I wanted to take this moment to write a bit more about what Chief is doing around the topic of weight loss. You might think this is just more of the same: some variation on eat less, eat healthy foods, get exercise, love yourself, etc. You’re wrong. You might think this is information you’ve heard before. You’re wrong. You might think that being fat is largely a problem with self-discipline. You’re wrong. And you might think that being fat is a public health concern and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with telling fat people to lose weight. Wrong and wrong.
Let’s start with a cursory review here. I get tired of link-bombing but I like what I say to be backed up, so let’s just do a simple overview and maybe I’ll throw some quotes at you.
First: It has never been proven whether weight management is largely under direct conscious control through calorie intake and expenditure, or under unconscious control via hormones. Assuming evolution imbued any intelligence into our bodies, I personally assume the latter. And before you go off citing the tired Thrifty Gene hypothesis, you need to understand that have been plenty of cultures prior to Western Civilization that had plenty of food and did not have problems with obesity or diabetes. Here is an article questioning the reasoning and research behind the Thrifty Gene hypothesis, which was easy to find with Google. Try researching food availability in primitive cultures and you’ll realize that’s a difficult proposition. Gary Taubes already covered a lot of this in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories, which is why it’s a good read, even if it gets the information on carbohydrates wrong. But Taubes, as well as others, has covered this. There is no evidence that primitive cultures were chronically in a state of near famine. Quite the opposite in fact. And yet obesity and diabetes only appear with the arrival of Western culture.
Here are some questions to ask yourself, sort of as a thought experiment:
- Wouldn’t a thrifty gene be dangerous? A slight calorie surplus over time would lead to unbounded weight gain, but a slight deficit sounds like it would result in wasting away and death. Far more likely would be that the body is equipped to deal with surplus and those that can eat survive and pass on their genes, without developing problems like diabetes and obesity.
- There are plenty of people that don’t count calories, aren’t concerned about what they eat, and have no problem maintaining weight. Why should they have no problem when so many others find it so difficult?
- If it really is about eating too much, why do fat people get hungry? Wouldn’t they just sort of remain full and not hungry for a while after a large feast? Wouldn’t you have to push past the point of comfort to force your body to get fat? Check out Guru Walla and how much discomfort the men in that tribe go through to force weight gain.
Now for some basic facts:
- The single biggest predictor of future weight gain is dieting.
- Fat is not deadly and losing weight does not prolong life.
- Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible for an overweight person to diet themselves down to a naturally lean state (regardless of rigidness and adherence to diet) and most people on Weight Watchers never even get close, instead getting stuck in the fat trap
So what are the consequences of ignoring science, throwing caution to the wind, and simply telling people to lose weight?
- I’d say the guilt, shame, and trauma of being overweight are the number one negative impact. It is a huge negative burden.
- Following on with the first point, 40% of 9 year old girls have dieted, and 80% of 13 year old girls have dieted. I’m sorry, but WTF? How is that healthy?
- People are wrecking their health trying to be healthy and lose weight. That’s why the HAES and Fat Acceptance movements exist. To put the message out there that telling people to lose weight is not based on any credible science and actually has more negative long-term consequences.
It is acceptable in our culture to be anorexic, but not acceptable to be overweight. Anorexics get sympathy. Overweight people get hatred. Both of these conditions have a lot more to do with our culture than with the individuals themselves. Despite what others may think, long-term semi-starvation (which is what dieting is) is harmful to the body and does not lead to any significant amount of fat loss.
Go back and read the fat trap article I linked to above. An obese person who has dieted down does not have the same hormonal and metabolic state as somebody who is naturally at that weight. This is why most dieters fail in the long term; they are damaging their bodies through semi-starvation, which is not sustainable.
I’m going to post two more links here. First we see the results on the human body of semi-starvation as studied by Ancel Keys. Notice that to regain lean mass after the starvation (now called dieting) phase, the body holds on to extra fat mass for several months. The second link contains a lot of quotes from that same study outlining many of the physiological, emotional, and hormonal responses to starvation (a.k.a. dieting). See if you recognize any of them in yourself or people you know.
So this is the result of our obesity epidemic. A whole lot of people in our society are stuck, and a whole lot of other people are yelling at them, telling them to do things that will only make everything worse. Chief is looking at everything through a completely different perspective and his view is a much more all-encompassing model of obesity. Unless you know something I don’t, what he’s offering does not exist anywhere else out there. Bits and pieces do, but let’s face it: almost everything out there is going to fall back on some combination of eating less, exercising more, or eating healthier. It’s not about that, and Chief is finally providing the results and the evidence to back that up. So please go check out his blog post (along with his other blog entries) and express your interest in what he’s doing. I guarantee you this is not the same bullshit you’ve always heard.