Gary Taubes notes that calories in, calories out as a cause of obesity is an example of failed medical thinking. The whole concept of calories is too simple. If your metabolism is out of whack, how much you eat or exercise is irrelevant.
The best way to really understand the more than 200 years of scientific research and clinical experience on obesity is to read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. This book is a compendium of detailed research and may be a little too deep for most people. The second best strategy is to read the chapter by chapter review here:
Here is a sample chapter review:
Chapter 14: The Mythology of Obesity
The standard dogma that being overweight or obese is caused by excess calorie consumption and/or inadequate physical activity does not hold up to evidence and observation. Increased rates of obesity in the U.S. over the last 40 years correlate with increased carbohydrate intake and decreased fat intake. Pima indians living in the United States (on a diet high in refined sugars and starches) have rampant obesity, whereas those living in Mexico (eating their traditional diet) do not.
Diet and Exercise Dogma
Take some time to read the summary of each chapter. What you will find is that answers about how to stay slim and healthy have nothing to do with excess calories or inadequate exercise. Mr. Taubes offers what I call the anti-dogma. Go ahead and take a look and see what I mean. Even go to the extreme like I did and get your copy of his book (Amazon has good prices on used copies by now).
Unfortunately, too many bloggers have taken the main points out of Gary Taubes’ book and twisted them around for their own purposes. The so-called Paleo Diet enthusiasts are a good example. The relationship between diet and health is just not that simple. If you really want to see where the Atikins and Paleo diet people get sidetracked, then go a step further and get a copy of The China Study (also see Amazon). If you don’t make drastic changes in your diet after reading that book, then you’re going to need a lot of luck if you want to enjoy a long and healthy life.
While you are waiting for your copy of the book, here are some ‘sound bites’ that highlight the main points (taken from the above linked review):
1. Dietary fat does not cause obesity, heart disease or other chronic diseases.
2. Refined carbohydrates, through insulin secretion, do.
3. Sugars, especially those including fructose, are particularly harmful.
4. Refined carbohydrates are the dietary cause of heart disease and diabetes. They are the most likely (but not only) dietary cases of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic diseases.
5. Obesity is not caused by overeating or sedentary behavior.
6. Calorie restriction does not cause long-term weight loss, it causes hunger.
7. Fattening and obesity are caused by a hormonal imbalance, which can be driven by diet (e.g. insulin secretion).
8. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage.
9. Carbohydrate intake drives insulin, and is therefore proportional to our body composition.
10. Carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease energy.
All the best about Gary Taubes,