Three Letters Re: Losing Weight, Prepper Style

Dear Sirs,
I would like to address something in the recent article, Losing Weight, Prepper Style, by Caleb E. that I hope will provide some further information to your readers.
The author of the article describes an approach based largely on the theory that calorie intake/outtake is the root cause of modern health and obesity problems. This is an extension of the classic food pyramid we were all taught since the 70s. This is not necessarily a wrong approach, but its important to know that there is growing evidence that the underlying theory is deeply flawed; that calories aren’t the problem, but rather the types of calories.  There is even evidence that the obesity trends in the US can be correlated to the introduction of the food pyramid and its emphasis on high carb, low fat diets.  Understanding the competing theories on this can have profound impact on how a person prepares for disruptive events.

I am not an expert in any of this and only wish to suggest folks investigate with an open mind to the proposal that everything they’ve been taught about nutrition may in fact be wrong.  I’ve found the book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About Itby Gary Taubes is an eye opening introduction to the leading counter-theories.  The whole food and paleo trends also mesh well with what Mr. Taubes discusses.
A simplistic overview on the different approaches is as follows.  We get our body’s fuel, measured in calories, from only three classes of chemical compounds; protein, fat, carbohydrates, with approximately 4,7, and 7 cal/g respectively.  We are metabolically limited in protein intake to appropximately <200-300g/day, which only takes us to  roughly 1,000 calories/day maximum.  A sedentary existence consumes at least 2000 cal/day and would be multiple times that for high activity.  The majority of our calories in most scenarios must come from either fats or carbohydrates.  This is the crux of the competing theories.  The food pyramid and current dominant theory pushes us to almost entirely carb-based energy, which its premise of using fats sparingly.  This is the whole grain, lean meat, fruit/vegetable,  ‘healthy diet’ approach, which ultimately is high carb/low fat.  The counter theory is that a reliance on carbohydrates, even whole grain based, is the root cause of most western diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.  It is proposed that our metabolisms are more suited to fat-based energy sources…the very things we are taught to avoid.

My wife and I have both embarked on an exploration of this counter theory on food and have had significant positive effects on our health.  Everyone is different, but the change we’ve seen after 1 year versus the many decades of life under the old theory has been simply amazing.
How this impacts preppers can be profound.  As a newbie prepper embarking on developing stores of food for my family, I found myself running calculations based on daily calories times people times days to estimate the amount of stores required.  This is straightforward, but ultimately leads to a significant reliance on carbohydrate calories in the form of wheat, rice, other grains, and legumes.  (Beans and whole grains provide protein as well, but still are largely carbohydrate calories.)  It’s easier due to the long shelf life and storage density of those items and the poor storability of fats..  But ultimately, this leads one to have months or years of food that will result in a diet that has the vast majority of calories coming from carbs.  Typically on the order of 75:20:5 Carb:Protein:Fat and often even higher on the carbohydrates.  This is an extreme diet and if the counter theories are even partially correct, this could lead to significant health issues after a TEOTWAWKI event.  Aggravating the long term issue is that fats are just not that readily harvestable in the wild anymore.  Even areas with significant wildlife availability currently, it will not last long after a massive ramp-up in hunting/fishing.  Animal farming is the only surefire long term way to maintain significant fat intake, although nut and seed farming can be an alternative is some regions.
My family doesn’t currently have the capability of animal farming, but it is a goal.
For the immediate term, we’ve explored foods that have a reasonable shelf life and have a high fat to carbohydrate ratio.  Even with a limited 1-year shelf life, if your family has transitioned to a daily higher fat intake, maintaining a years worth of these foods can provide significant benefit and diversity in a TEOTWAWKI diet.

Cooking Oils and their storage certainly have been addressed on this site, and we store as much olive oil as we can use within its shelf life. 
Other options that may not be commonly thought of are:
Canned almonds.  Lots of flavored types for diversity and can readily find with a 3-4 year shelf life. Other Nuts and seeds in plastic or bags often list a 1-2 year shelf life.  Eating them regularly and storing at your consumption rate can lead to a significant store of fats.  Nut and peanut butters are a common staple and stores should certainly be maximized.

Tuna in olive oil.  some brands list a 5-year shelf life.  People worry about contaminant buildup in tuna (PCBs, mercury), but most of the tuna in olive oil is based on ‘light’ tuna not albacore so the risk is supposedly lower.  Still, it should be a significant storage item, but a favorable alternative would be sardines, anchovies, and mackerel packed in olive oil.  A outstanding food source with a low risk of contaminants since they are low on the food chain.  typically have a manufacturer list 4 year shelf life.  Every diet theory recommends eating more fatty fish like sardines.  Highly recommended addition to your stores, but as always best to be eating it routinely and rotate based on your family’s consumption rate as canned meat of any kind has a higher cost/calorie ratio.
Canned and bottled olives, and other items stored/packed in oil.  Sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, artichokes, etc.  Learn to use and cook with these items.
They aren’t a ‘bulk’ daily food item, but using regularly and maintaining a supply close to their shelf life can add significant ‘fat’ options and dietary diversity.
But ultimately, these will only take you so far.  Carbs will still be dominant and its critical to look to your fat sources post-TEOTWAWKI and make securing this for your family a priority.
Also please note that food energy and vitamins/minerals are two separate considerations.  Energy is only carb/fat/protein, while vitamins/minerals provide the secondary chemicals that our bodies need to function.  They can be found in a range of food sources, and many things we eat only for their presence (leafy greens.)  Grains are typically limited in their vitamin/mineral content and is yet another reason to look to food diversity away from stored wheat and rice.
Regards, – Mike

James Wesley,
Greetings from the Northern Redoubt! I read Caleb E.’s entry on dieting with interest.  As a physician, I can find little to disagree with in it – except to say that it is not simply a matter of calories in minus calories out.

For some very readable advice I sometimes recommend to my patients the work of Gary Taubes, who has written several books on the subject:

Diet Delusion  

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It  

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health

Suffice it to say that everything most people know, have learned from schools (including medical school) or from the Government, and believe, is total nonsense.  The food advice from the FDA in particular is what I would call dangerously negligent.  In particular, fructose (a component of table sugar, and the thing that is ‘high’ in high-fructose corn syrup) is particularly risky to overindulge in.  An occasional soft drink isn’t going to kill, but a routine diet of that stuff is dangerous.  Fructose is a normal component of fruits, but there is quite a difference between say, eating an apple and downing a gallon of ‘healthy, natural’ apple juice a day.  One probably won’t make you fat, the other certainly will. – R.A.D.


For another perspective on Caleb’s topic, see this Wikipedia piece: Low-carbohydrate diet of meat and fish

“Stefansson is also a figure of considerable interest in dietary circles, especially those with an interest in very low-carbohydrate diets. Stefansson documented the fact that the Inuit diet consisted of about 90% meat and fish; Inuit would often go 6 to 9 months a year eating nothing but meat and fish—essentially, a no-carbohydrate diet. He found that he and his fellow explorers of European descent were also perfectly healthy on such a diet. When medical authorities questioned him on this, he and a fellow explorer agreed to undertake a study under the auspices of the Journal of the American Medical Association to demonstrate that they could eat a 100% meat diet in a closely observed laboratory setting for the first several weeks, with paid observers for the rest of an entire year. The results were published in the Journal, and both men were perfectly healthy on such a diet, without vitamin supplementation or anything else in their diet except meat and entrails.”

Please also see the Book Calories Don’t Count.

Regards, – Vlad S.

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