Book Review: Why We Get Fat, past times Gary Taubes


Hey there! Welcome to the rootage of what volition live many reviews of books related to nutrition, food, as well as health. Heaven knows at that spot should live plenty to move around, considering the infinitesimal I goal the lastly page of one, I’m reaching for some other to acquire started on. I’ve been reading these kinds of books for nigh nine years now, thence there’s a lot of bully titles lined upward on my bookshelf. Some were published fairly recently, some move way back. In the involvement of keeping things current, though, I’ll start amongst 1 I only finished. Over time, I promise to revisit as well as review some of the ones I read a spell ago, ‘cuz at that spot are some serious oldies but goodies inwards the pile.


Today’s menu:  Why We Get Fat as well as What to Do About It, yesteryear Gary Taubes.  For the sake of simplicity, I’ll telephone vociferation upward it WWGF.

Taubes wrote WWGF equally a (much) shorter, to a greater extent than accessible version of his rootage book, Good Calories, Bad Calories (GCBC). Like only nigh everyone who understands as well as supports low-carbohydrate nutrition, I read GCBC non long subsequently it came out. And having read both, if I had to brand an S.A.T. analogy here, I would state that Why We Get Fat is to Good, Calories, Bad Calories equally watching the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks on TV is to beingness at that spot inwards person, watching the colors fill upward the heaven overhead as well as reverberate on the H2O of the Hudson River below. It’s squeamish plenty on TV, but it’s goose egg similar beingness at that spot upward unopen as well as inwards person. WWGF volition give y'all the real basics. But if y'all desire the no-holds-barred, hardcore, “we proceed the goodness materials inwards the dorsum room” form of sense (not that I know anything nigh that…), y'all owe it to yourself to read GCBC. I would state Taubes intended WWGF to live a form of Cliffs Notes version of GCBC, but I’ve been out of high schoolhouse thence long that I don’t know if Cliffs Notes nonetheless fifty-fifty exist. (*Checks Internet.* Huh, whaddya know. They do.)

Taubes himself explains that he wrote WWGF inwards reply to requests he had received from hundreds of people who read all 460 pages of GCBC (yikes!) but wanted something their husband/wife/mother/friend would read, as well as whose eyes would no uncertainty start to glaze over if they tried to tackle the tour-de-force that is GCBC. He had also received requests from people who wanted a pared-down version they could propose their MD read, as well as vice-versa—requests from doctors who wanted something simpler they could acquire their patients to read. I state this solely to betoken out that the data inwards GCBC was thence stunning, thence eye-opening, as well as thence desperately ripe for an chance to lay waste matter to the vast garbage heap of mainstream recommendations as well as “conventional wisdom” on weight loss, pump disease, as well as overall wellness that the lastly lx years has produced, that people were begging him to write some other one. 

Best bumper sticker EVER. When y'all demand to destroy something (or someone) inwards the middle of the night, mail inwards the Marines. When y'all demand to destroy over one-half a century of bad scientific discipline as well as damn nigh medical as well as nutritional malpractice, mail inwards Gary Taubes. 
Taubes agency business. He’s non a doctor. What he is, is an award-winning scientific discipline journalist who’s spent years reading medical journals, interpreting inquiry studies, studying human physiology as well as biochemistry, as well as personally interviewing hundreds of doctors as well as researchers intimately involved inwards conducting those studies as well as treating patients inwards clinical settings. He’s got equally much right to write a majority similar this equally anyone amongst M.D. or PhD subsequently their name.

Taubes has been writing for a long time, but he started becoming a household refer inwards the low-carb basis inwards 2002 when his article, “What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” appeared inwards The New York Times Magazine. He striking the jackpot over again inwards 2007 amongst “The Scientist as well as the Stairmaster” inwards New York magazine. (You gotta honey an article amongst a subtitle similar “Why most of us believe that exercise makes us thinner—and why we're wrong.”)

Nutshell versions:  Taubes's basic premise is that pretty much everything "the experts" have got told us nigh why nosotros acquire fatty as well as how to acquire lean over again is wrong. Well, maybe not all wrong, but for certain oversimplified to the betoken of beingness useless at best, as well as extremely harmful at worst. At the very worst, recommendations for everyone, across the board—whether you're a 16-year-old cross ground rails runner or a 78-year former adult woman amongst os density problems—to do the same exercises as well as eat the same diets (low inwards fatty as well as animate beingness protein, heavy on grain-based carbohydrates), powerfulness fifty-fifty live the cause of the wellness as well as obesity quicksand we’ve sunk into upward to our eyeballs.



One of the many things I taste nigh Taubes's writing is that yesteryear explaining what really happens inwards our bodies inwards reply to dissimilar foods—the hormonal effects of fat, protein, as well as carbohydrate—it becomes slowly to empathise why some people do all right on low-fat diets, but why, for many, they’re a consummate disaster. And he takes away the moral judgments. In our politically right society, it seems that overweight people are the lastly acceptable targets. You can’t brand comments nigh anything anymore: gender, religion, race. But it’s nonetheless opened upward flavor on heavy people. Why? Because we’ve come upward to believe that people move overweight because of grapheme flaws. Because of moral failings. They eat equally good much. They don’t exercise enough. They’re lazy as well as greedy. If they would only position downwards the cheeseburger as well as acquire on the treadmill, they’d live thin. Therefore, if they’re not thin, it’s all their fault.


Well, y'all know what? That didn’t move for me, as well as it doesn’t move for millions of people who recall they’re doing “all the right things.” Do some people eat equally good much? Yes. Are some people non moving around enough? Yes. But at that spot are millions of people who do “eat right” as well as exercise, as well as don’t lose torso fat. You consider them at the gym. You consider them jogging downwards the street. You consider them ordering fruit smoothies amongst fat-free frozen yogurt. And y'all consider them staying the same weight, twenty-four hours in, twenty-four hours out, twelvemonth in, twelvemonth out. Or maybe y'all consider them gaining weight.

It isn’t that Taubes completely absolves people of taking responsibleness for their ain wellness as well as physique. It’s that he shows us that if nosotros have been doing what we’re “supposed to do” inwards monastic tell to lose weight as well as acquire healthy, but are not seeing the results nosotros expect, it is NOT because we’re somehow non working difficult plenty or are undisciplined. When y'all follow instructions as well as don’t brand it at the expected outcome, are you to blame, or is it possible the instructions are?  AAAH, NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE.



In GCBC, Taubes spent a lot of fourth dimension explaining when and how we came to believe that “healthy diets” were depression inwards total fat—and saturated fat, inwards particular, depression inwards cholesterol (the lower the better), high inwards carbohydrates, high inwards fiber, as well as high inwards polyunsaturated fats—that is, if y'all were eating whatsoever fatty at all. He gave a stunning concern human relationship of the muddy politics as well as shoddy scientific discipline that led to fanaticism nigh egg white omelets, margarine, as well as skinless white meat chicken that rivals anything Joss Whedon or J.J. Abrams could mayhap imagine—and those guys have got some seriously bully imaginations. It’s truthful what they say: the truth is stranger than fiction. Taubes did a stellar chore of explaining that thence much of what nosotros believe nigh wellness as well as nutrition is based non on scientific facts established subsequently rigorous as well as unbiased research, but on expedient political consensus as well as economical convenience.

In WWGF, Taubes focuses to a greater extent than on the dietary implications than the history as well as politics. After all, that’s what those reader requests were asking for—just the materials nigh what nosotros really should eat as well as why what “they” (doctors, nutritionists, as well as authorities wellness authorities) have got told us to eat for over lx years powerfulness good live the real affair that caused the epidemics of obesity, pump disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s nosotros at 1 time face. 

Long story short:  Cut dorsum on carbohydrates, especially unproblematic sugars as well as easily digested starches such equally wheat flour. Instead, eat meat, vegetables, nuts, as well as high-fat dairy. Ditch the morn bagel as well as drinking glass of OJ; have got a ham as well as cheese omelet instead. Swap out those “heart salubrious vegetable oils” (insert optic roll) for saturated as well as monounsaturated fats found inwards beef, pork, as well as butter. Need an afternoon snack? Leave the rice cakes as well as fat-free yogurt lone as well as select handgrip of some beef jerky as well as nuts. Skim soy latte? No. Plain java amongst heavy cream. Basically, do the contrary of what we’ve been told to do.

When it comes to nutrition advice of the belatedly 20th as well as early on 21st Centuries,
if the authorities says move left, y'all should run right. As fast equally y'all can.

Taubes spends a fair flake of fourth dimension talking nigh populations that alive on diets of nearly all meat as well as fatty (the Inuit as well as Masai, for example) as well as are exceedingly healthy, as well as contrasting that amongst things inwards the goodness ol’ U.S. of A., where we’ve been faithfully cutting the fatty off our steaks as well as throwing away our egg yolks, yet are sicker as well as fatter than ever. He points to a lot of things that brand y'all think, but he doesn’t acquire into the nitty gritty of why these seeming paradoxes aren’t paradoxes at all, similar he does inwards GCBC. 

If I wasn’t already familiar amongst the points Taubes makes nigh human physiology (and nigh LDL, HDL, saturated fat, insulin, as well as blood glucose), I’d have got learned a fair flake from WWGF as well as in all probability would have got been non a piffling angry. But subsequently GCBC, I was downright furious. I’m non ashamed to tell y'all that spell my re-create of WWGF has some dog-eared pages as well as highlighting for peculiarly bully passages, my re-create of GCBC powerfulness equally good live dipped inwards fluorescent xanthous ink as well as is filled amongst margin notes, many of which boil downwards to a squeamish large middle finger as well as an “eff you” to the medical as well as nutrition “authorities” who used poorly conducted as well as fifty-fifty to a greater extent than poorly interpreted studies to handgrip our entire nation hostage nether the low-fat epitome as well as who, amongst complicity from nutrient manufacturers as well as the pharmaceutical industry, forced us to pray to the high-carb, high-fiber, low-fat, low-cholesterol gods as well as landed us squarely inwards the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, pump disease, cancer, as well as dementia inwards which nosotros at 1 time observe ourselves.

Oy. Let me bring a breather here. Sorry; this materials gets me pretty worked up.

No, this is non a moving-picture exhibit of me. 1. Beaches don't relax me; they aggravate me.
(I'm to a greater extent than of a woods & mountains girl.)
2. I wouldn't live caught dead inwards that visor.

Without having already read GCBC as well as knowing the scientific discipline behind refined saccharify reduction, I’m non sure WWGF would have got been compelling plenty to give me the courage to ditch my breakfast of whole wheat toast as well as low-cal margarine—can’t believe it’s non butter? I can!—and covert eggs as well as sausage. It would have got raised my eyebrows, sure. It would have got made me move “hmmmm…” But I don’t recall it would have got been powerful plenty to shift my entire way of thinking. We’ve been fed (no pun intended) the low-fat, low-calorie “thing” for thence long as well as have got believed it thence fervently that it would have got taken to a greater extent than than a distich of reasonable doubts to brand me alter my eating habits. (Never take away heed that the conventional advice makes sense, right? Fat makes y'all fat. Eat less, motility more. Sounds logical! Case closed.) It would have got required a slap upside the caput thence difficult that I would have got been able to recall of goose egg but how wrong the “experts” have got been. And that’s what GCBC delivered. Over as well as over. That majority slapped me upside the caput thence many times I’m lucky I tin nonetheless necktie my ain shoes.

One affair Taubes points out is that inquiry dollars are equally good oftentimes funneled into studies where the researchers have got preconceived notions nigh what the results should be. Very rarely are studies designed to truly live unbiased, large enough, as well as of long plenty duration to live worth the newspaper they’re printed on. (This is truthful fifty-fifty of studies published inwards peer-reviewed medical journals, sadly.) And because putting overweight, diabetic, atherosclerotic patients on high-fat, high-cholesterol diets is akin to malpractice (at to the lowest degree nether the electrical current standard of care), y'all tin imagine how many inquiry dollars are earmarked for clinical trials of low-carb diets.

To remedy this problem—to fill upward this gaping, sucking breast injure of a void inwards medical as well as nutrition research—Taubes lately founded something called NuSI (the Nutrition Science Initiative) amongst Dr. Peter Attia, a physician who agrees that it’s fourth dimension for the medical-pharmaceutical-congressional complex (not to live confused amongst Eisenhower’s prophetic military-industrial complex) to wake upward as well as realize that their electrical current strategies for reducing obesity as well as chronic illness are not working, as well as that our nation is probable going to move bankrupt because of it.

Some people are starting to acquire it. I have got to give kudos to Dr. Oz of all people. I respectfully disagree amongst him on a number of issues, but I have got to admit, the guy’s willing to entertain the thought that he powerfulness live wrong—and powerfulness have got been incorrect to the melody of giving faulty recommendations to hundreds if non thousands of patients over the years. Recently 2 episodes of his exhibit gave airtime to doctors that disagree amongst him on some key principles of nutrient as well as health. He powerfulness live rethinking his opinion on cholesterol as well as whole wheat. (If y'all move on to banking corporation tally out those videos, live sure to facial expression for parts 2 & three of each. They’re all short!) And whether or non he changes his ain take away heed subsequently coming together the doctors he interviewed, he has millions of viewers, as well as in all probability a fair number of them were sufficiently intrigued yesteryear what they heard to start thinking nigh these things differently as well as maybe fifty-fifty seek out some books similar WWGF.  

If y'all have got a lot of fourth dimension to devote to reading, as well as desire your take away heed blown similar never before, read GCBC. If y'all desire something on the lighter side but that volition nonetheless brand y'all reconsider what y'all recall makes a “healthy diet,” WWGF is a goodness house to start.

Grade:  B+

Grade for GCBC:  A++ (I’ll effort to do a review of it sometime, but you’ve got most of it hither already. I can’t state plenty goodness things nigh this book.)

Some of my favorite lines from WWGF:

“That the official covert of low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets coincided non amongst a national reject inwards weight as well as pump illness but amongst epidemics of both obesity as well as diabetes (both of which increase pump illness risk), should brand whatsoever reasonable someone interrogation the underlying assumptions of the advice.” (p. 182)

“The clinical trials comparison high-fat, high-saturated-fat Atkins-like diets to fat-restricted as well as calorie-restricted diets of the form the American Heart Association recommends have got been unambiguous inwards final that these high-fat diets do a meliorate chore of improving direct a chance factors for both pump illness as well as diabetes.(p.223)

“When nosotros eat high-fat diets as well as avoid carbohydrates, HDL goes up, triglycerides move down, as well as the LDL inwards the circulation becomes larger as well as fluffier. Individually as well as together, these changes decrease our direct a chance of having a pump attack.” (p.193-194)

If y'all surrender scrambled eggs as well as bacon for breakfast as well as supersede them amongst cornflakes, skim milk, as well as bananas, your HDL cholesterol…will move down, as well as your heart-attack direct a chance volition move up.(p.187)

“Anything that makes us secrete to a greater extent than insulin than nature intended, or keeps insulin levels elevated for longer than nature intended, volition extend the periods during which nosotros shop fatty as well as shorten the periods when nosotros move it.” (p.125)

“If nosotros believe that our genetic makeup equally a state inwards what constitutes a salubrious diet, thence the probable argue that easily digestible starches, refined carbohydrates, as well as sugars are fattening is that nosotros didn’t evolve to eat them as well as for certain non inwards the quantities inwards which nosotros eat them today. That a diet would live healthier without them seems evidently obvious.” (p.167-168.)


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