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
Knowledge and Life
ACTUAL CAUSES of health and illness of individuals and peoples (Part III):
"Purification is a purification of the products value. The purified product is sugar, potato flour, which contains 83% starch - sugar from sugar better, potato flour, or pudding, jelly."
"Basic Science - Chemistry, actually shows that the apple is to man one of the most harmful products. The man who eats no more than average, animal fats, aged 80 and more - can not survive."
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.
(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:
It is generally agreed that obesity is the result of excessive caloric intake in the sense that caloric restriction corrects the condition. Opinions differ, however, concerning the cause of the overeating. According to the "orthodox" view, most obese persons are metabolically normal, and obesity results from his failure to curb the appetite. This concept has, from time to time, been challenged by proponents of theories attributing obesity to metabolic abnormalities. In recent years, Pennington has vigorously advocated a theory which make obesity the necessary consequence of a defect in intermediary metabolism.
Pennington's thesis is that obesity-prone persons are characterized by an enzymatic defect in carbohydrate metabolism which results in the accumulation of excessive pyruvate. The pyruvate in turn depresses the oxidation of fat and increases lipogenesis from carbohydrate, with the result that an abnormally large proportion of by carbohydrate and fat is diverted to fat storage instead of being oxidized for energy. Then the appetite, regulated to supply the energy needs of the body, dictates the intake of an increased amount of food to compensate for the amount diverted to storage. The inhibition of fat oxidation by pyruvate lowers the rate of mobilization of fat, but eventually the increased size of the adipose deposits makes possible the release of enough fat to supply the energy needs of the body. "Thus obesity might be considered as a compensatory hypertrophy of the adipose tissues, providing for an increased use of fat by an organism that suffers an impairment in its ability to oxidize carbohydrate." Pennington has suggested, on the basis of this theory, that the logical treatment of obesity is not caloric restriction, but rather restriction of the carbohydrate precursors of pyruvic acid in a calorically adequate diet.
The basic assumption on which Pennington's theory rests is that pyruvate accumulation in excessive amounts in the blood and tissues of obese persons when their metabolic mixture consists largely of carbohydrate. This assumption has not been tested directly on human obesity. Pennington bases his claim on the indirect evidence of a greater exercise-induced rise in blood lactate in obese subjects and of blood pyruvate in diabetic subjects than in normal subjects, and on the elevated blood pyruvate of the hereditarily obese-hyperglycemic mice.
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:
A few years back, in my books and publications, I wrote about the “new, revolutionary diet by Dr Atkins”. I have stressed that the Atkins diet is better than any other currently recommended diet, and in particular far better than any of those recommended by “the most renowned scientific institutions”, but has nothing in common with the Optimal Nutrition (ON), the nutritional model I devised over 30 years ago.
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.
Recently, Dr Atkins described the daily ratios between main nutrients in his diet for the first and second stages of its implementation. These ratios were calculated as a percentage of total energy delivered in 24 hours by protein (P), fat (F) and carbohydrates (C), and were 36%, 53% and 8% in the first stage, and 26%, 41% and 33%, in the second stage, respectively. Thus as can be seen, Atkins diet was and still is very high in P, relatively low in F and very low in C, and as such, it differs remarkably from ON.
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:
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.
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:
Thus, the supply of the main nutrients, P:F:C (in grams) for a daily energy intake set at 2000 Kcal is as follows:
· Atkins diet 1st stage - 190:120:40;
· Atkins diet 2nd stage - 130:91:135;
· Optimal Nutrition for overweight - 62:166:50;
· Optimal Nutrition for normal weight - 50:176:40
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:
The Atkins diet most certainly cannot cure Diabetes type 1 or any other serious disease, most of which are typically *cured* with the aid of ON.
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.