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Very seldom do I come across a book that so enrages me that I have to put it down and go do something else for a while because I'm SO FILLED WITH RAGE that reading further at that time would be a Very Bad Idea. Usually when I come across a book like that, the rage comes from reading something so mind-bendingly stupid that it's hard to believe that any sensible person could believe crap like the book is trying to sell. On the other hand, there's Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories.

This book gets referred to a lot in online discussions of low-carb dieting, because Taubes does an excellent job of calmly and quietly describing the history of medical research into the causes and remedies for obesity through the modern era. He makes the science very understandable, and dispassionately recounts how nutritionists and doctors went astray in the 1950s and 1960s, to the point where they are prescribing diets for the obese and/or diabetic that not only don't help, but actually make things worse. That's what got me so damn pissed off - not at Taubes or his book, but at all the God-cursed myopic BASTARDS who had the balls to describe themselves as scientists (when they deliberately shut their eyes to evidence that didn't agree with their pet theories) and doctors, when their prescribed diets led to more problems and earlier deaths for their patients. Whatever happened to "First, do no harm," you fuckers?

Especially when you read that the low-carb/ketogenic diets are not some new fad diet perpetrated by the vile, greedy Dr. Atkins (who doesn't deserve any of the abuse he routinely gets at the hands of ignorant shit-heads), but in fact used to be the standard method of treating the corpulent and chubby. Because it WORKED. Hell, Bismarck was on a low-carb diet, and he lost a healthy chunk of weight. So did my father. So have I. If you've had trouble losing weight (as I have), been through several cycles of Weight Watchers and wound up fatter than when you started (as I did), you need to read this damn book. I don't want to come across as an evangelist, but as a society, we 've been led down the wrong path by well-intentioned people who have the wrong idea about nutrition stuck in their heads and can't/won't get it out. Knowledge is power. Read this book. Get angry and change what you're eating. Lose weight without surgery or drugs. DO IT.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 7th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)

The two main arguments I've seen against the low-carb diet are these:
1) It leads to increased risk of heart attack and high levels of cholesterol
2) It's unsustainable as a lifestyle because it has a list of 'naughty no-no foods.'

Now, I'm not someone who follows the low-carb diet because Weight Watchers is working for me (whereas it obviously didn't for you, because weight loss is really a Your Mileage May Vary situation) but I'm curious as to whether you think those are fair complaints or not, and what the counter is if they're not.

For example- are all meats treated equal, or are people doin it wrong when they think 'low carb' means bunless Burger King and thick cut center slab full fat bacon for every meal. Does it emphasize lean meats? How does it deal with the 'bad cholesterol' issue? I'm assuming there has to be some kind of emphasis on getting foods that have the good type rather than the bad type? How does it handle the carbs that you do have in moderation? I'm assuming that the whole 'no bread ever again!!' thing people say about it is hype or a misunderstanding of the system, so I want to do what it actually *does* do towards teaching moderation of intake rather than outright banning of 'naughty naughty' foods. Because any diet that has 'naughty naughty' foods is bound to not work in the long run, regardless of its success in the short term.

In other words, I've heard a lot of claims about how it works but I don't know which of them are real and which of them are hype.

As for ignoring research that doesn't fit one's agenda- well, as much as I'd like to think scientists are above blame, you'd be hard pressed to name any field of life where people don't ignore the inconvenient facts that go against the way they'd like to think the world works. Some fields are just more susceptible to it than others- especially when money to continue research is provided by companies, and dependent on squeezing out what THEY want to see. I mean, think of how many studies that came out sponsored by cigarette companies that said "They're not REALLY that bad, at best, whether they cause cancer is questionable!" when it's really not. Or companies rating junk bonds as triple A investments. Or the anti-vaccination movement, many leaders of which have come out and said "There is no proof in the world that can convince us we're wrong but will accept a study of eight people eating pie in the basement of someone's house as legitimate if it says those eight people got vaccinations, ate the pie, and did not get autism, whereas this other dude next door didn't eat the pie, and he's autistic now!

If you really wanna get to the heart of whose to blame for our current problems with not even being able to figure out how to eat, I'd say to have a chat with 'reductionist nutritionists', who are always trying to find the ONE MIRACLE VITAMIN that will make us all skinny and attractive, and with the purveyors of 'King Corn', who want to convince us that living on re-processed corn is good for both us and cattle.

Sep. 7th, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
Not to be excessively crude, but 1) is bullshit and so is 2). Taubes goes into a lot of detail on the cholesterol argument, almost to the point where I was finding it rough going, so I'm not going to try and recap it here in any detail. The tl;dr version is that fat intake != fat in the body, because contrary to the argument that all calories are the same, the body doesn't metabolize fats, proteins and carbohydrates the same way (but being better at biology, you knew that). As to whether it's sustainable, you can say that about any diet, including Weight Watchers. I think with any diet/change in lifestyle, you have to acknowledge that there are going to be days when you screw up and eat too much or the wrong stuff, and then when that happens, you shrug and move on. In my particular case, it took a while, and a good support network, but I'm at the point where I can walk through the bakery and past the sub station without batting an eye - and I used to eat the hell out of the baked goods and sammiches. The desire isn't there any more.

Read the book, seriously. I don't expect everyone to agree with me and go ZOMG AWESOME TRUTH! but Taubes lays it all out there for you, and for somebody like me who's been fighting the Battle of the Bulge for the last 30+ years, it makes sense.
Sep. 8th, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
Maybe like... next summer when I don't have grad school reading? :P I'm sure you know what that's like!
Sep. 8th, 2010 01:32 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, yes. TBQH I'm finding the amount of reading and homework in the accounting program I'm in worse than what I was dealing with in the MBA or MA programs I was in some years back. >_
Sep. 7th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah - as counter-intuitive as it may seem, the guys at BK who are peeling the buns off their double bacon cheese burgers are in fact doing it right. More fat is better on a low-carb diet, since it trips the satiation trigger and stops you from eating more than you really need. Right now I'm running a 60%/30%/10% mix of fats/protein/carbohydrates in my usual daily diet, and (to address something else you brought up) my blood pressure, cholesterol and weight are better than they've been in years. I may well outlive my parents at the rate I'm going, assuming I don't get hit by a truck or something.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )