Just Read: “Why We Get Fat,” by Gary Taubes

I actually read this book some time ago and didn’t post on it until now.

This book would be a companion to 2017’s “The Case Against Sugar” also by Gary Taubes (see my review of that book here) (@GaryTaubes). Written in 2010, it explores the causes of obesity, and makes the case away from a “calories in-calories out” approach to an endocrine (hormonal) mediated one.

The reason I am interested in exploring this is because of the potential harm I see in blaming culture around obesity. What if the medical profession is telling people to do the wrong things, and then blaming them when their biology achieves the goals of their physician-directed behavior?

A recent (2012) study of medical students has shown that the explicit biases (ones they are willing to endorse) are:

  • Bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) human beings
  • Bias against human beings who are obese

In fact, the bias against obese people is stronger than that against LGBTQ:

Explicit attitudes among medical students 54441
Explicit attitudes among medical students 54441 (View on Flickr.com)

Of all the dangerous ideas that health officials could have embraced while trying to understand why we get fat, they would have been hard-pressed to find one ultimately more damaging than calories-in/ calories-out. That it reinforces what appears to be so obvious— obesity as the penalty for gluttony and sloth— is what makes it so alluring. But it’s misleading and misconceived on so many levels that it’s hard to imagine how it survived unscathed and virtually unchallenged for the last fifty years. It has done incalculable harm.

Taubes, Gary (2010-12-28). Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Kindle Locations 1187-1191). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This book is clearly not intended to guide a person on how to alter their diet in a step by step method – it is aimed more at a scientific explanation around the causes of obesity. There are other books to guide a person through a different dietary approach, most notably “Always Hungry,” by David Ludwig, MD (@DavidLudWigMD), which I’ll post on separately.

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