Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Effects of a High-Fat Diet on Health and Weight - Waiting for Blood Test Results

Some folks say it just don't get no healthier than this beauty right here! (Photo by jamesmorton)

The results of the blood test haven't come yet, so I'll save further analysis of the effects of the high-fat diet for later. I'm hoping they send them to me on Monday, but who knows these things.

The doctor, to whom I briefly mentioned that I don't eat grains, gave me lecture on the health benefits of porridge and rye bread. According to her, rye bread is about the healthiest thing you can eat. I thought it best to keep my mouth shut and not say anything about how it raises blood glucose levels just like wheat bread does. She wouldn't have believed a word of it anyway.

We also discussed alcohol use, and while she was clearly opposed to the whole idea of drinking on weekends, she also made some good points. I consider myself a moderate drinker, but it'll be interesting to see what the blood tests say about my liver.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Effects of a High-Fat Diet on Health and Weight: Paleo vs. Atkins

I bet cavemen would have loved butter. (Photo by Rakka)

Today I thought I'd shed some more light on the food items that I've been eating and also provide some explanations as to why I've chosen them and excluded others.

It might sound like I'm eating according to The Atkins Diet, but that's not entirely true. The most important difference between my diet and Atkins is that I eat a lot of fruit. In that sense I'm more closer to the Paleolithic diet, but again, I don't really subscribe to everything in that diet either, since some of the items I eat, like butter and cheese, were hardly on the caveman menu.

Nevertheless, there are several things with both Atkins and the Paleo diet that I agree with. In my eyes the thing they have in common is the idea that the way most people eat today is unhealthy because it's unnatural; that is, humans have neither evolved by nor adapted to eating things like refined sugar and flour all the time. The Paleo diet takes this approach a step further by banning everything that wasn't available to humans (or hominids) two million years ago, including all dairy products, juices, root vegetables that are inedible raw, processed meats and especially agricultural products like bread. Atkins tackled the problem from a slightly different angle: he simply looked at Western eating habits and showed that they cause obesity.

There's no doubt in my mind that one can lose weight by following the Atkins Diet. What he says makes a lot of sense, and I've seen the results in people. I wanted to see what would happen if I ate more fat while still eating restricted items like fruit, however. Spesifically, I've eaten a lot of things that are rich in saturated animal fat, some of which are allowed in the Paleolithic diet (fatty meat and fish, for example) and some of which are not (like butter, cream and cheese). I never buy anything that says "low-fat"; instead, I go out of my way to find the product with the most fat. I use butter to fry bacon. I take swigs of olive oil from the bottle and drink heavy cream straight out of the carton.

Some of the things that I regularly eat are:

Meat: mostly beef (I prefer the best cuts, medium rare), sometimes lamb or chicken
Seafood: fish (especially salmon), prawns
Fruit, berries & nuts: bananas, apples, pineapples, mandarines, plums, blackcurrants, blueberries, almonds, cashew nuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchinis
Vegetables: lettuce, onions, garlic, broccoli
Fats: olive oil, sometimes palm oil or coconut oil
Dairy products: butter, heavy cream, cheese, yoghurt

I have eliminated bread and pasta almost completely, though I did eat pasta every now and then when I first started - with olive oil and butter, of course. I still sometimes eat carbohydrates with a high glycemic index like rice and sweet potato (the latter of which is also edible raw, by the way). I also eat dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa), which I'm trying to cut down on, and drink beer, arguably the greatest product of the agricultural revolution. I haven't counted the calories I'm eating, but you'd be surprised how much energy is in a hundred grams of cheese or half a desiliter of heavy cream.

And no, heavy cream straight up is not disgusting, it's a delicacy for the true connoisseur.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

The Effects of a High-Fat Diet on Health and Weight: Reversing the Food Pyramid

Potatoes, the cursed children of the earth. (Photo by Dr. Hemmert)

This experiment has been going on for quite a while now, but I haven't written anything about it before. Now that I've proved my hair hypothesis to be at least partially correct, it's time to explain my diet hypothesis and the accompanying experiment to prove it correct or wrong.

For the past year or so I've been eating a diet that is high in fat, low in complex carbohydrates and moderate or high in protein. The first things I got rid of were bread, pasta and potatoes - the basic elements of the food pyramid that we are told is the source of all nutritional wisdom. At about the same time I started using more fats, especially saturated animal fats (like butter and cream), which supposedly are very bad for you. I've also consumed lots of monounsatured fat (like olive oil) but little polyunsaturated fat (like margarine). The next thing to go was rice, which I believe to be superior to potato and still eat every now and then.

So, instead of eating a low-fat meat stew with potatoes and steamed vegetables, I eat a steak fried in butter and a salad topped with generous amounts of olive oil. And instead of pasta carbonara, I eat an omelette. Fried in butter and topped with olive oil. Did I mention the olive oil already? It is my firm belief that there exists no such dish that cannot be improved upon by adding heaps of olive oil.

My question to all those who favor a low-fat, low-protein diet is that if animal fats and proteins make you fat, clog your arteries and are generally terrible for your health, how is it possible that our ancestors ate them with good appetite and were just fine? Most of the diseases that this low-fat craze is supposed to prevent were caused by following the food pyramid in the first place (just look at the insane recommendations for diabetics).

My hypothesis, then, is that one does not get fat nor otherwise unhealthy by eating animal fats and proteins and cutting down on the oh-so-essential bread, pasta and starchy vegetables such as potato. I'll present some more details later on.

So far, the experiment has gone pretty much as expected. As for weight, I haven't gained any pounds during the year or so - in fact, I've lost a few. I'm 182 cm (half an inch short of 6') tall and currently weigh 62 kilos (137 pounds). My body fat percentage is 7.7, which strongly indicates that eating fat is not the same thing as getting fat. As for cholesterol and other possible measures of health, I'm going to have a blood test taken this week to find out. If they can draw any blood from my bacon-clogged vein, that is!

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hair experiment interview - part four

Forget expensive products and use your natural scalp oils for hair dressing! (Photo by eightball)

Here's the final part of the interview:


How has not washing your hair changed ideas around

- Your hair?
- Hair care products?
- Doing things with your hair?

- Yourself?

It has confirmed my hypothesis that the after some time, the hair will start to clean itself. I’m not against hair care products, though – using them does make the hair look different, so I completely understand people who choose to use them. I’m just not one of those people. Confirming the hypothesis was the main point behind the experiment anyway, so not much else has changed, really.

Could you tell me about the “built-in cleaning system”?

I don’t really know the science behind all this, but my reasoning goes as follows: hair care products are a new invention, and since people most likely had clean hair before they were invented, it must be possible to keep it clean using only water. Since, after stopping using hair care products, the hair gets dirty during the first month or so and then slowly begins to look cleaner, it seems to me that it takes some time before the scalp gets used to its new condition.

The “built-in cleaning system” might be a misleading term, since it may have more to do with the scalp not producing excess oils to protect hair stripped of them than actually producing something that cleans the hair. The explanation that seems logical to me is that using shampoo (and thus stripping the scalp/hair of oils that are naturally present in them) is an unnatural condition that the scalp tries to adapt to by producing more oils than is normally necessary. For example, when you wash your hair every day with shampoo for a while, your hair gets used to it, and going for three days without shampoo seems impossible. But after washing it only once a week for a while, your hair gets used to that as well, and then three days without washing is nothing usual.

This is all just a theory, of course, and I know far too little about how the scalp and hair work to claim this is what actually happens. The idea of shampoo “stripping the hair of natural oils” might be completely wrong. I should – and probably will – educate myself on the subject, but I was anxious to try the experiment and see the results for myself.

Could you tell me about your hair care the before you started not use hair care products?

I used the cheap market stuff as well as the more expensive products. Shampoo and conditioner, nothing else.

Could you tell me about your hair care now?

I don’t use any products, just water. I might try the vinegar rinse again, though.

Could you give me a detailed description of own hair?

Blonde, thin/normal thickness, about 40 cm long, straight but tends to curl a little.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hair experiment interview - part three

No big deal, I'll just glue it back on. (Photo by Greenmonster)

I've been meaning to post part three earlier, but better late than never, right? Here it is:

Social experiences

Could you tell me a bit more about social experiences?

- On your blog you posted the question that you might “look like an idiot with no grasp of personal hygiene”. How did other people react and how did you react to other people?

- On your blog you mentioned that it “destroys any social life” and that on Sunday’s “I don’t have to leave the house and show the world my hair. Could you tell me a bit more about it?

- Maybe you can provide some examples?

I didn’t tell anyone at first. After about two weeks, I mentioned to a friend that I had not used shampoo for two weeks and that I’m attempting to try it for a month. She didn’t believe me at first – apparently my hair didn’t look too dirty at that time – and then said that I was crazy for trying to go at it for an entire month. I’m not sure whether anyone else paid much attention.

Going to work or any social events with dirty hair was certainly pretty awkward at times, but no one commented anything. I’m sure no one had any idea about the experiment. Most likely they just thought I need to wash my hair more often. Also, I wore it on a ponytail a lot, which may or may not have helped disguise the fact that it looked terrible. After the month had passed, I told some people about the experiment, and the reaction was always the same: “Really? It doesn’t look that dirty.” If I had told them during the worst days, the reaction might’ve been different. There were days I wished I didn’t have to go outside.

The day-to-day

How did the experiment influence

- Your overall personal care?
- Feeling towards yourself?
- Feelings towards your body?

- Other daily activities?

It didn’t really affect other areas of personal care – that would take more experiments. I think I felt pretty good about myself most of the time, though there were some days I was a little embarrassed to show myself in public. Overall, my attitude was very positive, since I was very keen to find out whether the experiment could be done (and I was quite confident that it could). My daily activities weren’t really affected.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hair experiment interview - part two

Stop washing your hair and get the natural look you want. (Photo by ***claire***)

Here's the second part of the interview:

Changes and sensual experiences

Could you tell me about the changes to your hair during the experiment?

- Sensual experiences - In relation to feeling, touching, smelling, looking at your hair

Before the experiment, my hair smelled like shampoo and conditioner after washing it. During the experiment, it smelled more like hair smells naturally – kind of like in a barbershop, only much milder. I don’t think it was a bad smell at all, and nowadays it doesn’t smell much like anything. Or at least I don’t notice it.

The feel of the hair was pretty oily and dirty most of the time during the first couple of weeks. Even when it looked adequately clean, it felt heavier than it did after using shampoo. After washing with shampoo, it always felt really light, which I didn’t really like. These days, even after I’ve washed with water and it looks clean, it still feels distinctly different compared to before. I prefer this new feel much more, though I sometimes miss how it looks after using shampoo and conditioner. Also, when I used shampoo the colour of the hair was a lighter blonde than it is after using only water. The current colour is a more yellow blonde. I’m not sure which one is better.

On you blog you posted that “it feels more natural than when I’ve washed it with shampoo and conditioner”, “I can barely remember what it was like to have clean hair” and “feeling a little dirty again”. Could you tell me a bit more about these statements?

- What do you mean by “natural feel of hair”? Can you describe that feel?

- What is clean hair like?

- What do you mean by “feeling a little dirt again”? Can you describe that feeling?

To me, there was always something unnatural and annoying about how my hair felt after using shampoo and conditioner. Most importantly, it felt too light. Of course I liked the fact that it looked clean, but it felt much more normal and better the next day after washing it. When it gets really dirty, it feels bad again: the scalp feels oily and a little itchy, and the hair feels greasy. It also gets tangled really easily.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hair experiment interview - part one

Insects will love the nectar your scalp will be producing. (Photo by Nia)

Since I have now become internationally famous and am constantly receiving phone calls from journalists begging for interviews, I thought I'd save them some time and post one of the few interviews that I have accepted to give. A rare gem, I tell you. This one was done for a research project that "investigated people's activities, experiences, meanings and expectations that lie behind doing daily hair care at home". Scientists around the world will thank me for my input one day, I'm sure.

Here's the first part:

Doing things with hair

On your blog you posted "brushing it seems to help". Tell me about brushing your hair - then/ now/ before the experiment?

- What did it do and particular to your hair?

- How did it feel like using the brush?

Before the experiment I either brushed with a normal plastic brush or a natural bristle brush. I didn’t notice much difference between the two. During the experiment (which is still going on in a way) I only used the natural one, since the plastic brush makes the hair too static. After I wash and dry my hair the roots of the hair seem a little oily, but the rest of the hair looks clean. Brushing the hair helps to spread the oiliness evenly. The hair doesn’t look quite as clean as it does with shampoo, but the results are still pretty good. If I brush too much it’ll look dirty, though.

On you blog you posted that before the experiment you washed your hair twice a week but during the experiment you had to rinse it nearly every day so was there an increase in having to do something with you hair i.e. having to wet it?

- Could you tell me about rinsing your hair only with water? How does it compare to washing it with shampoo? What did it do?

- Could you tell me about rinsing your hair with cold water? What is it like?

- How does a vinegar/ water wash compare to a shampoo/ conditioner wash?

- Could you tell me a bit more about the “sauna method”?

During the first couple of weeks, I had to wash the hair with water almost daily, and it still looked kind of dirty most of the time. So yes, there was definitely an increase in having to wet the hair. Compared to washing with shampoo, using only water doesn’t seem to get rid of all the oiliness. It does help somewhat, but the hair doesn’t feel as clean or as light as it does after using shampoo. I only rinse with cold water after I’ve washed my hair with warm water. It’s not that pleasant, but without the cold rinse, washing with water seems almost futile. The final rinse is as cold as I can manage and lasts for maybe thirty seconds.

I’ve tried vinegar before, and it works pretty well as a conditioner after shampoo. If I understand correctly, it returns the natural pH balance of the hair in the same way a conditioner does. It also seems to get rid of any dandruff. Without the shampoo, the effect is a little different. Compared to using only water, I think it got rid of some of the oiliness and made the hair look a bit cleaner. I only tried vinegar once or twice during the experiment, since I wanted to find out what would happen if I used only water.

The sauna method simply means going to sauna and sweating. I imagine it gets the oils in the scalp moving and helps spread them more evenly on the hairs. I might be wrong, of course, but after sweating and rinsing with cold water my hair felt pretty nice even in the hardest weeks of the experiment. I’m not sure there’s much difference these days between going to sauna and just washing the hair with warm water and then cold water.

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