Hoodwinked

   January 5, 2011 2:01 pm

 

You guys, I feel I’ve been hoodwinked, misled and misguided by the entire fitness industry, my body and our entire government and their silly food pyramid.

For years we have believed that:

1. Counting calories — and making sure we burn more than we eat — is the key to staying slim. A new book with a not-so-new topic (the same author covered the same subject in the highly-scientific and apparently jargon-filled book “Good Calories, Bad Calories’) has blown the lid off the calorie myth.

The book “Why we get fat, and what to do about it” by Gary Taubes, landed on my desk a week or so ago and just begged to be read (who could resist cracking that sucker open after reading that title?).

From the Product Description on Amazon.com:

Taubes reveals the bad nutritional science of the last century, none more damaging or misguided than the “calories-in, calories-out” model of why we get fat, and the good science that has been ignored, especially regarding insulin’s regulation of our fat tissue. He also answers the most persistent questions: Why are some people thin and others fat? What roles do exercise and genetics play in our weight? What foods should we eat, and what foods should we avoid?

From a review on Amazon.com:

The most important point of the book is that all those public recommendations — the food pyramid, the “eat food, not too much” approach, everything we know about a balanced lifestyle — is founded on the premise of Calories In vs. Calories Out. That we get fat because we eat too many calories, or we don’t burn enough of them through movement.

But this is nonsense. It’s not just wrong, it is actually not a statement about what causes obesity at all (or heart disease, cancer or diabetes, for that matter.) It is, in Taubes’ words, a “junior high level mistake,” because it tells us nothing about fat accumulation. If we get fat, by definition we have taken in more calories than we’ve put out — but WHY we took in those calories, or didn’t burn them, is the key point.

Taubes reviews the scientific literature (rather than the popular press) and presents a conclusion that was common knowledge before WWII, and heresy afterward: we get fat because our fat cells have become disregulated and are taking nutrients that should be available to other tissues. Like a tumor, the cells live for themselves rather than in balance with the rest of the body. And since those nutrients aren’t available, we become hungry and tired. Therefore we eat more, and move less.

I’m only a few chapters into the book, but I feel duped and kinda angry at the food industry and the government. I’m not saying I buy everything Taubes has to say, but it’s thought provoking stuff that offers a fresh look at this nations “obesity epidemic.”

2. Cardio is king. Cardio, because it burns the maximum amount of calories in the shortest amount of time, has long been thought by fitness-minded people to be king of the workouts (based of course on that much accepted and touted Calories In versus Calories Out model of weight loss).

Sure, you could toss in a little weight training or cross training, but without heart-thumping, sweat-producing, bone-jarring cardio workouts, you were just wasting your time because you needed serious calorie burn to lose weight.

Makes perfect sense if you’re following that calorie model we talked about and, admittedly, if you exercise obsessively and eat sparingly, you will be thin. Been there, done that, but it’s a miserable way to live (or not live, actually, because it consumes your life and most of your time).

And, here’s the thing…cardio just doesn’t seem to be working for me. Despite running miles upon miles and eating low-fat and mostly meat-free, I’m still flabby everywhere.

Don’t get nervous and start nicknaming me Karen Carpenter, I’m not saying I’m “fat,” but I’m not fit. Not the way I should be if this whole thing worked the way everyone keeps saying it does.

I thought it was just me and that I was cursed with a lousy metabolism and extra flabby genes that insisted on hanging on no matter how hard I tried to outrun them.

But, then I read about  “The Female Body Breakthrough” — a book by Rachel Cosgrove that is subtitled: The revolutionary strength-training plan for losing fat and getting the body you want — on Charlotte Andersen’s The Great Fitness Experiment blog. I read about Charlotte’s experiment with Cosgrove’s plan and the results that Charlotte saw from it.

I scoffed.

But, then I read Cosgrove’s article “The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin.” And, I swear to God that first picture of Rachel running a marathon could have been me.

Rachel Cosgrove running a marathon.

Me running a marathon (Cleveland, 2007 Photo by Brightroom.com)

Here’s Rachel now:

Here’s me now:

Me at the Cleveland 1/2 Marathon, 2010 (Photo by Brightroom.com)


I ran right up to the mall after work (which, I should mention was a day in Mid-December so, yeah, I braved CHRISTMAS SHOPPING CROWD on Upper Peach Street to try and get this book), but it wasn’t in stock at Borders or Barnes and Noble.

Anyway…when it finally arrived, shipped via trusty Amazon.com, I read the introduction and became a believer. My husband, Dan, a marathon runner, apparently did, too. After seeing the book on my nightstand and leafing through it, he said…”if you’re going to do this, I’ll do it with you. A lot of what she says makes sense.”

I can’t tell you much more about the book or the program because I’ve not made it very far through (hey, I’m organizing the whole damn house, it is JANUARY, folks), but I’m willing to give it a try (though, admittedly, I cannot imagine my life without running). You can read more about it on Charlotte’s blog here, here and here.

So, that’s what’s on my mind.

Yep, I’m simply questioning everything I’ve ever believed and held true about fitness and food and fat. That’s all.

 

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