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- My book review of The Fat of the Land / Not by Bread Alone.
- My carnivore eating and exercising exploits in February.
The Fat of the Land by Vilhjalmur Stefansson: Book Review
This is basically required reading for any budding carnivore.
Comment by Frederick J. Stare M.D: he touches on what Vilhjalmur Stefansson was like as a person, and that he first met him when he was 77 and he states he was in remarkable good health. Dr Stare closes out by saying humans can eat a wide range of food stuffs, but what is vital is that we get enough amino acids, vitamins and calories. Meat can provide all these, however so can other diets just as well in his opinion.
Comment by Paul Dudley White M.D: he talks about heart disease and how it is becoming a major issue. He states that the conventional thinking is that too much fat is bad, but this is for people who consume carbs. He is intrigued that a diet of high fat and protein alone could actually be good for heart health.
Comment by the Author: he states the book was controversial in its first edition release in 1946, as by this point people had already greatly increased their carb intake. He states that if people could not be healthy on meat alone, we would not be here. As plant agriculture only became established in China around 15000 years ago, 5000 years ago in Europe, and surprisingly 2000 & 1500 for England and Scotland respectively. He suggests overall health is closely linked to tooth health, and he blames carbs for modern day tooth decay. He says looking back through ancient texts and books like the bible, it is clear all humans for a very long time had a kinship with fatty meat.
The Introduction – The physiological Side: this was wrote in 1946 however it could have been wrote today. Nutrition organisations were pushing a wide diversification of food, with grains and lots of different fruit and veg. With a clear demonetization of meat, yet as people ate less meat. There were no signs of better health, in fact diseases such as diabetes was on the rise. People were becoming scared of fat, thinking it was unhealthy.
The Introduction – The Anthropological Side: One of the biggest indicators of health in found remains, is teeth health. They can say a lot about health of the individual and their culture. There is a common thread running through remains found from meat heavy culture. There was excellent teeth and bone density.
Chapter 1 – Preliminaries and Speculation: It starts by talking about how climate change, shaped the world from predominately forest, to large expanses of grassland. It was fine for our ancestors to live on gatherings from the forest. However as the grassland increased so did the herbivore populations. This change in climate and density of animal populations, brought about rapid natural selection. Apes/Monkeys that stayed on grasslands where there was once forest. Had to choose between still gathering tubers and berries or scavenging for meat. The meat eaters prospered and the others died or retreated back to the forests. Our ancestors survived on scavenging meat, we became adapted to eating more meat, our brains grew, therefore becoming more skilled at hunting, meaning we could eat even more meat. Poignantly he suggests that as the world population increases, we will be pushed down the plant eating root we evolved from, because land is more valuable than health and more people can be fed from plants from a smaller piece of land. It is also suggested that our change from ape to pre-man took million of years, yet we are being forced back to a plant based diet in a couple of thousands years. We will have made no digestive changes in this period, we are still built for a hunters diet of meat.
Chapter 2 – The Home Life of Stone-Age man: He says that there is very little calorific difference needed by people all over the world, it has been reasoned that people in colder climes needed to store more body fat than others. Meaning they would have hunted more. However he reasons this is not the case, as our brains were growing we had the intelligence to “dress” to the occasion. Our need for more or less food did not alter much. Our ancestors ate meat they caught, plants were an after thought and only used by the desperate. The Eskimos are discussed, detailing how they change and prepare there clothing for the different seasons, with very little deviation in the amount of food they eat. This is in line with how the Carnivore / Zero Carbers say eat when hungry and stop when full. We try to be too clever with nutritional science, if you eat nutritious food like meat your body will not constantly require different levels of food. If it does it will tell you, this is not the same as hunger that is sugar craving or malnutrition from carb heavy diets. Again teeth health is stressed, it is a direct indicator of health and exclusive meat eaters have the best teeth he has ever seen. Tooth issues are systematic of a broken food industry. A misconception is that for a human carnivore to get all their nutrients and be healthy is to eat organ meat like the liver. Interestingly the Eskimos he studied generally only ate the muscle meat near the bone. Most organs and meat outside the bone area were given to the dogs. I myself rarely eat organ meats, and do not feel the need too.
Chapter 3 – The Field Experience: 10 out of 12 years he spent living with Eskimos and journaled about it extensively. He lived as they lived, hunted as they hunted and ate how they ate. Which was on the fatty meat of the animals and fish they caught. He said dietitians at the time pushed the belief of a varied diet of grains, vegetables, fruits and animal protein. This was the opposite to how he was eating, and he felt better than he ever felt. He grew accustomed to eating the same food over and over again. I have found this myself. I generally only eat beef now. I crave other foods very little. I guess it is that once you are feeding yourself everything your body needs, it is not trying to get you to eat something for certain minerals etc because it has all it needs. I feel more than happy eating only beef. He goes on to talk about salt, how it was more an imaginary craving and how he soon stopped using it. Eskimos do not salt their food. The point is also made that he obviously did not get scurvy, and had never heard of any Eskimo getting it. The chapter finishes by him discussing his crew on expeditions, he notes that the longer they spent on meat only the more likely that when he met them again years later. Their diet was still very meat heavy compared to the general populace.
Chapter 4 – The Laboratory Check: His assertions that you can live on meat alone caused a lot of controversy. People then as they do now believed a combination of 1) Meat caused disease 2) you needed plants to reverse disease. So he and a colleague agreed to be the subjects of an experiment. They would stay in a hospital for 1 year and only eat meat. Whatever cut they wanted, however much they wanted and cooked how they wanted. The first 3 weeks they ate a standard western diet, so that the doctors could do standardised tests as a baseline. Could they survive on meat alone for 1 year. They were allowed to do the exercise of an average businessman, which was mainly walking. They both breezed through the experiment, there was no deterioration in health, no scurvy, no calcium bone issues, and no vitamin deficiencies noted at all. He concludes by saying an all meat diet is not high protein it is high fat. I have found this myself, I only eat meat but hit the macros of my previous modified Ketogenic Diet.
Chapter 5 – And visit your dentist twice a year: Basically tooth hygiene is a con that a clean tooth is a healthy tooth. He says there are studies which show the healthiest teeth belong to people who only eat meat and do not drink milk. Eg Eskimos have the best teeth and they never use a toothbrush and paste. He notes this is not genetic, it is purely diet. Once a Eskimo eats western food his teeth start degrading. This makes sense to me as meat has everything needed to build strong teeth, and you are getting no anti-nutrients from plants that may leach nutrients from your teeth. He notes vegetarians who eat tubers, roots and nuts will have better teeth than those whose diet is made up mainly from wheat and oats. The fact that oats are bad for bone and teeth health is something I see quite a lot of.
Chapter 6 – Living on the Fat of the Land: He starts out by looking though history, and he found that fat was deemed desirable. Also words used to described fat, all had positive connotations. It wasn’t until Sugar consumption became widespread, and terms such as sweetie and sweetness came to the fore; that terms related to fat came to have negative connotations. He goes on to discuss various different native cultures, and wherever they were, they prioritized meat over non meat, and fatty meat over lean meat. He notes that often his friends would go on expeditions thinking they had greater dietary knowledge than the locals, and they would have life hacks to better suit the conditions. However they would end up just eating fatty meat like the locals, no matter how hot it was. He said it was ludicrous to think eating meat was more for colder climes. It is just something all people need, all the time and you will get “fat hunger” if you don’t eat it. He notes that it takes time to adapt to eating like the Eskimo’s, but not centuries like suggested it takes about 5 days!
Chapter 7 – The Blackleg of Shakespeare’s Time: usually the first thing someone says when they realise I am a carnivore, is that I am about to get scurvy. He goes through the symptoms and gives some stories on expeditions. It truly is a brutal disease. He says that throughout time the general consensus is that fresh vegetables will cure scurvy and stop you getting it. However there were sporadic tales of how fresh meat would cure scurvy. Of all his time with meat eating tribes, he never mentioned anyone getting scurvy. Something about or within fresh meat prevents carnivores getting scurvy.
Chapter 8 – The Blackleg of our time: he brings the story of scurvy to modern times. He talks about lime and lemon juice and how it was pushed as the ultimate cure. Whilst it was widely used, instances of scurvy were still pretty common. The response was to up the doses rather than look to alternatives. He states clearly that not only does fresh meat prevent scurvy, he can attest that you can cure acute scurvy within days just with fresh meat. The meat can be cooked but should not be over cooked.
What is now know is that meat actually contains enough vitamin c to prevent scurvy, on top of this you will not be eating glucose. This is important because glucose and vit c use the same transports around the body. So the more carbs you eat the more vit c you need. Carnivores need very little vit c.
The rest of the book deals with pemmican, whilst it was interesting it is not something I can buy and I am not interested in making it. So I will end my review here.
Conclusion: I enjoyed this book. He is not a doctor, and he doesn’t try to explain the hows. This is more a series of examples to show that humans can live on only fresh meat, for as long as they want. He spent time with families that would live their entire lives just eating meat, he noted they were always in excellent health compared to western standards. I am convinced that I can eat a Carnivore Diet long term if I so choose.
My Carnivore Diet Exploits – February
Food: 28kg of 20% Fat Beef Mince & 5kg of Cooking Bacon – made up 99% of my diet in February.
I wanted to see if I could live on the cheapest value mince in a supermarket. All I ate was the beef mince for the first 2 weeks. However the 1kg I was eating started to not be enough. So I added the bacon in to fill me up more.
For financial reasons I know I can now live on just mince and bacon, which would put me at a monthly food bill of about £110-£120 which is pretty good. Whilst I probably won’t be this strict, I will keep beef mince and bacon as the mainstay of my diet. Especially during the working week. Then maybe splash out a bit more on the weekend.
I felt fine all month, there was no decline in how I felt from a more varied and expensive range of meats I was eating previously.
Due to the fact I wanted to go really basic, I vastly decreased the amount of cheese I ate. I did notice a little less congestion. So dairy does probably take a toll on me. Whilst I will not give it up altogether. I am definitely going to limit the amount of times I will eat cheese.
Overall I think it is great that the cheapest beef mince in a supermarket, can make you feel so good.
Enjoyed my gym work and rowing. However running has been a bit of a slog. It has proved difficult to get enough marathon training in due to the poor weather in the North East, UK.
Indoor Row timed 100m
Then 100m * 10 intervals with 2 minute rests.
Then finished off with a bit of leg work.
After that I did a 100m sprint on the rower in 17.2s.
Then I did a chest workout. It was meant to be a chest and back workout but my biceps were goosed from the rowing.
This was the last workout of the month, due to camping and then snow.
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