Food Reward: “There’s Always Room For Dessert”

Well, I had no idea that when I hit publish last week—Synthesis: Low-Carb and Food Reward/Palatability, and Why Calories Count—that it would turn out to be about the most popular post I’ve ever put up, beating out my original post on the no soap or shampoo experiment in numbers of comments. Comments number 619 as I write this! On Friday, I recorded a podcast with jimmy moore that airs tomorrow, 3/6. This topic was a large part of the conversation (as well as the perceived widening divide between paleo and Low-Carb folks). Finally, Angelo Coppola covered it in the Paleoland segment of his Latest in Paleo podcast that went up just today (begins at 43 minutes into the program).

My favorite objection or criticism of the post was in a comment on Reddit.

Wait, I must have missed something. I didn’t see any references at all and any information contradicting Gary Taubs’ work…

I replied that I figured everyone was just as capable as I to go to Google Scholar and PubMed to cherry pick their own set of references that support their biases, whatever they may be. While I have no problem taking a study and trying to pick it apart, or indicate why I think it makes sense, I often don’t really like trying to build up a big list of references for my posts, because my posts attempt to be some synthesis primarily designed to get you to connect dots and think. I like to take on an idea and think about it on my own, then tell you what I’m thinking.

My favorite comment in support of the post was the very first comment posted, from Dr. kurt harris.

Richard gets it.

Now why can’t all the others who doubt food reward get it too?

It’s not about magical insulin or “spikes” of any kind, or fat being locked away somehow.

This is definitely one of the best posts ever explaining how LC works in layman’s terms, and how you can make it work even better.

What I have found surprising is not only the resistance to the idea of Food Reward but a seeming difficulty on the part of many to grasp what the idea is really about. And then there are those like my friend J. Stanton, who think an exhaustive, precise set of ideas and concepts needs to be defined and differentiated in order to avoid fog and confusion. He put up a comment as well, and also has a multi-part series on his blog, Why Are We Hungry?

Then of course, there are Stephan Guyenet’s posts on the subject, and in the skeptic’s corner, we have Sean Abbott at Prague Stepchild: Deeply Skeptical of Food Reward Hypothesis Pt. I: Playing Gotcha.

I have a confession to make. Beyond reading perhaps Stephan’s first couple of posts on the idea which was new to me, it struck me as simply too obvious to spend much time looking into all the ins & outs, and so I don’t believe I’ve read much if any of all of those other links. I barely have enough time to write posts here and tend to comments. So I considered reading them in advance of drafting this, but I think I’ll just wait at this point and check them later.

In my view, the whole general Food Reward idea contains roughly the following components (could be more; this is off the top of my head):

  • Hunger / Appetite (foods you might eat even when not hungry)
  • Palatability (foods that tend to taste, smell and/or feel very good to you virtually any time you think of them)
  • Satiety (foods that don’t typically fill you up but more likely leave you wanting more)
  • Emotions (foods you tend to think of when emotional, up, down, or both)
  • Convenience (easily obtainable, often, with little trade-off in terms of effort)

I think some of the confusion or misunderstanding I’ve seen on this topic comes from the notion that a limited view of palatability is the only concern. Gary Taubes, in his objection to Stephen Guyenet at AHS fell into this mode of thinking when he asked Stephan how a drink wasn’t palatable and could be considered bland, since is had sugar in it.

The easy answer to that is… I don’t care how much sugar you put on a steaming pile of dog shit… There’s a number of components to FR, palatability being only one and even palatability has a number of factors like smell, texture, temperature, mouth feel and so forth. Think in those terms and it should be pretty easy to understand.

The other confusion comes into play when Paleos and foodies go out of their way to make good food highly palatable (believing that falsifies FR). And they do, with various recipes, sauces, herbs & spices, and so on. And yes, many of those sorts of “home engineered” foods can be a big factor in getting people to overeat. Think home made apple pie. The difference was, baking home made pies was a lot of work so there was the trade-off (which applies to our paleo concoctions as well). Now people have a half dozen frozen pies in the freezer, just a nuking session away. On the other hand, no matter how enticing a one-off home cooked meal is, gaining fat from chronic overeating is not a one meal affair. But imagine if your favorite meal was at all times in your fridge, freezer, a drive through or available for delivery. Well, that is the situation for many, unfortunately.

So getting back to my list, Food Reward, to me, is when several or all of these factors are in play (and maybe other factors I haven’t thought of). And this is why I like the dessert metaphor to roughly describe food reward: you always have room for dessert. Notice how people often say they’re “saving room for dessert.” No, they’re not. They’re stuffed silly and can’t look at another bite of mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy and stuffing (no pun intended). But they’ll still have a liberal slice of pumpkin pie with whip cream on top.

Think Lays potato chips, or Pringles. You can’t eat just one. Not only that, they’re not very filling, satiating, even though calorically dense. So you’re going to eat more of something else once the bag or can has been dispatched.

Think sugar drinks. No matter how stuffed you are, taking on some sweet liquid is pretty easy.

In his book, The Fat Loss Bible, which I’m currently reading, Anthony Colpo includes two very interesting USDA graphs covering the period 1909-2000 in terms of per-capita carbohydrate consumption and per-capita caloric consumption.

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Colpo observes:

In 1910, over half the U.S. population lived in rural areas and farmers comprised 31% – almost a third – of the workforce. In 2000, 33.6% of the workforce worked in management, professional and related occupations, followed by 26.7% in sales and office occupations, 14.9% in service occupations, 14.6% in production, transportation and material moving occupations, 9.4% in construction, extraction and maintenance occupations, and only 0.7% in farming, fishing and forestry occupations.

In other words, one hundred years ago the average worker was physically active; the average worker today spends most of his/her day seated or engaged in very light activity. Today, people eat more calories, move around less, or both, as compared to a century ago.

Tell me again how it’s all about the carbohydrates, when carbohydrate has been 400-500 grams forever already? It’s interesting also to observe the graph for caloric intake and watch it decrease from 3,500 down to 3,100 by the 1960s. And what was going on during that time? An industrial and information revolution that had fewer and fewer people doing manual labor and more and more doing office type work, as Colpo points out. And that trend has only continued, in the face of caloric intake increasing from a low of 3,100 in the 60s to 3,900 by year 2,000. Why?

Here’s another factor that I think would fall under the category of food reward. Colpo describes a few studies that demonstrate how people will eat far more of any given identical thing if they believe it’s somehow “good” in dietary terms (low calorie, low fat, low carb, low cholesterol, etc.). Do you recall the Seinfeld episode, where they all pigged out on “no-fat” frozen yogurt and all got chubby? Turns out it wasn’t no-fat, or even low fat, but that’s not the point. They though it was, so they pigged out on it, just like low-carbers do all the time because they erroneously believe there’s no problem so long as carbohydrate is low or non-existent.

And so, in the early 70’s, with government dietary guidelines kicking off, there was suddenly now all sorts of things to market (low calorie, low fat, low carb, low cholesterol, etc.). And people, eager to obey the diktats of their benevolent leaders, stepped up to the troughs the food giants were only happy to engineer for them.

The good news is that from here, there’s a pretty easy way out. Since we know that we have to eat fewer calories to lose fat, and there are some foods that seem to entice us to eat them even if we’re not hungry, it’s merely a matter of usually avoiding those foods. Of course, for paleo folks, most of that is already baked into the cake, by virtue of our elimination of grains, refined sugar and vegetable/seed oils—pretty much what all the biggest problem foods are engineered and concocted with.

However, there are a few paleo approved foods people ought to be mindful of. At the top of that list: nuts, particularly roasted & salted. And this would go for all the “paleo” baked goods as well, many made with nut flours. I endeavor to almost never have nuts in the house, anymore. And how about bacon? I see folks joking all the time about how much bacon they put away, which is fine so long as balanced out elsewhere. While not strict paleo, dairy is another category. Ever have one glass of ice cold whole milk turn into three glasses? How about way overdoing it in the butter drenching department (or coconut oil/milk)? And shall I mention the worst offender of all: cheese?

But fortunately, it’s a pretty short list. Most people are already mindful of this or, their appetite mechanism has become so normalized over time that they’re just not as susceptible to food reward as before. Moreover, the nutritionally dense quality food we do eat tends to be highly satiating, a factor lacking in a lot of modern foods that only exacerbates matters in the context of food reward. We all seem to be able to go have our favorite cheat meal like a burger or pizza now and then, and not have it send us into the abyss of chronic daily overeating.

In the end, who cares whether “food reward” qua science is valid or full of shit (I don’t suspect for a second it is)? The fact remains that everyone knows damn well that there are poor quality processed foods that 1) you have a hard time stopping until there’s no more left (and I’m not talking about finishing your grassfed ribeye) and 2) that you seem to have room for no matter how little or no room you actually have. It’s really that simple.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. josef on March 5, 2012 at 17:47

    I went to the actual study and found that most of the calorie increase was from fat (120 to 170 g = 450 cals).

    Protein went up 56 cals (96 to 110 g) and carbs increased from 486 to 490 g = 16 cals.

    Could this be due to low carb dieting?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 5, 2012 at 17:55


      Well that’s an interesting confounder in terms of LC then, isn’t it? The average percentage of carbohydrate went down. Of course, the LC folks would likely dismiss that as not being LOW CARB. And yet we have an obesity epidemic. Fat went up, protein slightly and total calories a lot, yet it’s the carbs. Occam’s Razor suggests otherwise. It’s too much food for the activity level for too many people.

      I suspect that the addition of fat would be from cheap industrial oils, in order to make foods more tantalizing. Before those came on the scene, there was relatively expensive butter and lard.

      • josef on March 6, 2012 at 10:39

        I felt the USDA calorie tables by themselves were not sufficient. I researched more and found the following:

        In 1909☻, Americans averaged 146 lb. (153 for men + 138 for women divided by 2).

        In 2002, Americans averaged 178 lb. (191 for men + 164 for women divided by 2).

        Thus, in 1909☻ Americans ate 23.97 calories per lb. (3,500/146). However, in 2002 Americans ate 21.91 calories per lb. (3,900/178).

        Men and women heights were 68” and 64” in 1909☻, respectively, averaging 66”. Men and women were 69½” and 64″ in 2002, respectively, averaging 66.75”.

        Thus, although Americans were a little taller, the difference was not material to affect calories per pound.

        A 32 lb. gain from 1909 to 2000 would require an additional 307 calories per day (178-146 * 3,500)/365. However, Americans ate 400.

        I do not think Americans are more active now than in 1909.

        Since the bulk of the calorie increase was fat, does this mean increased fat intake has a “metabolic effect”?

        ☻Weights and heights estimated from Columbia paper but appear reasonable.


      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:51

        Interesting, Josef. this offhand suggests to me that while the general decrease in daily activity did exert some effect of average consumption, it was overwhelmed by food engineering, dramatic lowering of food cost and easy, 24/7 access.

    • immapix on March 5, 2012 at 18:15

      Really? I quote from the report: “Between 1970 and 2000, carbohydrate levels rose by 21 percent, from 389 grams
      per capita per day to 490 grams, an increase associated with the use of grain products and
      sweeteners .”

      • Shane on March 5, 2012 at 20:43

        Pretty sure the chart shows that carbohydrate was consumed at near 500g levels in 1909. Was everyone a raging fatty in 1909?

      • josef on March 6, 2012 at 10:43

        Wasn’t that the time of Oliver Hardy, Fatty Arbuckle, Babe Ruth?

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:55

        There have always been fat people. Well, except in the Garden of Eaden. Having the master of all universe and existence looking out for you personally has its benefits. 🙂

      • josef on March 6, 2012 at 12:44

        Are you serious?

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 17:46

        Note the smiley. Josef.

  2. Jason Sandeman on March 5, 2012 at 17:53

    Richard – great post. The end paragraph sums it up nicely too – and I might add something there –

    While finishing up a grassfed ribeye is an amazing thing (I’m sure, but guessing because I’ve never had one,) I think people get lost up in thinking because it is healthier for you that you can eat even more of it. Eat a ribeye every night, with your potatoes, and have a hefty daily set of meals, and you’re going to gain weight.

    I spoke to my grandparents about this a while back. I got to live on a farm for a while when I was 8 years old. I remember getting up with grandpa to feed the cattle hay, and to corral then into new pasture. Then we had breakfast. We had worked our way up to that appetite.
    I think as you eat a load of food, regularly, your body comes to expect it. If you are doing heavy work (like some lumberjacks I know,) you will be eating like crazy. Granted – the lumberjacks up here eat a shit tonne of bacon, pancakes, grease, maple syrup, etc. They need it to get the job done. They look a bit fat, but they are fucking huge, with ham fists.
    Now, when they go on vacation, they continue to eat like that. One friends father used to tell us that our stomach would “stretch” when we eat too much, so to be careful.
    I think that’s where a lot of people fall off the wagon with any diet. I’ve eaten in places in the states, and even as a chef, I was horrified by the portion sizes. Cheap, fast, fried, food.
    You mentioned sprinkling sugar over shit? It’s done every day – fry the shit out of something, sprinkle it with salt or sugar before the oil “dries,” and you have just solved a pal stability problem.
    Sure, bread dough tastes nice baked, but fry it, sprinkle it with sugar or fill it with cream/jam/custard? Now you have a best seller!

    • mark on March 6, 2012 at 12:46

      Eat a ribeye every night, with your potatoes, and have a hefty daily set of meals, and you’re going to gain weight.

      The point is you can’t eat like that all the time – this crap fills you up for a long time. I tried overeating steak and potatoes – its impossible. Hence the 25lb weight loss in 6 weeks

  3. Betsy Richter (@betsywhim) on March 5, 2012 at 15:55

    Whoa. The last paragraph alone makes the whole concept of ‘food reward’ stupid-simple.

    Now – to get the roasted salted bag of nuts out of my desk drawer here at work already…

    • Andy on March 5, 2012 at 16:29

      Yep. And if you go paleoish for a while, you will lose those cravings – at least that was what happened to me. It’s nice to not be addicted to shit.

    • Chris Hynes on March 7, 2012 at 10:41

      Exactly — way to bury the lede Richard. The last 5 paragraphs in the article should actually be at the top.

      Good stuff — just worried if I forward the article to others they won’t read long enough to get to the good parts:-)

      • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2012 at 11:34

        “way to bury the lede Richard”

        I guess I ought to start paying more attention to those sorts of things.

  4. Joshua Tenner on March 6, 2012 at 07:38

    Hey Richard.

    Thanks for the post last week about potatoes.

    Since adding them back in I’ve been losing weight and fasting became SOOOO much easier.

    15 hours after eating I’m STILL full.

    DAFUQ is this black magick?

  5. Alpha Carotene on March 5, 2012 at 16:44

    I have a hard time believing that manual labor vs desk job has much of an impact, having worked with 250-300 pounders who moved around all workday carrying heavy objects.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 5, 2012 at 16:55

      “I have a hard time believing that manual labor vs desk job has much of an impact, having worked with 250-300 pounders who moved around all workday carrying heavy objects.”

      I’m sure those sorts of individuals have always been around since FR is an individual thing. But on average, people are eating 400 calories more now than then, which would apply to the manual labor types as well. Another factor is cost. Food is a minuscule part of the budget compared to back then.

      • Jay Jay on March 5, 2012 at 18:00

        On the affordability angle, Bingo!

        To quote my mother in law, who grew up in the Appalachians in the 40’s, in a cabin without electricity until 1956:

        “Hell, we couldn’t afford to be fat back then. But now I’ve got WIC!”

      • Zach on March 5, 2012 at 20:22

        I am just about done with Anthony Colpo’s Fat Lose Bible. I really wish i read his work earlier.

      • Zach on March 5, 2012 at 20:23

        Opps, dont know why that got posted as a reply, oh well.

      • Ron on March 6, 2012 at 00:17

        Richard, I’m not disputing the idea of FR at all, but I’ve been eating, on average, at least 1000 calories more per day, while consuming about 50 grams/carbs/day. My little experiment with adding more starch (mainly potatoes & a little rice) ended with a gain of 5 lbs. After cutting out the starch for 3 days, I’ve lost those 5 lbs, & I seriously doubt it’s water weight. Maybe I just do better on lower carb. Perhaps my next experiment should be to add an additional 500 daily calories, while staying at 50 grams/carbs… that’ll put me at roughly 3700 calories/day. Most of that extra 500 calories will be added to my current 2000 calories I eat every day for breakfast… I’ll just eat a couple more eggs & add whey protein to my morning smoothie. I’m willing to bet my weight will remain the same. It’s interesting that I’m able to eat a hell of a lot more now (calories) than I possibly could when I was eating high carb.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 07:10


        Not sure what your body comp is & all, but it seems to me like your focus is in eating more food. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding.

        When you added the starch did you just add it, and not remove a corresponding amount of calories from fat & protein?

        In my post on my starch experiment as well as the calories count post I tried to emphasize both in the post and comments that when I went from about 50g of carb to 200, that’s and additional 600 calories, so I reduced my protein portion and I eased up on the amount of fat to “sensible portions”, but initially ate to satiation. When I plotted it all out on FitDay, turned out I was eating on average a few hundred calories LESS than before (but actually felt fully satisfied). No surprise then, that I not only didn’t gain weight, I dropped a couple in the first week; this, in spite of glycogen replenishment where every gram binds 3 grams of water.

        2,000 calories for breakfast? I don’t know Ron, but if you’re having an issue with weight loss/gain, maybe the best explanation isn’t the carbs?

      • Ron on March 6, 2012 at 09:03

        Richard – Yes, when I added starch, I cut down a little on fat/protein to keep the calories roughly the same. I’m not really focused on eating more food, but more interested in why I’m able to eat so much more. I need to quit over-analyzing things & do more of a longer term experiment with starches. If I’m able to fill up on less meat & a little less fat, I’m good with that, as long as I don’t gain weight. I’m 53, 141 lbs. on a small 6′ frame. My weight has been stable for over a year now +/- 5 lbs., so I have no weight issues, but interested in finding the right mix to improve how I feel. I have plenty of energy throughout the day, but have been more irritable and impatient the past 6 months or so.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 09:22

        Oh, you’re one of THOSE guys.

        Lots of things could be at play but certain doesn’t sound to me like you would want to lose weight and at 140 on. 6′ frame, maybe your body wants to weight more, add more muscle, etc. I’d go with it, not worry about the scale. If the pants get tight from fat gain and not lean gain, then reevaluate.

      • Joseph on March 7, 2012 at 08:49

        Yes. I am a small six-footer, and I weigh in regularly around 180 lbs.

    • Andy on March 5, 2012 at 17:04

      There’s so many confounding variables here I can easily think of. Pretty weak argument if you ask me.

  6. Andy on March 5, 2012 at 16:50

    I’m done with the cheap thrills. I invest time getting into artisan food and drinks such as wine, scotch and dark chocolate. Joys of life. It is much more enjoyable, yet it doesn’t go out of hand, like the engineered for maximum profit foodstuffs will. Just thought I’d throw it out here.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 5, 2012 at 16:56

      Good point. Go for quality, exclusivity, top end. Put a crimp in your budget on purpose. It’s for a good cause.

      • Andy on March 5, 2012 at 17:37

        True. I believe you can learn to like anything too. A strong will and curiosity will probably help.

        If paleo gets people into real honest food and cooking, much of the battle will already be won. Don’t even need science to realize that.

  7. Nigel Kinbrum on March 5, 2012 at 17:00

    In England, we have the word “moreish” to describe a food that we want more of even if we don’t need more of it. As everybody is different, different people have different “moreish” foods.

    I’d rather completely divorce palatability from food reward, as it just confuses people.

    Sod what a food tastes like. If it’s moreish and calorie-dense, don’t eat it (unless you’re a body-builder and you’re bulking)!

  8. pfw on March 5, 2012 at 17:52

    My only beef with food reward is it doesn’t seem to explain skinny people. What, we don’t enjoy food? I can remember pigging out on all sorts of shit, never thought about healthy this or that (hell I worked in a pizzaria for two years and got to eat as much as I wanted). But I stayed skinny.

    If Taubes got anything right, it’s that this boils down to some sort of failure in your body/endocrine system/whatever to properly regulate energy balance. CI/CO is too far down the chain to really help, since it’s obvious that to add mass you’d have to be in energy surplus. “Why are you in energy surplus” is the important question.

    Food reward strikes me as a little too far the other way on the spectrum. Yeah, certain foods are tasty and if they’re easily available it becomes possible to overeat them. But why do certain people overeat while others don’t? Why do people with no significant bias towards healthy eating (me prior to paleo) not get fat, despite seeking out high reward foods all the time? Why do some people not get fat?

    Ultimately, something is going wrong with fat peoples’ appetites. The “stop” doesn’t happen. Food reward explains part of how you overwhelm natural regulation, and gives you some guidance on how to fix that problem if you have it, but it doesn’t quite get all the way there IMO. If you can figure out how to transform everyone into something like me and my ilk, those skinny bastards who feel like they eat all the time but probably don’t, who don’t get fat even when placed in a high reward environment despite a total lack of discipline, you’ll solve obesity.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 5, 2012 at 18:21

      Well of course, pfw, significant weight gain happens over years, typically, a but at a time and its overeating not just now and then, but almost on a daily basis, a bit at a time.

      Having been around a lot of skinny people in college dorms and later Navy ships in my 20s & 30s I noticed that while many would gobble up just like all of us (I was lean too, but behavior wasn’t the same), they would be more likely to pass up breakfast the next day.

      • pfw on March 6, 2012 at 03:49

        Right. So the question, then, is why do skinny people behave differently than fat people?

      • Gina on March 6, 2012 at 10:18

        Skinny here. Skinny all my life. So to speak for myself, it seems like I could eat whatever I wanted, but I always had a natural cut-off. I eat a certain amount, and that’s it, I’m DONE. A natural pigging-out suppressant I guess. To this day, at 52, I cannot eat a whole steak in one sitting. My husband and I cut the two parts off a large T-bone, I take the small tenderloin, he takes the strip and the dog gets the raw bone. Husband could very well eat the entire steak, but we learned long ago that part of staying thin and healthy for him was portion control. Yup. Stupid-simple portion control. Otherwise he is a natural glutton, a veritable Hoover, worse than the dog, who will stop eating when he is full.

        Yes, you’ve seen me and people like me eat ice cream, cake, chips, whatever with abandon. But my daily intake of food has always been light. At least judging from what all the folks around me are able to pack away.

        I remember in high school visiting a friend and astonished that, while I was eating one donut, she scarfed down about six. I wondered how that was humanly possible without gagging. I practically gagged witnessing it.

        By the way, FWIW I’m half Asian. My mom has had six children and she’s a size zero petite. She also eats like a bird. Except now her favorite food is pastry.

        So skinny is in the house, and representing my own natural food-restricting body.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:34

        Yep, chalk one up to genes, culture, established family habits, economics and/or perhaps a few other confounders.

        I know a teacher friend of my wife’s who is the most amazing cook, originally from Greece and goes back every summer. Always whole fresh ingredients. And she eats. But if you saw her you’d swear she was anorexic looking, at times. I mostly think that’s explained by simply being a natural born faster. I have a friend who is so enamored with being a Soviet scholar (he literally knows everything about it) that he’ll read obscure books decades old he gets from Vladimir at the local used book shop when he ought to be eating.

      • Gina on March 6, 2012 at 10:53

        I’ve gotten the anorexia suspicion many times. Galls me to no end. I am skinny for 2012, but 40 years ago I would be normal. The new normal is heavy and round. People like me get the anorexic label. It’s all out of whack and upside-down people!

      • Gina on March 6, 2012 at 11:23

        Yup, lanky here! In some pictures of me with, ahem, fat people – the pictures look like me with some aliens from a different planet. The size of someone in the general public who is still plugged into the processed-wheat eating, soda-swilling matrix is amazing. We are now officially cows.

      • Alexandra on March 6, 2012 at 11:16

        Yes, ARGH!

        That’s also due to having a small bone structure. If your skeleton is small AND you’re lean… you must be anorexic! So aggravating.

      • Alexandra on March 6, 2012 at 11:13

        Gina, I’m the same way. I can eat high reward foods and eat a lot of them in one sitting, but my body is going to compensate afterwards. With normal foods, (and often now with high reward foods too) when I’ve had enough, my body just says STOP. My throat literally closes and I can’t swallow another bite.

        I think people who are overweight are just more susceptible to high reward foods and lose that response (the feeling of ENOUGH) sometime in childhood. The longer it’s been since you’ve felt it the harder it is to know what your hunger response *should* be like. I think this makes it quite hard for some people. I’ve even gone through periods of eating more crap than usual and having that response dampen significantly. Thankfully, I know what normal hunger/satiation feels like and a short period of clean eating restores me fast.

        My fiance though has been overweight since childhood and even with Paleo eating for a few years now weight loss has been very slow. It’s kind of amazing to me, because although he *can* eat at a significant caloric deficit with no discomfort (easily 700-800 kcal below maintenance), he will readily eat much more without even noticing it. (Low carb alone, by the way, did nothing in the way of weight loss for him).

        Anyway, FR seems to match my experience and observations perfectly. I’m not sure why people struggle with it. Obviously, some people are genetically unlucky and are more susceptible to the effects of high reward than others. I also have an easy time tapering down or cold-turkey eliminating alcohol and tobacco intake when I feel like it. That just means my body responds to reward less intensely, not that alcohol and tobacco aren’t addictive.

      • Gina on March 6, 2012 at 11:33

        I used to blame overweight people for their plight but I have a lot more empathy for them now, cow comment aside. I see them as victims of food addiction – and bad food at that.

      • Gina on March 6, 2012 at 10:49

        Another personal phenomena to add: even when I am ravenously hungry, I cannot just grab some food – say an apple or banana or leftovers out of the fridge and start devouring it. I still have to have the apple sliced and on a plate, or choose THIS leftover but not THAT. I still require neatness, a cute display, the RIGHT food proffered at the right time, on a nice plate with a napkin. If you put food in front of me but it is any way unappealing to me, I will shove it away. My ravenous body would rather wait until all those culinary stars are aligned before I eat. WTF? I simply do not know why. I leave that up to the scientists among us to hypothesize about.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:59

        Nope, Gina. you are the Food Reward outlier. While to most its a detriment, it works to your advantage individually.

        Everybody is still and always on your own. Obama, Bush, Hillary, Clinton, Reagan all lied to you.

        And when seconds count, the cops are only minutes away.

      • Gina on March 6, 2012 at 11:15

        We joke that if husband and I were deserted on an island I would starve and he would eat me. I just wanted to share my experience as a skinny with the skinny-questioner.

        I guess I’m a political outlier now too. I cannot stomach any of the candidates of any party. No one represents me. I have been disenfranchised – but you were already there so you know.

      • Ava on March 6, 2012 at 15:15

        Gina, judging by your comments there seems to be an obvious reason why you’re skinnier than most people. It’s impossible to eat while you’re kissing your own ass, and apparently you do nothing else.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 22:26

        Please Ava. Are you going to be another Sarah, mean for no reason, gratuitously? I can see it if someone says something egregiously stupid, but she didn’t.

        What gets into some of you chicks?

      • Duderino on March 13, 2012 at 16:55


      • Skyler Tanner on March 6, 2012 at 06:03

        People like to make all kinds of excuses but a fatter person reacting differently to hormones is the reason. This is consistent and does not make one “broken.” Being leaner allows for more leeway for all sorts of behavior.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 07:23

        “So the question, then, is why do skinny people behave differently than fat people?”

        I’m sure the reasons that pertain to any individual are as varied as individuals themselves.

  9. Nicole on March 5, 2012 at 18:55

    After losing 40 pounds over 3 years I had stalled out and was not able to lose that last 20 pounds no matter how strictly paleo I ate and exercised. Over the last year I’ve struggled with the question of what am I doing wrong? 

    Then, about 3 weeks ago I read through Stephan’s articles on this topic and began to put it into practice right away. I’ve lost 6 pounds! I’m thrilled. Even when losing the first 40 I never lost more than a pound a week. I’ve been logging most days into FitDay just so I can see what I’m eating, calorie-wise, and I’m noticing that my calorie needs keep getting lower and lower without my feeling hungry. Which brings me to my question…

    You’ve done such a good job clarifying all of this, so I wonder if you will approach one more aspect of the equation: the possible change in weight set-point. I understood from my reading that in eating what I’m calling simpler food, (not enticing enough to over eat,) your body adjusts its set point, and therefore, part of the reason you are not as hungry is because you don’t need as many calories to “maintain” what is actually a lower body weight/set-point than where you are currently. What do you make of this idea?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 5, 2012 at 19:06

      I think it’s an idea that has merit, Nicole. And in the inverse, regularly eating stuff one devours because it’s so damn amazingly good your body hormonally increases the set point so you’re hungrier more often so you can eat more of it and deliver that pleasure to your brain.

      Yea, I’m basically doing things simpler nowadays. Frees up some time, too.

    • Craig on March 6, 2012 at 05:13

      Nicole, that sounds like what Seth Roberts says in his book, The Shangri-La Diet. He even recommends things like holding your nose while eating, drinking sugar water and drinking olive oil… It’s supposed to lower your set point.

      • Craig on March 6, 2012 at 05:19

        I found his interview with Jimmy Moore.

  10. Jvr on March 5, 2012 at 19:33

    How did you out Stephan’s ideas into practice?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 5, 2012 at 19:37

      “How did you out Stephan’s ideas into practice?”

      Not sure I know what you mean.

      • The Lazy Caveman on March 6, 2012 at 00:03

        I think JVR is asking how Nicole “put Stephan’s ideas into practice”

      • Nicole on March 6, 2012 at 06:42

        Stephan has a blog post here: that outlines some “levels”.
        I’m doing level 4.

        I didn’t change my ratio of fat/protein/carbs, because I do have some issues that flair up when I go over about 70 g of carbs too many days in a row, but I don’t think anyone would consider 75 to be VLC anyway. Even still, I have not been hungry, and there are days now that I eat no more than 1100 calories. That’s what made me wonder about the set-point thing. I did work in a sweet potato Sunday night after reading Richard’s post, and I do declare that I felt more frisky than usual that night! Might be worth working one of those in more often!

  11. julie on March 5, 2012 at 19:45

    I do believe in the food reward concept, though I didn’t fully understand all of Stephan’s posts and should read them again (ugh), what you have said makes lots of sense. I think that what has helped me most to lose (and now maintain) 60 pound loss was to quit eating out so much. Nothing I make at home has quite the palatability of anything I can get out. Except cheese, which is a problem, as are potato chips. If I have a drink too many at a party, I will eat bread and cheese and potato chips to excess, it amazes me that I do this, and I have to drag myself out of the room. Not sure how to deal with this one, other than not go to parties, or not drink. It’s on the short list of shit to figure out.

    I cook almost all my meals at home. I constantly try to minimize cheese and maximize veggies, and while I do make pizza and pasta (both these are whole wheat with too many veggies, edible but not awesome), I would never make baked goods, nor bread, nor cookies, because I’d probably eat them. For some reasons, chocolate covered almonds I won’t go for, maybe I’ll eat one or two a week if I think of it. Fruit’s great for dessert. I’m not even close to interested to giving up carbs, I just cut out (or for some cut way down on) the really nasty ones. Possible my love of gym and hiking and biking helps me out somewhat, as well. And a continuing education in portion control, and learning some restraint wrt bread and cheese.

  12. Alex on March 5, 2012 at 19:56

    FR is what Dr. Michael Eades was describing when he wrote, “The combination of oil and carbohydrate […] has a taste and mouth feel that humans love, and, consequently, are driven to eat too much of it. No one binges on butter (an oil) all by itself, but add some sugar to it, and you’ve got frosting, which everyone loves and eats to excess.” The idea that fatty carbs are addictive should be obvious, not controversial.

    As for what Dr. Harris said about spikes, I think there is one valid spike phenomenon for some people, that being the spiking and crashing of blood sugar by a high-carb meal, resulting in a state of gnawing voracious hunger. My initial weight loss back in 2003 happened when I went from a diet loaded with grains and beans to a diet where the only starch was two slices of sprouted multi-grain toast at dinner. That eliminated all the addictive fatty carbs as well as the gnawing voracious hunger, and I effortlessly lost 30 pounds in five months.

    • Grace (Dr.BG) on March 6, 2012 at 04:21

      A lot of people report the same spikes… Me, Asclepius and J Stanton. I don’t think FR addresses this well and the doenstreams effects to those susceptible and transiently ‘damaged’ are pretty profound in driving bottomless cravings This is when I suspect Stanton’s satiety ideas trump FR. It’s physiological (IR, BG and insulin related) not neurological…. This effect is not so profound with low glycemic index carbs…. (unrefined whole foods like those found in early 1900s).

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 07:28

        I don’t see how satiety is not an inexorable part of the food reward idea. Many of these highly rewarding foods (chips (crisps), sodas, candy) don’t satiate and they are calorically dense. So not only will a person eat them when they are satiated, but will likely eat more when they’re not.

        But I agree that satiation is the smartest first step in controlling these impulses. Find the foods that satiate you and eat them. Potatoes are working amazingly well for me, just as predicted from that post of Stephan’s.

      • Craig on March 6, 2012 at 07:53

        Reducing food reward is supposed reduce hunger but, in some of us, you’d get that same spike and subsequent BS crash and urgent hunger by injecting glucose into your veins. You aren’t even eating this so, it really can’t be attributed to food reward. It’s a physiological response to glucose.

      • grace (Dr.BG) on March 7, 2012 at 01:37

        I think there is a difference in fuel partitioning. Each person is different and the ‘circuits’ for partitioning are varied. It’s like some like to coast the brakes and other metabolisms like to go full throttle on the accelerator.

        Hard gainers — athletes who burn glucose preferentially and at the sacrifice of the muscles (protein/amino acids to glucose); secondary IR at the muscle level (usually involves xenoestrogens and whacked T)
        T2DM (diabetes) — same (IR at muscles and liver and pancreas and adipose)
        Metabolic syndrome –similar (milder IR)

        With tons of exercise and losing 50 lbs morbid fat, somehow I became less of a glucose burner, partitioned energy more efficiently and easily built lean mass (and preserved it)… Whilst I am most insulin sensitive, then I can eat with immunity to high carb fluxes, given exercise and stress is low. However add any hormone dysregulation, then I gain fat again (e.g. birth control (synthetic potent hormones), selling a house, sleep deprivation (cortisol), physical pain (bike accident: cortisol/adrenaline), emotional stress, high carb intake for weeks (vacation coupled with less exercise).

        So, all the above ‘over-ride’ insulin sensitivity and CIH. In the above, the food was not necessarily hyper-rewarding either (except on vacation)… There are IMHO major ‘over-rides’ to both FR and CIH. Both are imperfect and s*ck in that respect. (sorry had to say that and be the testicle here)

      • grace (Dr.BG) on March 7, 2012 at 01:46

        From what I know of you I think you are more of an efficient fuel partitioner than at the onset of your paleo life, like a Ferrari, shifting between many gears with fluidity and smoothness… (just like your blogging and book!)

      • Nigel Kinbrum on March 6, 2012 at 11:48

        You believe that obesity is physiological NOT neurological. I believe that obesity is physiological AND neurological (the proportions varying from person to person).

        For example, one chocolate doesn’t disturb my blood glucose & insulin, but I still crave another. And another. Ad nauseam.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 11:57

        Well stated Nigel.

        A pithy destruction of the mind body dichotomy right there.

      • grace (Dr.BG) on March 6, 2012 at 15:33


        Obesity is everything and nothing… There are many obese people are actually HEALTHIER than skinny folks (especially skinny former vegetarians who for many reasons have the most damaged metabolisms of them all from complete protein deprivation, n-6 toxicity, grains and B12 deficiencies). For me obesity is neurologic, physiologic, environmental (mental stress + pesticide/pollutants), and related to the ‘internal hormone environment’. Tell a post-menopausal lady with no progesterone (the anabolic hormone) to try to lose fat… she’ll probably whack you ;)) There is a reason why those Uggs and black leggins are optically rewarding. *ha ahaaa!*

        We’re all different with different exercise tolerance, environmental and iatrogenic toxicity (heavy metals, arsenic, plastics, xenoestrogens, etc), and states of hormone/insulin resistance. I got great insulin sensitivity which upped my carb requirements (for glycolytic activity and adrenal support/adrenaline/cortisol). I think you ‘metabolically switched’ as well with paleo and sufficient movement and exercise, no? It’s good our metabolism evolves!

        I think he athletes and trainers say it the best. Read all of Skyler’s comments and what Richard quotes.

        Love love love Mr. Highcock!

      • Chris Highcock on March 6, 2012 at 23:13

        Thank you Grace!

      • grace (Dr.BG) on March 7, 2012 at 00:59

        Welcome. Love love love YOUR COCKINESS… I read Richard for his synthesis… but come back for penis… jokes that is *ha ahaaa!!!*

      • Chris Highcock on March 7, 2012 at 12:55

        it is nice to have the appreciation of the cockiness. LOL

      • Skyler Tanner on March 7, 2012 at 05:32

        Many thanks, Grace!

      • Nigel Kinbrum on March 7, 2012 at 10:53

        In addition, there’s a difference in time-scales between physiological & neurological effects.
        Roller-coaster blood glucose & insulin takes hours to produce lethargy followed by ravenous hunger.
        FR takes seconds to produce a craving for more.

    • Craig on March 6, 2012 at 05:51

      “I think there is one valid spike phenomenon for some people, that being the spiking and crashing of blood sugar by a high-carb meal, resulting in a state of gnawing voracious hunger.”

      That’s me! I believe in food reward but it doesn’t make the carb theory invalid. Both can and do exist.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 07:44

        “That’s me! I believe in food reward but it doesn’t make the carb theory invalid. Both can and do exist.”

        I’m skeptical. Yes, same for me. Big plate of spaghetti or a good portion of a large pizza. First I go comatose and then I’m hungry again.

        This is a function of grains, not carbohydrate. Find out how many carbs there are in those foods, then have a sensible meal of protein, fat, and an equal carb load of potato. Betcha it turns out its not the carb, per se.

      • Craig on March 6, 2012 at 08:02

        You’re making the all to common mistake of thinking that everyone else is just like you. Are you at least willing to admit that there are a ton of people along a spectrum between non-diabetic and diabetic? You can be carb-sensitive without having been diagnosed with a disease.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 08:17


        I have been excluding diabetics from this entire discussion. We talk plenty about them in various posts. But for purposes of this discussion it’s just non-sequitur

        I would simply suggest anyone try it. If refined grain products make you go comatose, then hungry in significant quantity, then try the same quantity in a natural starch source and see what happens. If you don’t then you have just falsified the notion that it’s carbohydrate per se, and instead the composition of the carbohydrate.

        BTW, a big protein load cause a lot of insulin release and sometimes even more for longer. But rarely do people report a big steak having the same effect as a big pizza.

      • Alexandra on March 6, 2012 at 11:27

        Richard, I actually have that response after eating a big steak with only a bit of potato. A bit less meat with a lot of potatoes will keep me going for ages though. (Pure carb meals like pasta or pizza would have me famished even as I finished eating them… and my tomach was stuffed.)
        So moderate carb paleo has kept me more energetic and satiated than I’ve possibly ever been!

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 11:43

        I doubt that explains it, Gina. Rather, I think you’re some genetic, hormonal outlier and this is all just coincidence. Look, we know that carbs-all carbs-make you fat by raising your BG, spiking insulin-to not only store those carbs as fat, but then maliciously hang around to keep that fat lockedin, all the while you languish in low energy misery.

        I’m sure you have not thought this through, much less posted any peer reviewed studies. 🙂

      • Craig on March 6, 2012 at 21:25

        I’m just saying that many of us are carb sensitive without being diabetic. I have tried eating safe starches. Many of us have with the same results.

        As for protein, it’s totally explained by hormones. Glucagon is also released after protein consumption, which balances out the insulin so you don’t get a BG crash.

      • grace (Dr.BG) on March 6, 2012 at 15:36


        I concur we’re all different.


        I was talking with Dan and sometimes losing weight is UNHEALTHY. Anyway there are some really good studies showing some people need higher carbs for fat loss and some don’t (high TG, hihg insulin, prediabetic, T2DM, etc). With paleo and appropriate volume/quality of exercise, we can intra-individually switch from one phenotype (non carb tolerant) to IMHO carb tolerant. (then with cortisol and stressors we can gain back fat weight *arrrrgh!*)

        Thoughts? I like hearing you expound… If we ignore the failures, only fallacies exist.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on March 6, 2012 at 09:20

      I never said there were no physiologic spikes of any kind. I merely said that insulin spikes or blood glucose spikes in response to meals are not the general explanation or the rise in obesity.

      In fact, my point was that BG and insulin spike all the time, not that they never do. The spikes are not the explanation for obesity in the population, nor is lack of “spikes” the explanation for the success of LC dieting.

      In terms of overeating, falling blood glucose levels might well affect some people in a negative fashion, but there is no evidence that there is a general phenomenon of reactive hypoglycemia making all carbohydrates fattening.

      • grace (Dr.BG) on March 6, 2012 at 17:44

        I think we agree — we’re talking about ‘pathological’ BG spiking and insulin resistance… versus normal BG/insulin with normal metabolism, normal liver function, and normal insulin sensivity (that comes with exercise, good hormones T3 low-rT3, testost, E1E2E3, progesterone,leptin, engagement of the PSNS, blah blah blah).

      • grace (Dr.BG) on March 6, 2012 at 18:02

        Have you ever talked to T1DMs who overshot their insulin dose? There are also some good adrenal studies giving insulin drips to non-diabetics (bad idea). The outcome for both: increased food intake (hyperphagia), hyper-adrenaline state, and cortisol spikes for hours after the single, epic hypoglycemic event.

        ALL FOOD becomes hyper-rewarding in these simulated situations and mimicked to a lesser extent in the SAD diet and I think whether someone is skinny or fat even to any insulin resistant hormone state (fatty liver, low testosterone, low progesterone, estrogen dominant state (E2 >> Prog or T), functional hypothyroidism, dysfunctional adrenal responses to stressors, hypercortisolism, T2DM/diabetes, etc).

      • Craig on March 6, 2012 at 22:01

        Dr. BG:

        “ALL FOOD becomes hyper-rewarding…”

        Thank you! I’ve been thinking that the CTO should be able to co-exist with FR because I see them so differently per my own experiences. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that it’s not always the food itself that is rewarding but that a hypoglycemic state can render all food rewarding. In that case, how would you define the offending food e.g. potatoes? Would potatoes be rewarding themselves or would they be a cause of FR in other foods in those who react?

      • Grace (Dr.BG) on March 8, 2012 at 03:59

        Craig, My impression of FR is that FR is subjective to the target individual. That’s the problem for me. It ignores the spectrum also. Colpo ignores the spectrum too. Someday I’ll read his book but I suspect the ward studies like most studies do fail to distinguish responders v. Non responders. Ok for some the potato I think will be high FR (eg like the hypoglycemic target above or metabolic syndrome folks with significant IR in every tissue except visceral adipose and is literally STARVING at the cellular level due to IR). the potato is satisfying but may not be satiating cuz again the cells are consrantly starving and even muscles are sacrificed for glycolytic fuel partitioning…. Hope this senses?

        On the hand for hormonally sound and insulin sensitive folks, their cells are NOT starving (or only mildly at some muscle level) from what I understand the potato will be perceived as easily assimilated cellular fuel with little obstacle and would be relatively minimal FR. High satiety and hunger ends. Enough glucagon gets pulsed and peaked post prandial insulin goes to norm baseline. BG is also norm as glucose and amino acids get shuttled appropriately and fuel partitioned, efficiently and effectively. I like CIH coz it explains partitioning for me… IR is an extremely ancient cross kingdom mechanism protect and store energy to maintain homeostasis v. meeting demands (fertility, growth, exercise, starvation).

      • grace (Dr.BG) on March 8, 2012 at 04:55

        Craig, see Ludwig et al (JAMA 2007) for the separation between target responder v. target non-responder to successfully losing weight with high carbs which is vital to any obesity argument because as you noted earlier we’re all (IR v. insulin sensitive) different…

  13. David brown on March 5, 2012 at 20:03

    “Think Lays potato chips, or Pringles. You can’t eat just one. Not only that, they’re not very filling, satiating, even though calorically dense. So you’re going to eat more of something else once the bag or can has been dispatched.”

    Interestingly, excessive omega-6 intake stimulates endocannabinoid formation, a phenomenon that is starting to get some attention. It may be that the omega-6 content of snacks, bakery goods and even salad oils stimulate appetite promoting overeating. Be interesting to test chips and fries cooked in lard against chips and fries cooked in omega-6 industrial seed oils to determine which has the higher munchies effect.

    • jay jay on March 6, 2012 at 12:00

      I’ve actually performed that experiment on myself many times!

      My favorite potato chips are a local brand fried in lard. I typically only eat about half as many of those as I do seed oil fried chips. Ditto for my wife (although she claims she doesn’t like the taste of the lard fried chips).

      And a bag of lard fried chips will last a couple weeks in our house. Regular chips are gone in a matter of days (usually gone in a binge by my wife).

      Of course, maybe food reward has something to do with that as well.

      • David brown on March 6, 2012 at 13:13

        Thanks for sharing that, jay jay.

  14. Russell C on March 5, 2012 at 20:21

    I completely agree as I eat a fair bit of rice here in Japan but all the food is high quality and not overdone. In japan they say eat to 80% full.
    I heard you on bulletproof executive and this guys are heavily low carb pro butter and fat. What’s your take on their stance?

    • Richard Nikoley on March 5, 2012 at 20:35

      Not sure what I think of all that except do what works. I’m just doing simpler meals, with the starch, smaller portions, etc. we’ll see.

      • Derek on March 6, 2012 at 04:36

        I listened to Lalonde speak at Croxton’s Paleo Summit. I found it interesting when at the end of the presentation Sean asked Mat what he ate. I’ve adopted a similar structure for simplicity/ease of preparation (I often have to make food in advance) and lower cost. It boils down to this –> B: 3 hardboiled eggs w/can of sardines or clams, L: Meat, starch, vegetable, D: Pile of sweet potato w/coconut oil. I weigh around 225, and this only pans out to around 2500 calories, but I haven’t felt hungry all week. Simplicity at it’s best, and only costs around $8-9 per day.

  15. Bill Strahan on March 5, 2012 at 21:00

    If I threw someone into the wild, chances are the food they could hunt/gather would be:

    1) An animal source. Protein and fat. Little salt in the blood and tissues.
    2) A plant source. Typically (with exceptions) very low fat and varying carbs.

    Notice the sweet/carbs and the fat are typically separate. Avocado, which is fat, isn’t sweet.

    So when you engineer a food that combines sweet (or at least carbs) with fat, you get a super-food. Your body says “Hey, I just hit the nutritional jackpot! Scarf this up and ADD MORE!!!”

    Add some salt to the equation and you’ve made it into the food version of crack. That’s the formula. Sweet (or at least carbs), fat, salt.

    No one has late night ravings for celery. Let’s see what people crave:

    Chips: carbs/fat/salt
    Ice cream: carbs/fat/a little salt…but better with salty stuff on it! Hmmm.
    Chocolate: carbs/fat…but better with salty nuts! Hmmm.
    French Fries: carbs/fat/salt

    Name a food that you’ll eat even when you’re full, and I’ll bet you it has fat,carbs,salt.

    I’ll go so far as to say that if you want to totally blow someone away with drug-like foods, engineer a fat/carb bomb and salt it! I melt coconut oil and cream concentrate, add flakes of coconut, top that with melted chocolate and grate some pink sea salt on top. Let it harden in the refrigerator. Fat, carbs, salt. People take a bite and angels sing…fat angels.

    If you want to reduce food reward, try reducing fat/carb/salt. Inadvertenly, a low carb diet does that, and so does a low fat diet! No need for either. Steak and sweet potato is low reward. Butter and salt on the potato and the reward increases.

    I love my sweet potato cooked in coconut oil and salted. Imagine that. But when the cravings start coming back, and the weight creeps up, I just separate the oil and carbs. I’ll have a high-fat, high-protein meal one time in the day. And hours later a moderate-protein, high-carb, low-fat meal. The totals don’t change, but the combination of fat and carbs drops and suddenly the craving disappear and I eat the amount I need to maintain my weight where I want.

    Fat, carbs, salt = food reward in my mind.

    • Steve on March 5, 2012 at 21:41

      “Chips: carbs/fat/salt
      Ice cream: carbs/fat/a little salt…but better with salty stuff on it! Hmmm.
      Chocolate: carbs/fat…but better with salty nuts! Hmmm.
      French Fries: carbs/fat/salt”

      Bill, take a look at the ingredients of most of those items and you will often if not most times find wheat in there. BBQ sauce, WTF is wheat doing being added to that? I’ve seen it in ice cream. Wheat has been shown to be if not addicting, at least to increase your appetite.

      All this science and the answer? Real food.

      • Nicole on March 8, 2012 at 16:49

        I can assure you that it’s like falling off a log to get potato chips, ice cream, chocolate and French fries that are gluten-free. They are equally compelling.

        It’s not the wheat.

    • julie on March 6, 2012 at 04:39

      Yes, I find for me that for some really good FR, it’s the combo of highly refined carbs, fat and salt. I oddly found myself offended a few weeks back by unsalted chips at a party. And then I was amused that I was so irritated by it. Yuck, chips without salt = inedible.

    • Nick on March 6, 2012 at 10:17

      There’s a few other things to add to the list: umami, Maillard reaction products, and acid. Things like fish sauce/soy sauce/MSG greatly increase palatability more than simple salt. Seared steak is better than low temperature cooked steak because of the Maillard-generated crust on the surface. Many dishes are improved by a little squeeze of lime. See also french fries with malt vinegar. Foods tend to have a temperature at which they’re most palatable also.

      In my opinion, the apex of food palatability is Pad Thai. You’ve got noodles made of rice flour and fried in vegetable oil, plus protein (eggs and shrimp or chicken), with a sauce made from acidic lime or tamarind, a big helping of palm sugar, a huge quantity of fish sauce, and some chili paste, then you top it off with some crushed peanuts, and it’s all piping hot. I can literally eat that until I’m in pain from stomach distension.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:26


        Thanks. I had no doubt there were other factors. Those seem entirely to make sense.

        Ha, on the issue of Pad Thai, I’ve had many plates from various beach cafe’s in The Land of Smiles. Thong is, I neve ate more than the portion provided. We’re all different.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on March 6, 2012 at 12:19

      Well stated. Nice explanation.

  16. BigRob on March 6, 2012 at 12:12

    So what would you say to your friend Dave Asprey? He is a Taubesian in one sense that he believes you can eat 4000 plus calories and not gain fat. He in fact has stated that he ate 4000 calories a day and did not work out, yet still looked like this eating his bulletproof diet:

    His diet is moderate protein, low carb, high fat, and low mycotoxin.

    • BigRob on March 6, 2012 at 12:14

      Also from Dave

      Hey Time Magazine: It’s NOT The Calories, Stupid – Weight Gain Depends On The Quality of What You Eat (Not How Much)

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 13:04

      I’d say that I don’t believe it, unless on average (meaning over weeks and months), the energy experience is similar.

      Look, I took the time to carefully read Colpo’s analysis of every single English language metabolic ward study ( a couple of dozen) that addresses the issue of cal-in-out, LC vs other stuff, etc., and I think one has to be really, really, really beholden to a pet hypothesis to not see the plain truth staring them in the face.

      I can’t help being in a situation where I used to look like an idiot. All I can do is quit looking like one.

      • BigRob on March 6, 2012 at 15:06

        I don’t disagree with you. But it illustrates the point that there is a lot of disinformation that is put out there.

        If you are new to “Paleo” it would be very confusing. That is why I appreciate your views about critical thinking. I don’t always agree with you, but I agree with your thoughts on actually thinking things through.

        Dave purports to be a body hacker and a numbers guy. Something tells me he would claim there is no way he did not carefully measure out his calories. I suspect he would tell you it is all about mycotoxins.

      • Karl on March 6, 2012 at 19:26

        “All I can do is quit looking like one”

        I think this gets to the crux of why saying that it’s not the carbs is so contentious. We all have a natural bias to look consistant in everything. I’ve found it difficult in my very small scale, private way to admit to family and friends that I had all that carb-insulin info wrong. I actually wasted a lot of time looking for complicated explanations for why people somehow lost or gained weight regardless of the carb percentage of the diet, just to avoid admitting to about 20 people (most who didn’t really care and haven’t asked) that I had gotten it wrong.

        I admire Richard, Dr. Harris and many others for their ability to both be very public about changing their minds and for their willingness to follow the facts. It’s why my blog list has gotten both smaller and higher quality over time- once you figure out who’s honest with readers and themselves, I just stick with them. It’s not especially to do with smarts, though they are plenty smart, it’s a willingness to apply reason over emotion when it comes to publicly changing your mind. Lots of very smart people have trouble doing this, not to mention those of us who fall closer to average.

        Lots of bloggers and commenters in the diet world like to use science as a weapon- show me the peer reviewed studies, that study is bad science etc…- well here’s a real life science situation. The data doesn’t support a hypothesis that seemed so clever and had so much promise, what are you going to do? Cheers to those who can retreat and find a new hypothesis that does.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 22:55

        I appreciate the acknowledgement, Karl.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on March 6, 2012 at 13:17

      He has steatorrhea or a broken calculator.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 14:34

        Or he forgets days where he didn’t eat much, or days of super high activity like a 10 mile hike with a 3000 foot elevation gain, days when…well you get the picture.

        In this, the burden of proof is upon those to contradict all the med ward studies, only 2 of which slightly suggest a metabolic advantage to LC, and ACis very exaustive in his critique of those.

        …Cue the question of his exaustivenss in the others. You’ll have to read it yourself, but his critique focussed on controls the others did that the LC folks did nor, such as body comp assessments (diff between lean/fat/water loss, for example).

      • BigRob on March 6, 2012 at 15:15

        “Or he forgets days where he didn’t eat much, or days of super high activity like a 10 mile hike with a 3000 foot elevation gain, days when…well you get the picture.”

        Except he claims he went without exercise during this year long period.

      • BigRob on March 6, 2012 at 15:20

        Not to beat this shit to death, but…

        “Photo: Abs After 2 Years of 4500 Calories & No Exercise”

        This shits deleterious.

      • Ajr on March 6, 2012 at 15:45

        Slick marketing from a smart businessman. Dave’s a big guy too, like 6′ 4″ or some shit, so it’s no surprise that he can take in more calories and not get fat. I’m 5′ 10″ and can say with absolute certainty that if I ate 4500 calories a day I’d get fat regardless of whether the foods were whole and natural or not. Shove 4500 calories of grass fed beef and veggies down my throat and I’ll become obese, since that’s over twice the amount I get on an average day….actually I’d get sick and vomit before that, so either way it’d be a bad outcome.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 22:22

        Dave is a very big guy. So is Patrick of PaleoHacks. Dinner was with both of them and I was the midget.

      • grace (Dr.BG) on March 7, 2012 at 00:52

        But your mojo ROCKED THE ROOM 😉

      • Andrea on February 19, 2013 at 14:36

        I wish it was mentioned on that page but I’ve seen the same photo elsewhere on his site saying that there was one additional condition: he had done intermittent fasting of 24 hours 4 times in the prior two weeks, and that was what made the abs pop out. So far I can’t find THAT reference. Hmph.

  17. Steve on March 5, 2012 at 21:36

    Food reward and palatability has got to be one of the biggest duh statements to have ever been made. Well no shit, you really think I could eat more nasty ass brussel sprouts then I could Ice Cream? Seriously? I don’t ever recall being told as a child, “Now Stephen, if you don’t eat your chocolate ice cream you cannot have any brussel sprouts.”

    As for Taubes, Edes and the rest. I honestly don’t care one iota whether there exists a metabolic advantage to LCHF eating. What I care about is that unlike when eating a SAD style diet my appetite is well regulated and I don’t have to concern myself with portion sizes, weighing food, and being hungry between meals, etc… My weight has stabilized around 10 pounds above where I would like it to be. Is that a failing of LCHF as a fat loss diet or lifestyle? I don’t think so, I don’t think we were made to be single digit body fat swimsuit models. Further when eating LCHF I sleep like a baby, I no longer have to fight to sit still for more then a couple minutes, I think clearer, my skin is clear of acne, in other words in no one single area do I not feel better that I am consciously aware of.

    As for Colpo, from what I have read of him I do like his work. I will say he comes off as a real jackass and would do better if he could at least be civil with those whom he disagrees with. His exchange with Edes a while back was just stupid, and thats not to say Edes handled his end perfectly either. But I think most people tend to distance themselves from people who are abrasive. Maybe there is more that I haven’t been made aware of in that situation that would explain it.

    And finally, due to some of what you have written here Richard I too have decided to add russet potato’s and sweet potato’s back into my meal plan and see how I feel. What has me doing this isn’t any of the above people, but a study that was linked either here, or on another site which showed potato’s to be among the most satiating foods. What I look for in my diet is not reward, or even palatability, but sustenance and dead simple maintenance.

    Food reward and palatability to me is nothing more then food as entertainment, or comfort. That is not what our bodies need. No f’cking shit!

    The idea that you should not speak of politics nor religion with family and friends if you wish to remain friends has long been known. Lately all this childish bs has me thinking diet needs to be added to that list!



  18. J. Stanton - on March 6, 2012 at 00:30

    Thanks for the link, Richard!

    Of course I’d prefer everyone read the whole series — but if I had to choose a few bullet points to add to this conversation, they would be:

    Hunger and the reward system doesn’t exist to make us fat, it exists to keep us alive. And it’s not just why we want to eat — it’s why we want to do anything at all.
    How a food tastes is only one part of its effect on hunger and reward — and not only is taste subjective, it’s not the most important part. Everything flows downhill from satiety, including satiation, which is what makes us stop eating.
    The reward system does not override the rest of biochemistry or endocrinology, including cellular metabolism. (The “once you pick up a hammer, everything looks like a nail” syndrome.)
    There is a raft of established science and terminology in this field. It explains our experiences with hunger very well, and I hope I’ve been able to make it understandable.


    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 07:17

      “Hunger and the reward system doesn’t exist to make us fat, it exists to keep us alive. And it’s not just why we want to eat — it’s why we want to do anything at all.”

      Could not agree more. We didn’t evolve in a world with convenience marts, supermarkets, restaurants on every corner or 24 hour drive throughs, not to mention food that’s explicitly engineered to entice us to overeat it. In a certain sense, it’s actually amazing that the obesity problem is not far worse.

      “How a food tastes is only one part of its effect on hunger and reward”

      Yep. texture, temperature, mouth feel, smell, looks, church, and probably a bunch of other things.

  19. rob on March 6, 2012 at 00:31

    I think just avoiding processed foods gets you 80% to where you want to be.

    If you are a cigarette manufacturer, and you make cigarettes that contain no nicotine, you go broke.

    If you are a food product manufacturer, and you make a food that is satiating and that people can walk away from after eating a reasonable quantity, you go broke (of course that doesn’t include people who produce actual food). If people are perfectly happy eating one chip, one cookie, one smokehouse salted almond, one french fry, one tablespoon of ice cream, you’re out of a job, your wife divorces you and your kids don’t go to college. Your job is to produce something people can’t stop eating.

  20. sphinx on March 6, 2012 at 01:07

    “The fact remains that everyone knows damn well that there are poor quality processed foods that 1) you have a hard time stopping until there’s no more left (and I’m not talking about finishing your grassfed ribeye) and 2) that you seem to have room for no matter how little or no room you actually have. It’s really that simple.”

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I loved your post on potatoes, BTW.

    I think all the rest is, as some french says “de l’enculage de mouche”, maybe and quite certainly exact and scientific and thoughtful, but not worth hours of my time and attention… Get in touch with your real appetite, your needs, your limits, your body and your very own reaction to certain foods is (I think) the first and foremost step. Being healthy and fit enough shouldn’t be a full time job (not even a part-time one)…

  21. gallier2 on March 6, 2012 at 03:04

    In the end, who cares whether “food reward” qua science is valid or full of shit (I don’t suspect for a second it is)? The fact remains that everyone knows damn well that there are poor quality processed foods that 1) you have a hard time stopping until there’s no more left (and I’m not talking about finishing your grassfed ribeye) and 2) that you seem to have room for no matter how little or no room you actually have. It’s really that simple.

    The funny thing though, as a long time on/off low-carber, meaning that I have in the years had periods where I was correctly low-carbing and periods where I wasn’t. These alegedly addictive foods (ice-cream, chips and such) have this property only when I am not low-carbing. I observed this effect several times, when I up my carbs (from whatever source, potatoes or even African tubers my wife often prepares) I have much more difficulty to control my impulses.

  22. Evelyn aka CarbSane on March 6, 2012 at 04:10

    Great post Richard! I cannot for the life of me understand why so many are so viscerally offended by the concept of food reward. “The fact remains that everyone knows damn well that there are poor quality processed foods that 1) you have a hard time stopping until there’s no more left (and I’m not talking about finishing your grassfed ribeye) and 2) that you seem to have room for no matter how little or no room you actually have. It’s really that simple.” Golden!

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 08:00


      I think the answer to that is what Kurt Harris wrote in one of the 600+ comments on my calories count post. Accepting food reward means that the CIH is just plain wrong. Yes, LC works, but not for the reasons people think, having to do with insulin spike and keeping fat locked away.

      • Johnny on March 6, 2012 at 18:00

        I don’t think FR means that CIH is just wrong (which it probably is), the wrongness of CIH makes it wrong. FR as a real phenomenon that exists in humans? Of course. As an explanation of overeating once, it’s pretty solid,but as a air-tight case for obesity? Ah, could be, probably.

  23. Allen Halverson on March 6, 2012 at 04:52

    I definitely agree with this way of thinking. I can put away a lot of home-made jerky in one sitting, but that urge is tempered by the fact that it takes an ungodly amount of time and work to make it so I don’t. After reading the previous article about food reward I’ve decided to experiment for the month of March by adding another couple of sweet potatoes a week or eating more white rice(I still eat starch but it’s quite limited) depending on the meal. I’m currently at approx. 200 pounds at 5’7, started at approx. 280 seven months ago.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 07:32


      Please make sure you don’t just add starch, but replace some protein and fat with a roughly equal caloric amount of starch.

      I’ve been seeing this already. People add 500-1000 calories per day with nothing else giving weigh, and what do you know, “carbs make me fat.”

  24. MC on March 6, 2012 at 04:53

    I kind of always felt that none of this is new information. Sugar is essentially the real problem, in excess. Carbohydrates from good sources aren’t going to kill you. Eat too much of anything and you’ll probably get fat.

    It’s very difficult to eat too much steak, or drink too much coconut milk. It becomes easier to eat more, if you add sugar to it. I know I can get stuffed to the gills on pizza, and still find room to eat M&M’s and drink Coke.

    I’d still stick to eating more meat for nutritional purposes. I think most of us are still much lower on carbs and higher on the meat then most in 1909. In compariosn, still low carb, just not in ketosis.

  25. Jeff on March 6, 2012 at 05:14

    So my question is what happened to the Jimmy Moore interview? Wasn’t on yesterday and it isn’t listed on his site anymore.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 07:37

      It’s going up today.

      • Jeff on March 6, 2012 at 08:54

        You must have made ‘ole Jimmy a little uncomfortable….as of almost noon EST is still isn’t up and usually they get them up pretty quick.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 09:18

        I doubt it, Jim. We exchanged some info last evening via email about the book promotion and such and he was pretty anxious to get it out there. As I recall, my first interview almost a couple of years ago didn’t hit the blog until the early afternoon, PST. I recall because we were in San Diego on mini vacation, went to lunch and it still wasn’t up.

  26. The Zeeman on March 6, 2012 at 05:30

    The food reward hypothesis makes sense as a psychological basis for becoming overweight/obese. Of course, the effects of the reward are physiological and predictable. If food reward is to be taken as the explanation for becoming obese/overweight, does the opposite ring true? Does the feeling of body dissatisfaction, or life, or circumstances, or whatever have to become more displeasing to the individual than the pleasure brought on by food reward for a person to lose weight?

    What you are doing when you go down the food reward path is heading back to calories in-calories out. Fair enough. But when you couple that with food reward, you are introducing unnecessary complications to the theory. Occam’s Razor says calories in-calories out is the simplest explanation. Calories in-calories out because of food reward is an unnecessary complication and is thus suspect. So that leads us back to a theory that Taubs, Rodale and many of the low carb advocates countered with their insulin/leptin/ghrelin and fat storage, metabolic theory.

    • The Zeeman on March 6, 2012 at 05:53

      Sorry, for replying on my on post. If it is simply calories in-calories out then why the whole ancestral thing? You could argue gluten, but not everyone is gluten intolerant. You could argue sugar, but durianrider and plenty of other saner folks show that consuming enormous amounts of glucose and fructose (coupled with a certain lifestyle), won’t make you fat.

      So starches aren’t necessarily bad, goods fats aren’t bad, sugar isn’t necessarily bad, lactose isn’t a problem for everyone and neither is gluten. Exercise is important. So where the hell does that leave us? Why not do Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, P90X, or bike, or run and call it a day? What is there left to carve out? Sleep? – Everyone knows we Americans don’t get enough sleep. I think it boils down to trans fats, the fats we cannot burn. How does the food reward system address this? Cookies made with butter and cookies made with vegetable shortening have high food rewards. But only one of them will introduce a dangerous fat into your system. Does this mean that the metabolic effects of what we eat are only important in the context of the food reward system?

      • Gina on March 6, 2012 at 10:33

        I got into ancestral health/paleo because of disease. I want to be disease and pain-free. I didn’t come to this for weight loss. Modern disease is what I want to stave off. Wheat and excess sugar are a large part of these diseases. In a year of eating pretty cleanly and cutting out all wheat, legumes and cutting back on sugar, I’ve seen pain from inflammation from sports exertion pretty much disappear, along with joint stiffness. Also no more chronic sinus stuffiness, post nasal drip. Reduction in bunion and hip bursitis pain, no more bloating after eating, and on and on. It’s not all about weight loss.

      • rob on March 6, 2012 at 06:12

        I think to a certain extent the cure for obesity is whatever you believe the cure for obesity to be, if you really buy into Jenny Craig then Jenny Craig will produce results for you … conversely Jenny Craig would produce poor results for me because I can’t buy into Jenny Craig.

        I lost 50 pounds on low carb … was it low carb that produced the results, or was it my belief in low carb that produced the results? If I had bought into the idea that eating 15 grapefruits a day would result in substantial weight loss, would I have gotten the same results?

      • The Zeeman on March 6, 2012 at 06:23

        Exactly. Full disclosure, I lost nearly 50 pounds and have maintained it by eating low carb/paleo. Even though I exercised consistently over the years, my weight crept up to over 250 on my 5′ 10″ frame. So I do believe that carbs are a problem for certain people with certain genes and the way they implement gene expression (via diet, lifestyle, stress, etc).

        But if it is ultimately calories-in and calories-out via food reward, what are we doing with all this ancestral stuff? We already have plenty of people, mostly from paleo primal, who are saying carbs from starches and fruits are fine. And since not everyone has a problem with lactose or gluten, then what are we doing here? Might as well eat from the food pyramid, just not too much.

      • Neal Matheson on March 6, 2012 at 07:16

        Cancer,altzheimers, degenerative disease etc etc. The “primal model” societies do not suffer (or have very low rates of) these diseases in all ages of their populations. This series of posts by Richard has been very informative and really interesting. I know obeseity and diabetes are a big concern in the west but honestly I have been very suprised by the myopic view on weight from some commenters.
        Whats that dip between 1916-1923, 1st world war?

      • The Zeeman on March 6, 2012 at 07:30

        Neal, I agree with you. But it seems like some paleo people are throwing everything back in the mix – starch, fructose, high levels of carbs. Other than the gluten, which is not a problem for everyone, there is little to distinguish an ancestral diet from the USDA recommended diet. Even though we keep talking about processed crap, they too boil down to carbs, fats and proteins. And although the processed crap does not have the nutrients as the real food, the degenerative diseases that you speak of are not “lack of nutrient” diseases but disregulated hormonal diseases CORRELATED (not undeniably caused) with macronutrients consumed (i.e. a type 2 diabetic cannot be disregulated without consumption of sugar). Weight, and I should say body composition, is is a quick reflection on likely overall health

      • Neal Matheson on March 6, 2012 at 12:20

        Hi, I think alot of what I wanted to say is being said here. Looking at the diets of extant HG groups and some (DoC free) horticulturalists it is clear that there are wide perameters, however some foods do not feature in their diets these are the foods I avoid, many of these foods seem to be advocate in the USDA food pyramid.. I think it was a stanton quote about eatingto a evolutionary framework until the science is clearer.

      • Amy B. on March 6, 2012 at 09:22

        You bring up a good point, but as far as I understand it, in terms of upping the carbohydrate consumption, we’re talking about weight/body fat percentage ONLY. We’re not addressing the food *quality* issue and its effects on overall health and longevity.

        But even then, as Richard has pointed out, the long-term health effects are vastly different between, say, Ritz crackers and Lucky Charms cereal vs. sweet potatoes, beets, and some rice.

        High-carb paleo is still a world apart from the food pyramid, if you ask me. But I do understand what you’re getting at, and I guess that’s important to keep in mind — most of this “carbs don’t make you fat” issue focuses only on body weight and not on all the other things that eating REAL food can do for you, as opposed to basing your carb intake on processed crap.

      • Karl on March 6, 2012 at 06:31

        These are all great points/questions. I think part of the answer is that we are amazingly adaptable and a diet that keeps us in energy balance and lean, regardless of how we get there, is going to be much more healthy that one that doesn’t. So your lean, low fat eating, p90x person is in fact going to be relatively healthy without bothering with paleo. Our metabolism is perfectly capable of dealing with almost any reasonable range of macronutrients and even some unreasonable ones for a pretty long time- I’m sure everybody knows somebody who went vegan and swore up and down for months that they felt better than ever. If somebody eats anything resembling a balanced diet-say the average macro breakdown for the US, but without generating a calorie surplus, they’re going to be relatively healthy.

        That’s not to say that it doesn’t matter what you put in your mouth as long as you keep your calories under control. There’s more to health that just maintaining weight, as important as that is. A great deal of the paleo diet and lifestyle points to negative health outcomes from, for example, too much processed oils and gluten, though other processed things like sugar may cause their problems through a propensity to disregulate of our satiety systems. I don’t think anybody, including Stephan, would claim that understanding FR alone means you understand diet and nutrition. It’s actually so obvious a concept once you think about it that it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t part of all of our common sense approach to diet (I was certainly in the low carb camp for a very long time myself).

        Ditching mandatory low carb, or at least understanding why it works for weight loss just broadens our general understanding of diet. I personally like making things as simple as possible- eat real food (now including starch!), but there’s plenty to still dig into for those that enjoy it.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on March 6, 2012 at 12:35

      “Does the feeling of body dissatisfaction, or life, or circumstances, or whatever have to become more displeasing to the individual than the pleasure brought on by food reward for a person to lose weight?”

      This is very important and I think explains the close correlation between socioeconomic status and obesity and other health indices. I think there is no question that folks who are are in a sense very sensitive to or self critical about their body appearance have an easier time resisting high reward foods. You must sometimes be capable of suffering disgust for your eating behavior or for your own appearance that outweighs.

      Is is not totally obvious that a person who thinks they are already too fat at a lower waist size will be able to resist another cookie than one who is satisfied that they are not fat “compared to the average person” ?

      It goes without saying that this idea is hated in most of the nutrition blogosphere (esp LC) because it implies that will power and self-control play into it. But I think they definitely do, just like they do for educational and economic achievement.

      Most people (apart from Marxists and such) have no problem believing that self control and ability to suffer or resist temptation count in other areas of personal endeavor that are hard, so why should diet be any different?

      Many want to think it is all metabolic, and all happening well below the foramen magnum….

      • Bill Strahan on March 6, 2012 at 17:47

        Yes! And I see a new trend emerging: Paleo Resistance. It’s like insulin resistance. It’s what happens when you realize it will take work and discipline and come up with a way to totally discount it. My favorite is “It’s too expensive.” I probably feed myself on less than some people spend at Starbucks each month, but I don’t want to spin too far off.

        Bottom line, whether it’s the discipline to occasionally resist, the discipline to educate yourself, the discipline to get started, the discipline to not cave to naysayers, it all boils down at some point to discipline. If it was easy, everyone would be trim and we’d all laugh about the days when diet books could still be sold.

        I have a friend in the gym who coined the saying “Sexy doesn’t just happen.” He’s right. Replace sexy with fitness, health, whatever.

        I liken eating paleo foods to a good relationship. Even in the best of relationships, you’ll occasionally need commitment to carry you past the bad times. Likewise, even with the most optimal of diets, you’ll occasionally need commitment to carry you past a craving. If you’re having to employee tons of discipline all the time, you’re doing it wrong. And if you’re not occasionally using some discipline, you’re probably shy of getting the best results.

  27. GalinaL. on March 6, 2012 at 06:24

    I can always make a room in my stomach for many fruits no matter how full I am (it doesn’t mean I follow my desire often). It is easier to stop eating than chips and nuts, but still, looks like fruits have some problematic qualities.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 07:50

      I was going to include fruit, but I don’t think that’s the case for most people. Last night I had a grilled burger, about 6oz perhaps, 2/3 of a large baking potato, done as oven steak fries in ghee (salted) and a small salad. Then, I barely got down half an apple I split with my wife.

      There are only three fruits I know I can gorge on: watermelon, bing cherries and red/black/green seedless grapes. Interestingly, for the latter, if the grapes have seeds I automatically curb intake. Same for watermelon.

  28. John on March 6, 2012 at 07:03

    One of the biggest problems I have with this Food Reward concept is what comes down to palatability vs. satiety. I get that Prime Rib, A Coke, A Pie, An Omlette or a Potato can all be rewarding in palatability. But Satiety is where the concept screws me up. The concept says that a coke is more rewarding, because it DOESN’T cause satiety, while, personally, I would think a Prime Rib would be more rewarding in that regard, because it fills you up and makes you feel good, which is the opposite of the theory. I certainly feel better after eating a prime rib than after drinking a coke. But I also understand how you could more easily drink 2 liters of coke than eating, say, 40 ounzes of Prime Rib in a sitting.

    Hunger is kinda like pain, in that you want to reduce it. The Food Reward theory suggests that a food that tastes good but keeps the you in a state of discomfort is more rewarding than a food that tastes good and makes that state go away. I can see merit in the theory, but maybe it needs a less confusing name.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 08:03

      “The concept says that a coke is more rewarding, because it DOESN’T cause satiety, while, personally, I would think a Prime Rib would be more rewarding in that regard, because it fills you up and makes you feel good, which is the opposite of the theory.”

      Granted, they may have should have come up with a better word than reward. You’re looking it at in in the classic sense but how the obesity researchers use it is different. Coming from a paleo paradigm, I agree. Classically, paleo is the most rewarding because it drives both quality nutrition, satiety and hopefully, a nice lean body.

      But that’s not what the researchers mean when they use the word.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on March 6, 2012 at 12:47

      You’ll be less confused if you remember that the way we and the scientists are defining rewarding food is simply one that reinforces more of its own consumption than a less rewarding food does. And remember that palatability is one component of FR, but not the only one.

      Think of a rat, they have no “concept” of reward, they have only behavior we can assess. We put a food in front to them and see what they do with it.

      So satiety and FR tend to be inversely related. If it satisfies you more easily, it is by definition less rewarding, because you have less desire to keep eating it.

      So a plain steak is tasty and palatable, but less rewarding than coke, or chips or buttered popcorn, etc.

      Reward is not determined by your thoughts or opinions about food, it is behavioral…

      • Joseph on March 6, 2012 at 13:02

        This is why those who embrace FR are not guilty of conducting a witch hunt against fat people. They do not “blame” them for being fat. They merely seek to understand what happens to make them that way, with the ultimate goal of throwing a wrench in that metabolic pathway (since it involves some pain and discomfort that might be unnecessary for many folks).

        My stomach doesn’t care what stories my head makes up about the nature of my dinner: it just digests it, with good or not-so-good results. Eating food that makes me sick is not a sin, but it might still be painful (and I might choose to avoid that pain by changing what I think about food, at least some of the time). Thanks for saying this, Dr. Harris.

  29. Angelo on March 6, 2012 at 07:18

    The connection between food-reward, palatability and nutrient density is extremely interesting. Richard touches on it in the penultimate paragraph, and I suspect this is a key factor. The highly palatable, pre-packaged, industrial foods that have surged in popularity along with obesity rates tend to lack nutrients. They are palatable, but not nourishing. They fool our brains into thinking they pack a nutrient-dense punch…but leave us with nothing but hunger pangs a short while later, because our bodies still require the nourishment they were seeking in the first place.

    At the end of the day, it’s about real food — which we can enjoy today, even if the mysteries behind it all are not solved until tomorrow.

    • John on March 6, 2012 at 10:46

      They may actually be depreiving our bodies of nutrients. Think Potatoes vs. White Flour for a second. Yes, they are both high in carbs. But the potato has a decent nutrient profile (Magnesium, Potassium, B Vitamins, Vitamin C, and others), while White Flour has very little of anything. B vitamins and Magnesium are necessary for your body to process glucose. So, White Flour could cause a defecit of these nutrients when you eat them (since your body has to process the glucose), while potatoes could leave you even or with a surplus of these nutrients.

      It would make sense that you would be hungier after eating the white flour, cause your body wants to even up the defecit you caused by eating flour in the first place.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:56

        Potatoes have a nice protein profile as well.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on March 6, 2012 at 12:59

      That is an attractive idea, that we are eating more of them because they lack nutrients, but does not explain 2 things we observe:

      1) People who are replete with nutrition (I see them all the time) overeat high reward snacks and junk food even though they do not “need” any particular maco or micro nutrient.

      2) It is possible to construct highly palatable high reward food out of nutritious “paleo” components. A bowl of strawberries, bananas and blueberries, topped with grass fed whipped cream on it is very rewarding. Or paleo lemon bars, etc. Many times these are more calorie dense than junkier food from the supermarket.

      3) You can take anything that is full of nutrients and make it more palatable and more rewarding by adding sugar, salt or fat to it. A plain baked potato is plenty nutritious, so why does adding butter and salt and pepper make you eat more of it? Are you saying that adding sugar or salt to something subtracts nutrients from the food? That is what would be required for it to be true that the reason you eat more of something is because of what it LACKS, rather than what it HAS.

      FR tells us that failure to avoid what foods HAVE is driving obesity, not failure to make them nutritious.

      And finally, why are the majority of the world’s malnourished throughout history thin? Why are they not eating themselves to obesity in a raid search for missing micronutrients.

      Note that I am not saying food quality and nutrients are not important, I am only saying the idea that food quality and nutrients is all you need to concern yourself with to avoid obesity and other bad health effects is not supported by the evidence.

  30. Neal Matheson on March 6, 2012 at 07:22

    I have heard now quite a few different versions of the USDA/FDA dietary changes over time. They don’t all agree with each other, is there a defintive versions somewhere? I read an NHS report for the UK which said that calories have increased driven by carbohydrate consumption. Sat Fat accounts for 12% of calories which is a percent higher than they want. So well done NHS food health programmes! Of course that could only be available fat not consumed so it’s probably lower.

  31. Skyler Tanner on March 6, 2012 at 07:27

    Instead of viewing this as “either/or”, which so many are when it comes to this stuff, I’d suggest it’s in fact “all of them.”

    Body composition is a function of calories and training; hormone drives are influenced by the quality of the diet and the propensity of neolithic agents of disease; reducing carbohydrate levels (lower but not “low-carb”) increases lipolysis by way of insulin reduction, thus energy needs are being increasingly met by lipid fuel sources (fatty acid and ketones); foods that have low reward help move us toward an appropriate body composition more easily than high reward foods because you’ll eat less to satiety.

    These all matter and everyone who has a pet theory is arguing like it exists in a vacuum. It’s like arguing with leg of the table is most important: depending on circumstances one may matter more but isn’t the only factor at play, not by a long shot.

    Remember: calories count. Anyone who says you “don’t have to count calories” ends up tricking you into doing it anyway, either by biochemical means, tracking, or macronutrient elimination. We’re not magical in that we can burn more than we consume and stay fat; otherwise we could hook the obese people who claim this up to machines ala the matrix and solve our energy crisis.

    Wouldn’t you rather stack the deck in your favor biochemically to be satisfied on less food, understanding that a good body composition is going to have the greatest effect on health outcomes regarding diseases of civilization, than have to track everything?

    • Joseph on March 6, 2012 at 13:04

      Short answer: Yes, I would.

      • Skyler Tanner on March 6, 2012 at 16:33

        I track something nowadays but it’s usually the length of my fast instead of total kcal. I also have quarterly body comp done with a bodpod. Basically the 10,000 foot view of what I’m doing diet-wise.

    • Martin Zapolski on March 6, 2012 at 18:46

      Skyler, excellent summary. It all figures into the equation.

  32. J. B. Rainsberger on March 6, 2012 at 08:11

    Low-carb seems like it worked as a pattern interrupt for me: a big, strict intervention that caused me to completely re-evaluate how I ate. I think it has worked, especially on this 6-days-per-week model that I’ve learned from Tim Ferriss. Of course, it has worked for a variety of reasons, and who knows whether something else would also have worked. I think I have my eating priorities better aligned to produce healthier results.

    Now I read here that perhaps low-carb isn’t an essential part of the answer, but rather a well-meaning coincidence or, at worst, harmful nutritional fundamentalism. I don’t know yet. I do know that I eat better food and that I look better and that I feel better.

    It still seems like when I eat more sugar — from whole foods — my weight loss stops. Maybe that’s just me. I have also noticed that when I snack a lot on processed meat, it doesn’t help me much either.

    I have to wonder: if I knew that low-carb was just one way to get there, and that there was nothing inherent problematic with carbohydrates, would I have had the same good results? Would it have acted as effectively as a pattern interrupt? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s better that I thought what I thought when I thought it.

  33. Ben on March 6, 2012 at 08:25

    “And shall I mention the worst offender of all: cheese?”

    Seriously? I have yet to see ANYONE over-eating on cheese. I would ask for data / a citation, anything that shows that cheese causes people to eat more or makes people fat, but as you mentioned, you are not about science and all about belief..

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 08:59

      “Seriously? I have yet to see ANYONE over-eating on cheese.”

      Any favorite scientific references for that, because I’ve done it and seen lots of people gorge at the cheese plate.

      “you are not about science and all about belief..”

      So I guess that makes two of us.

      • Ben on March 6, 2012 at 09:36

        You claim cheese lends itself to overeating – the burden of proof lies on your side.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 09:48

        And you are claiming it does not, for ANYONE, implying that because you claim to have seen it, doesn’t happen.

        Thing is, I’m right and you’re wrong, no scientific reference needed. I’m not claiming that EVERYONE overheats on cheese. Some, perhaps a lot, and given the under reporting inherent in dietary questionnaires and the fact that probably very few people have any idea how many calories are in that plate of nachos or that block of Wisconsin cheddar they went back to the fridge for 2, 3 times or more, I’d say the onus of proof is more reasonably upon you.

      • Ben on March 6, 2012 at 10:04

        No citation needed? I understand why Mat Lalonde doesn’t want to be part of the paleo movement, and why it will eventually fail 🙂

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:15

        And what would you like the failure of Paleo to default to? The CIH, maybe? And how staunch of an advocate for that do you believe The Cracken to be?

      • jake on March 6, 2012 at 10:39

        ben, we have eyes and ears. we can observe people… you don’t need a friggin scientific paper to be cited in order to say that people can overeat cheese. that’s absurd. leave matt lalonde out of this.

        and i’ll stick my hand up and say that i’m one of those people that can overeat cheese. it’s interesting that you’ve never heard of anyone doing this. not all that interesting though.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:53

        It was literally the only thing he could find to hang his hat on in three posts or more and over 1000 comment. A short phrase.

      • Alex on March 6, 2012 at 11:15

        I also overeat cheese. If I buy a wedge of Brie, I’ll eat the whole thing in one sitting. I use butter, and I very much enjoy having the local organic pastured heavy cream in my coffee, but I no longer eat cheese more than occasionally.

      • Rob on March 6, 2012 at 18:02

        It’s not really about overeating “cheese” per se, it’s that (in my case) my body/brain is willing to let me eat it in addition to what should have been a sufficient meal. There’s always room for dessert ..

      • Ben on March 6, 2012 at 10:05

        “I’d say the onus of proof is more reasonably upon you.”
        You don’t understand and/or value the scientific method, and this discussion is beneficial neither to me nor to you.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:12

        Yea, Ben, bla bla bla. Have you looked around, seen that there were more than 600 comments on the previous post and this one is right on schedule? Are all those people ids, including Dr Kurt Harris, Dr BG, J Stanton, Sean Abbott, Nigel Kinbrun and the list goes on?

        Difference is, they understand when it’s time to put on the thinking caps and work things out in your own mind vs. going strait to the Catechism of choice.

        But then again, that has nothing to do with your objection, does it.

        By the way, still waiting for your references demonstrating that people never typically ad libitum overindulge calorically on cheese. Hell, I’ll spot you 300 calories. Go for it.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 09:52

        And by the way, Ben, let’s not assume that I don’t clearly understand what picking one little phrase out of an entire post of a series of posts is all about, if you catch my drift.

        You might try dealing with the entirety of the case I’ve presented. You might want to consider actually thinking about it beyond the notion of me providing you a list of authorities with letter after their names so you don’t have to think about it at all.

    • Kurt G Harris MD on March 6, 2012 at 13:03

      In my clinical observation that in people trying to low fat on low carb that cheese and salted nuts are the most overeaten food types in existence. It helps many to avoid both.

    • Skyler Tanner on March 6, 2012 at 16:36

      When I was a kid I ate so much cheese in one sitting I had a shit the size of a soccer ball as a reward…at least it felt that way to the 6-year old version of me. To this day I can put down more cheese than just about any food. Pounds of it. Really. I’m the asshole at the party who eats all of the cheese plate.

      You’re not going to find a study on cheese overconsumption because: A) Nobody is going to get grant money for that, and B) cheese is lumped under “fat” in food habit studies. You could tease out the data if you so felt inclined but even under fat it will be lumped into dairy. Good luck with that.

  34. Sean on March 6, 2012 at 08:40

    Hey Richard thanks for the link.

    I think an interesting aspect of FR that hasn’t really been touched on is the addiction aspect of real food. As Kurt Harris wrote in my comments:

    One thing I like about FR is what Sean hates – the fact that it brings in the messy mind/body thing. This helps me explain many of the failures of LC that I see, as well as to tie in emotional eating – cases where even Paul Jaminet could customize your diet down to the molecule and you would still get fat because you are using food literally as a drug- you are not really hungry in the food sense so much as the “I want to stimultate myself with something” sense. These people definitely exist. Iv’e seen many of them. You probably know some too if you think about it…

    So, here at least, he’s talking about FR being a pure form of addiction even with real food.

    If we divide up food reward into “liking” (palatability) and “wanting” (incentive salience) then the addictive aspect would fall under wanting. It seems obvious that hyperpalatable foods such as Pringles or Twinkies fall into the addictive aspect. You want them even when you are full or don’t even think they taste that great. I’m not skeptical of that at all.

    Kurt thinks that incentive salience fills the gap with certain people who overeat on a real food diet, something he’s seen a lot. Again I can buy that. Essentially, some people can get addicted to ANY kind of food, maybe even tree bark. They are addicted to food in a different manner than ‘normal’ people (there’s a problem, of course, in talking about addiction to something necessary for existence but I think the difference is clear).

    If someone is addicted to alcohol then they will drink cheap ass rubbing alcohol vodka, not for it’s palatability but for its incentive salience. But, and here’s the rub, the incentive salience will promote palatability. So the alcoholic begins to enjoy the flavor of cheap vodka, the coke addict the taste of cocaine etc.

    This crossover from incentive salience to palatability is what begins to make me nervous and, well, skeptical.

    This sort of leads into the mind/body problem of FR and addiction in general. If your cells are craving heroin (perhaps neurons craving dopamine? still at the physical cellular level) or sugar and that physical craving leads to a mental wanting and that wanting can reinforce a palatability then GAH!

    Taubes likes to stick to a purely physical (body) approach, that this all happens at the cellular level and the mind is secondary. I think this is why he dislikes FR. I happen to disagree. But I’m also very skeptical of people who want to breezily separate all these things.

    The problem with incentive salience, with the science of addiction in general, is that it is again a highly politicized subject.

    Anyway, that’s my current thinking on the subject as your damned token skeptic on the subject 😉

    • Matt on March 6, 2012 at 09:29

      We have to try to understand, I think, what makes a person choose a certain food in the first place. The addiction aspect is important. The satiating qualities of a food can only help a person choose to eat that food if they do so through a thoughtful, rational process. “I’m starving right now and I would really like to order a pizza but I know a grass-fed steak is a better choice for me.” Once they’re into the pizza or the steak, the satiating qualities will help decide how much they eat or how long they’ll wait before eating again, but the first decision has been made. I realize the first decision was partly a product of a prior meal as well, but this could go on forever.

      So it’s important for us to understand why we make the first choice and what we can do to make our chances of a correct first choice even better. This is the first thing that popped into my head when I read Richard’s last paragraph. Does it just take willpower to get the ball rolling?

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 09:42

        “Does it just take willpower to get the ball rolling?”

        Excellent question. I was lucky, so far at least. Since beginning this, it has only taken the willpower to keep that stach level where I want it because I’ve been LCish for so long it’s just my tendency to go for a big steak and big salad with lots of fat in terms of butter and dressing. But if I have a smaller steak, a small salad and introduce some sanity in terms of added fat, and have mashed or a baked potato, I find myself more satisfied longer.

        I go out to eat a LOT, way too much. This exercise has cut that on half or more. In short, I find myself moderately less interested in food altogether. And in over a week, I have yet to have one single morsel of food as a snack or mindless eating in front of the fucking TEEVEE one time. Granted, such snacking was typically grapes, berries, nuts or a little cheese, but guess what all of those are? Highly palatable Paleoish foods.

      • John on March 6, 2012 at 11:11

        Here’s a question… what would happen if you kept the steak and salad size the same, and added the potaoes? Would you get fatter? Or gain more muscle? Or have your metabolism go up to burn off the extra? Or some combination of those three? I think you’re assuming the first one (which is very possible), but I would be interested if you experimented with this a bit. What if you actually lost weight?

      • Matt on March 6, 2012 at 12:57

        I heard smaller potatoes make the steak look bigger…

        There are a lot of variables in all of that, John. Most likely there would be some increase in metabolism, both as an adaptive mechanism (thermogenesis) and simply because if you gain tissue, that tissue now uses energy. Gaining muscle or fat or some combination would most likely be varied by whether or not you were training and how. Of course, all this assumes you know hoe many calories you were taking in before and now – the knowledge of which may just modify how hungry or full you feel!

      • Bill Strahan on March 6, 2012 at 17:53

        “I heard smaller potatoes make the steak look bigger…”

        Yeah, and in that same spirit, that’s why I told my boys to marry a girl with small hands…

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 11:21

        Good question, John, but it’s an experiment best left up to someone who has never been fat. I have, so that’s a confounder and plus, I’m circumspect about my Guinea Pigishness. In short, that’s a risk I don’t want to undertake just yet. Should I get to visible abs, then I could definitely play with overheating experiments with varying proportions of macros to see what best resulted in lean gain over fat gain.

        Of course, I could probably bust go to to body building forums, but they bore the shit put of me and it would probably induce me to eat a pie, or something.

      • John on March 6, 2012 at 13:34

        Ha! I’m right there with you on this one. As soon as I get the visible abs, I’ll experiment with overeating too.

      • Al on March 7, 2012 at 17:55

        “Should I get to visible abs, then I could definitely play with overheating experiments with varying proportions of macros to see what best resulted in lean gain over fat gain”

        But you have been overeating this whole time, no? Isn’t that the crux of what has expired in the last few weeks with you? I may be putting words into John’s mouth, but I think he may have been asking, “what if you overate the same amount as you have been with low-carb, but adding in potatoes, i.e., shuffling out some pro/fat for carbs, but maintaining energy levels?

        I wouldn’t think you’d gain a oz. over the 180 you’ve been maintaining for the last couple of years, unless it changes something else.


      • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2012 at 18:28

        Overheating? This whole time? Not hardly. I was eating to satiation and maintained 175-180 for well over a year, then I had the disc herniation and put on 15, 5 of which I lost.

        Now a solid 5 have come off again, in the last almost 2 weeks (more since the JM interview).

        If you mean overheating for a 160-165 pounder where I suspect I ought to be, then that’s true, I believe.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2012 at 18:30

        …energy levels are off the charts, comparatively. Hopefully, some people can get over the “starch flu” (invers of the low carb flu) and move on.

        Wait for my next post, a 30 day challenge.

      • Al on March 7, 2012 at 22:21

        Exactly, Rich – this is what I mean. If you’re maintaining a higher body weight than normal (whatever that means), your overeating right? Even if you are eating to satiety. Some off with your satiety signal, we presume.

        I’m also curious as to the effect this has had on your alcohol consumption, which, in itself, drives eating past satiety. I’m also curious how much of this is the placebo effect in the context that a) you want it to work; b) you got great initial results (results breeds confidence; confidence breeds further results, etc); and, c) you’re under the magnifying glass via your blog. The mind is powerful.

        I’m not making an argument, just trying to look at all the variables – as you said to Jimmy, it’s only been a week.5. Interesting to see your 30 day challenge and longer term.


    • Sean on March 6, 2012 at 09:23

      I wrote: “I think an interesting aspect of FR that hasn’t really been touched on is the addiction aspect of real food.”

      Actually, that was one of your main points in adding starch and losing weight, that it was down to FR. What I mean to say is that, with all this subsequent talk of FR and hyperpalatable foods, which I think most of us can agree on, I am skeptical of the FR explanation of why you lost weight on a higher starch diet. That it should be attributed to incentive salience or reduced palatability. On that point I will say I’m skeptical.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 09:33


        I don’t view palatability as static but dynamic. In _general_ hyper palatable foods (in the FR sense) are more likely to have you overheating them more often–not that they always do. Hell, even an alcoholic has times where he doesn’t want another drink or a smoker another puff.

        My point is that natural starches made me more satiated at a lower calorie intake, in turn making FR hyper palatable foods less so and easier to avoid altogether. Of course, that’s not my exact experience since I rarely indulge in them anyway, but it did get me to reduce total intake with no having to gut it out with willpower.

      • Sean on March 7, 2012 at 06:09

        Yeah I agree palatability is dynamic. First time one smokes a cigarette it tastes awful, but an addict gradually begins to love the taste and especially the smell (which are closely related, of course). Still, as some wit pointed out (Carlin?) they don’t make cigarette flavored ice-cream. This is probably also why nicotine patches only help *reduce* the craving for cigs. One acquires the habit of smoking, the taste and feel. There are similar habits to eating, snacking in front of the tube, etc. Breaking bad eating habits even when eating real food might be the biggest willpower aspect if one has a lot of them. This might account for a lot of the people who eat like an addict even on a “perfect” paleo diet.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2012 at 07:25

        In her novels, Ayn Rand spoke of a ciggie is terms of the ability to harness and control that little bud of fire on the end.

  35. Joseph on March 6, 2012 at 10:05

    When I ate a normal diet, I was always eating bread (which unlike many, I made myself from wheat and various other ingredients kneaded, set to rise, and baked in the oven). I could easily eat 12-15 slices a day. When I was a child and a very young man, this was no problem. I was very active, and I was growing. Even so, by my mid-twenties I was sporting a little gut; my older friends who lived the way I did (still pretty active, and so always hungry) were similarly decked out. They were not necessarily unhealthy, but they were not really healthy either (by truly rigorous standards: they were also accumulating injuries, especially the kind of chronic tightness and tiredness that often leads to arthritis). I believed that getting old this way was inevitable, at some level, and my life was tending in the direction that says farewell to youth (real youth) at age 30. But I was curious. I knew that other people were not taking this path. I had read some of Clarence Bass’s stuff, and I had watched some of Jack LaLanne’s videos. Through Bass, I ran into Art De Vany, and the rest is history.

    Today people learn how old I am and then tell me they thought I was much younger. (I am not old enough for this to be really striking, but it does represent a reversal from my earlier path, which would put me “over the hill” at this point.) I only eat two meals a day (sometimes breakfast and dinner, sometimes lunch and dinner like Martin Berkhan). I never eat bread. My meals are actually smaller than they used to be (in size: I’m afraid I don’t count calories), but I am at once stronger and leaner. (My wife likes to tell me that I am aging in reverse.) I really like not having to eat all the time. In my former life, I had a much smaller stock of “will power” when it came to dealing with food. While I tried to make healthy choices for myself, you could give me extra bread (or cake or cookies) and I would take it, pretty much as Richard describes (as in, “I cannot eat another mouthful, but look, here’s a pumpkin pie! Give me a slice, or maybe just a fork for the whole thing!”). Today, I don’t have a problem turning stuff down. Don’t get me wrong. I still eat desert. But not every day, and I don’t eat it compulsively until there is nothing left. I’m done scrounging for extra vitamins and minerals in the bread basket or the cookie jar (which had only “empty” calories all this time).

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 10:20

      Joseph, I’m willing to bet money that this gradual shift in your behavior with consequent improvements in health, body composition and outward signs of aging is more the result of your thoughtful deliberation over those years than your ability to decipher a scientific study someone wanted to show you because they didn’t want you to take their word for it, but they wanted you to take _someone’s_ word for it.

      • Joseph on March 6, 2012 at 11:01

        Yes. I had occasional “aha!” moments reading through the literature (and taking in more anecdotal stuff), but as a rule these came after (sometimes years after) I tried something and it worked. I tried many things. Some of them, like pretending to be a bodybuilder, did not work great for me. Others, like intermittent fasting mixed with irregular intervals of really hard work, hit the jackpot, for reasons that came clear to me long after the results. (I remain open to learning, also. I think a lot of what works in health comes from realizing that life is a dynamic balance–a game that is constantly changing such that there is no one right answer for all time. Part of what appeals to me in the idea of food-reward is that it explains contradictory good results that I have had, providing a thoughtful way of addressing these that does not turn me into someone like Matt Stone.)

        One of the things that has become abundantly clear to me over my journey is that the conscious mind is not really in command over things like health. My conscious mind can make useful contributions to my health, giving me ideas for tweaking my human machine, but it is not really “in charge” the way I used to think it should be. I was blessed (or whatever the proper word is) to come from good stock: my grandparents on all sides were farmers who ate well and did good things for my epigenetics (for the most part). I am just playing the hand they gave me, unconsciously for the most part. I am OK with this. When I was young, I wanted to control things. I wanted to make myself well. Today, I am content to watch nature heal me (until she gets tired and decides to pack it in, as she will one day). I still try to understand, but I am much less “hands-on” (if you will). I know better than to think that there are simple answers out there. I don’t take simple answers from myself, so why should I take them from a stranger who happens to have a PhD (as I soon will)? These days, I know more about what it means to be an expert (in anything). We really aren’t gods. We are just people like others, as smart and not as any number of people you already know. Any of us who tries to presume more than this is someone to be wary of. Even if he is really better than everybody to the degree that he thinks, nature is ultimately bigger than he is. Relax, and let her take care of you.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 11:07

        Joseph, welcome to my short list of favorite commenters, FWIW. Hope you keep it up. Folks who need it can learn a lot from your humble thoughtfulness and experience.

      • Joseph on March 6, 2012 at 12:44

        Thanks, Richard.

  36. The Zeeman on March 6, 2012 at 10:15

    I keep reading the food reward posts posts and when I encounter palatability, satiating and reward I get the feeling that we are crossing over into the world of social studies type theories. I’m not saying it’s not a component of the whole puzzle. But really, satiating could mean to satisfy fully but it also means to satisfy in excess. Palatable could mean highly agreeable or just good enough to make me not want to barf.

    And when I read about conscious decision, choice, etc. I think it takes us too far away from what ancestral health is. According to what we understand, the diet that our ancestors ate was one that was highly nutritious and gave them excellent health. Health being defined as a condition of freedom from diseases of civilization, while building strong and resilient bodies. Accordingly, they ate what was available to them and in line with what they knew by experience would make them health and strong. If we have to interject willpower, and some nebulous terms to as best we can replicate their diet and lifestyle that gave them such robust health – then perhaps we are a bit off course.

    • Gina on March 6, 2012 at 11:09

      We went off course when food beacame so plentiful and cheap. Practically throwaway. That circumstance didn’t exist until modern day. Our ancestors couldn’t just grab a bag of chips or a couple of pieces of fruit out of the non-existent refrigerator or order that frapuccino or that greasy takeout meal. none of those scenarios existed.

      Will power wasn’t necessary because food was much more scarce or hard to come by. No refrigeration, no processed packaged crap. Meats and vegetables had to be cooked and prepared once procured. There was nothing to snack on between meals. End of story.

      In this day, we have “food” all around us, available all the time, in copious quantities. So yes, willpower does come into play. And we’ve been slowly inured to the ridiculous amounts of food we are actually eating each day, slowly through the years increasing our daily intake. Slowly changing what “normal” eating behavior is. So that today, walking around, sitting at a desk or in front of a computer or tv, mindlessly shopping on the weekends – all times to be eating, eating, eating, drinking, drinking, drinking.

      I mean, now, not eating in the morning is deemed “fasting” – any amount of time without food is now fasting. If you sit back and look at it, it’s a remarkably ridiculous state of affairs!

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 11:15

        “If you sit back and look at it, it’s a remarkably ridiculous state of affairs!”

        No, damn you! It’s the carbohydrates, silly! 🙂

      • The Zeeman (Martin Zapolski) on March 6, 2012 at 11:35

        I don’t disagree with you at all. But having to express willpower is what the diet experts have been telling us all along. Eat less and exercise more. With that, the difference between paleo and the food pyramid essentially disappears. Why? Because none of the dieticians, doctors, etc are advocated eating “junk” food. And now they are pushing healthy whole grains, so that takes the white flour argument away from us. The My Plate percentages are – 20 percent grains, 30 percent vegetables, 30 percent fruits, and 20 percent protein. And grains could be corn, rice, oats, wheat, etc. And My Plate stresses to expend more calories than you take in, so really where is the superiority of Paleo over these recommendations. It can’t be the carbs, because carbs don’t make you fat. And it can’t be the gluten, because we could eat rice and gluten isn’t a problem for everyone. And at no time does My Plate tell you to eat rap calories. So given that some people will eat even more carbs then in the My Plate, when it boils down to it what is the difference between paleo and eating healthy foods in the portions recommended by My Plate?

      • Gina on March 6, 2012 at 13:56

        Paleo is a way of eating that embraces what we are meant to eat from an evolutionary standpoint, and avoiding neolithic foods that we are not adapted to, such as grains and wheat in particular. It isn’t a diet for weight loss. However, many folks come to find it due to wanting to lose weight, or being diagnosed with a condition such as diabetes or PCOS, etc.

        But you are comparing eating Paleo to weight loss programs. Yes, you CAN lose weight eating Paleo, but you can lose weight eating low-carb (to a certain extent – and side effects not withstanding), or eating high-carb or in countless manner of ways. You can also get fat eating Paleo or eating low-carb.

        I think low-carb became synonymous with Paleo because of all the people coming to it looking to lose weight, and finding bloggers who espoused low-carb along with Paleo as a good methodology for weight loss. Low-carb preceded Paleo, and many folks had tried low-carbing before they came to Paleo, and thought it was a good marriage.

        Anyway, what I’m trying to say in my own dense way is that you continue to confuse Paleo with a weight loss plan and trying to compare it with other ways of eating strictly from a weight-loss point of view, and that line of thinking isn’t going to get you anywhere.

        Maybe Richard or someone else can say what I’m trying to say in a more concise manner.

        (Or am I too much in the fog myself to get what’s going on – or at least PART of what’s going on???)

      • The Zeeman (Martin Zapolski) on March 6, 2012 at 14:11

        I guess I am comparing it to weight loss programs, but I think the association between Paleo and weight loss was made by many Paleo proponents as a benefit for “going Paleo”. You are right, weight loss is not the primary goal. Having a robust, healthy body is. For many Americans, getting to that robust, healthy body will necessarily involve weight loss but your point is made. If we continue with that thought, then you could be completely Paleo yet overweight. Certainly healthier then a similarly overweight person on a SAD diet yet you will still be susceptible to disorders related to having too much body fat.

      • Dan on March 6, 2012 at 12:09

        One word…fat

      • The Zeeman (Martin Zapolski) on March 6, 2012 at 12:19

        Yes Dan, I think you are right. But no one seems to want to say that it is that simple. If you are Paleo, you are not afraid to eat fat. Even the bandwagon now recognizes the dangers of transfats, so it is just that.

        In my plan that works for me, what I call low carb-paleo I eat no sugars or grains and keep carbs under 75 grams. I also make sure fat is the largest portion of my macronutrients as only so much protein has a limit at the rate it can be processed plus it too can spike insulin. This is not for everyone, of course but an average joe can easily see how the way I eat is different from what the government and healthcare providers recommend,

      • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2012 at 12:16

        Not only fat, fat from animals. And oh, yea, animals, now that I mention it. Animals with red meat. Eggs. Things with lots of cholesterol.

        I have zero problem seeing many, many differences between MC/CC Paleo (Moderate Carb / Calories Count) and My Plate.

  37. BabyGirl on March 6, 2012 at 10:50

    “Tell me again how it’s all about the carbohydrates, when carbohydrate has been 400-500 grams forever already?”

    It’s work-to-carb ratio. That’s one issue. Years ago, unless you were rich, staying alive, fed and clean was a very physical process.

    Also, the income was not as disposable. People didn’t go around all the time buying a coke with 18 teaspoons of sugar when they felt tired.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 11:03

      You didn’t address the increase in calories in the face of a general decrease in daily activity. Wonder why that is.

      • BabyGirl on March 6, 2012 at 11:29

        “You didn’t address the increase in calories in the face of a general decrease in daily activity. Wonder why that is.”

        Probably because everyone knows that higher carbs means higher calories?

        I don’t have an agenda. I love a baked potato and bread as much as the next person. But I also know that certain body types and certain medical problems can lead to weight gain.

        Take PCOS. You’ll pile the pounds on while eating a regular diet.

        Take metabolic syndrome. Same thing.

        Take people with narcolepsy. Carbs are like a sleeping pill for those folks. Eat pasta in the middle of the day? Might as well take an Ambien.

        Everyone won’t be affected that way, but some are. That’s my argument. There isn’t any reason to through out a protein based diet just because potatoes make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

        I think carbs do have some kind of mood lifting effect. Sometimes people need that.

        I’m personally trying to re-claim my health & fitness and the biggest draw back for me is eating a bunch of carbs. When I eat a lot of protein, with a few side veggies and small amounts of fruits, I feel so great.

        When I eat a plate of paste, I feel very sleepy and I just want to go lay down for a while. Then in a few hours when the pasta sludge feeling wears off, I feel very hungry. Too hungry.

        So no, carbs don’t work too well for me. However, even if you become the carb preacher I’ll still read your blog because I like you. 🙂

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 12:35

        “Probably because everyone knows that higher carbs means higher calories?”

        Really? Then how come when I wrote the previous posts and many comments and went on Jimmy’s podcast I was carful to point out that I wasn’t a fucking id that would simply increase my carb load from 200 cal per day to 800 cal per day without making allowances somewhere?

        See, I’m just not a fucking id that would do that and then proclaim how “carbs make you fat” with the glaring, embarrassing Occam’s Razor reality in thew shadows that I had increased my caloric intake by 600 cal.

        And as it turned out, when I put numbers into Fit Day representing 4 days of eating as before vs. four days eating as now, all ad libitum, I was actually eating a few hundred calories less.

        So, in my case, the low reward value of potatoes combined with the high satiety on average in Stephan’s post rang true for me.

        Yea! I’m right in the Bell Curve sweet spot.

        …Cue mention of all the outliers and diseased to whom this perhaps doesn’t apply, and whom I’ve explicitly excluded. Hey, can we talk about the general population, just once, please? Can we talk, just for a post or two, about the 99%? Screw those rich bastard bank CEOs… Ooops, wrong topic.

        “There isn’t any reason to through out a protein based diet just because potatoes make you feel all warm and fuzzy.”

        Oh, thanks for the scarecrow. I’m talking 40-50% from carb/starch.

        “I think carbs do have some kind of mood lifting effect. Sometimes people need that.”

        No, no, no. Eating enough food to satisfy you and lift your mood should not be any factor in consideration. Be it low fat or low carb, there is Catechism, sin, repentance and redemption to consider first and foremost and I’m a sucker for redemption. It’s like dessert; highly palatable.

        “When I eat a plate of paste, I feel very sleepy and I just want to go lay down for a while. Then in a few hours when the pasta sludge feeling wears off, I feel very hungry. Too hungry.”

        Yep, all carbs are created equal. Do not dare try some natural carbs, like tubers or fruit. Don’t do it. The priests will be as upset as with a 13yr old boy with a stash of Playboy magazines.

        “So no, carbs don’t work too well for me. However, even if you become the carb preacher I’ll still read your blog because I like you. ”

        I don’t preach anything. If you like me because you thought I did, far from being able to help it, I’d admonish you to consider my long record of thinking for myself and challenging what so many just accept as established authority.

        I like you too.

      • BabyGirl on March 8, 2012 at 10:38

        If you like me because you thought I did, far from being able to help it, I’d admonish you to consider my long record of thinking for myself and challenging what so many just accept as established authority.I like you because I like you. We have some commonalities, although I don’t mention them too often. Dr. Lee Robertson is one of my heroes of the faith. He’s one of the few old time fundies that didn’t have some black stuff come out about him, unlike Dr. Bob Grey or Jack Hyles.You write interesting things, even if I don’t agree with you on everything. 🙂

      • Richard Nikoley on March 8, 2012 at 10:53

        Speaking of fundies, here’s what I posted on my Facebook wall the other day (my personal FB is reserved for friends and family I know in real space, there is an FTA page for those who with to like that):

        “What’s on my mind? When are Christians of good conscience and admirable moral character going to stand up and tell the Millionaire Opportunist of the 700 Network, Pat Robertson, that he’s plain batshitshit insane, and needs professional help? Rather than blame the all knowing and powerful God he believes in for tossing people and children all over the countryside—killing, maiming and injuring dozens, he blames you Christians for not praying enough…to stop it. Seriously? Hey, I dumped that silly monkey on your back argument over 20 years ago. Do I really live in such a generally moronic world?”

  38. Dan from Canada on March 6, 2012 at 11:12

    Richard, your last two posts along with the comments (and your replies) have been the most fun I’ve had on the internet in a long time! I was wondering, would you mind sharing your method for cooking those oven fries you mentioned? Time, temp, etc?

    • Alex on March 6, 2012 at 11:25

      I haven’t made oven fries in many years, but my recollection is that I did them at around 400 degrees. Our oven is one of those countertop convection ovens, which are particularly good at making the fries nice and crispy. I would toss the fries with melted butter or goose fat and seasonings, making sure they are completely coated, and I’d use a spatula to turn them and unstick them from the pan a few times during cooking.

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 11:32

      No sweat.

      425 on the oven preheat deal. Cookie sheet, fat of preference and a big ass potato. I used ghee this time but you can use coconut oil, lard, bacon fat, or a combo. I don’t cook with olive oil ever. That goes raw onto leafy greens.

      After a few experiences, I do shor steak fries. Peel then cut the potato in half lattitudinally. Set each end on top and make steak fries about 1/3 inch on a side. Too fine and they fall apart when you toss them midway and you have hash browns. Put a heaping tbsp of fat on your cookie sheet and while the oven is heating, put the sheet in for a couple of min to melt the fat. Toss the fries to coat them. Alternatively, use a wok to melt & toss fires and dump the whole affair on the sheet.

      Takes about 30-35 mon. About halfway through I turn them, essentially 1 frie at a time, because I’m anal.

      Salt them, Of course.

      Don’t make any more than you ought to consume in that sitting. That’s the recognition of FR, something people used to instinctively understand with highly palatable food preparations when they did them theirselves.

      • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 11:34

        Oh, and I endeavor to not have any fry touching any other so that there’s no heat insulation.

  39. Dan from Canada on March 6, 2012 at 11:47

    Thanks, Richard! I have just started going back and reading Stephan Guyanet’s blog entries on food reward, and i think i’m starting to get it. I was always vaguely uneasy with Taubes’ insulin explanation as the sole reason for obesity and fat gain, and i think i’m starting to understand why. I can hardly wait to hear the LLVLC podcast with Jimmy, hopefully Jimmy didn’t shy away from the topic,

  40. Joe on March 6, 2012 at 12:04

    “In the end, who cares whether “food reward” qua science is valid or full of shit”

    I know I don’t. I only care about what works. I’m not even that much interested in learning every little detail about why it works (or doesn’t), just that it works. I don’t even care what it is called. I’ve found something what works for me (essentially a low-carb paleo way of living), and I’m sticking to it until it stops working, I start gaining weight, I start feeling worse than I currently do (which is the best I’ve felt in 40-45 years), or my health profile, test results, etc. start to significantly change in negative ways (determined by me, not my doctor).

    This thread is essentially a duplication of the other one; I don’t really see anything new. So I think I’ll start spending more time outside, working out, having fun, enjoying the weather, etc., until something new topic comes along. I hope Richard will share with us how this all turns out for him, say, in a month or two, and that he’s keeping track of all the things he’s changed in his diet, and how they are appearing to change his weight, key measurements, and maybe even his blood lipid profile.

    Anyway, I hope everyone else here ultimately finds a way that works for them as well as my way works for me. Good luck!

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 13:09

      Hi Joe:

      “This thread is essentially a duplication of the other one; I don’t really see anything new.”

      What a coincidence!

      Thank you sir for giving your perspective all along the way, however. I hope to see you again soon.

      • Joe on March 6, 2012 at 13:50

        “Thank you sir for giving your perspective all along the way, however. I hope to see you again soon.”

        No, thank you, Rich, you’ve got a great blog, and great commenters!

        You will indeed see me again, and probably sooner rather than later, if the right topic comes along. And it usually does.

        Good luck!

  41. Mark on March 6, 2012 at 12:05

    Richard, here are some reasons I can think of that people are reluctant to embrace food reward:

    1) There has been no mechanism identified. For the debunked CIH, we had insulin. For Dr. Kruse’s theories, we have leptin. For the general hormonal theory, we have a bunch of hormones. For the inflammatory theory, we have stress & inflammatory food and environment. For calories-in-calories-out, we have exactly that. But what is the mechanism that makes eating hyper-rewarding foods increase body-fat setpoint?

    2) The only ‘mechanism’ seems to be that people consume more calories of hyper-rewarding foods than they do of less-rewarding ones. So, we’re back to calories-in, calories-out.

    3) Food reward, then, becomes another way of labeling the obese as gluttons. But instead of saying “You eat too damn much” it says “You eat too damn much manufactured Frankenfoods, which makes you eat too damn much.” There’s a Puritanism to the whole thing.

    4) Why bother talking about food reward when you can just talk about real foods? There’s no there there to food reward. The take home is: “Eat real foods, and prepare them yourself in a traditional manner. Avoid all manufactured foods.” That’s the Whole 9 / Whole 30; that’s Sissons; that’s WAPF: that’s Jillian Michaels in Master Your Metabolism; that’s The End of Overeating. It’s the mantra of anyone and everyone who has thought this through (e.g., you and Dr. Harris). Food reward is a weird distraction from all of that which just needlessly (and, perhaps, uselessly or even deleteriously) complicates things. That’s good for researchers, but not me.

    5) There’s no talk of micronutrients. It’s implicit that a diet like the one Stephan proposes would be nutrient dense because it’s made up of real foods, but when sucking down sugar water out of a tube is the pro-food reward smoking gun, it feels like we’re in gastric bypass territory.

    6) I’ll add two things I love about food reward theory: A) It gets us away from discussing macronutrient ratios and demonizing carbs [talk about Puritanical]. THANK F—ING GOD FOR THAT; B) It draws attention to the travesty that is the American food supply and the conspiracy that Big Food has to make people eat more and more and more garbage.

    There are other reasons I can think of, and I’m guessing you’ve heard all these issues and probably answered them before. I’m not looking for answers: Food reward theory is a fine idea to discuss, but, at this stage in its development, it’s useless to me in my day-to-day life. Mat Lalonde summarized a good diet: Meat, seafood, and veggies. I’d add “fermented wherever possible” to that list. Maybe if the meat is slow cooked and unseasoned, I’d be better off in fat-loss efforts, but I’m guessing that’s on the margins of the marginal—which is where researchers operate, but not where I live.

    • Joseph on March 6, 2012 at 12:42

      My two cents on these issues:

      (1) Nature loves to hide. There are always more processes than we know playing into any given natural event involving complex systems. Beware the person who knows precisely which variables are relevant and precisely how to control them. He is often fooled by randomness.

      (2) You eat food, and shit happens. I am not going to argue with that one.

      (3) This one only really matters if you hate fat people. Why would you? Why waste time hating others, or oneself, over a temporary physical characteristic (that may or may not be easy to alleviate)? From my perspective, plenty of beautiful people are fat, and plenty of not-so-fat people are plug ugly. But the ugly people are people, too. Nature makes them the same way she makes the beautiful people, and she has her reasons.

      I can understand wanting to lose weight and feel better, of course. But hating on yourself (or someone else) is not going to make that happen. Some people might respond well to a well-administered dose of guilt or shame. If you are one of these folks and need a kick in the pants, give yourself one. If you don’t, please don’t take it, whether from yourself or anybody else. You have as much right to exist as anyone else born into this world, even if you happen to be fat. If people give you grief for daring to exist around them, give it right back (and feel free to move on elsewhere: not all of us pick friends based on size).

      (4)-(5). See (1) above. Speaking in a linear fashion about something as layered and complex as the human body is difficult, requiring a kind of precision that eludes all but the most dedicated amateurs and experts. In the end, they may solve the problem (or not). Meanwhile, don’t do things that make you feel terrible. Have the courage to say, “No, thanks, that’s not for me.” If you’re here, chances are you have already done this at least once. So just keep going, at your own pace, as things become clear to you. The researchers will catch up one day, and/or denounce you as some kind of outlier (or heretic, depending on their approach to what they do).

      (6) I agree, with you and with Mat Lalonde (whose ideas I generally endorse).

    • Richard Nikoley on March 6, 2012 at 12:56

      “Richard, here are some reasons I can think of that people are reluctant to embrace food reward:”

      “1) There has been no mechanism identified.”

      I don’t know whether that’s true, pointing you to the posts by J Stanton, Stephan and the general research. But as I pointed out, I need no mechanism. There’s a mechanism for getting into Heaven, supposedly, but since I don’t believe in Heaven, what good is a mechanism? Not a perfect analogy, as I do see FR as valid, but I did that on my own. Have yet to read a single study, or read most of the posts on the topic. Or, the mechanism is my own ability to understand what words mean and run through the logic and reason. Best mechanism, in my view.

      “2) The only ‘mechanism’ seems to be that people consume more calories of hyper-rewarding foods than they do of less-rewarding ones. So, we’re back to calories-in, calories-out.”

      Indeed. Back to square one.

      “3) Food reward, then, becomes another way of labeling the obese as gluttons. But instead of saying “You eat too damn much” it says “You eat too damn much manufactured Frankenfoods, which makes you eat too damn much.” There’s a Puritanism to the whole thing.”

      Hey, that’s my line. No, I don’t believe on gluttony in general (only specific outliers). What I believe is a perfect storm of stimuli adverse to human evolution, some degree of profit opportunism, and all rounded out by simply the general advancement of things—doing more with less in economic terms. I ascribe no nefarious motives to the latter, it’s the wondrous way in which we’re composed that can work against us. A far better car for far less money (the time you have to work for it) is jim up and down exciting. In the context of food, not so much. Funny thing is, as a materialist who believes in a penchant for free will, it’s a curious thing for me to make a distinction between inorganic material like a car, and organic material like a human being with an integrated mind.

      In short, to get along with some of your other points, Paleo is valuable because it gets us back to the square one of eating real foods predominately. It’s nothing like My Plate, so I really just have to reject that analogy out of hand.

      “5) There’s no talk of micronutrients.”


      Malnutrition –> Health Degeneration –> Obesity & Other Diseases of Civilization

  42. The Zeeman (Martin Zapolski) on March 6, 2012 at 12:06

    How the heck is the Average Joe – who is nowhere near as interested in diet, nutrition, and exercise as this group is – to understand what Paleo is. We who are low carbers, and low carb/paleo keep are carbs low and avoid grains. But the Paleos who eschew the insulin/leptin hypothesis (and it is just that, a hypothesis) say it’s okay to eat starches, fruits and carbs up the wazoo (Why, look at the Kitavans!). So my question is what is Paleo? The government advocates eating a caloric deficit to lose weight and at equilibrium to maintain weight. It also advocates avoiding too much fat, salt and refined foods. So really, if I do that and exercise while avoiding injury, where is “Paleo”? Does it simply boil down to the 20% grains? What if those grains were all rice as many Paleos have no problems with rice. And if you argue it’s a lifestyle with sleep, resistance training PLUS diet then Paleo has nothing over other diet + exercise programs. To me, and I’m not giving an extreme example to make the case, the differences dissolve quite quickly especially if you eat what “real foods” in the proportions the FDA advocates.

    • rob on March 6, 2012 at 12:58

      I’m still eating 150-175g of protein a day, and I eat saturated fat and don’t consume vegetable oil and don’t eat grains, that by itself is a substantial deviation from the FDA.

      I don’t see how trading some fat calories for carb calories is all that big a deal, does eating Paleo mean you have to forsake glucose forever (people talk about cauliflower etc. but if I do the math it is clear that cauliflower etc. doesn’t get me where I want to be, I don’t feel good if I eat 4-6 pounds of vegetables a day, feels like World War III is taking place in my intestines).

    • Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2012 at 12:20


      Equator to arctic, sea level to 16,000 feet, winter, spring, summer & fall, and everything in between. Oh, and you’re on your own. No authority but yourself to figure out what works in a paleoish real food paradigm.

      One other thing: paleo as best understood and proscriptive rather than prescriptive, applying to everyone. Avoid the NADs. Be agnostic about macronutrient ratios.

      Maybe we just out to change the name to The Anarchist Diet.

  43. Dracil on March 6, 2012 at 13:54

    This experimentation, and the lectures from the Paleo Summit has got me to consider that maybe more carbs is fine for weight loss, and I’ve tried adding some potatoes and rice back in to experiment as well but still need more data (in the recent past, rice seemed to make my stomach grumble more, but this time potatoes just made me hungrier but rice was fine)

    However, weight loss is not the only reason people have been against carbs. I’m curious as to how an increased carb intake will affect other areas of health. “Worse” Cholesterol is one I’ve heard, but there are some correlation problems and the usefulness of measuring cholesterol is often questioned. So what about other things like elevated blood glucose leading to more AGE formation in the body? Or (I think?) poorer dental health supposedly from ingesting foods the bacterias love to feed on?

    • rob on March 8, 2012 at 10:18

      I solved the cholesterol and glucose worries by never having them measured. I stopped weighing myself too, I just go by how my clothes fit and how I look in the bathroom mirror.

      It’s pretty liberating. For all I know I’m at death’s door, but I feel wonderful.

  44. Elton on March 7, 2012 at 21:44

    “In the end, who cares whether “food reward” qua science is valid or full of shit (I don’t suspect for a second it is)?”

    I guess this statement is more confirmation this is not the blog for me. You do realize Guynet uses studies on patients taking drugs as support for a particular diet right?

  45. Richard Nikoley on March 7, 2012 at 22:04

    “I guess this statement is more confirmation this is not the blog for me. You do realize Guynet uses studies on patients taking drugs as support for a particular diet right?”

    You do realize how quickly I would like you to fuck off right?

  46. […] Richard at Free the Animal did a great piece on food reward here. […]

  47. Armi Legge on March 12, 2012 at 14:33

    I’m also reading Colpo’s book, and it’s the best fat loss book I’ve ever read. Thanks for posting this again Richard. It also most feels as if you say the word “calorie” and someone starts attacking you. This finally vindicates some of the people (like me) who do believe calories count (or in other terms, we do our homework). Thanks again!


    • Richard Nikoley on March 12, 2012 at 14:56

      I’m drafting my next post now. It’s tough, because Mike Eades is a personal friend of mine, and now I’m exchanging lots of emails with AC on stuff not even related to diet.

      Don’t know if you are privy to the major spat, but it requires searching only ‘colpo’ on Eades’ blog and ‘eades’ on Colpo’s blog.

  48. […] the week since I last tossed something up relevant to the recent LC and Food Reward goings on, I was highly motivated to retreat to my cave […]

  49. […] Food Reward: “There’s Always Room For Dessert” […]

  50. EF on June 20, 2012 at 06:16

    Are you going to review Colpo’s book?

    I am slowing realizing that carbs may not be the fat bombs that I thought but the cancer connection is more interesting to me. When Taubes said that the Head of Harvard Cancer Center and the Head of Sloan Kettering on an “atkins-like” diet for fear of the insulin/cancer connection (I think), that is pretty persuasive “evidence” to avoid carbs for cancer’s sake.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2012 at 08:36


      I’m sure I’ll have more to say about Colpo’s book at some point. As to the cancer connection, I think the dose makes the poison and so keeping it moderate is a good idea as well as IF.

  51. Stacy, Seriously. WTF? | Paleo Parents on July 16, 2012 at 04:40

    […] (toxic for me). My skin was completely broken out. I was over indulging in dense carbs and other highly palatable foods. I may or may not have developed a habit of visiting the local gluten-free bakery with the boys on […]

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