Dr. Kwasniewski's Optimal Diet: Sanity, Clarity, Facts
Dear K'ers -- here is the post I promised over a week ago. It's taken me that long to write it. Hopefully it won't take you that long to read it, but there is a lot of food for thought. :) So grab a cup of coffee or tea or your favorite LC treat, put up your feet, make yourself comfy, and go:
From the time the first Dr. Kwasniewski thread appeared on the forums, the board has been abuzz. After the initial "wow, this is great info" phase, the discussions moved on to the: "how do you do this, what do you eat on it, what kind of success have you had on it" phases. Then came the inevitable move on to: "you're not doing this right, I am" phase. Or what I like to call the "I'm okay but you're not" disagreements that seem to grow on every forum like weeds in the spring. :) They don't really hurt anyone, but they can make discerning the trees in the forest a bit more difficult than they need to be.
So I thought it might be helpful (for me, if no one else) to do some extra research to see if there was more definitive information to be had, if there were other discussions about this plan out there, and to lay out more precisely the options for following it, tweaking it, and losing weight on it, if possible. I understand there are some folks reading this who believe that any diet must be followed to the letter of the law, as they understand that law. I respect their viewpoint, but disagree with it. I intend to say in this post why I disagree, but want to lay out my own bias and approach openly. When you read why I believe as I do you may agree with me or not, but I hope it will be clear why I believe my opinions are as valid as any others.
I want to begin with perhaps the least controversial item: why some of us have forsaken Atkins, PP, South Beach and Groves to follow this diet and not those. It's because, despite having initially lost weight (a lot of weight, for some of us) on any of those mentioned and others not mentioned, those diets no longer work for us. They continue to work for others, but despite rigorously following them -- to the letter of the law -- they failed us.
When I stalled two years ago after losing 75 pounds, I blamed myself. Sure, I kept it off for over a year but that did not satisfy me. Then, last August, after starting weight training I alos started regaining weight. A total of 10 pounds, despite vigilant attempts to prevent it. Yes, some of it was muscle. I've gained a lot of it. But not all. And the scale was still rising. I tried everything. Mike Eades of PP wrote on his blog that once we near our goal (and I was 20 pounds away from it when I stalled), calories must be cut: specifically calorie-dense foods like cream, cheese and nuts. So I cut them. I took myself to a near-starvation level of 1200 calories. Didn't lose an ounce. Continued to gain. Very Low Carb advisers said the problem was too high a carb allowance on Atkins. So I went to very low carb. Didn't lose an ounce. Continued to gain. Zero carb forums said the problem wasn't calories, but carbs. So I went to zero carbs. Didn't lose an ounce. Continued to gain. I stopped weight training for a while and took up cardio. Didn't lose an ounce. Continued to gain.
I added fat. I subtracted fat. I did everything but put myself on an IV feed. And all the while blaming myself. And all the while not looking at the one nutrient macro that everyone said was sacrosanct on a LC diet: Protein. Recently, some new studies about protein have been released. And they indicate that despite a LC diet, a Paleo diet or a Zero Carb diet, some people have a biological, metabolic problem eating protein while also eating a high fat diet. And all LC diets are, by definition, high fat, though the percentages to be consumed on each may be different. While other people may eat protein to their heart's content, and burn it off easily, for some of us that protein creates an inappropriate insulin response, increased insulin resistance and -- is stored as accumulating body fat.
You can read more about this here:
This was eye-opening, but it wasn't all good news. Yes, I could stop eating high fat. Which meant I could stop eating a LC diet and go back to low fat, calorie restricted diets. Which I refused to do, but which left me nowhere to go but to accept my fat fate. Or did it?
Then I came across something called the Dr. Kwasniewski Optimal Diet, created in post-war Poland. Somehow this man understood that excess protein, not just excess carbohydrates was the cause of some types of obesity decades before anyone else. That alone was remarkable. That he also believed that it was excess fructose and not excess glucose carbohydrates that also caused insulin resistance -- which has recently surfaced in the medical and science community -- was astounding. Clearly he was a man ahead of his time.
So, I now had a working hypothesis about why my scale weight loss had stalled for two years on a LC diet: too much protein for my body to handle at my current weight while eating high fat. And I had a prescription for change: follow Dr. K's diet. But how was I to do this, precisely? Did I need to follow his diet 'to the letter' in terms of practice (foods)? Or was it enough to follow his diet in terms of theory (ratios)?
In other words, was it the protein/fat ratio that would finally break my stall, or did I need to eat the foods he claimed were 'optimally nutritious' -- like broth made from bones, and offal and lots of lard? Did I want to become Optimally Healthy, or was it good enough for me to be slim and healthy by eating his ratios and my foods? And furthermore, what exactly were those ratios supposed to be -- for me?
Trying to decipher that puzzle has turned out to be a major bone of contention on these threads. But trying to obtain clear information has been elusive. First, Dr. K does not himself have a website. Although there are several OD sites and forums, none of them is officially sanctioned by Dr. K and most are run by followers of the plan who provide their own interpretations of what they believe he said -- although that has changed over the years as well.
As has the advice of many LC proponents, despite what they may have written earlier in books and articles, since most open-minded people do change their minds and advice when new scientific evidence suggests they should. Witness Gary Taubes, who has said in many interviews that ideas he believed in firmly in articles he wrote before Good Calories, Bad Calories he believes in no longer. New science has convinced him that some of his earlier beliefs were just plain wrong. Second, Dr. K is not given to answer questions very clearly. Here is one conversation about whether or not coconut oil should or should not be eaten on the OD that makes this plain:
"His son is an admin on the forum, from his posts I presume his background is in food technology. From time to time on a whim he explains a bit more than his father, yet it's all full of biochemical jargon and chains of chemical formulas -- indigestible for myself. Anecdotally, he dubs JK The Master of Simplification."
"JK as master of simplification?
I think he's more like Mary Poppins who never explains anything".
"JK's son has some very odd theories. Rendered animal fats like lard and tallow don't contain enzymes. The body makes the enzymes it needs from protein, if they are not in the food. If he is concerned about enzymes, raw meats need to be eaten, raw eggs, etc."
"My point is, I don't believe there are good and bad foods, I think there are only better and worse choices. You can't live on egg yolks, bone broth and offal 100% a time. For instance, JK understands that the WOE to be sustainable, must be liberal to some extent and that's why, I guess, allows refined flour (which I myself do not eat). The truth to be told, his writings happen sometimes to cause some confusion. He is a very lovely easy-going person and so is his writing style, he allows lots of things, OD is fairly liberal. I found JK's one day menu somewhere, it had some 'fancy' stuff in it, rather than just meat'n'egg... On the other hand, most of the time, people want and need clear instructions, black & white approach. His son is more 'strict'."
And here is an excerpt from a paper written by Dr. Kwasniewski that I found on the net.
From the translation of: http://dr-kwasniewski.pl/media/2/bi..._2/news_512.doc:
Are we to infer from this that if we want to eat a 'true' OD we should eat sugar and potato flour and never again eat an apple? Some here might say yes. I say: Dr. Kwasniewski might have been ahead of his time on some things -- and behind the current times on others. But this is normal in any scientific discussion. You can only know what you know at the time you know it. And when science provides new or better understanding (or real life experience trumps academic theories) -- such as what we now know about the role of sugar and potato flour in helping to cause insulin resistance, it behooves us to listen and hopefully learn.
And sometimes the effect is mistaken for the cause of a problem even by the wisest women and men. The conventional medical wisdom on obesity, for instance, states that obesity is caused by eating too much and exercising too little. But as Gary Taubes brilliantly proves in GCBC, eating too much and exercising too little is the effect of obesity -- which is actually caused by a metabolic defect of abnormal fat accumulation.
Alfred Pennington is another case in point. Pennington was an internist, and an early proponent of the fact that excess carbohydrates (which create a "metabolic defect" that collects fat in the adipose tissues and refuses to release the nutrients in them for the body's needs) not fat or calories, is responsible for obesity. Gary Taubes speaks highly of him in many pages of GCBC, and rightly so. However, Pennington also believed that the root cause of this defect was an excess rise in pryuvates, '"which in turn was caused by the inability of the obese to metabolize it." (GCBC - page 354). Pennington saw excess pryuvates as the cause, when in fact it was just one effect of excess insulin brought on by excess consumption of carbohydrates.
From: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/4/6/619.pdf (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 4, No. 6, November-December 1956), comes an article that details the experiment conducted by scientists who attempted (successfully) to disprove Pennington's theory. The authors write:
Aside from the laughable belief by the article's authors (Pennington critics) that it is "generally believed that obesity is the result of excessive caloric intake" -- it's clear when they are describing Pennington's theory that he did get the effect of excessive carbohydrate consumption on insulin right -- but also that he attributed that effect to the wrong cause. Pyruvic Acid does not cause the metabolic disease of defective fat accumulation, insulin resistance does. But Pennington did not see that at the time. He didn't know what he didn't know. Years later, he realized his theory about a metabolic defect related to carbohydrates was correct, but that his hypothetical root cause -- pryuvates -- was incorrect. That, however, did not stop Melvin Anchell from developing a diet based on this error: The Anchell, or Steak Lover's Diet. Anchell admitted that he didn't know how 'it' worked (carbohydrate restriction) but was happy enough to cash in on "pyruvate-lowering foods."
Which brings me back to Kwasniewski, who wrote in his books (along with a lot of religious rambling) that the ratios and the proper foods to eat go hand in hand. That might have been true then, given the state of food availability in post-war Poland, and it might still be true today. Or, it might not.
No tests have been done of his theory (excess protein is the problem; lower protein with increased fat consumption is the answer) uncoupled from the food choices. None. Conflate that lack of controlled test knowledge with the various unauthorized web sites that have sprung up, each offering their own versions of the "One True and Only OD" and it becomes clear, to me at least, that it is at least as reasonable to choose to follow my own version of the OD, as it is to slavishly follow one of the versions currently out there.
And being a simple country girl I prefer to make up my own mind after doing research, and then thinking things through.
I found another paper written by Dr. Kwasniewski DECADES AFTER he wrote his books. The paper not only makes clear his intent for this WOE, it precisely states his ratios for those he calls "overweight." And those ratios do not change from Month One to Month Two to Month Three, etc. They explicitly start from when you begin the diet, and change only when your weight is stabilized in the 'normal' range. There is no change in-between, no lowering of protein amounts, or raising of fat amounts. This means the Calculus Victus, which I was using under the mistaken belief that it was his, is not correct, and is actually the invention of one of Dr. K's followers, not Dr. K himself.
The paper I found, entitled Optimal Nutrition versus Atkins Diet, was recently copied and pasted in its entirety on one of the K threads, so I'll only discuss relevant sections here. Dr. Kwasniewski writes:
So, although Atkins does not require certain specific foods like marrow or bone stock to be eaten in order for success, Dr. K can see some value in it -- not least of which is that it works.
In other words, despite the Atkins ratios being so radically different than Dr. K's ratios, and without the Optimal Foods being required, Dr. K thinks it better than any other currently recommended diets because it is effective for weight loss. He continues:
And there you have it: One ratio to follow if you are already at your ideal weight, and another ratio to follow until you are. He adds:
Note the incredibly high protein for Atkins on both stages - but especially the very high carb count for people on maintenance. So much for OD being "high" in carbs as some posters have claimed. And also note that as our weight approaches 'normal' we get to eat even less protein and need to eat even more fat. Also note what is not mentioned in this paper: the idea that non-animal protein do not need to be counted in the daily protein allotment, or that success (for those on this forum: weight loss) is dependent on eating only certain foods.
I will end with the final words in the paper, which shows me that when evaluating Dr. K's diet, I must take all his advice for following it with the same grain of salt I use to evaluate any diet. Because no author or doctor or researcher (like Alfred Pennington or even Gary Taubes) is one hundred percent correct about even their own advice or discoveries one hundred percent of the time:
So, moving on from the "cure" of Diabetes 1 -- I have now identified some important facts for me:
1: I suffer from a metabolic defect involving Branched Protein Amino Acids (BPAA) that causes in some people greater insulin resistance, and which also causes excess protein to accumulate and store body fat when I eat a LC, high fat diet.
2: Eating less protein and more fat may eliminate, cure or even heal this metabolic defect. If so, my metabolism will return to normal over time, and I will not only break my stall and lose the extra weight I gained in the last year, I'll also be able to finally reach my goal weight.
3: Weight reduction is what I want to achieve - not "optimal health" as defined by the OD. In other words, I believe the theory (ratios) has stood up to scrutiny, given what recent studies have shown about the (bad) link between excess protein and high fat consumption. Whether the theory can be divorced from practice (specific foods consumed or avoided) remains to be seen if and when they are scientifically tested. In the meantime, I am already healthy and expect further weight and body fat loss will make me more so.
4: If my hypothesis is correct -- that it is the ratios in the OD and not the foods -- then simply following the correct ratio for me will cause me to lose weight after a two-year stall even if I don't eat the recommended foods. If my hypothesis is wrong, the ratio alone will do nothing to break my stall, and might even (due to the increased fat consumption) cause me to gain even more.
Was I ready to be a human guinea pig and put this to the test? Yes. But how to find out what my 'frame' is so that I can discover my 'ideal' (not goal) weight? I tried the fingers-around-wrist test, but the web site below convinced me that wrist measurement is not a very reliable indicator for frame size. And the site was correct. My wrists have always been very tiny, even at my heaviest weight -- but my elbow bones tell the tale: I have a normal frame, not a small one:
How to Approximate Your Frame Size
1. Bend your forearm up to a 90 degree angle. Your arm should be parallel to your body.
2. Keep your fingers straight and turn the inside of your wrist towards the body.
3. Using your other hand, place your thumb and index finger on the two prominent bones (on either side) of the elbow.
4. Measure the distance between the bones with a tape measure or calipers.
5. Compare with the tables listing elbow measurements for medium-framed men or women.
6. Measurements lower than those listed for a medium frame indicate a small frame. Higher measurements indicate a large frame.
One note: This measurement is difficult to do yourself. If you have someone to help you, great. If not, lay your ruler or measuring tape open on a counter or table. Rest the elbow to be measured a few inches above the counter or table in front of the ruler. Place the thumb and index finger of your other hand on either side of your elbow bones as instructed above, and then, keeping your measuring fingers very steady, bring them down to the ruler so that you can get an accurate measurement. You may have to try a few times to get it right.
The chart that follows the instructions don't translate well to a forum page, but it is clearly readable on the site.
Once you know your frame, you can scroll down the page to the charts. For women, they assume 3 pounds of clothing and one inch heels. So if you're five foot five, you would read the five foot six range. I took the number in the middle of the range for my correct height plus one inch, and subtracted three pounds. It's your body that needs to follow the proper ratio, not your clothes. :)
Divide the number of ideal weight pounds by 2.2 to get the kilos. For me, that came to 57 kilos, or 125 pounds - exactly what I weighed the night of my high school prom. A lifetime ago. This means I can eat a daily allotment of 57g protein, 143g fat, and 46g net carbs, which is more carbs than I have been eating, but far lower than Atkins prescribes once past induction -- and I'm years past that. Once I reach my weight goal and stabilize there, I can go on maintenance. Dr. K says at that poin I can only eat .8 of my current protein grams, or 46g. But I'll be able to eat as much as 200g of fat.
So, how has my hypothesis of divorcing theory from practice worked so far?
I've been following the ratio since March 9 (six weeks) without eating most of Dr. K's recommended foods. Results: After not losing an ounce for the last two years, I've now lost 4.4 pounds. And interestingly, I have found myself eating my maintenance level proteins rather than my alloted amount: only 46g a day on average. And I have also found -- as predicted by Alfred Pennington all those years ago -- that as my metabolism has begun to heal, my appetite has dropped and my desire for activity has increased. Ratios -- yes. Specific foods -- not required for weight loss or health.
So am I following the Kwasniewski Optimal Diet? Yes, in the sense that people who list Atkins as their diet plans but pick and choose from the various Atkins books and contradictory advice, and who continually 'tweak' the plan to make it work for them are following Atkins. As was stated in the "is coconut oil allowed?" conversation by someone who knows him, Dr. K allows "almost anything". If he is not a stickler for what does and does not constitute "following the diet" -- if he is willing to have an open mind as time goes on to learn new things and not to insist on "The One and Only Way" or on a kind of acolyte "Purity" -- I will not say otherwise.
I am no expert. This post is about my research and my opinions about what I've discovered. They may not be yours, and if not, you are entitled to do your own research (or not) and to choose to follow the weight loss method that is best for you. I don't believe in anyone's "one truth" or that there is only path to the top of the mountain. But that's just me. As they say in the car biz: your mileage will vary. :)
Thanks for putting all of that information together! I found it to be the most informative post on this diet... I'm more able to understand what I would need to do if I were to follow it. At a minimum, I'm going to work to decrease my protein a bit and increase my fat intake.
Great post. Thanks for putting your experience and research together in one post. You've put a lot of work into learning about Dr. K and his plan and I really appreciate it. It's also good to hear how it's working FOR YOU. The personal perspective/experience is very valuable, at least to me.
Lisa, thanks for compiling all this information, it is very helpful.
The revised formula still raises some questions. (don't pull your hair out! lol)
Are we saying we should aim for 2000 calories, regardless of whether we need to lose or not, it's just the ratios that differ?
Eating only 46g P, Are you using a body fat monitoring scale to determine if your weight loss is fat or muscle? I get nervous at the thought of dropping my protein that low that i might lose muscle. Can you please comment?
Thank you -- and everyone who has been kind enough to comment.
You're the second person to ask that, and I'm not sure where it's coming from. Calories per se have nothing to do with this. Just follow your ratio. Some days you'll eat more calories, some days less. As long as you keep your protein and carbs to your correct level (which will no doubt mean raising carbs for some; it did for me), you should have no problem eating as much fat as you need. If you eat a little less some days, or even a little more (fat) some days, it probably won't matter. It hasn't for me.
I do have a Tanika full body fat monitor that I use every morning and every night. I know the exact numbers don't mean much, but movement -- one way or the other, over time -- does. Now it's showing the reverse of losing muscle - it's showing dropping body fat. Not by much, but definitely trending in the right direction. I can also feel my lean muscle mass growing, if for no other reason that I'm practically springing up the steps to the second floor.
This is not a trivial matter, at least not for me, because I have one artificial hip and one arthritic hip. [I have no doubt I'll be a bionic woman some day :)] And my step risers are huge. And I'm old. In other words, springing up those steps is not something I ever envisioned happening but it is because my calf and quad muscles are definitely growing. And I haven't had a weight training session in the three weeks.
But really, it's more than that. I feel incredibly good. In body and mind and spirit. Happy all the time, which may help explain the BP drop in the last two weeks as well. And I mean by a lot. Clearly, this is how my body wants to eat; it's thriving on this diet.
It's coming from your post.
Many of us are very literal minded! :lol:
2000 Calories a Day. NOT.
ROTFL! Dr. K is just giving that number as an example to explain his ratios compared to Atkins -- not for anyone to follow. Thanks for telling me though. If I'd gotten another question about 2000 calories I would definitely have been scratching my head. :)
I think this is the part they're missing.
Ok, I have to apologize for my eyes glazing over and skimming the 4 or 5 OD threads going on right now.
I just looked for Jan Kwasniewski on Amazon and it looks like there is no English translation of the Optimal Diet book. Is that why there's so much confusion?
I have a lot more patience for printed material than online stuff. I'm doing just fine with GCBC but some of these long posts are making me dizzy...
Basic info, no explanations...
Go here to determine your frame (small/med/large) and get your IDEAL weight for your height/frame.
Go here to convert your IDEAL weight to kilograms (unless you're one who already uses that)
Then do this..
The recommended daily ratio between P, F and C in the ON (calculated per 1kg of IDEAL body weight) is 1: 3.5: 0.8 (10%, 82% and 8%),
and for an overweight person 1: 2.5: 0.8 (12.5%, 77% and 10%), until the body weight is stabilized in the normal range.
I'll use mine. I should weigh 60kg
60kg x 1 gram protein = 60 gram protein
60kg x 2.5 gram fat = 150 gram fat
60kg x .8 gram carbohydrate = 48 gram carbohydrate.
Just plug your kg in there... :wave:
Hope this helps...
PS. There is an English version available from the publisher.
(No, I don't have one. There are a couple of people who do.)
1: 2.5: 0.8 (12.5%, 77% and 10%)
This math doesn't work. Those aren't the same ratios.
which one do I use? which one came from Dr K, and not someone else's calculations?
Those were just the numbers used for Dr. K's illustration in his paper. It has nothing at all to do with your ratio. Just use that.[/QUOTE]
The % are meaningless to us, they are just the % of the sample 2000 cal / day mentioned. You should use the ratios instead :)
To LOSE (edited to add this is for MY ideal weight, not anyone)
60kg x 1 gram protein = 60 gram protein = 60 x 4 = 240 calories
60kg x 2.5 gram fat = 150 gram fat = 150 x 9 = 1350 calories
60kg x .8 gram carbohydrate = 48 gram carbohydrate.= 48 x 4 = 192 calories
240 + 1350 + 192 = 1782
240 divided by 1782(/)= .13468013 (13%)
1350 / 1782 = .75757575 (77%)
192/1782 = .10774410 (11%)
Percentages never work out exact, you end up going out decimals and picking the one that's highest to round out to 100% (I had to do it in the bank for reports)
Hope this helps. :) :wave:
What a detailed post Lisa! I admire you for sticking to the program and finding something that seems to be working, as I hope it will for me too.
I know the frustration of a stall as I've been there done that - back in the 1997-2001 time frame when I first did low carb. I lost 80 pounds and then hit a brick wall with still an additional 80 to got based on my *own* goal, and actually still about 100 if I were to base it now on JK's ideal weight. Yet I never lost another ounce over the next 2 1/2 years.
I did just about all the things you did - cut calories, added calories, cut fat, added fat, cut exercise, added exercise, went on fat fasts, went on all-meat, went on carb-ups, cut my eating down to only one meal plus two protein shakes a day, etc .... yet *NOTHING* could get the weight loss moving again!
But one thing I *never* did was to cut protein! :eek: The idea just never occurred to me, nor the members of ASDLC who were trying to talk me through the stall, before I drifted away from the group in frustration.
I guess the Kwasniewski diet was around then, but back in the 90s the web was a bit more of a primitive place. :) Do we even know when his plan was translated into English?
At any rate, I was following the Protein Power plan. MY biggest concern was to make sure I was getting *enough* protein! On PP the protein requirement you calculate is your *minimum* but you are free to eat more than that, and I did.
I do enjoy my protein. Even today I'm sitting already near my max for protein even though I'm still a little low on the fat side and fairly low on the carb side. :lol: Not too many items that are pure fat and carb without protein! But I'm sitting close enough to my numbers not to worry.
Per JK my ideal weight is 140 pounds. Per the webpage calculator above my ideal weight is 136-150, so right in the same ballpark.
I'm going with the 150 number since I feel it's more realistic for me. It's a weight I was at in my 20s for a while, wheresas I've never been 136-140 since I was 13 years old! Maybe I'll re-evaluate as I get closer (assuming I ever do - getting under 200 again is sort of like the quest for Shangri-La or El Dorado).
So based on the goal of 150 (68kg) my protein/fat/carb allowance would be:
And right now for the day I'm sitting at:
Well we just do our best. It's impossible to be perfect with the numbers every day! I just try to come close and not OD on the protein.
Now I just have to hunt for the thread containing the 'Optimal Nutrition versus Atkins Diet' article so I can read it in its entirety. :D
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