Sunday, April 3, 2011

If You're Not a Sloth, You're a Glutton. And Vice Versa.

Okay, I'll admit (don't lose respect for me), I've stopped reading Gary Taubes's "Good Calories, Bad Calories".  While it was a very impressive body of work, it was also very dense, hard to sift through, and just too darn scientific and data-based.  That stuff is important to me, but I already accept the premise...I kept waiting for Taubes to give advice.  And I waited...and waited...

However, this girl's got a Plan B.  I picked up Taubes's "Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It",  a recently-published text that I suspect he put out in response to readers like myself who just wanted a super-duper condensed version of GCBC and more tips and advice.

Thirty pages in, my expectation is met so far.  Taubes has summarized rather handily the tomes of research that exist regarding obesity, etc...both positive and negative outcomes.  Early on, it's clear that science, public health, government have made mistakes...ones they seem reluctant to fix.

Anyway, there are several older studies that indicate obesity was once a "disease of malnutrition" instead of overnutrition (29).  Taubes then goes to explain that most doctors, parents, nutritionists, dietitians, consumers, etc. have believed in the calories in-calories out process (that we gain weight when we consume more cals than we burn).  Thus, if one was obese, it was either because s/he was inactive or was an overeater (either s/he was a sloth (lazy) or a glutton).  However, Taubes highlights study after study that indicates obesity had nothing to do with activity. After all, according to the conventional knowledge, poverty-level sharecroppers in 1950's South Carolina should have been thin (because they couldn't afford much food and worked physically demanding jobs)...but they weren't (26).  An unusual number of those folks (and many others) were overweight.

Taubes suggests that we forget about labels (sloth or glutton?) and judgments (lazy or a pig?) and instead, consider that something is wrong with our food supply.

It doesn't seem like a wholly revolutionary idea, but essentially: stop worrying about how much we eat, and worry more about what we eat.

And that is what I am in the middle of trying to figure out.  What should I eat?  Who's right?  The USDA (Meat & Beans are just a sliver on the current food pyramid)?  Michael Pollan (Eat more.  Mostly plants.)?  Gary Taubes/Dr. Atkins/Arthur Agatston (Meat is good.  Stay away from high-carb...even if it's a fruit or vegetable)?

The answers are out there.  They have to be.


  1. The only thing I can tell you is this. I have lost 24 pounds, not by dieting, but by eating more whole grains, more fresh or frozen fruits and veggies less meat, cheese and dairy.

    The Mediterranean Pyramid is a better starting point than the USDA's pyramid. The only thing I've totally omitted from my menu is anything that comes in a can.

  2. okay, You've convinced me. I've got to read this book!