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.

Happy Boobs Month

1 10 2010

I’ve been told that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, and people are wearing pink ribbons to somehow raise awareness. Were you aware of breast cancer? Yes? Ok, good. I will not be wearing anything pink, and I would like to see NFL players also not wearing anything pink. I will also not be involved in any Race for the Cure or any such thing. I think that if people are interested in curing cancer they can research the cures for cancer that already exist. Conventional cancer treatments, even though I may not like them, sometimes work. Expecting to find some universal cure for all breast cancer or even all forms of cancer seems a bit ridiculous as cancer isn’t a genetic or infectious disease. It’s what we call it when a series of cell mutations results in tumor that threatens the organism. The mutations aren’t always the same, so what can starve or kill one tumor may not work on another.

However, hormone receptor mutations are probably nearly universal in most forms of cancer. I’ve been reading Gary Taubes’ book, Good Calories Bad Calories, which blames cancer (as well as every other “disease of civilization”) on high levels of dietary carbohydrates. The ingestion of carbohydrates induces the secretion of insulin which tells the fat cells of your body to convert sugar in the blood into fat, thereby preventing you from having a dangerous and potentially lethal amount of sugar in your blood. Eating lots of carbs results in high levels of insulin and something called insulin-like growth factor (IGF). Taubes starts his section on cancer by noting the very low rates of cancer observed in populations eating traditional hunter-gather diets. He then talks about mutation and holds that the answer to cancer lies not in mutations themselves (as in worrying about chemicals that cause mutations), but in the hormonal/metabolic environment in which mutations are likely to succeed. He says:

Since the min-1970s, reseachers have identified many of the molecules that play a role in regulating the strength of the groth and proliferation signals that IGF communicates to the cells themselves. There are several differeing insulin-like growth factors, for insance, and they bind to specific IGF receptors on the surfaces of cells. The more IGF receptors on a cell’s surface, the stronger the IGF signal to the cell. If insulin levels are high enough, insulin will stimulate the IGF receptors and send IGF signals into cells as well as insulin signals.

IGF and its receptors appear to play a critical role in cancer. In mice, functioning IGF receptors are a virtual necessity for cancer growth, a discovery that Renato Baserga of Thomas Jefferson University says he “stumbled” upon in the late 1980s, after nearly forty years spent styding the growth processes of normal and cancerous cells. Shutting down the IGF receptor in mice will lead to what Baserga calls “strong inhibition, if not total suppression of [tumor] growth.” It is particularly lethal to those tumors that have already metastasized from a primary site elsewhere in the body.


Insulin appears to depress the concentration of IGF-binding proteins, and so high levels of insulin mean more IGF itself is available to effect cell growth-including that of malignant cells. Anything that increases insulin levels will therefore increasse the availability of IGF to the cells, and so increase the strength of the IGF proliferation signals. (Insulin has been shown to affect estrogen this way, too, one way in which elevated levels of insulin may potentially cause breast cancer.)

The role of IGF in cancer appears to be fundamental, albeit still controversial. As is the case with insulin, IGF has been found in the laboratory to enhance the growth and formation of tumor cells dirrectly; IGF signals prompt cells to divide and multiply. (This effect seems to be particularly forceful with breast-cancer cells when IGF and estrogen are acting in concert.) IGF has an advantage over other growth factors that might play a role in cancer because it can reach tumors either throught the bloodstream–after being secreted by the liver–or as a result of production by nearby tissue. There’s even evidence that tumors can stimulate their own further growth and proliferation by secreting their own insulin-like growth factors. In the early 1980s, cancer researchers discovered that tumor cells also overexpress IGF receptors, just as they overexpress insulin receptors. The surfaces of tumor cells have two to three times as many IGF receptors as healthy cells, which makes them all that much more responsive to the IGF in their immediate environment.


IGF and insulin can be viewed as providing fuel to the incipient fire of cancer cells and the freedom to grow without limit. The critical factor is not that diet changes the nature of cells–the mutations that lead to cancer–but that it changes the nurturing of those cells; it changes the environment into one in which cancerous and precancerous cells can flourish. Simply by creating “an enviromnent that favored, even slight, survival (rather than programmed cell death),” says the McGill University oncologist Michael Pollak, insulin and IGF would increase the number of cells that accumlate some genetic damage, and that would increase the number of their progeny that were likely to incur more damage, and so on, until cancer is eventually achieved. “When applied simultaneously to large numbers of at-risk cells over the many years,” notes Pollak, “even a small influence in this direction would serve to accelerate carcinogenesis.”

The bold is mine. There’s more in the book, and it seems that keeping insulin levels low by restricting carbohydrates may prevent and even cure most forms of cancer. If you don’t understand how I arrived at that conclusion or think I’m missing something, let me know. I am not an expert in the subject, and Taubes “isn’t a real scientist”, so there may be more to the story. However, I’m highly motivated to remove most carbs from my diet, including beer, which is kind of a big deal for me. I highly recommend the book, but if it seems a bit too egg-headed for you, know that he’s got a much more accessible book due out in January called, Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It.

How’s that for raising awareness? Are you aware of something now that you weren’t 20 minutes ago?


12 06 2010

I’m reading Gary Taubes’s Good Calories Bad Calories, which has this gem of a quote from H.L. Mencken:

There is always a well-known solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.

Taubes is referring to how ‘everyone’ knows that you should avoid eating fat to lose or avoid gaining weight, and ‘everyone’ is wrong.

This page has many more Mencken quotes. As a blashemous anti-democrat, I liked this:

Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses.

My anti-feminist side likes this:

Misogynist – A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.

Why representative democracy sucks:

A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man. In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker.

I really like this:

The fact that I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake.

It is incredibly difficult to argue against public policy when I advocate to alternative policy. Sometimes, my vastly superior alternative is to simply do nothing. “The President has to do SOMETHING!” No. No, he doesn’t.

Mencken’s views, more often than not, mirror my own. As a crazy person filled with unpopular ideas, that’s a rare find for me. Few westerners even question the nobility of the institution of democracy. Fewer still conclude that it’s awful, but Mencken did, and so have I. He wrote a bit about women and social dynamics. As someone who didn’t like men voting, he liked women’s suffrage even less. He was alive and writing before, during, and after prohibition, which he didn’t much care for, a movement that largely be blamed on women.

If that’s too politically correct for you, he also managed to say unkind things about Jews and blacks, though he seems to have simultaneously held both admiration and disdain for Jewish people. So, there’s that.

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.