The Fate of VB6 – Knowing How to Best Eat

October 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Three Questions for Uncle Philip

It’s been ages since we talked about my eating plan, VB6. I mentioned last, that I’ve mostly stuck with eating that way, that is a daily regiment of 2 vegan meals plus one anything goes meal.  I also said  I was flummoxed over whether I should stick to this system.  I wrestle with the notion of structure. Is there value to having an eating plan. If I just ride the regimented wave of two vegan meals a day, can I surf to a disappearing mid-riff. Like so many experiments involving health, it’s hard to truly know the answer because you don’t want to try the alternative if it might lead to bad things. So, I (mostly) stick to VB6 because I fear what would happen if I don’t.  Still, I find myself wresting with 3 aspects of my plan. If nothing else, it gives my wife and I things to talk about between the comfortable silences that accompany a 20 year marriage.  I had the opportunity the other day to throw the questions to a third person, in this case, to my Uncle Philip, for his opinion on the matters.

Uncle Philip is a doctor.  Not a cardiologist.  Not a specialist in anything related to diet or exercise.  And not someone currently practicing as a physician.  He delivered babies (back when that was a lucrative profession). He retired about ten years ago.  In the period since he’s done a fantastic job with his health. He’s lost weight.  Stayed active.  He’s kept one eye firmly planted in the professional literature.  I wanted to hear his opinions not just as someone with medical training, but from someone who’s practicing what he’s seeing.  As wont for a doctor, he had strong, sure opinions on my questions.

1) How much flesh should we eat

The VB6 plan discourages animal consumption on a few grounds.  Bittman argues against meat on environmental and humanitarian concerns.  I value these concerns, but I was not asking Uncle Philip about those things.  For the body, Bittman does argue that more meat in you leads to more meat on you.  He also points out, without a lot of detailing, that meat consumption has been tied to chronic diseases.  I’ve done a bit of follow-up reading on my own, and right now (at least), I tend to believe that there are health consequences from too much meat.  How much is too much?

Uncle Philip is not following VB6, nor is he especially committed to veganism.  He does abide by standard medical line that the saturated fat associated with red meat is not good for you.  He also abides by the current state of affairs that promotes greater omega 3 fatty acids in the diet, so the need to eat a few servings of fish per week.  So, long story short, he thinks it good to eat vegetarian and vegan, but he saw no need to limit oneself to one non-vegan meal a day.  He was content eating anything that not red meat as much as he desired, and eating red meat no more than a few times a week.  I hear him here.  I’m trying to make sure my non-vegan meals are more fishy and the meat’s not there every day, but I still fear eating more than one non-vegan meal a day.

2) How many treats can we eat or Where is the no in almost no junk

As I’ve reported, VB6 is more than eating beans; it’s got a big ol’ slab on not to eat in there too. Bittman wraps up this principle in a few words: “eat (almost) no junk.”  With junk defined broadly, including all the whites, breads, pasta, rice; plus desserts, but also reaching into cured meats and fine cheeses, and not stopping until he’s also crossed booze off your shopping list.  Bittman won’t give up on eating any of this.  He does not want you too either.  Just find your almost.  Eat some, just not a lot of the good things.

A few years ago, my wife found this slim, hardly publicized diet book, the No S diet, written by a lawyer named Reinhard Engels.  It’s a great read.  Unlike nearly all the doctors and scientists, Engels understood the gist of what makes us fat, the S’s: sweets, snacks and seconds.  Instead of being high carb, low carb, paleo, vegan, clean gut, calorie counting, South Beach-y, etc., Engels said don’t S.  But like Bittman he recognized that one cannot fully live a treat free life.  We need a slice of cake on our birthday.  Engel came up with a simple way of dealing with the S’s.  Save them for the S days.  In other words Saturday and Sundays.  Twice a week, dessert was OK.  Twice a week, it was OK to pig out a bit. He also allowed one other S day, “special days” i.e., birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.  Such a sensible plan to know when to give in that Michael Pollan actually cites the book in his Food Rules.  It’s been pretty much my plan too for defining what almost no junk is.  I fight all the urges to eat treats until the weekend, and then I have a bit.

Not Uncle Philip.  His response was I should be a lot closer to the no than the almost.  I had confessed to him that limiting myself to those few treats per week drove me batty.  I pined for all the doughnuts I was not eating.  Uncle Philip felt that was evidence that I was addicted to such food, and that I needed to kick the habit.  He argued that once passed the initial DTs, the urge to sweet would pass.  I would be cured.  He added that an alcoholic can’t have one drink.  Without elaboration, I’ll say, I’m not with Uncle Philip on this one at all.  Almost means almost to me.

3) When do I stop dieting

A half a year ago, I carried around a nice sized belly.  I had a build that could either be described as a very fat skinny person or pretty skinny fat person.  If you just ignored all that around my belly button, I had a decent physique.  Beyond what you could see outside, I could feel on the inside.  I felt that I was not fully in good health, and I knew that Type 2 diabetes ran in the family.  I wanted that gut gone.  I wanted my health improved.  For years and years, I’ve entered into exercise programs, including some pretty rigorous routines with the idea that I could sweat my way out of these issues.  After all, I would see at the gym, a lot of fit looking people. Not until I began seeing very direct results from eating vegan and then VB6, did I finally accept that diet mattered.

The question though, can one “diet” to a point and then move along.  So many existing programs work from this logic.  Eat some way for what ever period it takes you to ditch the excess weight and then either get back to “normal” eating or at least follow an easier “maintenance” program.  My wife, who also wants to lose weight also wonders about this.  My Uncle’s answer, pretty much what Bittman says, no.  There is no before and after.  There is just a healthy way of eating.  Here, I’m in full agreement.  I’m not on this plan for as long as it takes to make the belly flat.  I’m just on it.

Next: My big disagreement with Uncle Philip, Bittman and the health-industrial complex.