Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It
I just finished a book by Gary Taubes, “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It.”
I bought it, knowing that it was an Atkins-type book. When I saw the review, I thought, “Haven’t we seen this before and decided it was a bad idea? How is this guy possibly going to convince us that eating butt loads of bacon is good?”
Even though I went into reading the book with a closed mind, I found it very interesting. There were some excellent points that I think are worth mentioning:
1. Calories-in, Calories-out is old science
If losing and maintaining a healthy weight rested purely on a calories-in/calorie-out model, then eating 20 calories extra a day would take us from fit in our 20s to obese in our 30s. A bite of a granola bar. That means maintaining weight is so scientifically precise that we all should find it impossible to achieve.
Bottoms line: there is much more going on then just the amount of calories we put in our bodies. Things like genetics, hormones, and medications have a huge impact on how our bodies decide to store calories into fat.
Thus, the idea that overweight people are just chowing down and loafing around isn’t a correct picture of the situation. If our body is in a “fat making” mode, then REGARDLESS OF CALORIE RESTRICTION the body will continue to try to store calories into fat. It will hold onto fat and not release it for energy use, and the body becomes inactive as a result. So, overweight people are not necessarily fat because they are inactive, they are inactive because they are fat and the body won’t release the fuel they need to move more.
2. It’s OK to eat Meat
Our genes have been adapted by the two and a half million years as hunters and gatherers prior to the last 10 generations of the industrial age. So, it would stand to reason that our bodies could handle and thrive on a typical hunter-gatherer diet.
In 2000, researchers analyzed the diets of 229 hunter-gatherer populations that survived deep enough into the 20th century to have them assessed. It is considered the most comprehensive analysis done on hunter-gatherer diets. They found, without exception, that these diets consisted of high amounts of animal food, as much as 85-100%. Their diets were also very high in fat as they consumed the whole of the animal: skin, organs and all. This means that their diets were very low in carbohydrates. And what little carbohydrates they did eat were very high in fiber.
This should at least indicate to us that high quality, free-range animal products are not bad for us. Our bodies know what to do with it. A scientifically engineered protein bar? Not so much.
What most people do agree on is disease starts rising as soon as we start eating a western diet. No matter if it is a milk-drinking tribe in Africa, a soy-eating community in Asia, or a meat-eating community in South America. Once the western diet is introduced, all hell breaks loose!
3. Carbohydrates and Insulin are the bad guys
Gary Taubes would say if you already have the decks stacked against you – genetics, hormones, chemical imbalances – the only thing that you CAN control is insulin levels. Yes, we have all heard this before and it is a valid point. The one body mechanic that ensures that we stay in “fat storing” mode is insulin production. Insulin triggers a domino effect that guarantees fat storage. If you are genetically gifted and can get away with eating refined carbohydrates and sugars, consider yourself blessed. The rest of us have to watch it. Refined carbohydrates (breads, pastas, sweets) are part of that nasty western diet that is wreaking havoc on our health, not a little meat in your diet.
Taubles goes on to to say that if you are one of the genetically unlucky ones, your may be so sensitive to insulin, that you will not be able to tolerate even moderate amounts of carbohydrates. Obviously, when you take carbs out of the diet, the only things left are animal products. But, if that is what it takes for a person to lose weight, decrease the chances of disease, and increase energy, I’m not one to judge. Eat your bunless burger. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.