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Why Diets Fail

Mark Sisson wrote a great post today called “Why Diets Fail.”  Here is a brief quote:

When we diet, we deliberately choose scarcity. Why? In the end, deprivation is a self-defeating behavior. It will always be self-defeating behavior. Sure, there may be that temporary grit-your-teeth triumph many of us have experienced in the pre-Primal pasts. The fact is, you can scramble, deprive and exhaust your way to a target weight, but chances are you’ll just roll right down the other side of that mountain once you’re there. The better choice is always investment as opposed to deprivation. A better, healthier lifestyle calls you to invest in yourself. It’s not a mental game of mathematical twister or complicated rule book. It’s a lifestyle you create over time.

From: Why Diets Fail by Mark Sisson

Here is my own response.  For the most part I agree with him, but I think Mark dismisses the possible value of “dieting” as a form of experimentation.

I think I would agree with the idea that diets don’t work long-term.  It does cause stress and it requires willpower, reducing our performance or our ability to handle stress in other areas of life.

But, I totally embrace the idea of experimentation, and pushing our own limits in order to learn about ourselves.  Dieting and calorie-counting don’t work well in the long term, but if you have the motivation and can handle the stress in the short term, go ahead and “experiment on yourself”.

People want to be told “The Answer” so they can hurry up and fix their lives, but I’ve found that for most people, life doesn’t work that way.  If you change your diet for a while and then go back to what you were doing before, what have you learned? What value did you get out of the experiment?

So the choice shouldn’t be “diet or don’t diet” — the choice should be more like, “What should I try next, and for how long?”  Some of our experiments will be hard, as hard as running a marathon.  Some of our experiments will fail to give the results we were after, but as long as we’re learning from them, it’s worth doing.

These experiments also do something else: they teach us various skills.  Some diets teach us how to count, and how to survive and cope with deprivation.  Other diets teach us how to adjust our eating for a specific nutrient balance.  Some others will teach us to recognize the effects of different foods on our bodies, or will teach us different ways to feed ourselves while avoiding certain food types.  But ultimately the diet itself is a learning tool, not a path to an outcome.  Once we are equipped with the right skills, we should stop “dieting” and just… LIVE!

So I say, if something is wrong, or if we’re just not happy with how things are, we should go on voyages of discovery.  Whether it’s dieting, measuring, trying things, talking to people, going sweat-lodge and communing with our spirit animal, whatever.  We should do what it takes to learn about ourselves and pick up skills and habits.  And along the way we should try to discover how to LIVE and ENJOY life.

Voice Of the People site launched today, please check it out

“Voice Of the People (VOP) is a new non-partisan organization that seeks to re-anchor our democracy in its founding principles by giving ‘We the People’ a greater role in government.”

I will be following this closely! I like the idea of a #CitizenCabinet. Please take a minute to visit, and sign their petition if you agree.


I have been thinking about doing some high-intensity training, but I am a little afraid of CrossFit and others like them.  I would like to find something appropriate to my fitness/endurance level, and I want to make sure I’m doing it right and not hurting myself.

This article is quite insightful, explains what a “MetCon” is, and then goes on to explain how a 20-minute high-intensity workout might be counterproductive and how to choose an appropriate level.

The Case for the Short Metcon  by Robb Wolf


This is a great article about the stages of change

Context and the Stages of Change by Emily Deans, posted on Evolutionary Psychiatry

It’s written from a Paleo perspective, but it’s useful for anyone who wants to guide others through a difficult life change. It explains why some people aren’t ready to listen, no matter how compelling the argument or evidence.

1. Precontemplation (a.k.a. Denial) Set a good example. Prompt them to consider something but don’t try to convince them, yet.
2. Contemplation – Person is not sure, and may be more open to convincing.
3. Preparation – Actively looking for support, resources, and pointers to how to get started.
4. Action – They’re actually doing it
5. Maintenance – avoid relapsing, turn short-term coping into long-term life skills.

Metademocracy: Governance is not a game. Yet.

I’ve read about this thing called Holocracy which has really got me thinking about governance systems.  Holocracy is a method for governing a company or organization by having small interconnected groups that share responsibility for decision-making and finding consensus.

I think eventually someone will figure out a way for this to be applied to states/nations/etc.  I think that communication technologies will be an important part of the solution, or at least important to enable it to scale up.  But, right now I believe that government on a state or national level gets too polarized and then becomes paralyzed.  Perhaps this is because we’re more concerned with blocking stuff we don’t agree with, than with finding consensus and moving forward on things we do agree about.

So I found myself thinking, instead of having everyone join parties of like-minded people so we can battle other parties and try to get our way, what if we could use our high-speed communications and various social networks to have debates and discussions on a smaller scale, determine where actionable consensus exists, and then notify our leaders of what the will of the people really, actually is.  If a leader doesn’t do what most of the people say they want, the social networks should point it out and remind people around the next voting time that this leader thinks he knows better than the collective.  The leaders would either respect the will of the collective or get voted out.

Then I thought, what if we could turn this into a game, or at least a simulation of some kind.

See, at first the “collective” would be small but the challenge would be to try and reach a diverse set of people, get consensus where possible, and then publish that out in a way that others can express support even if they weren’t part of the collective.  Where consensus exists, a small collective can have a big impact by phoning their leaders and getting them to respond to the collective.  And it has to cut across all the parties and not just apply to folks who are used to agreeing.  Members of the collective have to believe in the consensus and be willing to take the fight to their own leaders, even within their own parties, to make them understand when the will of the people is clear.

When the collective grows larger, people would not need to spend as much time in activist-mode.  Ideally people could simply comment and click their way to an actionable consensus, and take turns delivering the message to government and its leaders.  Once it reaches a certain saturation level, leaders will start to put questions to the collective proactively rather than waiting for the collective to call or publish findings.

In the game or simulation version of this, we would assume that not everyone would follow through and vote according to the will of the collective.  But enough people would support the will of the collective because they feel like part of the process and have a sense of ownership and belonging even if they don’t agree with the rest of the collective on some certain points.

I need some smart friends to help me explore this idea a bit.  (Looking at you, Bryant and Jeff)  Ping me if you’re interested in some conversation over coffee or whatever.

Plan for September: eat MORE and exercise LESS

My plan for this month is to eat MORE and exercise LESS. Yes, I know that sounds backwards, but here is my thinking.

1. I have had great results with Paleo but I have been playing fast and loose, and having stuff I shouldn’t be having a bit too often. I can have bread, but I’ve decided I don’t want to have it every day. So I’m taking this month to re-focus on core Paleo. Also, there’s some “extra” stuff I’m doing that is sort of OK but not really important to basic paleo. For example, intermittent fasting, and carb re-feeds. It doesn’t hurt, but it would benefit me more to get my basic, core paleo skills back on track. Here is my resource for that: and Whole30.

2. I lowered my calorie budget a LOT and I think that it allowed me to lose some weight, but it’s brought me closer to “starvation mode” than I like. Mark’s response to someone’s letter brought this home for me. So I’m raising my budget closer to what Lose It suggests for my size. Key reading here: and…/

3. I have been doing heavy lifting with a small amount of cardio. But I have been neglecting the #1 primal workout: walking. So for September I will try to get as much walking per day as possible and not go for my normal lifting/cardio schedule. Key reading material: Month 1 of and “2. Move around a lot at a slow pace.”…/

4. SLEEP is crucial and I have been staying up late and rising early, too often. So I will commit to going to bed on time and trying to get 8 hrs of quality sleep during September. I know it’s important, I just need to do it. I should stop eating around 8 or 9 and get to bed between 10 and 11.

Depending on how it goes in September I will probably want to move on to Month 2 of where I add back in some lifting and may even take up meditation for stress reduction. Hmm.

Weight loss journey: skills and practices

Here are some of the important life skills and practices that I have learned in my weight loss journey.

1. Logging and measuring everything, at least while I’m making changes.
2. Really listening to my body to know when I’m hungry or satisfied.
3. Being aware of nutrient balance (fat/carbs/protein)
4. Experimenting, pushing the limits for 4-week intervals in the early game.
5. Being honest with myself about what plans will be sustainable over the long term (rest of my life) and rejecting anything that still requires lots of motivation after the first 4 weeks.

I think I do 1 and 2 every day, many times a day, and I do 3,4,5 once a week — weekly check-ins are important to my plan.

Be paleo, but don’t be a dick about it

In the past I’ve been quite pushy about my anti-grains stance, but now that I’ve lost 90 pounds I just sit back and let the results speak for themselves. If any friends are really curious, I am happy to share my experience, and I also tell them to go and read up on Mark’s Daily Apple.

I still feel strongly that low-fat diets rich in refined grains are literally killing people, but since the science is still not settled and well-understood, there is little I can do about the masses. All I can do is vote with my knife and fork, try to set a good example for my family and loved ones, and be available to share my experience whenever someone is curious.

And recently I have found that “set a good example” has to include “don’t be a dick about it.” A diet doesn’t have to be extreme paleo to be a bit healthier. A lot of people can be helped just by adding back some of the “good fats” we have rejected. So now I spend a lot of my available breath telling the good news about Good Fats. Hopefully getting people back in touch with fats will help a little, and some of them will step through the gateway into paleo, but not all. And that’s OK.

Peter Attia: Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem?

I have total respect for doctors who stand up and admit “Hey we don’t actually know all the answers, and we have hurt people by assuming we do.” I’ve read about Peter Attia and his foundation but I had not heard him speak about it before.

Peter Attia: Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem?

Dear Sugar, let’s take a break from each other

On Lose It! there is a lot of discussion about whether sugar is terrible, whether to avoid it completely or to dole out tiny amounts. Most folks will answer that it is best to measure out tiny amounts but not deprive yourself of it completely. But I wasn’t really satisfied with either approach. So I wrote the following.

I found it was best for Sugar and I to take a break from each other. I feel like I do want Sugar in my life, but lately we have become, shall I say, overly familiar, and when we see each other every day, multiple times a day, our relationship loses something. That spark wasn’t really there. Plus I think Sugar can get a bit… demanding? clingy maybe? Like, if Sugar thinks I’m not responding quickly enough to her… overtures, it can get uncomfortable for both of us.
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