Until I read this book I didn’t realize just how close to being right I was.
You see, the problem we have in the US, and as Taubes demonstrates, around the globe, is a problem of misunderstanding what really causes weight gain. We literally have been focusing on the wrong thing in our quest to be healthy, and the result is (growing) obesity.
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It is by author Gary Taubes, an award winning science journalist.
Taubes’ book is written for the average person. He takes care to clearly lay out why he believes the medical establishment in the west has been wrong with regard to obesity and weight loss.
The long and short is this: easily digestible carbohydrates cause the body to secrete insulin which messes with the regulation of fat in our bodies. Because carbohydrates are so much a part of western diets, primarily due to cost, but also because the entire notion of a balanced diet is predicated on eating lots of carbs.
The power of insulin to regulate fat cells causes most weight gain, and insulin is secreted because of carbohydrates. Effectively Taubes is arguing that when we eat carbs, we are whacking out the natural (he would argue evolutionary) bodily systems.
Taubes points out that the major flaw in western approaches to weight loss is the fallacy that consumption of too many calories coupled with a sedentary life results in excess weight gain. He destroys this argument by pointing out that non-western cultures, as well as some Native American tribes as early as the 1800s, suffer from obesity even as they have malnutrition to fight. The issue is complicated, but the essence is that too many carbohydrates causes the calories in what ever food we eat to be diverted (by insulin) into fat, rather than to be used as fuel by our bodies.
The book itself is not difficult to read. It builds upon the author’s earlier work Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. The criticism of that earlier book, if any, was that it was too technical for the average reader. Thus Taubes penned “Why We Get Fat”.
I found the book to be well documented, yet not cumbersome or overly difficult.
I kept wishing that he would cut through to the chase and tell me what I needed to do. The truth is he builds a strong case bit by bit. And the end of the book, while providing suggestions on how to implement his findings, the author points out that there is no simple fix.
I have made some personal changes as a result of reading the book. I have not fully sworn off all carbs, but I have severely limited my daily intake of carbohydrates, and it has proven to be pretty painless.
But I will confess this: high carbohydrate foods are cheap and readily available. Combine that with the decades of sharing the “food pyramid” which suggests that the bulk of our food intake each day should be in the form of grains (read carbs), and you can easily see why obesity is so prevalent across the USA.
That’s my thought. What do you think?
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