Sunday, March 6, 2011

Book 6: Why We Get Fat, and What to do About it

Why We Get Fat, and What to do About it
By Gary Taubes

Continuing what is, apparently, the theme of this year, I learned a LOT in this book that I didn’t know before. I will preface this with a small insight into my life. I love food, and I’m a big fan of nutrition books, like to give them a go, and see what happens. I get really enthusiastic about menu-changes. 

But, usually it is a matter of more vegetables, or more fruit, or less processed food or, for a year, strict vegetarianism…I just love it.  

The premise of this book was very unconventional. VERY.  I’ve never been a fan of the Atkins diet (or way of eating) because it flew in the face of everything that NORMAL nutritionists tell you to do. However, this book by Taubes clearly promotes an Atkins-style of eating to promote weight loss and overall general health.
The great thing is that he actually backs his ideas up with extensive research and medical studies. Something which, up until recently, I hadn’t really thought of as missing from other nutrition books. 

Oh yeah, and no sugar. No fattening carbohydrates, and DEFINITELY no sugar. Which is a bit depressing for me as I am, admittedly, quite addicted to all things sugary. However, giving those items up (it can apparently take up to 18 months to fully quit a sugar-addiction and no longer have ‘intrusive thoughts about sweet food’) have extensive benefits. Good cholesterol goes up, bad cholesterol goes down, you drastically reduce your chances of heart-disease and even cancer and you don’t have to work out. In fact, until your body adjusts to the new food, you shouldn’t work out. Ha!

Here’s the thing. You have short term fat (essential fatty acids, or, EFAs) and long term fat storage. Short term is constantly going in and out of your fat portion of your body, keeps you from getting hungry at night…etc, and insulin regulates all this. However, carbohydrates and sugar drastically increase your insulin-levels which in turn starts the process of shuffling away short term fat into long term fat storage (these are layman’s terms. I’d highly recommend reading the book) and as time progresses you get fatter because your insulin is out of whack and fat is just going straight into long-term fat storage rather than being burned consistently. 

Reduce (or eliminate) your sugar and carbohydrate levels, and (after suffering about a week or two of withdrawl symptoms) you’ll bring your insulin levels down and start burning fat as you were meant to do.
It removes a lot of the guilt from people who are obese. 

There are plenty of studies that state that diet + exercise doesn’t work for the majority of the population, and people who are predispositioned to get fat simply can’t do much about it as your body WILL store whatever fat it feels it needs to. In fact, in a study done of a family of rats bred for weight-gain, one half of the rats were fed however much they wanted and the other half was fed an extremely restricted diet. BOTH groups gained the same amount of weight, but the rats on the food-restricted diet had shrunken internal organs from the lack of food. Rather than burn fat, their bodies simply took what it needed from vital functions. 

Obviously, this is not the case for everyone, but it does shed light into what I feel is a huge area of discrimination in our society. Obesity is not necessarily a choice, and sugar has addictive properties like that of heroin or cocaine in its dopamine-release structure. 

So, I’m cutting back based on this book and am trying to get used to coffee with JUST a bit of cream, no sugar. A big ‘meh’ so far but still better than black coffee. We’ll see how it goes, but if it ultimately helps with heart disease and cancer risks…well, it’s something I’m certainly willing to work on. We're also eating more protein now. I don't know if we'll go full-blown into the Atkins 'Induction Phase' of quick weight loss because seriously, I don't have a lot of time for that, but we are going to go mostly on a protein-based diet and see how we feel. So far, withdrawal has sucked.

Read the book. I imagine you’ll be just as surprised as I was at a number of the falsehoods the FDA, Department of Agriculture and nearly every diet book and cook book on the market attempt to teach. Still, it's interesting how ingrained (pun intended) those ideas are. I still like the food pyramid, I like the idea that if I burn 3,500 calories I will lose a pound of weight. Now I just have to keep switching my brain over to tell myself that's simply not true.


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