Obesity – not what you think

I listened to an interesting talk with Gary Taubes, and he spoke a lot about obesity and calorie quantity vs quality. This was a massive eye-opener for me and I wanted to share what I found out. 

Obesity and Diabetes have doubled, and tripled in the last 20 years – resulting in increased risk of heart disease, cancer, asthma, osteoarthritis, gall bladder problems, fatty liver disease, hypertension, stroke… the list goes on.

Why do we get fat?
  • Conventional understanding is consuming more calories than we need
  • Could also be that we have less need to be active (so true), and no need to make or do anything in order to eat (also, so true)
Here’s the thing though

Some cultures exposed to extreme poverty and famine also have an obesity problem. These are super active people too, agricultural workers and tribespeople with no exposure to fast food or other toxins freely available in most Western diets. It also doesn’t seem to be a trend in genes, as obese mothers with starving children aren’t uncommon.

So, understanding that someone can be obese regardless of food consumption or physical activity… what causes it?

It’s impossible to balance calories

I know, I know that’s a wild statement. Bear with me. If you tried to balance calories in vs calories out every single day (SO much maths), you couldn’t be off by even 20 calories a day or you would be obese in 20 years. Which, as a society we aren’t.

What is obesity?

Obesity is a disorder of having too much fat – similar to some people being hairier than others, some people have more fat than others. Overeating and inactivity aren’t causes, they are effects. We don’t get fat because we overeat, we overeat because our body is storing excess fat.

What causes it?

It’s all to do with insulin. Insulin is the key hormone in mobilising fat. It is produced in response to carbohydrates in our diet, to make sure that we burn through carbs first, and store any excess as fat. The problem starts when our body gets saturated with carbs, and produces so much insulin that we become resistant to it. So bigger and bigger proportions of carbs aren’t being used as energy and are instead being stored as fat.  

And how does your body compensate? 

You guessed it, this lack of usable energy from carbohydrates results in a dip in physical activity as you simply don’t have the energy available. It also craves more calories to make more energy, and so the cycle begins again.

What can we do?

There are certain carbs that trigger a heightened insulin response – think all the white stuff. White flour and white sugar primarily, which will be in anything and everything processed – sweets, cereals, baked goods are all to be avoided. You should also step away from starchy vegetables like potatoes and white root vegetables for a while too. But the good news is that all meat, fish, fruit (not bananas or grapes), green vegetables, eggs, and cheese are fully on the menu.

I hope you found that as fascinating as I did. If you want to know more about it – this is the link to Gary Taubes’ website, which goes into waaaaay more detail.

If you’d like to chat more about this – get in touch with me.