Saturday, February 16, 2013



Isn't it obvious from all the fat and obese people waddling through every country in the world that there is a basic problem with how most people eat.
It used to be that we were told a few basic rules would work before we went on to yo yo dieting.  You know, eat less and exercise more. We reduced our intake of sugar and salt and such obvious indulgences as a second piece of pie or a big chocolate bar to ease the commute. Candy stores were seen as the spawn of the devil.
But it turns out that much of the advice and state pronouncements, such as eat less and work out more,  don't work although they seem sensible and are the gospel for the medical world.
We all know people who have reduced their meals and circle the block like homing pigeons. After a few months of sweat and deprivation, almost all of the eat less/exercise more crowd end up at their old weight that caused them to go on a diet in the first place.
I have been part of experimental programs under the direction of respected doctors that confirmed that  94% of diets end in failure. After the daily calorie counting ends, weight climbs inexorably to  the old heights.
Let me tell you about the exercise physiologist who described himself as short, fat and bald. Then for 40 years he ran and ran. He says he had little time for anything else. He kept track of his 80,000 miles of running which is, in case you're slow on the calculation, about three times around the earth. And what glorious result did he achieve? He said he continued to be short and bald but now he was also fatter.
That story comes from a book which is either famous or notorious, depending on whether the diet expert loves or hates Gary Taubes. It's called Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It. Taubes, a writer, scientific journalist, calorie counter and thorn in the side of the public health establishment, has a thesis which put crudely is that carbohydrates generate insulin which generate fat.
That's the key to everything. So the food pyramid illustrations that governments love to foist on us are so wrong, according to Taubes and others, that there should be a royal commission into the sanity of Canadian health officials.
I was aware of Taubes, of course, because anyone interested in this field knows a bit about him even if they consider him a form of devil and never bother to actually read him.
My son Mark, a thoughtful chemical engineer and MBA living in China, sent me the Why We Get Fat book after a lunch with a respected U of T prof who raved about it.
 I phoned my friend, the prof, to doublecheck that he was still a supporter despite the official battering of Taubes' views. His wife, who also has a major medical doctorate, grumbled mildly when I told her the topic because she said that around their house it might as well be "Saint" Gary.
Yet my friend gave an insight into how some in the medical establishment regard Taubes. He was sitting with other profs after they had evaluated an oral doctoral defence by a graduate student. His colleague exploded indignantly "all that stuff is nonsense" when my friend mentioned Taubes but then betrayed her argument by saying she never read him.
She should. And so should you.
After all, the public health zealots are moving in on us in every possible way from banning big portions (New York giant pop cups) to officials in various countries including Canada proposing new and hefty taxes on junk food.
 I have written about that here.
The National Post just did a story on this under the great headline: Fat taxes like 'shooting rabbits with nuclear weapons." Denmark introduced a "fedtafgiften" or fat tax in 2011 and then repealed it last year. The Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, alarmed that three groups including the Ontario Medical Association are calling for food and beverage taxes to promote healthier living, sponsored Jens Klarskov, head of the Danish Chamber  of Commerce, on a Canadian tour to describe the bizarre, mostly unanticipated, consequences of the tax.
To avoid the tax, the Danes went to Germany to shop, hoarded the taxed foods, hated the tax, claimed a loss of 1,300 jobs, all for an estimated result that 10 years after the tax introduction, Danes might live 5.5 days longer.
No thanks to fat taxes. After all, battling weight is hard enough without governments screwing up in taxes and advice. I have described some of my own battles over the decades. You can read about it here.
Right now I am 235 and hope to be around 230 when I can swim regularly in the Trent. My top weight was 319 but as I have written in I haven't been that for years. And I can assure you that I would have lost weight a lot quicker over the years if I had read the books by Taubes.
Consider this blunt statement by Taubes which should make you change your diet today. '"Those who lose fat on a diet do so because of what they are not eating --the fattening carbohydrates - not because of what they are eating."
Taubes urges docs and dietitians to get off their ample bottoms and do major studies instead of fiddling while Romans fatten. "If so many people are getting fat and diabetic in large part because we have been getting the wrong advice, we should not be dawdling about detecting that with certainty."
Taubes says the "fault lies entirely with the medical orthodoxy" that excess fat comes because of the consumption of excess calories. He says we don't get fat because we eat too much and move too little.
But you should be reading dozens of paragraphs about this, not just my synopsis . Look at his other books too like Eat Fat And Grow Slim  and the Carbohydrate's Addict's Diet.
Dig out your old diet books too, particularly those by Robert Atkins and the Duke and South Beach variations. Taubes cites a major study comparing the results of the Atkins diet to traditional, Ornish and Zone diets. There is no doubt that Atkins was a major figure for so long because his diet really worked, and the patient's health also improved in other ways.
In a nutshell, which Atkins would have approved of, stay away from carbohydrates.
So you can fill up on meat, fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, fruit and leafy green vegetables but get glorious results and also make yourself even healthier by avoiding sugar and flour, including that found in bread and cereals. Put white roots like potatoes on your hit list too. An example: Eat the hamburger but not the bun and fries.
Thanks to son Mark bringing home some newspapers as well as the Taubes book, I read an interesting article in the South China Morning Post about the problems generated by the huge fears over the obesity epidemic.  Dr. Lucy Aphramor, a British health researcher, thinks that in many ways all the measurements of our food amounts and body sizes given us by schools and governments and supposed experts are actually making our mental health worse.
She says that the measures are often based on this bald falsehood, that science is decisive on the link between health and weight. The Post quoted her as saying the focus on weight as a preventable health issue has created an official environment where fatties are ridiculed and treated as second-class citizens. As a result, everything from their emotional state to the health of their heart and bones is affected.
This is an important side of the obesity debate because so many rise eventually back to the weight that caused them to go on the diet in the first place. I didn't because I changed what I eat. There are many who say that you can't keep your weight off unless you transform your lifestyle and exercise regularly. Fine, I guess, but carbohydrate consumption is most important.
All I am trying to do in this column is to say that eating less and exercising more is a sensible thing to do but it's just stupid to ignore Taubes on carbohydrates if you really want to slim down.
 It's also important not to let the bastards, the lean sanctimonious jerks, grind you down on your weight. There should be more reality and acceptance and less daily sniping.
Aphramor is a supporter of Health at Every Size, a movement that sets out to change attitudes to weight and diets. HAES urges intuitive eating, listening to your body, eating when hungry and pleasurable activity along with body acceptance and self-confidence.
In a paper she wrote with a California prof, she said: "Current guidelines recommend that overweight and obese individuals lose weight through engaging in lifestyle modification involving diet, exercise and other behavioural changes. But the majority of individuals are unable to maintain weight loss over the long term and do not achieve the putative (promised ) benefits...This weight focus is not only ineffective at (achieving) thinner, healthier bodies but may also have unintended consequences...."
As a promoter of the HAES approach, she argues there is no evidence that obesity campaigns are effective. Instead there is an increase in problems and no weight loss that lasts.
As The Economist pointed out in a recent special report, we have gone from a world where there was too little to eat to one where it is plain that obesity is a huge problem. But as studies by Dr. Rudolph Liebel of Columbia University pointed out several decades ago, the very mechanisms that make people obese also prevent them from losing weight easily.
One conclusion by the respected British magazine was "that the unfortunate truth is that no single policy will bring down obesity rates on its own. Societies got fat for a variety of reasons, and individuals, companies and government must comes to grips with all of them to reverse the process. It is easy to argue that if fat people would only stick to their diets and exercise more, the problem would disappear, but environmental, psychological and biological factors make it much harder to lose weight than it seems."
But the fortunate side of obesity, as The Economist pointed out, is "that it is an entirely preventable problem. Its rise has been quick and extreme. Now the world must act to revise that rise, and fast."
We can't do that if doctors and dietitians continue to give the same old failed solutions.

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