Metabolic Winter is a hypothesis put forth by Ray Cronise in collaboration with two other top researchers in the medical field. Rather than bio the whole thing here, I recommend you read Ray Cronise’s blog about the experience here.
I bring up Ray’s name because I have been using him repeatedly in my earlier entries. He is referred to as CrayRay, a name given to him by Penn Jillette in his book, Presto!
I have never met Ray or Penn. Penn has been one of the most influential people in my life. It would take too long to explain it and I don’t think that journey of influence is at it’s apex. It must wait for another time in my life. Right now I wanted to address CrayRay’s Excellent paper, the Metabolic Winter Hypothesis.
Before I started my diet change and found another facet of my Penn & Teller fanboy, before I read Joel Fuhrman and began the Eat To Live diet, before I went crazy on potatoes. I studied this paper, and it’s references. Penn himself says it, if you take health and dieting advice from a juggler, you’re an idiot. I didn’t take it from a juggler, I just followed the same white rabbit down the same hole after doing some reading on my own.
The paper is fascinating and all should read it. However, I will summarize it, and by doing so, I will screw up it’s full meaning. So please read it:
- Our examination of food using the three major macronutrients: protein, fats, and carbohydrates is insufficient to adequately describe the effects of food. Furthermore, our use of vitamins to describe food value is also seriously flawed.
- Overnutrition (too many calories) in our diet is a major factor in reduced longevity. It’s affects us down to our DNA in ways well understood but not widely known.
- Exercise is helpful in many ways, but it’s ability to bring about a beneficial change in obesity is largely overstated in our culture.
- Our real benefits come from calorie reduction by eating foods naturally high in nutrients and low in energy density. In lay terms: Eat more vegetables, preferably cruciferous ones. Augment this with lesser amounts of fruits, grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables like potatoes. Use small amounts of animal foods and nuts and seeds.
- Return to winter. We have stopped living like winter exists. We no longer experience the longer nights due to artificial lighting. We sleep less than we should. We don’t change our diet to be less like a lean period that comes from winter. We don’t experience activity in cold weather on a regular basis which means we don’t burn as much of our internal fuel to stay warm.
The last item is the largely unorthodoxed element that has stirred up a lot of discussion. However in practice, it is only a part of the overall picture. In my own changes, it contributed only a small little part initially. I focused more on the fourth part. CrayRay has written no book about our eating yet. He is working on one and keeps updates on his as he can. It has caused his blog to come to a halt with no new entries in over a year. The existing entries are worth the read.
I don’t know fully what to expect from the book. I know I will buy it. My suspicion is it will have similar ideas to Michael Pollan’s books, The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food, but with an increase in scholarship and research. I could be very wrong about this.
What I do know is he has recommended Joel Fuhrman’s book, eat to live. I purchased this book and it’s attendant cookbook. They are the basis of my how I now eat. The book is filled with useful information. I didn’t read the whole truth about the Standard American Diet (SAD), he wrote because by the time I got them, I was already a convert. I had read Pollan’s work and David B. Agus’s book A Short Guide to a Long Life. What I needed was direction on how to implement dietary changes and a good way to really get immersed in it. Fuhrman provided the first part of that equation. CrayRay provided the last part.
It was the seemingly crazy, but completely effective potato only fast that made the change. By doing that, I rebooted my tastebuds and how I experienced hunger vs. cravings. By the end of that, I was ready to love the flavor of food without add salt, fat, or sugar. Penn Jillette explained it in his book, but CrayRay was the man who advocated it to him.
It’s interesting to see how fast things get labeled and how often they get mislabeled. Some articles dubbed what Penn has done as the potato diet. Those who wrote that are morons. Others wrote what CrayRay has hypothesized as the Ice Cube diet. They are even bigger morons.
What CrayRay recommends apart from Fuhrman’s eating advice is called mild cold stress therapy with emphasis on mild. What is suggested is that we put ourselves in a place where our body has to work to keep it’s core temperature. This is done by introducing cold to it for a short period of time. How cold? Remember the emphasis on mild. Anybody who decides to put themselves at risk of hypothermia by tooling around in sub-freezing weather in shorts and a wife beater for two hours needs their face punched repeatedly. CrayRay recommends 30 minutes in a cool shower.
I have tried this and failed. I can’t stand in a shower that long when I am fully enjoying it. However, I have three things to my advantage, swimming, cycling, and Autumn. Autumn is bringing the cold evenings. Right now temperatures are in the high 40’s. The pool I work at is now cooler, just a touch above 80 degrees. CrayRay suggests below 80 for the water. The air however is very cool as heating a large pool area is always a challenge. Now I cannot stand in a shower for 30 minutes, but I can stand around in a pool helping kids swim for hours on end. That’s exactly what I do. I don’t put on a thermal suit like others do. I enjoy the cool air and water in all it’s glory.
In the evening, I cycle home. I keep a little covering, to be safe, but I do not bundle up. I guess you could say I dress down one level below what is normal for the season. I am having my own cold stress daily. I think the shift in my weight loss after hitting a plateau, is attributable to this.
At present I have lost three pounds in 7 days. That is a slowing of weight loss from the previous month. Even so, if that continues, I will be at my goal weight by the first week in November. I will make my first rare and appropriate off my diet day on Thanksgiving.