Some thoughts on body weight and body composition

For the first time in quite a while – since April, 2018 – my body weight has dropped below 200 lbs. I’m pleased with this milestone and wanted to make a note about what techniques appear to be working:

  • Intermittent fasting. A minimum of 16:8 but usually closer to 18:6. That’s 16 hours “fasting” and 8 hours “eating”. In practice, during a typical day this corresponds to eating lunch after 1100 and eating dinner between 1700 and 1800 before stopping eating in the evening (no snacking).
  • Don’t drink calories. Beverages include black coffee, water, tea (herbal or caffeinated). In practice, most of what I drink is coffee and water.
  • “Paleo” slash “keto” slash “low carb” focus.
    • Eat a lot of meat (including poultry and fish), eggs, and non-starchy vegetables like spinach, kale, cabbage, and so forth.
    • Use natural fats like butter, coconut oil, avocado oil. Avoid industrial seed oils like canola, soybean, cottonseed, and so forth (too high in Omega-6).
    • Eat some starchy vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, and so forth, but not too much.
    • A little bit of fun snack food like fresh fruit, nuts, and dates seems to work for me but I aim to avoid going overboard with these kind of foods. They are so calorie-dense, non-filling (“low satiety”), and habit-forming. I also aim to avoid adding excess Omega-6 fats through too many nuts.
  • Whey protein.
    • For the first time ever, I’ve supplemented with whey protein powder.
    • Technically, this violates the “don’t drink calories” recommendation, but this is a dietary supplement rather than a beverage, so I’m making a specific exception. (Same exception applies to cod liver oil – yes, you’re “drinking calories” but let’s not be crazy here.)
    • One rationale is that if a 200 calorie protein shake crowds out 500 calories of snacking, then I’m still ahead. Some science suggests that satiety (subjective feeling of fullness) is guided by protein intake.
    • Research also suggests that whey protein helps preferentially spare muscle mass during body weight reduction. Subjectively, this practice does seem to reduce feelings of hunger and increase feelings of fullness during the day. I’m running a 30 day experiment for this and will review my observations at the end of the trial period.
    • This experiment is largely based on new (for me) learnings about whey protein presented in Best Supplements for Men, by P. D. Mangan. I highly recommend the book for its other insights and teachings as well. Mr. Mangan wrote it very well and very clearly.

When I talk and write about this subject, I get pedantic and specific about terminology. In particular, I avoid using the term “weight loss” for two main reasons:

  • First, the real goal is to reduce body fat or fat mass, not just weight. It’s important to be specific about this. Nobody wants to reduce bone mass or muscle mass or water mass. If you reduce your body mass by 20 pounds, and 19 of those 20 pounds are muscle, you may have seriously damaged your health.
  • Second, the word loss tends to be universally associated with negative things in people’s minds – “I lost money” or “I’m so sorry for your loss”. Most things that people “lose”, they don’t feel good about. It’s just not a very good word to use in association with a health-oriented goal. Body fat reduction is a win, not a loss.

Therefore, instead of the common, but misguided, term weight loss, I use the preferred and more specific term body fat reduction.

A healthy morning routine

In the morning, right after waking up drink this:

  • 24oz water
  • 2g sodium ascorbate (non-acidic Vitamin C)
  • 2g ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)

Drink it before coffee or anything else.

What is the optimal diet for humans?

I’ve accumulated a lot of body fat over the past 15-20 months. I am aiming to get back to a healthier body shape (lower body fat percentage, more muscle).

I’m thinking about what the optimal diet, or range of diets, would be:

  • Emphasis on foods in their natural state.
  • Emphasis on meeting the body’s needs for known and unknown nutrients (macros, vitamins, phytonutrients, probiotics, etc).
  • Macro breakdown ranges are 50-80% fat, 10-20% protein, 5-30% carbohydrate (approximately).
  • Focus on meat, including fat and organ meats; green, leafy vegetables; pastured eggs; safe starches like white rice, taro, or sweet potatoes; good fats like coconut, butter, tallow, olive, etc.
  • Eat fermented foods to provide probiotic bacteria.
  • Remove all industrially-processed seed oils (falsely named “vegetable oils”) from the diet. Examples of these undesirable oils include soybean, canola, corn, cottonseed, etc.
  • Reduce or eliminate processed or manufactured foods.
  • Minimize or eliminate grains except for safe starches like white rice.
  • Minimize or eliminate sugar and sugar alternatives (syrup, honey, etc).
  • Drink only healthy beverages like water, coffee, tea. The simple rule is “don’t drink calories”.
  • Eliminate artificial sweeteners, whether in foods or beverages, because these train the palate to expect a high level of sweetness. It’s easier to adapt to less sugar or no sugar in your diet when you remove artificial sweeteners.

This list is inspired by various other approaches, many of which have significant overlap with each other: the Paleo diet, the ketogenic diet, the Perfect Health Diet, and Whole30.