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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Review: Why We Get Fat

I've pretty much ignored all the Paleo/Atkins/Low Carb diet craze the last few years, and Cynthia recommended Why We Get Fat as a way to see what it's all about.

Taubes has a good writing style and a lucid, clear argument as to why conventional diet and exercise doesn't work:
  • The poorest people in the world don't eat a lot of meat but get fat anyway.
  • The hunter-gatherers that exist today eat as much fatty meat as they can get their hands on.
  • Carnivores are lean while Hebivores are fat.
  • Insulin has been shown to be the agent converting sugars to fat. Having a constantly elevated level of sugars basically floods your body with insulin and therefore eliminates your ability to burn fat.
  • The Atkins-type diets have been shown in some studies to reduce weight faster than other comparative diets.
Boy, vegetarians and vegans must hate this book. The prescription eliminates many items traditionally thought to be healthy and good for you such as fruits! (There's an assertion in the book that if you ate mostly meat, you probably don't need as much vitamin C)

Yet a few questions have answers that aren't very satisfying. For instance, why are the Japanese skinny? They eat plenty of rice (as do most Asian countries), and when you visit Japan, you're not going to see a lot of fat people around. Taubes says that these countries don't drink a lot of soft drinks, which is true, but a trip to your local Japanese supermarket sees plenty of sweet drinks. I'm not sure that this book holds the complete story: there's a lot about nutrition that we don't know.

Then of course, there's the assertion that exercise doesn't work. That one's weird, since I certainly know plenty of people who's lost weight from exercise. In any case, I found the book interesting as far as being an introduction to what all this high-protein/high-fat/low carb craze is about. Recommended.


DarkShingingStar said...

I would love to see a review on Primal Body Primal Mind by Nora Gegaudas.

scott said...

Yeah, Gary Taubes writes/speaks like an engineer...great stuff.

bawa said...

I went on an Atkins type diet a few years ago and while I lost weight, I regained it with a vengeance once I decided to go back to slightly more normal eating (not eating fruit and veg was just not right!)

It has been followed where I have been diagnosed with high BP, type 2 diabetics, and a bit of cholestrol.
While I have no proof that the diet had anything to do with it, I am very suspicious of something that puts so much pressure on some parts of your system (that process protein).

In the end this year I have lost a lot weight, 3 sizes less, and am stable there: formula? cut out all that I know is bad for me (fat, white flours, sweet, certain fruits) lots of fruit and veg and dhal (and some rice too!), lots of green tea too!

Like you, I decided that so many millions of Asian, whose meat always includes so much veg, were a better example than all these diet fads.

Anonymous said...

Getting fat or not is about the mind (or better the ways your mind deals with stress and anxieties) as much as it is about the food you eat. For the most of us, bad eating habits are directly influenced with the amount of stress we get, and simple no diet will work in a longer run without adjusting other aspects of one's life. I believe that fact also explains why comparisons between different countries/cultures don't always follow the same patterns - simply lifestyles, habits and mindsets are too different. In Japan religion and culture require much more self-control than people from West are capable of, and I'm convinced that it helps a big deal with their weight control, too.