I spend a lot of time trashing those who partake of the Ketogenic and Carnivore diets. Good naturedly, of course. Many of the people I follow and interact with on social media partake of these and other low-carb diets. But for some reason I feel the urge to occasionally mock their fetishistic worship of things like liver (which you should not eat) and other practices (like fasting, which annoys me) that they pursue with a strange sort of religiosity.
Because of their peculiar zealotry in pursuing their diets, I frequently slam them as followers of the One True Diet. Which I know probably means that I’m generally a terrible person and feel the urge to hurt the people who show me the most love. On the other hand, they frequently have unkind things to say about calorie counters like me, so maybe my mocking of them is justified retribution. It’s effectively dietary social justice.
But even as I shower the Keto and Carno bros with derision, I can’t help but notice that they do appear to be very capable of keeping the weight off, as well as apparently managing numerous chronic diseases. I’m not an expert on the disease part, so I can’t be certain if their approach is the best approach. And I’m not sure that their approach to weight loss is the best way. But one thing I do know is that in order to maintain those diets, they pretty much have to stop eating garbage.
All of the things that are high in sugar (like desserts and candy, neither of which you should have too much of) and carbohydrates must be given up. And this by its nature, includes all of the ultra-processed food that one gets in boxes and bags and so forth. The stuff one gets in the aisles of the grocery store and not the produce and meat section.
Junk food, in other words. Any diet that requires that you give this up will probably result in substantial weight loss. And the fact that the term “junk food” has been around since the Truman administration should tell you that we’ve actually known for a while that we shouldn’t be eating these things. But many of us can’t help but feed our faces with mountains of trash that was ground out from ingredients with unpronounceable, arcane, sciency sounding names and pieced together on some assembly line in a dark, fetid corner of a big Agra factory where unholy things are made.
I read a couple of items on highly processed food recently, one from the fellas who work near Hahvahd Yahd and one from the NIH. Both referenced studies where people who ate whole foods and ultra-processed foods were compared. Apparently, the results were that the people who ate ultra-processed foods ate about 500 calories more per day. And 500 calories a day can translate into a pound of weight gained each week if we don’t work it off.
One reason people who eat junk food eat more in calories is that the ultra-processed foods are not as filling. It’s harder to achieve “satiety” (an irritatingly pretentious word for “feeling full”) when one consumes things like potato chips and pretzels and ice cream and various other things that we often gnosh on after drinking too much. Which is another habit to keep to a minimum, by the way.
These foods also have added fat (something that probably seriously contributes to obesity) and added sugar, which explains why Ketovores faint at the sight of them. Both of these contribute to the calorie count. And added sugar (and certain types of added fats, like oils), don’t contribute to “satiety”. Not to mention that these foods also have additives, trans-fats, and any number of other things that could have toxic effects.
But there’s another problem with ultra-processed foods and other foods that contain lots of fat and sugar. They’re easier to digest. Which can also make the calorie count go up. Because the fancy schmancy science types have discovered that about 5% to 15% of your daily calorie burn is done by digesting food. Eating things that are easy to digest makes this number lower, while eating things that are harder to digest makes it go up, meaning the net calories you absorb are lower. Protein is harder to digest than fat and carbohydrates, which may explain how many of the meat eaters are able to lose weight. And in general, whole foods are harder to digest than highly processed foods.
So in a sense, ultra-processed foods are effectively already partially digested for you. Which is why you shouldn’t eat them. Because there’s another type of food that’s already partially digested: Baby food. And no adult should eat baby food. But eating ultra-processed food is effectively eating adult baby food.
So no matter what diet you have, it’s good to keep the highly processed foods to a minimum. Eating more whole foods means you eat fewer calories and absorb fewer weirdo toxins that were injected into the foods in the dark depths of some soulless corporate processing center. And it also means you’re burning more calories because you’re not eating adult baby food.
So just say no to the adult baby food. Nobody over twenty should do anything that babies do. Or over ten, really. If you eat ultra-processed food, you’re being a baby. You’re the equivalent of that weird fetishist who’s in his forties but gets turned on by wearing diapers and sucking his thumb. You should not be that guy. But if you eat this kind of food you’ll gain your baby fat back, and you kind of will be that guy.