The First Step

The way that container should look

He was born on the finish line, so he thinks he won the race.


So now you know what’s happened, but how did it happen? That’s the real question. So I’ll tell you the answer.

It was a normal morning. I’d eaten my 1 measured cup of Cheerios and skim milk. I’d drunk my banana/kiwi/blueberry/plain yogurt smoothie. I’d had some black coffee, no sugar. Now it was time to exercise.

There was the elliptical, sitting on the balcony. I used it all the time and it about killed me. After 10 minutes, I was dying to get off. After 15, I was dizzy. After 20, I couldn’t do anything except lie down until the next time I could eat.

I had friends who loved exercising–naturally skinny people (see opening quote). Ever notice how skinny people always think that however they’re happening to eat (which is wildly different from person to person) must be ideal? Ever notice how they think if you just tried exercising like they did, you’d just love it? Those people. Those people would tell me how good exercise made them feel; how much they enjoyed it; how once they got 15 or 30 minutes in, they entered “the zone” (or something).

I thought these people were liars, delusional or confused. After all, some gyms have some pretty bad air.

Now I understand that all of us had chronically elevated blood sugar from our “healthy” whole grain diets with lots of fruits and vegetables. Yes, that’s right. Grain turns to sugar in your body. In fact, some of those “healthy” whole grains are capable of spiking your blood sugar higher than pure table sugar.

Now I understand that our bodies were pumping out ever-greater levels of insulin to deal with the toxic threat of high blood sugar, and that this insulin was forcing that sugar out of our blood. In me, it locked it away in my fat cells and set a guard on the cell. Fat couldn’t get out to be used as fuel for my body, so I was exercising against the screaming protest of every cell: “What are you doing?!!?!?! WE DON’T HAVE ANY FUEL!!!!”

Meanwhile my skinny friends, with blood sugar also chronically elevated, responded in a genetically different way. Their sugar got tossed right into their muscles, with the command: BURN IT. In the same way as I was metabolically being impelled to sit down and stop burning energy when there was none, they were being metabolically impelled to get up and burn that toxic sugar.

And all of us responded the same way afterward: EAT. Just a little snack. I’m just a little hungry. It’s been a whole two hours since I ate! I’ll just have an apple. Or maybe some popcorn. Or an “energy” bar.

To none of us had it occurred that perhaps the ideal condition for human beings isn’t to ruminate 24/7 through the eatables like a panda through a bamboo forest. We aren’t herbivores. Have humans always been unable to go more than an hour or two without food? Have we always needed to “charge up” with sugar before we did anything physical? Does it make sense to suggest that hunting societies had to eat first, then hunt? Didn’t they hunt when they got hungry, and then eat? How did farmers 100 years ago manage to farm huge acreages when they had to keep returning to the farmhouse for a snack every two hours?

But back to our story. On this particular day, I fell off the elliptical and realized there was no way I could move till I’d eaten. I wasn’t about to do that till lunch, because I was a fat person with no self control and couldn’t stop stuffing my face.

Oh wait…


No, actually I was a very self-controlled person who refused to eat, even when my body was begging for it, because I thought refusing to eat would stop me packing on the fat. Hadn’t worked so far, but that’s what everyone says:

Just work out a bit harder.

A bit harder than what? I’m spending the amount of time in exercise recommended by all the experts.

Just eat a bit less.

A bit less than what? A bit less than thin people? I do that, but I’m still fat.

Well, a bit less than you’re eating now. Obviously you’re overeating, because you’re fat.

But I’m eating fewer than 2,500 calories a day.


Back to our story. I had fallen off the elliptical…

OH, WAIT!” I know the answer!

Ok, great. What is it?

You’re lying.


You’re lying! That’s the answer. All fat people do it. They are lying about how much they eat.

But what if I can show you my food log for the day?

Well, then, you’re lying about how much you exercise.

But what if I take a video of me doing the exercise?


I think he’s done now. Hopefully. So we’ll go on.

So there I was, collapsed on the bed, waiting for the next meal. I didn’t have the strength to even play a game on the Roommate’s iPad (too much swiping). So instead I tried looking at the books. There was only one on there: Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It. It was by a science writer, Gary Taubes. I looked it over and thought, Everyone knows why we get fat. We eat too much and don’t exercise enough. This guy looks like some kind of crank. But there was nothing else to do, and I figured at least I’d find some of the logical inconsistencies and write about them.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The book was not logically inconsistent. In fact it was the most logical thing about nutrition I’d ever read. It wasn’t filled with dubious science. In fact it was filled with careful science, and slopping over with references to every important relevant study ever done on the effects of fat and carbohydrate on human obesity and health.

And that’s Mr. Taubes’ short book. His longer one is even better.

I overturned my diet on that day, and I’ve never looked back.


Plato says he’s hungry

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