I just finished reading the book Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Talk about a beat down on conventional wisdom! Taubes lays down the law on the science behind why we get fat, how bad science made fat (not carbohydrates) the enemy, why diet and exercise (in the vain of calorie restriction and working out to lose weight) won’t work over the long term and what you can do about it.
[Two great books to read if you want to understand why we get fat and how you can get lean. Don't mind my Coors Beer sweatshirt I have on. I know that beer can make you fat. What the hell am I looking at?]
You may have heard of Taubes before for another great book: Good Calories, Bad Calories. Well this new book is a direct result of the positive response that he got from writing that book. GCBC was very long (over 500 pages) and very technical/sciencey/nerdy. Some people don’t want all that science mumbo jumbo. The new book is less technical but still gives you the biological/biochemistry background so that you will understand why your body does what it does. Which leads to the question: what should you do?
This book is not a “diet” book in the traditional sense. There are not a bunch of recipes in there or an exercise program that you need to follow. It is more a treatise on how you have been allowed to get fat by eating a bunch of foods (particularly sugar and refined carbohydrates) that our hunter gatherer forefathers did not. And it is backed up by scientific research and studies (all footnoted and in the sources section) that have been ignored and overlooked by mainstream doctors, nutritionists, Universities and government health agencies.
What I found interesting was how scientists and researchers overlooked this information because they didn’t want to be wrong. They had a hypothesis in their head (eating fat causes heart disease/makes you fat) and then set up studies to prove their hypothesis. But the studies, some of which were massive in terms of numbers, time and cost, didn’t conclusively prove what they were after. They were either inconclusive or contradictory to what they were meant to prove. So what did those scientists do? They said “Let’s do another study!” Brilliant.
Why We Get Fat doesn’t get preachy either. Taubes doesn’t blame an individual for getting fat because it really isn’t your fault that you get fat. If someone follows the USDA food pyramid then more than likely they will get fat and develop some type of “Western Diseases” like diabetes, obesity and heart disease. He acknowledges that genetics do play a roll in how your body’s relationship with fat storage and he stresses that people that do get fat do not suffer from some type of mental disease, lack of will power, sloth or gluttony. But the primary factor that you can control is the amount of carbs that you eat. When you control that you control how much fat your body can store.
I had two favorite chapters in Why We Get Fat : Chapter 15 – Why Diets Succeed and Fail and Chapter 19 – The Follow Through. Chapter 15 talks about why diets work and why they fail. It boils down to this: a successful “diet” will reduce the amount of fattening carbohydrates that you consume. That’s it. If you do that you will lose weight. maybe not overnight but you didn’t get fat overnight either so give it some time to work. Chapter 19 presents and overview of the books conclusions. One point in particular is making sure that you eat enough fat, not just protein. Your body needs the fat so don’t cut it out. One passing comment was the anecdotal evidence that intermittent fasting (think Eat Stop Eat) can help you break through a fat loss plateau.
Even though this is not a diet book, the appendix does have a “No Sugar, No Starch” Diet for people to follow. Pretty simple stuff really and usually the less complicated a regimen is to follow the more success people will have with it. Give it a shot if want to start losing weight and get healthier. Overall I am really glad that I read this book. If you at all interested in understanding why you get fat or how you can become lean then you should read this book. Let me know if you read this and what your thoughts are.