Enough Is Enough

By Joan Breibart

When we watch a lion hunt and kill a gazelle on the Discovery Channel, we usually don’t detest the lion for his instincts. We cannot argue with Nature’s undeniable food chain. While we may cringe at the bloody scene or project imagined feelings of cuddliness onto the gazelle, most of us understand that predators are a necessary part of a healthy ecosystem. We humans, as the most sophisticated predators, need not deny our own animal instincts. We can be carnivorous and responsible too. 

In a world of 7 billion people and counting, responsible, moderate meat eating is the most balanced and efficient dietary choice on the market. Human bodies need amino acids, which are the protein building blocks of all our cells. Because animal meat provides these essentials in their most concentrated, absorbable form, it helps balance a diet of fruits and vegetables, providing the grounding yang to plants’ nourishing yin.

Seeking a balance of plant and animal nutrients is the key to optimizing health: a diet that is overly vegetarian or carnivorous quickly leads to overconsumption. The more you eat, the more you stretch your stomach. When your stomach’s elastic lining expands, the hormones that affect digestion and hunger control—Leptin and Ghrelin—malfunction. Soon, your stomach’s ability to detect that it is full becomes impaired, your desire to consume more and more food increases, and you unwittingly take the first, treacherous steps towards obesity.

The harsh truth is that plants yield proteins of lower biological value than animal sources, which means that vegetarians must consume more food to meet their daily protein requirements. Consider that 8 ounces of chicken supplies the 56 grams of daily protein that male adults require (46 grams for women).  If we obtain half of the 56-gram requirement from 4 ounces of chicken, we consume 220 calories and three-fourths of a cup in volume. In order to receive the same protein intake from kidney beans, a typical vegetarian substitute, you would need to consume 19 ounces of beans (3 ½ cups!) at a whopping 840 calories! Even if you stretch your stomach to tolerate this enormous quantity of beans, you would still have to make up the missing amino acids with some other grain or vegetable to get a complete protein equivalent to the biological value of chicken.

Why should a discussion of eating practices center on the ethics of meat eating while we ignore our most destructive habit of total overconsumption? 

Our immoderate behavior strains our agricultural system and encourages irresponsible farming of livestock. The entire world’s population was not mean to eat steak. Our land cannot sustain it. Our timid palates exacerbate this problem: we need to expand our tastes beyond the usual options and include wild game, goat, eel, herring and even insects. Changing tastes is often as easy as changing terrains. Journalist Matt Forney shares in this NY Times article how scorpions and snails move to the top of his kids most requested snack list after moving his family to China. Expanding our choices reduces the strain on our supply system, decreases our reliance on the most calorically dense meat varieties, and reduces the impact on any one species.

Today, one billion people are obese, and billions of us could certainly consume less. Excluding an entire food group from our diet is supremely unethical when we consider than 1 billion people around the world are starving, especially as the responsible, balanced consumption of meat could have such positive health and environmental consequences for our society.

Overconsumption (aka gluttony) strains the earth’s declining ability to satisfy the appetites of the 21st century. Forget the forks over knives battle, and turn, instead, to the concept that less is better. Less is enough. 

Eat Healthy / Exercise More

It’s clear that the eat healthy/exercise more solution isn’t working now. If you were born after 1970, you probably still think that it did.

You must have heard about those days long ago when Americans ate home-cooked, nutritious meals of lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits. And we walked everywhere.

Except we didn’t! 

We ate greasy burgers, fries and full strength soda at White Castle. We drank frozen juice concentrates diluted with tap water. The “fresh” vegetables were canned or frozen, except in summer. And lots of Crisco, of course—every home had a tub of it. That’s why the fried chicken, fried potatoes, grits, piecrusts, and cakes tasted so good!

Okay, so the trimmer bodies of the Fifties weren’t due to more wholesome meals. Then how were we so much skinnier you ask? Let’s take on the myth that we were exercising. Well, health clubs didn’t start until the 1970s, and even then most women didn’t go. Sweating was unfeminine! So we sat and played Canasta or Mahjong, read a book or wrote letters. Fun times, right?

Yet these Moms from the Fifties delivered four kids and still managed to get back into pre-baby wardrobes. Then why are we fatter than our grandparents?

The simple, unvarnished, scientifically researched answer from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is that we just plain eat more. In 2006, the CDC reports that women now eat 22 percent more than women did in 1971. Go back to 1958 and the number is 30%! And we’re not talking apples to apples, unless we are actually eating apples. Today we have hundreds of calorie-free beverages and reduced-fat foods.

So if overconsumption got us into this mess, why didn’t we all just eat less? Because in the 1980’s, legions of fitness gurus and diet experts—some of them physicians— became media savvy and perfected their messages. They convinced us that we needed the magical trifecta: eat only foods that are healthy (translation: eliminate fats then carbs); exercise (beat up your body and “burn” calories) and drink water (at least eight glasses a day).

The result was that eager Americans embraced the “go for the burn, no pain no gain” body-damaging exercise to get rid of the extra calories.

Bad choice: the Pennington Biomedical Research Center recently determined that exercise is NOT a weight loss solution. A six-month study proved that dieting alone reduces weight just as well as dieting and exercising. People who cut calories 25 % by only dieting and those who cut with half exercise, half diet, lost the same amount of weight. And both groups experienced the same decrease in muscle mass and basal metabolism! Don’t stop moving however; your heart, muscles and bones need exertion.

What about eating?

Well the diet industry convinced us that grazing, formerly known as snacking, was healthier than eating regular meals. This meant that consuming food anywhere at any time wasn’t just acceptable, it was downright medicinal. As for quantity, we want to believe that if it’s “good” food, you can’t eat enough. Except that reason tells us that the more often your stomach is stretched, the more you must shovel in to feel sated.

Finally came the glorification of water, which led us to believe that we could drink away our hunger or even “wash” away those calories. In 1976, each of us annually drank only a gallon of bottled water. Today we each drink 28 gallons. Now we know there has been some climate change—obviously made worse by the need to dispose of billions of plastic water bottles. Yet we drink as much as we can, though we don’t live in deserts today and we weren’t dying of thirst 30 years ago.

What’s the current word from the experts who gave us all this flawed advice? Now researchers are distancing themselves from past weight loss theories. Now, we really know what the problem is and how to fix it. If you’re overweight, it’s not your fault, of course. Blame genetics, set points and stress hormones for your problem! We now believe we’re born to eat more?? We don’t exactly say we have mutated in just 50 years, but the implication is that we don’t have control over our bodies because after decades of gaining and losing and then regaining, they aren’t co-operating.

It’s a complicated situation and we’re burnt out from all the talk and failed solutions. And maybe being thin is overrated, now that 7 out of 10 of us are not. Yet just when we’ve given up along comes the Recession. We’re closing our purses. Can our mouths be far behind?

De-Stress Your Diet


The BITES Challenge

Wondering who came up with the idea that counting bites would be useful for weight loss?

You probably suspect it was the 80Bites duo, Meredith Luce, RD, MS, LN, and Joan Breibart, but actually Dr. Richard G. Black, a Seattle physician, devised the first bite counting system. His program, “Count Bites, Not Calories.” was published in Family Circle in 1977. Unfortunately, neither Luce, Breibart nor most of America read the article so the bites plan didn’t get any further attention. Meanwhile, every year thereafter, new “miracle” diets came about in the media, each with some weird nutrient or food manipulation promising to melt away the fat.

Finally, ten years later, SELF Magazine publishes our system in “The No-Diet Diet,” written by Candace Bushnell, of Sex & the City fame. And what was the reaction of the public, the press and the diet professionals? The same as it was 10 years earlier. They didn’t bite—pun intended. No one was interested.

Then, in 2004, with obesity being a daily news item, the New York Post publishes our bite program in, “The Bite Stuff—Chew Story.” This time professionals voiced their disagreement with loud and public criticism. Why? Our “failure” to back the accepted dogma: eight glasses of water daily; low-fat eating; and “fat burning” exercise.

What Have We Learned

Twenty seven years later, we know that the 1955 “Water” Directive should have read Fluids– not Water alone! The 70s campaign to vilify fat only encouraged sugar binging. As for exercise, the simplistic calories in calories out is a nice equation, but “fat burning” exercise is really just a good marketing ploy.

While the concept of bites is gaining support—there are even copycats with bite counting gadgets– there is still disbelief because counting bites does not equate with calories ingested. (Even Dr. Black tried to equate bites with caloric intake.) What we are beginning to recognize is that you cannot overload the body. Too much quantity will stretch the stomach and cause a critical digestive hormone to malfunction. The result is leptin resistance—the reason why almost everyone in America is hungry most of the time.

Today we understand that carbo-hydrate, protein and fat calories are absorbed differently by the body. Theoretically, where you get your calories does make a difference, but more importantly, how much and how often are the significant and controllable measures. By starting the process of stimulating your stomach less often and with less quantity, you begin to re-train your weight at the digestive level. Learning how to eat less and drink less, less often, is simplified by using the 80Bites App counting method. The more you use it, the easier it becomes; the less you need to use it, the sooner your stomach takes over and the process becomes so natural that you will be saying, “Thanks, but I can’t eat another bite!”

The Bites Debate is all Wrong: How WSJ slanted recent article on Counting Bites

“How Many Bites Do You Take a Day? Try for 100,” published today in the Wall Street Journal ignores the fact that this concept was developed almost 30 years ago by Meredith Luce MS, RD LN and Joan Breibart, President of the PhysicalMind Institute and it has been publicized in the New York Post (2004), Self Magazine (1987), Vogue, the Today Show and elsewhere.

See New York Post Coverage here.

In addition, the ‘Bite Watch’ in the article is a direct copy of our 2005 bite watch which is actually referenced in the Bite Technologies/ Clemson patent. We abandoned our prototype in favor of app technology (80Bites app) when we saw the issues: people use their phones and don’t wear watches; bite counting is just a temporary informational tool and not something to be done for months; plus there are accuracy issues with recording hand/mouth activity.

Obesity is a moving target and the copiers who don’t work daily with actual people aren’t able to see the shifts. Overeating while sitting down to three meals a day at home is not really the prevalent pattern of consumption which is why vibrating forks or talking plates aren’t so helpful. For the majority, particularly people under 40, the pattern is grazing on ‘healthy’ well-marketed foods in public and then binging privately or drinking too many calorically dense beverages. With a U.S. population that is over 55% obese, these new bite products will just be more failed solutions leading Americans to just give up.

Meredith Luce MS RD LN is a bariatric dietician who uses 80Bites with actual patients including the morbidly obese. Even though in the past decades, we tried to make our program focus on both quantity and calories, the reality is that they are not really compatible. Bites address volume and stomach size which directly affect hormones. Overeating drives up leptin so much that eventually a resistance develops so that the threshold increases. Thus it takes more and more eating (thus more leptin) to finally get the “stop eating” message. This is why leptin resistance should be the focus of weight loss efforts and why almost everyone in America is hungry all the time.

Since the information in the article is misleading and inaccurate, we and your readership would appreciate a correction indicating who are the true authors of the ‘bites’ concept.

Joan Breibart and Meredith Luce RD MS LN