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Laura Dolson

Gary Taubes on Why Some of Us Can't Lose More Weight

By September 17, 2011

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latestI really liked a recent interview with Gary Taubes on Angelo Coppola's Latest in Paleo podcast. It was a wide-ranging conversation that touched on a lot of points, some of them usually not talked about in low-carb or paleo circles. One of them is the question of why everyone's weight doesn't always normalize on a low-carb or paleo diet. Though I know people who have lost over 100 pounds and kept it off, it doesn't always work that way, as I can personally attest. I lost about 35 pounds, and have kept it off for over 10 years, but am still overweight. Why is this? I have my theories. I was pleased that some of my thoughts were backed up by Taubes, who pointed out that:
  • There are many more factors involved in losing weight than in gaining it, especially "once you're metabolically deranged".
  • Those of us who have lived through the low-fat/high-sugar years (I personally came of age at the exact wrong time) and have screwed things up in our bodies are simply different physiologically than active young people who are avoiding sugar and refined carbs today. They, hopefully, will never have the problems that we are having, e.g. having carbohydrate intolerance issues.
  • "Meal-to-Meal" studies (investigating the short-term effects of foods on subsequent eating) are unlikely to tell us much about obesity, which is a longer-term (and much more complex) phenomenon.
I also talked a bit about this issue with Dr. Robert Lustig at the Ancestral Health Symposium last month. He had given his lecture focused on the dangers of fructose consumption and its role in obesity and diabetes. I mentioned to him that I haven't eaten fructose in 15 years and am obviously still overweight. He rejoined that the same is true for him (he's not skinny). All he could really say is that we are all different genetically and physiologically. I think that no one wants to hear what some of the experts have been saying: that we may not have ultimate control over our weight, and that at some point it's more productive to shift our focus to being as healthy as we can. It's not a very popular thought, but I believe it's true.

I've written before about the Latest in Paleo podcast, which I find to be both thoughtful and informative. Here's a recent thought from Coppola: "Most of us understand that artificial synthetic processed denatured substances fortified with a few nutrients held together with gluten and seed oils and wrapped in cellophane is not the same thing as food."

Image © Angelo Coppola

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September 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm
(1) Jack Wilson says:

This article helps alot. I average less than 1600 calories a day. 46% are carbs. I get a moderate amount of exercise. I still cannot lose weight. Very frustrating

September 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm
(2) daisym0m says:

Because of physical limitations, I am not able to exercise. The price of low-carb foods is astronomical. I’m on a fixed budget and sometimes all I can eat has carbs. I eat as many low-carb foods as I can. I’ve been able to maintain my weight, but it’s not ideal. I’m about 40 pounds overweight.

September 19, 2011 at 3:37 pm
(3) DAR says:

I have been eating very low carb for over 8 years and lost 60 lbs, but those last 10-20 lbs are getting more and more difficult to keep off. After struggling to get my weight to budge, I recently resorted to the Atkins Fat Fast to get it moving in the right direction again.

It worked and I still use the recipes I created for it frequently, but it’s frustrating to have to watch the carbs AND calories to avoid gaining weight again. Eating very low carb works great for controlling my BGL, but that stubborn weight requires restricting calories, too. There may be some people who can eat as many calories as they want as long as they watch the carbs, but I’m not one of them.

Exercise doesn’t make me lose weight, either, but I try to take walks every day because it clears the cobwebs out of my brain and makes me feel better.

September 19, 2011 at 5:13 pm
(4) Brenda says:

What is frustrating is health professional telling me”is all in the calorie, calories going in, calories going out”. I am a freak of nature. Loosing Weight has become my life. Low fat, low cal, low carb, whatever I try (and yes exercise and lots of it) I am morbidly Obese. I have children that I may not get to see them into adulthood. I am now contemplating by-pass surgery. But what if that doesn’t work. I breath, I gain weight. I walked myself into a pair bad knees. I Hate being fat. I hate it, I hate it. I hate the way I get treated. I did not eat on the way home from work before supper, I didn’t those donuts, I didn’t eat the junk food. Why doesn’t anybody believe me.

September 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm
(5) Mo Hanson says:

I lost @ 80 pounds and “plateau”ed out. This leaves me at about a BMI of 31. The only way to drop is cut carbs down to ‘induction’ or count calories. I’m not sure I could live with either long-term, and I am thinking of just aiming for fitness (as you said), instead of ideal weight.

September 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm
(6) JOHN says:

….some people are going to be fatter nomatter what diet they are on…..after 40 the body fights to keep the fat on, even Atkins does not dislodge it….Atkins is not Atkins, that diet was founded in 1881 by a doctor and Atkins found it…lost weight on it…and became assocaited with it
In my view, permanent starvation via the ugly induction phase is the only thing that will tak it off and keep it off….

September 19, 2011 at 9:47 pm
(7) Dan says:

Exercise doesn’t make you lose weight. It makes your body healthy and strong. It helps you fight off infections. It helps you fight disease. it helps you recover more quickly. Everyone is different. Everyone responds differently to different stimuli. Some respond to food changes some don’t . Some respond to specific food changes and some respond to general food changes. Some people are “marked” and will never change or change very little no matter. what. It’s time we started to learn to live with that. But just because exercise won’t make you lose weight doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

September 19, 2011 at 9:57 pm
(8) Kathleen Jakovcevich says:

Brenda, I believe you and so do hundreds of thousands of people just like you. Stop listening to the “health professionals”, they don’t know what they are talking about and are willing to lie to you and me and lay the blame at our feet rather than lose face and admit they actually don’t have a clue. We are the evidence, there are hundreds of thousands, millions of people like us, we are the evidence that these “professionals” don’t know what they are talking about. Over the years I have read LOTS about weight loss and have found that; For about a quarter of the population calorie counting works, for another quarter exercise will work, another quarter need a combination of both and for the remaining quarter neither will work. And you know what? There is NOTHING WRONG WITH US. Our bodies are wonderfully efficient, we are made to withstand drought, hunger and food shortage. In pre-historic times we are the ones that would have survived while the people with wasteful, fast burning, hot bodies would have died like flies around us. I always feel so sad when I meet people like yourself, when you say that “loosing weight has become my life” Stop it. It hasn’t worked so far, probably won’t and you are wasting your life chasing it. Do what you can to be healthy and enjoy the short life we are given while you are here. Refuse to participate in the mediocre any longer. Listen to classical music, read good books, get outside and love nature, this will do far more for your mental health than chasing an unobtainable goal that only serves to make you more acceptable to the general society.

September 19, 2011 at 9:58 pm
(9) Kathleen Jakovcevich says:

Continued from previous;
As for the story that you won’t live to see your children into adulthood, it is actually better to be overweight and healthy (which is quite possible) than underweight. That’s one the “professionals” don’t want you to know. Even the term overweight is misleading. Over whose arbitrarily drawn line in the sand? If I am eating a low carb diet ( which I believe is the one we are designed to eat), exercising and healthy, then I don’t care what I weigh, I will be MY weight, not over weight. The diet industry is worth billions and trillions of dollars a year and is a never ending round-about of “wonder diets” designed to separate you from your money. Stop playing their games and start living your life.

September 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm
(10) Michael Scott says:

I’m 69 years old and have been on Atkins, level one, for eleven years. I lost more than 85 pounds and have kept it off for the whole time. Exercise never helped me but I bicycle a lot because I can. This way of eating has given me energy I never had before. My body wasn’t able to utilize carbs very well. I don’t have any trouble staying under 20 grams per day when I know, that by doing so, my weight stays under control at all times! I wouldn’t be able to go to Atkins level 2 because the extra carbs would greatly reduce my “willpower”. As long as I stay very low in carbs, I have no trouble staying on Atkins level one. I think that everyone needs a goal to stay on any diet. Mine is beating my friend at bicycling. Find a partner to work out with. The longer you stay on a very low carb diet the easier it will become. I had a major eating disorder. If I can do it anyone can. Whenever you break just get right back to it. Don’t use any excuses. After eleven years I have no trouble staying at a perfect weight. The secret is to stay under 20 grams per day. When you go over this amount you will have to have a much greater amount of will power. Something I don’t have.
As far as low carb costing more, I spent a lot more on food when I was doing high carb. When I was totally out of control I spent a fortune on food! Stay with it.
Mike Scott

September 20, 2011 at 3:39 am
(11) Jean says:

I know this isn’t everyone’s problem but I think some of us are wanting to go lower than our bodies are ‘happy’ with. I know I can stay at 137 pounds on a low carb diet with no trouble so why do I struggle to get down to 133? Because I do, all the time!

September 20, 2011 at 7:35 am
(12) Violet says:

I agree with Dan Scott — I have read 2 of Gary Taubes books and found them Great! — it’s true for me – I was a compulsive overeater and greatly overweight. I’m now 63 – 5’2 and for the first time in my life at goal weight because I too eat no more than 20 grams of carbs a day and I space them out for all 3 meals. I eat a lot of nuts and try to limit my cheese and keep my dairy to almond milk and Greek yogurt. Works for me! Try it. Takes some dedication to give up things you are addicted to but you have to believe how you look and feel means more to you than the instant gratification you get from eating “what you want and like” – Trust me – the effort is worth it!

September 20, 2011 at 10:55 am
(13) vooloovoo says:

I truly feel what most of you are saying. I too must stay around 30-40 grams of carbs or less a day. Throughout my 10 year journey with low carbing, there are bumps in the road. Until recent, I was eatting religiously from the cookbooks atkins have put out there. There is success. I agree to meat and fat fasts to break plateaus. One thing people don’t know is that our bodies change every few years. I lost more weight after testing for food allergies. Inflammation of the body and especially the intestional tract is a common issue that most people aren’t aware of. Not only are people sensitive to carbs in the form of grains, but lactose, casein, and certain foods. Most doctors, whether they agree with low carbing or not, will test you for food allergies. If there are allergies, the body’s main source of nutrient and energy center is “clogged”. Your body is spending its resources and energy to work on this inflammation not on weight loss. I didn’t think I had anything wrong, a few upsets now and again, and wham, I can’t eat casein nor curds which are my favorite low carb foods. Once aware of this, I dropped another 15 pounds of weight. Next to mention is hormones. Yup, those crazy things. Women, in an estrogen dominant world, your daily actions are causing more harm than good. Docs can check your hormone levels with either saliva or blood tests. Reseach shows the perfumes, lotions, medication, and other foreign things we put on or in our bodies affects our entire endocrine system. But the point I am trying to make with hormones is that if they are off balance, wham, stalls, weight gain or very little loss. To correct, supplements, change in menues by increasing protein intake, and exercise assisted me further to lose 10 more pounds.

September 20, 2011 at 10:55 am
(14) vooloovoo says:

Men, low testosterone levels actually make you gain weight. There are additional supplements to assist in natural support to increase testosterone. As men age testosterone drops off. Exercise and balanced menues are obviously beneficial, but supplements such as zinc and magnesium help the body naturally keep testosterone going. I personally have been using herbal remedies as well, but some people don’t use or support the idea, so if interested please see a natural neuropathic doc. Many Chiropractors are into herbals as well. Last but not least, never give up. Maybe trying sooooo hard causes you be be so stressed out increasing cortisol levels, and bam can’t loose the weight. Just relax for a week with the obsessive counts, mix up your menus, exercise, liquid consumption. Then get back on track. Hope my advice is worth the 2 cents. Never give up.

September 20, 2011 at 7:03 pm
(15) floridasunshine says:

I am a dietician who over the years have learned that every individual is different. What may work for one, will not work for another. It is not all about calories. It is about the goodness we eat or lack there of. The body takes longer to cleanse itself of the harmful ingredients we have consumed. We are what we eat. What we eat effects all our systems, hormonal, digestive and others. As one system is effected, it weakens another. Read labels and know where your food is coming from. Grow whatever you can and do not use pesticides. Take responsibility for your well-being.

September 20, 2011 at 11:25 pm
(16) beau10 says:

What saved me was my homemade yogurt-frozen-fruit-w/stevia soft-serve “ice cream” that replaced the “real” fat-packing-onto-your-butt ice cream. I was an addict but am in happy recovery.

September 21, 2011 at 8:59 am
(17) Cindy says:

I am a type 2 Diabetic and have had an underactive thyroid for years. I have been on every diet there is. I stick to them and I exercise. I cannot lose weight no matter what I do. I lost a few pounds when I first went on a low carb. diet, but my body seems to get used to things really quickly and then just stop losing weight. I even tried the Glucerna Shakes for two meals a day. I take care of myself and do everything I am supposed to do , but to no avail. Sometimes you just have to accept things the way they are and know that you are doing all you can to stay healty but I really wish I could get off all of this excess weight or even most of it.

September 21, 2011 at 6:54 pm
(18) Debbie C. says:

I’m one of the gang – long time low carber who has lost 120 pounds, but still has a good 80 pounds to go to reach what I call my “goal” weight. I stall out for months and months and months at a time, even up to a year, but then I seem to drop a few pounds here and there. The secret seems to be to “shake it up” and change what I’m doing. I was stalled for a long time on a classic LC eating plan, and then switched to the Kwasniewski Optimal Diet plan, adding potatoes to my meals, and then promptly lost 10 more pounds. But then I stalled again and was stalled for months on end with no loss, and then switched to an all-meat zero carb diet, and promptly lost 10-12 pounds again. But then again the weight loss stalled. After a couple months I got sick of all meat and went back to Kwasniewski, but was still stalled. Went back to a classic low carb plan, and was still stalled. The last few months I’ve added more carbs into my diet and begun eating fruit with every meal – and once again I’ve lost 12-14 pounds over the summer, down to my lowest weight in years. But now I seem stalled again, and have to figure out what I want to try next. :-)

October 3, 2011 at 1:49 pm
(19) Me says:

I’m with Michael Scott. I’m sure I’ll never be able to go over 20 grams of carbs a day and maintain my new low weight. And that’s okay with me. There’s very little that tastes “so good” that I would risk my health just to eat it. I get more calories per day now with fewer carbs than I ever could lose on back in the days of low fat, and wake up lighter the next day.

August 13, 2012 at 7:55 pm
(20) Hank says:

I was taught in pharmacy school to be thin takes 3 factors:
1) exercise
2) watch what you eat ( ie. Paleo diet)
3) choose your parents VERY carefully



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