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13 Weeks: Why Obesity?

Government is never wrong.

by
Charlie Martin

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April 20, 2013 - 9:49 am
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Week 11 of my second 13 week season: low-carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own. And yes, I have been slack with the exercise this last couple weeks.  Gimme a break, I had a car wreck.

Last week, Glenn Reynolds linked an interesting article in The Atlantic with a fascinating animated map.

Using CDC data, the map shows reported incidence of obesity by state starting in 1985. The reporting didn’t get started uniformly, but as you watch the progress, there is an obvious increase until by 2010 every state is reporting “high” obesity rates.

This image has some obvious problems — among other things, the definition of “obesity” here is using body mass index (BMI), which has flaws we’ve talked about before — but it still makes the point that people in the U.S. have been gaining weight for quite a while now.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Among other things, we’ve gotten to the point that pretty much everyone can afford to get enough to eat.  As has been pointed out before, this was the first country in history in which the poor people are the fattest. But I noticed something else: if you watch it carefully, the increase in obesity, first in deeper blue  then a sort of funny beige color, and then on to red, starts in the early ’90s.  I went looking for historical summaries of the Department of Agriculture’s “food pyramid” and found several (see, eg, this.)

We seem not to do animated GIFs in the main pages. If it’s not changing, click on the image.

It’s an interesting coincidence that this increase in obesity started roughly at the same time that the U.S. government started to advocate low-fat, high-carb diets. I remember that period pretty clearly, because I thought it was wonderful. Entenmann’s came out with no-fat pastries — the no-fat cherry coffeecake was one of my favorites — I could eat as much rice as I wanted, pasta was good and more pasta was better, as long as you didn’t use butter because of the evil saturated fat and cholesterol.  But margarine, rich in transfats made by hydrogenating corn oil, was much better.

Oddly, this didn’t seem to do much about my weight.  I was a vegetarian for a number of those years, and while I lost weight during the relatively short interval in which I was vegan, I also had mood swings and health problems until I added back at least eggs and dairy.

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Top Rated Comments   
Part of the "grain craze" was indeed political. Back before it started a lot of the "one worlder" types were appalled because much of the grain that was used for animal feed should be used to feed the starving masses of the Third World. By eating meat, the argument went, Westerners were taking food (grain) out of the mouths of the starving masses around the world. If we all just ate diets like the Third World did, there would be more food to go around.

And, just coincidentally I suppose, studies started coming out shortly thereafter about the wonders of grain based diets. I'm sure there were no hidden agendas behind the research. No-- none at all.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is a documentary that is a response to "Supersize me". During it he also eats nothing but fast food for 30 days, mostly McDonald, limits his carb intake, and has pretty much identical results to what you have gotten.

It in, the guy not only rips the creators of that sad 'documentary', but he covers a bit of history surrounding the USDA food recommendations, the glycemic index, low carb diets, etc.

It's called Fathead, and anyone that has enjoyed followed Mr. Martin so far will definitely enjoy this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evcNPfZlrZs
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are two distinct problems from what I see.

The problem with the map is that we have no way of knowing what measurements they are using to determine the "rise of obesity".

The measure of obesity has been an ever moving goal post since the 80's. Did they use the measure from the 1980's all the way through? Did they change it every time the definition of obesity changed? I suspect it's the latter. I remember one official change they made, maybe in the late 90's or early 2000's, that increased the number of those considered "obese" by something like 30 percent! The reason I remember is, I was completely astounded that no one seemed to be bothered by making the wholesale change in definition. Of course this meant the "problem of obesity" could now be touted as an epidemic with more money being doled out to supposedly fix it.

It appears, from anecdotal evidence, that there are more over weight people in the world. But is the percentage of obese people greater? Or do we just have more people and therefore more obese people? (30% of 1million people is a far smaller number than 30% of 10 million people) It's impossible to say from the map, especially if the scale changed to determine who is obese during the process.

Then we come to the federal government pushing dietary guidelines. They have a vested interest in specific guidelines. Changing one item every once in a while, such as the sudden shift in regard to transfats, is doable. But a wholesale change of recommendations puts them at risk of being called out as irrelevant and therefore losing money, power, and prestige. They will fight tooth and nail to prevent such a thing.

Government involvement in the obesity problem has never been about the health of the people. It's about redefining an issue until you can call it an epidemic. At which point you can create a new department and give out lots of money. As long as the problem continues to worsen the department continues and the money keeps flowing. Unlike a bad business, consistent failure does not put it out of business, instead it becomes stronger.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (40)
All Comments   (40)
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Do not be in fear of public sunbathing. This inspire you to quicken the pace of turning your fat meat into muscle. Use olive oil on your new found muscles that glisten in the sun. The women will not be able to keep their eyes off you. beware of the man with envy in his heart and jealous turning to hate from your handsome and while you keep a balance of testosterone his testosterone will go through the roof causing him to have a bald head. Some women will swear he has grown horns
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I remember that the Clinton administration redefined what is and is not obese in the mid-1990s. There is more than a little speculation that it was a payoff to the weight loss industry, or to the trial lawyers, or some other crony capitalist patron of democrats. Links follow. Cheers -

http://www.obesitymyths.com/myth1.3.htm

http://www.springboard4health.com/notebook/health_obesity.html
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Charlie,
any weight loss in the past cpl of weeks?And,do you want the pills to reverse baldness ?(It's just adding one proscar to a 2 oz bottle of minoxidil ) II have samples)
I really want to start GL therapy when the next 13 weeks starts.It's relatively easy to crash weight ,but not to do it cheaply and safely.My brother's hs gf-a good doc is now heavily to use a pun into HCG,lipo and phentermine for her patients.The results for her patients' haved been minimal and-i think mainly driven by the appetite suppressants
I did ask an acquaintnce the bicochmicl basis for the HCG and was told,"There's a sucker born every minute'
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I actually don't trust the government because of Paleo. I read Taubes book about a year ago and decided to give Paleo a try. It worked Miracles taking me from 225 to 180 in about 9 months time. I then got to thinking about how Taubes presents so much actual science that the people in charge of the USDA couldn't possibly be unaware and that the deceit had to be done on purpose.

Grain Industry, processed food industry interest in making money. Environmental interest in limiting land/water used for agriculture as a proper diet would require millions and millions of more acreage. Government interest in keeping food prices low. Whatever it is, the truth has been obscured and that troubles me greatly.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let's not forget that socialist governments have always had problems feeding their people more than a basic (high-carb) diet, so if you want socialism you have to get people used to eating like poor peasants.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The food pyramid was a superhighway to super-sizing. Eating massive amounts of carbs is not difficult. 'Carbs are low-fat, so they must be healthy' was the mantra. Protein and fat is another matter altogether. Satiety kicks in limiting intake. It takes more energy to digest them as well. My cholesterol was actually a bit better when on the strict version of lo-carb eating. Alcohol and, well, alcohol are my personal diet-killers. Lo-carb mixology is wonderful though.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
One thing you might try if you're not already is working out first thing in the morning, before eating anything. Your body is primed to burn fat then, because there's less insulin around.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Part of the "grain craze" was indeed political. Back before it started a lot of the "one worlder" types were appalled because much of the grain that was used for animal feed should be used to feed the starving masses of the Third World. By eating meat, the argument went, Westerners were taking food (grain) out of the mouths of the starving masses around the world. If we all just ate diets like the Third World did, there would be more food to go around.

And, just coincidentally I suppose, studies started coming out shortly thereafter about the wonders of grain based diets. I'm sure there were no hidden agendas behind the research. No-- none at all.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Note that the food guidelines are published by the USDA, not the FDA or CDC.

I have a family member who worked at the USDA for 30+ years, and he always said their main mission was to ensure a stable US food supply for adequate nutrition, not necessarily optimal nutrition.

And nutritional density per dollar is a very important. He said the federal government pays for or subsidizes 300-400 million meals per DAY. So you’re not going to find steak and sushi at the top of the list.

That might be another reason why there’s been an increased emphasis on whole grains, which are actually cheaper than milled flour or white rice.

BTW, I’ve been medium carb/paleoish for 4 years. I lost 25 pounds, improved my blood pressure, lipid profiles, etc. I’ve found fructose to be a killer for me. I’m pretty much wheat free, with a biweekly indulgence of pizza. And I always pay for that with heartburn and, um, lower GI issues the following day. Best of luck to you!
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was dismissive of paleo for a long time, but I too must admit that every time I eat a sandwich, I get some burning. The more bread, the worse and longer lasting the burn.

I can gorge myself on meat, fruit and vegies and have no problem for the most part.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
And don't forget the invention of high fructose corn syrup in the 1970's, Charlie. That certainly hasn't helped.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Eh, sugar is more or less sugar. The big problem with HFCS is that it's cheap and easily added to most processed foods as an additive plus like all other sugars it tricks your brain into feeling less full so you tend to eat more. So, a steady diet of cheap, processed food is overweight waiting to happen.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, because sugar isn't sugar when it's sugar from corn, right?

Before jumping onto yet another quasi-science bandwagon, please post links to actual science showing how the body actually processes your "bad sugar" differently from "other sugar", because from a Chemistry perspective, fructose is fructose regardless of its source.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Jaycen, there's quite a lot of it in Taubes' original book, "Good Calories, Bad Calories". There's nothing magical about HFCS per se, but large amounts of fructose are an unusual thing in the diet. Note btw that this is true of diets high in sucrose too, regular sugar, because the first step digesting sucrose is to break it into a glucose and a fructose.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I would also suggest to you a book by Dr. William Davis, "Wheat Belly". It is very enlightening and educational on the subject of human diet and illness.

Someone once said of computers, "Garbage in = Garbage out". I am of the opinion that humans operate on the same principle.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Absolutely. I haven't linked it in a while but it was one of the things that started me on the first 13 week season. Cutting out wheat pretty much ended a lifelong problem with GERD, IBS, and "nervous stomach". I occasionally use a little flour more or less as a condiment without apparent consequences, it's not like real celiac sprue, but I haven't eaten bread or flour tortillas since Thanksgiving.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I read the book Wheat Belly in February, stopped eating wheat of any sort have lost 16 pounds since Feb 22nd. I have a heart problem (afib), so my exercise is moderate to low (walking a bit) but I continue to lose weight with little effort. We eat great food, I am making my own biscuits, breads and whatnot to satisfy bread cravings from almond flour, golden flax seed etc. The Wheat Belly cookbook is wonderful. I feel GREAT. Better than I have in years. Sleep is amazing. No more mid afternoon slumps. No more in between meals hunger. Other issues have cleared up as well. My diabetic husband is also losing weight and his blood sugar has been great.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
GERD can trigger afib and by eating paleo you really help that issue ..
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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