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Mike Carville: Some food for thought

You’re not overweight; you’re just not tall enough!

Yao Ming plays for the Houston Rockets. At 7 feet 6 inches, he is currently the tallest player in the NBA. Is Yao Ming so tall because he eats so much? Or does he eat so much because he’s so tall?

Of course the answer is that Ming’s height is due to high levels of human growth hormone and, because of his increased size, he eats more. So if that is the case with vertical growth, then why isn’t it the same with horizontal growth?



Well, in part maybe it is. There is mounting evidence that indicates that hormonal issues may have more to do with obesity than previously thought and than much of the science that supports our conventional wisdom about nutrition may be flawed.

In his latest book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health,” award-winning science journalist Gary Taubes raises some important questions about the scientific research that guides our current understanding of diet and health.




For instance, there appears to be little scientific evidence the supports the “calories in, calories out” theory, which basically says that our bodies function like super-efficient “thermodynamic black boxes” and that if more calories are consumed than calories burned, then our body weight will increase.

In reality our bodies do not conform to this simple equation because our metabolism is never constant but rather speeds up or slows down in direct response to our environment. Just as important, those responses are controlled by hormones and enzymes. The obesity epidemic which began in the 1970s has little do with “gluttony and sloth,” says Taubes.

Most people are overweight because their blood sugar levels are too high and their body is secreting too much of the hormone insulin, which not only promotes excessive fat storage but also makes it more difficult for the body to burn fat for energy.

Taubes says, that the cause of obesity is excess fat accumulation driven by insulin and that the consumption of extra calories and lack of physical activity are just symptoms but not the causes of obesity. A person eats more and exercises less because they’re overweight.

The cause of fat accumulation is due to high levels of insulin from eating too may simple or refined carbohydrates meaning sugar, starches and refined flour. These foods increase appetite and raise blood sugar levels and the body responds by producing more insulin which produces fat accumulation. In fact, the body can’t store fat without insulin.

As a certified fitness trainer, when I work with members at our clubs who seek weight loss, I see a wide variety of responses to diet and exercise. Some people are able to dump weight relatively quickly while others who appear to be doing many things right and yet still struggle. My own experience indicates that approximately 70 percent of weight loss comes from changes in diet and about 30 percent from physical activity. Of course, there are a tremendous range of additional health benefits that come from exercise besides weight loss.

I have also noticed that close to 60 percent of my weight loss clients are sensitive to simple or refined carbohydrates and will lose weight quickly when those calories are replaced with clean healthy sources of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates regardless of how much exercise they do each week. For those clients who are sensitive to carbohydrates, managing blood sugar levels and insulin production becomes a key priority for controlling body fat.

The consumption of sugar was extremely low in the late 1800s and early 1900s and at that time only 5 percent of the American population was overweight. In the 1970s, the government began promoting lower fat diets.

Food manufactures took note and began reducing the fat content of processed foods but added sugar to enhance flavor. We now consume 149 pounds of sugar per person, per year in this country – up from five pounds per person less than 100 years ago. Diabetes, which is a disease of high blood sugar, is now the fastest growing disease in the country.

Taubes feels the answer to obesity and Type II Diabetes is relatively simple. “If you want to avoid lung cancer, you stop smoking. If you want to avoid obesity and most of the related diseases that accompany it, then you need to reduce your consumption of simple and refined carbohydrates.”

Mike Carville is a NASM/RKC Certified Fitness Trainer and co-owner of South Yuba Club in Nevada City (www.southyubaclub.com) and Monster Gym in Grass Valley (www.monstergyms.com). He specializes in programming for new exercisers, weight loss/toning and athletic training. Mike is available for questions and speaking engagements via e-mail at: mike@monstergyms.com.


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