09 December 2011

Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes

So, back to my epic about last year's health quest.

After 13 weeks working on a slow-carb diet and seeing very little in the results department, someone recommended Why We Get Fat on the forum I mentioned in an earlier post. This book was crucial in helping me understand my own body chemistry.

WWGF is an updated, shorter, and easier-to-read version of Taubes' previous Good Calories, Bad Calories. I've started GCBC, but haven't taken the time to finish it as life has gotten in the way, but it's patiently waiting in my Kindle for me.

Taubes questions the theory that eating fat makes us fat (the lipid hypothesis). He looks at other cultures and societies that shared our modern American propensity toward largeness and found some interesting elements. He also looked to the past, both past research and past wisdom. And he looks at body chemistry and lays out the role of insulin in fat storage.

As I read this in April of last year, I realized that the reason the slow-carb diet didn't work for me was that it was still too heavy in carbs. I was too insulin-resistant for that many carbs, even slowly-absorbed carbs, to work.

So, in April, I cut way back on my carbohydrates. And the scale began to go down. I also increased my intake of healthy fats - coconut oil, butter, lard, tallow, the fat on meat, palm kernel shortening, cream, eggs, etc. For about a month, I was eating about 3,000 calories per day and still losing weight easily. But that couldn't continue - the budget couldn't take it. When I cut back on how much I was eating, the weight-loss slowed and even reversed a little.

WWGF isn't a diet book. It's a book about biochemistry, history, and anthropology that explains the why (hence the title) behind most weight-gain, insulin resistance (a.k.a. metabolic syndrome). I've always found that, once I understand the philosophy behind something, the why, applying it, becomes more natural and thoughtful. I don't need someone else's plan if I understand what stands behind the ideas I'm wanting to implement (which is why even good diet books have never been very helpful for me).

By mid-May, I had lost a total of 15 lbs. Not great, but at least the scale was moving in the right direction. After reading WWGF, I read an exercise book, which seemed like the next thing to add. However, when I started doing what the book taught, all weight-loss stalled, and that includes no lost inches and no lost body fat percentage or anything else (although I was getting stronger - but soon my hands couldn't handle the weights I needed for my arms, shoulders, back, etc. - quite a predicament).

I also read another diet book and incorporated that into what I was already doing, but after two weeks, there was nothing happening, so I ditched that one (see how helpful record-keeping can be? I didn't waste that much time on something that just didn't work). That brings us to July, and a new post as I review, yet another book.


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