“Why We Get Fat” by Gary Taubes. A summary.
This book challenges the assumption that we get fat because of a calories in verse calories out argument. In fact this book shows pretty clearly that it is not how much we eat but what it is that we eat that causes us to get fat. It states that the high glycemic load of simple carbohydrates in particular and carbohydrates in general and really anything that increases insulin (starchy foods) production causes us to get fat. This is because insulin determines where the energy goes that you eat. Some to the muscles and some to the fat. As you increase your insulin use on a regular basis the muscle molecule become resistant to it, therefore insulin starts partitioning more of the energy straight to the fat cells. This is before you have a chance to use it as energy because your muscles never receive it. Therefore the argument is that you do not become fat because you are lazy, you become lazy because you are getting fat. Ie…you consume the same amount if energy, insulin starts partitioning some of this energy directly to the fat cells instead of to the muscle cells, therefore you do not have as much energy. Therefore you are not as active. Not the other way around which is, you stop becoming active then start storing fat. In order to lose weight he argues that one must decrease the insulin levels. Fat is in constant motion in a normal body, in then out of the blood stream. However it is locked away when your insulin levels are increased because the body believes that there is enough energy in the system already. Therefore if you want to access your fat stores you must decrease you insulin/blood sugar levels by eating fats and proteins. When you do this the body will shift from burning carbohydrates constantly as energy to burning fat. This is what the body is supposed to do, however it can take time to switch over fully depending on the damage done.
This book also states that decreasing carbohydrate intake will also decrease your risks for several chronic diseases. Such as heart disease, cancer, hypertension and diabetes. We all know that all of these diseases increase with weight gain. Therefore his initial non scientific argument is that anything that makes you thinner is good for these diseases. Since he has demonstrated that it is what you eat, not how much you eat that causes weight gain he resolves that these foods are in fact healthy for you. He then pursues this scientifically. It demonstrates that a high fat high protein diet and low carbohydrate diet is heart healthy due to several reasons. One of the main ones being that the LDL particulates remain fat and fluffy. In a carbohydrate rich diet these particulates are made small and dense. These then imbed themselves into the arterial walls causing atherosclerosis. There are also Changes in Hdl/LDL levels. While both change and LDL does increase, the overall effect is heart healthy.
Historically scientists viewed weight gain as a sign of malnutrition. This is because in poor populations without a lot of food the children were thin and frail and the adults were fat. This was not caused by having too much food, but by the foods that were eaten. (carbohydrate based foods) This has been demonstrated in societies all over the world, and it would correspond to this books hypothesis. You spend your childhood years abusing your insulin levels until your muscles become insulin resistant, then you start partitioning the energy to your fat cells instead. This leads to becoming fat with the same amount of food, and it also means that you do not have as much energy so that you then become lethargic. Every individuals body is different. Some will be more likely to stay lean while others more likely to gain weight. As you increase your insulin levels though you start pushing the meter to the gain weight side. Also, muscle cells become insulin resistant before fat cells do, therefore you naturally gain more weight as you age. Especially if you are constantly spiking your blood sugar. This thought process lost prominence during the second world war when the European scientific community was lost. After that it has been assumed that you get fat because you are eating too much and this has not been challenged since. He also discusses that since western diseases are in fact our diseases and we eat a lot of meat that the nutrition community tends to blame them on fat. He then compares our diet to those healthy diets of hunter gatherer societies and concludes that the foods that are similar are probably the safe foods to eat while the ones that are not are probably the unsafe ones. The similar foods were essentially meats and vegetables and low in other carbohydrate sources.
I enjoyed this book, I found it to be very well researched and to state both sides of his argument. It also corresponds to what I have believed to be a healthy diet which would be natural meats and vegetables as the main stay. If you’re interested feel free to check out the book.
How do you lose that fat then? Lift heavy, do high intensity cardio training, maintain a generally active lifestyle and eat what you can grow and what you can kill. Here is a quick guide from Patrick Hitches at Foundation Fitness.