Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Remaining Fat Healthier Than Weight Loss?

Are obese men like this the new health studs of the 21st century?

Just when you think you've heard it all, along comes something like this that turns rational thinking upside down and leaves you scratching your head wondering how in the world people can come up with this stuff.

But that's exactly what we have here with a fellow blogger named Ampersand from the "Alas, a blog" blog in his April 3, 2006 post entitled "The Case Against Weight-Loss Dieting."

This is NOT a joke! This guy is dead serious in his hypothesis that people who are fat are better off remaining that way rather than trying to lose weight to improve their health and image. He's even got graphs and charts to make his case, too!

His three-point theory against weight loss will at least make you stop and think about why you want to lose weight in the first place. That's a good question to ask yourself -- why do you want to lose weight? Are you doing it for yourself out of a real concern for your health and the way you look or are you simply succumbing to societal pressure that you must lose weight to be a person of value and significance?

While you are mulling that thought around in your brain just a bit, let's look at what Ampersand has to say on the subject of remaining overweight or obese as a way to live a longer, healthier life (I'm not kidding, that's what he's asserting!):

THEORY #1 - For The Vast Majority Of Fat People, Weight Loss Dieting Doesn't Work

Ampersand contends that the failure of diets to bring about long-term and lasting changes in body composition means they are and ineffective means for helping people lose weight. He adds that no weight loss program has ever been found to work over the long term to keep weight stabilized.

"Isn't that amazing? It's not as if Weight Watchers, Slim-Fast, diet clinics, Jenny Craig, and the thousands of other companies making billions of dollars from promises of weight loss haven't been trying. If anyone could reliably make fat people thin, they'd soon have more money than Microsoft and Haliburton combined."

That's true, it would be something if there was a weight loss method that worked for everyone every time it is tried. But this is the real world and the human body is complex. Since each individual person has a different metabolism, tastes in food, heriditary health conditions, and more, it renders the search for a one-size-fits-all diet plan futile.

Is this a reason to give up on weight loss, though? Absolutely not! If you have tried to lose weight on a certain weight loss plan and it doesn't work, then try something else. I did this for many years of my life until FINALLY I was able to find a way to eat that would not only help me lose weight but keep it off forever. Of course, that's livin' la vida low-carb.

Had I just thrown my hands up in the air and said the heck with it, as Ampersand is suggesting people do, then I would be in serious trouble. I was already on medication for breathing, cholesterol and blood pressure with a very real possibility of having a major heart attack when I weighed over 400 pounds.

I shudder to think what might have happened if the Atkins diet had not rescued me from that dreadful scenario. I don't want to think about it because I've lost the weight and improved my health now. And I'll keep being healthy as long as I continue to apply those principles I learned during my weight loss. I'm in this for life because it worked for me!

Ampersand would retort that I haven't kept the weight off long enough to declare victory over my obesity just yet. That's fair, I'll concede that point. But time will prove that this is a sustainable way to eat over the long term that will keep my weight under control. I will tell you this -- this is the longest point in my life after losing weight that I have been able to keep the weight off. Sixteen months since losing 180 pounds and counting! Do you know how good it feels to say that?!

Meet me in January 2007 after I've kept the weight off for three years and I'll be having my victory party ready to go! Am I just the exception to the rule, Ampersand? Or perhaps could you be WRONG about weight loss plans? Hmmm?

THEORY #2 - Losing Weight Makes It More Likely You'll Die Sooner

Say what? Talk about your twisted thinking! But let's see what he's talking about. Ah, now I get what he's thinking. People who go on a diet and lose weight almost inevitably gain back the weight they lost and then some. Studies have shown that this yo-yo dieting can cause people to die sooner than if they had just kept their weight steady.

Ampersand provides statistics that claim people with the lower body mass index have the highest mortality rates while people who gained weight after college had a "significantly lower mortality risk." He said people who intentionally lost weight died sooner from conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

"It's worth noting that the negative effects of weight loss seem to exist regardless of if the weight is regained or not."

So I guess that I'm MORE likely to die sooner now that I am an athletic, healthy 230-pound man than when I weighed 410 pounds and gasping for air to breathe with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Is that what Ampersand is claiming?!

There is one bit of good news at the end of this theory by Ampersand -- he encourages moderate exercise to "increase your lifespan" even if it doesn't result in weight loss (the Health At Every Size concept). Well, kudos for at least making SOME sense...FINALLY!

THEORY #3 - The Idea Of "Normalizing" Eating Habits Is A Myth

"The case for weight loss dieting typically assumes that fat people are fat because they eat more and exercise less than thin people; that thin people, if they ate as much as fat people, would also be fat; and that if fat people only "normalized" their eating habits, they would be thin."

Narrow-minded thinkers may believe this to be true, Ampersand, but most of us realize that we each have our own customized factors that make losing weight easier or harder than other people. That's one of the reasons why weight loss is not an exact science and why the weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar business.

Everybody has their theory about how people should eat, but there are some generally good guidelines for eating better that livin' la vida low-carb has taught me: avoid sugar, processed foods, white flour, starchy foods, while consuming lots of healthy fruits and vegetables, high-fiber foods, high-protein foods. Combine those eating habits with at least 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise per day and you will be well on your way to being healthier than you've ever been.

This notion that people who are fat are eating the wrong way and need to change their habits is absolutely dead on! While there are some people who gain weight beyond their control (i.e. people with thyroid problems), most people pack on the pounds because they eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods. If you eat at McDonald's every day while slurping down cup after cup of sugary sodas and then raiding the snack machine of all the potato chips, candy bars and other junk food, then there is nobody to blame for your obesity but yourself. YOU are the reason you got fat and nobody else!

Ampersand cites studies that say fat people don't eat more calories or eat much different from thin people. And yet their weight discrepancy exists. Furthermore, Ampersand notes that studies have shown the fat people who somehow manage to get their weight under control and keep it off are actually "effectively anorexic."

HAHAHAHAHAHA! That's funny, Ampersand! Anorexic?! Hee hee! I guess you haven't seen what I eat lately, my friend. I am ANYTHING but anorexic. At the very least, I'm making BETTER choices about what I put in my mouth rather than grabbing at whatever is the cheapest food I can find. While I am much more discriminating in my food selection, I am certainly not doing without to the point that I'm anorexic. That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard!

There's an excellent question Ampersand asks at the end of this theory point.

"Why is it that people cannot seem to lose weight, despite the social pressures, the urging of their doctors, and the investment of staggering amounts of time, energy, and money?"

The answer to that question is found in the question itself. Society, doctors, and the rigors of dieting cause people to become frustrated by it all and they just give up. But if people would set aside all of those things and look at weight loss as something that THEY want to do for themselves to improve their lives, then and only then can weight control happen.

Do you remember the question I asked at the beginning of this post about why you want to lose weight? If your answer is anything other than because YOU want to do it for yourself, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons. As much as my wife Christine wanted me to lose weight, it wasn't until she stopped bugging me about it and I made up my own mind to do this for ME that it finally happened. I can confidently say that is why I have been able to keep the weight off, too, because I wasn't trying to impress anybody else when I did it. I did it for ME and nobody else.

What do you think about this? You can e-mail your feedback directly to Ampersand at or feel free to post your comments by clicking on the link below. Share your thoughts about Ampersand's theories supporting staying fat being healthier than weight loss.


Blogger Newbirth said...

Oh my. Anarexic, eh? I can't speak for others, but my calorie tolerance is about 1900 a day to maintain. That doesn't mean I don't push the envolope. I am now 6 pounds over my goal weight and have to get serious. I blogged about that today.

At any rate, I don't consider 1900 calories as anarexic. I'm a 5'7" woman in my mid-30s. My metabolism ain't what it used to be 15 years ago.

I absoltely refuse to buy size 10 jeans. If I don't lose this 6 pounds and get my 8s comfy again, I'll have nothing but sweats to wear.

In fact, one pair of my 8s wore out and I bought another pair today - size 8 of course. :)

Why can't people lose weight? Because we are a fast food culture. We believe everything, including weight loss, should be fast. When it isn't or when we gain instead of lose, we throw in the towel and give up. I'd be fat right now if I did that because I certainly saw enough gains during my weight loss journey.

Anyway, I need to cut my calories and keep a much tighter reign on my carb intake. 60g has slipped up to 70g - or more - all too often. I'm cutting out bread starting next week and going back to my Romaine leaf "sandwiches" for a while.

And if it would just STOP RAINING EVERY GOSH DARN DAY I could actually walk the last leg to work. I missed yet ANOTHER walk today because of rain. The walking is my backup for days I can't get to the gym (which is most days).

4/11/2006 10:44 PM  
Blogger Lowcarb_dave said...

I think what he says has merit. I felt the same way before I discovered Low Carb.

I didn't even know whta low carb was until I was 25 years old. Now I am discovering through following the Atkins diet that all our problems come from foods that are processed in some way.

But people lump 'Low carb' in with low calories diets and call them a 'fad' without really looking into it and it's science.

People don't use their brains enough!

People are too influenced by mass media.

4/11/2006 11:24 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

This is the comment I left on the blog. I'm frankly proud of it because it show a lot of my thinking on the obesity problem and the low carb solution.

It is interesting that none of the respondents (except perhaps one who is apparently on a liquid protein diet) are not using low carb nutritional information. While I respect you (Ampersand) for presenting a reasonable case using scientific data, your almost reflexive attacks against anyone who disagrees as stooges of the diet industry or culturally biased against fat people. My response is so what! Attacking the person as opposed to the message is called an "ad hominem" argument. It is a favorite tactic used by lawyers, politicians and others when their argument is weak). Do I think that obese (>30BMI) are less attractive than people with a lower BMI? Yes, and I think most people would agree. These are called prejudices. They do not disqualify someone from expressing their opinion. One just has to aware that they are not facts, but rather opinions.

So, let's to get to some facts, looking at your charts of BMI vs. Age vs. Mortality of hospital patients, it is clear that higher BMI's are associated with greater mortality with increasing Age. This makes sense. When you're young your body is able to easily cope with the strain both physically and physiologically of carrying extra weight. As you get older you become more fragile and less able to cope with this burden.
It is also evident that the optimal BMI for lowest mortality is different for different age groups. For age groups up to 79 it appears to be between 35 and 40, while 80+ apparently had an optimal BMI of 30. As others have pointed out this was a study of hospital patients who apparently has other illnesses or they wouldn't be in the hospital. But if we take the data as applying to other people, the optimal BMI is somewhere in the 30's with mortality increasing for the extremely obese (>40). The U shaped curve is still there, it's just in a different place. The reference to 16,936 Harvard alumni having a higher mortality with a BMI <32 seems extremely suspect for a couple of reasons. First, most people have a BMI<32 ,especially back in 1989 when there was less obesity, so that the number of deaths of the >32 BMI group may not have statistical significance. Also the reference you give for the Harvard study, Paffenbager at al., appears to apply to the second reference, Blair, S.N., Kohl, Paffenbarger, Clark, Cooper, and Gibbons (1989). "Physical Fitness and All Cause Mortality, A Prospective Study of Healthy Men and Women," Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), vol 262 p. 2395-2401. This is, apparently from the abstract in JAMA, a study of fitness levels, BMI and Relative Risk of mortality conducted at the Cooper Institute in Texas. The Harvard Study does not appear to be any of the references cited. This brings me to the actual study, the results of which are expressed in the second chart of your BLOG comparing fitness vs. BMI vs. mortality just mentioned. It only covers an 8 year period and inexplicably cuts off at BMI>25. BMI >30 is considered as obese and BMI > 40 is considered as extremely obese and therefore at greatly increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. A great number of muscular fit people have a BMI >25 which as mentioned in various comments is one of the problems with BMI as measure of obesity. While it does seem to indicate that fitness is an element for reducing mortality, it doesn't address what I would call the Chicken and Egg problem. Are they healthy because they are fit or are they unhealthy because they are unfit? Anotherwords if you are carrying an extra 100+ pounds it is difficult to maintain sustained physical activity, i.e. jogging, various sports, etc.

The abstract can be found at

As far as diabetes and obesity being unrelated. This is a bit of personal research.

Trends for diagnosed diabetes, obesity, and overweight in New York State adults using 3-year moving average, 1995-1999.
Middle Year of Three-Year Average
Prevalence of diagnosed diabetes* (%) 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 3.8 4.2 4.8 5.5 6

Estimated number of adults with diagnosed diabetes (in thousands) 532 578 665 761 832

Prevalence of obesity (%) 14.2 14.8 15.6 16.6 17.1

Estimated number of obese adults (in thousands)
1,961 2,046 2,160 2,294 2,374

Prevalence of overweight (%) 50.1 50.5 51.2 51.8 54.1

Estimated number of overweight adults (in thousands) 6,914 6,975 7,082 7,167 7,486

Correlation btwn Diagnosed Diabetes % and Prevalence of Obesity % 0.9986
Correlation btwn Diagnosed Diabetes % and Prevalence of Overweight % 0.9348

This is some research that I did myself using an EXCEL spreadsheet. Note the extremely high correlation between obesity and diabetes, approaching 100%. Read your paper, check on line news. There is a diabetes epidemic even among the young, where Type 2 diabetes previously unknown in this age group is now being diagnosed with increasing frequency. Yes, there is an obesity epidemic. Obesity rates were relative stable until about 20 years ago when it was decided with very weak evidence that fat was bad and carbohydrates were good and that sugar was OK because it was a carbohydrate. Another piece of research that I did was the correlation between sweetener and grain consumption and obesity which is reproduced here :

Correl btwn Grain Consumption + Sweetener Prod = 96.9%
Correlation btwn Grain Consumption + Total Overwt =98.0%
Correl btwn Sweetener Prod + Total Overwt = 99.4%

Based on charts supplied by the USDA Economic Research Service
and HHS Nation Center for Health Statistics 1975-1997

Folks, there is an obesity epidemic and it promises to be a health nightmare. It appears to be the result of increased sweetener and grain consumption, a policy promoted by the USDA who have the conflicted job of representing both Agribusiness and the public. They do a much better job of the former than the latter. As for the relationship between carbohydrates and obesity see Gary Taubes The Soft Science of Dietary Fat and What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? which can be found by searching the net. Gary Taubes is a multi prize winning science journalist. Another great reference is The Cholesterol Myths by Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., Ph.D. which can be found on the net and in book form. Read these with an open mind and don't instantly dismiss them because they conflict with what you've heard, read or believe. They will rock your world. I know they did mine. Finally, you're about where I was 4 years ago. Research indicated the impossibility of losing weight and keeping it off. However I was gaining weight every year and was getting to the point where my favorite activities, volleyball, softball and bicycling were becoming difficult. Then a friend mentioned Sugar Busters, a low carb book. From there I read the Atkins diet book and others before finding Protein Power Lifeplan by Mike and Mary Dan Eades, MD. which to me was the best book I've read on nutrition and diet(ing). While I have my doubts that you'll allow this to be posted, I do thank you for allowing me the space to express my thoughts irregardless.

4/13/2006 3:23 PM  

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