Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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The Diary of a Dieter

How does the Human Body Regulate Food intake and Body Weight?

Body weight remains fairly constant for long periods of time. To regulate weight and fatness at a constant level, the body must be able to respond both to changes in food intake over the short term and to changes in the amount of stored body fat that occur in the long term. We have hunger and satiety signals that act over the short-term time frame (meal to meal) whereas signals from the fat tissue trigger the brain to adjust both food intake and energy expenditure for long term regulation. Sounds simple, right? That’s what some weight loss plans keep telling us (especially if we are following their claims).  Here is partly the reason why it is NOT easy.

For example, there are two major hormones that participate in this process. The first one is called ghrelin which is a hormone produced by the stomach that stimulates food intake (often called the “hunger hormone”).

The second one is called leptin which is a hormone produced by fat cells that signals information about the amount of body fat.  I will spare the details, but it is important to keep in mind that weight regulation is determined by the body in conjunction with the brain and is It is actually not simple but very complex. And keeping the lost weight off is a special challenge that requires a great deal of mindfulness and vigilance. The body tends to not want us to starve for obvious reasons.

The following article presents us with a realistic experience that many people are forced to take on when they finally address their repeated weight gains and suggests ways that must be followed to make this time a success (for health, not vanity).  There is a lot of wisdom in her article.  In my opinion, she finally gets it. I wish her success!

Hope she doesn’t mind if I borrow her viewpoint for a while.  To find more about her, click on the author, Cheney Meaghan below for a link to her work. (S. Feltner, PhD at Food, Facts, and Fads).

It’s Time To Diet Again, Dangit

For health, not hopes of hotness.

Cheney Meaghan

Jul 19, 2018 · 3 min read

I’ve lost count of how many times in my life I’ve been on a diet, and now it’s time to do it again.

I hate dieting.

Dieting consumes my entire life.

To track what I eat, to count calories, to more thoughtful food shopping, to prepping food, meal planning, tracking weight — all of it — I hate it.

But today I went to the doctor because I have been having more knee pain than usual and my right foot has been swelling every day for a week, and even before lab work returns, the news is not good.

I’ve gained thirty pounds in the last six months, my blood pressure is a steady 140/100ish (I’ve been checking it at home for two weeks), the doctor is worried that the swelling is due to hypertension, she’s testing me for diabetes, and she’s sure that the crunching and squishing and pain I am feeling in my right knee is bone on bone arthritis.

Basically, I’m turning into my mother, and quickly falling apart as I spread across the couch one pound at a time.

I guess this time, the dieting really matters.

All the extra weight isn’t good for my knee, and, well, all the extra weight just isn’t good, period.

But did I mention I hate dieting?

When you weigh as much as I do (over 250 pounds now, and holy s… I can’t believe I just admitted that on the internet) losing weight isn’t just a small shift in eating healthier and getting more exercise.

It means scrutinizing every morsel you put into your mouth and weighing (ha!) in your mind whether that bite is worth it compared to all the other bites left you have that day.

It means weighing and measuring your food to make sure you stay under your calorie goal, it means fewer meals out with friends, it means less ice cream.

I hate dieting.

But, like, I’m kind of dying.

My doctor looks like she weighs around the same amount as I do and joked with me during the appointment about how hard it is to get healthy.

When she mentioned that I should give up coffee with cream and sugar, which happens to be one of my only remaining addictions, I wanted to cry, but she said it was her favorite thing in the world and the thing she had the hardest time giving up, too.

It’s hard, I know it’s hard, I have a hard time doing it myself, obviously, she told me as we laughed and groaned over the benefits of dieting to prevent diabetes and the pain of cutting back on sugary treats.

She also shook her head and talked about how crazy it is that America is such a fat country in general. She said it was because we’d become such a busy society focused on getting stuff done, we’ve stopped focusing on taking the time to rest, eat healthy, and do good things for our bodies and lives like so many Europeans do.

It’s harder in America to be healthy than it is in a lot of other places in the world, and “they say” that over half of Americans are overweight now, and yet I can’t take any comfort in being on the side of the majority here.

Now I wait for results to see how things are — my thyroid, my sugar levels, my cholesterol and all that fun stuff — oh, and my creaky, decrepit knee.

Meanwhile, I’ll be updating my new weight and goals on the MyFitnessPal app and start logging everything I put into my body — my own personal science experiment as I try to shrink and not disappear.



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Binge Eating?

Binge-eating disorder is probably the most prevalent eating disorder that affects about 3.3% of women and 2.0% of men. It is estimated that 10 to 15% of people enrolled in commercial weight loss programs suffer from this disorder.  I would suppose that  there are many others that have never been diagnosed or are not even aware that they may suffer from this insidious condition or occasionally fall victim to its effects on weight. The condition may result in a lifetime of weight gain leading to obesity. There is an established diagnostic account of the binge-eating disorder based on the following criteria:

  • Binge eating episodes are associated with three or more of the following:
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Eating large amounts of food when not physically hungry.
  • Eating more rapidly than normal.
  • Eating alone due to embarrassment of how much you are eating.
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after overeating.
  • The behaviors occur, on average, at least two days a week for six months.

Smolin and Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Applications, Third Edition.

The treatment focuses on the underlying psychological issues. Persons with this disorder will often be asked to record their food intake and note feelings and circumstances that prompt this behavior. The treatment can also include individual or group therapy and provide nutrition counseling on mindful eating. This approach can include paying attention to hunger and satiety cues, and slowing down the pace of eating to identify the triggers to this eating behavior. Sometimes it’s as simple as realizing that very restrictive eating and hunger is a contributor.

Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now, 7th Edition


The article is a first-hand account of a dieter and her journey with an eating disorder as well as the complexities associated with weight control.

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The Best Way to Lose Weight (and keep it off)


So much has been said about weight loss, but finally the following article brings us some realities about maintaining those lost pounds we worked so hard to lose.

Extreme, restrictive, fad-type diets  just don’t work for most people in the long-term. However, some restriction of refined carbs or highly processed food and snacks can be effective.

It makes no sense to lose weight by deprivation and then to gain most of it back after a few months.

Will power is an old term that should no longer be associated with weight loss. Being vigilant is the new “will power.”  Being aware of what and when you eat can make a difference – e.g. keeping a food journal and a prudent use of the scale are simple things you can practice. For example, weigh yourself once a week, if the number goes up, cut down your calories. One way is to be aware of your snacking habits and choose nutrient dense snacks, such as cut-up veggies. Most snack foods are designed by the food industry to lead to the “eating right out of the bag” habit. Read serving sizes on the label – carbohydrate grams can add up very quickly.

Be aware of weight cycling. Drastic reductions of food intake can lead to rapid weight loss but also cause a drop in the basal metabolic rate (BMR) which may result in increased food cravings and weight gain. This makes it difficult to maintain the weight loss and contribute to weight cycling that decreases the likelihood that future attempts at weight loss will be successful.

An example of a successful weight control program is one that offered monthly lifestyle coaching sessions with goal setting, behavior change strategy development, and follow-up sessions to evaluate and fine-tune personal approaches. They should be individually tailored with sustainable lifestyle changes.


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The Realities of Calorie Restriction


Calorie restriction is not an easy thing to do in our obesigenic society. However, based on the the following study, even small changes seems to be able to result in not only weight loss but the beneficial effects on our overall health.

The debate about calories has continued for quite some time.

In 1918, Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters wrote the first diet book, “Diet and Health, With Key to the Calories.” The book was a best seller. She explained the new concept of calorie reduction for weight loss.

In 1958 Dr. Richard MacKarness published “Eat Fat and Grow Slim”. The title speaks for itself.

In 1971, Dr. Herman Taller wrote another best seller, “Calories Don’t Count”.

More recently, author Gary Taubes wrote a provocative book entitled “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and Nina Teicholz espoused the health benefits of calorie dense butter, meat and cheese, in her book called “The Big Fat Surprise.”

No wonder people are struggling with obesity and will continue to do so until we figure out the physiological, psychological, sociological and environmental complexities of weight gain, weight loss, and weight maintenance.

The following article emphasizes the health benefits of calorie restriction whether due to weight loss or the calorie deficit itself.



To take a look at Dr. Hunt’s book by clicking on the pages:


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Common Sense About Weight Loss Maintenance


Are you currently faced with a weight loss plateau? Or are you gaining back some of pounds you worked so hard to lose?  This article discusses a new study on how to maintain a weight loss that is just as important and maybe even more important as the weight loss itself.


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All About Calories

Lulu Hunt Peters

The first diet book in the U.S. was written by Lulu Hunt Peters in 1918, entitled “Diet & Health” A Key to the Calories.”  She had quite an insight in spite of the lack of knowledge of her day.

“Lulu Hunt Peters (1873–1930) was an American doctor and author who wrote a featured newspaper column entitled Diet and Health, which she followed up with a best-selling book, Diet & Health: With Key to the Calories. She was the first person to widely popularize the concept of counting calories as a method of weight loss. It was also the first weight-loss book to become a bestseller. Source: Wikipedia

Diet and Health, Cover, 1918. From Wikipedia:

Calories are often misunderstood as to their importance in weight gain or weight loss. The following from Healthline helps to clear up some of the misinformation out there.