Why We Need To Talk About It
Of all things I can think of obesity has the worst stigma attached to it. And that is simply unfair. If the overwhelming majority of us is intelligent, hard-working, and wants to be healthy, then how come so many of us (including myself years ago) are becoming obese?
Science journalist and author Gary Taubes, Dr. Mercola, and Dr. Weil have all mentioned recently that some people, in fact many people, do not have the ability to handle carbs well and that for some people, or again, many people, even a relatively small number of carbs is harmful, especially when consuming refined carbs and sugar. When we talk about the strong link between type 2 diabetes and genes, this is quite similar. There are people who are sensitive to carbohydrate intake because of their genetics and need to produce a lot of insulin to manage blood sugars. In the meantime the excess insulin is throwing off the metabolic balance in the body and as a result they are accumulating fat instead of burning it.
The following is an excerpt from a blog post by Gary Taubes titled The Inanity of Overeating:
“Now, if you gain 40 pounds of fat over 20 years, that’s an average of two pounds of excess fat accumulation every year. Since a pound of fat is roughly equal to 3500 calories, this means you accumulate roughly 7000 calories worth of fat every year. Divide that 7000 by 365 and you get the number of calories of fat you stored each day and never burned – roughly 19 calories. Let’s round up to 20 calories, so we have a nice round number. (In the new book I discuss this issue in a chapter called “The Significance of Twenty Calories a Day.”)
So now the question: if all you have to do to become obese is store 20 extra calories each day on average in your fat tissue — 20 calories that you don’t mobilize and burn — what does overeating have to do with it? And why aren’t we all fat? Twenty calories, after all, is a bite or two of food, a swallow or two of soda or fruit juice or milk or beer. It is an absolutely trivial amount of overeating that the body then chooses, for reasons we’ll have to discuss at some point, not to expend, but to store as fat instead.”
Are you telling me that an extra teaspoon of jelly a day is enough to make that much of a difference? Nah. Taubes has a point!
Here is another excerpt from that post:
“What’s been needed (and still is) was for someone (a reasonably smart 14-year-old would suffice) to ask the obvious questions and then insist on intelligent answers. Here’s how such a dialog might go:
The experts: Obesity is caused by over-eating, by consuming more calories than are expended. There’s no getting around the first law of thermodynamics.
Us: But all that law says is that if somebody gets fat, they have to consume more calories then they expend. So why do they do that?
The experts: Because they do.
Us: That’s not a good enough answer.
The experts: Well, maybe they can’t help themselves.
Us: Why can’t they help themselves?
The experts: Because they can’t.
Us: That’s not a good enough answer either.
The experts: Because the food industry makes them do it. There’s so much good food around and it’s so tasty, they can’t help but eat it.
Us: But obviously some of us can, because we don’t all get fat. Why is it only some people can’t help themselves?
The experts: Because they can’t.
Us: Try again.
The experts: Well, it’s complicated.
Us: What do you mean complicated? We thought it was easy. Just this eating-too-much, exercising-too-little, calories-in-calories-out, thermodynamics thing.
The experts: Okay, how about this? [Now quoting from an NIH report published in 2000.] “Obesity is a complex, multifactorial chronic disease that develops from an interaction of genotype and the environment. Our understanding of how and why obesity develops is incomplete, but involves the integration of social, behavioral, cultural, physiological, metabolic and genetic factors.”
Us: So what do all those have to do with eating too much and the laws of thermodynamics?
Experts: They contribute to making fat people overeat.
Us: How do they do that?
The experts: We don’t know. It’s complicated.
Us: Then maybe there’s another way to look at it. Maybe when we get fat it’s because those physiological, metabolic and genetic factors you mentioned are dysregulating our fat tissue, driving it to accumulate too much fat, and that’s why we eat so much and appear — to you anyway — to be kind of lazy. We’re compensating for the loss of calories into our fat.
The experts: Yeah, well, maybe. Your guess is as good as ours.”
Not only did that make me laugh but he brings up an excellent question: Why are we overeating? We are like any other mammal, not meant to overeat, but meant to receive an overwhelming feeling of satiety after eating. This feeling of satiety is supposed to signal us to stop eating. So how come some of us (a lot of us) are not getting those signals and how come some of us are not burning a few extra handfuls of calories? How come the only overweight mammals on earth come from zoos and family homes and are not found in the wild?
I mean you can’t blame anyone for eating when they’re hungry or for even being hungry for that matter. So isn’t the issue not that they’re void of self-discipline but instead, that they are constantly hungry? The solution to obesity is not to just eat less or exercise more or both. It goes much deeper than that. Or it wouldn’t be an epidemic. This is not the most comfortable subject to discuss but an important one. I was once clinically obese. I know what it feels like to be seen as fat and lazy- a most undeserving assumption. So let’s get into this shall we? If you want to read all of Gary’s excellent post, here it is.
“We eat because we are hungry not out of some lascivious need. What we are seeing now is hunger, one that isn’t slacked by eating. Something has gone wrong with our diet and we are now hungry at a level that causes us to eat in search of a satiation which we can’t achieve.”
Stay tuned for Obesity and Diabetes Part II, What Are We Supposed to Eat?
In the meantime, what are your thoughts on all this?