The Culture of Obesity

Having lived and traveled in Europe, the so-called Mediterranean Diet (not the faux Mediterranean Diet) has never mystified me. It’s not a diet at all. It’s a culture, and when you live there, travel there a lot, you’ll understand.

Here, Let a reader whom I’ll call ‘M’, explain.


I truly enjoy your no BS approach to the paleo/primal/common sense approach to life. The banter and repartee you have with various neanderthal know-it-alls has made for many an entertaining read. At 49 I have made the jump from the dark side and the results, while slow to show, are taking shape. Thanks in part to your efforts and guys like Sisson too.

Now for the reason I am writing. I’ve had the good fortune to spend the last 2 weeks traveling across Italy with my wife and 2 teenagers. Nothing opens your eyes and gives one perspective like traveling and experiencing anothers’ cultures, customs and FOODS.

First some observations. …By the way these observations are so unscientific, I don’t know where to begin; but I think you’ll get the message. Nearly all Italians I met and interacted with were thin. That’s not to say there are no fat Italians. But by and large, I did not see any Walmart fat Italians. Now granted, I was exposed to a small sampling of the population. Only a few thousand.

Second, the food. 100 out 100 restaurants I either walked by or ate at while in the country of Italy served the same basic foods. Pasta, pizza, salad, meat, melon, cheese and oh yes bread, olive oil and wine. Now, I know in our part of the world how many of these foods are being demonized with regularity. My wife even let me know how thin everyone was while eating pastas, breads pizza etc. And, that I should go back to eating like the Italians. What’s up with all the pasta and grains? I know this stuff isn’t paleo. While they do serve meat, it does not appear to be the staple of the diet. Tempting as it was, I able to resist temptation and have pizza on only one occasion. And sweets. Italians love chocolates and pastries. It’s everywhere. Wine with lunch and/or dinner every day.

Third. People in Italy walk everywhere. That’s just how they get around. Yes there are cars, mopeds and bicycles, but for the most part, point A to point B is on foot. I’m sure I logged about 20 miles over the time I was there.

I’ll wrap this up by asking how can a culture eat and drink like the Italians and not get fat while we Americans load up on many of the same foods and look like the Stay Puft marshmallow man? Is it walking? Could just moving a little more be the difference? Again, not scientific, but most I interacted with seemed in good health.

By the a way a 12 ounce coke is about 6 bucks. Probably the answer I have been looking for as to why no one is obese. Lastly have to mention that the Italians love them some coffee and cigarettes. Thanks for listening.


Alright, given that Free the Animal is the absolute World Headquarters for the smartest international blog commenters on diet and nutrition…from a Godless, evolutionary perspective—just as I love it—except some of the commieness—let’s get started. I know it’ll be fun. I’m going to reserve my own thoughts and comments for my international and expat worldly friends, in comments. Sorry. Jump in if you like.

…OK, a couple of tidbits, but you have to click links, read, connect dots. From Beatrice’s & my trip to Italy in 2010, back to the very place we loved the most in a 3-week tour in 2006.

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. EatLessMoveMoore on June 7, 2012 at 18:33

    Excellent. A clearer example of the dichotomy between rational paleo (e.g., Richard’s blog) and pseudoscientific low carb (Jimmy’s site – but there are many) could hardly be found. On the one side we have nuanced, non-dogmatic posts like this one that attempt to look at the MANY components of weight loss, and on the other we have this sort of thing –

    where we are treated to yet another regurgitation of Gary Taubes and the CIH (“I don’t care what the haters say! I can eat all the fat I want and calories don’t matter!”). Unfortunately, though, ideas do matter, and they have a way of becoming physical reality. That, not surprisingly, is why Richard looks like Richard and Jimmy looks like Jimmy.

    • Jscott on June 7, 2012 at 19:33

      Jimmy does not talk about culture. Neither does Carbsane or or or.

      It ain’t about the food.

      The food is not a food.

      • EatLessMoveMoore on June 7, 2012 at 21:41

        I think eating disorders are far more prevalent among low carbers than is commonly supposed.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 23:16


        So let me get this straight. A persn loses 40, 50, 60 pounds and more on LC and they have taken on an eating disorder?

      • Jennifer on June 8, 2012 at 13:08

        All of ELMM’s posts are just surrogate hit jobs for carbsane. S/he doesn’t even care that virtually none of the comments make sense.

        S/he got a little smarter by sucking up to you above, but, like all of that crew, all that matters is the takedown.

      • EatLessMoveMoore on June 9, 2012 at 00:58

        Peruse some of the ‘low carb’ forums. It’s the same kind of the black/white, good/bad thinking. Most telling of all is the sheer number of people who keeping ‘falling off the wagon’ and then getting right back on the same one – with no absolutely no reflection about what’s causing them to keep falling off it in the first place. I suspect – though of course I can’t prove – that many (and I suppose this could apply to the majority of people with chronic obesity issues) have far deeper emotional/psychological issues driving them.

      • EatLessMoveMoore on June 9, 2012 at 01:10

        Not in the least, Jennifer. I see the limitations of her approach (even as I believe it is necessary in any healthy community, online or otherwise). While I was aghast at the language Richard used against her, I see in her the same kind of stubbornness/intransigence she attacks in others. Perhaps that’s her strength while also – in some contexts – her weakness. However…Jimmy Moore is not a happy camper. Any halfway rational person can see that. And I think that Evelyn, coming as she does from a background of eating disorders, is able to recognize and zero in on this (just as she did with Amy Dungan and Laura Dolson, cruel as it was). Ok, so why should anyone care? I suppose that’s the big question here. Well, whenever anyone puts themselves out there as the face of a movement, they ultimately get exactly what they deserve – be it good or bad. That’s the bottom line.

      • Elenor on June 9, 2012 at 09:26

        Just like alcoholics and other addicts, falling off the wagon and (one hopes) getting back on multiple time — do you think low carb is (or should be) in some way different?

        The difficulty is NOT emotional/psychological issues, it’s PHYSIOLOGICAL issues. Dja ever notice (if you’ve ever been) that AA meetings are full of heavily addicted smokers and doughnut eaters/sugar and carb addicts? Dja ever realize that recovering alcoholics who go low carb have a BETTER record of staying on the alcoholic’s ‘wagon’ and not backsliding into using? Dja ever consider that the effects of alcohol on the brain’s PHYSIOLOGY (not emotions or psychology) could be similar to the effects of sugar/glucose on the brain’s physiology? (Not to mention the liver damage they both can cause?)

        Just as AA (usually) demonizes alcohol, so LCHF (usually) demonizes sugars (in whatever form). For MANY MANY people, that black and white thinking is part-and-parcel of the new boundaries necessary to keep them “on the wagon.” Why do you castigate them for finding a system that (for many) actually works for them?

        There’s a whole ‘wing’ of the alcohol treatment world that is (finally!) doing an analog of AA without the “Higher Power” crap. But if the Higher Power crap WORKS for someone, why do you tear it down? (Oh, right, the ‘tearing down’ thing is all y’all ever do!) If the same sort of “recovering alcoholic” self-management (against the brain’s physiology — NOT against emotions or psychology, which = sloth and gluttony, again {eye roll}) WORKS for some (sugar/carb “addicted”) folks, then, god (ha) bless ’em and go in peace!

        Do you acknowledge that alcohol (and drugs) have a (long-term, perhaps permanent) *physiological* affect on the brain, that makes alcoholics ever-after more susceptible to the drug? Why do you think it’s not the same with ‘sugar-adapted’ folks?

        Ah, but it’s so much more fun and easy to throw stones. {disgusted frown}

      • Elenor on June 9, 2012 at 09:28

        {wince} *effect* on the brain…..

      • paul d on June 9, 2012 at 09:52


        You mad or are you trolling?

        Not enough carbs? – they boost serotonin you know?

        Don’t acknowlege your logic for a moment.

        Sugar adapted and fat adapted my ass (where did you read that baloney?

        No such thing, the body prefers carbs as fuel unless it is deprived of them, and resorts to fat if no carbs are available. No such thing as permanent adaptation, works with the fuel you feed it, and has a universal and unchangeable bias for carbs if given both.

        Ye, you are addicted to sugar, you have no will, cannot stop yourself slamming down those gummy bears, all your phsiological and brain damage is at fault, not you.

        12 steps.
        Step 1 – admit I am totally responsible for my own condition.
        Step 12 – admit I am totally responsible for my own condition.

        Ye, your brain is in charge, you have no volition, the neural pathways and the dopamine – epinephrene/norepinephrine pathways of food reward are in charge.

      • tt on June 9, 2012 at 16:39

        One of these days you’re going to have to do a full post on Jimmy Moore. Get the fucker in the cold tub with you and do a podcast interview with him.

      • tt on June 9, 2012 at 17:47

        BTFW, I mean YOU interview Jimmy. NOT Jimmy interview you.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 22:29

        “Jimmy does not talk about culture.”

        That is the absolute best critique of Jimmy anyone has ever given.

      • Dan Linehan on June 12, 2012 at 17:04

        Seconded. Culture matters deeply and regional culture evolves over time, just like humans do. Furthermore, it’s a long, painful process, just like any sort of growth / natural selection is.

        I moved from central Ohio to the Bay Area (Marin co) around 5 years ago now. While the suburbs in both places appear identical superficially, the people are entirely different between locales — probably 2-3x healthier in the Bay Area, both physically and psychologically.

        More people in Ohio are just barely getting by. That creates a perfect environment where people drown their sorrows with cheap processed foods, practically as a way of life.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 22:11


      That’s probably my favorite comment of yours. Not because of, well, because. But because I am going to hold out hope for Jimmy. He’s done a lot for a lot of people in spite of his own issues. I would like to see in time that either, he comes to grips with the fact the LC is not magic (I have explained in posts exactly why it is so effective, but limited) and just admits to its limitations honestly, and serves it anyway in context of the limitations or, decides to stop his rather compulsive eating in the context of LC magic and takes it home.

      • EatLessMoveMoore on June 9, 2012 at 01:32

        Exactly. Please excuse the multiple posts, but that’s exactly what it’s all about: It’s only useful to attack the hypocrites in our midst if we remember to recognize the good guys (and girls, as un-PC as that might be). I’ve had my share of issues with Richard, but I think the main reason people love him is because he’s human – he makes mistakes and is willing to own up to them. Hell, he makes mistakes on a pretty spectacular level – Jack Kruse, anyone? It takes balls to come back from that kind of thing – and even more balls to bother explaining it (not apologizing – there is a difference). I think a lot of people can see themselves in that… The comment that got me banned from Jimmy’s webpire forever was when I remarked that his ideological consistency wouldn’t be at all out of place in Iran or Red China. That was apparently Too Much. At any rate, Richard fucks up like the rest of us (and considerably less so at that). But there will always be a loyal audience for that kind of humanity. It is, at the end of the day, what separates the fakes from the people worth listening to.

      • D on June 11, 2012 at 12:22

        I think he is a closet eater. Like literally. I think he is one of those people who has a secret stash of Ho-Ho’s hidden in a shoe box on a top shelf and shuts the closet door whilst shoving snack foods down his gullet, slowing rocking back and forth and crying just a little.

      • D on June 11, 2012 at 12:24

        Clarifying: I’m speaking of Mr. Moore.

  2. Sam on June 7, 2012 at 16:40

    I think walking, crap food, and every other factor that contributes to our obesity problem all come down to the fact that contemporary American culture is so thoroughly fixated on “NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW”.

    Nobody in America is willing to wait for jack shit any more. Why cook, when you can have your shitty food handed to you through a window, or packaged on a convenient plastic plate that you can just toss in the microwave? Why walk anywhere, when you can drive, even if the destination two blocks away? Why exercise, when you won’t see results for weeks? Why eat right and avoid illness when you can laden yourself with sugar, feel awful, and medicate it to numbness?

    I think more so than learning about low carb diets, doing actually useful exercises for fat loss, or ridiculous taxes, the best thing Americans could do to solve our health problem is to somehow ingrain patience into the fabric of our culture, instead of the blatant impatience and sense of entitlement that’s there now.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 16:51

      “ingrain patience”

      Ah, both profound and sorrowful. Our progeny were patient enough to wait all the way to however they got to the port, and that was after the paperwork in later generations. Most got here by sea, got seasick, and set foot in a new land far removed, and without a stich of an inkling of how they were going to make it for thems and therns.

      This is a story of loss.

    • Victor Venema on June 7, 2012 at 16:56

      Exactly, patience. How about working 10 % less? After 3 year of economic growth your wealth is again the same. If it really worth is to kill yourself to squeeze out a few more percent?

      • Sam on June 7, 2012 at 17:11

        “Why stop and smell the roses when there’s a BMW and a McDonalds at the end of the garden path?” ~ America

      • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 17:11


        Yes. When I lived in Toulon from 89-92 as a US Navy exchange officer to the French Navy this was one of the more important lessons I learned. The French, as Europe on general have to me a far better sense of what I’ll call “project orientation,” for lack of a description that may resonate better with my friends.

        That is to say, work hard, because then you get to play hard, and for a good while.

        And this is quite close to home, actually. My wife is a school teacher and gets better than 3 months off per year. 1 month of that is spread throughout the year, and the other 2.5 is over the summer.

        She usually can’t wait to get to work. She could come home at about 3pm everyday if she wanted. But I almost never see her before 5, and it’s fairly frequently 6 or 7. She loves and adores her job and she’s in her 29th year of teaching children and accruing the love of their parents.

      • Joseph Fetz on June 9, 2012 at 22:19

        I only work half the year and I get far too antsy. 9 months would be awesome!

  3. Real Food Eater on June 7, 2012 at 16:40

    Firstly, the “Ancel Key’s Mediterranean Diet” is absolutely fallacious- please read this: Secondly, the obesity rate in Italy currently stands at about 9%. That is miniscule compared to America, but far higher than most traditional and hunter gatherer societies.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 16:53


      Thanks, but I accounted for that in my faux link.

  4. chubby paleo chick on June 7, 2012 at 16:43

    They also eat smaller portions, and probably work less. They place a strong emphasis on family life and relationships, so their quality of life overall is just better. There isn’t an obsession with being thin and restriction that Americans have (and yet, we weigh more!). I think cortisol and stress plays a huge part in this equation. This is what I’m learning in my attempts to become less chubby.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 16:58

      Yea, chubby (I love how you own up)

      I’ve never delved into the cortisol/stress connection, which may be odd in that I began this whole deal in 2007 after a few years of options trading full time, awake at all hours to check Asian and Euro markets to get a bead on how the US might open.

      But I quit it because of the hassle, not the stress, so called. So I don’t know. For me, it was getting myself to a normal place first, work wise, and then set off. Maybe that’s why I have never been much interested in the stress connection.

      • A.B. Dada on June 7, 2012 at 18:57

        I’ve heard rumors — albeit probably anecdotal — that the wheat grains in Europe aren’t the GMO lectin-added ones we have here in the States. That Wheat Belly doctor says American wheat isn’t even wheat anymore, but an “improved” crop with way more lectins to battle pests, all GMO enhanced.

        If there’s a lectin-gut permeability connection (that’s an IF), and leaky gut contributes to a host of inflammatory issues, allergies and even addictions (another IF), maybe there’s a difference between European bread and American bread.

        I have a lady in France who is in her early 20s, consumes bread for 2-3 meals a day, and she’s an American size 0 (back when it was truly a 0, not the fake sizing that’s becomming more commonplace), but curvy in the right areas. All her friends from college eat the same way, and they’re all slim as can be. It’s hard to find ONE gal in 100 in the States with bodies like that, but they walk everywhere in their relatively large town, and take the tram occasionally.

        Also, they consume wine 3X as much as I do, and on a more consistent basis.

        Curiosities, their diet is to me. But maybe GMO is worse than the tinfoil hat folks on Facebook even think.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 22:27

        A B,
        I reject that totally. Having lived there it’s very simple and I now understand.

        I was always very hungry and they almost never were.

        Now I am the same way.

      • Victor Venema on June 8, 2012 at 09:08

        Food containing GMO has to be labelled. Many people will no buy such foods. Consequently, GMO are only fed to animals in Europe. A small requirement can change a lot.

      • chubby paleo chick on June 9, 2012 at 08:37

        Ain’t no shame in my chubbiness. It is what it is.

        But, Americans pursue materialism over everything else and that is why are constantly stressed and in pursuit of high-reward, “comfort foods” that make/keep us fat: moving away from family and friends to some nowhere suburb just to pursue the pyramid scheme of home-ownership is just one example I can think of.

        It is as you mentioned, a culture of obesity. It all feeds into it. And that culture is spreading, if the rising rates of obesity are any indication.

  5. Victor Venema on June 7, 2012 at 16:52

    Some comments from Germany.

    The Italians are getting heavier, as most of Europe as we imitate the American way of life. The food Italians eat at home may be different from the restaurant food for tourists.

    What is still missing in the story is that Italians (Europeans) have more leisure time, which is very important for health. The Italy is much sunnier, thus Italians likely have much better Vitamin D stats. I find it very strange that the advocates of a Mediterranean diet, comparing health statistics of various countries, typically only look at diet and seem to be blind to this confounding factor. And Italians probably eat much more sea food.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 17:03

      “And Italians probably eat much more sea food.”

      Victor (BTW, my dad is a German immigrant, from Stetin, before it was Poland), see my link in the post “The Food.” I think it’s all seafood. Other than a pizza that week, I only ate fresh, amazing seafood.

      And I got a lot of sun, too.

      • Victor Venema on June 7, 2012 at 17:10

        Yes, FRESH is another important difference. In Germany cheap is more important than fresh. Which probably explains why Germans are heavier as most Europeans.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 17:31

        Of course, I have a taste for German food. Watching my dad & uncles all my life (5 of them), while they had an appreciation for good food, some, about half, tended to overeat in terms of quantity. The meat ought to be fine, but not necessarily with loads of potato with gravy, and bread & butter. Two are very lean into their 60s and have never been overweight. One died in his 40s…alcoholic, T1 diabetic. Ironically, a true genius who began reading at 3, had 2 degrees. But was always a derelict as an adult.

      • gallier2 on June 8, 2012 at 04:26

        German food, don’t get me started on that. My wife and the eldest son who is now 14, who are 100% Bantu from Gabon, love German food much (and when I say much, I mean it) more than French cuisine. Give them Knödel and goose, or something with Räucherspeck (smoked bacon), kale or Sauerkraut, cream-spinach with eggs, Sauerbraten (vinegar marinated roast) or any of the recipes my mother used to make, and they are fans. Do something fancy, typically French and they will look away.

  6. Rhonda on June 7, 2012 at 16:54

    Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

    In Hungry Planet, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio present a photographic study of families from around the world, revealing what people eat during the course of one week. Each family’s profile includes a detailed description of their weekly food purchases; photographs of the family at home, at market, and in their community; and a portrait of the entire family surrounded by a week’s worth of groceries.

    • marie on June 8, 2012 at 20:07

      I’m so glad you brought this up Rhonda! I actually have the hardcover book, it is amazing. I’d recommend it to anyone. Have used some of the powerpoints in class too. Eyes pop.
      One of the things that stood out for me has to do with the challenge and debate that keeps going on in paleo circles about ‘how come some traditional cultures can eat mainly starches and be slim’ ….but then you see the quantity (paucity)of their daily intake in vivid color in these pictures. It’s just one aspect, but a big one.
      There’s a lot of other things it illustrates beautifully too. Sets the context.

  7. Lee on June 7, 2012 at 17:06

    Spend a day in Rome and it’s not hard to spot the Aussie, the Pom or the American. Other than they tend to migrate to the food outlets that serve familiar foods to their homeland (I have never been able to grasp that) they just generally are bigger, larger, fatter….. It’s not that Italians are thin it’s simply that they are not noticeably overweight. A big difference in descriptive language.
    Now go to Milan and the Standard Western Diet peeps are not as obvious….They tend to be tourists who are looking for more than the Vatican and the Coliseum. Maybe that says something?
    As a side note: It’s easier to find a restaurant in Italy that will cater for non-wheat eaters than it is here in Sydney. Go figure:-/

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 17:20


      While there are tons and tons of amazing restaurants in Rome, Florence, Venice (have not been to Milan, yet), if you look, when you are by the sea, which is never that far, good restaurants are by far the norm. Seafood is right there. Economics.

      By and large, I hate tourists as tourists, no matter what country or nationality. I hate the ugly American in Paris who just speaks English louder, as I do the Asians in Amaerica in Huge tour groups and busses, petrified to leave the protection of the hive,

  8. Kate Ground on June 7, 2012 at 17:18

    In Italy, as in most of europe, (except England where the food sucks) it is all fresh. The bread is homemade, the pasta, always made without a two inch ingredient list, veggies aren’t picked two weeks before ripening, and, yes, sea food, healthy meats. Right. People walk….everywhere. They buy their groceries daily, walking to the market…not the frozen crap from the grocery, but fresh. People generally enjoy their food, not wolfing it down in front of TV or in the car, and there is the wine! Oh, the wine.

  9. Julian Corwin on June 7, 2012 at 17:24

    Whenever I visited my dad in Germany, I dropped pounds.
    A combination of hearty German bread, more deliberate meals, and more walking I think were the contributing factors.

    A few things that enables this are the pedestrian only zones, the small grocery stores & markets in these zones, & not living far out in the suburbs….so not just cultural differences I suppose.

  10. Steven on June 7, 2012 at 17:33

    I was in Italy a couple of years ago for about three weeks. I was pre-paleo at the time and about 210 pounds. While in Italy, I partook heartily of of pasta and calzones, sometimes consuming an entire pizza in one sitting. My breakfast for five days straight in Florence was a cappuccino and a creme-filled pastry.

    But for all my gleeful self-hatred, I lost at least five pounds during my stay. My khaki pants didn’t want to ride on my waist without a belt any more, and my conclusion, both then and now, was that the weight loss was because I never rented a car, but walked everywhere. Unlike walking in my neighborhood at home, which feels like an exercise in futility without a destination, the prospect of getting out of bed every morning and having a place to go when walking made moving around a pleasure.

    I also have to concur with chubby paleo chick, the Italian emphasis on enjoying life and family improves the quality of life. One of my formative and lasting memories of Tuscany was walking through a rural farm community at about 5pm, and I heard the laughter and conversation of an Italian family gathering for dinner in their front garden at the end of the day. Just the idea of a family doing that as a regular practice gets me choked up sometimes.

  11. rob on June 7, 2012 at 17:36

    I think Americans have been conditioned to look for a cheat. Usually in the form of the latest fad diet but there are a lot of exercise cheats too (the 4 minute body, the fucking ab roller*).

    I think maybe people in other cultures don’t look for a good cheat as much as Americans because they aren’t immersed in the media to the degree we are, so they have to actually live their lives as if they were functional humans.

    People look for an easy way out of a problem for which there is no easy way out. And when it doesn’t work, they simply switch cheats … Vegan didn’t work for them, but Primal offers hope … what they don’t get is the problem isn’t that they picked the wrong cheat, it’s that they are looking for a cheat to begin with. They’ll never give up on finding a cheat.

    Nobody is ever going to buy this book: “An Extremely Difficult Way To Obtain The Body You’ve Always Wanted By Subjecting Yourself To Daily Physical Discomfort Over An Extended Period Of Time”

    *I know it’s called an “Ab Roller” but if they called it the “Fucking Ab Roller” they’d sell 6x as many.

    • gallier2 on June 8, 2012 at 04:15

      lol, +1

  12. Elaine on June 7, 2012 at 17:37

    Perhaps in Italy they don’t have the GMO wheat we have used in America for the last 30-50 years. When we had real, original wheat, we weren’t fat in America either. Read William Davis’ book Wheat Belly.

    • Pablito on June 11, 2012 at 14:16

      Aargh! It’s not GMO wheat that Dr. Davis suspects of being guilty for all the ailments that modern wheat is. It’s the “mutant dwarf” varieties that now comprise virtually all wheat production in the world.

      GMO refers to splicing in genes to attain desirable characteristics like disease or pesticide resistance.

      It’s important to know the difference in order to converse on these matters.

      • Victor Venema on June 20, 2012 at 07:12

        GMO refers to splicing genes at a random position without knowing which genes were damaged by this and adding genes for antibiotics to be able to select those cells that were changed to attain “desirable” characteristics like resistance to a particular disease while opening up the floodgates to all other diseases by producing a perfect mono-culture or resistance to a specific pesticide to be able to spray the crops with unlimited amounts of this pesticide.

        It’s important to know the differences in order to converse on these matters.

  13. Cathi on June 7, 2012 at 17:44

    Another thing I am noticing after following the links and reading the comments is the presence of another paleo step child — dairy. Some paleos believe its okay, if its raw and others thinks its just this side of the devil. But it doesn’t seeem the Italians or French DRINK much milk, they do eat a ton of cheese.

    • Kate Ground on June 7, 2012 at 18:10

      Another thing not eaten “over there” is corn. Corn is to feed the pigs. No high fructose corn syrup. Coke was made with cane sugar as in Mexico, don’t know if it still is.

      • gallier2 on June 8, 2012 at 04:31

        Actually, corn (maize on this side of the Atlantic) is eaten a lot in Italy. In the form of pollenta mostly but also on the cob, as sweet corn and of course as pop-corn.

      • Jan's Sushi Bar on June 8, 2012 at 05:31

        Italians may eat corn, but not the way Americans do – some form of corn is in literally every processed food available. There’s a world of difference in eating a fresh ear of corn and eating a jarred spaghetti sauce with corn syrup and corn starch in it.

      • EatLessMoveMoore on June 9, 2012 at 01:42

        One of my relatives told me – I don’t know if its true – that an identical brand of jar spaghetti sauce was sold in Europe WITHOUT the high fructose corn syrup that was standard in the version marketed in the United States. All the other ingredients remained the same.

  14. Kevin on June 7, 2012 at 17:47

    I don’t think the Europeans are as entrepreneurial as we are. So they’re centered on selling pleasant meals, while we know the real money is in creating addicts.

    I think the part that most pundits miss (because it’s carefully hidden) is the amount of expertise that has gone into making American food products addictive.

    My 2 cents.

    • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 04:54

      Just re-reading The End of Overeating by David Kessler and he really explains how much our foods are being designed to hit the high end food reward centres in our brain, where we are conditioned to seek out and repeat that food experience without the normal satiety level feedback because its been made into adult/baby processed food – just taste, swallow and repeat. The more it hits those reward centres the more addictive it is.

  15. celticcavegirl on June 7, 2012 at 17:50

    There is a rather marked difference between the way the Italians eat pasta and the way the Americans eat it. In Italy, it’s the primo course, a small serving. The secondo is a meat/fish with vegetables – generally no carbs. In America a pasta dish is at least double the size of the italian version

    The Italian climate helps, of course, with the abundant levels of delicious fresh produce/fish. Those who bemoan the food in the UK should consider what we’re working with here – it’s not that easy to grow a tomato in our kitchen gardens when it’s 10 degrees and howling a gale in June

    However, surprised at the quote of 9% for obesity in Italy. I’ve been all over Europe (British) and have seen lots of fatties in Spain, Italy and Greece. However, it has to be said that they were mainly the older generation and although they were overweight, they weren’t grossly obese like many in the US/UK/OZ

    • gallier2 on June 8, 2012 at 04:37

      Children are much, much more obese now in Italy and Spain (Greece I don’t know, never been there). The penetration of American (un)culture (corporate food like breakfast cereals, private TV channels with incessant ads etc.) is much deeper there than here (France/Belgium/Luxemburg/Germany).

      • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 05:03

        The Food Network channel usually includes food entrepeneurs in the USA and I am always astonished at the size of the food portions there, they just appear gigantic to me. I watch it for the pure shock value.

    • Heather on June 9, 2012 at 05:58


      Good food is here in England if you want it.a ll my meat, produce, and dairy I get from an organic farm a couple hours down the road. Many restaurants are also very into using local, fresh ingredients now. Sure we may not be able to grow pineapples or tomatoes, but the fresh black-face lamb or asparagus grown down the road, or the fresh oysters gathered off Holy Island isn’t half bad either!

      • Pauline on June 9, 2012 at 06:24

        Sure, I live in England and shop often and for fresh produce. There’s only two of us so I don’t tend to buy in bulk or freeze – its mostly fresh and eaten in the week. If you eat fish, red/white meat, vegetables and some fruit with eggs, butter, cheese and whole fat milk to have in coffee, its pretty easy.

  16. Jonathan Miller on June 7, 2012 at 18:29

    “I’ve been all over Europe (British) and have seen lots of fatties in Spain, Italy and Greece. However, it has to be said that they were mainly the older generation and although they were overweight, they weren’t grossly obese like many in the US/UK/OZ”

    Total nonsense,,,,,,,,I am an American who has lived in Germany for many years and I have seen massive increases in overweight and obesity, not only here but all over Europe. The idea that it is mainly in the “older generation” is laughable as all you have to do is look at the current generation of German and other European teenagers to see the difference. Since the post is about Italy, it may be worth noting that the country has the highest proportion of overweight/obese children in Europe- 36% by the age of 8 as of 2011. While it is true that obesity per se is less in Europe than in the U.S., running 10-20% as opposed to 30 some in the U.S, that figure has doubled in the past 20 years. However, the overweight rate runs about 40-50% throughout Europe.

    Bottom line is that while Italian adults are on the lower end of the European range, Europeans in general are overweight with a growing number of obese. Anybody who lives in Europe can see that by just looking around. As far as an answer, all I can say is that increasing the world is living the same way with the same results.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 19:03


      In 1984, when I first set foot in Japan to live there for the next 5 years, I was shocked at the number of fat kids, particularly girls on the trains & busses I rode before I snagged the first of 3 cars I’d own. In my own context, as an American coming to live in a foreign country for the first time, I thought it was remarkable, as by that time I knew not of an obese kid in America, save for the 1-2 fatties you always have in a class of 30 and make fun of because you’re a proto-human, cruel, with no sense of social norms, or conscience beyond don’t torture kittens, or compassion.

      But that’s how I saw it. at the time, I was early 20s and could eat Mcdonald’s all day to no real effect. It didn’t escape my notice or remarking that I could–in 1984–sit eating McDs’ in one place, at the window, and view 2-3 other McDs’ down the avenues.

      I have no idea how things have turned in the last 25 years or so.

      • Neal Matheson on June 8, 2012 at 04:28

        I noticed the same thing in my five years in Japan (early 2000s) Lots of fat teenagers, the kids seem to congregate in McDonalds because it is a nice netral space to hang out in (places like that are at a premium in Japan). When I lived there Japan had the second highest number of Mcdonalds in the world.

  17. Jscott on June 7, 2012 at 18:39

    Not all about food. Agreed.

    Culture. America is at a loss when it comes to old world culture. We are a melting pot…they say.

    Perhaps the culture that bred the Internet, Facebook, and Google also breeds fat bodies, hyper add (I wonder what the autism/asperger distribution is worldwide), and narcissism.

    Or maybe not.

    I do not know. I prefer to meet up with a bunch of people that tinker and do not know.

    What I do know is that this is what Reagan did not intent. McDonald’s has already trickled down. Plastic culture is on the rise and it will not stop. Not yet.

    Perhaps America capitalized on the lust of the human brain. That reptilian side. Then sold it Prozac.

    This is what bothers me about carbsane, thatstocktraderdude, and other “whistle blowers.” They call the wrong foul.

    Then you have Kurt H. who said some way right shit back back then: “Work on your your mental stress.” The mental world is largely overlooked in this paleo “show me your abs son!” world. Show me your mental world. Your mental tools. How often do you get spun?

    But now I am off on a tangent. Much like my thin ancestors who ate well. They also died.

    We have figured things out

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 22:21


      All I can think of is to hang out at carbsane’s place and when you see Kurt comment, which should not take too long, admonish him to blog again and tell him why.

      • Tom on June 7, 2012 at 23:05

        I can’t take any follower of carbsane seriously, and his pronouncement that Guyenet is “the utterly reliable source on nutritional science” is nothing short of clownish.

        I’m done with Kurt, and don’t give a fuck if he ever blogs again.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 00:01

        Uh, Tom, carbsane is a woman. Stephan Guyenet is a long time friend from whom I learned more from than any other. Kurt and I told each other to fuck off in a phone conversation and have since had a few reasonable emails,

        I want him to blog again. He’s fucking smart.

        I also want to say that he, Kurt, has been a huge value to Beatrice and I with some health issues and the imaging involved.

      • Sean on June 8, 2012 at 06:00

        I must be the only one who finds Stephan smug and over-rated. This recent exchange with Petro Dobromylskyj only confirms my belief.

        At the same time I don’t think Evelyn is that bad, not that I really read her blog or know much about her. But Evelyn doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously, which is always a plus in my book. It’s too bad she’s so quick to invoke a feminist double standard.

      • Sean on June 8, 2012 at 06:09

        Never mind, I just read her latest post trashing Jimmy Moore, then I read some comments. I was just thinking that her comments here were pretty reasonable.

      • LisaW on June 8, 2012 at 06:20

        You are not alone on Stephan!

      • Michelle on June 8, 2012 at 08:52

        I agree re: Stephan, and the smugness. I do research (not in nutrition, nor biology in general), and after going through grad school and now doing a postdoc, I have become increasingly skeptical of academics. Stephan seems to be going in the opposite direction. I do think he has a lot to offer, and don’t doubt that with experience, his views will continue to mature. I hope he pushes to become even more open minded and self critical and non defensive rather than the opposite.

        I really like Kurt.

      • Mario Vachon on June 8, 2012 at 10:23

        Agree on both guys. Stephan and Kurt are a couple of smart dudes. I didn’t come across Kurt until relatively recently and went through a ton of archived posts on his blog. He has not written anything in a long time unfortunately. He knows his stuff and he backs it up. So does Stephan.

      • EatLessMoveMoore on June 8, 2012 at 11:35

        Her post raised some legitimate points, don’t you think?

      • Neal Matheson on June 8, 2012 at 11:56

        “I must be the only one who finds Stephan smug and over-rated. ”
        nope you’re not alone

      • EatLessMoveMoore on June 9, 2012 at 01:46

        Kurt is probably one of the few bona fide geniuses we have in our midst. He can be excused much (I’m sorry, but he’s not even on the same level as Jimmy and his bad-interview podcasts when it comes to credit earned…).

      • Webster Webski on June 12, 2012 at 18:18

        No, you are not.
        This whole “food reward” business aka “eat the same yucky half cooked foods every day and stay thin” that just so happens to be his bosses pet project? Please… If Jimmy Moore “does not talk culture” than what do you call this approach??? I’d like to see French or Italians buying the “low food reward” diet of his. Only in America.

      • Jscott on June 8, 2012 at 05:50

        Orders taken sir!

  18. Evan on June 7, 2012 at 20:20

    Italians just have superior genes. My evidence: Monica Bellucci. Goodness

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 22:45


      Great genes for attractiveness permeate the Earth. Spend a weekend in Singapore and check out that melting pot. Pay attention to the Arab Chinese mixes in 20 something girls. When you catch your breath, think.

      It’s really lovely that all will eventually come together. We’ll probably all be a bit brown in the end. Fine by me. I won’t have to bother with a tan. 🙂

      On another level a French grrl and I once spent about 10 days on the Island of Skiathos. All the time, she was wondering where all the Greek God males were, becaue they were mostly pretty ugly. In Itally, I had to physically turn her head away because I was simply not worthy. 🙂

      • Tom on June 7, 2012 at 23:08

        Or consider Zurich, Europe’s banking center for hundreds of years.

        ie, centuries of trophy wives being bred into the gene stock.

        The city is crammed with FREAKISHLY beautiful women.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 00:05

        Zurich. Hmm

      • LeonRover on June 8, 2012 at 03:09

        Switzerland has the BEST obesity/fatness amongst the most modern European states.

        Romania has similar statistics – and has local produce, local markets, home cooking etc., pretty much like most of Europe in mid-19th century.


      • Kate Ground on June 8, 2012 at 07:14

        My son said he never ate better than he did in Romania. Sadly, I drive 15 miles to pick up my weekly”basket” of healthy veggies, when the grocery store is two blocks away.

      • LeonRover on June 8, 2012 at 07:18

        edit “obesity/fatness statistics”

      • EatLessMoveMoore on June 9, 2012 at 01:48

        Good-looking chicks are everywhere. On a purely anecdotal basis they would seem to rule the world.

      • Elenor on June 9, 2012 at 09:32

        “It’s really lovely that all will eventually come together. We’ll probably all be a bit brown in the end.”

        When everyone is “exceptional” — no one will be!

        And just one thought: regression to the mean….

  19. Greg on June 7, 2012 at 21:16

    In Italy they have started screening for Celiac disease by the time the kids are 6. That’s something else we could learn from the Itlalians.

    I made similar observations when I traveled all over Israel last year. Some places we ate you had an option of eating a meat dish or just ‘salads’ which was just a vegetarian meal comprised of several dishes and pita bread. Cokes were expensive there too and most places you had to buy the can or bottle.. There were no free refills or super sized drinks (except maybe in McDonalds but I wouldn’t know).

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 22:57


      This is the second comment from an American traveller (I’m assuming) to mention the price of soda.

      All drinks are expensive in Europe. They were in 1989 when I landed there, and I assume it’s the same.

      Europeans drink coffee and water, maybe tea. When they desire a sweet drink, they sit at a bar or table or otherwise engage a situation where there are people to talk to. At leat in the early 90s and when I went back in ’94, 2006 and 2010 the culture hasn’t changed.

      But it’s centuries older than America, so why would I expect it to?

      But America is the bomb in so many ways. So, how do we synthesize?

      • Greg on June 8, 2012 at 09:41

        Let’s not forget wine. Europeans drink a lot of water and wine too. At least those I have observed in Italy, France and Spain. I was also in France last year (it was quite the year for travelling for me). You didn’t see too many people sitting in a Cafe sipping coke. It was usually coffee, wine, or mineral water. I myself did as the French do and drank a glass of wine with all my lunches and dinners. Also, every morning we walked to the local corner market and bought bread, cheese, fruit, yogurt, and salami. This we would eat in our hotel room before heading out for a day of walking the streets of Paris.

        And yes I am very much an American. At least I was the last time I checked my passport.

  20. VeryTrue on June 7, 2012 at 22:54

    You idealize the Italians too much. Many are thin – and also prediabetic. Are you all aware that the rate of diabetes in Italy has increased by 40% between 2000 and 2007? It’s a crisis there as here, with 8.8% of the population already in the throes of full blown Type 2, and at the current rate, many more to follow. Further, the national health insurance in Italy doesn’t provide good care for diabetics – meaning many will go blind, lose limbs, etc. The specter of diabetes coming towards Italy isn’t pretty.

    I used to live in Florence – at home Italians eat very differently than you see on the streets. That’s such a true statement, that you can’t judge their real eating habits by restaurant fare. In the Florentine home I stayed at, pasta portions – when pasta was served – were very small side dishes.

    Mamma told the teenagers that they couldn’t leave the table until they had finished – their fruit. No dessert, no chips, no Coke, no candy in the house ever. You had to say grace and eat your (very small) branch of grapes and cheese. But in the last 10 years, the Italians have begun to adopt an American (sugar-filled) diet more and more, whose results can be seen in this frightening diabetes trend.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 7, 2012 at 23:42


      In about 1991, a couple French officers in their Navy and I set off out of Venice for a train ride about an hour away.


      The night before, the Colbert, a relatively old cruiser class warship was on its final tour, we were tied up for a week to the dock, and that night before, we’d hosted a gala for all the important peep, pulling out all gastonomique stops. One guest was a French woman married to an Italian who happened to have two hot daughters, and invited us to dinner at their home. Full circle.

      I thought it a bit weird. The French guys, not at all. They did not see it in any way other than a kind invitation, socialize, maybe make an impression on one of those daughters–could amount to something in time–but I went along, the meal was totally great food, grains or not, and I learned a lot on many levels and have never forgotten any of them.

      • MoreAnon on June 8, 2012 at 11:59

        Beautiful story. Italians can be so gracious.

      • Shelley on June 8, 2012 at 12:08


        My aunt and uncle live in Toulon and they always invited the naval officers for dinner (Alain & Yannick, if they happened to ever be your hosts). They also have two younger daughters. Yannick is the product of my WWII American grandfather, and I think they looked at these dinners two-fold: 1) a personal payback for the efforts our military provided during WWII; and 2) a future spot to visit when they come to America for the entire month of August.

        Also, they walk everywhere with no elevators and they live on the 3rd or 4th floor. They eat what I would consider healthy food along with a bit of bread. My uncle is not overweight, but my aunt certainly is.

    • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 03:54

      I have Italian friend in England whose parents came to England after the war. Both my friend and her surviving 85 year old mother are Type 2 Diabetics, observing this change in both of them has really been a reality check for me. Part of that culture is lots of bread and pasta and big portions. The medical advice my friend gets on the NHS does not mention the role of flour/wheat, just take medicine that upregulates cell sensitivity to insule and lose some weight. She has lost weight and has cut back to keep her calories down but bread/pasta still form a large part of her diet as its part of her culture and history. I have introduce her to books by Dr Bernstein and others, but what the doctor/nurses say is what counts. So I wait and observe and learn.

      • MoreAnon on June 8, 2012 at 12:04

        In the north, in Italian home,s it’s common to see pasta OR bread OR risotto OR polenta in the meal. It’s somewhat uncommon to see a combo.

        Only in the South, particularly around the suburbs of Naples where there is a lot of poverty and unemployment, will you tend to see pasta AND bread. In Sicily, where people have a somewhat sweeter tooth, you can find pasta AND bread AND cassata (sweet cake), and of course the after dinner espresso with 3 sugar cubes. And we all know what Sicilian grandmothers look like! 🙂

      • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 12:31

        Its interesting these distinctions, because my ‘Italian’ friend was born in England but her mother has kept her Italian roots and influenced her cooking style. I am not sure which part of Italy they come from but I am sure much of it is also influenced by the english lifestyle and eating habits.

  21. paul d on June 7, 2012 at 22:55

    Hi Richard,

    Analysis at any level (historical, cultural, socio-biological, psychological etc) can offer clues with different degrees of value. We humans seem hell bent on looking for that single, major cause (i.e. the evil grains, the demon insulin, omega 6 rancid fat, inactivity, food reward, underlying hormone imbalances, lack of food quality, calorie rich and nutrient poor foods, and then prescribing a single blanket solution based on these assumptions – Lustig, Taubes etc.

    What I think a lot of paleo devotees are coming to realise, is that paleo is not a cure all or a blanket solution to the obesity epidemic and it is crucial to keep digging into these things as you do, espeically when an approach stops working. So much piss-taking occurs about “paleotard” and “crossfit devotees” within the fitness circles I frequent and sometimes troll due to “blanket statements” such as (grains = evil), (fast release insulin spiking carbs = evil) and this is why you are not ripped or strong. These statements cop so much derision, simply because people have optimised their physiques strength and bodyfat eating these very things. Others who go down the path of paleo orthorexia (i.e. 100% pale0 all the time) could gnore the RDI recs (and hate on dieticians and their grain prescriptions) and believe liver and heart provides a comprehensive dose of vitamins and minerals. The failure to see that a large variety of vegetables and fruit complement and enhance a meat based diet because you are told to eat +50% fat diet can cause issues.

    Paleo has helped a lot of people to lose weight when all else has failed them. Is it because of the grains, the sugar elimination, calorie reduction, fat adaptation, who the fuck knows? Can we generalise results from individual anecdote to the world obesity problem and vice versa (nup). Most certainly not, because bloggers who have never even met people following their approach, cannot say for sure or with any credibility, because if the program is universally eefective, why do some fail and get worse? Whatever the mechansim, with our limited undertanding of the body, we just don’t know!!!!

    People who have overcome obesity and maintained their weight reduction for an extended period have used a variety of approaches from LC paleo with cross-fit (with or without vibram shoes – hehehehe), to high carb IIFYM with intense infrequent strength training (with lots of grains) eating 6 meals to 1 meal a day.

    No magic bullets exist, no underlying single cause exists. Losing a lot of weight is dam fucking hard, and getting lean as hell, a dam sight harder. Becoming overweight is a much much easier proposition for many. The path of least resistance (hmmmm).

    I could undo all my hard work of two years in 1 month, but I have enough alarm bells in place, that I will not go there, the battle is a mental one for me (real food eating helps in that battle), and I will continue to push to improve my physical development and optimise my health. You know what I am talking about, your deadlift example, it is not easy to pull a lot more weight than your own body-weight but dam rewarding. Your results due to the paleo diet (nup), due to your guts and determination and persistence (yup).

    A lot could be said about individual traits that dictate success, but if some people are so dam stinking rich, why at the same time are their bodies fallign apart.

    Incoherent ramble over, too many espressos, sorry.

    Paul D

    • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 12:26

      Thanks for that, Paul D.

  22. Andrea on June 8, 2012 at 00:26

    I am a “paleo” MD here in Italy. I am italian. I have never been to USA so I cannot fully appreciate the differences between ours and your lifestyle. But I dont recognize my country in your post. Unfortunately Italians eat too many bad carbs all day long. Cappuccino and brioche for breakfast (no english breakfast here). Too much Pasta and pane (bread) for lunch…often pizza for dinner. Yes we eat fresh fruit and vegetable and meta and fish…we know how to cook, we dont eat so many “plastic food”, we have a much more healthy food tradition since we love “good” food. But we have a lot autoimmune diseases, prediabetic people, celiac……I have a lot of patients like that….
    In a few words, we are not so bad as americans, but no so “happy” as your guest suggests….

    • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 04:24


      Thank you very much.

      While I lived in France (Toulon) in the early 90s and have visited Italy many times (and recognized the similar food appreciation culture of both), all visits for both have primarily been by the sea (well, except Paris but that’s a whole other subject).

      Would you say that makes a difference?

      While in France, I missed my bacon & eggs for breakfast. On the other hand, coffee and about 10 inches of baguette with butter was a small enough petit dejune that I was nice and hungry for lunch, and lunch was never anything but real food on a plate, like real meat, fish or fowl, often with some sort of meat, fish or fowl appetizer.

      Ive eaten similarly while visiting Italy. Sure, I might enjoy a gelato some evenings, but the portion is reasonable and because I was so well fed with quality food during the day, I only want a little.

      By the way, the Italian octopus as antipasti, in olive oil could very well be my favorite thing for the price on the world. To me, the texture is as lobster.

      Thanks for chiming in.

      • Andrea on June 9, 2012 at 01:41

        I think French eat more fats that us. We eat more cereal-fmade food. It is perfectly true as Art Devany says in his book that it is extremely easy to eat paleo in Italy if you want. Just skip breakfast, at lunch and dinner skip pasta and bread, and you end eating perfectly paleo. The big drama for me as a
        MD is to say to Italians : dont eat pasta. It is like to say an englishman dont drink tea at five pm. Almost impossible.

  23. Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 02:03

    I think we have just become so sedentary! We now have big tv screens, computers, ipads and smart phones. You don’t have to move at all to be in contact with so many people, so much information and entertainment at your fingertips. You can drive wherever you need to go, pick up food in an instant and revert back to couch and watch tv or play on computer. You have to train yourself to move and plan to walk if you are going to. The world is also such a stressful place. You only have to turn on the news to know the world is full of chaos and uncertainty, its on your laptop and in your face all the time. The computer generated media is fantastic and entertaining, but you have to find a way to move in and around it. Its very subtle thing to observe in your own life. I never owned a computer for a good while in London, I had one at work but not at home. I walked every where for interesting things to do and see. We have to find ways to get ourselves off the laptop, away from the computer and out of the house/office. Food is only part of the story of finding ways to manage our selves.

    • Paul C on June 8, 2012 at 10:40

      “Researchers at the University of Maryland’s School of Nursing found that 55 percent of the 2,103 female nurses they surveyed were obese, citing job stress and the effect on sleep of long, irregular work hours as the cause.”

      The nurses I know are very active on the job, especially those that work in nursing homes, and happen to be overweight. That is why I never use your argument.

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 11:30

        Paul C,
        extremes do not negate a mean (or say anything at all about it) The nurses have the same issue as all shift-workers : the dis-regulation of the body clock, with its cascade of biochemical effects, is overwhelming any other effects, including the effect of daily activity level. There’s no such overwhelming effect for most people. To use the nurses as any kind of example is like saying that it’s o.k. to eat 4,000 calories a day because a marathoner-in-training can eat that.

      • Kate Ground on June 8, 2012 at 12:52

        A lot of nurses I know smoke. What’s up with that? Actually, many dancers I know do to. Go figure.

      • Heather on June 9, 2012 at 06:56

        FWIW Ive worked 12 hour shifts, mixed day and night, for 3 years. I’ve been off work for the last 5 weeks for a somewhat stressful reason and even despite that cannot even tell you how much my overall stress level has gone down and how much my sleep has improved. I don’t smoke and I am paleo, so the only change was working life. Being a woman I think makes it even harder because shift work majorly disrupts our cycles/hormones.

        In other words, fuck nightshift/12 hour shifts. That shit will kill you.

      • marie on June 9, 2012 at 07:26

        Yeah, I hear you. My best friend and neighbor here is a nurse. Since moving to administration, no shift work, her weight just dropped ‘naturally’, her skin even glows again, and I see her smile, a lot.
        The diurnal cycle has an overwhelming effect, it really seems to trump all others. I’m so glad you got a health break!

      • Kate Ground on June 9, 2012 at 08:44

        My sweetie just started shift work. 4 12 hour days, 4 days off, 4 12 hour nights, 4 days off. He looks like crap after the night shifts andit takes him 2 days to recover. I can see a little weight gain, too. but he says he likes working nights…no bosses to interfere, etc. and he likes the time off, but isn’t really getting anything done but sleep. It’s temporary, I hope. He is just so tired all the time. And he craves sugary stuff.

      • Paul C on June 11, 2012 at 07:15

        My point was simply that finding counter-examples to the sedentary argument is easy. In The manual labor population has a large number, even if you disregard shift work.

        Anyone that uses “Eat less, move more” needs to explain poor fat manual laborers or give up the argument.

  24. Luis on June 8, 2012 at 02:19

    Damn guys, you all seem to have an idealized version of Europe. I am European, Spaniard to be exact, and I go to Italy every month for business. Let me be clear: We are fucking fat, we are not healthy, we have lots of McDonalds, our “Walmarts” are full of crap, our diabetes and heart disease are sky rocketing and our kids … oh my god, our kids .. I better stop here.

    I got my BS degree in the States back in 1989-1993 and do you know what I thought ?: Damn, these Americans are really healthy.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 04:30

      Ha, funny, Luis

      I guess the grass is always greener on the other side.

  25. Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 02:29

    Its all time context as well, I think. When you visit another culture you are an observer, but once you live there permanently you become a participant and that is different. When I first moved to London, I didn’t have a car and didn’t need one. You walked everywhere and caught buses, trains or taxis if needed. Now I have a car and can drive everywhere I walk less. I think the bigger the city, the more chance you will walk. When you move away from London as I have done, people walk in the countryside and if you have a car no need to walk when you go into the smaller towns if you don’t want to.

  26. Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 02:42

    My Polish friend whom I knew for a year or two in England came from a big city culture in Warsaw. She walked a lot, and did the same here always looking for ways to move more, even if it meant getting herself a bicycle or walking to the shops, joining a gym. She has now moved to Florida and is amazed that you need a car to get anywhere and walking is not so easy. Sometimes in the small towns in England you will bump into a group of walkers/ramblers who have just been walking on the hills, and they come into the pubs with muddy boots left at the door while they enjoy an ale or beer only to walk the equal distance back which may be an hour or two.Walking was a most natural thing for me growing up in my teens and throughout my life. I walked everywhere, its a way of getting to see or do interesting things, you don’t even clock it as exercise. But in England that has changed for me, we live far from the city centre at least an hour or more to get there by foot. So now I have to plan to walk everyday, build it in otherwise I don’t get to do it.

    • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 05:35

      Oh and she was weight and calorie conscioius. Snacking she never did, being busy and burning calories she was intent on and monitoring her daily food intake – eating lots of food like fish, vegetables, chicken, soup, fruit, and good coffee – all meals home-made and if she made cakes they were traditional with more fruit than flour and never sweet. Eating after supper was a no-no and she was very aware of her health and activity level. They saved their eating out for special occasions enjoying indonesian and eastern foods for their mix of fish/white meat and vegetables and slighlty more salt/sour cuisine. She also noticed that a lot of polish girls/women who moved to the UK put on a lot of weight and she determined not to. I was very grateful for that friendship – a real education for me.

  27. LeonRover on June 8, 2012 at 03:35

    I concur with Pauline’s experience of London.

    I lived & worked there for 20 years.

    During that 20 years, I spent 3 1/2 yrs in US.

    While NY was similar to London, there was no walking in Houston (other than a mall), while in LA one drove to Venice and board-walked.



    • Kate Ground on June 8, 2012 at 07:19

      In NY there are groceries on every other block. With fresh veggies out side. (Next to the “electronic” stores.). People walk there . We have figured it out. Veggies and walking.

      • LeonRover on June 8, 2012 at 12:06

        Do you still have “cold-water walk-ups” in NY?

  28. gallier2 on June 8, 2012 at 03:40

    Your correspondant didn’t really pay attention then. While it is true that in Italy bread and pasta are very common, they are not the center of focus of the meal. Pasta is mostly eaten as antipasti, meaning a small portion at the beginning of the meal, not the troughfull American and North-European think it is. The bread is also more an eating tool (like a fork) than anything else. You can get some bread with olive oil and prosciutto to an aperitivo but the quantities are not huge.
    This said, 2 personal observations with Italy and Italians (in my French/German border mining town where I lived, half of the population is of Calabrese and Sicilian origin), there are a lot of obese Italians, more than French for instance. Men tend to get big bellies when aging (what we already called at that time (40 years ago) pasta-bellies), while women tended more to overal obesity. They had, contrary to the French who always looked at sugar with suspicion and knew that you shouldn’t overdo it, no inhibition about sugar. Dolce (sweet) and morbide (soft) are very important words in Italian food culture, they aren’t in French cuisine (sucré and mou are negatively connoted, moëlleux doesn’t exactly mean the same thing).
    But the more important thing and that is true for any of the European food culture, the snacking between meals is frowned upon. This is, imho, the key and the big difference. You times of days to eat and you have times of day to do things, you avoid to mix both.

    I haven’t read yet any comment of this thread, so if my comment is redundant, sorry for that.

    • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 04:28

      So one pasta whammy for men as they age in their pasta/wheat bellies and double whammy for woman as they age (although this is showing now in woman in their teens to early 20s in the UK) with overall body weight from pasta/pizza, wheat/sugar, high calorie drinks. Well we have to add the beer and wine consumed here as it is consumed with junk food and is very cheap. Snacking is constantly encouraged as soon as you walk into any corner shop or larger outlet- the junk food treats are on display before you get anywhere near the food section and lined up at the till before you pay. Throw in some oversizing for cheaper cost but more business, lots of tv and computers to play with. Add office/home commute and sedentary lifestyle and you have a perfect storm.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 08:23

      I totally agree with Gallier2 here. For France, I think it boils down to:

      1 very small breakfast, some bread & coffee, basically.

      2 no eating between meals

      3 a real appreciation of good food

      4 bread used as a tool when eating, not a staple and not several slices with butter before even getting your food

      • Margaretrc on June 8, 2012 at 15:30

        It’s been a long time since I was in Europe, but my daughter spent time in France more recently and one of the first books, “The Fat Fallacy”, I read that made me realize the whole low fat paradigm that we started here is wrong was written by neurologist Will Clower, who spent a couple of years in France and distilled their eating habits into a book. At the time France had an obesity rate of something like 8% and heart disease was rare, as was T2 diabetes. In a nutshell, they boil down to 1) eat natural fat with the meal. It’s satiating and you are less likely to over eat if you include fat in the meal. 2) eat slowly and savor your food (and socialize while eating). This gives you time to register and respond to the signal that you’ve had enough when you’ve eaten enough, but not too much. 3) sweets are a rare treat. Dessert is usually fruit and cheese or some such. 4) don’t snack between meals. Eat enough at meal times to keep you going until the next meal–and that means including some fat in the meal. 5) Eat real food. Fast food is defined as something you throw together quickly in your own kitchen, not something you pick up at McDonald’s. They don’t eschew grains and other carbs, but they also eat it all in moderation. So yes, it’s a cultural thing, and I suspect it explains much of what one sees in any of the Mediterranean countries, including Italy. My daughter, who’s a bit of a Francophile, tries to live by that lifestyle and is slender and healthy. (Yes, I know n = 1, anecdotal.) I lived that way for 6 years and I did not gain weight, but I also didn’t lose–I had some fat accumulated from years of vegetarian/low fat eating. ( Low carb allowed me to lose that where nothing else had succeeded. And I did not change my activity level.) And that, I think, is, if not the key, one key to why we are having more problems than Mediterranean cultures. We’ve spent 4 decades villifying fat and trying to eat too little of something our bodies need and replacing it with too much of something our bodies don’t need at all or need a lot less of. And we’ve also been eating horrible fats like vegetable oil and trans fats (until recently, anyway), something most Europeans wouldn’t dream of. And yes, I believe we live a more stressful life in general.

    • beans mcgrady on June 8, 2012 at 11:29

      anti-past0 means before the pasta.

    • Heather on June 9, 2012 at 07:03

      Re: sugar and the way it’s viewed by French and Italians. I think the desserts are very telling as to how each country views sugar and it’s place in diet. In Italy gelato is a daily treat for many, the desserts like tiramisu are made in large pans and portioned out. But in France, desserts are a work of art. Small, delicate, impossibly beautiful sweet delights. One mouthful of gorgeous confection vs. a plateful of sweet dessert. Just my experience in each country.

  29. tim on June 8, 2012 at 03:55

    Yes, this romanticized and fictitious version of Italy is not accurate. One of the great weaknesses of cultural voyeurism I guess.

  30. LeonRover on June 8, 2012 at 04:24

    Hey Rich,

    Here is an article on “fat tails”, which has a strong connection both to “stock-trading” and “(financial share value”) .

    I guess zer0-size “catwalk clothes’ -hangers” might be described as “risk models”.

    But do you have a similar position in re: “fat tails” ?

    (I know I do.)


  31. jim on June 8, 2012 at 04:24

    There has to be BMI tables for different countries to gauge the romanticism.

  32. Neal Matheson on June 8, 2012 at 04:47

    I’m sub 10% body fat and, officially, bordeline obese, I know BMI is for populations not individuals but how accurate a measure is it. I have often wondered if the higher obesity (rated by BMI) in Northern and Eastern Europe is not skewed by the culutre of lifting and strength sports.

    • Sean on June 8, 2012 at 05:39

      Good point Neal, I know a lot of Czechs who are crazy muscular with ridiculously low bodyfat. Weightlifting and stuff like kickboxing are quite popular with this nation’s youth.

      And usually this data is taken from local government stats which can be skewed for political reasons.

  33. Sean on June 8, 2012 at 05:32

    I agree that the Mediterraneans are rather romanticized. On the other hand, last time we were stateside (NM) I was pretty shocked at the obesity. One forgets and meanwhile things get worse.

    I live in Prague and people in the big city generally take better care of themselves–bright eyed, bush tailed syndrome. But people aren’t obese here, on average. There’s a lot of mom’s with kids in this area, and they are mostly hot mammas. Sorry, I haven’t been paying attention to the men, but I can’t recall seeing many fatties.

    There’s definitely a cultural aspect to it, and that aspect is that it’s okay to be fat in the US or Canada or UK. Here, not so much.

    Although the Czech diet isn’t exactly famous for fresh vegetables and fish, women especially, simply don’t allow themselves to turn into land whales. My wife could be eating any diet, LC, LF, vegan, paleo, she wouldn’t allow herself to get fat. Her sister is the same, she’s a doctor who buys into the LF paradigm, but she’s in excellent shape (in her late thirties about to have twins). I, on the other hand, was perfectly happy turning myself into a land whale drinking Czech beer for ten years.

    I’m not sure what all the factors are but off the top of my head:

    -Being active helps a lot. When I was in Albuquerque the mountains were empty. Here the great outdoors are always packed. And of course Prague is a dense medieval city so people walk everywhere. I typically walk an hour a day.

    -Good genes don’t hurt
    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Czechs are famous for their supermodels and for producing so many great sports stars. Hot is as hot does.

    -Soft drinks almost don’t exist here
    If you go to a bar/restaurant/cafe people are drinking beer, wine or mineral water. That’s it. If you do order a Coke it comes in a tiny bottle. Beer isn’t the healthiest thing in the world but it might be better than a giant soft drink–it’s certainly more fun.

    -The lipid hypothesis has been slow making inroads
    It’s here, it’s definitely here. Ask my sister-in-law doctor, not to mention the ‘heart-healthy’ margarines one sees in the stores. But there’s simply not the scale of lipophobia one sees in the ‘enlightened’ nations. Whole fat milk is the most popular milk. There’s several butchers within easy walking distance of our flat. Goulash (albeit with knedliky) is still the national dish.

    • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 08:13

      I agree with this idea that its ok to be overweight in some cultures, there is some collusion in the UK amongst the women here that ‘you are not overweight – you are beautiful just the way you are’. So you weigh a few extra pounds but what are you crying about. This idea that I prefer to feel and look like I do when I weigh less, there is a sort of resistance to it. Don’t challenge the status quo be one of us, don’t try to change just embrace it all. You can’t use the word fat either you are only overweight, its very subtle. I have never accepted that.

      • LisaW on June 8, 2012 at 08:26

        Why can’t women be beautiful ‘just the way they are’ if they are carrying a few extra pounds in weight? They are not at risk of any more ill health, they are not costing the state health service any more money, they can still move, run, walk. There is no evidence to suggest that being ‘a few extra pounds’ overweight is at all detrimental to your health – a few pounds overweight is not obesity. Your point comes across as just being about image. If you feel better thinner, good for you. If other women feel okay about being a bit fatter, good for them.

      • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 09:54

        Its a very subtle thing – its about honesty and what feels right for me. I am not comparing myself with anyone else but myself. I think woman are beautiful in all varieties and shapes. I am just saying its not socially acceptable to say you are not happy with your weight when others feel your weight is ok in the social spectrum. I would just like to have that conversation in a more honest way. I prefer to be leaner and fitter as that is the body I have had most my life. As I get older that is much harder and now it requires attention and effort whereas before it was just part of my life. I have never been on a diet or read about diets. I just never had that mindset. I always too busy trying to get on with my life. Food was an addition not the main focus of my life. Now as I am older that has changed, I have to work at it like everyone else.

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 10:33

        No Lisa. I once had fallen for that idea too, it’s so seductive after all and resists the pop-culture.
        However, that idea still is all about appearance, it ignores how you Feel when you are lighter (ie ignores how much healthier you are). Pauline mentioned how she feels.
        “..they can still move, run, walk ” – sure, but nowhere near as well as if they were lighter.
        I’ve only ever varied by about 25lbs, going from slim to the lower edge of overweight, nowhere near obese, and yet, the difference in how I felt was life-changing. I sleep better, my limbs’ movements are better articulated eg. I fold into chairs rather than land in them, I have more energy all day long (that’s probably directly from eating only when truly hungry, not the weight per se) and can exercise/HIIT or go for very long walks without feeling it in my hips or knees, my blood work is text-book good and in some cases beyond that, etc. etc.
        Think about carrying even 15 lbs extra in a backpack, then consider whether it’s really all about body-image.
        Yes, the magazines/fashion industry/celebrity deluged pop-culture seems to make it all about image, “thin is beautiful” , but by promoting a counter-argument that is still all about image, you let them frame the argument. Don’t.
        As for any statistics on major diseases and ‘a little overweight’ – they are a favorite of the same crowd that promotes body-image issues, there are other stats too that have to do with productivity, medications used etc….stats are a dime-a-dozen, your own body tells the story best – sure, you do Survive if you are only “a bit fatter”, but so what, it’s not optimal living.

      • LisaW on June 8, 2012 at 11:32

        Optimal is a construct. Obsessing about weight prevents you from getting on with your life. Very thin women have all sorts of problems, especially entering menopause – where it is beneficial to carry a few extra pounds. And where in your vocabulary does ‘a few’ correlate with 15? I would say a few would be more than 2 less than five – to be precise 🙂 . Also you do a lot more than ‘survive’ if you are a bit fatter – you are in a much better position evolutionarily speaking to survive famine. I have been a little too thin, from illness, and I know how that felt. I would rather be a little fat – and I mean a little.

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 11:51

        Oh then, excuse me, but you are using the vocabulary of the anorexic, where a single pound matters. No one in the general population and not the magazines either nor the folks who promote ‘fat but fit’ or the relevant ad campaigns mean 2-5 pounds as ‘a little overweight’ -that’s inconceivable to most people, you know. You can vary that much just by water weight from eating ice-cream one day.

      • LisaW on June 8, 2012 at 12:40

        I have no idea who you think is promoting ‘fat but fit’. Never seen that in the UK. And whatever. Eat the ice cream, and get over it.

      • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 12:44

        I think its all about how you feel in your own body, I don’t feel comfortable carrying extra 10-20 pounds even though that is ok as an average in the UK and for some might even be reasonable. Its never about the pounds/kgs its always about what feels good and healthy and what worries me because I read a lot about health indicators. I don’t obssess about inches or kgs, I want to feel good in myself and stay healthy and strong.

      • LisaW on June 8, 2012 at 12:52

        Pauline, I think it is good that you know what feels good to you and that you want to maintain your health and strength. Just don’t stress the indicators, as a few extra pounds will not take years off your life, but the stress worrying about it might.

      • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 12:58

        Actually not stressed at all about it,just expressing why it feels strange not to be able to be honest about it when othes are saying everything is ok, like it doesn’t exist and is irrelvant. When friends get diabetes and mothers and grandmothers begin to be diagnosed you do listen and take stock. And the elephant in the room is ignored, well not literally the elephant but you know what I mean.

      • LisaW on June 8, 2012 at 13:08

        I do know what you mean, and I do agree it is difficult to talk about fatness, especially to fat people. What you are talking about sounds like an example of cognitive dissonance which Richard mentions on this blog. People can’t see themselves or their arguments for what they are. In the end, you can only help yourself, and do what you can to keep active and healthy. It sounds like you are doing that, but having to watch others (those you love) not do it. Which is really hard.

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 14:10

        In seeing that you can ‘dish’ vocabulary, but not take it 🙂 and from throwing my own point about ice-cream back at me (that was exactly the point, most do eat it and don’t worry about the “2- less than 5 pounds”) I’d have to say you’re not very interested in meaningful discussion…then I came back later and saw the newer comments.
        So o.k., trying again, because by the progression of comments you’ve seen that indeed, chances are that when someone is talking about “a little overweight” they don’t mean a couple of pounds, they mean 10-20 (or in many cases, even more).
        In other words medically overweight, not yet obese.
        And it is exactly these people who have taken the well-meant message about body-image to heart, defending their overweight as if it is about attractiveness alone.
        Now, the message originally was well-meant, because it started as an opposition to the prevailing overly-thin fashionable/popular image, which has a very negative effect on teen-agers especially and women generally.
        There is an anorexia and bulimia epidemic here, I don’t know about there but from the reaction of the Milan fashion industry (demanding minimum healthy BMI for runway models), I’d say it is pretty much the same.
        But the message doesn’t/shouldn’t apply to people who are actually overweight, because there it is not about appearance (only), it is about health and overall well-being. It can be frustrating living an environment that has absorbed this message so completely that there seems to be a ‘back-lash’ against reasonable weight-loss (“oh, she doesn’t need it, she’s beautiful as she is” …yes, she is, but appearance is not the point).

      • Pauline on June 8, 2012 at 16:30

        I think to add to the picture I have had someone I knew have their leg amputated above the knee at the start this year and that was a shocking reality for her caused by undiagnosed diabetes and circulation problems. My observation was that it is not easy to say to friends that you are unhappy with your own weight, even those diagnosed with diabetes who don’t see a direct correlation between eating, weight gain and disease. It appears in my experience that being overweight in the UK is somehow acceptable but slowly we are being educated at how this can be a sign of insulin resistance and complications.

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 16:56

        I know Pauline, it makes me sad.
        I can’t bring up any nutrition issues with certain ones of my overweight friends without hearing “but what are You worried about, you look great”. At first this pleased me (duh!) but as time wears on and they get sick, one after another, without associating it to their food, it frustrates and worries me. I can say “being careful of what anyone eats at this age is important for their health” but no, the discussion is overwhelmed by appearance/attractiveness/”that damn fashion industry ‘oppressing’ women” (!).
        There has even been a concerted publicity effort with images of clearly chubby overweight women in pretty clothing with legends of ‘I’m beautiful in my skin’ and such, and with overweight people hiking or otherwise being active (that one included the surgeon general here) and don’t get me started on the “support” web-sites.
        Do overweight people then go out and start and Maintain an active lifestyle? No, if they did, they may improve glucose control and heart health, at least, despite aching joints, increased cancer risks and all the other problems of overweight.
        Instead, people get the idea that they can be overweight and healthy…insidious evil, that.

      • Shelley on June 8, 2012 at 18:34

        I think that we (marie, pauline) are all about the same age…>40. If you’re like me, all of a sudden, everything has changed and weight and health became an issue; I would suggest not so much weight, per se, at this point but more health and feeling good when we move around. I have an awesome sis-in-law who is a bit overweight, not obese, but needs to lose ~30 lbs. We talk about it all the time, but the truth is, it’s easier for her to take a pill or try some fad than to actually work at it, which does suck and does take work.

        Truthfully, I’d much rather live life now at 46 like I did at 20 when Twizzlers, Dr. Pepper, doritos and a greek salad were my mainstays. Life sneaks up on you and hormones come into play big-time when you hit 40ish. I have to say that my only saving grace was I weighed less than 115 lbs at that time even after 2 kids; god only knows what I’d look like now had I had different genes. Sorry, but I believe a lot of it comes down to genes. What works for some doesn’t work for others.

        It’s such a cop-out to say, don’t eat the ice cream, when some skinny people can eat all the ice cream they want (not saying they’re healthy) and not gain weight.

        Yes, a lot comes down to willpower, but having the willpower not to each shit sucks come day-in-day-out. To me, a cocktail at happy hour is awesome; some succulent GMO-fucking strawberries are the bomb; coffee gelato, to me, is there anything better? It’s hard losing weight; it’s hard not caving to advertising; it’s hard to break the norm, and it’s hard to stand up to anorexic models (even at 46 I want to look like an Athleta model – good fucking luck but I remain positive).

        Truth is we’re not worried so much about our family/friend’s weight, but more about their health, and it is so painful to watch and share their suffering when they are blind to causes. It’s easier for me to deal with an alcoholic who knows what their problem is than an unhealthy person laden with inflammation maladies. Truthfully, I feel for all of us because we’re so fucked up with the food that we forgot how to move around, live life and enjoy every single second we have in this extremely short time we have before we move on to….you name it.

      • Shelley on June 8, 2012 at 19:02

        LisaW, “cognitive dissonance”….like when I know tequila is going to cause me to do “bad” things but I drink those shots anyway?

        I would venture to guess that 90% (probably more) of the people on this globe participate in some form of cognitive dissonance. What’s easy for you to fend off, isn’t easy for others; and I would bet that you have some weakness that lurks at night stalking you demanding your participation and you fall weak-kneed begging at the sight at those wolf eyes piercing through the darkness to take you away…just for tonight…not to be repeated tomorrow.

      • Kate Ground on June 8, 2012 at 19:23

        On Monday, I turn 55. I feel 35. I am in great shape, although I could lose the 20 pounds I’ve gained since meeting my sweety… causes weight?
        Anyway, bless all you women here that care about your health. So many just don’t get it. We talk about women in Italy gaining some weight because McDonalds forced their way into the culture, but have you been to the back roads America lately? OMG….morbid obesity everywhere. Not 10 – 15 over….50 – 100 lbs over weight women and men….loading their baskets at Wally world with crap….Crap. It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s up front, it’s tasty…..WTF. I was just in South Cali. Mission Viejo? Slim and trim. Santa Anna fat and sassy. Northern Cali? Santa Cruz…slim and trim. Watsonville? Never mind. And there are fresh veggies every where. They are ignored. Ok, I ranted. All we can do is take care of ourselves. That’s all we can do.

      • Kate Ground on June 8, 2012 at 19:29

        I loved that! So well put.

      • Kate Ground on June 8, 2012 at 19:31

        That was in reference to your cognitive dissonance statement.

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 19:44

        Yes Shelley, I agree, age is a big issue. We do actually sound like we’re in our 40’s, eh? I’m 45 (just a week ago :-)).
        Around 40 it started to become difficult. That’s when I gained weight during just 2 years (and lost it in 1 year when I realized that by changing the composition of my diet I could naturally lower my appetite). But I have to continue to be careful, especially in the fall whose shortening days and cold promote overeating (I mean, did they Have to have Thanksgiving right then?- give a girl a break!)
        It hurts to see others suffer or setting-themselves-up for suffering and to not be able to talk about it because the conversation has been hijacked by ideas of body image, let alone all the misconceptions about what actually constitutes healthy food…or real food, for that matter.
        At least, I am lucky that my family asks for info from ‘their’ scientist and discusses openly, so making head-way there. But still, it’s hard for them as well as me to maintain a healthy approach since we are all subject to so many influences and noxious habits , like you say – so fucked up.

      • Shelley on June 8, 2012 at 19:54

        Kate – 😉 we all know our weakness….though we never want to admit it.

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 19:54

        Kate, love your obesity tour guide of the west coast and south :-). Did you notice how many of the truly obese don’t even think they are overweight (let alone obese) ? There were a few articles not long ago about that particular cognitive dissonance… well, complete disassociation more like it. The studies/questionnaires were in the south, I can’t find them now, do you happen to have any refs?
        The norm has changed and like any norm, it’s harder and harder to fight it. We can indeed only take care of ourselves (and maybe loved ones) but it gets harder and harder to live here in this environment, to raise kids in it… Saddening.

      • Shelley on June 8, 2012 at 19:55

        marie, happy birthday! from your older sister…from another mother.

      • Kate Ground on June 8, 2012 at 20:02

        Yes,Happy Birthday! Gemini? Not that I believe that stuff. Maybe that’s why we get along. Actually, my only references areobservatory. Morbidly obese people who need the carts to move around…people who can’t walk. I went to Indiana recently, and although not in the south, OMG. Land of the “all you can eat”. Fat in the true sense of the word. So sad

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 20:26

        Thank you!
        “Maybe that’s why we get along” – Shhhh! Don’t let mark here you! 🙂
        Yes, those are my observations too. Even in the backwoods of upstate NY, same thing.

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 20:30

        Thank you Shelley! Saw this after.
        But you know, one daughter admonished me just the other day (she of the 19-year-old plugged-in wisdom) that for the girls, it’s ‘sister from another mister’! Cute, eh?

      • Kate Ground on June 8, 2012 at 20:45

        Mark? Don’t let Richard hear us

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 22:16

        😉 🙂

      • Pauline on June 9, 2012 at 06:41

        Hi Gal, yes for me its always about health and feeling good. I worry when friends get diagnosed with diabetes and still tell me its ok to be overweight. A friend experiencing an amputation because diabetes was silently shutting down her circulation in her legs. Its hard on my heart and head. I have my own family generation or two to look back and learn from – remembering how they lived and aged and I read a lot to educate myself. They didn’t have the internet like we do so we have no excuse. Yes and age is a factor, up til my mid forties I ate as I wanted. Then I just noticed the weight kinda creep on. Now I have to work to keep it off. Facts of life for some of us.

      • Pauline on June 9, 2012 at 10:12

        Talking about norms changing its very interesting to review average weight for women over the past few decades. My mom’s generation were considered heavy at what is considered normal now. I find those kind of statistics interesting when thinking of myself, my daughter and the generation that is to come.

      • Shelley on June 9, 2012 at 10:27

        Very true, Pauline. The school was concerned because my oldest son is in the 5th percentile for weight, and I think he is no smaller than my husband or me when we were his age. He just eats to keep going – nothing more. (Unless he goes to a friend’s house and crams their junk food down). But what I couldn’t confirm from the doctors was if their weight/height scale had changed because I swear teenagers are bigger in all ways than me. One doctor, one nurse say they have not changed over the years, and I find it very hard to believe.

      • marie on June 9, 2012 at 11:56

        Shelley, sometimes, I feel a very old 45, been raising kids since grad school so over 20 years, now. Familiar with growth charts :
        your doctor/nurse are correct in so far as the charts currently used for children over 2 years of age haven’t changed in 12 years. They are the same since the year 2000. The charts used for children under 2years old are the same since the year 2006.
        However, the 2yrs charts by the CDC are a Reference, ie. they depend on the average of a population, mixing healthy/unhealthy….and therefore mixing in heavy/overweight/obese at the time that the data was taken to make the charts.
        If you look below, there is a wide span of decades that the CDC used and it only overlaps a bit the early years of the overweight rise.
        So if your question is whether your son would score higher in previous years, no, he wouldn’t, but the kids/teenagers are indeed a lot heavier, the data for these heavier kids isn’t included in the chart that’s being used.
        Specifically :
        “Whereas the WHO charts describe growth of healthy children in optimal conditions, the 2000 CDC growth charts are a growth reference, not a standard, and describe how certain children grew in a particular place and time. The CDC charts describe the growth of children in the United States during a span of approximately 30 years (1963–1994).”
        Since the CDC charts are a reference, where your son scores on them alone doesn’t actually indicate all that much regarding his health, because of the population mix that’s been used to make them. Genetics still count 🙂
        Other metrics would then be used to gauge health.
        Et voila, all you ever wanted to know :

      • Shelley on June 9, 2012 at 12:23

        Wow – ask and you shall receive…you’re good, marie! It would be interesting to see where his dad and I placed on the charts when we were 13 and that would probably be a more adequate comparison than with others from other nationalities. He was also premature by 6 weeks, and hasn’t hit puberty yet, so I expect to see some growth soon.

        It’s just a shame that government feels the need, though, to call me, question what he eats and how much, and make sure he’s taken to the doctor because he may be anorexic, I guess. Very intrusive and scary in this day and age of people who feel they’re doing things for the kids. I suppose he could be taken away and force-fed McDonalds and let him drink all the sodas he wants until he’s of adequate plumpness because he has a mother who’s starving him; they have threatened to take away the obese kids for child abuse why not the skinny ones, too. 🙁

      • marie on June 9, 2012 at 20:47

        “…and that would probably be a more adequate comparison than with others from other nationalities”. Yup, and more than that, it’s his Rate of growth, so how does he compare now to himself in the last few years? In other words, the genetic background, both ethnic and familial, will provide an Offset, but the rate will be similar to the norm (rate comparison in the 30-70 percentile). Your doctor can plot the rate, if he’s not too lazy. Similar offset correction is used for the Premies.
        So more important to watch for at this age (and the Good doctors tell this) : is he functioning well, sleep well, play, curiosity, etc. or is he lethargic or the opposite, uncontrollably jittery.
        As for the school district, they are doing their DD towards the child by law (the government imposes social services duties on the schools, ’cause it’s so caring of it’s littlest citizens, didn’t you know….) but they shouldn’t be putting you through the third degree, it makes me mad, I can’t imagine how mad and worried it must make you! Hang in there Shelley, he’ll be in full-blown adolescence soon and they can go whistle 🙂

  34. jim on June 8, 2012 at 05:35

    Democratic Republic of Congo lends some evidence to intermittent fasting …..and do Egyptians eat their children? Perhaps using Egypt as the outlier may provide some interesting study. Egypt is Greek to me.

    • gallier2 on June 8, 2012 at 06:12

      It’s true that Egypt is the only country I ever was, where the women would try to hit on me because of my obesity. In black Africa (Gabon and Comoros) women tried to have contact because I was European, weight was not an issue but it was not a criteria either. In Egypt it was.

      • Sean on June 8, 2012 at 06:18

        Hah, they just liked you for your sexy French accent. Confounding variables, heard of them?

      • gallier2 on June 8, 2012 at 06:21

        No, I don’t speak Arabic, so no accent, and it was obviously mimed.

      • Sean on June 8, 2012 at 06:33

        Mimed sex is the best sex.

      • LeonRover on June 8, 2012 at 06:51


      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 10:36

        Lol! serial giggling. Thank you for that.

    • marie on June 8, 2012 at 22:27

      “Egypt is Greek to me” – heh, do you know what they say in Greece when something is unknown/hard to understand for them? : “It’s all Chinese to me”.
      Much better metaphor! – no?

      • gallier2 on June 9, 2012 at 01:22

        Yes, and like some French idioms for characterizing people who both a language. There are 2 that are common:
        1. the verb baragouiner (talking gibberish) which comes from bretonic bara and gwin, bread and wine.
        2. parler comme un vache espagnole (speaking like a Spanish cow) which is itself a deformation of parler comme un Basque espagnol (speaking like Spanish Basque).

      • gallier2 on June 9, 2012 at 01:23

        une vache of course

      • LeonRover on June 9, 2012 at 04:10

        Basque -> vache

        “chauvinisme plus correcte”, peut-être ?

      • marie on June 9, 2012 at 06:00

        Chauvinistic Frenchies? (see, I remembered to capitalize ;-)).
        Jamais! Quelle idée… but of course they are still enamored of ‘pure laine’ in Quebec.

      • LeonRover on June 9, 2012 at 06:23

        Without capitalism zere is only Belles Lettres for the Good Sheep.

        Do ” les pures laines ” wash themselves free of lanolin?

        I have an Aran sweater of some 30 years, washed but once; does that count?

      • marie on June 9, 2012 at 06:42

        Not so Belles, if they use the sheep wool, it does not have the necessary ‘je ne sais quoi’ for a really fine frenchie;-)
        But spelling matters, says l’Office de la Langue Française, so mind your “y” or the sweater is totally worthless.

      • marie on June 9, 2012 at 12:07

        edit : “…totally worthless to them”. 🙁

  35. Tom Milgram on June 8, 2012 at 06:29

    “When I was in Albuquerque the mountains were empty”

    Lol!! As a former resident of Albuquerque, I can assure you the mountains were not empty but with only 2 million people living in the. 7th largest state, it might have seemed that way. Loads of people hike in the East mountains ( I know cuz I lived in them) but certainly not everybody but not every European is out in the mountains everyday either.

    • Jan's Sushi Bar on June 8, 2012 at 08:02

      Sean, you know I love you but I think Tom has a point here. Europe is small, especially when compared to the American Southwest. You’re simply not going to see as many people there.

      • LeonRover on June 8, 2012 at 08:46

        I quote John McEnroe:

        “You can’t be SEEEEEEERious!!!!!”

        As few as two million. Yeah.

        Oh, I get it now, ‘cos I re-read it. You’re being ironic.


      • Sean on June 8, 2012 at 10:47

        Yes, of course Europe is much denser than NM. But I still thing there’s a huge difference in the number of people who take advantage of the great outdoors.

        Alb is a city of around 1 million people and the Sandias are basically at your doorstep. Yet when we hiked the La Luz trail that goes all the way to the crest it was empty. Some people taking short hikes at the bottom and the top but almost no one hiking the actual trail (mind you this was on a weekday, but still). It’s great to actually be able to enjoy the mountains and solitude so easily but kind of strange that so few other people are doing so.

      • EatLessMoveMoore on June 9, 2012 at 00:44

        True. Another observation: As a proud Burque resident myself, it always amazes me that most of the people I DO see on the trail look like they’re from somewhere else (like me). And on the La Luz Trail alone I have heard more languages spoken (other than Spanish) than in all my travels around the world. Not sure what it means, but it’s interesting to note.

      • Sean on June 9, 2012 at 12:51

        Yeah that was our experience when we did our big hiking the States tour back in ’97 or something. As many Aussies and Europeans as Americans. My wife later did another hiking tour with her parents when we lived in Alb in ’99 and she was surprised how many Czechs she heard at the National Parks.

      • Joseph on June 8, 2012 at 12:26

        Since there aren’t as many people to see, we try to make those you do see bigger!

  36. EF on June 8, 2012 at 08:16

    The closer a culture eats to real food as nature intended it,the healthier that culutre will be. Period.

    The farther a culture gets from real food, the sicker it will be.

    Isn’t that really the bottom line?

  37. LeonRover on June 8, 2012 at 08:39

    “The farther a culture gets from real food, the sicker it will be.”

    And the “bottom line” is, on Balance of Probabilities, one ends up with a large arse.

    Yes, EF, I agree.

    BTW, on your first point, “healthier” is not a synonym for “not sicker”.


    • rob on June 8, 2012 at 14:36

      A lot of Italian-American women I know have big asses so I’m always surprised to hear that Italian women don’t.

  38. Joseph on June 8, 2012 at 09:22

    The one thing that Italy has that America lacks is a culture that is not entirely dominated by the “machine” (the technological complex that demands hours of work on a treadmill every day to keep crappy consumerism alive so that our survival becomes dependent on businessmen making money). In Italy, people aim to live like human beings: they don’t work like maniacs; they don’t eat like maniacs; they go bankrupt and don’t care. When the American dream (of a career selling crap to people who don’t need it) becomes an impossible nightmare for them, they retreat to the fields and become shepherds ( — instead of camping out on Wall Street and demanding handouts from their fatcat overlords.

    In America, we are still living with the kind of idiotic mindset that makes work a virtue for its own sake. We work really hard at tasks, so hard that we cannot be bothered to stop when feedback indicates that we are digging ourselves into an impossible hole (creating hell instead of heaven). We value effort over achievement, profit over sustainability, size over function, specialization and concentration over tinkering and liberal understanding. We go to school to become cogs in “the machine” — to turn our brains off of human concerns so that we can dedicate them wholly to minute tasks that make money for businessmen (for the most part: some of us do dodge the bullet! but we see those who don’t in our classrooms, our churches, our workplaces, our gyms, our hospitals, and so on). We work to “do a job” that we frequently couldn’t care less about, probably because it is usually as boring as heck (with its primary contribution to humanity being the perpetuation of busywork, which we worship with religious fervor).

    To summarize humorously (and somewhat tongue-in-cheek): Americans are diligent Protestants, believing loudly in grace while they work themselves into an early grave. Italians are typical Catholics, following old human traditions (even when they think they are mostly hogwash) over newfangled faith, and avoiding work wherever possible (i.e. whenever it is unnecessary).

    • Sean on June 8, 2012 at 13:37

      My wife deals with Italian tile producers on a regular basis, and they work pretty damn hard. These are all northern Italians who resemble Germans more than southern Italians (except they have better suits and perfect hair). This is just anecdotal, of course, but the northern Italians I’ve met are working very hard.

      (Northern) Italy and Germany have something else in common in that they focus on the high end of the market, Italians excelling in things that require more flair, like tiles, and Germans excelling in engineering.

      And don’t get me started on my ’82 Alfa Romeo GTV6 which was so much cooler than the more or less equivalent ’82 Porsche 911. I miss the days when cars weren’t so fucking generic. That car had a clutch my wife could barely push and the gas and brake pedals were practically touching. The biggest downside was that it wasn’t really designed for a 6’4″ guy to drive. Wait, did I start meandering? Also we used to wear an onion on our belt in those days.

      • Joseph on June 9, 2012 at 05:16

        Thanks for bringing me back down to earth, Sean. Of course some Italians work hard (and some Americans are lazy! count me among them). I wish more of us made high-end products, instead of coming up with new ideas for cheap plastic junk that we can create in China and then ship all over the world.

        If you wear an onion on your belt, then I will. Let’s start an (old?) new trend.

      • Sean on June 9, 2012 at 11:04

        Onions also known as the Russian apple.

        Yeah it’s all sweeping generalizations, anyway, and I haven’t actually spent that much time in Italy, but the Italians I’ve seen seem to work pretty hard and be pretty stressed out–like many Americans I know. Perhaps in general the culture is more laid back, especially in the south. And they definitely take their food more serious–the difference between the average Czech restaurant and its Italian equivalent is huge. All in all, it seems like a lot of people are hanging by their fingernails these days, in Europe and North America.

      • Ben on June 10, 2012 at 02:58

        Your wife should count herself lucky. The mere thought of dealing with italian businesses gives us (germans) nightmares.

        I’m not saying they are all lazy, or that all of them are late all the time, or that they don’t seem to understand the concept of a deadline, but. Well. I do say that.

      • Sean on June 10, 2012 at 07:25

        Yeah, she gets some of that, but I think the higher end producers (Sant’Agostino) are more professional. But it’s certainly not paradise. It was the Spanish producers she ended up giving up on altogether, she refuses to carry any Spanish tiles.

      • Victor Venema on June 12, 2012 at 09:06

        Here is nothing wrong with working hard, just not all of the time.

        Those hard-working Italians probably do not work in the summer, but enjoy a long holiday at the beach.

  39. EF on June 8, 2012 at 10:18

    It’s not the walking. Richard walked for miles and still put on weight. My money is on food quality, no snacking, and far less sugar than Americans.

    • Pauline on June 11, 2012 at 03:06

      I think walking is part of the picture, we are meant to be upright and moving. How much we eat and what we are eating, the quality of our food is the fuel in the tank and influences the hormonal signalling through calories and insulin sensitivity. How much we move and lift heavy things affects how those muscles empty of glucose, remain insulin sensitive and build strength.

  40. […] smell the roses when there’s a BMW and a McDonalds at the end of the garden path?” ~ America. The meat of the post is in the comments, just read the comments! It’s a fun post about fat people and […]

  41. Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 14:14

    A few thoughts without looking much at comments above (lack of time). Not comprehensive. Being someone who is not really responsive to the magic paleo diet (I am now fatter than ever despite doing trials free of eggs, dairy, etc. not to mention the stuff most people normally cut out.) I have some thoughts on this.

    1) chronic stress
    2) All of the following, which ties into #1 — lack of the importance of family, friends, downtime, shared meals, and outdoor activities. Lack of walking. Too much electronic time.
    3) refined, artificially flavored food as a cultural norm, coming in supposedly “healthy” varieties like lowfat FiberOne bars and diet sodas. Whether it’s refined sugar, refined grains, or refined vegetable oils, it’s all junk. I personally think refined sugar is the least toxic of these three.
    4) lack of appropriate exposure to “germs” in childhood — encompasses everything from C sections to lack of breastfeeding to uber-hygiene
    5) toxicity

    Number 5) is vastly underrated by many, IMO. My mother got three types of cancer between the ages of 25-27. She (and me to some extent) grew up less than mile downstream from a Superfund site (the former Griffiss Air Force Base). Very high incidences of cancer and other illnesses in the town of Floyd. Griffiss Air Force Base was subsequently closed during the Clinton era. Following that city water was provided to town residents (instead of wells we used to use) but remediation of some of the more toxic elements (we are talking about VOCs, SVOCs, PCBs, heavy metals, and low level radioactive materials all contaminating the soil OR being stored on site OR being dumped into the stream that flowed just yards past my grandparents’ house) didn’t happen til I was out of college in 97. We drank this contaminated water for decades as well as watered our gardens with it. The EPA did not have jurisdiction over the Air Force, not that anything they would have done would have mattered much anyway.

    With 10 years’ lab experience in molecular biology, I was also exposed to a LOT of ethidium bromide as I worked with it on a nearly daily basis for 8 years from 1998 to 2006. My bromide excretion levels are high. After 3 years of trying various “paleo” diets in a futile attempt to lose weight, I am now investigating toxicity/hormonal aspects (adrenal insufficiency, getting my fillings out, etc.). There is a general level of sense to the idea that if you have high levels of fat soluble and toxic substances in your body, with low excretion ability, your body will retain that fat mass in order to keep those substances as dilute as possible.

    The reasons that people are fat are complex. Most people don’t like complexity. While it may boil down to 1-2 factors for each person (such as eliminating refined sugar or grains, which will help them drop 100 lbs.), you cannot point to 1-2 or even 3 factors that will be responsible for the entire population.

    Most people stumble onto what works for themselves and then they spend a lot of time cherry picking studies etc. to piece together an argument as to why their method worked, and why it will work for everyone in any condition and for any purpose. I certainly wouldn’t pretend the above is comprehensive.

    • Sean on June 8, 2012 at 14:52

      Very interesting comment, Monica.

      I don’t have a problem with acknowledging complexity or the fact that you’ve hit some major walls and the other factors you mention.

      But I have to say I’m skeptical of number 5, especially as related to obesity.

      “There is a general level of sense to the idea that if you have high levels of fat soluble and toxic substances in your body, with low excretion ability, your body will retain that fat mass in order to keep those substances as dilute as possible.”

      You are saying that the body is smart enough to sequester substances it has never had contact with until very recently. Why would the body have evolved any ability to recognize the modern toxins that you mention and sequester them into fat tissue?

      Perhaps the body recognizes that we’ve ingested something fucked up but fat soluble so it sequesters it, and makes the fat ‘off-limits’, but right now this sounds like a whole lot of supposition.

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 15:15

        I’m pretty sure that we’ve always had low level exposure to heavy metals, bromine, etc.

        Sequestering fat soluble toxins (or vitamins like vitamin D) is merely due to their solubility and doesn’t have anything to do with the body’s desire or “intelligence” to keep it. Nevertheless, imagine the following scenario. Someone has level X of such substances through ingestion and while being relatively thin as a teenager always has a level of puffiness she doesn’t like. Then they obtain Y amount through multiple amalgams and get a little fatter. Then they obtain Z amount through occupational exposure and get a little fatter. Then they “go paleo” yet continue to get fatter.

        The body now has X+Y+Z amount of fat soluble toxins. (Also keep in mind the body has some natural barriers to prevent the initial absorption of these substances that can be gradually overwhelmed given dietary insults, insults to the natural mucosal barriers, etc.)

        Considering this scenario of gradual weight gain (including 20 lbs weight gain after going “low carb” and paleo all the while stressing out for years about keeping carbs down to the magic number of ZERO and stressing out about trace the level of carbs in oregano… literally I have seen people do this… and I know you have, too), as we all know people who were never really obese but have a very difficult time losing weight even though they are only mildly overweight.

        Now let me turn your question around…. Do you think the body is not “smart” enough to overwhelm weight loss efforts by downregulating the thyroid, etc. in order to prevent relatively large amounts of these toxins being released into the bloodstream all at once or in a very short period of time (months vs. years)? You think there are ZERO mechanisms for how the body could recognize some of these as being toxic (i.e. the VOCs if not the metals or halides) and retains fat in order to protect some basic level of functionality?

        Also ignore obesity for a moment. Why do many people get their amalgams out and feel better months later? (hint: could be that body is able to gradually mobilize stored toxins and excrete because it has only been able to store….)

      • Sean on June 8, 2012 at 15:52

        “Now let me turn your question around…. Do you think the body is not “smart” enough to overwhelm weight loss efforts by downregulating the thyroid, etc. in order to prevent relatively large amounts of these toxins being released into the bloodstream all at once or in a very short period of time (months vs. years)? You think there are ZERO mechanisms for how the body could recognize some of these as being toxic (i.e. the VOCs if not the metals or halides) and retains fat in order to protect some basic level of functionality?”

        I think its possible, but I also think it’s a hell of a lot of supposition. I’m not trying to attack you personally but I’m a natural skeptic and I see a lot of hypothetical stuff here.

        Yes, there COULD be mechanisms for recognizing toxins, even new ones, I really don’t know. You are running with a hypothesis that is interesting but has little in terms of empirical evidence, as far as I can tell. The fact that you are so emotionally invested in this hypothesis makes me even more skeptical of it.

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 18:35

        It is a hypothesis I have begun to investigate after spending years on other stuff that hasn’t worked.

        It is also a hypothesis that merits investigation given the *thousands* of peer-reviewed publications available on it and the fact that so-called “alternative” healthcare practitioners have varying levels of success with amalgam removal, etc. in improving patients’ symptoms. (Just as people offering alternative health advice in the form of low carb, paleo, etc. have helped many people and the mainstream community continues to resist it even though it has a scientific basis.)


        I am not “emotionally invested” in it. I have known about this issue with the community’s water contamination for decades and it’s only occurred to me recently, after investigation every other option that paleo community has written about, that maybe that might be an issue. And I think it’s a very reasonable assumption. But it could be many other things, including gut microbiota or hormonal issues.

        But for sure it doesn’t have to do with this:

        I have continued to gain weight, gradually, ever since I was young. I have had varying levels of success with caloric restriction, low carb, etc. but the success never lasts that long, is never more than 10 lbs. weight loss, and usually I end up right back where I started within a month or two of the weight loss. Then I gain more. To give you an example, I recently started SuperSlow training 8 months ago. Despite having increases on every exercise from 100% to 300% in terms of the amount of weight I can lift, and eating virtually the same as I have the past 5 years (I track what I eat and every day it’s anywhere from 1200 to 2000 calories, basically acceptable paleo foods) I have gained 10 lbs. Guess what, it’s not all muscle, either, because I track my BF percentage, too, by bodyfat scale and how my clothes fit.

        I see your comment as a perfect example of how most people in paleo/primal/ancestral/whatever-the-new-buzzword is don’t like complexity. It is fine to be skeptical but you also could search PubMed because there’s stuff there on mercury and insulin resistance/downregulation of the thyroid.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 19:46

        Sorry M dear. No idea why you comment went to the mod queue, but it did and now it’s out of purgatory.

      • Sean on June 9, 2012 at 11:35

        I’m skeptical of everything in nutrition and even physics science these days. I’m skeptical of string theory. Is that because I’m a perfect example of some group of people who doesn’t like complexity? Yes, perhaps, I tend to think it’s because I find skepticism to be at the root of real science, or just honest thinking in general, which is really all that science is. But what do I know, I’m not a real scientist like you, Monica.

        I simply mentioned some reasons I was skeptical. Your churlish and condescending comments make me think you are emotionally invested in this hypothesis. Being emotionally invested in a hypothesis doesn’t mean the hypothesis is wrong, by the way.

        I am, of course, well aware of Dr BG, have corresponded with her, and have tons of respect for her. Doesn’t mean I’m also not skeptical adrenal fatigue. Why? Well, beyond my knee-jerk skepticism there’s Kurt Harris being very dismissive of it and Kurt knows more about this stuff than I ever will. Mind you, I’m not dismissive of adrenal fatigue, just skeptical. I’m also skeptical of Kurt, I think he can be dogmatic himself, but I also think he’s right more often than just about anyone else.

    • Sam on June 10, 2012 at 08:28

      Your number 5 is growing in importance for me as well. Since you’re trying out various techniques in hopes of reducing toxic load, may I suggest another?

      Try donating blood as frequently as allowed. I have no idea of how effective this might be, but any toxic substance reduction is better than none.

  42. Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 15:18

    Replace “gluten” with “modern toxins” in this sentence of yours…. then think about the answer.

    “Why would the body have evolved any ability to recognize the modern toxins that you mention….”

  43. Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 15:19

    I also suggesting heading over to Animal Pharm.

  44. Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 19:04

    For some reason my previous comment didn’t appear…. so I’ll attempt to summarize again.

    Many “alternative” healthcare practitioners appear to be having success with improvement in health after removing amalgams and/or chelation. Mercury is also related to obesity. There are many (i.e. hundreds) of publications in PubMed and for a crash course, the Animal Pharm blog. People with apoE4 allele seem particularly bad at detoxifying/excreting mercury.

    I’ve eaten generally low-ish carb (very low carb for several years with no results) for years. I track what I eat daily and it almost never goes about 50% calories from carbs; generally it is down around 30%.

    I have gone from hypothesis to hypothesis to hypothesis as to why I don’t lose weight. So far, of all the ones I’ve come across, this one seems to make the most sense. And none of the ones I have tried before have really worked except restricting calories. Even that only works to a mild extent. However, it could also have something to do with hormonal or microbiota issues. But for sure it does NOT have to do with this, since I’ve already been there and done that. For years.

    In my case, it also really doesn’t have anything to do with exercise or lack of weight training/muscle. I thought it might since I was sedentary for awhile, but it doesn’t. Because I’ve been doing SuperSlow training for 8 months, and despite having an increase of 100% to 300% on every single weight that I lift, I’m still fat. In fact, I’m fatter than ever before. I have gained 10 lbs in those 8 months. And it’s not all muscle either, since I track my body fat percentage and it’s remained exactly the same all that time.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 19:43

      “And none of the ones I have tried before have really worked except restricting calories. Even that only works to a mild extent.”

      Well, restricting calories always works chronically.

      Pics of WWII come to mind.

      I believe that for some, this will be an absolute necessity. Months of self-induced torture. But I think the cold exposure is better. Eat no more, but spend 30 minutes per day in 60 or below water. You will lose fat, and you will gain muscle too. See 4-Hr Body (I just re-read the chapter on this this afternoon). I’m in quite frequent email contact with Ray Cronise. He’s headed off on a trip with his soone to Europe, but we’re going to be pushing this thing forward.

  45. Shelley on June 8, 2012 at 19:12

    Monica: Sorry to ask, but how old are you? I truly believe that age and age-related hormones come into play at some point.

    Have you tried chlorella/spirulina for the toxicity you’re concerned with? I will say that I had my silver fillings removed because one broke and I was literally tasting metal and, coincidentally or not, I had lower back pain, which I’ve never experienced before, in the same area that I’ve also had an occurrence of shingles. Once the fillings were removed, and I started soaking and taking magnesium, chlorella, & spirulina, the lower back pains are completely gone – not sure what helped. Maybe the Mg since it’s supposed to be good for the nerves, but who knows.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 19:32

      Just for a point of reference, I had all my amalgam fillings drilled out and replaced with the white epoxy stuff long before I got fat.

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 19:55

        Yeah, but we know why you got fat because you’ve posted pictures of stuff you were eating. Hell, if I was eating burgers, fries, pizzas and cokes every day I would not weigh just 165 lbs. like I do now. I would weigh probably 300.

        My guess is that toxicity is a minor factor in obesity for most people and for some is not important at all. Many a minor portion of the population. I don’t even have evidence (in the form of any lab analysis) that it is a problem for me. But those tests are coming. And it’s something I’m considering. Latent mercury toxicity is an issue for many people.

  46. Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 19:31

    Hi Shelley. I’m 37. Yes. Hormones/gut microbiota/intestinal permeability/toxicity/insulin resistance/nutritional support are all intertwined. I am a scientist so I am very observant and I do have some other things going on that indicate hormonal dysregulation.

    I will look into the chlorella/spirulina. Right now I am on lots and lots and lots of leafy greens and liver. My eye is on nutritional support for the mitochondria/detoxification. My amalgams are in great shape but really old (most of them are 25 years old). Anyone who knows anything about anything, including knowledgeable dentists, recommends getting them out and potentially doing a safe chelation therapy. Are you on alpha lipoic acid by any chance?

    Lower back pain can be related to adrenal issues which is related to immunity which is related to…. you get the picture. 🙂

    • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 19:52


      Just saw a link to this TED talk:

      A Mycologist on 6 ways mushrooms can save the planet.

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 19:56

        Without clicking that link I bet it’s Paul Stamets, no? 😀 He’s a corker.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 20:12

        Yea, It’s him. I’m enjoying it.

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 20:22

        Fungi are amazing. Once you pick em up as a hobby you’ll never go back.

        I have about 40 new species sitting in slide boxes on my desk for a decade that I have yet to publish. Can’t seem to find the time…. also I know only a dozen or so people around the world besides me interested in the particular group I study.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 20:27

        What interests me intensely about them, Monica, is how there are some so deadly, and others delicious. There’s one they serve in France a lot, a bit like a sponge. Amazing.

        I also picked the kind of shrooms in France twice, for their hallucinogenic effects. I was with people who know what they were doing. I was disappointed, though. I got no hallucinations. Rather, they made me a bit paranoid, uptight, and very disagreeable with others for a few hours.

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 20:42

        Boo. Well you know there are tons of different types. I don’t whether you were trying some type of Psilocybe or others…

        I tried growing them once but I’m not very good at mushroom cultivation, I gotta say. About as good growing them as I am at growing plants, which is…. not good. I’m really good at studying dead fungus pulled from bugs, though.

        Even within the genus Amanita (Amanita caesarea is reputed to be delicious) there are horrifically toxic species. So horribly toxic I’d never eat one even if I was sure of my identification. There have been mycologists who have killed themselves and their whole families through mushroom poisoning. A sad thing that happens is Asians and Europeans come to US and mistake their favorite edibles for closely related toxic ones. It’s true, some are deadly and others delicious. And they can be closely related. The same thing is found in the structures morphologically. For instance, some of the puffball species are closely related to mushrooms that have gills. And toothed species and earthstar forming species… i.e. what they look like at the genus level doesn’t tell you much about relatedness, and the way they form their spores with these macroscopic structures that look totally different is related to mutations in just one gene.

        I had my own brush with mushroom toxicity once. While doing work in Allegheny Natl. FOrest in PA, I picked Amanita virosa (the Destroying Angel). Because I tend to be tactile (love playing with paper, sticks, pens, etc.), I broke the whole mushroom up in tiny pieces… on the way home something blew in my eye (could have been my hair…) and I was fishing around in my eye with my unwashed hands. Within 1/2 hour I was in agony that lasted for days. My eye swelled up like nobody’s business… couldn’t even open it for a week. (Systemic amatoxin poisoning tends to last for a week. You either live or don’t. Liver transplant can help tho.) Docs couldn’t find anything in my eye and didn’t know what to do. Thankfully everything resolved on its own, because docs couldn’t do anything.

      • Kate Ground on June 8, 2012 at 20:48

        HA. The town I live in is popular for their shrooms. Back in the ”70’s it was the place to dig them up. Maybe the fresh spring waters

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 20:48

        At one point I considered putting myself through grad school by selling cultivated magic mushrooms. Apparently it’s not supposed to be hard. That didn’t work out, alas… but typing this probably got me put on a watchlist somewhere.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 21:07


        There’s a new book out by someone who got the mycologist, mushroom hunting bug. Heard a review on NPR some days ago. Apparently, there are mushroom folks who attempt to detoxify the poisonous ones by boiling of something, then eating them, and they get numb all over and fall asleep for hours.

        Hormesis, I guess. Kinda like the folks who inject themselves with diluted snake venom. I myself got injected with increasingly concentrated forms of pollen, dust mites, and grass (I’m most allergic to grass) back in the early 90s and I think it had some effect.

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 21:32

        “Apparently, there are mushroom folks who attempt to detoxify the poisonous ones by boiling of something, then eating them, and they get numb all over and fall asleep for hours.”

        Whoa, haven’t heard of that one… link?

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 21:46

        Kate, Austin, phhht!
        In the mountains of the Peloponnese, on south-facing slopes only, near the bottom were the springs pool, are the most magical fungi to be found…or so I’m told.
        Monica , these may be clues for cultivation strategy? 🙂 (oops, one more for that list…)

      • marie on June 8, 2012 at 21:51

        have you tried keeping cats+dogs together for your allergies?
        Yes, I know, but the combination is thought to confound the histaminic reaction – there are studies…but there are studies for anything, so moving right along : It works wonders in our house. We’ve experimented even : when it’s only one or the other, seasonal allergies galore. When both, calm. Borrow maybe a friend’s friendly cat? – if your rat-terriers won’t eat it that is! *This either works right away for you, after one 24-hr period, or not likely at all.* You have to interact with them frequently during the day, cuddle/pet them etc. or else let them sleep in same room.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 23:27

        I’ll check for a link. It was an NPR interview last week about a new book a woman wrote who got into the mycology culture .

      • Monica Hughes on June 9, 2012 at 04:54

        Histamine responses are also related to lack of ability to produce corticosteroids. (Another clue to underlying health issues that are unresolved…) I learned this one from someone I am responsible for introducing paleo to who now knows way more than I ever hope or want to… and is doing a lot to help people improve their health.

      • marie on June 9, 2012 at 05:25

        Monica, that’s very interesting.
        Are low corticosteroids also related to some kinds of slow healing?
        Because while I don’t think there are underlying health issues, 2 of the 3 allergy sufferers in our house are very slow to heal skin wounds (not other wounds, eg.bone or ligament, interestingly enough).
        The reason I don’t think there are underlying health issues is because all 3 are die-hard ‘archevore’ , with great blood-markers, fit/active/agile/strong, no chronic ailments of any kind and terrific immunity eg. in my case, I get , maybe, one cold every 1 – 2years….of course that means I’m Miserable when I do…you know, like a guy!
        For reasons I can no longer remember (I didn’t keep original sources on this), I’ve always thought the allergy-mooting effect of the animals was somehow ancestral, we used to be always near and then later lived with animals. In our relatively ‘hygienic’ environments however, coupled to environmental toxins perhaps, there is a lack of beneficial stimuli since infancy and perhaps too many alien stimuli (lead/paint, asbestos/walls, fiber glass particles….just a few). So it seemed that we traded parasites, E.coli and communicable diseases for asthma and allergies…which, o.k., is not such a bad trade in the balance sheet view. I just like to find hacks to that system 🙂

      • Richard Nikoley on June 9, 2012 at 07:34

        Oh, I don’t hardly ever have a problem anymore, which I attribute to the no grains deal.

      • marie on June 9, 2012 at 07:58

        Great! I’m glad you have no more allergies. Yes, grains makes a difference for us too, in terms of intensity.

  47. Shelley on June 8, 2012 at 19:50

    I have to admit that the filling just broke and it was about the same age, and I free-willy had the dentist remove them (without all the “holistic rituals”). I have no idea whether or not they caused any of the back pain and I previously suffered from shingles in just that same general area, so who knows.

    I have tried green smoothies – ok, I felt like it’s healthy; same with chlorella/spirulina, who knows if they’re doing anything other than turning my morning ritual green.

    I DO know that when I started taking BOKU immune tonic around last December when I started being worked to death, my emotional suffering has literally gone away. In fact, I have renamed BOKU immune tonic my prozac. I have been working 60-80 billable hours every week since October, so I have been so super stressed out so much so that I ultimately break into an emotional mess. I can only say that when I started taking that (and I have absolutely nothing to do with them) I felt immensely better emotionally. I’m wondering if it is the Siberian root ingredient that’s in there.

    so, you see how the stress of work causes stress on the adrenal glands, which causes immunity breakdown, which causes…oh, back to the Italians…I want an entire month off – do Americans ever get a full weekend let alone a freakin’ month?

    I’m not on ALA supplements, but I do drink a smoothie with “Rejuvenate” every day with ALA.

    Keep tinkering, you’ll find it.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 20:10

      Beatrice makes me make liver every week so she can have it daily for leftovers. Says it has impoved her mental attitude immensely.

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 20:51

        Yum. Giving up bread about 5? years ago helped me enormously in that regard. I’ve recently started experimenting with the Wahls diet (a TON of leafy greens, organ meats at least once weekly, lots of berries) in the context of what my digestive system can handle… some of the veggies she suggests, it’s tough to get enough of with my intestines protesting the way they do at brassicas. Combined with dairy, wheat, nightshade, and egg free, I feel there is something to it in terms of mental clarity for me. I am going to stick with it and see if I can’t isolate factors by doing food reintroductions.

  48. Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 20:17

    Thanks for the encouragement and advice. Yes, I’m committed… have been for years. It’s uber-frustrating when you know a lot and have tried everything and then someone who barely knows you tells you just need to cut the carbs because *they* happened to lose 100 lbs giving up their Cokes and desserts. Or when your husband, who is rail thin and healthy despite eating fast and junk food 80% of the time thinks he knows the answers to your weight loss…. I mean, I am not above having done this sort of posturing in my life when I thought I had all the answers, and we’ve all done it….. But really? I’ve had maybe a few dozen soft drinks in my life… in my case it ain’t the sugar. I also agree with Richard that caloric restriction could be the way to go for weight loss but weight loss also doesn’t equal health.

    The only reason I have not done these green supplements everyone raves about is that a lot of them have barley grass…. a friend of mine did that with her son and he had a flare of his celiac… But I don’t have wheat sensitivity that I know about. I also like some postulated mechanisms for why something work.


    Food: paleo (duh). But no supplements like D3 or fish oil. Used to do them, don’t notice a difference and got nervous about them for various reasons… like Chris Masterjohn’s writing. I get a LOT of sun and try to eat seafood often. (Then I think there’s mercury in seafood…. but don’t want to eat the oils separate from the meat….)

    Almost all meat wild (venison, elk, pheasant) or grass-fed pastured (beef, pork, chicken). Can’t really tolerate dairy much anymore (which makes me suspect dysbiosis as one of the problems, which is intertwined with the adrenal and toxicity issue) but what little I have is raw, from grassfed cows. I have unfortunately become lactose intolerant and intolerant of a lot of other dietary complex carbs since starting paleo. (Melissa McEwen has written on this….)

    Deodorant: still use the Clinical Strength stuff. Sorry, you don’t really want to be around me without deodorant. Would love to get rid of this potential source of toxicity (aluminum, etc.) but I can get rid of my intense body odor that is not happening. Also use traditional shampoos but use natural mineral based makeup.

    Weight lifting 2x weekly.

    As you can see I’m pretty much on top of things which is what makes it all so frustrating.

    Cold therapy is something I haven’t tried regularly and am not averse to it. Maybe I should try it. 60F doesn’t sound horrible since that’s what I did on Kauai recently (I think). Posted pics to Richard’s FreeTheAnimal Facebook page if anyone wants to see an awesome waterfall!

    • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 20:30

      My waterfall swim was really really really awesome. I could see how you could get addicted to cold baths, Richard.

      Also, don’t be fooled… the water from the waterfall is coming down from 4000 to 5000 feet in altitude down very steep gradients, so it’s chilly.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 20:37

        Oh, yes, I know how cold runoff can be. Next week we’ll be in the mountains and I’ll be looking forward to getting in very cold ice melt runoff.

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 21:00

        Measure the temp for me…. I didn’t have a thermometer… am curious. Mountains in CA?

      • Monica Hughes on June 8, 2012 at 21:06

        OK quick google search indicates that in winter on Kauai, streams are low 60s and in summer high 60s…. my guess is that it was around low 60s, so maybe not as cold as I thought.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 23:16

        Mountains in CA.? Ever heard of the Sierras, over 10k. How about Shasta, and many others….like Whitney, Palisade, White and Williamson, all over 14k.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 8, 2012 at 23:16

        I’ll be getting in the water at about the 9-10k level.

      • Monica Hughes on June 9, 2012 at 04:43

        I’m asking if you were going to mountains in CA as I had a vague recollection you lived there. Not if there ARE mountains in CA. Really, Richard? lol.

      • paul d on June 9, 2012 at 05:44

        Hi Monica,

        Dam tough journey my friend. I have a recommendation for you. Have a look at the work of Martin Berkhan. Leangains. Richard knows of him and worked with him.

        Here is a picture I took yesterday, after consuming about 2000 calories of carbs and fat in 1 meal (chocolate and ice cream and hot chips etc). NB I eat clean a great deal of the time (think meat and a tonne of veges and fruit daily), but also enjoy life a lot. And I restrict the types of food I eat and go for nutrient density in just about every other meal.!/photo.php?fbid=10150884732883068&set=p.10150884732883068&type=1&theater

        The health problems issues/crap I started with would take me 30 minutes to post. Think – terrible skin allergies (skin crawling, blotches acne etc), asthma, multiple food addictions, fatty liver, chronic liver enzyme profile, obese, etc. All stayed with me until intermittent fasting.

        Can I make a suggestion to you? Could you introduce for 5 days a week, on non-workout (non-weight days), a 60 minute brisk steady paced walk (keeping calories the same as you have been to the letter)? And try cycling your calories around the weights (eat more on weight days and really feast), and reduce the frequency of eating and calories on non-weight days) partitioning the calories to when your body may be more primed to use them.

        Really look at everything religiously in terms of calories for a month. And if you are not already, really really bust you a#$ on those weight days. Even add in a third day perhaps?

        Best of luck my friend. You are a smart woman, and will gt it right for you eventually.

        Take care and again, best of luck.

        Paul D.

      • Pauline on June 9, 2012 at 07:14

        I agree the issues are complex and different for each person. The level at which you body produces a response (histamine) to different foods, your genetics and family history. We all know so much, but what works for me – that is an unfolding story. And the stresses we all experience affect us differently, how much we can or can’t sleep, what worries us – how happy we are at the moment and the things we want to change. How we cope with family dynamics, job stresses or lack of opportunities, money and future dreams, what we still want to achieve or do we want to move away from what we currently have or do. Its all a very mixed bag and then you throw all of that into the mix of information out there and you have to work it out one day at a time. Sometimes procrastinating, sometimes jumping in and changing things.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 9, 2012 at 07:45

        I couldn’t tell if you were dissing us or not, from the 8k level in CO. 🙂

  49. JLL on June 9, 2012 at 04:05

    The point about soda prices is valid, I don’t think Europeans in general drink as much coke as Americans do.

    I think Italy is similar to many other European countries in that up to their 30’s and 40’s, people stay pretty slim (on average) even though they eat a lot of pasta, bread, etc. But once they hit that magic age, they start gaining weight. There are fat old people even in Italy – not morbidly obese like in the States, but not skinny either. Maybe their genes are partly adapted to eating grains, but it’s not optimal.

    This effect is even more marked in eastern Europe, where 20-year-old chicks are model-thin and yet their mothers are overweight.

  50. Abe Connally on June 9, 2012 at 11:48

    I feel like this has a lot to do with nutrient density and quality vs quantity. As it has been said many times, generally, Italian food is fresh, grown in small plots (maybe in the back garden), and eaten fresh.

    Compare that with the American model of growing everything in the midwest (or in a greenhouse), then spraying, processing, storing, processing some more, and shipping to your local McD’s. How much nutrition can possibly be left in that “food”?

    There’s quite a difference there.

  51. Ned Kock on June 9, 2012 at 15:08

    What we have in the US is wheat-based products displacing animal foods too much, leading to a complex but clearly detrimental mix of inadequate hormones and nutritional deficiencies.

    Animal foods are generally nutritious; not surprisingly, from the China Study II, it seems that wheat may not be so bad if you eat 221 g or more of animal food daily:

  52. Jscott on June 9, 2012 at 17:44

    Question: Has there been a large group (country/society/civilization) that has reversed a downward trend in something akin to obesity?

  53. marie on June 9, 2012 at 19:45

    Neal Matheson may know more, but from a well-referenced book on the history of obesity (from paleolithic, through egypt, ancient greece, rome, 1600s-1900s), published in 2007, it seems that there’s been little/no success.
    It includes all the main physiological discoveries that are discussed today, eg.BAT, related diabetes discoveries, the origination from 1930’s actuary-tables (!) of the concept of waist-circumference effect on mortality and the metabolic syndrome and popular treatments in ancient and modern times. Interestingly, it points out this :
    “…since antiquity. Many dietary regimes have been tried, ranging from total starvation to unlimited quantities of various foods. Success has generally been limited, and only achieved if a significant fall in energy intake can be sustained in the long term.”
    In ancient Greece, Hippocrates but his patients on prolonged fasts. These, he noted, had a long-term effect in that appetite seemed lower after the fast ended. I don’t remember what he attributed this to.
    Chapter 1 is available online free :

    • Neal Matheson on June 10, 2012 at 08:15

      I’m not sure I can be of much help. I have read that the Japanese changed their dietary recommendations to increase their cholesterol to reduce their very high rate of stroke with some success. British policy was based on” beefing up” the population through the first part of the 20th century and particularly after the war and was pretty succesful.
      I would say that the population wide, indeed a culture wide, problem of obesity is unique to the human experience. and that prior to recent history obesity or even being overweight was restricted to small groups or individuals. Strabo remarked that the Celts (his term) had fines for being overweight. There are overweight individuals known from archaeology (and not always the rich) I am not aware of any HG peoples having any overweight individuals. I would point out that the famous venus figurines are really pretty abstract and shouldn’t really be used to determine if there was obesity in Paleolithic Europe . Similar figurines were used by the slim if not muscualar Inuit until recently.

      • marie on June 12, 2012 at 17:30

        Hi Neal. I don’t know how I missed this earlier. That kind of week already. Thank you for responding, as usual you do know more:-)
        And it seems to be along the lines of what I’ve been reading, there never seemed to be a good handle on reversing obesity, though as you point out, historically it was in small groups/individuals, not society-wide. Thanks for the clarification about the figurines, I always wondered why they would be taken as representative rather than as idealized abstractions.

      • Neal Matheson on June 13, 2012 at 00:40

        Nae bother

  54. Anne on June 9, 2012 at 21:52

    I have not been to Italy and I’m a newbie to paleo. However I think there are two things I have observed which apply to the observations here:

    1.) While everyone’s body experiences insulin cycles, not everyone experiences it in the same way. I think the American Dietary culture, particularly from the mid-80’s, is designed to break our insulin response. For example, we are perfectly happy to turn our milk into candy to get kids to drink it because it’s “milk!” and milk “Does a body good!” We also do an excellent job of adopting the most attractive parts of world cuisine and intensifying them.

    2.) I have a brother in law who is Russian and he continues to be quite lean despite having lived in the US for 15 years. I’ve started to watch how he eats that is different from the rest of my family. A huge thing is he doesn’t get hungry as often, and when he eats he gets full faster than the rest of us– even when eating hamburger with the bun and a side of fries for lunch. He may eat more than me at that meal, but he probably won’t eat dinner after. Whereas I will be hungry again in 3~4 hours regardless of how much I eat. This is probably a symptom of the above.

  55. […] the Animal” published a letter from a reader the other day, in a blog article titled “The Culture of Obesity.” I’ve had the good fortune to spend the last 2 weeks traveling across Italy with my […]

  56. Pauline on June 10, 2012 at 10:15

    I think getting feedback that he feels full quickly means his stomach has remained accustomed to a way of eating that doesn’t expect big portions. He is still in tune with his intuitive sense of when he has had enough. I think as you say this can be switched off in our diet when what we eat and how much is over-stimulating insulin and other hormones. I just always knew when I had enough and never felt the need to over-indulge. I often left food on my plate, and others commented on this. I just ate til I felt satisfied and then could easily turn away. Now I am having to re-learn some of those habits. I think it was Arthur de Vaney who said eat until you feel satisfied but could have more but you don’t.

    • Shelley on June 10, 2012 at 11:05

      Having to relearn that as well. Unfortunately, I can’t let good food go to waste (product of being raised from poor immigrants I suppose), so I tend to overeat. At home, I just don’t cook as much food, but in a restaurant, I have had to cut it in half immediately and put it away. We eat dinner late (~730pm) and I feel so much better going to bed on an emptier stomach than stuffed!

      • Pauline on June 11, 2012 at 03:13

        I always say to my partner who hates to see waste, I don’t mind waste cos its not on my waist!
        Its often what you leave behind on your plate that is good for you. I tend to dish my food now in smaller bowls or even side plates, the portions look right then for me. Also if I don’t put what I am eating into a bowl or something where I can see how much, I will not remember how much I have eaten. Keeping a food journal can help sometimes with that, but I am not very good at writing it up every day.

  57. Jason Blanchard on June 11, 2012 at 02:17

    Heya Richard, this is a bit off topic from the post but i was wondering if youve ever read Matt stones blog over at 180 degree health? ive been reading through his posts from a few years back and making my way forward, although some of the things he says are diff. im really digging his thoughts. If i take his ideas with a pure paleo viewpoint hes basically saying that no one should have to eliminate/keep carbs low regardless of being insulin resistant, he says that it can be beneficial for maybe the first month to drop carbs lower if u want to drop a bit of weight and heal, but that the best way to heal is not to eliminate the carbs but actually LOADUP hardcore on them ex: 4-7 days eating only carbs,then introducing fats back in slowly and then protein. he pushes that people should eat high starch/high fat as these are the energy sources of the body, as well as a good amount of protein-usually equal to starch content. he has very unique views on junk and whatnot altho his main philosophy is. that quality does matter so grassfed meats/fats, butter,lard,coconut oil, a complete elimination of PUFAS, even olive oil shud be limited/nuts as well. complete elimination of sugar,HFCS,fructose etc.. basically he blames everything on sugar/vegetable oil and says that we should not have to remove any macronutrient . i LOVE paleo but i do completely agree that being low carb/low fat/low anything is ridiculous, esp. considering some of the fittest looking tribes left eat high carb. now if youre metabolically damaged this can make your transition harder, but it makes sense to take a break for a month or two(low carb) then reintroduce high high amts of carbs so that your body actually becomes good at regulating the sugar, not running away from it so that your body sucks at using it. anyway im rambling like crazy, hope to hear your thoughts on this.

  58. Ben on June 11, 2012 at 11:04

    I hope I’m not too late to the party. You could have thrown in some more “controversial” stuff, Richard, and the comment thread would still be growing at a rate of 10 posts / hour. Hey, whats your opinion on feminism? ;D

    I have never been to the USA, and it’s one heck of a big country, so even if I had been, I don’t know if comparisons would be fair. So I can only share my personal observations:

    There aren’t many extremely obese people around. I live in a city of about 2 million people, and I see less than one per month. Most people look lean or at most chubby, though older men tend to have a beer belly, and women over 40 also seem to gain weight more often than not.
    But here’s the thing. They look lean with their cloths on, but when they are naked most of them are “skinny-fat”. They have alarmingly little muscle mass, especially younger girls. I see girls who look skinny by all accounts but still have muffin tops on a daily basis, it boggles my mind. I cringe when I look at their arms and shoulders, and theres absolutely no muscle there – that can’t be healthy (every time they diet they only seem to lose muscle mass, no fat mass).
    There are men who are atrociously skinny and appearently resistant to weight gain (I keep thinking typ 1 diabetics, but they are not, and they tend to stay that way most of their lives).

    I don’t even know where I’m going with this. My point is, I don’t know what america is like, but only because people in europe look thinner doesn’t mean they are healthier. I don’t know how prevalent “skinny fat” is in america, but it’s very widespread here and regarded as normal. Manual laborers are not attractively muscular, but chubby, with beer belly, and some muscle mass underneath the fat. (Probably because they get the extra fuel they need from crap?)
    Most skinny guys have, at best, no pecs, and more likely some fat there. I’m sure there is something wrong with our sex hormones. A lot of boyish men (me, alas, included), and, what I observe every summer again when I go skinny-dipping (yes we have nude swimming, and no one complains :)) ) is that many girls & women seem “underdeveloped” (Stuck in tanner 3 or 4, even in their thirties+)

    One of my more promiscous guy friends frequently complains that his latest victories looked lean and lovely on the dance floor, but once in bed he finds that they have the breasts of 14 year old girls (I always thought of the more funky bras in terms of bait and switch, false advertising..) and, despite being lean, still having fat in the wrong places (love handles).

    Bla bla bla bla. Apart from the people exercising (swimming, weights, team sports, NOT FUCKING JOGGING FOR HOURS EVERY DAY YOU STUPID ASSHOLES), most people here don’t look healthy at all, if you catch a gimplse at them being naked.

    One more thing, I LOVE comparisons between europe and america. So much drama can happen. Either it’s mutual bad mouthing of each other, or it’s a very romantized. I hardly every see neutral comparisons. Not even vaguely neutral. (But, to be fair, it’s extremely hard to draw comparisons – europe is a multicultural mess with great differences even in the same nation, and I don’t think the USA are any different.)

    PS: You really should do a post on feminism and men though. I have some material, if you feel the need to get angry. Fucking male privilege, lol.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 11, 2012 at 11:24


      Sure, send anything my way for me to take a look at.

      I’ve come to the impression over quite a while that most of the female commenters here are not really into the main tenants of feminism and like mentally strong, proud males.

      But I’ll certainly take a look.

  59. Dan Linehan on June 12, 2012 at 17:18

    My guess would be the Italians eat — 1. more nutrient dense food in general and 2. much lower amounts of bizarre vegetable oils. I suspect canola oil fucks people up over time, Americans eat a hell of a lot of it.

  60. Jason Blanchard on June 13, 2012 at 08:12

    thanks for the response Richard, yeah after reading quite a bit more i still do like the thoughts on carbs but the rest of his stuff gets a bit whacky, im also completely against these junk food binges for healing that seems to be going on just for getting your damn temperature up its ridiculous. I like his blog for the fact that it makes you think outside the box at least, but overall yeah a bit out there.. Keep up the good work your blog rocks, i hope my own will one day be as widely read(doubtful haha).

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