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


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  1. frankenduf says:

    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

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    • Armando says:

      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

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  2. Chris says:

    “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.

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  3. Jason says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • K says:

      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.

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  4. James says:

    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.


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    • K says:

      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.

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    • Clint says:

      Exercise has a very big impact on your weight/fat level. However, most people’s definition of “exercise” is not really exercise. Many people consider walking/ light jogging/light elliptical workouts a sufficient source of exercise. For me a light workout is about 45 minutes of strenuous weightlifting, so my definition of exercise would promote weight loss and muscle gain. However, 45 minutes of walking won’t do very much for a person’s physique.

      This is the same as a person saying that they “studied” for a test, but really they just looked over their notes briefly. Then they fail the test and state that “they are not good test takers”.

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      • K says:

        Weight loss and muscle gain are opposite goals. Appreciable muscle gain involves fat gain, which can be minimized (especially visceral fat gain) by careful dieting and certain exercise techniques, but is ultimately unavoidable.
        Other than that, you’re absolutely right.
        I don’t really understand why people prefer spending an hour running on a treadmill instead of running outside, which burns far more calories and is much, much less boring.

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  5. Sam McLean says:

    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

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  6. Jacob says:

    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.

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  7. Sandy says:

    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.

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    • Armando says:

      “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.

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    • James says:

      If, as you claim, addiction is hardwired in the brain, it would seem that we need to ask why so many people don’t become addicts, despite abundant opportunity.

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      • Sandy says:

        There are currently 17.6 million Americans adults who are alcohol dependent, 43.5 million adults are smokers according to the CDC and 22 million Americans have substance abuse problem according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That does not include stats on compulsive gamblers, spenders, eating disorders, sexual addition etc. How many more addicts do you want??

        Yes Virginia or James, addiction is hardwired in the brain but don’t take my word for it. Universities like John Hopkins and Vanderbilt are doing research into addiction and compulsive behavior. We already know from the research that deficiencies in serotonin and norepinephrine seem to contribute to compulsive behavior. Sounds pretty hard wired to me.

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    • Brady says:

      “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”

      There is truth to this. As a former obese person, I can confirm that I was addicted to (bad)food. However, I managed to replace that addiction with another, working out regularly. I do think that I have an addictive personality, but for once have managed to leverage an addiction into something positive in my health.

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      • Sandy says:

        Absolutely and that worked for me for some time too, I think that is what the 12 steps are all about, you replace one addiction for another. A Therapist I was seeing at one time said that a lot of folks who were successful with weight loss surgery unfortunately replaced food addiction with another addiction like alcoholism.

        I hope you stay successful, it’s been a much harder struggle for me.

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  8. Clint says:

    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.

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