Another Simple Food Weight Loss Experience

Whole Health Source reader Sarah Pugh recently went on a six-week simple food (low reward) diet to test its effectiveness as a weight loss strategy, and she was kind enough to describe her experience for me, and provide a link to her blog where she discussed it in more detail (1). 

Consistent with the scientific literature and a number of previous reader anecdotes (2), Sarah experienced a reduction in appetite on the simple food diet, losing 15 pounds in 6 weeks without hunger.  In contrast to her prior experiences with typical calorie restriction, her energy level and mood remained high over this period.  Here's a quote from her blog:
Well, it looks like the theory that in the absence of nice palatable food, the body will turn quite readily to fat stores and start munching them up, is holding up. At the moment, the majority of the energy I use is coming from my insides, and my body is using it without such quibbles as the increased hunger, low energy, crappy thermo-regulation or bitchiness normally associated with severe calorie restriction.
I can't promise that everyone will experience results like this, but this is basically what the food reward hypothesis suggests should be possible, and it seems to work this way for many people.  That's one of the reasons why this idea interests me so much.

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2 Oatmeal Recipes and the Ultimate Oatmeal Personality Quiz

This was originally published awhile ago. But I likes it!

The following quiz is intended to evaluate your level of affection for oatmeal. Using the provided key, assign each of your answers a numeric value. At the end, tally your score to discover the extent of your oatmeal fanaticism.


For every A answer, give yourself 4 points.
For every B answer, give yourself 3 points.
For every C answer, give yourself 2 points.
For every D answer, give yourself 1 point.


I eat oatmeal:
A) Everyday. Sometimes twice. Sometimes in the shower.
B) Weekly. It’s okay for breakfast on the go.
C) Monthly. When I’m out of Froot Loops and bologna.
D) Never. It killed my dog.

My oatmeal comes from:
A) The farm. I harvest it myself, with the oatmeal scythe I received for Christmas.
B) A cardboard can. I make puppets from it when it’s empty!
C) A 3-year-old packet at the bottom of my pantry, under the Windex.
D) People intentionally trying to piss me off.

My favorite kind of sweet oatmeal includes:
A) Fresh pumpkin puree, toasted walnut bits, and a dash of the finest cardamom.
B) Honey, peanut butter, and bananas. I call it “The Elvis.”
C) Rehydrated apples and cinnamon that can be carbon dated.
D) The sweet oatmeal of death.

Gingersnap Oatmeal from Kitschen Bitsch (which I, Kris, have now eaten everyday for a week) sounds:
A) Like the second coming.
B) Like coffee with Angela Lansbury: melodic and educational.
C) Like it’d taste better in a cookie.
D) Like I’d rather have my tongue grated with a microplane zester.

At first, savory oatmeal sounds:
A) Delicious! I dated a bowl of it from 2002 to 2005.
B) Like interpretive kayaking: strange, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
C) Like a science experiment. Nice try, Carl Sagan.
D) Like being kicked in the esophagus.

Consequently, I’d equate Mark Bittman’s Oatmeal with Soy Sauce and Scallions with:
A) A month-long orgasm.
B) A Sandra Bullock movie; probably better than it has any right to be.
C) Cleaning the house with your mother before guests come over; traumatic, with the ultimate possibility of understanding.
D) Being forced to work in a gulag.


0 TO 6 POINTS: you are an oatmeal hater and honestly, a bit of a drama queen. You’d rather have your tongue scraped off than have a delicious breakfast? There is an MTV reality show in your future.

7 TO 12 POINTS: you are an oatmeal ambivalent. Once, in 2007, you bought a giant box of Quaker packets from CostCo, thinking they'd be great to take to the office. You ate the banana bread ones first. The plain ones are still in your pantry. You will end up donating them to charity.

13 TO 18 POINTS: you are an oatmeal enthusiast. Your relationship with oatmeal is quite healthy. Also, people like you and small animals feel comfortable landing on your shoulder. You should consider a career on Broadway.

19 TO 24 POINTS: you are an oatmeal extremist. Your love for oatmeal is all encompassing, and your family and friends fear for your sanity. To avoid being committed, eat eggs for a week straight. Should that fail, a straitjacket would not be out of place.

If you like these recipes, you might also like:

Gingersnap Oatmeal
Serves 1
Adapted from Kitschen Bitsch.

1/2 cup Quaker old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon molasses
A few shakes ground ginger
A few shakes ground cinnamon
A pinch ground cloves
A dash vanilla extract
A few dashes Kosher salt

In a small pot, heat oatmeal, skim milk, and water over medium heat. As oatmeal mixture is warming, add all the other ingredients. Stir thoroughly to combine. Let cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, and the oatmeal reaches … y’know … an oatmealy consistency. Serve warm.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
253 calories, 3.4 g fat, 4 g fiber, $0.45


Oatmeal with Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, and Scallions
Serves 1.
Adapted from Mark Bittman.

1/2 cup Quaker old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup water
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 small scallion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

In a small pot, heat oatmeal and water over medium heat. As oatmeal mixture is warming, add soy sauce and about 1 tablespoon of scallions. Stir thoroughly to combine. Let cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, and the oatmeal reaches … y’know … an oatmealy consistency. Spoon into a bowl and drizzle sesame oil on top. Serve warm, with a few raw scallion slivers on top.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
178 calories, 5.5 g fat, $0.32


Calculations (Gingersnap Oatmeal)
1/2 cup Quaker old-fashioned oatmeal: 150 calories, 3 g fat, 4 g fiber, $0.15
1/2 cup skim milk: 45 calories, 0.4 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.11
1/4 cup water: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.00
1 tablespoon molasses: 58 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.13
A few shakes ground ginger: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
A few shakes ground cinnamon: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
A pinch ground cloves: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
A dash vanilla extract: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.02
A few dashes Kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
TOTAL/PER SERVING: 253 calories, 3.4 g fat, 4 g fiber, $0.45

Calculations (Oatmeal with Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, and Scallions)
1/2 cup Quaker old-fashioned oatmeal: 150 calories, 3 g fat, 4 g fiber, $0.15
1 cup water: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.00
1 small scallion: 2 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber $0.08
2 teaspoons soy sauce: 6 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.07
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil: 20 calories, 2.3 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.02
TOTAL/PER SERVING: 178 calories, 5.5 g fat, $0.32

A Brief Response to Taubes's Food Reward Critique, and a Little Something Extra

It appears Gary Taubes has completed his series critiquing the food reward hypothesis of obesity (1).  I have to hand it to him, it takes some cojones to critique an entire field of research, particularly when you have no scientific background in it.

The food reward hypothesis of obesity states that the reward and palatability value of food influence body fatness, and excess reward/palatability can promote body fat accumulation.  If we want to test the hypothesis, the most direct way is to find experiments in which 1) the nutritional qualities of the experimental diet groups are kept the same or at least very similar, 2) some aspect of diet reward/palatability differs, and 3) changes in body fat/weight are measured (for example, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).  Taubes repeatedly stated in his series that controlled studies like these have not been conducted, apparently basing this belief on a 22-year-old review paper by Dr. Israel Ramirez and colleagues that does not contain the word 'reward' (10).  Another way to test the hypothesis is to see if people with higher food reward sensitivity (due to genetics or other factors) tend to gain more fat over time (for example, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16).  In addition, studies that have examined the effect of palatability/reward on food intake in a controlled manner are relevant (17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22), as are studies that have identified some of the mechanisms by which these effects occur (reviewed in 23).  Even if not all of the studies are perfect, at some point, one has to acknowledge that there are a lot of mutually buttressing lines of evidence here.  It is notable that very few of these studies appeared in Taubes's posts. 
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38 Cheap, Healthy Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers

This post was originally published in November 2008. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Every year, I suspend my healthy diet for one heralded November day. No, not Election Day, during which I’m usually too queasy to eat – but that most glorious of bird-based holidays, Thanksgiving.

Then, 24 hours later, I enter an equally magical shame spiral, since I’ve just consumed enough calories to keep me alive for eight years without ever having to eat again.

This year, I’m going to desperately try to avoid all that, hopefully by using at least 25 of the following 38 inexpensive, frugal leftover recipes. (Well … okay, 24.) I found them via a thorough, highly scientific search-and-paste process, not unlike previous Beef, Party Food, and Salad Dressing searches. In this case, here’s what determined a dish’s appearance on the list:
  • As always, if the recipe comes from an aggregate site, the reviews must come in at 80% approval or above, or have no reviews at all (in which case, they must look really, really good).
  • It was a little difficult to find low-fat recipes, since stuffing and mashed potatoes aren’t exactly health foods (meaning: they don’t miraculously lose their calories on Black Friday). So, I attempted to keep each recipe NWR, or Nutritious Within Reason. There’s little added butter, oil, dairy, lard, mayo, or canned soup in each dish.
  • If possible, I included notes about lightening the dish under each title.
  • As for price, there aren’t any exotic ingredients included, so costs should be pretty low. Caveat: you might have to purchase a little ginger or a bunch of green onions or something.
  • There is no Turkey Tetrazzini. Because I hate it. Muahahahahahaha!
Readers, if you have suggestions, I love to hear. In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving!

All Recipes: Apple Curry Turkey Pita
Use low-fat yogurt in place of regular to cut fat and calories.

All Recipes: Hearty Turkey Soup with Parsley Dumplings

All Recipes: Southwestern Turkey Soup

Bon Appetit: Asian Turkey-Noodle Soup with Ginger and Chiles

Bon Appetit: Cranberry Citrus Sorbet
This sounds AWESOME.

Bon Appetit: Pork Chops with Cranberry Port and Rosemary Sauce

CHG: Leftover Turkey Stew

CHG: Turkey Chili
Use turkey bits instead of ground turkey, add to pot with tomatoes

CHG: Turkey Noodle Soup
Sub in cooked turkey for chicken.

CHG: Turkey With Shallot Apricot Sauce
Sub in turkey for chicken, and use leftover warmed turkey

Chow: Turkey Pad See Ew
A little high in fat, but delicious-sounding just the same.

Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom: Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole (scroll down)
Sub in fat-free evaporated milk and make sure you use 2% cheddar.

Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom: Turkey Stock

Cooking Light: Cold Soba Noodles with Turkey

Cooking Light: Fiery Turkey-Pâté Crostini

Cooking Light: Turkey Pizza

Cooking Light: White Turkey Chili

Epicurious: Turkey Burritos with Salsa and Cilantro

Epicurious: Turkey and Sweet Potato Sandwich

Fabulous Foods: Turkey Pasties

Fine Cooking: Turkey Soup with Ginger, Lemon, and Mint

Fine Cooking: Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash

Fine Cooking: Turkey Tortilla Soup

Food Network/Cathy Lowe: Turkey Soup with Rice

Food Network/Cathy Lowe: Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Food Network/Emeril Lagasse: Turkey and Vegetable Soup

Food Network/Michael Chiarella: Next Day Turkey Soup

Food Network/Ocean Spray: Smoked Turkey and Cranberry Gourmet Pizza

Food Network/Rachael Ray: Turkey Corn Chili

Food Network/Rachael Ray: Turkey and Stuffin’ Soup
Frankly, the picture kind of squicked me out here. But the reviewers (and there are quite a few) seem to LOVE it, so go nuts.

Food Network/Robin Miller: Turkey Soup with Egg Noodles and Vegetables
Looks like a good, quick recipe. Very well rated.

Food Network/Sunny Anderson: Second Day Turkey and String Bean Pot Pies

The Oregonian: Soba Noodle Salad With Cranberries and Apple

The Oregonian: Turkey Picadillo

The Oregonian: Turkey, White Bean, and Escarole Soup

Seattle Times: Chili-Rubbed Turkey Sandwich With Red Onion Salsa

St. Louis Eats: Nigella Lawson’s Vietnamese Turkey Salad

Wise Bread: Turkey and Stuffing Casserole


If you like this post, you might also dig:

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Two Recent Papers by Matt Metzgar

This is just a quick post to highlight two recent papers by the economist and fellow health writer Matt Metzgar.

The first paper is titled "The Feasibility of a Paleolithic Diet for Low-income Consumers", and is co-authored by Dr. Todd C. Rideout, Maelan Fontes-Villalba, and Dr. Remko S. Kuipers (1).  They found that a Paleolithic-type diet that meets all micronutrient requirements except calcium (which probably has an unnecessarily high RDA) costs slightly more money than a non-Paleolithic diet that fulfills the same requirements, but both are possible on a tight budget. 

The second paper is titled "Externalities From Grain Consumption: a Survey", with Matt Metzgar as the sole author (2).  He reviews certain positive and negative externalities due to the effects of grain consumption on health.  The take-home message is that refined grains are unhealthy and therefore costly to society, whole grains are better, but grains in general have certain healthcare-related economic costs that are difficult to deny, such as celiac disease.

There are a lot of ideas floating around on the blogosphere, some good and others questionable.  Composing a manuscript and submitting it to a reputable scientific journal is a good way to demonstrate that your idea holds water, and it's also a good way tn communicate it to the scientific community.  The peer review process isn't perfect but it does encourage scientific rigor.  I think Metzgar is a good example of someone who has successfully put his ideas through this process.  Pedro Bastos, who also spoke at the Ancestral Health Symposium, is another example (3).

For Those About to Gestate, We Salute You

“Aw, look. You’re having a Hellboy.” – our friend Chad
There comes a time in a young-ish married lady’s life when she looks at her husband and has to make a choice, to a) beat him in Scrabble, b) mold his beard into funny shapes, or c) do it. And sometimes, choosing “c” results in being 12 days late with her ladytime, taking four negative pregnancy tests followed by a fifth positive one, and then gaining 400 pounds, roughly half of which is fetus and its accompanying goo. (Note: The other half is burgers and lemonade.)

Which is to say, I’m knocked up. (Due on Cinco de Mayo! Break out the virgin margaritas.)

Yay! Husband and I and ESPECIALLY OUR PARENTS are thrilled with this development, as it means our familial line will continue for at least another generation, or in nerd terms, through iPhone57G. We look forward to all the cuteness and wonder and giggles and poop, which we've been assured there will be lots of. In fact, we’re even looking forward to the inevitable moment when the baby pukes into our open mouths, which, if friends and family on Facebook are to be believed, happens alarmingly often.

And while we're over the moon, I gotta tell you guys – pregnancy is kind of funky.

Don’t get me wrong - the prospect of introducing a new human to the wonders of Pixar and brownies is dumbfounding in its awesomeness. But my first trimester was a little rough. Meaning: I did not take the Barftrain all the way to Vomitville, but I did make a month-long stop in Queasytown. (Motto: “Where you always feel like s**t.”)

There was a span of about two weeks during which I slept negligibly, ate weirdly, and cooked nothing – not a slice of toast, not a bowl of cereal, not liver with fava beans with a nice Chanti. We subsided mainly on Chipotle and the kindness of passing Chinese takeout delivery boys, who, as it turns out, prefer to be paid for their troubles. My diet was neither cheap, nor healthy, nor particularly good, unless you count the burgers. And there were many.

It’s Month #4 now, and the nausea has finally begun to subside. I’m cooking again, and my appetite has returned with all its friends and relatives. According to the medical books (a.k.a. Manuals of Horror) I've read, the rest of my pregnancy should proceed thusly:

Month 1: Sore bosom
Month 2: Fatigue
Month 3: Nausea
Month 4: Raging indigestion
Month 5: Pregnancy … thing … bus … uh, brain
Month 6: Carpal Tunnel Body
Month 7: Hormone conflagration
Month 8: Beatlemania
Month 9: Gigantism
Month 10: Pass a human through my nethers

I'm looking forward to it - the pregnancy, the birth, and especially the whole "raising a child" part. Because I've tried to teach the cat how to read, and he's just not getting it.

In the meantime, I'll blog when I can, hopefully regarding food. And if y'all have any suggestions? I'm all ears. And abdomen.

Does High Circulating Insulin Drive Body Fat Accumulation? Answers from Genetically Modified Mice

The house mouse Mus musculus is an incredible research tool in the biomedical sciences, due to its ease of care and its ability to be genetically manipulated.  Although mice aren't humans, they resemble us closely in many ways, including how insulin signaling works.  Genetic manipulation of mice allows researchers to identify biological mechanisms and cause-effect relationships in a very precise manner.  One way of doing this is to create "knockout" mice that lack a specific gene, in an attempt to determine that gene's importance in a particular process.  Another way is to create transgenic mice that express a gene of interest, often modified in some way.  A third method is to use an extraordinary (but now common) tool called "Cre-lox" recombination (1), which allows us to delete or add a single gene in a specific tissue or cell type. 

Studying the relationship between obesity and insulin resistance is challenging, because the two typically travel together, confounding efforts to determine which is the cause and which is the effect of the other (or neither).  Some have proposed the hypothesis that high levels of circulating insulin promote body fat accumulation*.  To truly address this question, we need to consider targeted experiments that increase circulating insulin over long periods of time without altering a number of other factors throughout the body.  This is where mice come in.  Scientists are able to perform precise genetic interventions in mice that increase circulating insulin over a long period of time.  These mice should gain fat mass if the hypothesis is correct. 

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