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Early Time-Restricted Feeding (eTRF) From Another Angle: Thai Buddhist Monks

My House Blessing Ceremony, Breakfast for the Buddhist Monks, Rural Si Sa Ket Province, Isaan, Thailand. Turned Sideways.
  • The Setup
  • The House Blessing
  • Here’s Where It Gets Funny
  • Thai Food
  • The Science Behind The Thai Buddhist Monks
  • Monks Never Get Invited To Dinner

The Setup

Thailand—over two years living here as deep as it gets—has conclusively convinced me that most dietary advocates in the West are simply not dealing honestly with the facts of observable reality. Period. Some are better than others, of course; but even the best of them—low-carb, ketogenic, carnivore, paleo, primal—simply ignore the falsifying evidence of over half of the entire planet who live long and healthy lives with gusto up to the very end in their 80s, 90s, 100s. They eat whole food every day of their lives and upwards of 50%+ is from carbohydrates like rice, beans, potatoes, grains, fruit, and yes…even honey. Importantly, pretty much every meal includes animals, fish, shellfish, bugs, and insects. They do nutritional density with lowish calorie.

I honestly believe that most low-carb advocates—as a general all-inclusive—are hands down the best dietary advocates in a Western, industrialized, food-engineered world of crap that isn’t even recognizable as food in much of the far poorer but healthier world. In many ways, we live in a curse of wealth and convenience.

But, I believe that what low-carb really does is not what you believe or think.

  1. Get’s you to eschew much of the processed foods; the point of processed foods is to make tons of money on cheap crap that’s so cheap they can ship and truck it all over creation to put on shelves in insanely expensive real-estate and still profit $2-3 per $1 accumulated expense. Why? Because it’s almost all combined cheap carb and cheap oil and cheap sugar.
  2. Because you’re favoring steak and eggs over crap in bags and boxes, you feel more satiated.
  3. You better normalize your eating patterns (timing) and what you eat (quality).
  4. And instead of recognizing the real and valid mechanisms in place you think a plate of steamed white rice, boiled potatoes not drenched in butter, or beans are going to WRECK YOUR METABOLISM!!! That’s abject bullshit and too many diet guys play into that irrational fear just as badly as you see now with irrational fear of Covid.

You want to show me scientific honesty as a low-carb advocate? Then first acknowledge that there are and have been billions and billions and billions of people who have ever lived who led long, lean, and healthy lives and ate more than half their energy from carbohydrates. You’re simply not being fully honest until you do that, irrespective of the advantages you might hypothesize for lower carbs.

Here’s a constructive suggestion. There is now ample observable data in developing countries where many are now beginning to suffer various metabolic syndrome issues. Dig into it. Here’s what I predict you’ll find: the difference between the healthy and unhealthy has zero to do with percent of calories from carbohydrate—it was always high and they were markedly healthy. It has to do with the composition and combination. Processed crap with added crap oils and refined sugar, creating a perfect storm of high-palatability resulting in over-consumption, fat gain, down-stream effects.

Am I being fully integrated and honest?

Fuck yes, I am.

The House Blessing

Ban Laem Thong, Si Sa Ket Province, Thailand

The village extends to the west smewhat, and there’s a village school, even. Ban Sawai School, and I love to walk the girls—Chili and Wasabi—down some mornings or walk them back in the afternoon. Sometimes I give them a ride.

They like it, cause I’m the only farang around for miles and miles and all their friends are curious.

10-yo Wasabi is Beginning to Show Slight Signs of Femininity Now, a Year Since This Was Taken

In the Western world we have housewarming parties. The Thais call it something on the order of a blessing. It’s connected to their Buddhist conscience and life way. Westerners have a difficult time understanding it because it has zero whatever to do with theism, divine intervention, childish belief in a silly Sky God, punishment, atonement, life after death, and a host of other things used to pit people against people more than they already can be, naturally.

Buddhism is one of the world’s major religions. It originated in India in 563–483 B.C.E. with Siddhartha Gautama, and over the next millennia it spread across Asia and the rest of the world. Buddhists believe that human life is a cycle of suffering and rebirth, but that if one achieves a state of enlightenment, it is possible to escape this cycle forever. Siddhartha Gautama was the first person to reach this state of enlightenment and was, and is still today, known as the Buddha. Buddhists do not believe in any kind of deity or god, although there are supernatural figures who can help or hinder people on the path towards enlightenment.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/buddhism/

It’s about 500 years older than Christianity, or, perhaps 800 years: since Christianity as a dominating, killing, punishing, conquering, stealing, and enslaving religion didn’t get going until about 300 years later, when the Romans and others recognized its political utility.

Am I a Buddhist? No, not really. I’m simply relieved. I have the utter joy of living in a country where ideological religious belief is never ever fucking used to guilt, shame, or condemn others. Even though one could say that Thailand is a Buddhist country almost exclusively (there’s a bit of 7th-century, dirt-scratching savage Islam in the south), it’s just not political. Why? I don’t really know. My notion is that there is zero in politics, law, or culture to suggest to Thais that any deity or spiritual being is going to smite them or anyone over what they think or believe.

They have no Sword of the Lord to wield.

They have utter freedom of thought spiritually and from what I see mostly, it’s largely outward expressions of an inward discipline or struggle towards grace and gratitude. To them, it’s a path and struggle to be good and be better. It’s not a hammer of judgment over their heads—one which the Abrahamic religions use often enough to redirect towards others, even in geopolitical mass murder and destruction in order to save their souls.

…My girl sometimes uses Buddhism against me. Here’s how bad it gets:

“Richa,” with a finger pointed, “be careful the Karma.”

The Sanskrit word karma means “action”, or more specifically, any material action that brings a reaction that binds us to the material world. Although the idea of karma is generally associated with Eastern philosophy, many people in the West are also coming to understand that karma is a natural principle, like time or gravity, and no less inescapable. For every action there is a reaction. According to the law of karma, if we cause pain and suffering to other living beings, we must endure pain and suffering in return, both individually and collectively. We reap what we sow, in this life and the next, for nature has her own justice. No one can escape the law of karma…

https://www.harekrishnavalley.com.au/karma/

So it came to pass that I finished building the house, about 130 square meters (1,400SF): 4BR, 2BTH, kitchen, sitting room. I built it on land my girl’s grandmother bought decades ago, and it sits between houses her uncles have built on the same plot. Land is paid for, house was built by 100% cash. No loans, zero property taxes. Electric is about $30-45 per month (we have 4 A/C units), TV is free (yep, HD satellite for free), water is about $6 per month, and fiber-optic Internet is $15 per month.

Yea, yea, yea… You live in THE LAND OF THE FREE!!!

I have a story about the housewarming party. Yui kept correcting me. “It not party. It blessing. Nine monk come on the day number 9 of the month!” Nine is their lucky number.

The really cool thing is that for this non-party, the village is somewhat like we understand as a homeowner’s association. They have enormous circus-scale tents, folding tables, chairs, and all manner of commercial scale food-preparation stuff. It’s available for all in the village to use. You just pay for labor to set up and break down. Average cost of labor is about $12 per worker for a 10hr day. No taxes, social security, medicare, labor unions. Cash. …But you live in The Land of the Free. You’re enlightened and you have been developed. I digress….

The only thing we had to rent for the non-party house blessing was the concert-scale bank of speakers, impressive audio equipment, and dance-club lighting. Of course, because it was not a party, we were only doing “tests” of everything the night before and the bottles of Chang and Leo beer, Sangsom rum, and Hong Thong whiskey were also just being taste tested….

Here’s Where It Gets Funny

Knowing the non-party was to be the next day, I ask Yui when it starts. Typical of Thais, I get a non-or-partial answer, always with ambiguity.

“We start to cook at 3.”

That makes sense. The cherished laddies of the village—including my girl’s 94-yo grandmother (RIP)—had been preparing the sides and apps for 2 days.

It makes sense to do the final cooking—things like rice, sticky rice, seafood, etc.—just a bit before the festivities begin in the late afternoon of the next day.

…It’s 5am in the morning…Yui turns on the glaring overhead recessed lights in the bedroom and exclaims so enthusiastically.

“It’s starting!”

What? Huh? It’s 5 in the morning.

“I tell you yesterday we start cooking at 3.”

Ambiguity.

By 6am, there was a good portion of the village folk there. Final meal preparations were ongoing in order to serve the 9 monks at their breakfast time of 7.30am. A small sampling.

Then it was time for the blessing ceremonies and all else. My girl’s grandfather does the officiating for these events professionally. He’s in the lower right looking cool (Yui tells me sometimes: “he had many girlfriend.” She has a dozen “cousins” of sorts).

Practicing eTRF For Centuries Without Even Knowing It

Granted, that’s a far bigger breakfast than they get usually, but there is no charge for this service they provide—they rely upon goodwill donations about 100%, so far as I know. Countrysides are dotted with temples under construction, because the locals have to rely upon themselves. The villagers simply put this all-together for us. It didn’t cost me anything and in fact, part of the ceremony is blessings from the villagers themselves and I was bestowed with about $100 cash in total from “poor people,” which I gave to Yui’s grandfather for his masterful mastering of the services.

In The House That Richard Built.

Thai Food

…So let’s work our way to the eating habits of Thais, glean some rules of thumb or principles, and then go way overboard to see how Thai Buddhist Monks have the dietary hack to end all hacks.

Thai Food is kind of like saying American Food. It’s vastly varied, though they have their favorites, as do we. Their solid staple food is rice, prepared various ways, but mostly steamed or sticky (a method of steaming…fantastic with BBQ pork or chicken on a stick for breakfast). They do some fried rice but with little oil. They also eat noodles in soups, but mostly rice noodles, not wheat. The West has ALL THE STAPLES: Potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, beans…anything they can stuff down in abundance.

The one thing I can say about Thais is that there is about zero to nil added fat on anything ever…I’ve never seen it. They really don’t even do salad dressings—though my girl once bought a half-pint of EVOO at the market and I think it was still half there 3 months later—she uses it to fry eggs, sometimes. Zero fat-dominant gravies and sauces—though there are a ton of water-based sauces at all heat levels. Butter? I dare you to ever find any in a Thai fridge anywhere. They do cook with oil, but palm oil is the traditional, a decent plant fat, like coconut; plus, they use rendered pork-belly fat sometimes.

However, their attitude is more of using fat in a wok as a very efficient heat-exchange, a little flavor & texture maybe. Especially for whole fish with the skin intact, which acts as a barrier. They don’t bread or batter the fish to soak up a lot of fat. Rather, after cooking and draining, they’ll put it on a platter with a water or broth-based soup along with their herbs and spices (see the picture, above).

I’m going to be straight with you about how some of the low-carb narrative annoys the ever-livin’ shit out of me because it’s so damn biased and dishonest. I don’t want to belabor this because those who already know what I’m talking about don’t need an explanation and then there are the low-carb religion types where nothing matters anyway.

I could craft a million experiments but this one comes most quickly to mind. A fish meal. See that picture above—the whole fish served to the monks. I’m not sure how they cooked it, but they very often cook whole fish, skin intact, in a wok with hot oil. They let it sit to drain any fat, and typically serve in a soupy veggie-based broth with their herbs and spices. It will be served with steamed rice, zero added fat, and maybe some of the vegetables used to flavor the broth.

Westerner takes the fish, skins and fillets it, dips it in wheat batter euphemistically called beer batter, deep fries it in some sort of soy or grain oil, then deep fries a half-plate of “chips,” then serves both with a half-cup of full-fat mayonnaise-based tartar sauce.

Nutritionally, both fish and starch meals might be comparable in terms of vitamins and minerals. Hell, potatoes have far better base nutrition than rice, and the wheat in the batter is a good source of trace minerals. Could be that the fish & chips edges out on a nutritional score.

But at what cost? Run the numbers and you’ll find that the fish & chips meal has 2×4 more energy density; because, whereas the deep fry doesn’t stick to fish skin, breading and battering soaks it up like a sponge, and plenty sticks to potatoes. The rice side dish is steamed. Add to that base palatability…the Thai dish being light and delightful, you feel good when you’ve had enough and in the latter, you can’t get enough of everything and an hour later you’re comatose so that you can go ahead and store that fat.

The Punch Line is that many, many indoctrinated low-carbers will tell you the difference is all in the carbs, flying in the face of whole societies who have eaten lots of carbs for thousands of fucking years. There are far too few who call out their fucktardedness.

How about a few principles?

  1. Whole food, not enginned or processed, even when you’re processing at home. Home made cakes, pies, and pastries are the absolute most health-destroying foods on the planet. Limit to holiday and birthday.
  2. There is fat in almost all food. There is zero health reason to ever add a gram of fat to anything ever. Eschew, use sparingly when you must. We all do, but always keep it in mind. It’s not needed. It is 100% indulgence.
  3. Fat is over 2 times more energy per gram than carb, protein, or alcohol. Above all else, it is the very worst thing to ever add to food. Of course, we’ll all do it sometimes. Yes, when I grill a steak, it will have a drizzle of browned butter usually. The Thais have an advantage in that their cooking culture has never used added fat at all that I have ever seen. Yet their food bursts with flavor and is among the most curiously spicy in the world. Ever tried Isaan green papaya salad with fermented fish sauce? My girl has to eat it every day. I call it the hottest and stinkiest fucking thing.
  4. Between having a glass of whiskey with your steak or drowning it in butter or a fatty sauce, the whiskey saves you 4-5 calories per gram…

But Thailand too, changes: for the benefit of elitist corporate conglomerates who want to sell you endless engineered crap to make you as gluttonous, fat, and sick as possible…and then the same investors have a whole drug store to sell you on the back end…

…If I were God for just one hour…

Here’s what I’ve observed, in contrast to my 7 visits for a few months total time from ’86-’91. Back then, there just were no fat Thais that I can even remember. Of course, and according to the World Bank, 90% of Thais lived below the poverty line. In the 30 years hence, that number has exactly inverted and only 10% are below it, pre-Covid. Keep in mind the poverty line, inflation adjusted, is about $10-12 per day in 2019 dollars.

But you know what? Back then, there were no convenience stores or fast food, even supermarkets (unless Thai open-air markets that you’d recognize as farmers markets—some more massive than several football fields)—except Bangkok in the tourist areas. Economic growth has been such that even on $10-15 per day, Thais can afford crap in boxes, bags, and refrigerated and frozen packages. Even villages as small as a couple of thousand can support a Thai-Corporate-Elite 7-ELEVEN, to where the village idiots immediately clamor—putting their mom & pop friends, neighbors, and fellow villagers out of business so they can try to go find a 6 day-per-week, 10-hour-per-day job that pays $400 per month.

To put a compound contrast on this, I was living in Japan during these visits to Thailand (I also visited the Philippines 30 times or so for months and months…same story as Thailand…obesity?) and even in 1984 when I rented my first house and jaunted up to Tokyo every chance, obesity was in full swing. Young fat girls with rotten teeth everywhere. There were convenience marts on every street corner, you were never more than 30 feet away from a vending machine, and you could sit at the window of a McDonald’s in Tokyo and observe 2 other McD restaurants from your perch—much as you can do with Starbucks and their $6 and 600 calorie “coffees” in any urban city now.

The Science Behind The Thai Buddhist Monks

A year or so ago I was sent this study.

Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves 24-Hour Glucose Levels and Affects Markers of the Circadian Clock, Aging, and Autophagy in Humans

Abstract

Time-restricted feeding (TRF) is a form of intermittent fasting that involves having a longer daily fasting period. Preliminary studies report that TRF improves cardiometabolic health in rodents and humans. Here, we performed the first study to determine how TRF affects gene expression, circulating hormones, and diurnal patterns in cardiometabolic risk factors in humans. Eleven overweight adults participated in a 4-day randomized crossover study where they ate between 8 am and 2 pm (early TRF (eTRF)) and between 8 am and 8 pm (control schedule). Participants underwent continuous glucose monitoring, and blood was drawn to assess cardiometabolic risk factors, hormones, and gene expression in whole blood cells. Relative to the control schedule, eTRF decreased mean 24-hour glucose levels by 4 ± 1 mg/dl (p = 0.0003) and glycemic excursions by 12 ± 3 mg/dl (p = 0.001). In the morning before breakfast, eTRF increased ketones, cholesterol, and the expression of the stress response and aging gene SIRT1 and the autophagy gene LC3A (all p < 0.04), while in the evening, it tended to increase brain-derived neurotropic factor (BNDF; p = 0.10) and also increased the expression of MTOR (p = 0.007), a major nutrient-sensing protein that regulates cell growth. eTRF also altered the diurnal patterns in cortisol and the expression of several circadian clock genes (p < 0.05). eTRF improves 24-hour glucose levels, alters lipid metabolism and circadian clock gene expression, and may also increase autophagy and have anti-aging effects in humans.

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/6/1234/htm

That was enough for me to give it a shot. Having fasted a whole lot over the last 12 years, dismissing hunger is not a big for me.

My favorite fast was the 30-hour I used to initially drop about 60 pounds. It consisted of going after lunch, to dinner the next day. Doing this is quite a piece of cake, for me. The thing is, doing it more regularly with eTRF; whereas, my 30-hr fasts were at most twice per week as I was losing fat.

But I’ll tell you what, it’s so damn powerful it makes me want to be a monk. It’s fast, powerful, and the benefits stack up quick. I have to say that the biggest one was going to bed hungry, getting used to that, then enjoying profound sleep.

What’s the most profound precursor to male testosterone? Uninterrupted REM sleep.

Monks Never Get Invited To Dinner

Well, you saw the picture above. How do they do it? All lean, clearly not starving.

I heard an old Buddhist monk joke where someone says to a monk:

“I need to lose weight!”

“Easy. Skip dinner.”

What if it was just that simple and all the dietary dogma, advocacy, bias, ideology, confirmation bias, endless more study required on top of hundreds of thousands of more study required is largely a more-harm-than-good on the large—intentionally obfuscatory, dishonest, fraudulent…a morass of abject bullshit?

Do you doubt you could go out to a rural Thai village and eat like the monks and eventually resemble them in body composition and improve many if not all metabolically-deranged health markers? Yea, you won’t be eating stuff in bags from 7-ELEVEN or having cheeseburgers, fries, and a coke, but you’ll be eating animal protein, vegetables, fruits, and starches every meal because….

…You only eat at 7.30 in the morning and 12.30 in the early afternoon….

Then you’re done.

And actually, by 7.30am, you already have a good hunger on because your day begins at 4am. On that score, it was the monks who motivated me over time to begin my days earlier, often at 4am myself. That’s when they begin their morning prayers, chants, whatever they’re called, but I could not escape the hypnotic tranquility of it all, hearing it at a distance, in the dark stillness—where even the crickets have called it a night. Over a black cup of coffee, no sugar. And yea, a smoke.

I’m the least perfect guy at this stuff than anyone. What I don’t do is lie, deceive, cheerlead, or anything like that. I’m driven by not fooling myself. That by no means means that I’m any example or flag bearer for best practices.

But at least I don’t go saying stupid shit like “must have had a few too many carbohydrates.” Nope. I at times ate too much, too often of whatever, some was crap food, and I probably dipped in the butter or fatty sauce way too much. And I otherwise committed the biggest sin of all, which is adding fat to carbohydrates. Nothing makes you so fat, so quickly, and the problem is absolutely not the carbohydrates. Rather, it is unnaturally adding a lot of fat to them, which is rare to nil in nature.

But, it doesn’t matter much, if you do eTRF like the monks and stick to it most of the time. In my practice, 2pm is about the ideal time to knock it off. It’s far more socially inconvenient than difficult to do, since we don’t actually live in Thai temples where dinner is just not served. I can almost guarantee that in a month of adhering to a 2pm caloric cut-off every day, without fail—until whenever after sunrise—you could eat as much pizza and pastries as you want, and down as much beer.

Want to know what the stupidest question is in all of dietary bullshit?

“What should I eat to lose weight?”

The enlightened question:

When should I eat?

And That’s It

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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

10 Comments

  1. Gat Huckle on November 5, 2021 at 20:26

    I’ve been living in Thailand for quite a while now, and my observations are more along the lines of these two articles.

    https://www.type2nation.com/weight-loss/thai-monks-at-high-risk-of-type-2-diabetes/

    https://theaseanpost.com/article/thailands-monks-battle-weight-problems

    • Richard Nikoley on November 6, 2021 at 03:12

      I knew that would come up. I’m aware of these claims. I’m also aware that urban monks cheat a lot. Some eat no food, but can have chocolate and sugar drinks.

      Out in rural Isaan, I don’t observe that though and have never seen an obsese monk amongst the hundreds.

      So what is the claim, though? Is it that sticking to the tradition of a 5-6 hour early eating window daily for most of your life is going to make you obese and diabetic, or is is an acknowledgement that monks are human too, some cheat, and so they do not get the benefits I’ve outlined?



    • Richard Nikoley on November 6, 2021 at 07:59

      I just read both of those articles and a careful reading of them, plus my post above, the articles support what I wrote. What I wrote about was only partially about the practice of eTRF. I simply used Thai monks as the backdrop or frame. The other half of the post is about food quality. In essence, my post is about monks following their tradition AND eating whole food. IOW, every other monk in the world can be an utter fuclkup and it says zero about the one doing it right.

      And, as I said in my other reply, this is most likely an urban temple and monk problem. Out in Si Sa Ket, the monks have to walk long ways every day for their food, carrying their big pot. Processed food in bags and such is hugely expensing comparatively, and even 7-ELEVENs are pretty sparse out there. A medium bag of crisps and sugar-water drink is 35-40 baht at Sewan. That’s WAY more than the wholesale cost of a donated restaurant or home made complete meal of rice, veggies, and a little fish, pork, or chicken—and maybe even a little soup. Hell, even here in Phuket, I can walk down to the local morning BBQ and get chicken or pork n a stick for 5 baht each, and a bag of sticky rice for 5 baht. 30 baht (about $1) gets me a fine bit of breakfast protein and starch. And, can toss in a boiled egg for another 5 baht, making it even more complete.



  2. ROBERT THEROUX on November 5, 2021 at 21:13

    Very good and interesting post Richard.

  3. Steve on November 5, 2021 at 22:55

    Excellent, excellent post! I have tried to tell people this for a long time! I used to ask my parents when they would talk about carbs “Why isn’t all of Asia fat? They eats boatloads of rice?”. No one likes to answer that lol. One question for you though. What is the use of coconut milk in Thai food? Is this regional? Or is this also sparingly? It seems to show up in a lot of recipes I see but I’ve always wondered about it. Thanks.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 6, 2021 at 03:15

      Good question, Steve. It’s totally regional. Out in Isaan (the entire northeast) I never see them use coconut milk, or at least very little. They don’t even do any of the Thai curries so popular in the West.

      I think in terms of regions, the coconut milk dishes and curries are in the south where there is a heavier influence of India and Malaysia, Hindu and Muslim. In fact, my favorite Thai dish is Massaman curry, which essentially means Muslim curry.



  4. Gat Huckle on November 7, 2021 at 12:49

    How would you go about turning a healthy male into a skinny-fat or obese diabetic? You would severely restrict
    his protein intake, increase his sugar intake of all types, make sure his micro-nutrient stores are very low and his electrolyte balance is way off; especially the sodium to potassium ratio. In other words, a Thai monk’s diet. Also, you would ban any strenuous exercise to further weaken him. You would also ban any worldly intellectual stimulation. And most importantly of all, you would cut him off from any life stimulating interaction both emotionally and physically with nubile females; the reason to live for a man of the flesh. Here’s the thing, for religious ascetics all this is done on purpose. Weakness of the flesh is the goal. They are attempting to escape the confinement of the earth their bodies are composed of and live in the level between heaven and earth. They are willing through this physical weakness and pain to become the messengers between their tribe and the tribes’ God and spirits. It is a difficult task, but they take the vows and then try to live up to those vows under the scrutiny of their peers and the lay members of their tribe. Ask your girl what she thinks of monks who break their vows and womanize or drink or play music or any other sins that might be committed. You’ll get a strong mai dee. Thais fully expect their ang(messenger)el(God)s to act as such. These sins do come out publicly occasionally, but are always condemned as a betrayal of the entire tribe. The elder monks’ job is to weed out the initiates who they know cannot get to the higher level. I laughed when you said the poor health outcomes showing in the data are due to urban monks ‘cheating’. Only a farang would say something so disrespectful. I know for certain the Thais who amassed the info on the monk chronic health issues would not conclude, “These negative outcome are due to a large number of evil urban monks ignoring their vows for a long period of time and to such a degree that they’ve managed to skew the data for the entire cohort to ill health.” Only a farang would even think that possible. The monks in your house were not there to eat nutritious food for their own benefit. They were there to bring the spirits of the family closer to the home through that food. I’m sure they ate what they were expected to eat and not a bite more. Statistically, at least one of those monks at your ceremony is diabetic and the rest are, maybe not weak as kittens, but have strength that is far below their bodies’ potential. Again, that is their goal. A difficult ascetic path to transcendence.

    Look, I understand the point of your post was the benefits of a time restricted eating window, but pointing at Thai monks, who collectively have a diabetes rate that’s higher than even that of the US as indicative of the efficacy of that regimen is misguided.

    As an aside, the one thing that astonishes me about the monks is that they all seem to have smart phones. I’ve seen groups of them in airports and at bus stops staring into them like a pack of Chinese tourists. I find it upsetting, but obviously Thais don’t. The things are inherently evil and seem inimical to the long tradition of Buddhist spirituality. Why allow that product of the earthly realm? Very strange (at least to me).

    • Richard Nikoley on November 7, 2021 at 14:14

      Oh, my.

      “a Thai monk’s diet”

      Which one(s)? My post was about eTRF, citing a study in not-monks. I illustrated that by showing lean monks who practice it around our villages. Did you notice any fat ones in that sampling of 9 I provided? Any who look like skinny-fat inflamed red-faces?

      In terms of composition, that varies monk-to-monk as well. Out in our neck of the Isaan woods just north of Cambodia, the villagers eat pretty good levels of protein, decent every meal, which all center around the protein except for the daily som tom (no added fat). That likely trickles down, but sure, I agree that’s an important component of a good diet. My rule of thumb with Thai food is “half the carbs, twice the protein.”

      In terms of the contemplative stuff, that’s non-sequitur. What I wrote a little bit about was as a contrast to monotheistic God-in-sky stuff. I could critique Thai BULLSHIT all damn day long. Perhaps I’ll write a post on it. In total short, as in all “spiritual” stuff, there are always the intercessors…those between us and the divine. I don’t believe any of it, of course, but it seems to be pretty universal. Monks, gurus, prophets, priests, teachers, philosophers…politicians…and the commoners will embrace or condemn on a wide array of reasons.

      But just one tidbit about how I view Thai mentality: “what remains unexposed, unacknowledged, hidden, secret, etc., doesn’t exist officially.” Any farang with a brain knows how shit works pretty quick. Took me maybe 10 minutes off USS Reeves anchored of Pattaya in 1986 to size it up, and we’d already been to Subic a dozen times since I went aboard the ship in 1984…while it was in Subic.

      I think you think you’re dealing with a greenhorn with illusions…

      …I just had a convo a couple of hours ago. Yesterday, I moved to a new mini-resort, Shanti Lodge, here in Phuket. Owned by a South African since she built it 25 years ago. I was asking her about local markets since I prefer to spend my money at local mom & pop than Corporate, plus, none of them care what time it is when you want a bottle of Hong Thong. Then she told me the story about how the various controls on club operating hours and alcohol selling hours came to be about 15 years ago. Some international, embarrassing expose on young Thai girls getting drunk and drugged up on Valentines Day to lose their virginity. Then, a story about how Thai men beat their wives sometimes. My point: “that did not exist in Thailand,” until it was exposed outside of Thailand. When I was a frequent visitor in the late 80s and early 90s, there was none of that and Walking Street in Pattaya (before it was named that) was 24/7.

      “to such a degree that they’ve managed to skew the data for the entire cohort to ill health”

      That’s exactly where you’re fucked up. This is not skewed data. It is exactly cherry picking the worst in order to besmirch the whole. I’ve been at this a long time and as soon as I sniff that out, I know I’m dealing with conflating, equivocating, dishonest agenda-advancement and I haven’t a care in the world to understand their motivations or agenda.

      I save time and just dismiss them and their morass of bullshit.

      …Smart phones…

      …If I was God for an hour…

      Check out what I wrote when Covid came out. This is a pandemic of social media and smartphones. I called it March 16, 2020.

      https://www.freetheanimal.com/2020/03/my-musings-on-the-coronavirus-covid-19.html



  5. Andrew Snalune on November 7, 2021 at 20:55

    I first lived in Thailand from 95-98 and have been mostly there ever since, can confirm that in the 90’s there were close to zero obese or even fat Thais, you could go a whole day without seeing one. As a more or less annual returner to the UK the contrast was startling, and very much appreciated!

    I think things started to change after the 97-98 ‘tom yam goong’ financial crisis, street food portions and ratios of nutritious content to filler changed gradually and continuously as hawkers at first were reluctant to reduce prices – so you just get less and less or more rice and less meat/fish/egggs for the same 30 baht.

    The Thai case really does nullify all the excesss carbohydrate theories, as far as I have seen Thais always ate plenty of plain rice, sticky rice(higher GI) and lots of sugar – a standard Som Tam has a good tablespoon of coconut sugar, there’s a white sugar bowl on the table at every noodle stall, and coke used to be drunk like water.

    Very little fat is eaten and the oil is mainly a heating agent, as you say. I’m not so sure about the prevalence of palm oil as I’ve always seen all sorts of ‘vegetable’ oils around even before the soybean and rice bran oils became common. Also the fried dough type snacks (seed oil fat / carbs and sugar) are not recent introductions.

    So if its not complex carbs and its not added sugar and its not fat then what? I’m stumped.

    There’s an example in the baan nork household a nephew, mid-20’s, sedentary, must weigh nearly 300lbs now at 5’10” and increasing daily. He eats communally for at least 1 large meal a day, so is likely getting enough nutrients but the other meals are junk stuff (7-11) . One factor is that he’s practically nocturnal – playing phone games into the early hours and rising towards midday.

    I think there’s a possibility there’s something else that comes before the cravings, could be linked to late eating, could be poor sleep quality, maybe nutrient deficiency…..

    Another thing: the Thai gut biome – with all the spicy food and fermented foods like the foul ‘pla rah’, and the non-chalance over raw meats even pork (beef and fish are common), you have to ask – what is coming out the other end? And what is absorbed? I bet if you showed your gf or many Thais the Bristol Stool chart they won’t be pointing at the ‘rabbit’ end.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 8, 2021 at 09:00

      I think there are two principal components. Play around with these charts (you can change and select countries on some of them).

      https://ourworldindata.org/diet-compositions

      So, on the dietary composition chart, Thais consumed 280 fat calories daily in 1961, 530 per day by 2013, almost double, probably double at least by now, and I’d guess it’s the increasing share of processed food.

      The other factor is wealth and a good marker for that is animal protein. On that chart, I selected US, UK, France, Germany, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Then roll the scroll back to 1961 and see how it plots. Bottom line, wealth affords more calories and quality calories like protein, but also allows for plain excess of everything.

      Money makes you fat.



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