The Truth About Overweight & Obesity
Enough pain, shame, frustration, and judgment. You can lose the weight you hate. Here’s the truth.
The Worst Misinformation You’ve Been Given
Dr. Gary V. Koyen, Ph.D. | March 2021
The worst misinformation you've been given... and the worst judgment you've suffered.
In over-simplified terms the metabolic process consists of consuming, digesting (metabolizing), distributing, and eliminating. We eat food, it’s converted into usable nutrients, which are then distributed throughout the body, and the waste by-products are eliminated. Within this process there are rest periods, called fasts. Everyone fasts. It’s a natural part of how we eat, sleep, and live. For most people the overnight break from eating is the longest fast, and if they don’t snack during the evening the fast could be 12 hours or more. Most people break the fast by eating a morning meal, literally called breakfast, meaning break the fast.
The metabolic process happens autonomically, meaning automatically. We eat the food and then the rest of the process “just happens.”
When the metabolic process is disrupted or becomes dysfunctional, we end up with metabolic diseases.
When the metabolic process is disrupted or becomes dysfunctional, we end up with metabolic diseases: Overweight, obesity, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease, diabetes, and more. These diseases lead to even more severe consequences: heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, cancers, amputations.
Metabolic dysfunction causes overweight and obesity, two of the most emotionally loaded human conditions. Many diseases and conditions are hidden away within the body. Overweight and obesity are visible. Starkly visible. People hate being overweight or obese, yet it’s on display for everyone. There’s no hiding it. It begets judgment from others, and self-loathing from ourselves. Our identities are tied up in our weight and body composition.
Being fat is such a hated condition that people spend billions and billions of dollars every year trying to lose weight. It is inversely associated with being considered beautiful, handsome, attractive, desirable. It’s inversely associated with being considered of strong character—willpower, discipline, self-regulation. Slimmer people are considered smarter, and thought of as more successful. Being fat affects our financial lives when we are passed over for jobs and careers. It interferes with our ability to do simple physical things. Our bodies hurt. Our joints hurt. We live shorter lives. Little wonder that we feel so strongly about it and work so hard to overcome it.
Tens of millions of people make heroic effort every year to overcome the problem of being overweight or obese…and roughly 95% of them fail.
How can this be so?
It’s possible that this realm of metabolic processes in general, and weight management specifically, contains more misinformation than any other area of health. In both the medical community and the weight loss industry misinformation is the norm. People who are desperate to lose weight and keep it off are misled, misinformed, and lied to constantly.
Here is some of the worst misinformation you’ve been given.
"Calories In/Calories Out"
In the Calories In/Calories Out model, obesity is assumed to be the result of eating more calories than you burn. The implications are terrible. If the model is true, then 70% of Americans are pigs who refuse to control their piggish eating. Or they’re too lazy to burn the calories they’re eating. As commonsensical as it may seem, this model is false at its core, and belongs in the dumpster of rejected bad theories. This is the ultimate blame-and-shame model, and has caused incredible emotional pain to millions.
"Eat less, move more"
Calories In/Calories Out leads to the perfect solution: Eat Less, Move More. So again, we have the implicit accusation: You eat too many calories and you’re too lazy. But how many tens of millions of people have diligently tried this model and failed, in spite of their incredible effort? Perhaps we should re-think the model. The truth is that their failure is primarily due to the model being wrong. Great effort applied through the wrong model does not produce great results.
"Eating fat will make you fat"
This is the big lie. It is not fat in our diets that has caused the obesity epidemic. To the contrary, when we remove sugars, starches, and refined carbohydrates from our diet, and replace them with high-quality fats, we tend to lose weight.
"Saturated fat is bad for you and will make you fat"
This is a sub-part of “eating fat will make you fat.” It’s part of the big lie. High-quality saturated fats contribute to a healthy diet, especially when they replace sugars, starches, and refined carbohydrates.
"Dietary cholesterol is bad for you and will make you fat"
This is also a sub-part of “eating fat will make you fat.” Another part of the big lie. High-quality dietary cholesterol is part of a healthy diet. Again, when we eat quality foods high in cholesterol, in place of sugars, starches, and refined carbohydrates, we tend to lose weight.
"A low-fat diet is the best diet for losing weight"
Most Americans signed on to the low-fat diet bandwagon. Most who have tried to lose weight and keep it off used a low-fat approach. It makes sense after all, since a gram of fat contains 9 calories while a gram of protein or carbohydrate contains only 4 calories. The problem is that this is not the whole story. If we remove fat calories we must replace them with calories from carbohydrates and proteins. So the real question is: What happens when we replace fat calories with carb and protein calories? The over-simplified answer is: Weight gain.
"A calorie is a calorie"
They say that what matters is the total calories you eat, not the type of calories you eat. Sugar is just a calorie, like any other calorie. Refined carbs and starches (that “behave” like sugars) are just calories, like any other calories. A sugar calorie from Coca-Cola is the same as a calorie from broccoli. Uh…no. In fact, calories from different foods have profoundly different effects in our bodies, especially on our hormones. Fifty calories from romaine lettuce is in no way the same as 50 calories from sugar. Fifty calories from olive oil is in no way the same as 50 calories from beef steak. Fifty calories from white rice is in no way the same as 50 calories from high-quality lard.
"Fasting is unnatural, dangerous, and harmful…and just dumb"
Fasting is not unnatural, dangerous and harmful, and it’s definitely not dumb. Everyone fasts. Most people fast about 12 hours per 24-hour day, from their evening meal to breakfast the next morning. Fasting is part of our natural process of eating and digesting food. In a traditional 3-meal per day arrangement we have 3 periods of fasting: overnight, between breakfast and lunch, and between lunch and dinner. So, when we discuss fasting we’re really just talking about how we fast, not some new and exotic notion. We can adjust our fasting in order to get some desired results. What is unnatural, dangerous, and harmful is eating and snacking all day long, and up to bedtime, effectively eliminating almost all natural fasting except for a short night fast.
"I exercise hard, and I can eat anything"
Wrong. It’s true that hard and sustained exercise has many very beneficial effects, and can even offset some of the worst effects of a poor diet. But you can’t outrun your fork. The content of your diet has profound long term effects.
"Red meat is harmful"
The research on this subject is really weak. Similar to the condemnation of fats, the charges against red meat are not supportable by good research. I’m certain that when it’s all said and done we’ll learn that high-quality red meats are beneficial in our diets.
"I need to go vegan or vegetarian in order to lose weight"
While I support anyone who wants to eat vegan or vegetarian, it’s not necessary for taking off weight and keeping it off. A vegan or vegetarian diet does not automatically result in sustainable weight loss. It requires the same adjustments as other diets, and in some ways is harder. I know plenty of obese vegans.
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