Why diets fail.

Most diets advocate; to lose weight you reduce calories and you will, but, only for a limited time. Reducing calories, drops your nutrients. Your metabolism slows to match the lower incoming calorie and nutrient level.

Your body chooses where to distribute the reduced available nutrients. Your brain gets priority. Your hair, skin and nails can probably function without the best nutrition for a while. These areas gradually lose their sparkle and energy. However, alarm bells will be going off in your brain with a strong message to upload more nutrients. This can make you hungry, tired and grumpy. Weight loss slows down and to maintain weight loss, requires further calorie reduction.

Few people can withstand this, eventually succumbing to their body’s demands for more food.

During WW II, the US Government commissioned a starvation study. The Minnesota Starvation Experiment. 36 male volunteers spent 6 months on 1600 calories per day. They ate mainly potatoes, turnips, bread and macaroni. A high carbohydrate diet.

They became depressed, lost concentration, became preoccupied with food and very distressed. Some ended up hospitalized, yet most weight loss programs use this type of approach to diet.

There is a better way. In the 1970’s, 2 researchers, Blackburn and Bistrian at Harvard Medical School developed a “protein-sparing modified fast” to treat obesity: 650 to 800 calories a day of nothing but fish and meat. Effectively no carbohydrates, making it a low-calorie keto diet. One publication highlighted the average weight loss of 700 people was nearly fifty pounds in four months. The patients felt little hunger. “They loved it,” Bistrian said. “It was an extraordinarily safe way to lose weight.” Sadly they stopped, because they mistakenly thought that low carbohydrate levels were unhealthy.

The difference between these diets is the carbohydrates. High carbohydrate diets with low calories, force your body into starvation mode because the resulting high insulin level prevents the body from accessing fat reserves. But if you become fat adapted, eating higher fats and very low carbohydrates, the body can use stored body fat to replace missing calories.

A successful way to get fat adapted is to severely reduce carbohydrates in your diet. Replacing most carbohydrates with good fats. Carbohydrates are not essential because your liver will make glucose from fat if needed.

I have eaten this way for 3 years. No weighing food or counting calories. I seldom feel hungry. Do I need carbs for exercise and energy? No way. I run, swim, use the gym, or kayak with no shortage of energy. Fat adapted people claim increased energy. My weight is down 11 kgs and blood pressure is back to normal.

Reducing calories does reduce weight, but unless done right, is unlikely to be sustainable.

Seek professional medical advice before any changes, particularly if you are on medication or have any underlying health problems.

Read my blog at “www.takebackyrhealth.com

You will find a link to my book.

Good health, George Elder, Diet Researcher, Dip. Nutrition.

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Just reduce calories

Have you heard that before, “Just reduce calories and do more exercise”.

If you asked most people including many doctors how to lose weight, they might have told you this. It seems so easy and we have seen pictures of skinny people who have been starved or who have survived famines. Some people can do it but very few sustain it, even if it seems simple.

Your body is very smart. Different parts of you body have different needs. So this means that if you reduce your calories, your body will choose which processes in your body will get the reduced available nutrients from your food and which parts will not.

Your brain and your heart are likely to be given priority, because these organs are critical to your survival. Your hair, skin and nails can probably function without the best nutrition for a while and you won’t die. You may find that these parts of your body and others deemed less important, gradually become less healthy than they should be. This is a decline in your basal metabolic rate. At the same time the alarm bells will be going off in your body with a strong message to upload more nutrients. This will make you really hungry.

There is strong proof of this problem. Towards the end of World War II, the US Government commissioned a starvation study, called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. 36 male volunteers were subjected to a 6 month period of only about 1600 calories per day. They were fed mainly potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, bread and macaroni. This was a high carbohydrate diet and the participants got sick.

This from Wikipedia: “The prolonged semi-starvation produced significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis. Most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression. Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase. Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation. The participants reported a decline in concentration, comprehension and judgment capabilities. There were marked declines in physiological processes indicative of decreases in each subject’s basal metabolic rate (the energy required by the body in a state of rest), reflected in reduced body temperature, respiration and heart rate.”

The reduction in metabolic rate means that their body’s were operating with a lower required level of calories and when this happens, it usually stops further weight loss. To continue weight loss in this situation requires even further calorie reduction.

It doesn’t have to be like this. In the 1970’s, 2 researchers George Blackburn and Bruce Bistrian at Harvard Medical School developed what they called a “protein-sparing modified fast” to treat patients with obesity: 650 to 800 calories a day of nothing but lean fish, meat, and fowl. It had effectively no carbohydrates, making it a ketogenic diet, albeit a very low-calorie version. In one 1985 publication reporting on almost seven hundred patients, the average weight loss was nearly fifty pounds in four months. The patients felt little hunger while on the diet. “They loved it,” Bistrian said. “It was an extraordinarily safe way to get large amounts of weight loss.”

Bistrian and Blackburn did not continue it, because in those days they mistakenly thought that having such a low level of carbohydrates in the diet was unhealthy. Nowadays we know better.

The difference between these 2 diets is the level of carbohydrates. Unfortunately continuous high carbohydrate levels with low calories, force starvation mode because the resulting high level of insulin prevents the body from accessing fat reserves. When a person becomes fat adapted and fuels their body with high fats and very low carbohydrates, the body does not go into starvation mode because it uses stored body fat reserves to provide the missing calories and nutrients.

One of the most successful ways to get your body into fat burning mode is to switch to a ketogenic diet. My book “Take back your health” available on Amazon in e-book and paperback gives a very easy to follow guide to making this change.

I have been eating this way now for nearly 3 years and it is almost effortless. No weighing food or counting calories is necessary. I very seldom feel hungry. Do I need carbs for exercise and energy, no way. I go running, use the gym, go swimming and kayaking anytime with no shortage of energy. In fact most people who make this switch claim to have increased energy.

Am I worried that eating meat will impact climate change? Of course. But animals grown using regenerative agriculture actually sequester carbon into the earth, so I’m am doing the right thing. Grains growing in large mono-crop areas and fertilized by man-made petrochemical fertilizers is killing our soils and reducing nutrients available from our food, not to mention the thousands of small animals killed by this farming approach. So reducing my carbohydrate intake is supporting climate change objectives.

As I have explained, reducing calories does reduce weight, but unless you do it right, it is unsustainable and you will fail. Apparently almost all of “The biggest losers” put their weight back on over the following years.

For more information on health, nutrition and weight loss, read my blog at “www.takebackyrhealth.com” where you will find a link to my book.

As always, good health, regards George Elder.

What is Metabolic Health?

In these days of COVID-19 we hear that people with poor metabolic health usually suffer a much worse outcome from getting infected with the virus. In 99% of the deaths in Italy from COVID-19, poor metabolic health was identified. Prateek Lohia, MD, MHA, assistant professor of internal medicine at Wayne State University, said. “Patients with metabolic syndrome had a 40% increase in all-cause mortality, 68% increase in the need for critical care services and a 90% increase in the need for mechanical ventilation compared to the patients without metabolic syndrome.”

But what is poor metabolic health?
If we look at crowd photos from the 1950’s and 1960’s, we are fascinated at the number of slim people. It can often be difficult to spot a person in the crowd who looks fat. The people look positively skinny in comparison with crowd photos taken these days. In most cases, that difference is metabolic syndrome, or poor metabolic health.


When a person has metabolic syndrome, a major indicator is excess fat around their middle. They might be called apple shaped, sometimes referred to in males, as having a beer belly. Often the major indication is a belly that hangs over the belt.
The excess fat accumulated around the center of a body is adipose fat, and it packs all around the body’s critical organs such as the heart, pancreas, stomach, liver etc. It can make bending over to tie shoelaces difficult, and can compress the lungs requiring more effort for breathing. To know if this is a concern for you, just take your waist measurement in the morning and compare it with your height. The waist measurement should be less than half your height measurement.
Not all people who have poor metabolic health are apple shaped. Some can be very thin and we refer to these people as TOFI’s. Thin outside, fat inside. They can still have excess adipose fat around their organs impacting their health.


What has happened to these people?
When their body has too much energy usually from eating excess carbohydrates, it could become toxic in the blood, so it has to go somewhere else. Their body converts this energy into a storable form and deposits it in the central area. This can be stored in the liver which can result in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which over time, expands the liver putting more bulk into the central area and can eventually lead to cirrhosis or permanent scarring damage to the liver. Sometimes this excess energy is converted into Triglycerides (fat) and stored in the central area, increasing adipose fat around the organs, and pushing out the belly.
A major driver for this, is eating food that has too high energy but a low level of nutrients. It is common to think this is a result of a person just over eating, but it often comes from their body reacting to the type of food they are eating and continuing to send “hungry” messages. So, the wrong food can make you feel hungry, even if you have just eaten. For example, many processed foods and sweetened beverages are full of calories, have almost zero protein, but zero nutrition. If these are dominant in your diet, your body will keep you feeling hungry until you have satisfied your protein or nutrition requirements.


What are the health impacts of this condition?
This central adipose fat releases hormones such as leptin, some cytokines and others, to such an extent that it is now considered a major endocrine organ influencing a number of internal processes. These can help drive up obesity which is now known to increase cancer risk. The high glucose levels driving metabolic syndrome also increase insulin levels ultimately creating insulin resistance and this drives a wide range of diseases. Some examples of these diseases are Type 2 diabetes, PCOS, macular degeneration, kidney disease, liver diseases, heart disease, obesity and many other diseases that are only just being recognized as caused by insulin resistance.
Why is a person with metabolic syndrome more susceptible to a poor COVID-19 outcome? It seems that their immune system is compromised, that nutrition levels are lower, that these people have a delayed response by the immune system. Chronic inflammation seems to be a factor, as it is common in obese people. It seems that COVID-19 can create an excessive inflammatory response called a cytokine storm. This can cause severe lung damage and multi organ failure.


Is there anything that can be done?
Yes, there is and you can get results quite quickly. The really good news is that when you focus on this problem, the body seems to reduce the worst adipose fat level first. In just one week with a significantly reduced dietary glucose level, research has found that liver function can recover by as much as 30%. In just three weeks, the adipose tissue can begin to shrink and health markers can begin to improve.
For many people, the route to improved health involves heavily reducing dietary carbohydrates which lowers insulin, reduces sugars in the blood and switches the body to consume stored fat. When this is done, the first fat store that is targeted is the central area adipose fat. Great news.


A paleo diet can help and even a vegan diet may help. Grains, sugar sweetened drinks, HFCS, starchy vegetables and sugar must be eliminated. This means no corn, rice, potatoes, parsnips, almost no fruit and no flour or corn-based products like pasta, cereals, bread, pretzels, cakes buns etc. So very difficult but not impossible for a vegan to still get all their required nutrition.
A keto or low carbohydrate style diet is my easy way to do this because it mostly eliminates any feeling of hunger. Increase the level of meat, eggs, dairy, and eat lots of green vegetables every day. You are replacing most carbohydrates with additional protein, and fat. If the overall calories are kept just a little under daily requirements, then the body will begin to use stored fat to make up the energy shortfall. Intermittent fasting can also help.


Take a look at this report from Dr. Maryanne Demasi for more detailed medical information: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111451
For more information, I invite you to download my e-book.George Elder, Author, “Take Back Your Health”, Available on Amazonwww.takebackyrhealth.com

Changing what’s in the Mirror

A message to those of you who don’t like what you see in the mirror, particularly to young women.

You are bombarded by messages about body shape and size which may create feelings of inadequacy.  What to do?  One option is to ignore these completely and be yourself so long as your health is not being compromised.  However, if 2x your waist size is a number that exceeds your height then prioritizing your health might be a good move.

If you listen to the so-called “experts” parroting the standard advice, they will likely be telling you to eat less, get more exercise and avoid dietary fat.  They might even have gone as far as suggesting a plant-based diet.  While they will all firmly believe they are giving you great advice, unfortunately while it is well meaning it can be very misguided.

Modern science has uncovered lots of new information about what is healthy and unfortunately much of this does little to sell more food, drugs or supplements and because of this is ignored or lost amongst the thousands of articles, podcasts and medical reports that are newly published every day.  Because of what is known as “confirmation bias”, published articles are often only printed when they agree with the majority of readers views and therefore the conventional, out of date even discredited information is reprinted over and over despite the fact that we can clearly see it is not working.

Here are some things that you need to know:

  • Exercise is good for you and it can help build strength and flexibility which is very valuable, but it is unlikely to help much to lose weight.  Muscle weighs more than fat so it may even put weight on.  The tape measure can show you if it is working for you.
  • If you decide to just eat much less, your body will adjust for a lower level of available energy and it does so by restricting the amount of energy you use internally for body repair and maintenance until it matches the level available.  Your metabolism slows down.  Thus, vital body management functions are minimized, body temperature may reduce in your extremities, and you will feel lethargic because there is less energy available. Your body will adapt to this lower energy level over time (weeks), and once adapted, any loss of fat will stop.  This can happen with a relatively modest fat loss.  It also signals to your brain to get more food on board urgently making you feel very very hungry.  The result can be stiffness, brittle nails, hair loss, slower healing of wounds, more sickness etc. This is usually unsustainable for very long.
  • A danger is that your level of nutrition will also fall. You don’t just eat to fill your tummy; you need to ensure that you are getting all the nutrition including the vitamins and minerals you need to remain healthy.  Although you are getting food, the goodness may not be high enough.  Your immune system can become weaker, your body will get even less value from food due to poor digestion and you may find you have more brain fog, headaches, gastro intestinal problems, tiredness and many other issues.  If you avoid eating animal foods then this can be even more extreme because the level of nutrition in plants is lower due to lower starting levels and the impact of anti-nutrients.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K2 need fat with the food for absorption and vitamin B12 and Zinc come primarily from animal foods and a low level of these will definitely impact your health. Poor nutrition can have a devastating impact on a baby’s growth and development, particularly brain development and some of this can be irreversible, whether still in the womb or a toddler.
  • To reduce body fat, you need to put your body in a state where it will use some of your existing body fat stores every day.  This is surprisingly simple once you understand what is happening.  First you need to adjust your body so that the level of glucose goes low regularly and when this happens it will switch over to consuming body fat. By eating more protein, up to 1.5 grams for each Kg of body weight, a little more fat, and cutting down on carbohydrates from processed foods, sugar and grains you will train your body to use up stored fat reserves.  Carbohydrates are sugars and it is these that convert to fat in your body.
  • While you are making these changes, a very healthy change is to minimize the use of vegetable oils and replace these with olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed oil or avocado oils.  If you are happy to eat animal sourced food then anima fats, eggs, liver, chicken, red meat etc.  are all excellent sources of nutrients.  Most food outlets fry in vegetable oils so best to avoid these if you can as they can be toxic long term.  If you thought that meat could increase your risk of cancer then be aware that this is another myth spread by people who want to change your diet for their benefit, not for your health. Research shows that colon cancer is actually higher in vegetarians than meat eaters.
  • Over a short time you will find that you no longer feel hungry between meals.  You should adapt to this by only eating when you are hungry and stop once you feel full.  At this stage you might like to consider intermittent fasting with my recommendation being to give up breakfast and switch to only 2 meals a day and don’t have any snacks between meals.  This can result in you eating lunch and dinner then having about 16-18 hours of evening, night and next morning when you only drink water or similar. 
  • You don’t need to really change much about your diet except to avoid those sugars, grains and processed food.  A good meal might consist of a steak, some vegetables and a small piece of fruit for dessert.  Don’t have fruit juices of smoothies as they push up the sugars, but one whole piece of fruit each day should be OK.
  • Only check the scales occasionally as they are more impacted short term by the level of liquids in your body.  Stay hydrated preferably with water and definitely avoid the sweetened sodas.
  • If you want a name for eating this way you can call it low carb, Atkins, Keto or Paleo as they all have very similar approaches.  A cookbook or two can help with planning your new meals.

George Elder, Author, “Take Back Your Health”, 
Available on Amazon eBook US$ 3.99, or Paperback US$ 7.99
now at http://www.eldergeo.com

My e-book is now online

After a long journey, my shortened e-book has made it onto the Kindle bookstore on Amazon.

You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Take-Back-Your-Health-medicine-ebook/dp/B08LKW42BJ/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=take+back+your+health&qid=1603614924&s=books&sr=1-8

Wow! What a fascinating revelation on what I eat and why I have dietary issues. A great summary of many complex nutritional issues and better still, provides references to research plus a way forward. It will be a challenge for me to be disciplined to apply the lessons learnt from this book but by taking it in stages, I am sure I will become more healthy. What a valuable find and so cheap buy! Unbelievably valuable.

Eric, one of my book editors.