Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ripping Away the Veil, or Think and Grow Thin

Have you ever had the wrong idea about something, then saw the truth and wondered how you could have been so blind? Most of the common sense people have about weight gain is an illusion.

My mother has been overweight most of her life. She's been sedentary since middle age (she started getting arthritis around age 40), but pictures of her in her 20s and 30s from before my time show her on horseback when she and my father went hunting together. She also took care of my brothers and sisters with few modern conveniences. In other words, she was overweight but pretty active.

My parents and I always ate dinner together, almost always steak or chicken, potatoes, gravy, bread, corn and green beans. My mom never seemed to overeat. She wasn't a drinker, either.

I was an average thin kid (I didn't like my mom's cooking) and a little on the fleshy side as an adult until age 34 when I started Body for Life. After three years on this program, which includes lots of protein, carbs and hard workouts, I started gaining back the weight I'd lost. At age 41, I weighed 140 pounds--over 20 pounds more than I weighed at age 18.

What made me think that gaining weight was caused simply by overeating and lack of exercise? I had forty-one years' observations to the contrary. My mom was active (in her younger days, at least) and a moderate eater. I was eating a low-fat diet, doing a lot of workouts and gaining weight and didn't know why. It was only when I started thinking about how and when my weight gain started and I began to read other points of view and put them to the test that I began to tear away the veil.

But sometimes even seeing isn't believing. When I visited my best friend in May, I had dropped 20 pounds since the last time she saw me, and I told her how I did it: a very low-carb diet. Yet she still had a hard time believing I was eating a fatty diet and losing weight--even though she cooked the bacon herself.

This is my challenge to you: set aside common knowledge for a moment and consider what you've seen with your own eyes or felt in your own body. If it doesn't square with what you've been told, then what you've been told needs to be modified. Confusing and uncomfortable? Yes, but it's the first step to getting to the truth.

If you're confused about what causes weight gain (and how to lose weight), others have made progress on this front. Recently, others have written some terrific blog entries on this subject. Read them, and see if they make sense to you.

However, I’ve seen a lot of people who have found that aerobic exercise is not the weight loss holy grail it’s often claimed to be. These individuals generally do well to know that when they fail to get the results they’re seeking, they are not the problem – the approach is.

I like watching the reactions of people who see me for the first time since last winter. That is, if they even recognize me.
Read the rest of Sami's mini-autobiography, with before and after pictures, here: The How and Why of Weight Loss by Sami Paju

In this first part I'll focus more on the conventional wisdom and its shortcomings in explaining why people become overweight.


One thing missing from the conventional hypothesis (Change in weight = Calories IN - Calories OUT) is the arrow of causality. Even if we'd believe this formula to be correct, it doesn't tell us anything about what causes people to eat too much and expend too little of their energy.

Now it’s time to put it all together and discuss what you can do to lose weight, gain better body composition, better health, and feel more energetic.


In a nutshell, this is what the [government] committee concluded:

  • We’re fat because we consume too many calories and don’t move around enough, period, end of story, so would everyone please shut up about macronutrient balances and just go on a low-calorie diet for Pete’s sake, and then maybe go jogging.
  • We consume too many calories because we eat too much fat … uh, and sugar too.
  • We eat too much fat (uh, and sugar too) because there are too many fast-food establishments and not enough grocery stores and produce markets.
Read the rest of this funny take on USDA dietary guidelines here: 2010 Dietary Guidelines: Fat Made us Fat by Tom "Fat Head" Naughton

Keeping blood sugar to 100 mg/dl or less after eating teaches you how to avoid provocation of insulin. A shrinking tummy will follow.

Read the rest of this unusual weight-loss approach here: To Lose Weight, Prick your Finger by Dr. William Davis

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