In a recent article on how to quit sugar I told you about a book I bought and was reading Why we get fat (and what to do about it) from Gary Taubes. Now, you may wonder why I’m possibly reading this book as I’m certainly not fat and don’t plan on going on a diet anytime soon.
The reason is that I am very interested in good nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight. I’m especially interested in curbing my sugar addiction, which I believe is very unhealthy. I was hoping that this book was finally going to convince me to quit the habit, and so far it has been very successful doing that.
So why do we get fat?
There are a number of reasons why some people get fat and others don’t. It is dependent on genetic factors, hormonal factors and the kind of food we eat. It’s not as simple as eating more than you need and certainly not as simple as eating more calories than you need. Gary Taubes comes up with a lot of convincing evidence to disprove that theory.
He also disputes that fat people are somehow less strict with their diets or that they have some kind of psychological issue.
In the end he argues that the main reason people get fat is because of the kind of food you eat and shows us that carbohydrates are the main culprit.
Why are carbohydrates so bad for you?
It all has to do with how fat tissue is regulated.
Your body will burn calories from carbohydrates first. That is how your body will keep sugar levels in check. To help the body do this, insulin is secreted.
When both carbs and fats are consumed at the same time, the fat will be delegated to the fat cells. When sugar levels are decreasing, then the stored fat (both from carbs and fat) will be released from the fat tissue and used for energy.
The problem arises when too many carbohydrates are consumed. The body is working hard to keep sugar levels down and use the energy from the carbs and the (temporarily) stored fat does not get released. Fat will stay in the fat cells until the insulin level drops.
Why can many women cope with the carbs throughout life, but then gain weight after menopause?
Insulin is the main hormone that helps in the reduction of sugar levels, but it gets help from 2 enzymes. One of which is LPL (lipoprotein lipase). The more insulin we secrete, the more active the LPL on the fat cells, and the more fat is diverted from the bloodstream into the fat cells to be stored. The hormone estrogen helps to curb this process and when levels of estrogen go down (after menopause), it leads to more fat being stored.
How then do we lose weight?
Gary Taubes wants to make one thing very clear with this book, which is that the calories in / calories out principle is fundamentally flawed. Although most nutritions and health organisations abide by the calorie counting rule, he argues that there has never been a lot of solid evidence to support the claim that consuming less calories than you you expand, results in long-term weightloss.
Other practices like undereating or doing a lot of exercize will not help you lose weight either.
The key to losing weight is eating less carbs, especially the main culprits, like refined sugars.
Why I’m now convinced that this is the way to go about losing weight
Now before you dismiss all this as a lot of rubbish or just as an opinion of one man, what makes it so convincing to me is that this whole book is based on research. Research examples go back as far as 100 years ago, and all Gary Taubes is doing is presenting all the evidence in a coherent manner.
For those that worry about higher cholesterol levels, that topic is tackled too, with (to me) convincing evidence that the benefit of elevated HDL levels outweigh the slight increase in LDL.
I was certainly not waiting to hear that our main source of food should be protein. I have never liked meat and favour carbs above any food. I believe that the reason I’ve always kept a healthy weight is that I eat it in moderation and have always balanced my carbs with plenty of leafy green vegetables, fish and cheese.
I believe though, that if I don’t stop my consumption of refined carbs now, I will gain weight after menopause, just like so many other women over 40.
Not only are increased sugar levels bad for our weight, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is bad for our general health as well, a topic he touches upon in the book as well.
My action plan
I’m not going to cut carbs out of my life altogether. I don’t have to, because I don’t need to lose weight. What I will do though is cut down the amount of sugar I consume even further and not eat any refined carbs. Pasta and rice will be brown, bread whole grain and apple juice will be replaced by tea and water. Biscuits are going to be limited to one a day.
Sugars are the main culprit of increasing insulin levels (and the sharp increase of metabolic syndrome around the world) and that is what I will be focussing on.
I’m cutting down on sugar for health reasons, but if you are struggling with excess weight, I encourage you to give a low carb diet a try. I have been convinced that this is the way to go when it comes to eating healthy and maintaining or losing weight.
Please note that this is just a brief summary of a book of 237 pages. For more detailed information I encourage you to read the book. Also note that this article is for information purposes only. If you are concerned about your weight or health, you should consult a medical professional for expert advise and before you start a diet or exercising regimen. However, before visiting read the book first. Many physicians don’t yet understand the benefits of a low carb diet, so it’s best to make up your own mind before going.
What are your thoughts on this?