I just finished reading the slimmer version of Good Calories, Bad Calories.
Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Borzoi Books) by Gary Taubes was written to be more accessible than his book Good Calories, Bad Calories. Although many of us adored the GCBC book (I read it twice), the majority of people don’t have the time or energy to read a 600+ page exhaustive expose on nutrition and nutritional history. But the message is important, important enough that a scaled-back version with half as many pages was released.
What is the message? It’s the carbs, not the calories. Carbohydrates drive insulin which drives fat storage. The carbs we’ve been told to eat to be healthy are the ones making us fat and ill. Why We Get Fat also exposes the mistruths about our understanding of cholesterol and heart disease. The book also touches on cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Last year when I saw Gary Taubes give a free lecture at one of the University of Washington medical buildings, he shared his frustration about getting his message out to the medical community. He could have easily sold out Seattle’s Townhall at $5 a ticket, but he wanted to reach doctors, so he brought his lecture to them. Very few people showed up for the lecture. Most were fellow nutritional geeks like myself.
Is this book exhaustive in explaining every pound of excessive fat? No, but I don’t think anyone book could do that. Taubes focuses on insulin. He doesn’t go into omega ratios or gut flora or other inflammatory factors that may contribute to obesity. Some will criticize this, but Taubes is not a doctor or nutritionist. He is a science reporter focusing on the role of insulin.
Why We Get Fat is an outstanding book that I think will be more accessible to the public. There are still a few dry chapters on history, but to understand how we arrived at such bad conventional nutritional wisdom some back story is needed.
UPDATE: I no longer think Taubes is right regarding his insulin theory of obesity.
Mar 23, 2011 — 9:59 am
thanx for doing these reviews. i am curious, was there anything new or different you noticed in this book? it’s been several years since he wrote GCBC and i wonder if he has modified anything.
Mar 23, 2011 — 10:01 am
@Chuck – I thought some of the explanations seemed tighter. There probably are a few changes, but nothing that jumped out at me.
Mar 23, 2011 — 1:46 pm
I can’t figure out how to lose my final 15lbs. of fat? I have tried everything intervals, diet, intermittent fasting, etc. Does it have something to with my body not wanting to change its current insulin levels? Would this book help?
As always – thanks, T
Mar 23, 2011 — 1:54 pm
@Thomas – Ahh, the last 15 pounds. This is where the real fun in dieting begins. 😉 Every progressive pound will get harder to take off. At this point fat loss becomes a science project. You’ll need to run your own experiments and be patient.
Note than the half-life on the inflammatory fats we eat is 2 years. Everything you ate at a restaurant or bought pre-made at a grocery store had some combination of corn, canola or soy oil. This stuff is going to take time to burn off.
I can’t speak directly to you, but insulin is the major hormone in fat regulation. Improving your gut flora, fixing your omega ratios and building muscle are other strategies.
Mar 23, 2011 — 1:55 pm
@Thomas – To answer your other question: if your carbs and sugar intake is low already, then this book adds nothing for you. This book is primarily for those that need to be convinced of insulin’s role in storing fat.
Mar 23, 2011 — 2:03 pm
Fat loss can get complicated after the easy stuff comes off. Hopefully you feel great. Have you gotten your body composition tested? That is a much better goal to set than a weight. Maybe to be at 10% body fat. In all your efforts to lose weight, you may have gained muscle thus throwing off your weight goal. Get a Bod Pod test. They are inexpensive, easy, and pretty accurate.
Mar 24, 2011 — 6:48 am
This book is an eye-opener. Should be in the school curriculum for every kid – people do not have to agree with it, but at least they should be given a chance to understand it!
Mar 30, 2011 — 3:58 am
MAS – I would refer Thomas to your excellent posts on low temperature exposure. That’s usually helpful for the last 15 pounds…