Metabolic Syndrome II:The Phalacious Philosophy of Phat

January 30, 2008

Metabolic Syndrome # 2: Understanding the Fire Within.  “The Philosophy of Phat”

Competency # 20 Culture Lifestyles of the long-lived.           Reference:  Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes,  Published 2007 

 “You are overweight.  Ergo, you eat too much.”  Pretty simple, isn’t it?  Except that it’s wrong.  We have lived by this dictum for some 50 years in America and it may not be quite the truth.  Behind the scenes, there are cracks appearing in the wall of this sacred commandment of modern health care.  And for those of us who put on weight without even thinking about it and have to struggle to get it off, we feel as though we are caught in a vice of blame, shame and confusion.  We’re going to explore where the ideas came from and see if there isn’t a better answer.  Eventually, we’re going to get you to better health.  

But first, we have to challenge the “Prevailing Phalacious Philosophy of Phat”.  It’s spelt wrong because I think it’s all wrong.   Think for just a second.  You can’t escape the logic of, “You’re too fat.  You eat too much.”  Of course, I’m too fat.  I can see that.  I have to look at myself in the mirror each morning when I shower.  Thank God it’s steamy in the bathroom and my eyes don’t work.  But do you have cause and effect turned around?  Maybe the confusion is about why I’m fat.  Maybe what you think is cause is actually effect.  Maybe I’m too fat because the food I eat makes me fat.  Ha!  Ever thought of it that way?  

Not just a trite excuse, it’s really at the heart of our exploration.  If we keep blaming the victim, and never discovering the real cause, the victim will always be wrong.  Maybe the real culprit is the nature of the food.  Let’s consider that!  I’m not trying to pass blame and get out of my own dilemma, but there are some interesting things to consider I want to put on the table.  But we’ve been preached to about eating a low-fat diet now for 35 years.  It’s been a public health disaster. 

 First, why is that there are dozens of stories from around the planet of people who were healthy on their indigenous diets, who became obese, developed diabetes and heart disease ONLY when they started to eat “Western Diets” that consisted of flour and sugar as the primary source of staple calories?  Why?  The Pima Indians of Arizona are one classic example.  The Inuit, as we referenced last week is another.  The Masai of Kenya eat only milk and blood.  Only.  No vegetables, fruit, flour, cookies.  Some meat.  They have some of the lowest cholesterol levels ever measured.  Were they all just slovenly, lazy indigenous peoples who just ate too much when they got hold of “western food”?  I can’t buy that.  They weren’t overeaters before.   And they had plenty of calories before.  They were not living on the edge of starvation.  

So, forget those old chauvinistic myths.  They allow us to not examine the real issue.  What is the science?  What are the questions? It’s time to stop blaming the individual and think more about the environment we place ourselves in.  What’s causing our epidemic of obesity?  After 30 years of national food guidelines in which we have been advocating low fat diets with many servings a day of carbohydrates, and in which we all gained 15 pounds each, doesn’t it make sense to challenge the assumptions?  Our national food guidelines were based on science, weren’t they? Well, not so fast.  That’s next week’s email.  Cause the answer is NO! 

 WWW:  What will work for me.  A good scientist has to start being a good philosopher.  What are the real questions?  What’s cause and what’s effect?  This is what raising teens taught me.  They figure out the argument faster than you can if you don’t have your cause and effect right.  We can’t confuse the two.    Maybe you and I are too fat because the food we eat forces us to be fat.   Not cause, but effect.  It may not be the fat we eat that makes us fat.  It may be the nature of carbohydrates and sugars. I want to get down to the cellular level and understand how insulin works on fat cells, how fat gets stored, how carbs turn into fats.  Why am I hungry all the time?  What’s the reason?  If I can figure it out for me, you can come along for the ride.  But my goal is to understand.  Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over, and wondering why we don’t get a different result.  I’m not looking for an excuse to sit on my couch forever and expect a different result either…

This column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield WI, (262-784-5300)