Because one of its role in body fat storage, insulin often gets a bad rap in the ancestral health community.
Managing insulin secretion through diet is a good strategy for losing weight, but it is also important to understand that insulin performs vital functions in your body and is essential for your body to survive at all.
This short video from Kahn’s Academy is a good beginner’s guide to the function of insulin in fuelling your cells with glucose.
For an explanation of what happens to the glucose after it has entered your cells, see this video lecture by Doug McGuff, M.D.
“Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are,
and doing things as the ought to be done.”
Since you are investing time exploring the materials on this blog, chances are you are looking for an new approach to weight loss. You are looking for something that has a better chance of succeeding than the diets you have tried in the past.
If you want weight loss information that goes against the grain, you have come to the right place. But your health is a serious matter, so please take a moment to ask yourself why you should listen to me. After all, I am not a health professional. I am just some guy who had some success loosing weight. I didn’t take a degree in this stuff. I just experimented on myself, and the experiment happened to work.
I am going to make a bold and opinionated statement here. Most mainstream health professionals don’t really know how people get fat. And they know less about how to loose weight sustainably. Some think they do, but their hypothesis is wrong. They believe it’s all about energy balance and eating fewer calories than you burn. They completely ignore how hormones act on nutrients and how this influences an individual’s propensity to accumulate fat. Consequently, most of them offer advice that is ineffective, and sometimes even counter productive, for the majority of overweight people. And in the case of doctors, the advice is typically based on material they have spent no more than 2 weeks studying at medical school.
Have you tried more than once to loose weigh the mainstream way? Did it work? Did the weight pile back on? Are people blaming your weak character for your weight problem? Are you beating yourself up about it?
Why on earth would you want more of that?
I got tired of being down on myself. I made a choice to question everything I had been told about how to eat. I learned that government guideline and mainstream medical advice is not really based in any science. So, I looked for people who offered something different and who did have some science to back up their advice. This led me to the Ancestral Health community and a return to normal weight and dramatically improved health.
I would like you to take the same joyous journey, but I am not saying you should necessarily listen to me or emulate what I did. I just think you should take your own health seriously. Give yourself some credit and stop listening to advice that hasn’t worked for you. Explore alternatives and always educate yourself before you take anybody’s advice. Do your own research and apply a healthy dose of critical thinking to the information you find. Then take action and conduct your own self-experiment by applying what you have learned. If you keep an open mind and trust your ability to distinguish good information from bad, you will succeed.
Here is a video lecture from another contrarian who encourages you to think for yourself. Tom Naughton is not a doctor nor a scientist. He is a journalist and a former comedian. In other words, a sane voice worth listening to in a world that has gone mad.
This TED video went viral in the Ancestral Health community immediately after it was released late 2011. In it, Dr. Terry Wahls recounts the remarkable story of how she reversed the effects of her Multiple Sclerosis through a Paleo diet adapted specifically to address her condition. She started regaining her mobility within weeks of changing her diet.
Aside from this remarkable transformation, one of the things that really inspired me on this video is Dr. Wahls’ shift from a supplements focused approach to an exploration of real food as medicine. Here is how she describes it:
“Then it occurred to me that I should get my long list of nutrients from food. That if I did this I would probably get hundreds, maybe thousands, of other compounds that science had yet to name and identify, but that would be helpful to my brain and my mitochondria. But I didn’t know where they were in the food supply. And neither did the medical texts nor the food science with whom I consulted……….but it turned out the internet did.”
Jimmy Moore’s interview of Dr. Terry Wahls in January is one of the best he has had recently. Here is a link.
You can also learn more about Terry Wahls on her website: http://terrywahls.com
Finally, Dr. Terry Wahls appears to have done an admirable job as a parent despite the challenge of her MS. Here her son is making a powerful address to the Iowa House of Representatives:
“The important thing is not to stop questioning.
Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
When you read about ancestral health you come across a variety of terms that describe different sections of our community. Some of the more common are Paleo, Primal and Low-Carb. You may also have encountered the term LCHF. I often get asked what these labels cover, and what the differences are between them. It’s not entirely clear cut, but here is how I define them.
The Paleo Diet is based on the hypothesis that humans are genetically adapted to eat like our pre-historic ancestors. Paleo followers believe modern western diseases and obesity are due to changes in our diet that arrived with agriculture and industrialisation.
The Paleo Diet consists of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables. It suggests avoiding grains, legumes, most tubers, dairy, sugar and processed foods. Paleo dieters also prefers grass fed beef, wild game, organic poultry and wild fish over intensively farmed equivalents.
If you follow a Paleo diet, your carbohydrate intake will tend to be lower than on a typical western diet. But Paleo is less specific about the amount of carbohydrate you should eat than Primal, Low-Carb and LCHF. There are also researchers in the movement who argue for “safe starches”. One example is Staffan Lindenburgh who points to the Kitavans of Papa New Guinea as an example of aboriginal people who subsist on a high starch diet without incurring the degenerative diseases that are so common in the west.
In summary, Paleo is mostly about eating unprocessed and nutritionally dense foods to emulate the diet of our hunter gatherer ancestors.
The Primal diet is also inspired by our pre-historic ancestors. The selection of foods allowed on the Primal diet is much the same as Paleo. However, Primal allows high-fat dairy such as butter, cream, full-fat yoghurt and cheese. Some also argue a small amount of white rice is OK on a Primal diet.
Primal seems to me to be more prescriptive about your carbohydrate intake than Paleo. Primal diet books tend to give specific direction about the amount of carbohydrate you should consume to create optimal conditions for fat loss.
The most prolific advocate of Primal is Mark Sisson who runs a website called Mark’s Daily Apple.
The Low-Carb label is very broad. It covers over a number of diets that prescribe carbohydrate restriction for weight loss. Many followers started their Low-Carb journeys with the Atkins Diet, but there are many other Low-Carb diets such as the South Beach Diet and the Dukan diet.
Although it doesn’t apply to all Low-Carbers, in general this community is more relaxed about processed foods and Omega-6 rich oils than the Paleo and Primal communities. Low-Carbers tend to focus more specifically on the macronutrient balance in their diet. Some emphasise high protein, others emphasise high fat. What they have in common is the restriction of carbohydrate to trigger ketosis, which is when your body burns fat for fuel.
I think most people consider Atkins the founding father of Low-Carb weight loss. The research has since been moved forward by scientists such as Dr. Stephen Phinner and Dr. Jeff S. Volek.
You could argue that LCHF is the Scandinavian sub-section of the Low-Carb community. The LCHF label stands for Low-Carb-High-Fat. The term originated in Sweden where low-carb approaches to health appear to be moving into the mainstream.
I have seen LCHF defined as Paleo with high-fat dairy. By this definition you could argue it is similar to Primal. However, LCHF appears to be a little more relaxed about whether their food is organic and unprocessed, so to my mind their approach is closer to Low-Carb. But, as with all these definitions, we are splitting hairs.
High-profile LCHF people include Dr. Annika Dahlqvist and Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt in Sweden as well as Dr. Sofie Hexberg in Norway.
I like the term Ancestral Health because it is broad and inclusive. To me it covers all the four communities I describe here, along with some others (GAPS dieters and Western A. Price followers are notable examples). Inevitably when you try to define these movements, you emphasise the differences, which, to a degree, masks the obvious commonalities. At the same time, there are plenty of people in the Ancestral Health movements who don’t fit neatly into any one of these buckets.
I have learned a great deal from leaders and enthusiasts across the Paleo, Primal, Low-Carb, LCHF, GAPS and Western A. Price communities. We don’t all agree on everything, off course, but we do share some key characteristics. We are all sceptical about the low-fat grain-based diet dogma that dominates the mainstream. What drives us is the belief there is a better and more natural way of achieving wellness and vitality.
Diana Hsieh has published the best summary of the Paleo protocol I have seen online on her blog. It includes links to articles and materials that explains the rationale for each element of the diet. Click here.
Thought leaders in the Paleo movement include Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf and Art deVany. Here are som YouTube videos:
Mark Sisson more than anyone is responsible for popularising Primal living. Here is a YouTube lecture with him:
For visuals summarising of the Primal life-style click here.
I have posted this video with Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt recently, but it is so good it is worth sharing again:
Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” was a turning point for the low-carb and ancestral health movements. Taubes’ extensive and deep analysis laid bare how much of what passes for irrefutable scientific knowledge about nutrition is in fact supposition. In this lecture at Dartmouth University, Gary Taubes goes through his analysis and findings.
This blog reflects my personal opinions and experiences. None of the material I make available should be construed as medical advice, nor should it replace proper medical consultation. If this blog inspires you to start your own weight loss program, I encourage you to consult a medical professional. If you, your friends or your doctors wish to question or challenges any information on this blog, I welcome your feedback. Please leave a comment by the relevant blog article.