Swimming Upstream

It’s hard going against the flow. It’s hard advocating for science instead of superstition. Conventional wisdom’s main strength is from the constant repeating that it gets in conversation, the media and your head.

Low calorie, low fat, exercise. To lose weight you have to… Fill in the blank. The first thing that comes to mind to finish that sentence is one of the statements before it. None of those things is guaranteed to make you lose weight. You might, for a time, but can you ‘cut calories’ forever? There are people who work VERY hard to earn a living that are fat and out of shape. Ever looked at an NFL lineman?

Excellent examples of how carefully animals (and so presumably humans, too) regulate their fat accumulation are hibernating rodents— ground squirrels, for example, which double their weight and body fat in just a few weeks of late summer. Dissecting these squirrels at their peak weight, as one researcher described it to me, is like “opening a can of Crisco oil— enormous gobs of fat, all over the place.”

Taubes, Gary (2010-12-28). Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Kindle Locations 1371-1374). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Animals metabolism is controlled not by how much they eat. Squirrels put on weight before the winter on purpose. They find and store food for the lean months, but they put on weight too. Perhaps, you might say, they put on all of this weight because they eat so much when the acorns are falling. It’s just a matter of calories in being greater than calories out…

But these squirrels will accumulate this fat regardless of how much they eat… They can be housed in a laboratory and kept to a strict diet from springtime, when they awake from hibernation, through late summer, and they’ll get just as fat as squirrels allowed to eat to their hearts’ content. They’ll burn the fat through the winter and lose it at the same rate, whether they remain awake in a warm laboratory with food available or go into full hibernation, eating not a bite, and surviving solely off their fat supplies.

Taubes, Gary (2010-12-28). Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Kindle Locations 1374-1378). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Read that again if you have to. It doesn’t matter if they are on a diet, they will gain that weight in the autumn. It’s not because they are eating more. They will lose the weight over the winter, even if they are fed every day all winter long. Something else is controlling the weight of a squirrel and it has nothing to do with calories in versus calories out. People are the same way. There is no way that you get fat if you ‘eat too much’, because if that were the case there would never be people that ‘never gain weight no matter how much they eat’. If it were a simple matter of physics, then you would have to be very careful that you never ate more than you worked. How would you be sure you were eating exactly the right amount every day? The good news is that it’s not that simple, and you don’t have to watch it that close.

The fact is, there’s very little that researchers can do to keep these animals from gaining and losing fat on schedule. Manipulating the food available, short of virtually starving them to death, is not effective. The amount of fat on these rodents at any particular time of the year is regulated entirely by biological factors, not by the food supply itself or the amount of energy required to get that food. And this makes perfect sense. If an animal that requires enormous gobs of fat for its winter fuel were to require excessive amounts of food to accumulate that fat, then one bad summer would have long ago wiped out the entire species.

Taubes, Gary (2010-12-28). Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Kindle Locations 1379-1383). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There are other examples where it’s obvious that calories have little to do with putting on fat. Babies are putting on fat the whole time they breast feed. Children eat and eat but don’t get fat, they get bigger. I should say they don’t HAVE to get fat, but many do. I argue in these pages all the time that its not because of calories, it’s because of carbs. Counting calories is not effective at losing weight, but counting carbs is. It is for me.

I will continue to swim into the current of mainstream opinion, because these things I am reading and quoting make so much sense to me. I have never seen it fail, for anyone that cares enough to quit carbs for a month. Quitting carbs for a month is all it takes to make your body switch from a carb-based chemistry to a fat based chemistry. Once that change is complete you can eat the occasional dessert, have the occasional pastry or sandwich and feel no increase in cravings for them. Eat a little too much or a little too frequently and you will sense your renewed need for all things starchy or sweet. Addiction to carbs is a real thing. Quitting will make you feel and act like an addict. Addictive behavior is a real thing where carbs are concerned.

About dcarmack

I am an instrument technician at the electric utility servicing the Kansas City Missouri metropolitan area. I am in the IBEW, Local 412. I was trained to be a nuclear power plant operator in the USN and served on submarines. I am a Democrat, even more so than those serving in Congress or the White House.
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3 Responses to Swimming Upstream

  1. Brad Grimes says:

    I have never cut carbs to the extent you describe but I have removed enough sugar from my diet that I don’t crave sweets, and I don’t have a taste for sweet foods anymore. I believe you are on the right track. Thanks for a good article.

    Liked by 1 person

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