Is it possible to eat as much fat and protein as you want and lose weight? Sounds impossible, but this is just one of the arguments put fourth in the book titled, "Why We Get Fat", by Gary Taubes. Not only is it possible to lose fat by eating as much as you want, you can also eat as much saturated fat as you want in the process according to Taubes. Of course you have to be sure to restrict your carbohydrate intake in the process, but according to Taubes, not only is this possible, but it's actually good for you as is saturated fat! Sounds a lot like the Atkins diet, but this book isn't a diet at all, but rather a treatise on the very topic of WHY we store fat, continue to get fatter as a nation, and what we can do reverse the trend.
Let me state from the outset that I have always been a proponent of the low fat, calorie restricted diet. I have always scoffed at the idea of a low carb diet and always considered them unhealthy and dangerous. This all changed when I accidentally picked up a book by Gary Taubes titled "Good Calories, Bad Calories". When I purchased this book on a whim for my nook, I had no idea it had anything to do with carbohydrates and the history of the low fat, low cholesterol diet. Of course that books covers many, many other topics, but this is a review of "Why We Get Fat", which was so compelling that I had to read his other book "Good Calories, Bad Calories".
Being a long time advocate for the low fat, low calories diets, it's hard for me to admit I was misinformed. In addition, being one to suggest we should always look at all sides of every argument, I never even took the time to a read a single book on the topic of low carb diets. I never read the Atkins diet or any of the many other books on low carb diets. I honestly believed the medical establishment had already figured it out and the low fat, low cholesterol, low calorie diets were the healthy and only way to lose weight. It's embarrassing to admit, but after reading Taubes, I have completely reconsidered my position on this topic. In addition, I will have to make sure I am informed on all sides of the issues in the future. Anyway, this review isn't about me, but I wanted you to know a little about my biases on this topic so you know I am not some fanatical low carbohydrate jedi. So let's get back to the book.
Taubes does a great job putting fourth the evidence for why we actually get fat. He covers the history of human populations from hunters and gatherers to modern populations and discusses the many problems we face today related to the consumption of carbohydrates, with an emphasis on obesity. In addition, the book contains a ton of research on the topic, so you know you are not simply getting this authors opinion, but actual research on the topic. In addition to covering the history of the human diet, Taubes explains some very important details regarding how and why we get fat from eating carbohydrates.
Taubes tackles the idea of a calorie is a calorie is a calories and does a great job of deconstructing the argument that all calories are the same. Also related to this topic is the idea that in order to lose weight one must cut back the number of calories they are eating and starve themselves. In addition he also deconstructs that idea that losing weight is simply a matter of calories in vs. calories out in great detail and explains why it's wrong! Taubes explains in great detail how carbohydrates increase insulin levels and why our fat cells store and keep fat stored. For instance, Taubes explains when insulin levels rise, our fat cells actually store fat, and will even keep fat locked into the cell. As Taubes points out, this is not a controversial statement. It doesn't stop there, when insulin levels rise, our fat cells will not release fatty acids to be expended by the body and will instead utilize our glucose for energy! This means the fat cells continue to store and hold on to fatty acids as long as there is a high level of insulin present, which is most of the time when you consume carbohydrates.
Another topic the author covers is the idea that one must exercise in order to lose weight, which he again deconstructs in a very in depth manner. You see, when you exercise more, you will work up an appetite and most likely eat more after exercising. Of course this argument doesn't really take into consideration the fact that when you exercise, depending on the type of exercise you engage in, you may also increase your calorie expenditure for many, many hours after the exercise has ceased, but the fact is, you will work up an appetite after exercising and consume more calories, and most of those calories will probably be carbohydrate calories if you are eating a modern Western diet.
One of the most important arguments Taubes puts forth in my opinion is the idea that losing weight has nothing at all do to with will power. How many times have you seen someone obese and think these people must eat a ton of food and never exercise? You see, the currently accepted position relies on the calories in vs calories out theory and puts the burden to lose weight solely on those who are obese. This makes it seem like those who are obese simply lack willpower to lose the weight when in fact it may be those who are pushing high carbohydrate, low fat diets who are to blame! What if it were the high carbohydrate diets which were making you fat and not the lack of motivation or exercise? This is the argument Taubes tackles and does a great job explaining why this position may be wrong. It's definitely worth reading and if he is right, perhaps we can finally get on track to dealing with the real causes of obesity!
The book goes on to point out the myriad of other health issues that carbohydrates may cause or at least be linked too. Of course if you want all the details you will need to read the book, but all fitness related individuals should take the time to at least read it. This book has convinced me to give the low carb diet a try. As a powerlifter, I have never been concerned with my belly fat, but I am going to document my own fat loss using a low carb approach and will keep a daily blog update of my daily meals, photos of my big belly, and results or lack thereof.