I’m glad Melissa McEwan said it (here), ’cause I’ve been thinking the same thing.
After reading The End of Overeating by David Kessler, McEwan couldn’t help but wonder, “When I see a study that shows meat causes weight gain, I kind of want to know ‘what meat?’.” Apparently, the book blames meat for the epidemic of overeating. Oh really?
The minute we went Primal in my house, we noticed how it was physically impossible to overeat meat. We would have a honking organic, grass-fed ribeye in front of us, perhaps accompanied by some asparagus (recipe here!), and we would stop at a certain point, completely uninterested in going any further. Not out of a physical, stomach-based signal. Not that well-known Thanksgiving, I’m-about-to-explode kinda feeling. But something else that told us we’d eaten what we needed.
And the funny thing about that meal is that if we’d eaten the exact same thing pre-Primal, it would’ve been accompanied by bread or pasta or rice, and probably some sort of dessert. And we would have felt like ‘sploding. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve felt that way since going Primal, and each time involved going off-plan (“cheating”).
And that’s the crux. Those processed carbohydrates just interfere with our body’s ability to signal correctly. Mark Sisson, he of the Daily Apple, has several pieces about satiety: here, here, and here. Basically, overeating is a symptom of metabolic derangement, and almost all modern humans are suffering from it.
Not to mention, as McEwan does, that the meat hiding in a McDonald’s bun is shot full of weird non-meat stuff like vegetable oils, soybean byproducts, and probably some sort of sugar. So. Show me the study that can absolutely tease out the fact that pure meat causes weight gain. I remember seeing something called The Pizza Paradox, which is the alleged caveat to a high-fat diet facilitating weight loss. As in, some people don’t lose weight on a high-fat diet because they eat pizza and somehow still gain weight. Oy. Seriously folks? Let’s think about this. IT’S A HUGE CRACKER WITH CRAPPY CHEESE, SUGAR-LADEN TOMATO SAUCE, AND CORN-FED, INDUSTRIALIZED FEEDLOT PROCESSED MEAT ON TOP. The fat in pizza isn’t even on the same planet as the fat in my pastured, organic buffalo burger.
Every time I see a new study that blames meat, I wonder, like McEwan, what population they’re talking about and what foods we’re really dealing with. Just because someone eats meat doesn’t mean they aren’t eating other things that could be doing the damage. But no one will blame the bun their fast food burger comes on. And the thing is, we can absolutely compare a modern American diet with a traditional one. We’ve seen the changes in the Inuit population in real time since the 1960s. They were clearly healthier on a meat and fat diet than they are now on KFC and chips. But you can’t just compare a meat-eating American’s diet with a vegetarian American’s diet without asking more questions: What kind of meat? From where? How often are they eating out? What oils do they cook with? How much sugar is in their diet?
When will these researchers learn? When will they recommit to real, evidence-based science rather than the easy target?
In addition, hunger is individually experienced. I noticed pre-Primal, anecdotally, how it was always women talking about how they had to snack or die. How they would bring things like bananas and crackers to work to get through the day. And their guy partner sitting next to them would roll their eyes, as if to say, “You don’t know the troubles I’ve seen.” These men were well-versed in getting their gal a granola bar in the event of an emergency, lest they lose their head. The only way to get off this roller coaster is to regulate blood sugar and nip metabolic derangement in the bud. Otherwise, it’s basically feeding an addiction, one sugary, Cherry Jubilee Parfait yogurt cup at a time.
Something else I’ve noticed is that folks experiencing intestinal troubles will very quickly jump to blame the meat. I was one of them, way back when. I remember the first time we had a meal of a huge steak and a side veg after going Primal, and I worried. I waited. I was sure I was going to be spending some intimate, extended time with our toilet. And it never happened. It only happens now going off-plan.
Grains are so seemingly innocent, how could they possibly be to blame? There’s no fat and very few calories (Very little of anything of value, but I digress…). When a friend of mine went to the doctor in hopes of identifying the source of her intestinal distress, she was put through the battery of tests and finally told that she “probably” had IBS and she should avoid things like wine and dairy. Grains and sugar were nowhere on the list. And guess what? She’s been feeling great since going Primal. Hmm…I should start charging $150/hour for this…
I know there are some out there who actually gain weight eating Paleo/Primal, and I wish I knew the solution to that. So I don’t think we can entirely rule out the possibility that someone could gain weight on a diet of meat. But for the vast majority of us, I’m guessing the opposite has been true. Not only do we eat meat, but we’ve eliminated all the rest of the garbage too.
What about you? Have you been surprised, pleasantly or not, by your reaction to meat? How are your hunger cues on Paleo/Primal?