The nuts wars

I’m more comfortable going forward with WFPB (whole food plant based) eating now that I’ve discussed this “nuts thing” with people. I realize I just need to use some common sense cautions regarding the pronouncements of Greger (and others as well), and not consider their writings as having been handed down from heaven on Mt. Sinai. Greger isn’t perfect either. He has a lot of interesting things to say, but his conclusions aren’t always on target. I need to be careful about that.

I found out that among vegans my questions about nuts is an ongoing, endless debate, which some refer to as “the nuts wars” – and I found myself caught up in it. But it was good. We had some lively conversations about this in the Forks over Knives (WFPB) group on Facebook. And I had some interesting side messages as well.

It does seem that people like Esselstyn, McDougall, and Ornish (with whom I started my vegan + no oil + no nuts journey 6 years ago) are also skeptical of the nutritional importance of nuts, though I notice that Ornish currently allows for 1 walnut per day.

While Jeff Nelson, the Vegsource guy with the interesting “Nuts won’t save your life” video doesn’t spend time on the question of calories, Greger himself does seem to claim that the calories in the recommended walnuts simply don’t count. I think it’s fair to say that is probably not true. And I am discontinuing nuts as a regular part of my diet.

I never would have even dreamed of adding nuts into my daily diet in the first place except for the fact that Greger goes on and on about (1) how important they are nutritionally, and (2) how reassuring he is that the nuts won’t adversely affect weight loss. If not for the first point I wouldn’t have bothered with them at all. And it was the second point that clinched me into wanting to try them. Because I do need to lose more weight as part of being healthy.

Anyway, I am now finished with my last regular serving of nuts – with the calories scrupulously counted and logged – and I will not make nuts a regular daily item from now on. If I do, say, buy a snack bag of 30 g of almonds or something, I’ll make sure the calories  get properly logged.

The reason this all came up is I just didn’t want to feel like I was missing something important, nutritionally. Greger makes it sound so important. The consensus from most vegan whole food doctors and scientists, however, really seems to be that I am not missing anything. I’m “staying the course” and will look at all advice with open eyes and some skepticism going forward.

My plan is easy. I’m sticking with “generic” whole food, plant based, vegan , no oils, no daily nuts, logging calories (they do count), avoiding as much sugar as possible, avoiding as much salt as possible, greatly limiting healthy but high calorie foods, such as avocados and nuts, and, of course, getting more exercise.

And onward!

Diet update – home again with vegan, non-oil

While I have lost 5 kg = 11 lb the last 10 weeks by just calorie counting I didn’t really feel like I was moving off my plateau much. So last Friday, after getting my latest blood test results, I decided to be more pro-active and “come home again” to a vegan, non-oil diet.

In just one week I’ve lost 2.6 kg = 5.7 lb! So over half of what I have lost these past 10 weeks was just in the last week!

What I’m doing differently this time:

  • I’m paying more attention to calorie density (calories per lb) as recommended by various vegan, non-oil doctors. The idea is that you should get full on whole, vegan foods which are lower in calorie density (e.g. potatoes, rice, legumes, non-starchy vegetables, fruits) and avoid those which are extremely high in calorie density (e.g. noodles, breads, and oils in particular).
  • I’m limiting tofu. It’s not high in calorie density, but it is almost half fat. And not particularly filling.
  • I decided to not have any diet colas. I think they trigger sugar urges. I’m mostly drinking just water, and sometimes unsweetened green or black tea.
  • I am avoiding foods where the main ingredient is sugar, such as sorbets or icicles.

I’m not eliminating all sugars from my diet. If a particular vegan, non-oil food has some sugar in the ingredients I don’t really care.

What I found is that that I went from having sugar cravings for sorbet this summer to no sugar cravings at all within just the first few days.

I’ve also been eating a lot of potatoes and almost no rice. I think that’s a major difference from my first go-round with vegan, non-oil dieting. Rice is ok, but it does trigger some hunger urges. Also the calorie density of rice is considerably higher than potatoes. I’m not completely avoiding rice. If I’m outside and all I can get is a rice ball to eat for lunch and I’m hungry, I’ll have it. But I have no rice at home.

I have lots of salad stuff, little packages of corn for the salads, legumes like garbanzo beans and red kidney beans, non-oil dressing, potatoes, other non-starchy vegetables and other things I might get for a snack like some pickles, or the occasional fruit. I’m not eating much fruit though. I’m not having any cravings for anything sweet.

I really like potatoes microwaved, moistened with some soy milk, and topped with nutritional yeast, which gives it a cheesy flavor. A huge plate is only a few hundred calories and filling for hours.

It’s only been one week but I find my hunger urges are largely abated, so I’m not really eating in-between meals. I’m also not eating late at night. So basically I’m fasting ever day for over 12 hours – from my dinner until breakfast the next morning. I’m not really doing that intentionally, I just find if I eat a filling meal at around 6 or 7 pm that I’m just not hungry after that.

My meals consist of a nice salad with corn and non oil dressing, followed by something like 300-400 g of potatoes. There is some variation, but it’s mostly like that.

My energy has increased, and I’ve been taking more bike rides. The fact that the weather has cooled off a bit may have contributed to that.

I am logging calories. Calories do count (whether you count them or not). I notice that eating this way my net calorie intake has dropped a lot. Which of course explains the weight loss.

I feel this way of eating could be sustainable. So I look forward to going back to the doctors in three months and blowing them away with fantastic blood test results!

Some final thoughts on John McDougall’s “The Starch Solution” diet

The post  below was removed from the Facebook “McDougall’s Starch Solution Group”. I’m surprised, because there were many supportive, informative comments in response to my post.  The comments were useful, and no arguments were taking place. Many people are going through the same problems I experienced, and it seems short-sighted to try to cover that up.

Because the post was removed, I have left the group and am continuing my search for a workable diet. There were useful suggestions after my post and I did want to read them again. The messages about Chef AJ were particularly interesting. I hope the original poster gets back to me by private message so I can get more information. In the meanwhile, here is the which was deleted from the group.


At this point I may get kicked out of the group, or asked to leave, but please give me one last chance to explain what I think is the problem. I mean it with sincerity and good intentions.

After much back and forth with The Starch Solution since last May, during which time I lost 40 lb and then gained it back, I have come to feel that the real “starch solution” is to eat less starches.

People have come back at me saying things like, “The MWL (Maximum Weight Loss) diet recommends reducing starches to 50% instead of 70%.”

Yes, that’s true. The MWL program does recommend less starches. But this isn’t the MWL group. We are talking about SS here in this group, right?

Or people will point out that Dr. McDougall says things like, “For more rapid weight loss you can reduce starches” and he then also refers to the MWL diet.

My problem with that is that McDougall never out-and-out admits that The Starch Solution simply does not work for some people – perhaps many people from posts I’ve seen here.

I think he shouldn’t say, “for more rapid weight loss” try MWL. I think he should say, “This diet may not work for many people because the starch ratio is too high and for some people you may not be able to lose weight AT ALL unless you reduce your starch portions to 50% or even less, like with the MWL diet.”

In other words, it’s not a matter of trying to achieve “more rapid” weight loss by reducing starches, it’s really a matter of trying to achieve any weight loss at all!

Of course another thing to consider is that a reduced starch diet like that is basically a plain old vegan, non-fat, non-nuts diet like many other doctors, including Ornish Heart-Disease-Reverse and Esselstyn propose.

I realize some people have achieved great success on Starch Solution. The Potato Strong guy seems to be doing really great.

All I’m saying is that The Starch Solution is not a universal answer and that Dr. McDougall’s 70% starch solution is too high for many people and I wish he would just admit that. Throwing in passages to the MWL diet while talking about SS and somehow mixing them up and saying they’re all the same thing seems off to me. It’s feels like “bait and switch to sell the SS book, frankly.

I do think vegan, non-oil dieting is probably healthiest. But I really do think that as far as weight loss goes, making most of your diet starch-based hurts weight loss for many people. I know it does for me.

So attack away. I’m just being honest here, as best I can.

Can’t seem to find the right long-term diet

I’m still lost about what to do about my own obesity and high blood sugar. Last year, for 12 weeks, I tried “Protein Power” and gained weight, and then “Always Hungry?” for 12 weeks. My HbA1c, which was 8.0 ticked up slightly to 8.1 and I gained some weight.
Then I went on McDougall’s “Starch Solution” for 15 weeks. I lost 40 lb, and my HbA1c dropped to 6.1. My doctor was thrilled, as was I.
For me, it seems HbA1c always is related to weight. If I lose weight my blood sugar goes down. If I gain weight it goes up. On the low-carb diets, even with mindful eating, my caloric intake tends to be higher. A tablespoon of oil here, a tablespoon of oil there – it adds up.

On “Starch Solution” my total cholesterol ended up at 122, and LDL at 67. On “Protein Power” it remained in the normal range, but started creeping up.

The problem, though, is that after 15 weeks on “Starch Solution” the high glycemic carbs seemed to trigger “hunger spikes” in me. And as much as I tried “mindful eating” I just got cravings after eating carbs – even “whole foods” like brown rice and potatoes. I’ve since regained 30 of the 40 lbs I lost.

I now sort of think the reason I lost so much weight was the 5 weeks during my “Starch Soluton” diet where I got a really bad summer cold and lost my appetite in a way I never had before. I had to add protein drinks just to get up to 800 calories/day. After I got better my appetite rebounded, as did my weight.

For the last week I tried recommitting myself to “Starch Solution” and tried my best to observe “mindful eating” – eating only when I was truly hungry. I’ve been really good, according to plan. Yes, I’ve had some white rice instead of brown rice. But Dr. McDougall says that’s ok.

While my total caloric intake was less than on a low carb diet, doing it this way I found I was eating 2200 – 2300 calories day. I neither gained nor lost weight.

So I’m not sure what to do exactly. All diets which actually result in weight loss (I’m currently about 110 kg) require long term deprivation it seems.

I think one thing all diets seem to agree on, be they low carb or low fat, is that processed sugar is very unhelpful. Though McDougall isn’t a fanatic about that either.

I’d really like to at least get under 100 kg again, like I was after 15 weeks on “Starch Solution.” While still technically “obese” it is vastly more comfortable than my current weight. But the high glycemic carbs now (including whole foods like brown rice and potatoes) just seem to be hunger triggers for more these days. So I’m sort of stuck.

And loading up on non-starchy vegetable well, I’ve been there done that. It’s not satiating either. And it’s not “Starch Solution” and it leads to separate digestive issues.

So I’m still searching.