Why do you hate fat people?

17 05 2011

I talk about being fat like it’s a bad thing (as if it weren’t) and this is what people ask me.  I don’t hate them, but I don’t generally like them because I don’t like to look at them.  Obesity seems to generate a response in my head similar to that of seeing someone who is deformed, or if they’re super obese – to gore.  To some extent, I hold it against them, as I’ve believed for most of my life that people who are fat are responsible for their own state.  I actually know better, but I still want to blame them.  Their appearance offends me and I want it to be their fault.  I want it to be a character flaw, but I know it’s not.  They are not fat because they are lazy.  They are not fat because they are gluttons.  They are fat because they’ve been eating the Standard American diet long enough for their long enough that they’ve overwhelmed their metabolic system, and if they’re overeating, it’s because their bodies are making them do so.

For the majority of my life, I’ve been one of those people who can eat anything and not accumulate any body fat.  I was in the Army several years ago, went to Basic Training at age 18.  While some of my platoon-mates lost 30 or 40 pounds in the eight weeks we were there, I gained 17 and still showed no sign of body fat.  I ate voraciously in that time because I was extremely scared that I might lose weight, which I could not afford to do.  When I went in, I weighed 148 pounds at 5’11” and was fairly muscular, at least above the waist.  After Basic when my activity level had slowed down, I learned that I couldn’t eat as much any more.  I’m not saying I learned that I couldn’t get away with eating just as much, but that I literally couldn’t eat the same amount of food as I had been accustomed to.  I remained lean for years.

Since the beginning of puberty, I would complain about constantly being hungry and having difficulty in maintaining or gaining weight.  I felt better when I weighed more, but if I gained five pounds in a week, I’d lose the next week.  Somewhere around age 23, I began to lose this problem.  I was out of the Army and working security when I discovered a way out of constant hunger.  I would stock up on frozen dinners and eat about 3 pounds worth in one 12-hour shift.  For the first time ever, I had an ass.  My wife was quite pleased about this.  I wasn’t entirely happy about how I’d done it or the shape of my body, but it stopped the painful persistent hunger and that made it worth it.  You know, people aren’t all that sympathetic when someone complains about how hard it is being fat, but try complaining about being too skinny and you’ll only get unmasked hostility (assuming you’re actually skinny).

For years I maintained a nearly athletic figure with a BMI in the “normal weight” range, while eating crap food and exercising very little.  I knew about the Atkins diet, but I didn’t know a lot about it.  It sounded kind of too good to be true.  I read a little about the paleo diet, and that seemed to make a lot of sense to me, but I didn’t invest much time into reading about.  There also seemed to be some contraversy about what Paleolithic man actually ate.  I wasn’t overweight, so this stuff wasn’t that important to me.  Then one day,  I was.  I swear to God I went to Chipotle and got one of their delicious burritos.  I ate the whole thing and became bloated, which was normal.  Which wasn’t normal was that the bloat didn’t seem to go away.

Some time back, I watched a lecture by science writer, Gary Taubes.  Gary was asking some very good questions about the common beliefs of human nutrition.  He had found what people around here like to call a shit-ton of evidence suggesting that ideas such as the big one that obesity is caused by gluttony, sloth, or some evil combination of the two, might be very wrong.  He also suggested that maybe Atkins was right, pointing to scientific research indicating that he was.  I was sold, and further reading on dietary intake of saturated fat and cholesterol convinced me that Atkins was right.  More reading convinced me that a diet devoid of grains, low in carbs, and high in saturated animal fat is not only good for losing weight but can also prevent and often cure almost every disease humans face.  This should make sense if you understand the concept of the paleo diet.  The diet that modern humans have adapted to eating is the one which our bodies work best on.  This means that health problems of modern humans are caused by us eating foods that are not natural for us.  Obesity is just one of those many problems.  If you first become overweight at age 15 and learn what to do about it, you might just live a longer healthier life than someone who waits until they’re 40 to become overweight.

When I started getting a fat belly, I cut back on sugar, and it seemed to do the trick somewhat, but I really wish I had known this stuff years ago.

If you’ve never looked into the low-carb or paleo diet, and need a quick explanation of why it would work or how carbs make us fat, go read Dr. Michael Eades review on Taubes’s new book, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It.

If that sounds interesting, get Taubes’s book.

If you want to know more about Taubes research into everyone else’s research, or you need endless citations and a response to every challenge he could ever anticipate, get his other older book, Good Calories Bad Calories.  It’s an amazing book, but it’s very long and very detailed.  The newer book is much more concise and to the point.

If you don’t want to pay for either book, the video lecture that I watched way back when is on Google Videos for free.  It’s 71 minutes long and has some pictures of naked fat people.  You have been warned.

If you have a really hard time accepting the notion that doctors and researchers could be so wrong about nutrition for so many decades, please watch this presentation, by marginal comedian, blogger, and creator of the Fathead documentary, Tom Naughton.  It’s 42 minutes or so, and is full of lame jokes in front of a very receptive audience.  You have been warned again.

If you don’t care for that, and just want to hear someone funny, go watch some Lewis C.K. videos.

I don’t hate fat people.  I hate the fact that so many people are fat, especially the women.  I found this very depressing.  It’s even worse when it happens to girls I know.  I don’t really hate fat people.

Everything You Know is Wrong, Part I

19 05 2010

Salt isn’t bad for you

I just found something to add to my reading list. It’s an article called The (Political) Science of Salt (pdf) that Gary Taubes wrote in 1999 for Science. It’s not available for free on their site, but it is available at the National Association of Science Writers site because it won their 1999 Science in Society Journalism Award for a magazine article. The bottom line is that there is no scientific evidence that reducing your salt intake will reduce your blood pressure if you’re not hypertensive. If you are, it might have a very small effect. The article is long, but good. I’ve known for a while that dietary recommendations to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intake are based on garbage science, which made me wonder about salt. I never managed to find anything on it until I heard an interview with Taubes where he mentioned that it was the salt issue which first got him into dietary science.

Emphasis mine:

Through the early 1980s, the scientific discord over salt reduction was buried beneath the public attention given to the benefits of avoiding salt. […]

Not until after these campaigns were well under way, however, did researchers set out to do studies that might be powerful enough to resolve the underlying controversy. The first was the Scottish Heart Health Study, launched in 1984 by epidemiologist Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe and colleagues at the Ninewells Hospital and Medical School in Dundee, Scotland. The researchers used questionnaires, physical exams, and 24-hour urine samples to establish the risk factors for cardiovascular disease in 7300 Scottish men. This was an order of magnitude larger than any intrapopulation study ever done with 24-hour urine samples. The BMJ published the results in 1988: Potassium, which is in fruits and vegetables, seemed to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. Sodium had no effect.

With this result, the Scottish study vanished from the debate. Advocates of salt reduction argued that the negative result was no surprise because the study, despite its size, was still not large enough to overcome the measurement problems that beset all other intrapopulation studies. When the NHBPEP recommended universal salt reduction in its landmark 1993 report, it cited 327 different journal articles in support of its recommendations. The Scottish study was not among them. (In 1998, Tunstall-Pedoe and his collaborators published a 10-year follow-up: Sodium intake now showed no relationship to either coronary heart disease or death.)


Of all these studies, the one that may finally change the tenor of the salt debate was not actually about salt. Called DASH, for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, it was published in April 1997 in The New England Journal of Medicine. DASH suggested that although diet can strongly influence blood pressure, salt may not be a player. In DASH, individuals were fed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. In 3 weeks, the diet reduced blood pressure by 5.5/3.0 mmHg in subjects with mild hypertension and 11.4/5.5 mmHg in hypertensives — a benefit surpassing what could be achieved by medication. Yet salt content was kept constant in the DASH diets, which meant salt had nothing to do with the blood pressure reductions.

That reduction is far greater than even the most wildly optimistic projections for extreme salt reduction (from 10g/day to 4g/day). I was first introduced to Taubes via this 72 minute video.

More Exercise?

25 03 2010

Yesterday I saw this article in the Arizona Republic (from the LA Times)  saying that the Journal of the American Medical Association released a new recommendation for women to exercise for 60 minutes per day every day in order to avoid gaining unwanted weight. Yahoo has the same basic story (from Reuters). I find the Yahoo article particularly offensive because it’s titled, “For women, battle of the buldge just got tougher”, as if the recommendations have changed how diet and exercise effect women’s body fat; and they have a picture of an obese woman in a bathing suit, as if someone reading the article might not know what a fat person looks like.

Whenever you see an article about any kind of scientific research, it’s best to skip to the actual science. Or in this case, “science.” From the Republic:

The study was based on surveys of more than 34,000 U.S. women who were, on average, age 54 at the start of the study. They reported their physical activity and body weight, as well as health factors such as smoking and menopausal status, over 13 years. On average, the women gained 5.7 pounds during the study.

What? They were 54 years old on average? That means the average age at the end was 67 (depending on who died). I don’t understand how or why they would derive recommendations for all women based on survey data from post-menopausal women. Nor do I understand how an average weight gain of less than half a pound per year is at all significant.

From Yahoo:

Only 13 percent of women in the study maintained a healthy weight throughout the study — and those who got an hour of exercise a day on average or more were by far the most likely to be in that group.

Something’s not right here if they all averaged a 13-year weight gain of 5.7 pounds while only 13% maintained a healthy weight. At this point, I’m inclined to dig into the actual numbers, but I’m not about to pay $15 for the privilege. Without getting into it, I can’t really tell, but it smells like the data do not fit the conclusion. I think what’s going on here is that current government recommendations (150 minutes of moderate exercise per week) aren’t working and instead of questioning whether exercise causes weight loss or prevents weight gain, the experts will just conclude that it’s not enough. This study is being used because it weakly shows the desired conclusion.

I’ve been convinced that exercise is not a reliable means of weight loss (or weight gain prevention) ever since reading this article by Gary Taubes:

There was a time when virtually no one believed exercise would help a person lose weight. Until the sixties, clinicians who treated obese and overweight patients dismissed the notion as naïve. When Russell Wilder, an obesity and diabetes specialist at the Mayo Clinic, lectured on obesity in 1932, he said his fat patients tended to lose more weight with bed rest, “while unusually strenuous physical exercise slows the rate of loss.”

The problem, as he and his contemporaries saw it, is that light exercise burns an insignificant number of calories, amounts that are undone by comparatively effortless changes in diet. In 1942, Louis Newburgh of the University of Michigan calculated that a 250-pound man expends only three calories climbing a flight of stairs—the equivalent of depriving himself of a quarter-teaspoon of sugar or a hundredth of an ounce of butter. “He will have to climb twenty flights of stairs to rid himself of the energy contained in one slice of bread!” Newburgh observed. So why not skip the stairs, skip the bread, and call it a day?

More-strenuous exercise, these physicians further argued, doesn’t help matters—because it works up an appetite. “Vigorous muscle exercise usually results in immediate demand for a large meal,” noted Hugo Rony of Northwestern University in his 1940 textbook, Obesity and Leanness. “Consistently high or low energy expenditures result in consistently high or low levels of appetite. Thus men doing heavy physical work spontaneously eat more than men engaged in sedentary occupations. Statistics show that the average daily caloric intake of lumberjacks is more than 5,000 calories, while that of tailors is only about 2,500 calories. Persons who change their occupation from light to heavy work or vice versa soon develop corresponding changes in their appetite.” If a tailor becomes a lumberjack and, by doing so, takes to eating like one, why assume that the same won’t happen, albeit on a lesser scale, to an overweight tailor who decides to work out like a lumberjack for an hour a day?

Credit for why we came to believe otherwise goes to one man, Jean Mayer…

It’s always one man.

Helpful Information from the Government!

24 03 2010

I found something odd at a .gov website: Penis size: Survey of female perceptions of sexual satisfaction. The conclusion is hardly shocking:

Women reported that penis width was more important for their sexual satisfaction than penis length. The results were statistically significant. Penis width needs to be given more consideration, and taken into account when one discusses penis size.

…but this is apparently supposed to be a surprise because it contradicts the conclusion of Masters and Johnson, as if people learned about sex from them and not from porn and, well, having sex.

The methodology is rather funny:

To test the notion of the possible importance of length vs. width and female sexual satisfaction, two male undergraduate college students – both popular athletes on campus…

Oh, if only… If only it continued, “one with a long narrow penis, the other with a short wide penis…”, but it doesn’t. They had these two guys ask 50 girls who they considered sexually active if penis width or length was more important. 45 said width. It seems odd that these guys were asked to contact women who they most likely knew personally and may have had sex with. This introduces a huge potential bias. The respondents’ answers could have been colored by what they knew about the surveyors’ penises and their inclination to boost, spare, or hurt their feelings. Of course, this doesn’t really matter because the whole survey is unimportant.

My point is simply that many people are struggling financially, but they need not worry because the government is here to tell us that chicks prefer fat dicks.

I found this while looking for the story of Juan Baptista dos Santo and Blanche Dumas(nudity), a man and a woman with a total of six legs, two penises, two vaginae, and two voracious sexual appetites. That link claims the two got it on, but another source says, “While there is no evidence that the two had illicit meetings, there is great rumor of a brief affair.”