“Why we get fat” by Gary Taubes

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In this post I said I would read Gary Taubes new book Why We Get Fat.  Here’s my book report.

Taubes presents a lot of (and some of it is convincing) evidence to support that we get fat because we consume too many carbohydrates and those carbohydrates raise our insulin hormone, which happens to control how much fat our bodies store.  The higher our insulin levels, the more we will eat and the more calories we will store.

His recommendation for weight control:

Eat fewer carbs and eat more protein and fats.

He doesn’t recommend an Atkins-style elimination of carbs.  But,  a moderation of around 70 – 80 grams of carbs each day.

To his credit, he doesn’t purport that this is new knowledge.  In fact, he goes to great lengths to say that this was well known by scientists before World War II, but somehow the scientific community in the west shifted to a paradigm of a more carbohydrate-based diet recommendation over past six or seven decades.

Taubes did make me rethink my own weight loss.

Based on my results, I recommend using the calories in/calories equation to balance your intake along with diet-based insulin control by consuming a balance of protein, fat and carbs.  I thought that’s what worked for me.

But Taube contends that my success resulted mainly from reduced carbohydrate consumption.  He may be right.

Thinking back to my diet trials and errors, I remember trying a calorie restricted Weight Watchers.  I reduced my calories, without changing my high carbohydrate consumption and I couldn’t maintain it.  The hunger pains were too great.  My body wanted more calories — which Taube would suggest came from my elevated insulin levels as a result of eating a carb-rich diet.  And, it would have stored those calories as fat.

When I reduced by calorie consumption and balanced my intake with more protein and fat, I also did reduce my carb intake, and the hunger pains weren’t there.

So, while I thought it was the calorie balance AND fat/protein/carb balance that enabled my success, I cannot argue with Taube’s contention that it was really just my carb reduction that led to my weight loss.

If that’s the case, all the better.  That’s fewer things to monitor.  Don’t worry so much about the calorie intake.  Just moderate the carb intake and limit breads, rice, potatoes, milks and sugars.

By all means, if you are interested in his rationale and evidence, read the book.   He also offers some good explanations for how hormones control the fat process in the body that’s worth reading.

If Taubes is right, that’s fewer things to know, but it does put a crimp on a lot of the good stuff.

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Weight loss in one simple equation

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Here’s and weight-loss and weight control estimator in one simple equation.

Your eventual weight in pounds = (Average daily calorie intake — Average Calories Burned in Exercise) / 10

Here are some examples.

1. You take in 2,000 calories a day and do not exercise:

(2,000 — 0) / 10  = 200 pounds; You will eventually end up weighing around 200 pounds

2. You take in 2,200 calories a day and burn on average 300 calories in exercise:

(2,200 — 300) / 10 = 190 pounds; You will eventually end up weighing around 190 pounds

3. Let’s say you want to get to 175 pounds and you burn about 400 calories a day in exercise.  How many calories should you be taking in?

175 pounds x 10 + 400 calories a day = 2,150 calories; You should be eating around 2,150 calories a day

Here’s my equation:

  • I take in 1,900 calories a day and average about 400 calories in exercise:
  • (1,900 – 400) / 10 = 140; I do weigh about 140 pounds

What’s your’s?

A couple pointers.

  • Don’t overestimate the number of calories you burn in exercise.  I think people have a tendency to overestimate by double or triple what they actually burn in exercise.
  • Don’t underestimate the number of calories you take in.  Remember to count calories in drinks, those handfuls of snacks that your grab throughout the day and the little bit extra you grab after finishing the first plate.

Happy New Year 2011!

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Here’s to a safe, productive and prosperous 2011.

If you are interested in losing pounds and eating healthier, and sticking with it, here are some tips:

1. Forget “No Pain, No Gain”. Instead, strive for consistency and patience.  People burn themselves out by trying to get into top shape in a month.  Slow down, it’s okay to start off easy and establish your habits.
2. Give up potatoes and rice for one month. Instead eat fruits and vegetables as side dishes.
3. Introduce fruits and vegetables for each meal.
4. Try new fruits and vegetables to find some you may like.
5. Invest in a good pair of running or walking shoes. Hold off on the gym membership for now. To this one, I’ll add that you may want to try to try some yoga, pilates and aerobic videos from your library.  The main goal here is to establish time that you move your body in your schedule.
6. Set a goal to compete in and complete an organized recreational event like a 5k or bike ride in the March – June time frame.  This is a good motivator.
7. Re-prioritize your schedule so that exercise doesn’t get pushed off the list.
8. Try one or two new activities to discover something you may not have known that you’d enjoy.
9. Join groups and meet people who get together for recreational activities.
10. Keep a food diary for 2 weeks and then use my book to figure out how to calculate your food needs.

Root Cause of Obesity

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Over the years I’ve heard many theories on causes or contributing factors to obesity.  I’ve even mentioned a few on this blog.  Video games, easy-to-come by calories, gigantic and ever-growing portion sizes, stressed life styles and corn subsidies to name a few.

There’s only one root cause of obesity, individuals choosing to consume more calories than their bodies need.

Anything else we blame is a cop out to accepting the choices we’ve made.

5 Steps to Weight Control

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Step 1: Learn the basics.  Learn how your body metabolizes energy and what the right balance of food intake and exercise you need to achieve your healthy weight.  A good start to this is my book and the link on this page to the 8 Things.  One of the main reasons I couldn’t maintain a healthy weight is because I didn’t have a firm understanding of the basics.  I had a mix of some incorrect conventional wisdom and mythology and I couldn’t understand why the things I thought should work didn’t.  After learning the basics that are contained in my book and on the 8 Things link, I started losing weight and I’ve kept my weight in check ever since.

Step 2: Keep a food diary.  One of the first things you should do will be to know how many calories you are taking in and at what times during the day.  I recommend keeping a food diary for at least a week, if not 2 weeks.  This will be a large enough sample of your normal eating habits to establish a good estimate of your regular caloric intake and if there are any times where you are going too long between eating.

Step 3: Do the math.  Based on the basics and the food diary, you’ll be able to calculate your approximate calorie imbalance that has been causing your weight.

Step 4: Write out your plan.  This will include writing out a basic menu, a schedule for eating times, a plan of action on behavior when eating at restaurants and an activity plan to help burn some extra calories.

Step 5: Hold yourself accountable.  This is where many people fail.  Accountability will be part of your plan.

In future posts I will expand on steps 2 – 5.  If you’d like to get started on Step 1 you can start by clicking on the 8 Things link and by reading my short book.  These contain all the basics I learned that have kept my weight in control for nine years.

Good Luck

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It’s been awhile since I posted.  I hope you are achieving your weight loss goals.  More will be coming soon.  It’s been a rough winter!  I’ve certainly burned a few calories moving snow.  Very ready to get back to my normal methods of burning calories.

Another Great Question

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Several days ago a co-worker asked what it was that got me motivated to lose weight.  I found that question hard to answer. 

I think for me, maintaining my weight was always important, but my “beliefs” around weight control were based on myths that were making me fatter.  I let my eating habits get out of control, even though losing the weight was a goal.  I just hadn’t made the connection yet between what I put in my mouth and my waist line. 

Once I faced the truth and realized that whatever I was doing wasn’t working, I opened my mind a more to alternative explanations to weight control, which allowed me to learn the stuff I wrote about in my book and on this website. 

The bad news is that I can’t pinpoint exactly where this motivation came from.  The motivation is important.  Having the persistent motivation may give me an advantage over others.  I’ve known several people who learn the same stuff that I did to lose weight, become motivated to apply that knowledge and are successful.  But, for some reason, they seem to lose the motivation eventually and gravitate back towards bad eating habits and put weight back on.

I’d love to hear from people who are “Born Again” (that is, had no motivation for years and then found motivation) in regards to weight control and have had many years of success.  I’d love to know their secret.

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