Fat Is Officially Incurable Response

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By Rob Archangel, 180DegreeHealth.com staff writer

Hey crew, Rob here with my first post at 180 Degree Health. A couple times in the last few days, I’ve had the chance to articulate my thoughts around obesity. One of them was the highly trafficked Cracked.com article Fat is Officially Incurable (According To Science). Vigorous debate rages there and on the 180D Facebook page, and I’ve participated some. I thought I might try to consolidate some thoughts here, in question and answer format.

What is obesity and is it dangerous?
Technically, it’s having a BMI (body mass index) over 30. It’s not necessarily bad for you. In some cases, it’s protective as we age. On an individual level, health and obesity are not the same. You can be fat and fit, or lean and a mess. And anyway, BMI is a crude tool- you can be lean and weigh a lot, like a bodybuilder, or have the same BMI as a pot-bellied couch potato.

Aren’t most people with high BMIs not healthy, though?

Maybe, but lots of people of any BMI aren’t healthy. Having a good relationship with how we move, what we eat, and how we live our lives is probably most important, and how much weight someone is carrying around is no clear indicator of those relationships.

What about all the links between obesity and degenerative disease?

That’s mostly due to reasons you wouldn’t expect. Paul Campos in The Obesity Myth makes the following point:

p. x
“… long-term human studies show that almost all of the excess risk associated with obesity can be accounted for by the higher incidence of weight cycling in obese people, and that obese people with stable weights have very little excess risk.”

In other words, dieting, drugs and exercise, when they result in temporary weight loss and re-gain (the pattern found in most obese people) is the real driver of obesity-related illness. Which is to say, telling fat people to lose weight makes them less healthy. Wild.

Wait a minute- its not losing weight that’s unhealthy. It’s just when fatties put it back on, right? If they just had some discipline, they could lose weight and keep it off.

Not so fast there, hotshot. The body doesn’t work that way. We have a pretty tight weight range that our bodies naturally stay within without us having to count calories in or out. It’s hard to reach outside of that in either direction for too long. The body counter-balances our efforts and works real hard to bring us back. Check out this BBC Documentary, ‘Why Are Thin People Not Fat.’ As hard as it was for them to keep that weight on above their natural weight, it is equally hard for fat people to stay below their natural weight. So ‘go hungry and exercise hard forever’ is not a real solution.

What about people who have lost X number of pounds and kept it off for Y months/years?

One- give it time. Check back in in five or ten years and see where they’re at. Two- the Cracked article doesn’t say the absolute number is zero, but that it’s small enough statistically that it’s inconsequential. And that’s true- there is no safe and effective method for long-term weight loss that works reliably. Mostly, it fails, and leaves people worse for the wear. Three- even if it works, the weight loss might be unhealthy. FDA researcher Bruce Schneider says the common trait among long-term losers is their monomaniacal and dis-ordered relationship with food and exercise. Eating disorders are much more dangerous than a few extra pounds. And even when it’s not a full on eating disorder, having rigid exercise and eating plans is an unhealthy social liability, rarely outweighed by the marginal benefits.

So what causes obesity? Even if it’s not as unhealthy as we assume, something’s up, right?

Probably. Extra fat could be a protective mechanism for toxins in our environment. It could be related to an imbalance in our gut bacteria. Given that obese people have similar hibernation-like body chemistry as starving people, it could be that obesity is the body’s way of dealing with not getting what it needs of all sorts of things (nutrients, sleep, meaningful social connections, engaging work, whatever). The main thing to remember is it’s more a symptom of a deeper issue than the issue itself.

Should we motivate people to lose weight?

Maybe. The question is, to what end? Overweight doesn’t equal unhealthy. We might do well to help people become healthier, to step into their bodies and move around in enjoyable ways, to be more intentional about their food and really enjoy it without guilt or fear, to address stress in their lives and to find an individual sense of purpose. Getting your life in order might result in weight loss, and if so, that’s awesome. But it might not, and that’s fine too. You can be plenty healthy carrying around a few extra pounds. It’s definitely not a good idea to focus just on weight loss, because that usually results in rebound weight gain and a net health loss.

Are there any healthy ways to lose weight? Is it really hopeless?

I don’t think it’s hopeless. There are some promising approaches to weight loss, or more specifically fat loss; we don’t want to lose muscle or bone or organ mass. The key is that these approaches tend to create fat loss almost unintentionally due to increased health and metabolic functioning, rather than due to intentional creation of calorie deficits. The latter tends to produce the weight cycling that’s no good for us. In contrast to long-duration cardio, weight training, along with sprints and other high intensity activity seem to increase our metabolism and could play a role. Intermittent fasting seems to have beneficial hormonal effects in some cases and could be valuable. 180 Degree Health encourages ‘eating the food,’ and resting for a while to create a calorie and nutrient superabundance, and a decrease in the stress hormones that help us hold on to those extra pounds. When we create a lower-stress relationship with food and our bodies, and especially when we start doing things that make us more fulfilled in general, we get healthier . And what we’re looking for when we talk about weight loss is really better health.

What do y’all think? Tell me what I got wrong.


  1. Rob,

    I think your last paragraph hit the nail on the head: focus on health, metabolic function, hormonal responses, etc. when looking at food and exercise. The scientific literature is actually becoming much more aware of the effects of grains on health and disease.

    Eat real food as close to the source as possible.

    Eat no grains and no sugar.

    Short, High Intensity workouts a couple times a week.

    • I think we’re reading that last paragraph very differently. In the way of thinking that Rob is writing about, there is no room for worrying about grains or sugar, or whatever the new food enemy of the year is. Nor is there much reason for trying to consciously tweak one’s metabolism and hormonal functioning. Just eat what you want to eat, move how you want to move, and don’t sweat it.

      I’ve lost 90 pounds through a combination of traditional methods and the Primal Blueprint. For a while, I was doing everything “correctly,” the same as anyone else who got to post their “after” picture sporting a nice six-pack of abs, and doing it longer, too. But my body composition has barely budged in the past 3 years.

      Now, without getting too personal, my first bout of weight loss amounted to somewhere between 50-60 pounds and it happened very quickly and without much effort. However, it coincided with the death of my father who was a huge emotional burden and source of stress in my life. Hmm. My mother and brother are still alive, and I have huge emotional issues with both of them, as well, that remain unresolved. Meanwhile the last 30 pounds I lost was a huge struggle and I’m stuck now. Something tells me that were these issues resolved, my excess flab would vanish.

      • That’s so funny – now that you mention it, I can see how you can read it that way.

        I also have lost about 80 pounds, starting with conventional wisdom (tons of cardio and limiting calories). I lost weight but it was miserable. In the intervening 4 years, I’ve dedicated myself to the medical literature, and while there are plenty of ways to lose weight, and a million variables, there are definitely better things.

        I say avoid grains for the same reason that people avoid cocaine. The pleasure that comes from them can’t possibly outweight the benefits for a thinking person. The science is very clear on this.

        Evan, congrats on the weight loss, sorry about the unresolved issues, and I wish you nothing but the best moving forward. I think you’re probably right about the remaining issue keeping the fat around. Stress, lifestyle, sleep, food, exercise, environmental conditions, etc. all play a part for sure.

        • Graham- Evan’s reading it right.

          I’m not convinced that grains are equivalent to cocaine. Avoid them if you want, but I don’t agree that all thinking people make the same assessment as you.

          I think it’s awesome to work smarter, not harder when it comes to exercise, and to use the right sort of stimulus with the minimum effective dose to effect change. High intensity stuff seems to have more beneficial downstream effects than ‘chronic cardio.’ But a lot of that even has to do with how you think and feel about it, and then, how much you pay attention to your biofeedback. I’m guessing that someone who loves bike riding and does it everyday and eats plenty of calories and doesn’t restrict themselves will be better off than someone who hates it, but rides their exercise bike everyday and then chastises themselves for their hunger.

          • Show me how you can come to a different conclusion about grains – I’d actually like to see it because I LOVE bread. It took me years to finally let myself believe that grains were as bad as the science was telling me they were.

            Believe me, I am not going to be dogmatic about this, if you have something that I haven’t seen yet. It was my dogmatism that kept me fat for so long.

          • I appreciate the open-mindedness, amigo. Which science are you referring to specifically? I know anti-nutrients are a big bogeyman, but there’s some evidence that they may have mixed and not just negative effects, and in any event, many non-grain foods, like nuts, have stuff like phytic acid too. Lots of grains also have resistant starch, which seems to have some pro-metabolic effects. And, grains aren’t all the same, even different varieties of the same grain have different properties. Basmati rice, if I’m remembering correctly, has more resistant starch than other varieties, for example. I’d imagine there are varying levels of antinutrients in different grains as well.

            The biggest evidence for me, though, was that I saw no noticeable difference in my health when I removed grains in favor of rooty carbs like taters and beets and yams and such. I also don’t have an addictive relationships with bread like I used to, and can take it or leave it. Don’t get me wrong, some fresh baked bread is awesome, and writing about it now, maybe I’ll find some tomorrow. But I used t think that one bite meant another bite meant a whole loaf. For whatever reasons, that’s not the case anymore.

      • Evan, I read Rob’s last paragraph the same way you did. Your comment helped me clarify some things for myself. Thank you.

  2. It is my understanding that something like 80-85% of obese people are diabetic. While SOME obese people may be healthy, I think it irresponsible to imply that people need not worry about getting fat. And since both diabetes and hypertension get better with fat loss, I think it is equally irresponsible to suggest that fat loss shouldn’t be attempted. Or are you saying these co-morbidities are healthy?

    IF you are one of the lucky small minority who is indeed healthy at a high BMI, then sure, ignore the fat. But I wouldn’t assume you are one of them without checking a lot of biomarkers.

    • ProudDaddy- no doubt lots of obese people are unhealthy. Problem is, we don’t really have a reliable way to make them un-obese on a long-term basis. And while biomarkers do improve in the short-term, they typically rebound back worse than before when the weight returns. See here: http://180degreehealth.com/2010/04/leningrad-hypertension-epidemic

      During a famine in Leningrad, people seemed to get really healthy while starving. But once they stopped starving, their rates of hypertension, among other negative indicators shot up. Do you conclude that starvation is a great way to improve health? No way, because you can’t sustain it and are miserable while it’s happening.

      So it’s not really a solution to force weight loss if it ends up leaving folks worse for the wear.

      What you can do is improve some of your functioning, like improving your glucose clearance ( http://180degreehealth.com/2012/06/glucose-clearance ). And that’s what I mean by focus on getting healthier, rather than getting thinner.

    • Here is the problem I have with that: I am obese. I have chronically low blood pressure. So. . .??? Lose weight and not be able to walk at all? Just total black outs???

      • Alisha- I don’t think losing weight means you always lower your blood pressure. It may normalize, particularly if you’re enhancing your metabolism and getting healthier.

        Someone who knows more than me could answer better, probably.

      • If anything increasing your metabolic rate should increase your heart rate and blood pressure if it’s too low.

        • Good point- I know Pappa Peat says that optimal heart rate is around 85bpm or so, and blood pressure too low is another indicator of a low metabolism.

    • I am so sick of people claiming that weight loss is the cure for obesity related diseases. It’s just plain-freakin’ not! Weight-loss has a 95% failure rate. How could it possibly be a cure for anything? What does improve metabolic markers and diabetes is exercise and other healthy behaviors–especially diet and stress management.

      And, I’m sorry, but your claim that 80-85% of obese people are diabetic is completely unfounded. IF these people do not take control of their nutrition, engage in daily physical activity (it doesn’t even have to be enough activity to spur weight loss), and manage their stress, then they are at an increased RISK for diabetes. Correlation does not mean causation. Just because a person is fat, doesn’t mean that diabetes is the end result. The context of that person’s life is the defining factor.

      Take me for example: I’m fat (180 # at 5’2”), but I’ve been the same weight since I was 18–sixteen years now. I have never dieted. I absolutely refuse to. I don’t even own a scale. I watched my mother and her sister weight cycle my entire life (to real extremes), and it destroyed their health. My mother destroyed her thyroid and her metabolism with her constant dieting.

      Now, I’m fat, but I am healthy. I have blood work done every year as part of my physical, and my numbers are always normal or below normal (hell, my blood pressure is 90/75!). So what’s my secret? I walk 6+ miles 4x a week; I eat a pretty healthy diet devoid of all processed junk and fast food; I love my veggies; I’ve got a pretty laid back, easy-going personality (that means a lot in terms of stress); and I work in a pretty low-stress career that allows me to be physically active while on the job.

      Do I need to be worried about being fat? I really don’t think so. I’ll continue my healthy behaviors; enjoy my food (serious, serious foodie here); and not worry a damn about it.

      In my experience, it’s everyone else around me that seems to have a problem with my weight, even though it has nothing to do with them. Those people really need to sod off.

      • Roxanne, I am really wishing for a “love” button to click for your comment!

        I’m fat and have weight cycled (usually big swings) my whole life. I’ve also had all sorts of crappy health issues, and if there is one thing I have learned about those issues, it is to NEVER take them to a doctor when I am fat. I have yet to meet a doctor who can see past the weight. I swear that if I had a fork sticking out of my eye, and went to have it treated while weighing what I do right now, the doctor would tell me to lose weight and the problem would correct itself. Ugh.

        Good for you with your awesome attitude about the whole frackin’ thing!! Do you give lessons? ha ha ha

        • I think what really cinched it for me was watching what fear of food and an obsession with dieting and being thin did to my mother. It was horrible. I watched her go from extremely obese to painfully thin over nearly a 30 year period. She also put her complete trust in bogus diet doctors, and it completely shattered her confidence and sent her into spiraling depressions when she “failed” at the diets they threw at her. She developed hypothyroidism her late 30’s, but never stopped trying to get thin, with no real success. Three years ago her thyroid developed into a massive goiter that went undetected for nearly a year. It wasn’t until I told her she HAD to see an endocrinologist–and I made the appointment for her–that the goiter was discovered. She still hasn’t given up the pipe dream of being thin, but now she’s at least eating normally and isn’t so afraid of eating real food.

          My mother’s obsessions began with her parents. She was a slightly overweight child and teenager, nothing extreme (ALL the woman in our family are this way. It’s just the genetic norm for us), but her parents, especially her mother, constantly ridiculed her for being fat and constantly put her on diets. She was never able to shake that off. She would have greatly benefited from eating disorder counseling, but she has truly believed her whole life that her behavior and her pursuit of thinness is normal and expected! EXPECTED! How crazy is that?

          Bless my mother, though. She NEVER, never ever subjected me to that behavior. She has never once called me fat, ridiculed me, or forced diets on me. She just left me to naturally figure out how to eat. Thanks to her recognition of the damage her own rearing caused her, she refused to repeat the cycle with her own daughters.

          Mitzi, if you really want to break out of your own weight cycling and obsessions, you really need to go through some counseling. I think it’s extremely difficult to do it on your own.

          For more info you can visit Lori F. Lieberman’s (RD, MPH, CDE, LDN) blog: Drop It and Eat: Drop the Diet, Manage Your Weight! at http://dropitandeat.blogspot.com/
          She’s an eating disorder specialist and is kind, caring, and very real and down to earth when it comes to food, eating, and weight. Her latest blog post is worth the read: “Carbs Still Don’t Make You Fat. But Taubes’ Words May Make You Crazy.” :-D

          • Roxanne, ironically your mother’s dieting may very well have caused your propensity to obesity. Maybe the chain will be broken with you if you didn’t do that. There’s a lot of research suggesting that kids of mothers who don’t eat enough during pregnancy are prone to obesity (and who knows how diets before pregnancy affect it, too – I’m sure that also has epigenetic effects).

          • Thanks for the link, Roxanne! I’ll take a look. I feel quite schizo about the whole subject. I don’t want to be a diet spaz, but I get so tired of being fat. It has taken me more than 10 years to gain back the 100 pounds I lost back in the late 90’s, but it is finally all back. So are all the symptoms I originally went on that crazy diet to fix. Goiter? Oh, yeah. Mine’s at an all time huge. Always looking for the next diet to heal all my ills, but they seem to make me more and more hyperaware of the dangers of eating. It’s really quite exhausting. Hey! I just had a thought! Maybe I’m not really fat, it’s just all this excess health and diet information I’m carrying around!! lol

      • You make me want to stop trying to lose weight. It’s taken me almost ten weeks to lose 6 lbs. Maybe I should just be happy with who I am and stop worrying!

        • And I can’t say I’m not frustrated because I’m almost where I’m at when I began reading 180 health (March of this year I think). I tried to take the info to heart and just “eat the food”, but in about 3 short weeks I gained 7 lbs! I got very frustrated and joined weight watchers…really weight watchers? But I didn’t know what else to do and it worked in the past. Well, 10 weeks later and I’m hanging onto one of those pounds! I want to quit, but I also want to not be fat. I’m 5’2″ and 162 lbs. Too much in my book, but maybe I should stop caring.

  3. “When we create a lower-stress relationship with food and our bodies, and especially when we start doing things that make us more fulfilled in general, we get healthier .”

    Amen, brother! Yeah, we all need to stop letting the diet-health- industrial-your not good enough- complex harsh our chill.

  4. Rob, I have a of question, before I come back with it, I want to back it up. I want to make sure that I get your okay, that any documentary I use is a valid source.

    • Andie- feel free post whatever you like. Aside from outright spam, there’s no comment moderation here.

  5. I think you’re right with a lot of things Rob.

    However,in my own experience I can’t simply eat whatever I want and makes me ‘feel good’. It makes me ‘feel good/positive even blissful and loving life for a couple of hours/rest of the day’ However the next day(s) I have to pay the prize for it.

    I know CHIEF said in another post that there’s no such thing as addictive food,I really want to believe that&shut my eyes&pretend he is right but I’ve already experienced it personally that this certainly isn’t the case for me.:(

    • There absolutely is addictive food. The neurobiological interaction of sugar is almost identical to cocaine, nicotine, and other addictive substances.

      That is not to give the addict a free pass, but denying it sure doesn’t help!

      • Graham- check out Matt’s recent post about 1811 Eastlake Homeless Facility in Seattle: http://180degreehealth.com/2012/07/1811-eastlake-revolutionary-addiction-treatment

        There’s some provocative stuff there about the effect of the broader life context around addictive substances that might be making them addictive. He talks about his experiences with sugar and I wrote in comments:
        Sounds like Bruce Alexander’s work with addiction in Rat Park. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park They put rats in a comfortable setting with space for privacy, socializing and play, and gave them adequate nourishing food, and then a choice between plain water and morphine water. They found: “Nothing that we tried,” Alexander wrote, “… produced anything that looked like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment.” They even forcibly addicted some rats to morphine, and then observed them go through withdrawal and choose the plain water over morphine water in Rat Park.

        Makes lots of sense to me. It would help explain why some people can consume addictive substances like nicotine or alcohol without getting hooked. There’s always a bigger context, and maybe that’s where we can advance insight.

        • The Rat Park study is very interesting. But I wonder if it makes sense in human physiological terms.

          I started smoking at age 14, When I lived abroad for a few months at age 18 I developed headaches from smoking and when I came home and saw that cigarette prices had suddenly doubled, I simply stopped. I didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms whatsoever. I also drank heavily for a while, and didn’t have any trouble stopping that either. It started messing with my stomach, so I quit. I certainly don’t come from an untroubled childhood home, so it’s not that I feel emotionally safe or whatever. I think it has more to do with my extreme body awareness (which has its definite downsides).

          I do engage in addictive like behavior however, subtle things that produce whatever hormonal response that somehow my body has come to prefer, or feel at home with. Perhaps substances produce too strong of an effect for me to handle, so I rather avoid them. I can’t do caffeine, alcohol, drugs.

    • Hey Dutchie- I hear you. There’s not a one size fits all solution. There are always aomalies, no matter how thorough or complete an approach aims to be. Sorry you’re still in these bad patterns with foods.

      Maybe for some people it really makes sense to just avoid triggers to rebuild strength and capacity. I guess the aim, though, is to get to that robust place where we can eat whatever we want, even stare down that butter pecan ice cream (or whatever) that used to overwhelm our restraint and not think twice about it because we don’t want it. Chief has some ideas about how to do that, and some people are exploring them and others. There’s no final answer, and probably never will be. But we can get closer and keep figuring out ways to help along the way.

  6. I’ve been checking our “the gabriel method” lately since I saw an old youtube video that matt stone posted about him. His thing is treating the causes of obeasity, trying to figure out & address why your body wants to store fat instead of burn it. So I definatly agree with this article

  7. Out*

  8. Nice work Rob! Don’t miss me too much peeps! I’ll be back in action on Monday the 16th. Don’t harass poor Rob too much between now and then!

  9. Proud Daddy – Maybe 8%, but not 80-85%. And a “high BMI” appears to be protective against hypertension and diabetes until you start to reach Stage 2 obesity and above – a BMI over 35. Still, you can correct both hypertension and diabetes without losing any weight. And like Rob says, losing weight with known methods is just hypothetical anyway, as most who lose weight through conventional methods just end up getting fatter. Pursuing intentional weight loss is a very strong risk factor for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and shortened lifespan in general.

  10. Rob, this is b.s.
    Fat people does lose weight and keep it that way.
    I personally know 2 men who has done it.
    Weight and appetite are inconstant values.
    It is one thing to write on contra-versional subjects
    and quite an other to base it’s articles on a site which has
    “you might be zombie” and other serious stuff on its data base.
    Pleeaaasee, it is not saying no to conventionalism that will make
    your words magically truth.

    • elina,

      Tell me why it’s BS, aside from your anecdotal account of some people you know who have lost weight. I even answered that above:
      What about people who have lost X number of pounds and kept it off for Y months/years?

      One- give it time. Check back in in five or ten years and see where they’re at. Two- the Cracked article doesn’t say the absolute number is zero, but that it’s small enough statistically that it’s inconsequentual. And that’s true- there is no safe and effective method for long-term weight loss that works reliably. Mostly, it fails, and leaves people worse for the wear. Three- even if it works, the weight loss might be unhealthy. FDA researcher Bruce Schneider says the common trait among long-term losers is their monomaniacal and dis-ordered relationship with food and exercise. Eating disorders are much more dangerous than a few extra pounds. And even when it’s not a full on eating disorder, having rigid exercise and eating plans is an unhealthy social liability, rarely outweighed by the marginal benefits.

      And Cracked may be a humor site, but their point still stands here.

      • I personally know someone it worked for. She gained 30+ pounds 40 years ago from eating crap, developing bad habits as a student. Then she lost the weight by eating real food, mindfully, and taking daily walks. She’s kept it off ever since. She did NOT crash diet or starve herself. She ate three meals a day of real food (no crap) and limited her desserts to a few times a week, and avoided eating on the run. She still looks fantastic now in her 60s. She proved pretty well (n=1) that you can easily put on food by eating crap whenever you want. You can lose it healthfully by improving your relationship with food and exercising moderately.

        • Dear The Real Amy:

          Obviously your friend’s body composition was made to be naturally thin. When she went back to normal eating, her body went back to its natural state.

          Some of us are just naturally fat. That’s the way the REAL world works for humans. I eat pretty normally, exercise moderately, lead a pretty healthy lifestyle, and I’m still fat. Puritanism is still pretty entrenched in our culture when we still think being fat equals failure. How sad and small minded is that?

          • I actually don’t believe any humans are made to be fat. There aren’t many fat animals in nature, and the ones that are (rabbits, for example) are fat across the board. Humans traditionally have not been “naturally” fat animals. BUT, I think there are now epigenetic factors and environmental triggers, not to mention dietary factors, that cause people to be fat by default. The question is, how do you counteract that? I’m sure there is a way, but it may be that’s it’s not possible for you, but maybe your kids or grandkids could be “naturally” thin again. Also, I think the “Gabriel Method” was pretty amazing, showing how to tap into your body’s signals to become naturally thin.

          • Also, it’s worth pointing out that I’ve already, in my own life, seen factors that affect people’s weight outside of the amount they eat. For example, my friend who lost so much weight after going off birth control pills and antidepressants (and did absolutely nothing else); friends who have put on weight after they started dieting; friends who have put on weight from being stressed and not sleeping enough; diet soda is supposed to induce weight gain. I lost weight years ago after getting out of a miserable relationship (literally it must have been at least 5 pounds in just one week).

            I think there are probably a lot of things that can be done to induce weight loss in “naturally fat” people, such as: lowering stress levels, sleeping more, avoiding diet foods, eating mindfully, getting into a job they’re passionate about, doing yoga, getting into a more stable and happy relationship; turning off the TV. Even just believing, deep down, that they are actually meant to be thin! These things may not work for you personally, but I bet a lot of people would be helped by them.

  11. Call me old-fashioned or arriere-garde, but I don’t want to be fat, because I actually like to get laid occasionally. I have always been athletic, but I did put on about 15 extra pounds while doing the “Weird Ray” diet this past year. I agree with you on the metabolic stuff. Therefore, I have been taking care to get rid of the extra pounds slowly….but I will toss them off.

    • Hey Thomas- I hear that. I think in our heart of hearts, the anti-fat crowd is really saying that they want people to be healthy, which is to say to be metabolically robust, to be effortlessly lean, to live lives of meaning and purpose and demonstrate vigor and vitality and a capacity to handle life’s demands, both physical and otherwise. I think at some point along in our past, lean might well have meant that. You might have been able to gauge with decent accuracy someone’s health by their appearance, and so I don’t fully hate on that perspective.

      It’s just that too often that leads to misguided efforts that dig us into ill health even more, and cause crazy collateral damage on people’s psyches who for whatever reason don’t meet that ideal, and who would be better served by a different approach. I think avoiding that is a bigger priority for me.

      Still, I hear you. I also want to look good naked, and continue searching for ways to lean out as byproduct, rather than primary indicator of health.

    • Well, I’m fat and married, and my husband seems to be okay with that. I was fat when I met him, and fat when we married. He knew what he was getting into. :)
      One thing he has always told me is not to loose weight for his sake, because he has always been attracted to me, and we get on pretty well in the bedroom. So, there ya go!

      • Confidence is sexy, yo.

  12. I am one of those people who lost x pounds and kept it off y years but I think it requires more explanation. I was a normal weight, not superskinny but not overweight by BMI for my first 33 years. Then I was put under great stress by an ugly divorce, put on antidepressants for stress, and birth control pills for female issues. I began eating a couple dozen cookies in the evenings because I had 3 kids and it was less destructive to them than drinking heavily. I gained 65 pounds. I stayed at that weight until I was 42 and pregnant with my last child. I gained no weight with the pregnancy and within a few months of birth had lost a bit over 50 pounds. That was 5 years ago. So I credit, going back to normal eating, tons less stress, and the pregnancy(which itself causes huge metabolic changes) for my weight loss, not some particular diet. I am still 15 pounds over the “normal weight” BMI but have gone as low as 600 calories/day plus 90 minutes exercise and only lost 5 pounds. The dr told me I was one of those people who would have withstood famine and would likely end up malnourished before I hit a “healthy” BMI.
    My big question is, if the BBC and so much medical research show that overweight is not necessarily adverse to health, very skinny is worse than slightly overweight and that it is near impossible to lose significant weight, why do US drs and insurance companies still judge health nearly exclusively by weight, claim you can’t be too skinny and say the answer is always eating less and exercising more? Are they that much more ignorant than the British?

    • Moozlady- thanks for sharing your story.

      Here’s a couple more quotes from Paul Campos in’ ‘The Obesity Myth’ on part of why that happened.

      p. ix
      “The wave of hysteria surrounding obesity can be traced back to many watershed events. In 1986, an NIH consensus panel on obesity ignored nearly all of the data presented to it and declared obesity a serious health threat. It did so despite presentations showing that people who gained weight as they aged reduced their risk of premature death, and that obesity was not related to hardening of the arteries.”
      p. xviii
      “In America today the medical and public health establishment has managed to transform what has traditionally been considered a vice – physical vanity – into that most sacred of secular virtues: the pursuit of ‘health.’ In the context of the war on fat it has done so by systematically distorting the available evidence regarding the relationship between weight and health, by severely exaggerating the risks associated with that evidence, and by pretending that an extremely complex subject is actually quite simple.

      These are harsh charges, but if anything, they understate the scandal that is the war on fat. Never before in American history has so much junk science been exploited to whip up hysteria about a supposed public health ‘epidemic.’ The health establishment’s constant barrage of scientifically baseless propaganda regarding the relationship between weight and health constitutes nothing less than egregious abuse of the public trust. This propaganda has played a key role in creating a culture that makes tens of millions of people miserable about their bodies: Worse yet, it has done so for crass economic motives. The war on fat, which is supposedly about making all of us healthy, is really about making some of us rich.”
      I think a broader, more philosophical reason is: we tend as people to overvalue stories that make us feel more comfortable or tell us what we want to hear. Confirmation bias is strong, and we have to work really hard to counter-balance it. So the idea that fat must be bad for us overwhelms good data showing it’s not that simple.

      One of the reasons I like Matt and 180, and dudes like Ran Prieur is the search for anomalies, for evidence that is contrarian, to keep the quest alive. Lots of folks are looking for answers, and I am too in lots of arenas. But there’s always more to dig, and 180D is about that digging and perpetual exposure to new ideas and angles. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s fun.

      • Okay… wanted to reply to this even though the new post is already up. I better get a response. Maybe you’ll see this Rob… or maybe Matt. Wait… just checked, Matt, I have your phone number but not you Rob… just your email so I can’t harass you as well. Seems you’re a little smarter.

        Pardon my essay…

        I think the question goes deeper than confirmation bias. There is some sort of double play going on. There is a meme or a pattern that the society as a whole easily falls into that also benefits large consolidated interests. You don’t necessarily have to look for a conspiracy. You just have to understand things like group incentives and conflicts of interest. So why is fat (or being fat) treated the way it is in our culture?

        First understand that we still have something of our Puritanical roots. We are not as open and accepting as the original native tribes that lived here. We don’t really live the way they used to live at all. White man is a disease and the name of the disease is Civilization. Anyway… I digress. Something about Christianity and probably all Abrahamic religions is the concept of guilt. We have this belief in our country that morality can only be determined externally. The opposite is actually true, but as long as we believe that, it will allow for virtues to switch to vices and vica versa. It all depends on the current perception.

        Our culture is heavy on guilt. Most people don’t understand the difference between guilt and remorse. Feeling remorse is okay. Feeling guilt is not. Guilt is simply a means for external forces to control your behavior (and thus society) without having to exert any physical presence. Guilt is common in societies like ours with large hierarchical social structures and religious institutions, but not in primitive cultures. Anyway… I digress.

        Guilt plays in with pride because all the naturally thin people now get to feel very proud of the natural thinness. At the same time they are secretly thinking, “God, I hope I never become fat. I’m so glad I’m still thin.”. Fat people on the other hand have almost no escape. They fall victim to the belief system too because what else is there to latch on to? Perhaps you’ve been fortunate to latch onto Matt and 180 degree health. But even then you won’t learn how to be thin and believe me, in our culture, it IS a big deal. The only thing to do then, if you’re maybe skinny enough already and especially if you’re a girl, is to be anorexic. You DO get more boy attention. Plus you get sympathy from our culture instead of judgment. Oh.. you’re anorexic? So sad… let us help you. Oh, you’re fat? Gross… please go away.

        I’ve been wondering if there really is a preference for certain body shape or if it’s just cultural. I think there is, but it’s not the super-skinny our culture adores. Just like any other measure of attractiveness, it’s not that easy to fix directly, which I think is part of the point from an evolutionary standpoint. I think fat serves a purpose… (protection maybe?) but it’s also an indicator of some sort. Ability to manage or secure resources or manage stress is not good here. Or there has been famine in past generations. Who knows exactly. I think we’re still trying to figure that one out. Anyway, I digress.

        • Hey brother, I’m still reading.

          Guilt is a big deal, and it is a hugely useful tool for control. You get to give voice to your critics/rulers without them having to even be there. They just get to hang out and occupy valuable mental real estate.

          Good point as well about anorexics versus fat people, encouragement versus disdain. It blew my mind when a woman I knew said once that she wished she could be anorexic, she just wasn’t strong enough for it or something. It’s something to aspire to, even if we end up over-stepping a little. Cheer up, Charlie- good effort. A little long, but you had the right idea.

          I hear that both men and women have distorted visions of what’s attractive. Women aim to be skinnier, and dudes more muscular than the average mate wants. The crazy runs deep.

    • I know someone who recently went off birth control pills and antidepressents. She lost 20 pounds effortlessly and quickly. They do a number on you. She’s a whole lot saner now, too!

  13. Hey Rob,
    You’ve been working with Chief and I remember you mentioning some body-comp changes but probably too early to tell. What are your thoughts on Chief’s methods so far?

    • Hey Aaron- yep, too early to tell. Maybe some changes, maybe not. Still working on some of that life architecture stuff as well, so it’s hard to say what to attribute changes to stalls to.

      It’s been a good experiment so far. I don’t want to comment much until I have a better sense. Maybe in another few months or so. I told myself it would be a long term project and want to assess it accordingly.

  14. Very interesting! Just finished watching the full documentary.
    Two questions come to mind:

    1) I’m 55 years old, when I was a child less than a handful of kids in my school were considered to be fat. At least one of their parents would have been considered overweight and on the “cottage cheese diet” from time to time to lose some weight. Why all the increase of flat out obesity these days seen in all ages?

    2) Does turning 50+ mean working harder or eating less just to maintain what you have weighed most of your adult life?

    Okay…3 questions:

    3) after being low carb, does eating more carbs raise your blood sugar response levels differently than if you had not ever been low carb?
    I’m trying to add carbs back in to my diet to warm back up, when I do my bg rises and of course weight begins to come back on.

    Thoughts appreciated.

  15. The video doesn’t exist anymore ._.

    • Fixed!


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