So I just finished reading the book “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” by Gary Taubes. It was thought provoking in the very least and I highly recommend it. I am by no means a Registered Dietician or Nutritionist but without trying to re-write the book I will discuss some points that I personally found interesting.
Taubes recommends a low carb diet and as I understand it, his recommendations are similar to that of The Atkins Diet. He suggests eating as much as you feel necessary of protein and fat including meat, fish, eggs, etc. Carbs are to be kept to a minimum. Now what I got out of it, as he repeats throughout the book, is that starches, flour and sugar are really the enemy. I don’t think this is a shocking revelation for anyone that might be reading this. Let’s face it, people should know by now that processed junk foods, various sweets and breads aren’t helping to keep us healthy or lose weight. Taubes gives what some might consider extreme examples of ways to lose weight but I think if you look at his recommendations of eating lots of leafy greens and possibly some fruit, depending on the individual, it just seems to make sense.
All of this is based on how people’s bodies respond to insulin, causing us to get fat (although it’s far more complicated than that). Through his research he has become adamant about keeping insulin levels down and for the most part doing so through following the glycemic index. People have been talking about not spiking insulin for who knows how long and I believe Taubes is just taking this kind of healthy eating to the next level by even more-so removing the extra processed garbage. In my mind, and certainly it seems others too, the only question remaining is how much dietary fat intake is safe? He goes on to discuss various studies that show no increased risk in heart disease or LDL, etc. through eating a diet high in fat. I haven’t had my cholesterol tested and I don’t plan to anytime soon but given the choice between processed sugar and some bacon or extra fat from a steak I believe the meat is a better choice. It’s not always easy to eat this way but reading this book has helped motivate me to reassess my eating habits and to eat much more veggies, slightly less fruit and certainly less starches.
Final thoughts: Many of the studies that Taubes sites were done decades ago as he points out. Somehow we got sidetracked along the way and it’s clear by the obesity numbers that we’ve been doing something wrong. Cut all the crap out of your diet, don’t be afraid to consume some dietary fat and you just might being eating healthier. As I mentioned earlier I am no nutrition expert so here is an interesting blog post from Elsbeth Vaino, a respected strength coach, that argues against Taubes.
Side note: I’m guessing it was about 3 years ago that I determined in my own diet, although I ate relatively “clean” and maintained a consistent weight, I wasn’t eating a lot of fat. I was eating a lot of carbs and a moderate amount of protein. For example I would have a can of tuna, organic brown rice and some broccoli. It was healthy, but very low in fat. I decided that leaving out one of 3 macronutrients probably wasn’t a great idea so I decided to not worry about consuming dietary fat, decrease some of my carb intake and up my protein slightly. My training stayed the same but the result was that over a several month period I lost about 12 lbs. and got much leaner. I then easily maintained that weight by eating the same. I was surprised considering that was never really the goal, I just thought that the diet made a little more sense although the calorie total was likely much higher. Clearly this is a one-man study that won’t be featured in any peer reviewed medical journals anytime soon but I thought it was worth sharing.
– Mike Baltren