Okay – book review time!
I will say that I really wanted to read the entire tome of Good Calories, Bad Calories by Mr. Taubes and it was just a little too much for me to take. Too heavy a reading for my bedside table. The Why We Get Fat (heretofore called WWGF) is pretty much a distillation to make it more easily absorbed by more casual readers, although I think he distilled a little too simplistically at times. I had a very hard time making this organized, so I am going to bullet points things that I jotted down as I read it.
- The book is divided into a couple parts. The first part is what does not work to keep us thin or get us thin. This is the part of the book that I found really annoying and too simplistic. The 2nd part of the book is the interesting part with how the body works and how insulin and correlating (his theory) carbohydrate intake are what makes the body store fat. I like the 2nd part way better than the first.
- I am not sold that insulin is the be all and end all for every overweight person. I think it is of importance, of course, but it isn’t the only answer.
- When talk is of what our ancestors ate, well that also irritates me to a degree. Yes, there were times when our ancestors ate only meat. When they brought down a big mammoth, what were they supposed to do, save it for later? It’s not like they could stick it in the fridge with some marinade and plan a paleo BBQ for 2 weeks later. It had to be consumed as much as possible before it went bad. Same thing with finding honey or a patch of berries. I bet they ate all of them. No thoughts of “Hmmm… better only eat a handful of these berries and save the rest for the big bonfire tomorrow“. Or “I’ll just drizzle a little bit of this honey over the nice apple I picked today.” They ate what they could find because they did not know if that would be available to them again tomorrow. A problem we just don’t have. So, I don’t know if you would call their diet really balanced in the typical manner that we think of today. Some days they ate only protein, some days they ate only fruits and root veggies.
- This book makes many references to how fat has been demonized irresponsibly, which I happen to agree with. He brings up study after study and the flaws in them – at times flaws recognized by the study conductors themselves. If you believe that saturated fat is evil (and I used to), then please really read this part. He is not presenting anything new here, as it has been disproved already, but nice to have it all in a nutshell if you have never read about this before. Then go eat some coconut oil
- Easily digested (haha) science on how the body works and what happens to food once it enters the body.
- Explanation of the distinction between sucrose and fructose and how the body reacts to it. (although I think the fructose in fruit is not treated the same as fructose in HFCS or honey in the body)
- I really like that he does not prescribe a specific diet (although he does list the Duke Medicine diet in the appendix), so we at least know that this book is not tied to the Taube’s Diet program and products. He acknowledges that some people may just have trouble taking and keeping off weight. If fact, he specifically states on page 204
But there’s no guarantee that the leanest we can be will ever be as lean as we’d like. This is a reality to be faced.
Then he goes on to state that there is no set level of carbs that one is able to consume and still be lean. It is different for everyone. Thank you!
- Oversimplification. Weight loss just isn’t as simple as eating low carb. It just isn’t.
- Still not convinced on the calories don’t count. I do think the quality of the quantity of calories matter. My opinion is the efficiency of how the body uses the calories consumed can really determine how much we can eat and not gain weight. However, there just is a max amount before you gain weight. At that point, it doesn’t matter which macronutrient it is. I don’t think Mr. Taubes understands how much a person who overeats can really overeat. I would assume he never consumed an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s with a bag of Doritos as a chaser. Or snarfed an entire 1 pound bag of peanut M&Ms.
In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics! ~ Homer Simpson
- There is also the issue of exercise. He says it only serves to make us hungry and does not make or keep us thin. He says there are other benefits to exercise. Okay. Mr. Taubes obviously has never had a serious weight problem. I totally agree that one does not need exercise to lose weight. There are plenty of stories out there of people who either cannot or will not exercise and are still able to take off weight (and some keep it off). I do think, however, that exercise is key in helping keep off the weight once lost. Particularly if you have lost a lot as your metabolism is not what it once was if you lost a lot of weight. It’s not the sole thing, though. You know that saying that you can’t out train a bad diet.
- He contradicts himself as well talking about how calories in/calories out doesn’t work, and then goes on to say how each body is different in how it metabolizes food. So which is it??
- There is also a lot of comparisons to wild animals and how they don’t get obese. This just doesn’t work for me. If you want to compare humans and food to wild animals, why not compare our diets to chimpanzees (as our closest genetic relative)? In the wild – they are omnivores with the majority of their diets from carbs and they don’t get obese. Wonder why? They should be according to Taubes because not only do they eat a lot of carbs, they eat fructose! (Lori’s note – it’s the processed foods, people! Don’t be afraid of fruit)
I tried really hard to just review this book on its own and not get into the aspects it covers so much (low carb, no carb, vegan, athletic performance). There certainly could be a whole slew of opinions from me on this stuff. I am a little concerned that Mr. Taubes is so enamored of his own theories that he is becoming blind to things that might be counter to his opinions. I hope that is not the case.
So, there is a meandering review in several nutshells for you.
Overall, though, I would say there are enough interesting points that WWGF is worth a read. Particularly in understanding what food/insulin does once it enters the body. It is a fairly quick read, too, which I think was the whole point in him publishing this.