Welcome all seeking refuge from low carb dogma!

“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”
~ Charles Darwin (it's evolutionary baybeee!)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weight loss, low carb?, aging, chefs and bikers

Ahh ... a little something for everyone in this post.  I was thinking on the whole biker doc in the kitchen fiasco, the "who looks older" crap on Jimmy's blog, and whatnot ... and one Alton Brown popped into my mind.   You see, a few years back, Alton had a miniseries of sorts on Food Network called Feasting on Asphalt.   Wow ... looking at that link it was six years ago - 2006!   Basically Alton took a bike trip up the Mississippi stopping along the way to culinary landmarks to sample local cuisines.  I love this sort of stuff, I confess.  Still, he was carrying quite a bit of extra weight on his frame at the time.  

Alton, born in 1962, was 44 that year.  Now ...  I must preface this by saying I'm a hu-uuuge AB fan, and have a bit of a geek crush on the guy.  I've also learned a crapload about cooking from him though I rarely, to this day, follow any recipes to a tee.  I've probably seen most if not all episodes of his Good Eats show.  I had no idea that he and I were around the same age -- he always looked a bit older to me.  It seems that different things tend to age women and men ... in Alton's case there's no doubt that the hairline can contribute to an older look (full disclosure here, hubby has been sporting the Tom Colicchio look for at least a decade now).  But he's also had his fair share of wrinkles.  The video is from 1999 (Season 1) which would put him at 37.  Looking a bit more boyish, but in the closeups you can see he's already got those forehead furrows going.  The pic at the right is undated.  
Date unknown

What's that we've been saying about the lighter complected and aging?  And genes and aging?  Must be cuz he's cooking his steak with O6 oils.  He doesn't cook his steak in coconut oil ... gasp!!   Now Alton prepares all sorts of foods on his show as you can see from this list of Good Eats episodes.   All without the decadent nonsense, but not sparing the fat, salt, carbs, whatever when "appropriate" for the foods.    Alton has waxed poetic on health from time to time, but mostly he's about proper preparation of foods, and the way I see it, maximizing the natural flavors of the foods he highlights.

And yet, AB fell prey to the middle aged spread like the best of us.  His "ah ha" moment apparently came from looking at video from that biker special, and others.  You can see for yourself in the video at right.  (At least watch the first part with the disclaimer ... funny stuff).  Gotta love the "Buff Like Me" title for the book (not Sensationally Skinny?  Wha??).  This was aired in Jan of 2010 so he was 47 going on 48 at the time and had began his diet early in 2009.  There were actually rumors about AB and his being sick, etc.  I watched the episode, and thought, frankly, he looked like crap.  So ... losing weight and eating healthier .......
There's a perception, right or wrong, that as we age, the truly lean tend to begin to look frail, get that emaciated about the face & neck look, etc.  But I remember when this was announced, Jimmy was all about how AB was Livin la Vida Low Carb!.  
People who watch The Food Network aren’t usually conscientious of the relationship between diet and health because quite frankly most of the recipes shared by the “stars” on there each and every day are loaded with way too much excessive sugar and carbohydrates that will simply pack on the pounds.
Speak for yourself Jimmy ... and do remember that excessive fat is just as, if not more unhealthy. 
The producers have tried in the past to highlight the benefits of eating well on a healthy low-carb nutritional approach when the great George Stella ... with his “Low-Carb & Lovin’ It” show back in the heyday of livin’ la vida low-carb in the middle of the last decade. But with the low-carb “fad” allegedly passing in 2004 and now that nobody seems to be interested in healthy cooking on The Food Network anymore (although I think they’re missing a golden opportunity to hit an under-served market of viewers!), the producers completely ditched the idea of promoting a health-related cooking show.
BS Jimmy.  If there were a market for it, Stella would be back on the Cooking Channel at least.   Apparently Jimmy has never heard of Ellie Krieger (no relation to James I don't think).  Right now that link is featuring a video of Portabella Benedict.  Low carb friendly (eggs and bacon too!  OK, OK, she does perpetuate the dietary cholesterol myth, and lean Canadian bacon, but ...).   Jimmy continues:
He looks fantastic and a lot of low-carbers found it rather eye-opening to hear how he did it — “scientific applications of nutritional principles…I ate a lot of sardines instead of cake…and the pounds melt right off!” Hmmmm. Sounds a whole heckuva lot like livin’ la vida low-carb if you ask me. Plus, you gotta love that “zero carbs” pasta alternative he created out of the eggplant for the recipe on The View. Alton says he may even write a book about it which would be quite intriguing. I’m currently working with his people on getting a podcast interview to discuss his amazing weight loss success. Stay tuned!
Guess  that never happened.  Turns out his diet wasn't really low carb as revealed on his January 2010 Live and Let Diet episode.  Funny how the low carbers are eager to include folks like AB in their tent to promote a lifestyle, and yet how folks like to ostracize the non-ketogenic as not "true" low carbers, or those of us who don't dollop fat on everything of eating LC the "wrong" way.
But what will they do now that one of their network’s biggest stars has lost a total of 50 pounds by consuming what could easily be described as a low-carb diet? That’s exactly the dilemma they find themselves in ...
Well, 2010 did begin with that diet episode featuring a fruit smoothie, sardines on toast and an almond snack.  Alton speaks of avocados and salmon.  Nothing about piling the butter on everything!  But the episode list reveals, there wasn't much change in Alton's show for the approximately year and a half more that it ran.  Perhaps Jimmy should take advice from AB:
He also limits himself to just one alcoholic beverage weekly [JM doesn't drink] and believes that “portion-control, lean protein” is the way to go for him!
Just sayin Jimster ...   Ahh but isn't the AB "biker chef" the perfect comparison for the would-be new LC cooking show?  Hilariously, Jimmy even compares Carlson's schtick to AB's:
WOW, wouldn’t this be incredible to see on cable or network television someday? It’s both educational and entertaining that reminds me of the wackiness of somebody like Alton Brown on The Food Network. And yet it maintains the dietary integrity of what high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb living is all about and passing on that message to the television viewers at home.
Uhhhhhhhhh ... no.  Alton is funneeee!  Carlson just looks funny.   Apparently something about 8 years of low carbing has altered Jimmy's vision, because even the "still" of the YouTube video, right there on his blog page, shows Carlson is packing a gut and a chin.  He's not skinny or ... tiny!  And so much for the excuse that he's a biker (see the comments for all these funnies).  I was not aware that riding a motorcycle required or dictated a certain physique, but perhaps Carlson should trade the bike for a bicycle on occasion ....   I'm pretty sure the slimmer Alton is still riding.

So bringing this full circle, to these eyes, losing the weight initially did age Alton.  This may not be obvious in the pics/vids I posted here, but AB fans watching his shows at the time were quite shocked by his appearance, myself included.  This happened to Bill Clinton too, just to name one more public figure.  But it is what it is!!  Should we have a guess Carlson's age lottery here at the Asylum?   Nah ... that wouldn't be fair.   According to my information ......  {tease and grin} .... Alton turns 50 this year:


Beth@WeightMaven said...

Too funny! I too have a geek crush on Alton Brown. And I owe him mad props, as he's certainly helped me (not intentionally) with blog traffic -- the review I did of Live and Let Diet on WeightMaven has generated more than 67K page views in two years.

Like you, I thought the new Alton was a bit bordering on gaunt after the weight loss reveal. Commenters on my blog post pointed out that Alton achieved some of this weight loss by a daily four mile run, so perhaps this is part of the whole lowering cals, raising cortisol of "chronic cardio" at work too.

Unknown said...

@Evelyn and @Beth, count me in as one who enjoyed the science as much as the recipes on AB's show. I was a regular viewer at the time but I was usually stuffing a bag of chips down my gullet as I watched. :O I have to say I'd be tickled to see a "whole foods including meat" show on TV but I assume the numbers aren't there yet. Evelyn, I'm definitely on board with your caution about Excessive fat--I don't shy away from fatty meats but the only extra fat I add to anything is olive oil on my salad. I find it alarming when I read comments from young folks that they're drinking "shots" of fat in addition to generally fatty menus. High Ewww factor for one thing.

Galina L. said...

I am a big fan of AB and recently watched the rerun of his diet episode. It crossed my mind then that he did a some sort of calorie restrictive diet in rotation. If I were to attempt something like that, I would rather replace fruit smoothy with eggs for a breakfast and use something else in the place of bread to be eaten with sardines, and I am not placing a red meat among rarely eaten food items. But it was his diet, not mine. His look didn't inspire me to aim to loose more lb (I don't believe I can do it now anyway). To be fair - some people with age loose more fat from face than others. My husband's face looks much older than mine (he is a fair naturally thin guy) while we are the same age. He doesn't eat a vegetarian diet like Clinton or limits his fats like AB.

CarbSane said...

It's funny ... I don't consciously try to limit red meat, but I'll go through phases, even VLC phases, where I don't eat it but maybe once a week or even two weeks. I tend to eat a lot more chicken, fish and seafood than most I guess. When I see some low carbers eating three meals a day with some meat at each I don't know how they can eat that much to be honest.

I'm not a smoothie person either. I'd rather eat my fruit and have my new favorite Greek yogurt with it (or my old fave 2% cottage cheese).

CarbSane said...

Nea about the blog traffic. Alton is one FN star I'd like to meet. Hubby missed meeting Michael Simon the other day :( Was rooting for him to win Next Iron Chef back when!

Not sure I buy into some of the cortisol stuff. Dunno what his mile time is, but that's not too too much chronic cardio. Still daily ...

CarbSane said...

I see Alton's show as being pretty whole foods oriented. I don't think the general public is ready to be lectured on the evils of grains and the glories of offal just yet. I'd definitely bet on paleo-inspired before the current LC dogma inspired. I'm with you on the eeww factor ... but I've been known to eat a pat of butter off the stick!

Genia said...

Extreme low carbers and so-called Paleo dieters eat so much meat/ animal protein AND at every meal! It's so crazy considering that they often combine it with extra fat in form of butter and other oils. My family has some people living past age 90, and let me tell you, they don't eat humongous servings of meat with every meal. They subscribe to the eat until 80% full mantra and eat loads of fish/ some chicken.....and they eat foods that have been maligned by Paleo Nazis. Foods like sweet potatoes, rice, tropical fruits, and (gasp!) even edamame and other soybean-based stuff like tofu and natto. They even eat mochi stuffed with sweetened adzuki bean paste! Everything is moderation of course, and they don't sit on their butts after meals, they take walks and do other chores outside.

Galina L. said...

@Eveline, I would eat more fish which I love, especially shellfish, if I didn't have a mild allergy on it. I still eat some, but I have to be careful and I mostly feed my husband all fish I buy. In our area we have freshly caught shrimps, blue crabs, but me and my son have to stay away from it. Sure, we eat chicken, also turkey patties made with sauteed onion are very popular in our family. Baked pork shoulder with garlic is also cooked regularly but not very frequently.

@Genia, I think people who eat LC and Paleo-style diets should eat differently than people on mixed diets. Why not eat meat if you eat only one full meal a day besides small breakfast or lunch? Many people who start eating LC follow the pattern they followed with conventional diet, eat several meals a day, snacks,power bars, nuts between meals, drink smoothies with protein powder . Some of them come to their senses, while some are not.I personally believe that eating LC could help with eating less to the people who want to do it without too much discomfort. It was interesting to read about your family menu, but for me it doesn't prove anything.

Galina L. said...

I want to credit AB for inspiring my son to cook. He used to watch shows with me since very young age and developed sub-conchies feeling that cooking was fan.However, I never managed to convince him to try. After eating for whole year in cafeteria, my son decided to cook for himself and started with re-watching old AB's re-runs on a You-tube. The cheese-cake baked for my birthday was made according to the AB recipe. Some of my concussions are also in use, but only after AB did the job.
I also wish I could shake Alton's hand.

Sue said...

Galina, why do you believe you can't lose anymore weight?

Galina L. said...

I sort of reached some equilibrium now by finding food combinations that allow me to eat not much food without being hungry without gaining after a weight loss. I don't think it is much left to remove from my two meals except coffee with cream. I don't know exactly why, but my body acts in a very stubborn way when it comes to loosing weight, especially now after 4 years of very-very slow weight loss. Probably, years of dieting, under-active thyroid and being 51 contributed to the effect.

Susanne said...

The "gaunt face" problem comes up a lot on the weight loss forum I hang out at. For many people the subcutaneous fat in the face and upper body is the first to go. It can be very annoying because people start bugging you about your health and "not losing too much" when you're still far from your goal weight. I think also when the general population is fairly well-padded (and the celebrities in the media have skinny bodies but with certain parts artificially enhanced by various means), people forget what normal weight looks like. I had people "joke" (in a not funny way) that I was anorexic when I was still well in an overweight BMI! And I only went down 40lb, about what AB did. After a time at maintenance, the fat redistributed itself a bit, and I don't get that anymore, or maybe people's memories of what I looked like before is dimming.

I work in a country where there are many immigrant blue-collar workers from south Asia who are at normal weight/never been fat (and most probably 80-90% carb eaters, ha) and their faces look like ABs in middle age with low/normal body fat.

CarbSane said...

@Genia: Thanks for sharing your experiences. I think there is a lot of merit to paleo, but the valuable parts sometimes get drowned out by the absolutist: eating X is going to kill you stuff. Taubes' "Japanese problem" exists for everything from O6's to wheat to soy to name-your-poison.

@Galina: In some ways I consider you an outlier in the LC community. As many IF'ers as are around, there are still a lot of 3 meal-a-dayers and 6 small meals grazers. Many of these beef more than twice a day. I understand why beef is your protein of choice. Still, when I read (like over at paleohacks) of people eating 1 lb, 2 lbs, sometimes 3 lbs beef/day, day in and day out, (a) I wonder how they can afford it, and (b) I'm just amazed. We make Alton Brown burgers here on the grill -- 5 oz, 1/2 tsp salt per -- I buy a pound of Trader Joe's beef which makes three 5-1/3rd oz patties. I eat one, usually with a slice of melted Muenster cheese. This is plenty for me. On days we have steak or prime rib, I do eat quite a bit more (porterhouse's are amazing) but I'm not having two other full meaty meals.

CarbSane said...

Yes, the "just reduced" look is a bit different than the maintained a while. While I didn't get a gaunt look, I weighed within 5 lbs of my plateau weight for about a year and a half in 2009-2010. I went down about a size on top (mostly because my arms got thinner and they tend to limit my top sizes) and stayed roughly the same size on the bottom during this time (pants got a tad looser) -- how could this be? Don't know really. I have my theories, but clearly some recomposing went on. That last pic of Alton is more recent, and I've seen him on Iron Chef and such. He looks much better now a bit recomposed. Clinton, OTOH, doesn't look good. I think that's because he's likely less healthy than the public is privy to, just a guess, and considerably older.

CarbSane said...

Sounds like you've reached the "Yoni Freedhoff sweet spot" :D

CarbSane said...

Nea should be Neat!

Genia said...

I too believe there to be much merit to the general concept of Paleo diet, especially aspects of eating whole/ unprocessed foods and ditching diets based upon excessive carbs. A Paleo-based diet, generic as it sounds, still trumps typical, modern diet. Somehow though, this message became more dogmatic over time to include denouncing other traditional foods that many societies consume, such as rice and tofu. You're correct in calling them out for being absolutists.

One side of my family is southern Japanese, although not everyone is thin and blessed with longetivy, that is the side which has many people living past 90. The ones who do naturally subscribe to healthier diet/ lifestyle than ones who aren't as long-living. I have relatives on that side who are stout and have pre-Diabetes, but I also have many who have stayed healthy and fit throughout their long lives. So in my opinion diet and lifestyle, not just genetics, do play a pertinent role in overall health.

Of course saying that my long-living relatives eats/ ate moderate portions of meat or "poisionous" soybeans (albeit also in moderate/ small amounts), automatically renders my family's history/ experiences as being unreliably anecdotal and thus devoid of merit. Meanwhile, equally anecdotal stories of "Paleo success stories" are often accepted as Gospel. Many in the Paleo community are becoming like those they demonize, e.g. the mainstream, lowfat/ high carb/ whole grains gurus in that they too dogmatically refuse to contemplate positions which might impair their own dogmatic views.

Galina L. said...

Theoretically, for people with very thin faces some physical reduction of the remains of middle-body fat (like laser or lipo or surgical flab-reduction) could make a difference if their problem is really severe or they are comfortable with drastic measures.
I have been conscious of my quite chubby low-legs (actually my all bottom part is heavy and chubby, but low part below knees could never been addressed with any diet). Now I finally noticed that part got slimmer as a result of aging.There is still a decent amount of padding is present under my skin. My husband jokes I am build to swim in a cold water.

Galina L. said...

I was influenced by Todd Becker's blog how to practice IF - and eat healthy within limited time-frame. So far he is not a very influential or very popular blogger, not many follow him which lives me in a minority.
You told that a lot of participants of GM's blog complained frequently of hunger. My guess is JM's advise could be less thoughtful than TB's advice who put a lot of emphasis on the adaptation to the fasting. The details usually matter a lot.
I have a guess how folks eat too much meat.Probably, many are young males who do too much of bodybuilding. Vilhjalmur Stefansson consumed quite a lot during his all meat experiment. Me and you are both don't mind cooking. The good piece of meat requires minimal preparation and very easy to cook, it is the fastest and easiest thing after buying a food. Sometimes I think that majority of culinary art came from the desire to stretch meat or make some sub-optional food to taste better. What if do not try to spare meat? Probably, using a Foreman grill to cook piece of meat or chicken is the easiest thing to do for somebody who is intimidated by cooking and don't want to eat a fast food or buy some frozen meal, besides, the cost is close. My 19 yo son who decided to eat Paleo in order to have an easier time with eczema, uses 1 lb of meat a day. Besides meat and eggs he also eats starches (rice, potatoes,buckwheat), veggies, cheese, butter. One lb of grass-fed stew meat costs $5.19, sirloin tip - about $8 for a lb, beef tong(and other organ meats) - 3.99, while the cost of one meal in the cafeteria - $7. Besides eating in the cafeteria, he used to buy a lot of snacks and didn't realized the add cost .

Galina L. said...

It would be better I reached some optimum, or I am in a trouble. Or may be, the definition of the right amount of food - the minimum keeping you not hungry.

CarbSane said...

Trust me, nobody has learned the art of fasting from Jimmy. Each year after the cruise, and after each pow wow of LLVLC'ers, he announces that *every expert* is against IF. They all say he needs to eat every few hours.

Lots of folks on Jimmy's forum have barely a clue who he is. For most of the time I participated there, there were robo-announcements of new posts on his blog, podcasts, etc., but very few posts about much else by Jimmy.

I'm pretty sure the Eat Stop Eat guy isn't low carb.

bentleyj74 said...

I wouldn't be surprised if there was something subconscious in our programming that views weight loss as "bad". Think about where you'd see weight losses and homeostasis shifts in a non modernized culture...usually starvation or sickness, right? When you look sufficiently "different" for people who see you every day to notice it's likely to give them an uncomfortable feeling even if it's not really objective.

For upper body fat predisposed people like me this was a non issue. Even at low body fat what I do have goes right to my face rounding out those cheeks and people don't seem to have much of a reaction. That is nice [although the reverse applies and is not so nice :)], a good friend of mine who is a pear shape will start to get the "too much/unhealthy" comments even when she sincerely does still have fat to lose. In order to lose fat you have to be in calorie deficit. In calorie deficit you are unlikely to be doing a lot of muscle building. Maybe some...but not a lot. So people in that predicament kind of do need to endure the upper body being a bit leaner than they'd really like for a few months while they lose fat off of their lower body. Then they can eat at maintenance and increase the mass on the upper body and things balance out. The face usually recovers its more fleshed out appearance at maintenance of leaner composition as well imo.

Sanjeev said...

> if there was something subconscious in our programming that views weight loss as "bad"
A good theory, defininitely possible.

I also suspect something going the other way - social modules would feed back to perceptual modules such that whatever is viewed as good socially is eventually perceived as good, period, and verbal protestations eventually come to be seen as good.

In extremis, this is what makes for anorexia and stacked rings elongating the neck and inch-wide hoops stretching the earlobes and bound feet.

It's another facet of reward theory I think needs exploring - the feedback/feedforward of brain modules to each other, specifically social modules controlling perceptual and reward modules and reward modules feeding forward to perception.

optical illusions are only the start ...

Taubes got it COMPLETELY wrong: neurons r00l3, teh insulinz dr00l

Sanjeev said...

quick link to the previous URL

bentleyj74 said...

I'm in complete agreement Sanjeev [as per usual]. One of the things I do like seeing in the "paleo" movement even if some of it does follow rabbit trails is the broader picture feedback loops that include perception/environment/etc.

bentleyj74 said...

Brad Pilon? Definitely not a low carber.

Woodey said...

I've been watching Alton for a long long time, he is a wealth of nutritional and food prep information. A walking encyclopedia. I'm not too proud to deny I have a mancrush on him. Long live Alton Brown.

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