Thursday, December 30, 2010

Updated: Unscheduled Detour

FYI, I am working away on the bra and I still intend to take photo post of the jeans soon (but my husband's been out the last couple of days).

Having said this, while I was out spending money at physio, I did buy one other thing: a book. Y'all know of my great respect for Gary Taubes and his tome of a few years ago Good Calories, Bad Calories. Seriously, this guy is a critical thinker par excellence. And he wants you to think critically too.

I wrote about GC, BC a long time ago. It was part of a Health and Lifestyle blog theme week that I'm quite proud of. I put a lot of myself into those posts so please feel free to check them out if you haven't seen them in the past:
At any rate, the story appears to be (and I'm largely making this up) that Mr. Taubes editor got together with him and said something like: Gary, you have to write another book, one that reproduces the same message you've been spouting since GC, BC but which doesn't get too avidly scientific. Because the doctors and talk shows want to espouse your outrageously well-researched food science findings, but your first book is simply too intelligent for the average reader.

I can't tell you how many people I tried to convince (unsuccessfully) to read GC, BC. That book changed so many of my preconceptions - not with diet-spout and conjecture, but with hard science. Look, I've known forever that fat people aren't fat because they lack will power. But I didn't realize that, in fat people, the creation of fat will supercede the use of food energy in any other way. I understand from personal experience - I too live in our processed-food, carb-addicted world - that protein keeps you full and lean. Muffins do not. 500 calories of muffin is vastly different - as far as your body is concerned - than 500 calories of eggs and bacon.

Insulin regulates the uptake of fat in your body. If you want to be lean, you have to do whatever you can to diminish spikes of insulin - which is increasingly challenging in a world with crap pseudo-food in every corner and appetites that have come to appreciate it - nay, crave it.

But don't take my word for it. If you never got around to GC, BC when I was trying to convince you to read it before (and you know that's everyone), please go for his latest book - a capsule piece at 250 pages - Why We Get Fat. See the catchy title? It seems much less intimidating than the original. I mean, the book art is a measuring tape!

Don't worry. It's still got science (though - shockingly - Taubes apologizes for it and implores his reader to stick with it?!?) but it applies that science much more directly to lay readers and the issue of why the first world is drowning in obesity (even diabesity).

It's a good companion piece to GC, BC, but no substitute for the original. Mind you, if you're just not interested in 800 pages of biochemistry, this may be the book for you.

(Note: I'm still reading - 2/3 through - but I have to say the most depressing message so far is that the loss of estrogen in menopause directly impacts the body's impulse to take calories and store them as fat rather than food energy - exercise and lifestyle notwithstanding. I mean, all you need to do is look at practically every 50-something woman you see on the street to know this is the case. Just as the fat people aren't gluttonous sloths, menopausal women who were previously lean and active, don't thicken in the middle because they've started gorging on doughnuts and lying around the house. And yet, in general, they gain abdominal fat. Taubes hasn't resolved this yet - it's either a cliff-hanger or women my age may just start hanging themselves :-) I mean, he does indicate early on that replacement estrogen is just the ticket to circumvent this (he in no way advocates it), but I'm not down with hormone replacement therapy at this time.)

Questions for the post-menopausal readers: Could you share your stories with us? Did you gain weight through or after menopause? Did you find ways to manage this? Did they include HRT? If you didn't gain, were you always lean? Has any woman gone through menopause and felt more attractive, more sexy (both re: self-image and level of desire), shape-changes notwithstanding. Please share your stories!

Update: Peeps, I regret to inform you - having finished this book - that there is no mystery diet cure for the fat that comes from diminished estrogen, if that is your particular sensitivity. Nor is there one for those who battle weight genetically. Lowering carbs (and I don't mean cutting green veggies and vitamins, though he disputes our specific requirement of these) to lower insulin resistance is the only real trick Taube's got up his sleeve. Of course, it's the bulk of the trick for everyone - according to the science he quotes - because it's the main indicator of fat we accrue outside the realm of our genetic predispositions. It will help with the weight-gain of menopause, because it helps with all weight gain. But if you weren't made like Cindy Crawford, this book isn't going to transform you into her as fast as you can say "chicken with skin".

Having said this, it will likely make you much healthier - cardiovascularly and in other ways. Furthermore, if you enjoy fat and protein (specifically animal protein), you can apparently sustain a lifetime of enjoyment.

I have more thoughts about this. Thoughts I'm going to put into action and (natch) tell you all about. I was convinced about the science when reading the first book. The second only reinforces my complicity. Not to mention that I'm the original protein and fat lover - bacon and eggs for breakfast = nature's perfect food. Cheese in every format? I'm there. More to the point, when I eat fat and protein (as I've been telling people for years), I actually feel good. Not just full, but happy. It quells my hyperactive nature. What I do love about the "new" theory in this book (or maybe it's just the first time I'm noticing it) is that fat is the preferred substitution for carbs. Protein should stay reasonably constant (some number of grams I can't remember), but fat can pick up the slack. Ya'll know I LOVE fat in its every form.

I don't know how to manage the idea that calories matter not. I have been so indoctrinated that, while I know the science proves it, I don't know how to forego my lists and long-held perspectives. But this is the matter of another post...


  1. I'm not through menopause yet so I'm not sure what the end result will be, however mid way I'm more confident, feel sexier, and have a more realistic and improved body image.

    My gift of menopause has been extensive food allergies. When I stopped eating those foods, I lost thirty pounds and 8" on my waist. Not at all win-win since cooking is a huge challenge.

    I take alternative supplements, one for stress (AdrenaSmart) and one to balance hormones (EstraSmart) and they work FABULOUSLY. Before I starting taking these supplements I wasn't coping so well. They significantly improved how I feel. Both are from No affiliation but every product I try from this company works for me.

  2. Nifty---I had not read those posts, I will go back and do so :). GC, BC sounds awesome---I will have to look into it (and maybe recommend it to my Mom). She's done every fad diet for the past fifteen years (she just turned 58), as far as I can tell, fluctuating between about 120 lbs and 150; she's 5'6". By now she has a pretty good sense of what works for her, but I'd love for her to be taking an approach that's a bit more scientific than, say, "Eat Right for Your Type."

    For my mom, carbohydrates have been a big problem. The low-carb diet fads, starting in the late 90s, worked really well for her, at least partly because she seems to be sensitive to gluten (and becoming increasingly so with age). She's yoyo'd her weight through menopause, I think having more to do with stress and emotional eating vs. "staying on the wagon" carb-wise. She had an accident just before Christmas of last year that left her largely immobile last winter, and has been really frustrated trying to lose the weight she gained then---she's having some success, finally, with significant portion control.

    It's hard to tell if the women in my family have a tendency to gain weight through menopause. My grandma is the same weight (though, as she'll point out, not the same shape... it's gathered around the middle, as is typical) as when she was 35, but she's also been a rigorous member of TOPS for fifty-odd years (like Weight Watchers). My mom yoyos, and my aunt (only a year younger than my mom)is still basically a stick, although I'm not aware of her diet habits. And we all tend toward apple shapes to begin with (every spare pound on my body is concentrated in the space between my ribs and my hips).

    A confounding factor in here is loss of muscle mass with age---all my older female relatives are active and relatively healthy, but not fitness junkies, and even while maintaining her weight I'm sure my Grandma has traded muscle-mass for fat. I'm even wondering about this for myself, as I haven't been nearly as active as I'd like the last year or three, and while my weight hasn't changed too much, I'm sure my body composition has shifted a little.

    Wow, sorry for writing a book... good post!

  3. M: I'm happy to hear that you feel sexier! (I haven't heard many positive accounts of those in the midst of the menopausal process). As you know, I too take supplements to help balance my hormones and I just hope, whatever stage I'm at, they make a supplement that will work to keep me feeling my best - and looking it too!

    T: What a great comment! You've obviously given this a lot of thought - I'd love to know more about what your aunt does to retain her leanness. Chances are it is genetic - and maybe you got that gene too. Of course, I have a chance to see your body shape in your posts and I'm surprised to hear you call yourself an apple (which is def what I am) because we have such diff shapes! I understand it's about carriage of adipose tissue on one's frame - and we both do that in the lower abdomen, but you are very lean! You need to consult with the aunt and get back to me :-)

  4. I hit menopause last year, at 56, and I'd say I'm a very annoying 5 or so pounds more than I want to be -- story of my life, though, really, although the spot on the scales I'm willing to tolerate has inched upward. And yes, my weight gain is primarily manifest as a thickened middle. I'd prefer to consistently wear a 6, but have learned to feel happy at 8, also wearing 10 regularly if that's more comfy/flattering -- and I'm only 5'4 (if I'm standing up straight!).
    Twice-weekly Pilates and a fairly serious running habit (ran two Half Marathons last year and will do at least the same this year, barring injury) plus I walk and bike to commute.
    I sit way too much, though, for work and leisure (like to read, knit while watching TV, etc.,) and I'd blame that as much as hormones for weight gain. Plus I have a husband who's barely ever hit 170 at 6 feet tall and loves to cook -- He's learned to add veggies to the meat, cream, potatoes, and homemade pastas and breads, but given the butter and oil he adds to them, they're not such a healthy temptation -- I suspect that much of my five-pounds gain is that we're again living during the week together after I've had years of weekday soups and salads to compensate for weekend feasts. So lifestyle changes that accompany mid-life may also contribute to the hormonal stuff.
    As for genetics and hormones, etc.,
    my aunts on one side were mainly below 125 all their lives, despite having fairly large families -- my mom had ten of us (!!) and outside pregnancies has never hit 120 -- closer to 110 or less. My "English aunties" were a bit bigger and my mom always spoke of them as if they were fat, but I realized when I was in my early 30s that they were actually just a different build than she was -- healthy, sturdy, fairly buxom, to use an old-fashioned word that captures their essence. Of my 6 sisters and I,two have almost exactly their build but one has the height to carry it better and one struggles more with weight issues. Four of us have gone through menopause (the three younger all surgically, for sound medical reasons), and seem to be able to keep the weight and fitness balance copacetic -- with work. The one sister who inherited by mom's metabolism and size is approaching 50 but not menopausal yet, and she's the fittest of us all -- very serious with it, weekly trainer and all, Bikram's, weights, long-distance running. . . .
    Anyway, I haven't included your guy's science but I've almost matched his word count -- I'll watch for the book. Sounds convincing.

  5. just wrote you a small book, and I think google chomped it up -- will take me a bit more will to re-write, so I'll come back later and see if it's surfaced any-cyber-where . . .

  6. Mater: It's here!! I was really hoping you would comment because I knew it would be an interesting read :-) When you read "Why We Get Fat" you will notice that the premise is that only the carbs are really to blame (not the fat or protein which don't raise insulin levels in the same way). Of course, there are as many variations of human being as can be imagined, so for some this doesn't hold true, but for the vast majority it does. The phrase I'll take from this book is "we don't get fat because our metabolism slows, our metabolism slows because we get fat". (This makes more sense in the context of the full book.) So the weight of menopause is a consequence of fat supporting its own existence. The people who are most inclined to suffer from fatness (at any stage of life) are those who are most sensitive to insulin. Sadly, those who are insulin sensitive (or insensitive as the case may be) are the ones destined to crave sugar the way the smoker craves nicotine. It's a biological addiction. I know that sugar is an addiction - I struggle with it every day.

    What I appreciate about Taubes is that he says, effectively, "Don't worry, first-world audience (that's been raised to believe that sacrifice is in the art of weight maintenance), there will be sacrifice if you are of the unfortunate subclass (superclass) of unhealthy fatness (emphasis on unhealthy). The only way you will avoid fat is to avoid the thing you love most in the world. The good news is that you can eat the other stuff relatively unfettered. And that other stuff is pretty good too! (That's my editorial comment.)

    On a side note, though your energy output is considered a symptom of your genetic predisposition to be lean (it's not that fat people are lazy, it's that what makes them fat also makes them metabolically less likely to crave lots of physical activity), it's likely supporting many systems in your body that will bring you health as you age.

    I've known for a long time that emerging science supports the idea that exercise is not a weight-loss - or even weight maintenance - producer. So I don't know if all of your exercise is really the answer to that 5 pounds. Maybe the delicious baking and wine are more the culprit.

    And I say that with sadness :-)

  7. Oh, and one other thing - as the comment feature just told me my last comment was too long! I was very worried about my weight rising with inactivity caused by the foot injury.

    Instead, my appetite notably diminished, which is what the science suggests. Exercise makes you hungry. That's not a reason not to do exercise (or to eat), esp. if you eat "the right way", but I'm amazed to discover that anecdotally in myself.

    I've been a hard core "mover" for years. I'd never tested the hypothesis in myself - who would choose to?? - but there you go.

  8. My mom had the exact same body shape and size as I do, as evidenced when wearing her handmade creations! She was a bit heavier after having children. (Although I always wonder what's in a number. Did she weigh in naked? Dressed? With boots and bag at the pharmacy?) I am and she was a pear. She started gaining during menopause and kept gaining in fits until now, and I would guess she is 30-40 pounds heavier now. The weight is centered in the middle. She tries to maintain, but doesn't diet, and is mostly healthy. My mother-in-law, a regular, slim dieter, already broke two vertebrae due to osteoporosis. I find my mother's weight and looks perfectly all right, and am not at all neurotic about my own weight (anymore), yet I know I'd struggle a lot with gaining as much as she did.

  9. This seems to be more or less reminiscent of Atkins and South Beach. I kind of don't get the hype. Admittedly, I haven't read the book, but I did read the story Vogue did on it -- which suggested that not all scientists agreed and that a number "rolled their eyes" at the mention of this new book.

    In other news, I wonder if Weight Watchers has partially jumped on this bandwagon because I just started journaling with their online program again this week and noticed that calories no longer factor into points calculation. This is revolutionary to me for a few reasons (one being that I knew the fucking points value for pretty much everything having been on the program off and on since 2002 or so).

  10. Uta: The whole idea of osteo is really worrisome... It seems you've got an excellent perspective on the matter. I'm a bit less sanguine :-)

    R: I love this voice of dissent :-) I didn't know Vogue did a story - is it in the new one?? I just bought it! And I completely hear you about how changes to the system make everything a huge pain in the ass. I know the calorie count of everything on the planet - but carbs - never paid the slightest bit of attention, even though I suspected I should...

  11. So cute blog I really like it!:)

  12. I'll admit to some of R's skepticism although I do agree that the less calories, more exercise response can be way too simplistic.
    When I did WW a few years ago, they were already offering a non-points system -- or, at least, non-points for a wide range of "healthy" foods whose quantities the dieter governed by trusting sensations of fullness. It mapped pretty well to what you're describing for GC/BC although admittedly I haven't read the book (did see the Vogue piece quite a few months ago).

    I don't run just to keep my weight steady (and I hear you on the fallacies associated with that -- altho' with the distances I put it in, as long as my food choices are relatively healthy, it seems to work), but for all the many associated health benefits -- and especially the increased muscle, tone, etc., which keeps me in the sizes I want to wear even if my actual weight might seem high.
    There you go -- another book -- suspect Blogger comments may try to silence me again! Great post, lively conversation. . . thanks.

  13. Thanks Beauty Junkie...

    Mater: I find it hilarious that I come off as one of those crazy "Atkins supporters". Alas, whenever I'm intrigued by anything, I tend to come off as crazy. I'm really enthusiastic. I have some ideas about how to test out this theory. They are not nutty and nutrient-sacrificing in any way. And they involve an interesting scientific control. So I may opt to experiment on myself for 2 months (or less time if I discover that I don't like how it makes me feel). More to come. BTW, I am in TOTAL support of regular exercise. I have no idea if it helps me to control my weight - or anyone else for that matter - but it does give my body a tone I appreciate and flexibility, strength and coordination. I feel it keeps me healthy and youthful and I don't care if a book every comes out telling me I shouldn't do it - it's not something I'm prepared to give up :-)