Can someone please esplain this to me?

Article by Gary Taubes on overeating and obesity:

My new book is coming out at the end of the month. It’s called Why We Get Fat and the subtitle is What To Do About it. The book concentrates more on the first because once you understand why we get fat, the what to do about it part is pretty obvious. And the problem is that the conventional wisdom on why we get fat is almost incomprehensibly naïve and wrong-headed.

Why do we get fat? We eat too much and exercise too little. Fin.

But, Taubes is focusing on overeating specifically. And it’s has something to do with being in “energy balance” which means that whatever weight you are – you stay at that weight because you use up all the energy you consume.

First, obese people tend to be weight stable for long periods of their life, just like lean people. So when they’re weight stable, the obese and overweight are obviously in energy balance. They’re not overeating during these periods of stable weight. They’re eating to match their expenditure, doing exactly what the lean do (and get copious credit for). So one obvious question is why the overweight and obese are only in energy balance when they’re carrying 10, 20, 30 or maybe 100 pounds of excess fat, and lean people are in energy balance without the excess? What’s the culprit for that? Because the problem isn’t that the obese overeat when they’re obese, it’s that they overeat when they’re lean and they continue to overeat until they become obese.

But, obese people DO “overeat” even when they are weight stable (in “energy balance”)- they eat at the calorie level needed to maintain that weight. If they suddenly started eating like a weight stable 130 pound woman, they would lose weight.

Using this calculator (fixt) I need 2181.1 calories a day to maintain my weight (I’m 128 pounds, 5’3′ and entered “heavy exercise/activity” in activity level).

Bump that up to 185 (everything else remaining the same) and the calories need to maintain that 185 jumps to 2604.4.

Changing the activity level for that 128 pound woman to “lightly exercise”, and that 128 pound woman is only allowed 1667.9 calories a day. A woman weighing 250 gets 2360.8. To illustrate the absurd, a 400 pound woman gets 3211 calories a day.

If you want to lose weight, eat like someone who is weight stable that weighs less than you.

Taubs’s second point has to do with insignificant amounts of calories that can add up doing excess weight.

Now, if you gain 40 pounds of fat over 20 years, that’s an average of two pounds of excess fat accumulation every year. Since a pound of fat is roughly equal to 3500 calories, this means you accumulate roughly 7000 calories worth of fat every year. Divide that 7000 by 365 and you get the number of calories of fat you stored each day and never burned – roughly 19 calories. Let’s round up to 20 calories, so we have a nice round number. (In the new book I discuss this issue in a chapter called “The Significance of Twenty Calories a Day.”)

Yes, and? Exactly. Every little bit adds up. I used to play this game that eating standing up didn’t count. Or, if you ate something STRAIGHT from the fridge. That was a snack, not a meal.

So now the question: if all you have to do to become obese is store 20 extra calories each day on average in your fat tissue — 20 calories that you don’t mobilize and burn — what does overeating have to do with it? And why aren’t we all fat? Twenty calories, after all, is a bite or two of food, a swallow or two of soda or fruit juice or milk or beer. It is an absolutely trivial amount of overeating that the body then chooses, for reasons we’ll have to discuss at some point, not to expend, but to store as fat instead.

Yes, exactly. All you have to do to become obese is store (by eating) 20 extra calories a day. 20 extra calories that you didn’t walk off or compensate for by eating 20 extra calories at dinner. The body doesn’t choose to store it. YOU choose to store it by taking more in that energy out.

Does anyone – even Jonah Lehrer or the neuroscientists he consults – think that the brain, perhaps in cohort with the gut, is making decisions about how much we should eat, on how long we stay hungry and when we get full, so that we don’t overshoot by 20 calories a day.
So really when we talk about being in energy balance – or practicing energy balance, as the experts now like to say – we actually have to be perfect in our matching of intake to expenditure or we’re going to get inexorably fatter (or leaner, if we err on the side of going hungry), or at least we have to average perfection over decades.

Yes, and so? A person you gains 20 pounds in 20 years really shouldn’t marvel at the science of it all. Not. So. Mysterious. And, you don’t have to be perfect. Some days you will overshoot. You just need to have some days when you undershoot.

Considering the fact that not getting fatter year in and year out means literally matching energy in to energy expended without error for years on end, do we really think that this job is done by the brain, by either conscious behavior, or some system that listens to signals from the body and then puts a halt on eating behavior when it decides enough food has come in that the amount so far expended or likely to be expended in the near future is about to be exceeded?

Energy balance, got it. Now to his point:

Neither happens to answer the question why. Why do we take in more energy than we expend? Why do we get fatter?

Why do some people overeat and some don’t?

Maybe when we get fat it’s because those physiological, metabolic and genetic factors you mentioned are dysregulating our fat tissue, driving it to accumulate too much fat, and that’s why we eat so much and appear — to you anyway — to be kind of lazy. We’re compensating for the loss of calories into our fat.

Uhm. Ok.

Look, eating is pleasurable. I LIKE to do it. I really, REALLY enjoy food. If I open a bag of chips and eat one, I’m likely to eat the whole bag. I can put away a HUGE plate of food given the opportunity. I bet I could eat half a container of ice cream happily.

At the table, I don’t have some magical moment where I feel I’m “done.” Being weight stable means I go up and then down all the time by a few pounds. I eat too much over a weekend, so I have salads for dinner all week.

Turning weight issues into some mystery of science serves no purposes.

Anyone who wants to lose weight (and then maintain “energy balance”) needs to have a come to Jesus moment with food.

I still love you food, I’m just not that into you.

(repeat, repeat, repeat until it becomes your mantra)

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6 Comments on “Can someone please esplain this to me?”

  1. Jay in Ames Says:

    Car in, link for the calculator points back here. Can you update?

  2. Kirby Says:

    sure, espain is spelled explain

  3. Car in Says:

    Not when you have an accent, Kirby.

  4. Kirby Says:

    When did you develop the lisp?

  5. Car in Says:

    I bit my tongue.

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