From the Obesity In-Box

Our recent podcast on obesity has generated a lot of e-mail. (FWIW, one of the very first podcasts we ever did was also about obesity.) Here’s one interesting angle, from a listener named Mark Gruen:

I just listened to your podcast on 100 ways to fight obesity and while I think there were many quality ideas presented, too many neglected the bodybuilder or strength athlete. I am a lightweight strongman competitor and sometimes eat 10,000 calories in a span of 3-4 hours after training for 5+ hours. These meals are generally high in sugar to support the lost muscle glycogen from my day’s training. I am concerned that once you begin classifying foods as “good” or “bad” you burden people who you did not intend to. The government also does such a poor job with their diet recommendations; I wouldn’t trust them with anything regarding food and diet.

I do love the idea of teaching families and children at school about being malnourished. Unfortunately, I see this as just another way for junk food to add in some vitamins and tell you that you can meet your daily intake just eating their products. Ultimately, people need to wake the hell up and realize that they need to do their own research (not just read a magazine) and determine the right diet for their family.

I agree with Mark that people should determine the right diet for themselves and their families, but one of the themes of the podcast is that there are so many forces pushing in the opposite direction of the “right” diet, including cost, marketing, deliciousness, etc.

And here’s a P.S. from Mark:

P.S. Our local energy supplier sent us a flier letting us know how much energy we were using compared to our neighbors. My wife immediately made plans to use less energy. These companies must be listening to you


im no strongman (im a weakman), but im wondering how much sugar post workout u need to replete glycogen- on the one hand, if by "sugar" he means complex carbs like a potato, the point maybe moot in that no one is arguing against potatoes- on the other hand, if he is drinking muscle shakes which have alot of sugar dumped in them, then it would be helpful to know what ratio is needed for glycogen replacement (vs using protein or fat)- the elephant in the room here is that this strongman's insulin sensitivity after pumping iron is probably equivalent to a mack truck driving a load of sugar into the muscle cells, so no worries- and the irony here would be to look at heart disease among strongmen- if it is higher than average (and i hope it is not, as i lift weights as well), then the sugar thing maybe bad after all


Where did you read about a link between heart disease and increased sugar consumption?

It's generally held that a ratio of 3/4:1 carbs to protein is best for recovery. That's why chocolate milk is so popular as a recovery beverage


"I wouldn’t trust [the government] with anything regarding food and diet."
"I do love the idea of teaching families and children at school about being malnourished."

Just a small contradiction: governments set the curricula at schools.


I'll be back to check on Mark in 10 years when his insulin sensitivity is gone and he's in full-blown diabetes.


The effects on sugar post-exercise are very different than they are normally. In fact, even the much maligned fructose has be shown to be more effective than glucose at restoring glycogen post-exercise.
He's not going to get diabetes. But believe whatever you want.


This kind of ties in to another facet of the obesity argument. Many people claim that studies show that exercise doesn't have much effect on weight, contrary to the experience of those of us who do exercise and/or live an active life. But all the studies I've seen discussed only look at the effects of very light exercise. Here we have a person doing strenuous exercise, eating quite a lot, and - at least if he's doing any sort of serious competition - keeping a low body fat percentage, even if his musculature does make him overweight by the simplistic BMI measure.



Exercise does not have effect on weight only if people stop doing it because they get bored. I see lots of people who drag themselves to the gym and halfheartedly do half an hour on the treadmill to burn a couple hundred calories. That's the kind of people who participate in those studies. I'm a runner and also regular gymgoer, I consume about 5k+ calories daily, enjoy working out, and I'm gaining mostly muscle. BMI is completely useless because it doesn't take into account body fat, but even huge powerlifters who look almost obese are actually full of muscle and probably have less visceral fat - which is what really matters - than the average overweight person.

Sam McLean

Sometimes we have to let people die. We are obsessed with keeping folk alive. Christ knows how much they spent giving my mum another 6 months of utter pstheticness.. let people die and save money for youngsters


The obesity crisis was brought on by lack of exercise, bad food choices, addictive food ingredients (high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors to name a couple),and lazy lifestyles. I exercise for at least 3 to 4 days a week. I agree with Mark that families should decide what diet is the best. It sickens me that so many people are out of shape and I strongly believe that leaves bad image on our country. Obesity is also caused by individuals who don't take care of themselves over the years and that causes so many health problems, such as heart disease (the #1 killer in this country), arthritis, stroke, diabetes, and many others. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.


As an obese person I’m going to put my 2 cents in. I’m not a couch potato and television is seldom on. I own and take care of my home, have a full time job, garden and stay active with my friends and community. I have spent a lot of time money and effort on the goal of getting slim and still I’m heavy. My last attempt at the age of 58 will be the “operation” to see if that finally will help me. I have worked out with a personal trainer, gone vegetarian, hypnosis, weight watchers, over eaters anonymous, therapy, countless diets and I can honestly say that if you know other obese people this is not atypical. The diet industry estimates vary from $40 – $100 billion in the US, each year, that’s a lot of fat folks trying to find the cure.

Obesity isn’t simply over eating its food addiction, and you can’t cure an addict with a diet. Addiction is hard wired in the brain, I know as both of my parents were alcoholics. Why do we have more fat folks in the US? The same reason why we have more gamblers, drunks, etc., there is just more opportunity in the US to indulge ones addiction. That’s my 2 cents.



"The diet industry estimates vary from $40 – $100 billion in the US, each year, that’s a lot of fat folks trying to find the cure."

That's because all the "diets" you see on TV are just gimmicks. People don't actually inform themselves on what a good diet is. All these TV/book/magazine "weight loss" diets are complete crap and will most likely lead you to gaining the weight back if not some extra. Also, most of them rely on you losing water weight and thinking you are actually getting skinnier.


Gaining muscle mass is usually never mentioned when discussing weight loss. The general rule is that for every pound of muscle, you can eat an additional 50 calories per day and not gain any weight. According to my height/weight chart found on the armed services webpage, I should weight 165 lbs. However, I weigh 198 lbs, but most of that is muscle. So say 30 lbs of muscle x 50 calories = 1500 calories. That is about a 57% increase from my “recommended caloric intake of 2600 per day”.

I would say promoting weightlifting/bodybuilding would be a good combatant to obesity in America. It allows you to eat a lot (I currently eat 6 meals per day, around 3700 calories) and lets you control your body fat at the same time.

However, this might be a solution more promoted to the male population in America. The trend for women in America is to stay away from fat and muscle, and to just be skinny.



The one suggestion I kept waiting to hear, but never did was to cut corn subsidies. High fructose corn syrup is in everything because it's cheap. It's cheap because the government is artificially keeping the price low. Cutting those subsidies will let the free market control the price of corn. Perhaps food manufacturers will simply replace HFCS with something else, but that's something that can be dealt with if it happens. For now the cheapest, easiest, and most effective solution seems to me to be cutting corn subsidies.


I think its wonderful that children would be taught on heathy food habits and exercise at school but foods shouldnt always be classified as "good" or "bad" . This gives people the wrong idea and may start eating things that are terrible for their body. Everyones body is different and peple need to find their own way to balance exercise and diet to fit their body type. Its not easy and takes a lot of hard work, energy, and time but i think its time for Americans to wake up and smell the coffee and get fit!