from the ground to their head when lying on their side. Didnt look comfortable.

  27. Brock in HK on January 24, 2014 at 06:13

    I get the simplicity of the ratios in mammalian milk corresponding to what humans seem to thrive on. What doesn’t make sense about that is that a broad set of mammals, which all have different digestive systems, seem to have relatively the same ratio of f/c/p in their mother’s milk. Yet a cow is designed to eat solely a grass diet at maturity, which does not demonstrate that same macronutrient ratio. And more carnivorous animals like cats I would assume eat more protein at maturity but still have a similar macro ratio in the mother’s milk.

    In my view, 50/30/20 is probably just the ratio of f/c/p that works for the mature human, rather than it having anything to do with the macros in infancy, and it’s pure coincidence that they’re the same. Paul Jaminet’s proposed macro ratio is still probably about right, give or take for individual genetics, but not to be justified in that particular way.

  28. Mike on January 24, 2014 at 08:06

    Just a couple of thoughts from my own experience. Having been on VLC to get my house back in order, I found that like most people, I was never hungry. It moves you into a sort of healthy homeostasis in terms of appetite. I have for the first time, become acutely sensitive to the hunger signals that my body is sending out. Unlike before I can really differentiate between habitual hunger (psychological) and what I have read described as blood hunger where the organism is screaming out for nutrients.

    Now, in this state, if I eat refined carbs (pizza, candy, bread, pie) in any significant amount, my cravings and appetite are barely controllable for the next few days. From my experience, it is these foods in general and the sugar in particular which breaks this homeostasis. Whether this is because of changes to me or the crowd in my gut, I can’t say.

    • Bruce on January 24, 2014 at 19:02

      Same experience here. Hunger controlled until acellular carbs go in. Since we’re dealing with a biological symbiosis with our fellow gut travellers, they react to what you do, and vice versa. Say you ingest more highly digestible and rewarding stuff (because its available, etc) . Thus encouraging/feeding the critters who like this jet fuel, who therefore rapidly proliferate. But jet fuel burns off fast, and they start starving, and also your neglected fiber dudes are now starving too. Is it unreasonable (with such an age-old symbiosis ) to think they probably can yank on some mechanism or other in the gut-brain link to get some more jet fuel on the way? Downward spiral. Usually (until now) ended by seasonal or economic unavailability of further jet fuel foods. Most of the solutions I see proposed are all one direction causality, when that is not the kind of system we are dealing with.

  29. golooraam on January 24, 2014 at 10:10

    Hi Richard – I’m just freestyling here – but perhaps this is why raw food (I am talking specifically raw meat and raw milk) as a certain percentage of one’s diet is good for you? – independent of (supposed) improved digestion I think that perhaps the surface bacteria on raw meat that gets removed by cooking and all the good flora in raw milk lead to an improved gut biome?

    I don’t like to always do so, but I always notice I look and feel better on a raw protein diet, my actual favorite is to have raw proteins/fats with cooked starch in the form of baked potato, corn tortillas, and white rice

    btw, thank you for taking the boogyman out of corn, I love my plain tamales and corn tortillas!


  31. John on January 24, 2014 at 13:34

    I try to avoid food and diet conversations with anyone, because no matter what I say or how simple the concept is, the concept is perceived as some unfathomable proposition. I’m surrounded by fat people (working in an office building), and they spend a lot of time talking about how they eat and what they eat and their various health problems, and occasionally they ask me about my opinion.

    I always start with “eat, don’t drink, calories, and don’t snack.” 90% of the time the avoidance of liquid calories is rejected as an option. I can’t remember the last time I had a craving, or any sense of need, for some caloric beverage, and my diet is pretty lax (except for not snacking and avoiding vegetable oils).

    When I was visiting Paris earlier in the year, I went on a day food tour. The guide was a 30 year old entrepreneur from Wisconsin or something, cool guy. He said when he got there he would bring apples around and eat them on the subway, and people would either stare at him, or tell him “bon apetite.” He explained that eventually he realized this meant “what the fuck are you doing eating right now?”

  32. Garett on January 25, 2014 at 06:36

    In support of the neuroregulation hypothesis, this is a pretty great TED talk on why restrictive diets that don’t focus on satiation ultimately fail.

    The body works on a control system that regulates hormones similar to a thermostat (see the engineering literature for the dynamics of control systems). However, the effects of actions (e.g., eating) are often lagged such that the effects are not immediate. What’s more, the “set point” around which the body regulates these hormones can shift up (but not really down, apparently) if we overshoot the regulating point, which happens when don’t attend to the lag in effects. For example, the body may sense a need for more energy and thus make us hungry. The body may know that we need 600 calories to fill this energy requirement. As we start consuming this energy, the body releases hormonal signals that attempt to influence our subsequent actions such that we consume only the desired amount of energy (600 calories) no more or no less. Often, however, we ignore these signals or are eating foods that don’t send the right signals or the signals are VERY lagged. As such, we end up blowing past the 600 calories and consume, say, 1,000 calories. Now, the body that evolved in an environment where “more is better because you’ll never know where the next meal comes from” thinks that energy is abundant in the environment. As such, it shifts up the set point at which it tries to regulate caloric intake. Next time it senses a need for energy, it might say okay let’s try for 800 calories and I can store the excess for later when energy is less abundant.

    Repeated the cycle above, we tend to overshoot this 800 calories by ignoring the hormonal signals or choosing foods that send the wrong signals and the set up continues to increase. The trick is to “creep up” on the set point to make sure that amount of calories consumed is not exceeding the set point. This typically happens by consciously attending to the signals your body sends in response to eating (Am I full? Maybe I should only eat 80% and then see how I feel). This prevents the overshooting of the set point and creates a more stable control system.

    Now, with respect to the 1979 argument, technology and food norms are two examples. Specifically, we stopped eating meals as social units and became increasingly distracted. If you look at the number of televisions per household, the number has steadily increased since 1975. So people are probably eating in front of the TV and eating distractedly instead of talking with one another and focusing on food signals. If you look at countries with historically low obesity rates (e.g., France), they have STRONG norms around food. You don’t eat distracted, you focus on your food and enjoy it. You pair food with culture and social norms, and the social situation enforces those norms. If you are stuffing your face with 2-3 servings, others in your environment will tell you that it’s not okay. The U.S. lacks such norms (Michael Pollan has some interesting pieces about this idea). So basically, the U.S. is too damn distracted when we eat, which detracts from the hormonal signals our body is trying to send us about whether the amount of food we are eating is appropriate, too little, or too much (regardless if it’s fat, carbs, protein or a mix of all three). In other words, we are actively sabotaging the neuroregulatory mechanisms that are trying to regulate a normal body weight.

  33. Bruce on January 24, 2014 at 19:07

    Ya, I took a farm environmental planning course with a bunch of fellow farmers. There was only a couple of us with a reasonable BMI. The whole – exercise to lose weight- thing has been soundly, repeatedly disproven.

  34. Spanish Caravan on January 24, 2014 at 20:51

    No, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I used to think like you. But only for like 6 months. Go to a Seven Eleven and get yourself a bag of pork rinds. Finish a bag. See if you can stop yourself from eating. Look in the nutrition label. There ain’t no carbs. And this ain’t insulinogenic like dairy.

    Every time a drooling retard comes out of the woodwork, I summon this example of carless food reward to show that carbs are not de riguer for food reward. Nor are they a prerequisite for being hyperpalatble. It’s time to grow out of your fetish with insulin. You can’t have glistening gluteus maximi without insulin. Nor can you convert T4 to T3 without a threshold of carbs that trigger insulin release.

    This is why every time a self-appointed guru shows up, dresses the part, and presents “data,” and you scratch beneath the surface and realize that the data is manufactured, only in a more sophisticated way than Ancel Keys ever jiggled the saturated fat vs. CVD mortality duality. I don’t have the time to look at the so called data that Gnoll or Stanton or whatever the Zulu calls himself presents. But he’s touting the primacy of that data when any moron can jiggle the variables in support of a particular viewpoint.

    Hyperglycemia is not a prerequisite for food reward or hyperpalatability. Nor is cellular damage. Give him a bag of pork rinds and you’ll see the last of the Mohican.

  35. Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 09:12

    V and Bruce, you are both conveniently ignoring context.

    Spanish. Exactly. Or:

    – beef jerky
    – mixed nuts
    – macadamias

    Pork rinds are not an overly popular junk food because, well, it’s pork fat and people have potato chips. Jerky, mixed nuts and macadamias in particular don’t fly off the shelf like other less palatable junk foods why? PRICE!

    If it weren’t for price, the food industry could create any number of zero or VLC products that people would eat until stuffed.

    Carbs has zero to do with it.

  36. sootedninjas on January 25, 2014 at 21:38

    love pork grinds. have been eating those since I was a kid. Also, Richard have you ever tried deep fried pork intestine !

  37. Bruce on January 26, 2014 at 09:03

    I`ve re-read your post and am trying to integrate it into 2 yrs of digesting the paleo perspective in general. Like many here, a growing realization of the fundamental importance of our `deal`with the gut biome. If we were to assume the gut bugs are active players in that they can make demands for specific nutrients, it could go a long way towards explaining the Why. If this symbiosis is perhaps a billion years old, is the communication really only one way.

    • tatertot on January 26, 2014 at 10:02

      Bruce – exactly my thoughts, too. I think the system of gut microbes driving us to eat certain things at certain times worked better in a true ‘early man’ environment. Kind of like watching cows go out to graze in the morning. They head right for the prime patches of grass and pass up the weedy areas or fence row trees, they just somehow know where to go and what to eat.

      I’ve been reading about baboon behavior, they do the same thing, and in the same area we evolved. However, if you’d put a pile of Twinkies and Big Macs out, something tells me they would stop spending hours searching for bugs and tubers and lay around and eat fast food all day.

      I think our gut bug signalling probably still works, babies seem to know what to do, but once we grow and get exposed to so many food inputs, our brain can override many of the gut signals.

    • Bruce on January 26, 2014 at 15:51

      I would go farther, maybe the gut signals *are* the craving and they change as the biome composition changes or adapts. Cravings that the brain cannot easily override. So at the beginning: hyperpalatible foods are those that push the right buttons for the brain to be instantly rewarded for finding them (endorphins ?). Whatever the status of the biome at that time – we are hardwired for these things, and this gets the ball rolling. But why the over-consumption that never lets up ? Once the biome shifts composition to match the rising intake of hyperpalatible foods (that don’t satiate and that stay unnaturally available), who is the junkie now? Will all those trillions who have bloomed up just die peacefully if you back off – or will they assert themselves – and now you say “why can’t I just walk past those potato chips?” – even against the best intentions of a metabolism under stress just trying to find a place to stash all this stuff.
      I suspect the gut bug signalling very much still works at this “adapted” stage, and it is the brain that can only override it with a supreme effort of will. Once some balance is restored to the biome (paleo, etc) the cravings disappear. But pork rinds will still be instantly rewarding.

  38. Spanish Caravan on January 26, 2014 at 09:57


    Your arms are too short to box with God.

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