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The politics of Gary Taubes’ book on why we get fat

So, Glenn Reynolds makes me buy this book. It hasn’t made me any thinner yet, despite my having followed the world’s most popular diet strategy: Getting Thin by Reading About It. Never mind. I shall talk about it instead.

I do not know if Gary Taubes has any particular political views, but if the case he makes is true his book has political implications. In extreme summary it says (a) the experts, the official health guidance, the posters in doctors’ surgeries, the healthy eating lesson plans – all wrong; (b) it’s not fat that makes you fat, it’s carbs; and (c) eat as much meat as you want. Eat almost nothing but meat, if you like. No need to go hungry.

(a), if true, will please the C-AGW sceptics. So much for scientific consensus. It will also please the libertarians and minarchists. So much for government advice.

(b) and (c) will distress everyone who has ever worn a mung bean. Fat and meat good. It’s so… so… American.

(c) is especially annoying to some because, if Taubes is correct, the solution is relatively easy. How vexatious to think that these self indulgent fat slobs might escape just punishment! And how troubling to think that the obesity “epidemic” might be solved without the assistance of counsellors, coordinators or facilitators.

Things do not break entirely one way. One of the other messages of the book is that it is not the case that fat people are fat because calories in exceeded calories out. Anti-Puritans though many libertarians claim to be, they rediscover their inner Cromwell when it comes to that sort of equation. When they – oh hang it, when we – hear the pathetic excuses of fatties that they are fat because of genes or metabolism we rather enjoy pricking the bubble of their delusions. It is like being a deficit hawk, but for calories. Only this man Taubes says it really might not be their fault.

54 comments to The politics of Gary Taubes’ book on why we get fat

  • It’s better than that: it means that the obesity and diabetes epidemics occurred because we followed our leaders’ advice and increased our consumption of the foods they subsidized for us.

    The regulators *caused* the obesity epidemic, by having us follow advice they had no reason to believe was scientifically justified.

    Millions of people, literally, sick and dying because of this advice, ’round the world.


  • Alisa

    This is essentially Atkins – it works for some, but not for others. People who want to adopt a healthy diet (or any other aspect of a healthy lifestyle) should not make the mistake of abandoning one overgeneralized set of recommendations in favor of another, and should instead use an intelligent and well-informed trial and error approach to find out what works best for them.

  • Although I sense that I know a lot less about it than Alisa, I do strongly agree with her underlying statement. People are not the same.

    I know for a fact that eating too many sweeties brings me out in spots, especially if a lot of chocolate is involved. Trial and error (actually trial and spots) has proved this to me. Yet, I have heard doctors swear blind that sweeties make no difference to the skin. Spots are caused by something entirely different. My belief is that such doctors acquired their prejudices about the irrelevance of sweeties from the experiences of people to whom sweeties did indeed not cause any spots at all, especially including themselves, I would further guess.

    So I agree with Alisa that Taubes will work on many, but maybe not you.

    People are different.

  • Mike James

    I’ve met enough pleasant, decent wide loads, and despised more than a few annoying health bores, that I’m able to hold off on pricking bubbles without cause. And merely reading the term “mung bean” makes my lip curl. I hope you aren’t one of those mung bean wearers, Natalie.

    (Full disclosure; I’m American, so I’m more likely to be overweight myself. But I admit nothing.)

  • Alisa

    Brian, google ‘Atkins Diet’ – it’s quite old and famous.

    Too many sweeties (or too many anything, for that matter) are not goof for anyone – problem is, ‘too many’ can be different for different people.

    And the main point to keep in mind is that while weight is an important factor for one’s health, it is by no means the most important one. Also, each person has their optimal weight – and it can be as unique as their optimal diet. We really are all very different in very many ways – albeit still similar in some others.

  • joel

    I read Good Calories Bad Colories, I think. It is an interesting discussion of the history of diet and Western diseases.

    I went on an Adkins diet of sorts. It works amazingly well. Just avoid carbs. After a while you really don’t get very hungry. This is hard to believe until you avoid carbs.

    The basic claim is that you put on weight easier eating carbs than eating fat and protein. This was only based on observations, without good metabolic data. There is a recent paper, I won’t bother looking it up, done with only a couple dozen subjects over many months with very careful metrics, which showed that eating mostly fat and protein was equivalent to eating a carb rich diet of 500 calories less. That is, the Atkins diet was equivalent to two hours of exercise per day for weight loss.

    Everybody I spoke to said they lost weight on Adkins. Just don’t get constipated.

    It was politics that caused the shift in dietary recommendations. The Big East academic centers led the charge. Now we are fatter and more diabetic than ever.

  • joel

    Hmm . . .

    Maybe it was 250 calories per day saved. I forget now.

  • Jordan Keith

    I would also recommend watching the movie “Fat Head” in which comedian Tom Naughton goes on a high-fat, low-carb diet for 30 days and sees significant health improvement. He mentions Gary Taubes’s work in it as well. The real icing on the cake occurs when his doctor is totally baffled after he sees Naughton’s health improve.

  • Richard Thomas

    For a little while now I’ve been wondering if weight gain (and diabetes perhaps) might be being caused by changes in the balance of our gut bacteria caused by fairly recent changes in western (and particularly American) diet.

    Research recently released seems to suggest that the first part of the above may be happening. I wait to see whether the rest comes to pass.

    My suspicion lies with corn and corn products and I suspect HFCS is a particular culprit. I avoid it where possible.

  • RainerK

    No-carb diet worked and still works great for my wife – 50# without going hungry. Meat, butter, cheese, eggs, green vegetables. Any amount at any time. Just no bread, sugar, potatoes, rice etc. Taubes is on to something, particularly that the sacred Government recommendations are at a minimum questionable. Tell that to the vested interests.

  • veryretired

    My wife and I have been on a paleo/taubes diet of no carbs, sugar, or diet soda with artificial sweeteners since the first of July. I have lost over 20 lbs and my wife about 15.

    My blood sugar, which had been a problem, dropped like a stone. Just went to my doctor for a check-up and she was very happy with blood pressure, sugars, and all.

    I’ve tried other diets and they didn’t work very well. This one seems to work, and I don’t feel deprived or hungry at all

    Just finished a dinner of a nice portion of pork chop, sauteed asparagus, and a mixed salad.

    Good luck to anyone else trying to lose some weight and improve their health. Less reliance on government diet recomendations, and their political motivations, and more on sensible alternatives is my recommendation.

  • Frederick Davies

    Two months and 5 Kg later, I can tell you it works, and it is much easier than “eating less, exercise more”. The problem is how boring it is.


  • Robbo

    The shocking thing is low-carb was the standard weight loss approach from c 1860 to c 1975, but then official advice in US and later UK changed. And a blooming of obesity followed. I don’t doubt there are other dietary issues – PUFAs, gluten, lactose etc, but six years of low carb real food has tremendously improved my health and well -being, not just in terms of weight.

    @FD I don’t understand how it can be boring. Is there something dull about salmon, steak, prawns, etc ?

  • renminbi

    When I read Good Calories, Bad Calories my first thought was that the bad science he was describing had the same dysfunctional quality as CAGW. The low carb diet imposes no hardship and it has worked for me. Trying to lose weight through will power or exercising more is as as sensible as thinking Socialism will make a country prosperous.

  • Alsadius

    So how about that Middle Ages diet? Almost nothing but carbs, and yet nobody was fat. It’s almost like total calories consumed actually makes a pretty big difference.

  • Alsadius

    Oh, and I might as well throw in my history of dieting as well. I decided to quit eating so much(without actually changing how I ate – a usual day was a bowl of cereal for breakfast, PB+J for lunch, and pasta for dinner, just with smaller portions and less candy than before), and lost 25 pounds in 4 months. I’ve gotten a bit less religious since, but I’ve taken off another 10 pounds in the three years since, and I still get probably 80% of my calories from carbs.

    I’ve got nothing against Atkins-like diets if they work for you. But the idea that calories are irrelevant to weight loss is just weird. The Law of Conservation of Energy still trumps any diet fad you care to name.

  • One thing I have noticed is that when poor societies traditionally fed on carbs get richer and start eating more meat, the rich turn into porkers. Perhaps meat makes some people fat but not others?

  • Alisa

    Indeed, Alsadius. And, believe it or not, exercise is also important – not just for weight loss, but for overall health. That said, many people find themselves lowering their calirie intake, exercising, and still not seeing any significant weight loss. For many of those a change in what and how they eat may be a key to better health.

  • mdc

    “One of the other messages of the book is that it is not the case that fat people are fat because calories in exceeded calories out.”

    Well that just isn’t true. Thought experiment: you eat nothing but a single chocolate bar each day. Will you be overweight or underweight? A chocolate bar is generally agreed to be an “unhealthy food”, but you can’t pack on energy you don’t have.

    I have read studies suggesting that calories are exactly interchangeable: that equal calories of carbs results in more body fat than equal calories of protein, which results in more body fat than equal calories of fat. But this is a +/-20% correction at most for any reasonable diet; as a zeroth order approximation calories in vs calories out is great, and realistically if you eat no more than 2000kcal you cant be more than mildly overweight.

    By far the biggest problem is that 90-95% of people who diet and lose weight gain it all back. They lack the discipline required to make permanent changes.

  • A general comment,

    I don’t want to get into a pattern of defending the book, since I haven’t tried out its recommendations and don’t know much about the subject.

    However, I did say that my summary was “extreme” – it was not as simple as I made it sound. The book did include a lot of scientific stuff about insulin etc. Also there were several rather icky photographs of, e.g., people who had great big fat lumps where they had been injecting themselves with insulin for 30 years, or who had due to some quirk put on vast amounts of fat below the waist while remaining slim above. These were meant to prove that there is more to fat gain than just eating more.

    He plugged exercise, said he did a fair bit himself. But he thought it was a poor strategy to lose weight.

    There was also quite a lot of discussion of diets round the world and throughout history. Although he came across as a little too free with the aphorisms and snappy one-liners I don’t think he denied that there is a bedrock connection between sufficient calories in and not starving to death. “The Law of Conservation of Energy still trumps any diet fad you care to name” – yes, but the these days the trump gets played very late in the game.

    Taubes talked a lot about tribes and peoples whose history was something like the inverse of what Tim Newman said; people who traditionally had meat as a major part of their diet (particularly in winter, when it might almost literally be nothing but meat), but who got fat when they went to a more Western diet and ate more carbs. But both could be true.

    I’d have liked more about, say, how the Japanese eat lots of rice, yet they still are mostly thin. He did discuss it but I can’t remember exactly what he said.

    He also said people, particularly women, could be malnourished yet fat and can be skinny up until middle age, then get fat for hormonal reasons without much changing their diet or lifestyle.

    I may be misremembering – interesting though the subject of how to lose weight is, I was more interested yet in the political implications IF he is correct (or even is wrong yet comes to be widely believed.)

    By the way, everybody should follow Frederick Davies’ link in the comment above. It describes a shocking infringement of free speech by health guild rent-seekers.

  • mdc, our posts crossed, but my comment about “trumping” applies. Your thought experiment does not really address the statement of mine you quote, which was about why fat people are fat – and why some others who eat as much are not fat. I think we can all agree that anyone who only eats a tiny amount of anything will starve.

    I suppose you could say he argued very strongly against the idea that calories are interchangeable.

    Dammit, I have got into a pattern of defending the book, just like I said I wouldn’t. Might as well finish by saying that at the very least it certainly was not stupid. All the obvious objections were discussed, and there was quite a lot of acknowledgement that people differ – in fact that was part of his argument, that individual chemistry matters.

    One thing that did impress me was that he frankly said that some people who are fat now just can’t go back. He didn’t appear to be selling anything other than his books. No line of diet products or hypnosis tapes.

  • Snorri Godhi

    “… it is not the case that fat people are fat because calories in exceeded calories out.”

    This sort of nonsense is a major reason why some rational people are skeptical of low-carb diets, I’m afraid.
    The trouble is that
    (a) it is almost impossible to measure calories out empirically, so the thesis in the quote above is effectively unfalsifiable;
    (b) there are excellent scientific reasons to believe that
    calories stored = calories in – calories out.

    Incidentally, I cannot remember any woman writing enthusiastically to Instapundit about low-carb diets. Could it be that it works best for men? (It seems to work for me, not so much in weigh loss as in better sleep, better mental clarity, less irritability, and not feeling hungry even when I postpone a meal by hours.)

  • Snorri Godhi

    A clarification about my comment above:
    If we accept as Dogma (as I do) that

    calories stored = calories in – calories out

    there is still an excellent reason to think that low-carb diets work: empirical evidence.

    This empirical evidence is most emphatically NOT evidence against the Dogma above: there are much more plausible conjectural explanations:
    * eating fat+proteins leads people to eat less, or at least makes it easier to eat less
    * calories from fat+proteins are defecated or pissed away more than calories from carbohydrates
    * assimilating fats+proteins is less efficient because the digestive process involves burning calories
    * people eating fat+proteins are more active, hence burn more calories

    In fact, it seems to me that there are good reasons to believe in the first and the last conjecture above — which are the most difficult to prove empirically.

    But even if all of the above, combined, were shown to be insufficient to explain the success of low-carb diets, I’d still believe both in the Dogma and in the empirical effectiveness of low-carb diets. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • PeterT

    A problem with the paleo/atkins low carb diets is expense. While carb’s may not be the ideal food, it is cheaper than protein, and the cheapening of carbs (“green revolution” etc) has lifted billions out of food poverty.

    I too had some success with paleo, losing about 7kg in a couple of months. I too stopped craving carbs and food generally (you will be surprised how quickly this happens – no more than a week – if you start off your diet with strict adherence). Subsequently put it back on when I stopped (foi gras budget exhausted).

    I think calories do count, although what you eat as opposed to how much also matters.

    The big con in my view is the emphasis on exercise. I think it matters very little at all for weight loss, although of course doing some has other health benefits. It (the emphasis) has fostered a gym culture (personal trainers etc) that is in many cases little better than quackery – not to mention the absurd nutritional supplements industry. The belief that exercise matters much also helps justify eating badly (oh well, I’ll do some running after Christmas), or defeatism (oh well, I’m too busy to do exercise so I can’t lose weight).

  • Rhukatah

    Taubes’ other book, Good Calories, Bad Calories goes into much more detail than Why We Get Fat.

    Taubes does examine the Japanese a bit in Good Calories, Bad Calories. He suggests that the introduction of meat into societies that ate relatively carbohydrate-heavy diets correlates to the introduction of more refined carbohydrates (white rice, in the case of the Asians) into the diet.

    Personally, I lost 90 lbs on the Atkins diet (from 350 to 260, I’m 6’2″) a few years ago and gained 50 of it it back during a period of unemployment when I couldn’t afford meat.

    I’ve gone back on it in the last month, and have already had to buy smaller belts twice.

    Taubes’ point about the “calories in – calories out = weight gain” equation is that he’s reversing the causality. Overeating doesn’t cause weight gain, the body’s drive to gain weight causes overeating.

    According to Taubes, the body is driven to gain weight by the insulin secreted in response to a carbohydrate-heavy diet. Especially after the muscles become resistant to insulin.

  • Calories are a measure of energy, thus it might seem obvious that calories stored = calories in – calories out, however not all food we eat is burned for energy or stored for future energy needs.

    The turnover in cells in the human body is constant and much of what we eat goes towards building new cells to replace the old. Using the simple measure of energy to monitor our food intake is not exactly comprehensive.

    Then there is the whole issue of our biome. Bacteria – in number if not in mass – make up the majority of the cells in our bodies. How our individual biome reacts to the food we eat will also have a bearing.

    So people have different reactions to different foods at different times and in different situations. We have different metabolisms. What does remain the same is that state attempts to control our diets via the medical fad of the moment – animal fat, salt, sugar bad; 5 veggies a day good – will continue to do us more harm than good.

  • Robbo

    Phew, some responses to various points:

    On Calorie balance:
    If you write the human body energy balance equation it will say Energy in goes variously to fat storage, motion, base metabolism, new and repaired tissue, and straight through unmetabolised.

    What you have conscious control over is motion and what you put in your mouth. You can’t consciously control hunger (which undermines your control over what you put in your mouth). You can’t consciously control your metabolism, or your digestive system. So, to the extent that the energy balance is true it is trivial. OK calorie intake sets a ceiling, if calories in are low enough you will get thin, but you will be ravenously hungry and hardly anyone can sustain self-starvation for more than a very short time.

    I tried weight loss by exercise with no change in diet. I got better at the exercise, but lost no weight. I believe my appetite adjusted itself to compensate for the calories used.

    Does low-carb work for women ? Yes amongst my acquaintances. In fact it used to be c 1970s that women feeling a little overweight would cut back on the bread and cakes and lose the excess.

    Is it expensive ? I really don’t get this. It does require careful shopping and more work cooking simply because factory food is generally padded out with maize flour and HFCS, but there are plenty of low cost ways to eat that don’t involve high carb.

    Middle Ages people were predominantly agricultural labourers working with horses and oxen at best in an environment of much more scarcity than we face. There is no comparison.

  • I’ve read Why we get fat too, and while I am dubious about his reasoning I am not about his advice. I went on this diet a couple of months ago and I am noticeably thinner – in the sense that I can get into trousers I haven’t been able to get into for years.

    And I don’t get so hungry, and I seem to have more energy.

    It’s not cheap, though.

  • Snorri Godhi

    “You can’t consciously control hunger (which undermines your control over what you put in your mouth).”

    Good point, but I note that this was implicit in my comment, and was made more explicit by Rhukatah above (last 2 paragraphs).

    You could have added that the torpor induced by carbohydrates undermines your control over the amount of physical activity you undertake.

    “Is it expensive ? I really don’t get this.”

    Well, it was you who recommended salmon, steak, and prawns!
    and why not venison, too?
    Just joking. I recommend nuts to keep hunger at bay.
    I also eat a lot of cheese, though that seems to be controversial.
    Also, I drink Asahi Super Dry.

  • Richard Thomas

    Just to mention that this book hardly contains new information. Digging around a junk shop back when I lived in Basingstoke, we turned up a book called “Eat Fat, get Thin” from the 60s (unfortunately, hard to track down anything on this on the web as there has been another book with the same title published since). It conatined much the same advice as the Atkins diet. I also remember my mother avoiding potatoes for a time (late 70s).

  • Laird

    Two observations:

    1) As has been noted, this is essentially the Adkins Diet, which is also essentially the South Beach Diet (the latter has a little more emphasis on vegetables, as I recall). But what’s important is that in his book Adkins goes into great detail about the physiological reasons why the diet works (and why the modern western diet is so screwed up). There has been a lot of pontificating in these comments about calories being interchangeable, etc. (a tautology), but what is missed is that the source of those calories makes a material difference. Proteins take much longer to metabolize, so their digestion “burns” more calories than does that of carbs, as well as making you feel full longer. That latter point matters because if your body thinks it’s being starved it goes into preservation mode and slows down the metabolism and stores more fat. So you can indeed change your metabolism via your choice of diet.

    There’s a lot of detail in Adkins’ book which is worth reading with an open mind. A lot of the criticism of his diet (here and elsewhere) is simple regurgitation of the “conventional wisdom” perpetrated by the medical community and what seems to be common sense. But it’s wrong. Adkins was not a quack (he was a physician and studied the effects on his patients for decades), and the medical establishment simply ignores his findings and ridicules his conclusions because it’s too lazy (or too afraid of upsetting the comfortable status quo) to actually (and honestly) study them.

    2) Which is a fine segue to my second point (and Natalie’s comment (a) about “scientific consensus”): the medical establishment is frequently wrong, but refuses to either acknowledge its errors or to change its ways. One doesn’t need to go back to the days of leeches and “humors” for evidence of this, either. Our current high-carb diet was fostered by it starting in the 1970’s without any real basis for support, merely what seemed like logical reasoning without any empirical evidence. Or take salt: around that same time salt was decreed to be a universal evil, the cause of all our heart attacks and other health problems. It all seemed so “logical”, and no one could offer a contrary hypothesis so it became received wisdom. The problem is, it’s all wrong. When the New York Times runs a major article backing away from salt demonization you know things are changing. But don’t expect the medical community to embrace this; they will continue to prescribe low-salt diets without any rational basis for them.

    The “scientific community” (long a fertile field for political hacks and those with a hidden political agenda) has a long and sordid history of promoting and perpetuating errors, and even occasionally perpetrating outright fraud. CAGW is only the latest example; before that it was such things as the alleged “ozone hole” (nonexistent), the alar scare (an outright fraud), global cooling (as nonsensical as today’s AGW), mercury in tuna (million-year-old tuna fossils were found to contain the same levels of mercury as living fish); the list is long. It continues to this day, as illustrated by the continued demonization of salt, the manufactured evils of marijuana use, etc. There’s a new pseudo-scientific scare every week. I have long since stopped believing in any of them, and take all new “scientific” pronouncements with (as it were) a very large grain of salt.

  • Richard Thomas

    Laird, the “starvation mode” thing has been pretty comprehensively debunked. It turns out that was taken from a study where it kicked in at around 3% body fat in people on extremely calorie restricted diets. Skipping a meal or two here or there is not going to do any harm.

  • Richard Thomas

    The whole “Drinking lots of water” (64oz/day if I recall) likewise if anybody missed it.

  • Alisa

    Does it work for women? It does for me. Well, not exactly ‘it’, but two meals a day (three, but only fruits for breakfast), one of which – preferably lunch – is exclusively protein, and dinner is starches. And no, it’s not cheap at all, but it keeps me healthy and relatively thin. I guess I’m also lucky in that I actually like healthy food (I prefer whole grains because they taste better to me, and I loooove Brussels sprouts), and am not big on sweets (Belgian dark chocolate is not ‘sweets’, thank you very much, it’s a daily necessity).

    Humans are omnivores, and so to me it doesn’t make sense to restrict oneself to one particular group of foods. I have read (forget where) that Atkins is great for a drastic and rapid reduction of weight, but after that is achieved, it is best to gradually add back at least some starches.

    BTW, and speaking of costs: try legumes – they are natures best gift to humans as far as foods go. They are rich in protein, almost fat free, packed with vitamins and minerals, are delicious if prepared well, and are dirt cheap. I think that they might be the ones that have been saving vegetarians from extinction.

  • Richard Thomas

    OK, I guess I’m going to be “that guy” but Alisa, if I am remembering correctly, gradually adding (some) starches back in *is* part of the Atkins diet

  • Laird

    Correct, Richard.

  • tomwright

    To those folks that think this diet is expensive, it is not, really, at least in the U.S.

    If all you do is eat beef-steak and high-priced fish, yeah, it can be pricey. But pork and chicken are very cheap. Today I bought a 2.54lbs pork roast at US $2.99/lb for $7.59, and that was one of the higher $/lb cuts. Many were down around $1.29-$1.89/lb

    I buy mostly frozen veg, and microwave them with butter and salt. Frozen veg are on sale frequently, so the veg portion of my meals is under $1 per meal most days. Occasionally I make sauces for them, or buy prepared veg dishes if the price is right and the ingredients list is acceptable. Fresh veg I buy only in season.

    Eggs, bacon and ham are all cheap for breakfasts.

    I can eat for a week very cheaply. And that includes paying the prices at the company cafeteria for lunch, between $5-7 a day. Which is also cheaper since I use only the “free” hot water for tea I make at my desk, no sugar water from coke, pepsi, lipton, arizona, ocean spray, tropicana, etc..

    I do eat some starchy stuff, the occasional bagel, some potatoes, but those are MOSTLY relegated to the holidays, (why make trouble at dinner? Relax and enjoy), and maybe once a month on average I will indulge.

    My only real weakness is pistachio nuts. And there was a sale today 🙂

  • Alisa

    You may well be correct, Richard, and I just misremembered where I read that particular part.

    tomwright, aren’t nuts mostly protein and fat anyway? Love pistachios…

  • Alisa

    Oh, I now see that I did say that I forgot where I read that:-)

  • PeterT

    Here’s a tip. Grind pistachios down into a flour. “bread” some fish with it and deep fry it. No reason why it shouldn’t work with meat as well. Certainly it does with veal (see how it gets expensive so quickly?)

  • I noticed how many people picked up on Taubes’ belief that is not the case that fat people are fat because calories in exceeded calories out. Taubes has a background in physics and quite high powered science writing. He cannot be unaware of the law of conservation of energy. I suspect that, consciously or unconsciously, he phrases some of his views in a way that appears to violate this law as an attention-getting device.

    I am partly annoyed and partly impressed by this technique.

    He sort-of justifies himself by calling the very first chapter “Biology, not physics.”

  • Richard Thomas

    Natalie, it’s all in the phrasing. That dogs have four legs does not mean everything with four legs is a dog.

    “it is not the case that fat people are fat because calories in exceeded calories out.” implies that the surplus is not the cause but certainly it is a prerequisite. Generally, this style of writing is best avoided because it is ambiguous to many minds.

  • Tim Q

    Let me just add – as well as being ideologically pleasing the Taubes diet worked for me – I lost 15 kgs over around 20 weeks – over a kilo a week at the start – and only by dropping carbs.

    There are plenty of cheap protein sources – one of those 95g cans of tuna for around 80c makes a good snack, or mixed with a salad makes a meal. Cheese and salami or ham for breakfast. Boiled eggs. Slice up some ham for snacks. Buy the cheapest fatty mince – because the fat is a good thing. Although you do need to watch out – many of the cheapest meat products are padded with some form of carbs.

    All the usual things wonderful things to testify to – got back into clothing I hadn’t worn for years, had to make new holes in my belt. People asking me if I was sick…

    The biggest problem with the diet involved giving up beer – I’ve been a home brewer for many years and I love my beer. Also – I was not willing to give up drinking, and absolutely not prepared to start paying voluntary sin taxes. And I like making beer. But then the dark arts of home distilling rode to the rescue. With the added bonus that each sip tastes of excise tax unpaid and tax collectors gnashing their teeth. Or maybe that bit is just in my head.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Natalie: the problem with Taubes claiming “that is not the case that fat people are fat because calories in exceeded calories out”, is that it legitimizes Atkins’ alleged claim that you can eat 5000 calories a day without getting fat:

    I say “alleged” claim because the claim is reported in an article hostile to Atkins and Taubes, and I have not checked it.

    Just to clear a few loose ends, I am going to state the obvious, mostly for comic relief:
    * you certainly can eat 5000 calories a day or more without getting fat, if you are skiing across the Antarctic;
    * due to my background, I am aware that biology is not physics, but biology adds additional constraints: it does not relax any physical or chemical constraint;
    * if we take E = mc^2 at face value, storing energy implies only a minimal weight gain (due to the huge factor of c^2); the trouble is that biology is not physics, and we biological organisms store energy in a very inefficient manner.

  • d

    Glen “made” you read it? 🙂

  • Glen “made” you read it?

    Yup. Thought control rays sent down the intertubes. Well known phenomenon.

  • But then the dark arts of home distilling rode to the rescue. With the added bonus that each sip tastes of excise tax unpaid and tax collectors gnashing their teeth. Or maybe that bit is just in my head.

    Best application of the saying “when life hands you a lemon – make lemonade” I’ve heard for years!

  • Generally, this style of writing is best avoided because it is ambiguous to many minds.

    I quite agree. I’ve sometimes worked in educational writing. If I had allowed that sort of ambiguity to appear in anything I wrote, my editors would have soon struck it out. But you gotta admit, us all arguing about it here shows that it can succeed in making you think. Of course I may be wrong about it being deliberate.

  • Snorri Godhi

    What happened to my last comment?

  • Snorri, I have now unsmited your comment. Unfortunately I was out all day today and quite a lot of yesterday so it probably spent longer in smite purgatory than is usually the case. Apologies.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Thank you Natalie. It’s just that one of my comments disappeared in a Micklethwait thread (or if it resurfaced, it’s after I stopped checking that thread) and since then I am a bit paranoiac … or more precisely, a bit more paranoiac than I usually am.

  • Rhukatah

    Good Calories, Bad Calories highlights a study where a researcher tried to make people overeat to induce weight gain. One group was fed a high carbohydrate diet, another was fed what was explicitly the Atkins diet.

    The high-carbohydrate group could eat over 8,000 calories per day and still report hunger in the evening. The group on Atkins was unable to force themselves much past the 3,500 mark. The researcher concluded that it was effectively impossible for people to eat past a certain point when they were only eating fat and protein, which in turn made weight gain on the Atkins diet nearly impossible.

    Taubes infers from this that there is some sort of internal satiety aspect to human appetite that is getting thrown off somehow by carbohydrates.

    I’d cite a page reference or cite the study, but I’ve only got the Audiobook.