Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gary Taubes Is a Hack -- But I'm Still Cutting Carbs

One of the delicious things about Spring Break--aside from naps--has been being able to read books that aren't on anyone's syllabus.

When Sage and I went to the library last Friday, I was pleasantly surprised to find two things I'd been wanting to read on the library's "Lucky Day" shelf. One was Jonathan Franzen's big-ass contender for Great American Novel Freedom. The other was Gary Taubes' Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.

To say Taubes and I don't see eye-to-eye is an understatement. His contention is that the whole concept of calories-in/calories-out as a method of weight control is a lie perpetrated by exercise and public health professionals. He feels that exercise is useless as a way to control weight because you just work up and appetite and end up eating more.

Instead, he lays the blame about obesity on our overconsumption of carbs.

Now, it's hard to argue that refined grains and sugar do not cause people to gain weight. And it's equally hard for me to argue about the addictive nature of sugar and white flour--I know first-hand how strong a craving for pizza or chocolate can be.

But Taubes wants us to eschew most carbohydrates, including things like apples. He feels that vegans and vegetarians can not become lean because even a diet consisting of beans and leafy green vegetables has too many carbohydrates. He feels that you shouldn't really start exercising until you've given up carbohydrates because you'll get too hungry while exercising.

The research he uses to support these contentions seems sound, but if you read closely, you realize that he is leaving out big pieces of the picture. He lists a whole bunch of research about poor communities around the world that have high rates of obesity because they eat a lot of carbs, but neglects to mention any Asian countries, which also experience hunger but remain lean on a rice-based diet. He talks about how our metabolism slows as we get older so, if we are runners, we have to add more and more running to our weekly schedule to keep our weight off but he doesn't talk about the natural reduction of appetite that occurs as we get older that can allow us to run the same amount but stay the same size because we're consuming fewer calories.

Still, even though this book is inspiring me to throw it across the room every few pages or so, it has also reminded me that perhaps my late-night breakfast cereal binges (studying-related) and insistence on dessert after every meal might be habits from which I need to take a break. So this week has been all about the chicken. Lots of Trader Joe's chicken breast tenders, lots of eggs.

Best meal of the week: Crustless quiche. Nuke a couple of veggie sausages and chop them up. Grease a small glass pie plate. Saute some asparagus (or your choice of veggie) in olive oil until browned and tender. Put the asparagus and sausage chunks in the pie plate. Beat four eggs with a little bit of half and half. Add salt to taste. Pour over the other ingredients. Grate some cheddar on the top. Slide into a 350-degree oven an bake until puffed and golden. Share with a friend or two. Do not add a baguette. Do add a salad.

1 comment:

Seth said...

I've heard Taubes address the Asian diet conundrum a couple times, basically surmising that their diet has traditionally been so low in sugar that the fundamental concept still applies.