Ryandake's Reviews > Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
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Jun 10, 12

Read in June, 2012

wow, i am not sure what to think.

i am not a scientist of any stripe, nor a nutritionist, don't know zip about biochemistry... but i thought he made a pretty compelling case.

the gist is: don't eat carbs in any form. not even vegetable form. because it causes your insulin to spike, which causes you to lay on more fat, particularly abdominal fat. eat all the meat and fats you want. and oh ya, the calories-in/calories-out theory doesn't work well. so just restricting your consumption will not cause you to lose weight.

i have never been a dieter--i was very lucky to be naturally thin as a rail most of my life--but alas, the older i get, the tubbier i get. and i loathe it! i read a NYT article of Taubes' and decided it was time to dive in to the seemingly endless stream of food advice.

a couple of things bothered me in this book: Taubes seems to make no distinction between whole-grain and refined foods. like, brown rice vs white rice. yet as i understand it they do have radically different effects on insulin, his black-hatted culprit.

one sentence in the book also lit up every alarm i possess on this subject. in a survey of contemporary hunter-gatherer populations, he reports that those groups "...consumed 'high amounts' of animal food. In fact, one in every five of these 229 populations subsisted almost entirely by hunting or fishing."

what about the other four? what did they eat? how did they fare?

still, i think Taubes makes some pretty good points, stuff that should have some medical attention paid to it. like, why most dieters fail. why exercise is not a cure-all. what happens at the nexus of aging/diet/metabolism/insulin resistance. and best of all, his debunking of the sin/sloth cause of fatness.

for myself? i don't think i can do a meat/veggie diet (which he ultimately recommends) because i can't stand to eat that much meat. meat is just kind of gross. but i will take the middle ground: cut out most refined grains (goodbye, bagels!) and sugars, and eat more veg. and enjoy possibly guilt-free bacon again :-)
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Roy For a contrasting point of view, I recommend The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health. Although not about weight loss specifically, it discusses health and meat eating as a whole.

Mind you, if you end up reading it, I *still* have similar problems with China Study than you have with this one. In the case of China Study, he makes no distinction between wild fish and industrial beef, for instance. It's an annoying habit of writers to discard nuance when it doesn't serve their point. In an age when you can Wikipedia anything, they just do a disservice to their "cause".


message 2: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Roy Also: in In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, Michael Pollan argues that what makes our diets healthy or unhealthy has to do with a lot more than its components such as carbs, fat, protein, etc. He gives the example of the French diet: rich in fat, lots of meat, plenty of carbs and alcohol. Yet they're healthier than Americans.

The big difference? They eat at meals only; there's a taboo about snacking. They eat in groups, with friends, and meals are elaborate, happy affairs. The quality of ingredients matter. Eating is much more than mechanical refueling, it's a social, cultural, and meaningful act.

I place a lot of stock in this approach!


Ryandake Daniel wrote: "Also: in In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, Michael Pollan argues that what makes our diets healthy or unhealthy has to do with a lot more than its components such as carbs, fat, protein, et..."

heretofore i have never paid much attention to food or diets: in practice i sort of hit the big points (low salt, low fat sometimes, get exercise). have always been healthy enough.

but lately i have been noticing how often medical advice reverses itself--i saw even the low-salt thing go down in the NYT.

it's one of those things i haven't the education to understand.

feels like jumping in not only to the deep end, but to the deep end of the river as it nears the thundering waterfall :-)


message 4: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Roy Yeah... I recommend "In Defense of Food", though. He argues against what he calls "nutritionism", which is the reduction of food to its components. Makes a compelling argument why this approach fails and contradicts itself so much...

I think our problem as a civilization is that we eat food that is low quality, cheap, processed, and loaded with chemicals. And whenever we try to pinpoint the cause, we end up finding correlation, and mistake it with causation... ("Junk food is loaded with sugar, and thus sugar must make you fat.")


Ryandake Daniel wrote: "Yeah... I recommend "In Defense of Food", though. He argues against what he calls "nutritionism", which is the reduction of food to its components. Makes a compelling argument why this approach fai..."

pollan it is. some people i know who do know a lot about science are big-time devotees of his.

don't forget that we pack our low-quality, cheap food in bisphenol-A-lined cans...


message 6: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Roy I'm a big-time devotee of his. :)

And yeah... BPA... That's another problem... It never ends. :/

If you like In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, which is more practical and direct, you'll surely like The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, which is the most important book on food I've ever read!


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