Last minute notice for those of you in Seattle tomorrow evening. Gary Taubes will be here at Elliot Bay Books to talk about his new book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.

Here are the particulars:

Tuesday 02/08/2011 7:00 pm (Tomorrow at the time of this writing)

Elliot Bay Books
1521 Tenth Avenue
Seattle WA 98122

More info:
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Knopf) is acclaimed science writer Gary Taubes’ no-beating-around-the bush examination of why so many today are seriously overweight. A three-time recipient of Science in Society Journalism Awards, and presently a Robert Johnson Foundation Investigator in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley, he builds on the strong base of material he presented in his Good Calories, Bad Calories—which Michael Pollan said was "a vitally important book, destined to change the way we think about food." Part of that thinking is seeing the problem lying in particular kinds of carbohydrates, not fats, and not in calories per se.

I’ll be there! Hopefully you can make it as well.


Insulin MoleculeIn the first of several posts on Gary Taubes’ new book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, I focus on the very brief introduction to the book where he sets out his central premises that explain the central issue raised in the title: why *do* we get fat?

They are stated very simply. So simply they may be hard to grasp. Here they go:

  1. When Insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat in our fat tissue; when these levels fall, we liberate fat from the fat tissue and burn it for fuel
  2. Our insulin levels are effectively determined by the carbohydrates we eat – not entirely, but for all intents and purposes.

Simple, right?

What’s missing: talk of calories expended or calories consumed. the need for fat-burning exercise, staying just a little bit hungry all the time. All these assumptions will be addressed systematically, but the two paragraphs above essentially explain the ‘Why" to the whole getting fat thing.

There is one more section in the introduction that bears pulling out here:

The science tells us that obesity is ultimately the result of a hormonal imbalance, not a caloric one – specifically, the stimulation of insulin secretion caused by eating easily-digestible, carbohydrate-rich foods

Just like the body ‘grows’ early in life in response to hormonal cues (i.e. the presence of growth hormone), fat tissue ‘grows’ later in life in response to hormonal changes (principally, insulin).

Next Post: Section 1: dismantling the going assumptions

I’ve been scolded repeatedly over the last month or so about the unconscionable neglect of my blog. What can I tell you? Well, I’m back now!

Not that I’ve been waiting for an excuse to blog. There has been a lot to say, just hadn’t gotten around to saying it. However, the big impetus for me has been the release of the most anticipated book on nutrition in the last couple of years. I’ve posted regularly on the work of Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories. At the risk of repeating myself, GC, BC was a turning point for me in that it opened my eyes to a completely new way of looking at diet and nutrition, and did so in a thorough and convincing way. While the book was not a diet book (no recopies there) I changed my diet to adhere to the general principles laid out in the book (eating meats and leafy vegetables until satisfied, eliminating sugars and starches, limiting fruit, etc.) and lost 20 pounds without any additional changes (i.e. no exercise).

While I still recommend GC, BC, it is admittedly a challenge to take on. It’s over 600 very densely-packed pages with lots of biology, biochemistry and medical terminology. Of all those to whom I’ve recommended the book, only a handful (3?) have reported they actually read it. Given it was so important and influential, Gary (we’re on a first-name basis, these days) got repeated requests for a ‘readers-digest’ version of GC, BC that more people would actually read.

In December, the much anticipated condensed release of the last ten years of Gary’s work was published:

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Borzoi Books)
The much-anticipated condensed version of the groundbreaking work begun almost ten years ago with his New York Times "Big Fat Lie" article and the epic "Good Calories, Bad Calories."

For all the times I’ve recommended GC, BC, replace that recommendation with Why We Get Fat. Not only is the book much more condensed and simplified, it also has the benefit of the previous three years since GC, BC was published. The message is essentially the same – just re-emphasized:

  • The principal driver of fat storage is chronic insulin elevation and chronic insulin elevation is driven by consumption easily-digestible carbohydrates
  • The presumption ‘calories-in, calories-out’ is the principle explanation of why we get fat is an over-simplification and says nothing about a causal relationship between what we eat and why we get fat

That’s enough for this post as I plan to have a series of posts on this book planned. It’s that important.

More very soon.

A Sugar Reading List

October 24, 2010

My recent post on sugar got me thinking more seriously about the topic – just as I’ve noticed my stress-related consumption of the poison has taken an upward trend as of late (another topic actually, perhaps a post …).

So I raided my local library’s shelves for all the books currently available on sugar (online holds are a great thing) that might help me with this series of posts.

Here are a few of them for your consideration. In the coming weeks, I’ll pick a few and write more in depth posts on each.

Suicide By Sugar: A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction
My first glance at this one shows that there’s a lot of focus on the addiction element of the problem, given the author self-identifies as a recovered sugar addict (having ‘kicked it’ in the 1970’s).
Potatoes Not Prozac, A Natural Seven-Step Dietary Plan to Stabilize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood, Control Your Cravings and Lose Weight, and Recognize How Foods Affect the Way You Feel
Again, heavy on the addiction/sensitivity angle. While I’m not a big fan of potatoes as a rule, I’m inclined to think that they top a daily dose of prozac. this
Get the Sugar Out, Revised and Updated 2nd Edition: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet
Heh. Sugar and it’s Kissing Cousins, is a title of one of the chapters.
Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Diet
Don’t know Dr. Gott from Dr. John, but I figured I’d take a look at what he has to say. The "No Flour, No Sugar" part intrigued me.
Sugar Shock!: How Sweets and Simple Carbs Can Derail Your Life– and How YouCan Get Back on Track
A couple of my favorites, Nicholas Perricone and Stephen Sinatra lent hands on this one, so it started out as a favorite. After a quick scan, I find that it takes on the ‘sugar is natural’ argument head on and highlights how traditional sugar is no less processed than it’s more modern ‘kissing cousin’ HFCS.
I think this one goes to the top of the list.
Beat Sugar Addiction Now!: The Cutting-Edge Program That Cures Your Type of Sugar Addiction and Puts You on the Road to Feeling Great – and Losing Weight!
This one is sitting at the library waiting for me, so I haven’t peeked at it yet.
The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program
Same author as ‘Potatoes not Prozac.’ Will pick this one up once it becomes available. As of this writing, I’m in position six on the hold list.

Poison in a CubeWhile I’ve written on this topic a couple of times, a recent conversation with a family physician at the Health 2.0 conference sealed the deal for me. It’s time to write about sugar for real.

The first thing I’d like to say is I’m grown a little weary of the back and forth among the proponents of the various diets. Yes, I have an overall approach that I believe has a lot of merit. Yes, I think much of what is considered conventional wisdom is just plain wrong and we will come to know it as such in time.

That said, I’m also convinced that much of the jibba jabba is about egos and the need stake a claim on what’s ‘right.’ It’s also true that one can’t very well ‘sell’ a diet unless you make it the be-all and end-all. When you look at them all, however, there are a few simple things that pretty much all dietary approaches agree upon. One simple and straightforward one is the reduction of or complete elimination of sugars from the diet.

Some might be tempted to read that and say ‘Duh! everybody knows sugars are bad for you.’ In a sense, you’d be right. There’s practically nobody (except the sugar refiners, soft drink makers and the ‘Sweet Surprise’ people) saying sugars are harmless. From my perspective, though, there’s still a long way to go.

As I mentioned in a recent high-fructose corn syrup post, many people are actually doubling up on cane sugar drinks thinking they’re better than drinks sweetened with HFCS. Also, I’d bet the vast majority of people who would say ‘Duh! Any moron knows sugar is bad for you’ would also say ‘Fruit juice is good for you.’ To say nothing of the fact that most people don’t have a handle on how much sugar they’re actually consuming in bread, sauces, drinks, etc.

So consider this a down payment with more to come. In this installment I’ll recommend you take a look at a great Reader’s Digest version of a now legendary lecture from Dr. Robert Lustig (Pediatric Endocrinologist at UCSF). The original is here in all it’s 89-minute glory. If you want the essence of the video (fructose = toxin) in under twelve minutes, take a look at the video from Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness. Got to love the way he just breaks it all down.

Sean Croxton at Underground Wellness has done it again. Careful readers of my blog will know I refer to him frequently and read him often. He recently interviewed Julie Matthews. Ms. Matthews is the author of Nourishing Hope for Autism.

Nourishing Hope for Autism: Nutrition Intervention for Healing Our Children

As friends of parents of children who are living with autism, I have a very tenuous, tangential view of the challenges families raising children with autism have.

Ms. Matthews offers a refreshing view on the genesis of autism and approaches that can ameliorate the condition. Given the explosion of autism diagnoses in recent years, this is a topic that will likely touch us all.

Take a listen to the interview and my hope it this will at least educate you and at best provide some help.

See more about Ms. Matthews work at

An article on the NPR blog caught my eye today:

Americans Exercise More, But Still Get Fatter

Well, the headline got it right, but when you read the post, you get the same yadda, yadda about ‘lowering caloric input,’ ‘avoiding fat,’ and ‘exercising more.’

Just another reminder to look the other way when you hear the conventional wisdom. There is a new wave coming. Stick with me and I’ll keep you right out front on the leading edge.

Interestingly, the article does not appear with the link above any more. Here’s the article I coped from my

Our workouts aren’t keeping up with our pig-outs.

That fitness routine is soooo not working. More Americans are spending some of their leisure time exercising, yet folks just keeps piling on the pounds.

Here are the cold, hard facts. About 35 percent of adults engage regularly in physical activity when they’re not working, according to estimates based on a 2009 nationwide survey. That’s up from 32 percent in 2008.

Now, what’s the scale tell us? Not good. More people in the U.S. are obese than ever. In 2009, about 28 percent of people in the U.S. were obese, up a fraction of a percent from 2008.

But hop in the Wayback Machine and check the weights in 1997. Nineteen percent of people in the U.S. were considered obese then.

There’s not a moment to lose in doing something to reverse the weight trend. A recent study found that a substantial decline in the rate of heart attacks could be fleeting as obesity and diabetes become more prevalent.

Exercise can only burn so many calories. Eating better is crucial. Recommendations for new nutritional guidelines would cut saturated fats even more than in the past and promote healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables.

But maybe you want to try some more reps of that time-honored weight-loss exercise move — pushing back from the dinner table.

What you *really* need to do to be healthy (which, by the way, will lead to healthy weight) is drastically reduce carbohydrate consumption (eliminate sweets and processed carbs), get your inflammation down (principally by upping your Omega-3 and reducing your Omega-6), getting your Vitamin D in a good range (50ng/ml, remember?) and lifting heavy things on a regular basis (see my BBS posts).

None of this aerobics and calorie restriction, OK?