Monday, September 12, 2016

Penn's Potato Famine

I've written about Penn Jillette before.  I don't always agree with him, but he is the most prominent Libertarian atheist at the moment.  I often agree with him, and think he's a great entertainer.  You kind of have to be to be a Los Vegas headliner.

And I've written about his new diet, what little I knew.  Well he finally put it all down in words.  His new book is called Presto, and it was entertaining, if nothing else.  But it was something else.  It had a lot of interesting ideas I haven't heard elsewhere, and certainly made me think.  He made it very clear that he is not a doctor, or dietitian, and ideas are all he's providing, not advice.

Rule one of his daily diet is no salt, sugar, oil, refined grains, or animal products.  It doesn't take a genius to know that will make you lose weight.  It's also not a diet I can do without preparing almost every meal I eat myself.  And it's not a diet even he would recommend to someone like me who is only 25 pounds overweight.  But the book has other interesting ideas that are worth exploring.

The big one his dietitian calls metabolic winter.  The basic idea is that through most of human history we've experienced long periods of warmth, activity, and abundance of food, that we've adapted to use to store fat reserves for shorter periods of cold, inactivity, and scarcity of food.  And that as a people we've conquered winter, leaving us in a perpetually summer storing fat for a winter that never comes.  I think there's some validity to that.  It sounds right.

His dietitian's solution is a 90 day winter simulation.  For three weeks, eat nothing but potato's, take cold showers daily, and don't exercise.  Then for the rest of the 90 days, start easing yourself up to a more rich diet, with normal activity levels.  The cold showers are just to get started.  He calls this the potato famine, which shows just how great we have it.  Our famine is only potatoes, compared to the real potato famine, which was when we lost our potatoes.

There were a lot of other interesting ideas, but the second I'm interested in he calls half-fasts.  The basic idea is there is some data to show that if you restrict food to a narrow time window, you will gain less weight, and be less addicted to food.  Your body will need to regulate itself, feeding you from your reserves, which I do have, instead of expecting a constant flow of new calories.  On a grander scale, he says that a huge amount of calories in a five hour window every two weeks will cause way less weight gain than that same amount of calories spread throughout that two weeks.

He also made it very clear that he was under strict medical supervision during this time, and anyone else trying it should be too.  That's not an option for me either.  His diet isn't for me though, remember?  He says he has a crazy diet for people who are crazy overweight.  That's not me.  But he has got me thinking, and I do have some saner plans for myself.

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