I just watched this video, which is linked from the excellent page that got me started on the Paleolithic diet back in August of 2007.
Although the video is somewhat dry, I watched the entire hour and 11 minutes. The information is fascinating. Gary Taubes puts together data from numerous studies over the last century that disproves today’s conventional wisdom: that obesity is caused by overeating and sedentary behaviour. He then synthesize another hypothesis: excess carbs make people fat.
It’s not the carbs themselves that are the culprit, but the insulin that they cause your body to secrete. Insulin in the bloodstream prevents you from burning fat, and encourages the body to accumulate that fat instead. Lowering insulin levels allows fat to be burned as energy. Insulin is the only hormone that causes fat storage in the body. All other hormones encourage the body to burn fat as energy.
If you want to lose weight, don’t worry about the number of calories you consume. In fact, as Taube showed from numerous studies, it’s impossible to maintain weight by controlling the number of calories. Some of the poorest people in America were existing on near starvation diets, yet they had the highest obesity rates. Caloric intake doesn’t affect fat storage. Caloric intake regulates the body’s activity levels. The body is in a constant state of adjustment, changing speed and activity level to match what calories you put in, in an attempt to maintain an equilibrium.
Your goal should be to control your insulin levels. You can do this by watching where your calories come from. If you’re eating too many carbs, which boost your insulin levels, you will be physically incapable of burning fat. If you eat a diet that has higher levels of fat and protein, and lower levels of carbs, you will not be capable of storing fat. It’s as easy as that.
Following these principles allowed me to lose 45 lbs. within six months. I’ve maintained my new weight by maintaining those eating habits. It hasn’t always been easy. Society constantly creates pressure to do like everyone else. The temptation to grab a slice of pizza or a slab of lasagna is pretty strong sometimes. There’s also a lot of miseducation out there. Expensive products labeled as “healthy choice” are a good example. Most of them can aspire only to be “healthier,” but few actually qualify as “healthy.” Whole wheat bread is “healthier” than white bread, but it’s still going to jack up your insulin levels.
Society is driven by money, and there’s no money to be made from anyone if they are following a Paleolithic diet. Unprocessed foods are not profitable, so to try to make people think something is healthy, food companies process food a little bit differently, jack the price up, and stick a “healthy” label on it, usually with a trademark symbol after it. That doesn’t make it healthy though.
Anyway, for people trying to lose weight, I highly recommend eating less carbs for two weeks. Just start by having cut up fresh fruit, plain yogurt, and a handful of unsalted almonds for breakfast instaed of cereal. Big changes can start with small ones.