No Snacks? No Such Thing as a 'Healthy Snack?' :(

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No Snacks? No Such Thing as a 'Healthy Snack?' :(

This topic contains 22 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  nellywilk 2 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • In 9.5 weeks (move over Kim Basinger) I have lost 18 to 20 pounds (I count it as 18 since water weight and the variance in my bathroom scales means that over a day my weight can vary by up to 2.5 pounds.) That’s 8 to 9 kg, or about 1.3 stone. I know that the ultimate challenge will be to KEEP this weight off, plus the weight I still plan to lose.

    Here’s the thing: I nearly always have a snack at ‘tea time’ – around 16:00/ 4 p.m. Since starting 5:2, I have sought to eat a snack like a handful of almonds (14 make 100 calories) or a teaspoon of peanut butter on half a banana. This is a significant improvement over my former handful of cookies or dish of ice cream or worst of all, candy bar. I eat this sort of thing every day – I include it in my FD. My FD is breakfast, a thin soup and half a banana, the snack, and maybe some salad greens for an early dinner at 6 p.m. So no, I personally do not fast for a period of more than 13 hours, although as the fast day progresses, I do eat less and less. (I am the reverse of many, I want my bigger meals up front.)

    But: I have skimmed ‘the Obesity Code’ and read this quote:

    “The balance between the fed state (insulin dominant) and the fasted state (insulin deficient) has been completely destroyed. We are now spending most of our time in the fed state.

    โ€ฆ We are taught to eat the moment we roll out of bed. We are taught to eat throughout the day and again just before we sleep. We spend up to 18 hours in the insulin-dominant state, with only six hours insulin-deficient.”

    I want to know if the author, Dr. Fung, has any biochemical research to back his claims about this imbalance causing insulin resistance. Too many authors I read present theories that seem to make sense, but, like a jigsaw puzzle that can be made to fit together, but which does not produce a picture that matches the picture on the box the puzzle came in, what makes ‘sense’ may still be wrong. And yes, those authors include medical doctors.

    Next, I wonder if he ever mentions fasting as a means of possibly decreasing insulin resistance.

    But abolition of any and all snacks, including what I still believe are healthy snacks? Is anyone here convinced?

    It is also true that my dentist has indicated that constant eating is hard on the teeth. So he is not keen on snacking. I have yet to see him since starting 5:2, so I’ll have to ask next time his opinion.

    Also I have maintained since the start – no pun intended – that the real challenge for me has always been keeping off the weight, not losing it. I have no idea even as a personal anecdote how even a healthy snack affects weight long term.

    So, I’m asking the board for opinions.

    It is true that

    oops, sorry about that last hanging sentence, please just ignore it.

    Hi Moth 54,

    Interesting post. I’m sure I haven’t wanted to snack, healthy or otherwise, so much while doing this diet. My appetite has readjusted itself, and I find it easier to wait for meal times. Sometimes I even skip meals on my NFDays because Im not so hungry.

    Skimming books and articles can often be misleading. The first thing you can do is read the Obesity Code from cover to cover.
    IF is discussed in detail towards the end of the book with numerous references to research studies which prove that it decreases insulin sensitivity.

    Sorry, I hadn’t finished my post but the phone rang.

    I come from a health care background and have a good understanding of human physiology and I often read such books and find myself thinking that they are based on the author’s opinion rather than fact and/or sound research as they use misleading phrases, in some cases are economical with the truth as that would contradict what they believe, or papers cited are often small studies that only lasted a few days/weeks or research carried out on mice, rats or other non human creatures. Fung only quotes or references studies carried out on humans. I think he and numerous other medics and medical research scientists who agree with him have hit the nail on the head as far as the link between diet/obesity/type 2 diabetes is concerned and the huge role that permanently raised insulin levels has on our bodies especially as far as making it harder for us to keep weight off once we’ve lost it.
    It is well worth reading the whole book.

    Have you read the fast diet book? There is a lot of information in it regarding the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

    Jason Fung is excellent on fasting. Read the book and visit his website where fasting is discussed section by section.

    It’s basic that eating carbohydrates rapidly puts glucose into your blood and therefore generates an insulin response. Fat doesn’t generate insulin, or only a tiny amount, which is why low-carb, higher fat eaters find it much easier to control their appetite. Constant production of insulin leads to insulin resistance and diabetes; and a range of other diseases that come under the title of metabolic syndrome. Dr Mosley’s book advocates reducing insulin and he’s spot on. Fasting is one strategy, but not eating the thing that stimulates insulin (carbs) is even better.

    On the precautionary principle, all cancer cells feed exclusively on glucose, so reducing it makes sense. A ketogenic diet (very low carb) is being increasingly used to starve cancer. This diet has been used for a century for those suffering epileptic fits. For reasons no one quite understands our brains like ketones. Naturally, the NHS default position is to look for a drug solution, but many people might prefer look at a dietary solution too.

    As for a snack, if the carb content of your meals is reduced and the natural fat content increased, you’ll feel less need. However, I’ve just had one cracker broken into four with four pieces of cheese. As a treat, Sainsbury’s sell a Lindt 90% cocoa chocolate that I love and it’s just 7% sugar. Many chocolates by the same maker are 50% sugar, so you’ll need to read the label. There are good things in dark chocolate and I enjoy two or three pieces each day. It’s calorie dense, so I don’t have more than that.

    Thanks for your replies. I truly appreciate all the suggestions and support.

    However, my initial skim was only of quotes in articles reviewing the book. I’ve just come back from the bookstore, and having spent another hour skimming the book itself, I’ve decided to save the CAN$22.95. Maybe when it hits the local library I’ll give it a try.

    Full disclosure: I have a reasonable ability to understand biochemistry and physiology, as research in bichemistry/pharmacology was my initial career.

    My problem with the book is not that there may not be some good ideas in it, or that Dr. Fung doesn’t give a good review of the literature (lots of references to decent sources like JAMA, etc.) but, but:

    a) he hasn’t actually done what I thought he would do and report on a study that he himself did on his nephrology patients and their diets and how they improved, or didn’t; what measures were used, etc. The whole thing is a literature review and some interesting theorizing to tie it all together, but it is not what I was looking for. None of his many citations include citations to any research papers that he has written or co-written himself. A book is nice, but it isn’t subjected to the kind of review that a journal article would be.

    b) I dislike any claims that use language like ‘secrets uncovered’ and so forth. Good science is HUMBLE, it has to be, nothing teaches humility like science. Because it’s always subject to revision as new data comes in.

    I was attracted to Michael Moseley since he has demonstrated something that is often lacking in diet advocates – humility. He freely declares that more research is needed in the diet arena, and I agree.

    c) I am also wary of language like ‘deadly’ in books that are supposed to be scientifically based, such as Fung’s use of the term ‘deadly’ fructose. Fung advocates in his suggested diet plans stuff like watermelon and berries for dessert – both of which are sources of fructose. The Japanese eat plenty of fruit, including bananas.

    d) Fung needs to discuss data that contradicts some of his claims. The USDA Economic Research Service tracked the percent of total daily calories of the range of food groups from 1970-2007.

    Meats, eggs, and nut kcals decreased 4%.
    Dairy kcals decreased 3%.
    Percentage of fruit kcals stayed the same.
    Percentage of vegetable kcals stayed the same.
    Flour and cereal product kcals increased 3%.
    Added fat kcals are up 7%,
    Added sugars kcals decreased 1%

    Total energy intake in 1970 averaged 2172 kcal.
    By 2007 this hiked up to 2775 kcal, a 603 kcal increase.

    Although correlation per se is not cause, one has to at least note that the rise in obesity – contrary to Dr. Fung’s adamantly stated belief that calories are of little import – has gone hand in hand to an increase in caloric intake in general, rather than an increase in added sugars in particular. Dr. Fung might still have a point, but I expect him to answer to the conflicting evidence, not just push the stuff that supports his theory.

    But those who say I have to read the book in its entirety are not wrong to take this stance. I will, I’m just not prepared to buy it.

    I do 5:2 because it is doable. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t eat any snacks and maybe I’d be the better for it. However, I need the freedom to eat when I’m hungry and if that falls out of meal times, I eat a snack. Were I not able to do this, I’d throw in the towel on 5:2 and probably revert to much unhealthier ways.

    Thanks to 5:2 I’ve reached my goal weight and my BMI is 19.0. I accomplished this by allowing myself to eat snacks when I’ve been truly hungry for them. My blood sugar readings are also the best they’ve been. I will say that the nature of my snack choices has also improved since commencing 5:2 so that’s a good thing, so I guess the question about whether or not snacking is actually healthy is something I regard as a bit of hair splitting.

    Hi Lael,

    I agree with everything you say.
    I try not to snack as once I start eating I don’t want to stop.

    I enjoyed the Obesity Code and though it was very informative and helpful as far as keeping weight off once lost and reversing type 2 diabetes.
    Jason Fung is a nephrologist not a research scientist and his book came from him thinking about how he could help his patients on dialysis to have the best quality life. It isn’t a research tome written by a scientist and shouldn’t be judged as one.
    Whether you agree with what he says or not, he (and others) has started a very important discussion about how the way we eat and what we eat has changed, weight gain/loss and the role of insulin.

    As for your snacking, if you need to eat something at 4pm then do so, but have you thought about whether you really need it or if it is just a habit?
    I used to eat porage at 7am and a banana at 10:30am every day. Nowadays I don’t eat until lunchtime and am less hungry during the morning than when I was eating every couple of hours.

    I’m not against eating between meals but for me it has to be an occasional treat because I know that despite having got rid of many of my bad eating habits daily snacking would be the first step on the path to weight gain. If I feel that I want to nibble something between meals it is usually a sign of needing something to do rather than hunger.

    Moth, you make good points. As a biochemist, you might like to take a look at a short fifteen-minute talk by Wendy Pogozelski, a rather charming professor of biochemistry, with an interesting story to tell. Diabetics might be particularly interested.

    As for increase in calorie intake since 1970. What makes us hungry? I think it’s carbs and the rollercoaster effect on blood sugar.

    This morning I was talking to a gorgeous superfit trainer at my gym. I mentioned that I hadn’t eaten for 16 hours and I wasn’t really hungry. She was astonished. I’ve been very low carb and high fat for two years and the complete lack of hunger is marvellous. I rarely eat three meals any more. Well, the fitness trainer told me that she’s a carb lover and feels the need to eat every two hours. The contrast between her appetite and mine is truly astonishingly. Despite enormous amounts of exercise she still wants to lose some weight. I explained the surprising heart-health benefits of low-carb and how easy I found it to lose weight and never feel hunger. I explained that there’s no chance of weight loss until she’s used up her carbs, lowered her insulin and moved into fat-burning mode. Very few people understand this and it’s key to why 99% of low-fat dieters fail.

    I forgot to say about snacking, that I might also ave polish sausage, nuts or full fat yoghurt. Because I rarely eat three meals I feel okay about the odd snack with a coffee.

    Okay, Fung’s language puts you off, but he’s a rather colourful character and I quite like that. No one is saying anything good about fructose and the way it’s turned to visceral fat. Dr Mosley’s language was more measured but I think the conclusion is the same.

    I’m a newish faster and got to my longest of 19 hours. I normally do 16 three or four times a week. Currently impossible for my high-carb fitness trainer lady, but pretty easy for a high-fat lad.

    Hi moth,

    Dr Fung isn’t a medical researcher as such. He is a clinician dealing with day to day patients. With regards to the book, it is clearly aimed at the layperson rather than a fellow doctor or researcher so the language is decidedly different and caters to the book’s intended audience. Publishing for the masses is very different to publishing in a scientific journal.

    You are correct, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. Solar flare activity has been going up since the 70s, obesity has been going up since the 70s. Therefor,solar flares cause obesity. A crazy example to highlight the difference.

    If you start out (and hold true) with the premise that insulin levels drive weight gain then what Fung is proposing seems reasonable. There seems to be a correlation, high insulin levels = weight gain. However strictly speaking you are correct, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. Does high insulin levels cause weight gain or does weight gain cause high insulin levels?

    Unless I can find clear evidence in the scientific literature proving otherwise Im siding on the high insulin levels drives obesity side of the equation. Of course too high a caloric intake will lead to weight gain and it can not be dismissed. However I believe that certain foods tend to exacerbate this problem. These foods are mostly refined/processed foods. I have yet to read one single post, NOT ONE, that has said I binged on broccoli, or any cruciferous vegetable. I do however read lots of posts saying I binged on chocolates or pizza or insert any sugary/simple crab food you’d like to mention. What is it about these foods that induces overconsumption?

    Prior to incorporating fasting my blood glucose levels (taken in the morning after an overnight fast) were 5.8-6.1 mmol/L. Right at the top of the normal range. I now water fast one day per week and am in maintenance mode (steady state weight since March). My morning blood glucose levels range from 4.8-5.1 mmol/L and the morning after a water fast it will be 4.0-4.4mmol/L (absolute rock bottom of the normal range).

    If you subscribe to insulin driving weight gain then there is an interesting journal article by Susanne Holt et al., An insulin index of foods: the insulin demand generated by 1000-kJ portions of common foods, The American Journal of clinical Nutrition 1997. They tested a wide range of foods and monitored the insulin level response every 15 minutes over several hours. They then measured the area under the curve to integrate the total insulin secretion produced for the same amount of caloric intake but of various foods. Note the importance of delivering the same caloric intake per ingestion, just the type of food was altered.

    The insulin area under the curve response for White bread was assigned a value of 100. Various other foods were compared against this reference value. Potatoes = 121. Mars bar (chocolate bar) = 122. Jelly beans (lollies) = 160. Whole meal bread = 96 (people are fooling themselves if they think brown bread is healthier for you than white bread). Cookies = 92. High sugar content yogurt = 115. Some of the lower scoring foods. Peanuts = 20. Eggs = 31. Apples = 59. Cheese = 45.

    So I believe weight gain is a function of the foods you eat AND the quantity you eat. Not really a revelation is it? Eat less processed foods AND eat LESS food.

    Hi Bigbooty! Maybe I’m the only one who ever binged on salad and greens! I did do this once when I was following a very strict low carb diet, back in my early twenties. I was only allowed measured portions of fat and protein but could have as many greens as I liked. I’d been an emotional binge eater up until that time so I did transfer my binging tendency to gorging on these gigantic salads! During this time I lost so much weight I became underweight!

    I stand corrected Lael. I have now read one post where someone has binged on salad. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    Bigbooty, thank you for an interesting and informed contribution. Iโ€™m with you on insulin and Dr Mosley is pretty clear on its role in โ€˜The Fast Dietโ€™. Hereโ€™s what he says:

    โ€œWhat is less commonly known is that insulin is also a fat controller. It inhibits something called lipolysis, the release of stored body fat. At the same time, it forces fat cells to take up and store fat from your blood. Insulin makes you fat. High levels lead to increased fat storage, low levels to fat depletion.โ€

    โ€œOne way to prevent the downward spiral into diabetes is to cut back on the carbohydrates and instead start eating more vegetables and fat, since these foods do not lead to such big spikes in blood glucose. Nor do they have such a dramatic effect on insulin levels. The other way is to try intermittent fasting.โ€ (Pages 61 and 62)

    I finished the book last night and it is clearly strong on fasting, but it is surprisingly weak on the benefits of natural fat and eating a low carbohydrate diet. Fat has little or no impact on insulin. In a book that repeatedly discusses the benefit of lower insulin, this should have been expressed much more clearly and emphasised. I regard the book as valuable but flawed. For example, repeatedly advising people who are fasting to eat low-fat foods (in the recipes section) is truly terrible advice. Iโ€™ve seen Dr Mosley rightly condemn the low-fat diet and say that low-fat yoghurt should go in the bin, yet his book suggests you eat it in preference to the vastly superior full-fat version. I think most of us know that low-fat equals high sugar and thatโ€™s just going to raise your insulin and trigger hunger signals. Just what you need when fasting. Indeed, it could be enough to take you out of fat-burning mode. This terrible advice is given repeatedly in this astonishingly misguided section of the book.

    Take the good bits out and use them. Throw the bad bits away. I don’t think any one piece of advice from one source will have all the answers. Personally I found the book by Jason Fung a lot better. He also advocates fasting as a normal activity. I have now been water fasting for 12 months. I started 5:2 in October 2015 and almost from the get-go it was a water fast on Monday and Tuesday. I reached my self imposed ideal weight in March and have been in maintenance mode water fasting on Mondays.

    It took me about a month before I could cope with water fasting OK. A full six months before it became easy. Its now embarrassingly easy. I do not lack energy, no headaches etc. I often prepare meals for the family if the wife is busy/working on my fast days. Not a problem. Everyone at work knows Monday is my fast day. Initially they would feel bad if it was someone’s birthday and there was cake going around at Monday morning tea. Now it doesn’t bother anyone and no one is self conscience of eating cake in front of me. Its no longer a big deal. Took me a full 6 months to arrive at this point but its worth it.

    My other big hobby horse is sugar and simple grain based carbs. Its literally killing people. People think bread is healthy, its not. You want carbs? Eat veggies!! And this is coming from a person that LOVED bread. Bread is now a sometimes treat, its not a food staple. Fruit juice. DONT GET ME STARTED. You want fruit? Have a whole piece of fruit.

    The processed food industry with their denial mantra on sugar is where the tobacco industry was with cigarettes 50 years ago. 50 years from now people will be saying, “I cant believe the food industry was knowingly doing that to people”.

    OK Im off my hobby horse.

    Bigbooty, I fully agree with your hobby-horse and promise not to give it any grains.

    So, you water fast on two consecutive days? I’b be interested in your reasoning. I’m new to fasting but realised that my low-carb diet regularly and easily took me into 12 – 14 hour fast territory, so I’ve just added a couple of hours on. If the health benefits (weight is irrelevant for me) kick at around 10 – 12 hours, then 16 hours three or four times a week is useful.

    I suppose I was disappointed with the low-fat rubbish because it’s completely at odds with fasting and continues the low-fat nonsense begun by Ancel Keys, who Dr Mosley regards as a ‘villain’. I doubt I could fast if I was eating the sugar and carb-laden rubbish that most people eat and which constantly stimulates appetite. Once you’re low carb, it’s close to easy.

    Does Fung write well? Can you give me a little more of your opinion of the book and what it covers? It might be the next book for me on this subject.

    When I started fasting I just went for Monday/Tuesday because it suited me. I tried counting calories but after 2 weeks just couldn’t be bothered anymore. So I decided to just do water fasts instead. It was difficult for about a month. Headaches and lack of concentration. After a month it became do-able but not easy. I have continued fasting once per week because I believe there are health benefits that go way beyond weight loss.

    When I first started fasting it would take me 48-60 hours to enter ketosis. I measure this with a blood glucose/keto meter. I now enter ketosis after 24 hours. My definition of ketosis is a reading of 0.5mmol/L or greater. So I now flip over into ketosis a lot quicker than I used to. A combination of my liver working very efficiently and probably a function of my glycogen levels not being 100% topped up.

    I think Fung has an easy reading style and he tries to back up his statements with relevant studies. Lots of citations in the book are listed at the end of the book if you want to read journal papers. His main thrust is that insulin drives obesity. Lower insulin levels and you weight starts to reduce. Certain foods elicit a large insulin response. So a calorie is not a calorie. It depends on what you eat as well as how much you eat. The book is well organised, a little repetitive, but I found it more useful that the 5:2 book. Its written for the general public so you cant go into the biochemistry too heavily otherwise no one will read it.

    Cut out all (added) sugar, eat lots of veggies, only whole fruits, no processed grains, lots of pulses and beans. Not really a revelation is it.

    Thank you for your helpful reply.

    No, not a revelation, except to most of the population who have been encouraged by a stubbornly stupid NHS to eat low-fat, which means high carb. We still tell diabetics to eat this way and that’s unforgivable. 7,000 amputations a year is just part of the result. It’s all needless and totally preventable. My daughter tells me that many people wouldn’t listen anyway. Okay, but many would and nothing encourages people like success.

    I’m with you on calorie counting. I’ve never done it and I’m not starting now. Unfortuantely, some people on here still believe that a cut of 3,500 calories will lose them a pound. Not if your insulin’s still raised it won’t. We are very attracted to simple ideas like this, but our bodies are more complicated than a slide rule. Fat clogs your arteries (wrong); exercise loses weight (wrong). It’s very hard for people who’ve been fed such nonsense most of their lives. I’m in the sixteenth hour of my fast and I’m fine. I could eat, and soon will, but I’m not chewing my nails. I couldn’t do this if my blood sugar was up and down, as it is for most people eating carbs. That’s why I thought the recipe section advocating low-fat rubbish was so at odds with the aim of the book. If you think fasting’s a good thing, making it harder is a terrible mistake.

    I’ll buy Jason Fung’s book next.

    I have found that snacking just makes me hungrier. We have indeed become a nation of snackers, look at the majority of young mothers and their toddlers – constantly digging through their bag to give the child something to eat or drink. It starts very young and becomes ingrained early.

    I heard a car manufacturer touting the features of a new car – he said and yes, we have a large cup holder for each passenger, couldn’t sell a car without it.

    Linda Sue, you’re right because most snacks are full of sugar and carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar and that will send a hunger signal to your brain. Don’t eat between meals was the universal message when i was a child. How things have changed – and for the worse.

    As I said earlier, when I eat a snack it’s pretty much a meal replacement because I can no longer eat three meals a day because my appetite is surpressed by a diet high in natural fat and low in carbs, which are essentially glucose. All my snacks are high fat and satiating.

    This is exactly what I experienced. If I eat snacks, I can’t eat three times a day.

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