Why Stephan Got Fat

Of course that's a play on the title of Gary Taubes' definitive treatise on obesity in America.

And, of course, the Stephan I'm referring to, Stephan Guyenet, is not only not fat, but rather lean near as I can tell.

But in his recent interview with Chris Kresser, Stephan discussed what he eats.  Stargazey summarized it in the comments:

Stephan eats foods that are less processed, processed in traditional ways and gently heated.
Breakfast: 1-2 medium potatoes with butter or palm oil, 1 gently cooked egg, sauerkraut or a raw carrot, a handful of almonds or hazelnuts. Or a sourdough buckwheat pancake instead of the potato.
Lunch: 1-2 microwaved potatoes, grassfed ground beef or lamb or chicken, cooked gently with greens & onions and without spices or salt but with herbs.
Dinner: Potatoes or sweet potatoes, beans or lentils (soaked 24 hours before cooking with seaweed) with 50/50 white & brown rice also soaked beforehand, fish, a salad with vinaigrette (or fresh vegetables), cow or goat dairy (usually fermented), almonds or hazelnuts, fruit, and sometimes a small glass of wine.
He drinks herbal tea, but has no caloric beverages or snacks between meals.
He estimates that he eats 50% carbs, 35% fat and 15% protein.

I think there might just be some brain matter on a few computer screens around the low carbosphere.  I'm not at all surprised by this "revelation" as even though I've not thoroughly gone back in his archives, I've listened to a few interviews he's done and never got the impression he was anything resembling a low carb practitioner or enthusiast.   

Now, back to eradicating the ravages of insulin from my body!


Sue said…
Do we know an estimate of calories?
Harry said…
Following the recent discussions on this blog and on Stephan's, I noticed that there are a couple of important distinctions in the "food-reward" theory of obesity that often get missed:
(1) Tasty versus highly palatable; in order for a food to be highly palatable it doesn't necessarily need to 'taste' great...it just needs to make you want to eat more of it. For example, a fresh fruit salad may taste wonderful, but it won't provoke the same 'more-ish' response than a relatively mono-flavour bag of Doritos cheese crisps (in most people);
(2) Enjoyable versus highly palatable; the food reward theory doesn't imply that we ought to stop eating enjoyable foods, just that we reduce the amount of a subset of enjoyable food, "highly palatable" foods. Again, the key is to focus on the effect that the food has on appetite; if you really enjoy a food that's one thing; if you really enjoy it AND it makes you actually hungrier than you were before you started eating, or it makes you obsess about when you're going to eat next...odds are it's a 'highly palatable food'.

Stephan's WOE is just one species of 'avoiding highly palatable foods'...there are literally infinite ways you can design your diet to avoid HP foods.

I hope this clears things up a bit.

Sanjeev said…
Taubes' next book:

why we get frizzy hair do's (hint: INSULIN !!!!!)
Archibald said…
When I first started reading Stephan's blog a year or so ago, one of the first posts I read was one called “Dinner with Taubes, Eades and Hujoel” (Sunday, April 18, 2010) in which he stated, or at least implied, that he disagreed with Taubes about both insulin and carbohydrate. I had never been a low-carber, had always lost my weight (time and time again!) using a very mixed diet and the despised tautology, but was starting to try LC for maintenance after reading GCBC. Having started to really gain weight even after the usual reductionist LC tinkering, reading Stephan's comments made me look for others whose thinking was contrary to that of GT. I eventually found the bunny ears and, of course, a much more explicit and vehement denunciation of metabolism according to Taubes (Unfortunately, I'm still no leaner for having done so, but that's not your fault or problem!) Anyway, back to Stephan, my point is that there are many posts and comments on his blog that would lead all but the delusional to realize that he is pro-carb.

I believe tautology is defined as the study of tautology.
Melchior Meijer said…
"Now, back to eradicating the ravages of insulin from my body!"

If memory serves, Stephan once reported his fasting insulin, which was of course low - on par with that of the Kitavans and other non sugar/grain/pufa societies. Are you arguing that chronically elevated insulin does not play a causative role? This is how I read your words.

Another thing, CarbSane. I saw you applauding Mr Matesz' post on the dangers of saturated fats. Does this mean that you subsrcribe to his 'creative' notion that eating saturated fat leads to hypertension via increased blood viscosity?
Tonus said…
Don's post on blood viscosity disappeared, didn't it? I suspect that he felt that the position was untenable, based on the discussion I saw going on in the comments.

If my reading has taught me anything so far, it's that there are a few items that nearly everyone agrees we should stay away from (HFCS in particular) and that we should be a bit more discriminating in what we eat and how it is prepared. Aside from that, there seems to be a lot more latitude in how we approach health and nutrition than many people would like to believe.

As much as I'd love it if there was a simple, one-size-fits all solution that would help everyone lose weight and feel better, I admit that I'm enjoying the process of figuring out my own fitness and nutrition regimen. I think that part of it is in the feeling that I have control over the process, instead of just following someone else's orders.
CarbSane said…
@Harry: Nice comments :) I don't think I would enjoy my life as much switching to such a bland diet. For one, it would be highly incompatible with my married life as my husband would never go for that.

@Sue: I asked Stephan if he might actually log foods to give his readers a better idea there. Most seem to think the calories are quite high, but I'm not so sure about that.

@Archibald: That's my impression as well which is why I find it so strange he's so often cited in LC circles. He and Chris sounded almost mocking of carbs/insulin at one point.

@Melchior: Are you arguing that chronically elevated insulin does not play a causative role? In most, I see hyperinsulinemia as a symptom, not a cause. I base this somewhat oversimplification on the basis of all the maladies - endothelial function, hepatic glucose production, etc. - all arising when the body does not react appropriately to insulin. Therefore I see insulin as the hormone of life, vitality and youth - a mediator of beneficial processes in the body.

As regards that sat fat issue, it's on the list to address. Hopefully my comment is still in my reader. I think Don took the post down b/c he'd rather enjoy his new wife than suffer the intellectual put-downs from the dynamic duo. Basically I don't think melting temp is directly applicable, but the same physicochemical properties responsible for the higher melting temps may well influence viscosity through chylo size and other lipoprotein compositions. But there's a whole lot of physiological issues with sat fats (palmitic acid in particular) that go ignored (and outright mocked) having to do with the fact that many metabolic/physiologic processes/functions are stimulated/suppressed by specific FA's and not others.

In lean folks like Stephan & Kurt, eating mostly whole foods and such, it's likely a non-issue. But in the overweight eating more mixed diets, sat fats may well be "unhealthy"
CarbSane said…
Yes Tonus, and it's why I get a little obsessive with the research at times. I'm a geek and find a lot of this stuff fascinating. Seeing so many viewpoints - even those I remain unconvinced by - has helped me immensely find what works for me. I would love to discover exactly what it is that can reset my setpoint to effortlessly lose these last pounds. I'm thinking that's a pipe dream ;-)
Mirrorball said…
You guys serious you find Stephan's diet bland? I think it's a great menu. I prefer more fruit though, and I would roast rather than microwave the potatoes.
CarbSane said…
Well MB, no salt or spices but a few herbs spells bland-o-rama to me.

Since I've been home cooking more I don't use a lot of salt anymore, but I need some. I'm big on pepper and other spices. Trader Joe's 21 seasoning salute is "da bomb" for flavor.

I add 1/2 tsp salt per pound of ground beef for "Alton burgers" and it makes a huge difference.
John said…

If you want to read back Don's post about melting temperatures and the 77 comments it generated, you can find it in Google's cache (for as long as it lasts).

Here's the bit.ly-ed link (the cache link is rather long): http://bit.ly/j6GWDd

Mirrorball said…
I love pepper and paprika, but I avoid commercial spice mixes with an endless list of ingredients. Don't you think they must be hyperpalatable, with so many different flavour molecules?

I've been trying to decrease the amount of salt I use, but I still need some too.
Sanjeev said…
> I don't use a lot of salt anymore

If you ever want more saltiness you can always use some potassium chloride.

Up here we have "no salt", which I prefer over "Half Salt"

I understand there's a "Half Salt" equivalent in the US, a pfizer product that's half KCl and half NaCl.

NoSalt has a sharper, stinging taste when used in excess and the HalfSalt tastes more like actual salt.
CarbSane said…
So ... Mirror, we're back to bland! LOL.

Trader Joe's 21: onion, black pepper, celery seed, cayenne, parsley, basil, marjoram, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, savory, rosemary, cumin, mustard, coriander, garlic, carrot, orange peel, tomato granules, lemon juice powder, oil of lemon, citric acid.

I eat less of my stews and soups flavored with this mix than I would of any fast food any day. Just pepper? I suppose!
Mirrorball said…
I would keep the pepper and add chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic to the soups, some parley maybe (I don't really like parsley) and a bit of lemon juice. I'm getting hungry...
Harry said…
Hi CarbSane,

I think the key (see point 2 in my previous post) is to understand that 'bland' and 'not-hyperpalatable' are not synonymous, and as such, that 'tasty' and 'hyper-palatable' are also not synonymous.

Whether a food is tasty or bland is tangential, in regards to hyperpalatability. Taste is a discrete sense, and is only one of the many factors that go into making food 'hyper-palatable' (i.e. quasi-addictive). Other factors include:
the layering of fats, sugars, and flavour enhancers (from multiple sources), the manipulation of textures to enhance crunch or smooth, the packaging of the food, the advertising etc.

All of these factors combine to make some foods quasi-addictive, where others, that are merely very tasty (e.g. fruit) are not.

A good example is the difference between a tasty steak, simply cooked (say, broiled), seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs and spices. Tasty - yes...hyper-palatable - no.

Compare this to a frankfurt - layers of different fats, of different sweeteners, of multiple flavour enhancers, of emulsifiers (enhancing texture) etc. Tasty - debatable, hyper-palatable - Yes.

Sorry to bang on about this, but it's just that many of my clients that want to drop 'those last few kgs' (which is essentially the position that you're in) find great success when they simply control the hyper-palatable foods, even though they still enjoy 'tasty' foods.

It's not about being austere or abstemious with nice foods, it's about controlling that special sub-species of foods that encourage the cue-stimulus-reward cycle (that in turn, encourages overeating).

Sue said…
CarbSane, I don't think Stephan's calories are very high either unless he puts lashings of butter on his potatoes (plus salt otherwise tastes bland).
CarbSane said…
Thanks John ... snagged it.
CarbSane said…
Harry: When I did my "cheating" plan I found I did not overeat some faves (like fried rice) like I used to when we ate that sometimes once a week. So there's something to this for sure. I prefer, perhaps "habituation" to "addiction" though.
CarbSane said…
Yeah Sue, I think people see potatoes and think lotsa calories because folks tend to add lots of fat in preps. Also 1 or 2 potatoes at each meal probably doesn't mean 6 potatoes every day but it's human nature to jump to that.
Mirrorball said…
A medium potato has only 164 kcal. Obviously if you add lots of butter like so many LCs do (because all of that fat is so good for you!) the calorie count gets way higher than that.
CarbSane said…
There's also this misguided notion of "covering one's carbs" with fat. This seems to be based on fat lowering the glucose "spike" thus lessening the insulin response. However, if anything, fat would amplify the insulin response by stimulating those insulin-stimulating incretins (probably what causes the reduced glycemic excursion), though I seem to recall at least one study where BG was reduced but with no change in the insulin response. In any case, all that strategy gains is pounds! Jimmy Moore recently "experimented" with adding in carbs - bread and butter and sweet potato fries. He gained weight predictably as he just added these to the other foods he had been eating. Conclusion: my body is ultra sensitive to carbohydrate. *sigh*
. said…
Many times, being a health "expert" is a health hazard - http://anthonycolpo.com/?p=450