I’ve been reading a lot, as I usually do, and have noticed a trend this week in weight chat. Since I’ve been meddling with mine and pondering on it, I thought I’d include some of the thoughts here. I haven’t had time to post my own progress this week, but I’ll do a final post next week, I hope.
Firstly, though, regarding popular books of the time, I skimmed the first several chapters of Gary Taubes’s book Good Calories, Bad Calories and also Why We Get Fat. He was a presenter in The Paleo Summit, and I wanted to read more after hearing him speak. The stuff Mr. T has written on the saturated fat misinformation from Ancel Keys is very interesting. I enjoyed reading through several of the studies, but then some of the conclusions began to give me pause. The main conclusion that troubles me in his book is the idea that it’s not just “calories in, calories out”. Quotes like this one, caused me to think that this was his premise:
Regarding restriction of carbohydrates: “…leads to weight loss and particularly fat loss, independent of the calories we consume from dietary fat and protein. We know that the laws of physics have nothing to do with it.”
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I do realize that all calories are NOT the same. I am a prime example of the frustrations that sugar/carby calories can cause. They make my body behave differently. BUT, to say that, in essence, calories don’t matter, seemed a bit silly. Any argument can be quickly (not thoroughly, but quickly) tested, I think, by taking it to it’s absurd conclusion (Reductio ad Absurdum). SO… what if I did and could eat 10,000 calories a day of CLEAN Paleo eating. Would I not gain weight? I think I would. This disconnect began to bother me, so down went Mr. T’s book and up went the search for thoughts on Mr. T’s book from people who are paid to research these sorts of things. Some very thoughtful treatment of this book comes from Stephan Guyenet. In his post titled: The Carbohydrate Hypothesis of Obesity: a Critical Examination, he tackles the ideas in Mr. T’s book, Good Calories, Bad Calories. He breaks them down into three parts and deftly takes care to address them. In the first section, he informed me that I must have misunderstood Mr. T:
The first part of this hypothesis states that energy balance is not the ultimate cause of fat gain, it’s the proximal cause. That is, Taubes is not disagreeing with the first law of thermodynamics: he understands that fat accumulation depends on how much energy is entering the body vs. leaving it. However, he feels that the entire industrialized world didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to eat more calories, therefore something must be driving the increased calorie consumption.
Don’t know how I missed this, but I really did come away with the wrong conclusion, that Mr. T thinks “calories in, calories out” is bunk. I did skim. Maybe I should have slowed down. Mr. G then goes on to say that Taubes should have mentioned Leptin signaling here, as the reason for the problems with fat metabolism. He goes on to correct Mr. T’s thinking on insulin and to school me even further… I really LOVE these bloggers who take time to write thoughtfully like this Mr. G does.
This brings us to a core concept that Taubes fails to incorporate in his thinking: the idea that insulin signaling in fat tissue depends both on the concentration of insulin around, and on the sensitivity of cells to that insulin. In obesity, fat tissue is insulin resistant. How do I know? Because the fat tissue of obese people doesn’t suppress fatty acid release in response to experimentally elevated insulin or mixed meals as effectively as the fat tissue of a lean individual (18, 19). In fact, obese people release an equal or larger amount of fatty acids from their fat tissue than lean people under basal conditions as well (20, 21). If this is true, then why do they remain obese? It’s simple: the long-term rate of fat entering the fat cells is equal to the rate exiting, or higher. There is no defect in the ability of fat cells to release fat in obesity, the problem is that the fat that is released is not being oxidized (burned) at a rate that exceeds what is coming in from the diet, therefore it all ends up back in the fat tissue.
He goes on and addresses more. Read it. It’s helpful stuff. In his conclusion he states:
Carbohydrate consumption per se is not behind the obesity epidemic. However, once overweight or obesity is established, carbohydrate restriction can aid fat loss in some people. The mechanism by which this occurs is not totally clear, but there is no evidence that insulin plays a causal role in this process. Carbohydrate restriction spontaneously reduces calorie intake (as does fat restriction), suggesting the possibility that it alters body fat homeostasis, but this alteration likely occurs in the brain, not in the fat tissue itself.
Nice job, Mr. G. What a good writer. I really don’t have time to read ALL of Taubes’s work. He has done some great stuff, I think, uncovering the roots of some faulty “conventional wisdom”, but it seems that some of his conclusions require further thought. I’m just sayin’.
Next up, I was reading a little blurb from Sean Croxton (he makes me laugh out loud) on a new book that is out, Make Shi(f)t Happen: Change How You Look by Changing How You Think. Sean talked about “faulty thinking is often the root cause of failed attempts at fat loss and lifestyle modification”. This rings true with my own personal experience. It wasn’t until I “got real” with myself and the preggo pounds that crept on while “eating for two”, not until I really saw where I was and where I needed to be, that I had good results. The thing that REALLY popped out in this book review from Sean was this:
Become an Expert on YOU! I get a LOT of email from people asking me if I could tell them EXACTLY what to eat — how many grams of this and grams of that to throw down their pie hole. My answer is always this: I don’t know! Find out what works for you by keeping a diet log, tracking not only what you eat but also how you feel after each meal.
This is so true and what really needs to happen for a person to be successful in any healthy attempt at lifestyle changes. Sean touched on a number of things from the book here that are helpful little nuggets. Give it a look.
Eat Like a Dinosaur’s author’s have been taking a beating this week over not being “models” of Paleo body shape. Sheesh. They are so inspirational. Stacy’s post on where she’s been in this journey is SO VERY MOTIVATIONAL, and her transparency humbles me. I love it when others share their struggles. It makes me motivated to do better myself and to not give up, regardless of whether or not my situation matches their’s. These posts related to this issue, so I thought I’d link to them if this is an area of interest to you.
The Clothes Make the Girl posts on I Love My Body Her honesty and perspective are refreshing.
At Against the Grain, Crystal talks about I’m Ok, You’re Fat.
NOT new, but great post on this issue: Crunchy Chicken’s post on The Skinny vs. Curvy Ideal
Paleo Comfort Foods: Our Food-fessional
University of California is putting out a series of videos to follow up on Dr. Robert Lustig’s interviews with various networks on “Is Sugar Toxic?” The videos titled The Skinny on Obesity are here.
Oddly, I found this post on My Fitness Pal and read it… I don’t usually read anything there, but I found this guy’s observations to be thought-provoking. They tied in with what Croxton was saying regarding the Dwyer book on a shift in thinking. Well, that should be enough for a weekend’s worth of reading pleasures!