Sunday, January 06, 2008

On Dieting ...

I recently read Gary Taube’s new book and believe he got a lot of things right (e.g., overstated role of salt and fat to health) However, I’m less convinced that the obesity epidemic has been caused by a decrease in fat consumption and that a low-carbohydrate diet is the best way to lose weight for everyone.

Instead, I think there is equally strong evidence (if not stronger) that the increased incidence of obesity is due to an increase in dieting (one indicator — $11 billion was spent on dieting in the early 1980s and over $60 billion is spent today). In fact, there is a strong argument that the global obesity epidemic is due to the broader issue of an increase in food insecurity (for which dieting is just one example).

To read a paper on this topic, you can download a PDF at this URL:

From a discussion about Gary Taube at:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

And, for another voice, at T-Nation: here.


East of Eden said...

I think the word "diet" has been tainted. It should never be about a "diet" that you go on or do for a set number of weeks or time, what it should be about is changing your lifestyle to include healthy habits and practices such that you stay healty, or skinny, or whatever your end goal is. I've found this mental shift to be most helpful in my weight loss efforts. I'm not just on a diet, I'm changing my life so that I can have a life free of health concerns etc.

Bookslinger said...


I don't know. There are so many factors involved, and each individual has their own sub-set of factors in play.

Most all the morbidly obese people I know, and there are plenty in the single adults groups at church, are high-carb, high-sugar, and high-fat eaters.

They come to the single adults functions with their bags of McDonalds greaseburgers and super-sized fries, and full-sugar soft-drinks.

And at events where food is served, they usually finish off with at least two helpings of a high-calorie dessert such as cake or ice-cream.

They'll go to single-adult dances and at the refreshment table, they will bypass the fruit and vegetable stuff, and pile their plates with fudge brownies, cookies, and cake.

Or we'll stop at an all night diner such as Denny's or Stake-n-Shake for a late night snack after an Institute class, and they'll order a plate of high fat greasy-cheese-and-ground-beef-laden nachos.

I concur with East of Eden. I yo-yo'ed after dieting in 1988. My 1988 diet was counting calories, limiting caloric intake to 2000/day, and exercising. All well and good, but when I went off the diet, I went back to my previous bad eating habits.

This time around, I am "calorie conscious" by mostly avoiding high calorie foods, but I'm not keeping a daily tally of calories. I've learned to say "no thanks" to offers of high-calorie foods at church events and in friends' homes.

I've promised myself that my health has a much higher priority than worrying about hurting someone's feelings by declining their food.

I've had to convince myself that "No thanks" is a PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE answer when someone offers me high calorie foods.

What seems to drive my eating habits is a "sense of fullness". Therefore, I limit my caloric intake not by counting calories and stopping at a pre-determined number, but instead my goal is to fill up with foods that have a low calorie-to-bulk ratio.

I often have 3 doses per day of Citrucell bulk fiber, since such bulk fiber products were recommended to me by a doctor in order to keep a healthy lower digestive tract anyway.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting paper that makes some very valid points (which others have made, too), but comes to some wrongheaded conclusions. E.g., "The simple truth is that body weight is a function of how much a person eats rather than what they eat." This is a baffling assertion. Does this mean that if I eat a pound of cream cheese rather than a pound of carrots, it has the same effect on fat loss or gain? The basic science of nutrition is not complex, even if it is often distorted or manipulated. I've lost 80 pounds of fat and kept it off long term, not by changing how much I eat (in fact, I eat 5 meals a day), but precisely by changing what I eat. The author's delinking of obesity and Type 2 diabetes is also perplexing. Here he cites no research, and I dare say there is none he could cite. This is a fringe position. Google "metabolic syndrome."

Stephen said...

"but comes to some wrongheaded conclusions."

Not to mention, some of the conclusions are just flat out wrong, rather than just wrongheaded.

Still, interesting stuff, moreso in the Traube interviews.

I often like to point to things that create thought, not necessarily things that are the last word, but rather good starting words.

Stephen said...

- "No thanks" is a PERFECT answer -