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Keeping Off The Fat

It’s the big New Year’s resolution: slim down and shape up. So, why is it so hard? We’ll look at the science.

In this May 23, 2011 photo, joggers make their way down Santa Monica Bike Path, in Santa Monica, Calif. Despite all the “Biggest Loser” type shows, all the pounds shed on those shows and all the weight-loss products purchased by viewers at home, America continues to be the Biggest Gainer. (AP)

In this May 23, 2011 photo, joggers make their way down Santa Monica Bike Path, in Santa Monica, Calif. Despite all the “Biggest Loser” type shows, all the pounds shed on those shows and all the weight-loss products purchased by viewers at home, America continues to be the Biggest Gainer. (AP)

Number one New Year’s resolution – to lose a little weight.  We try.  We yearn.  We bust our humps to shed a few pounds.  And then they come right back.  Maybe in a month.  Maybe in a year.  But there they are.  Like a bad dream.

If it sometimes feels like your body is conspiring against you to grab back the fat, you are exactly right.  It is.  You lose it, and the body kicks in to battle back.  Hormones.  Metabolism.  Chemicals in your brain.  Ravenous to regain the weight.

This hour, On Point:  the science behind the battle of the bulge, and what it takes to win.

-Tom Ashbrook



Tara Parker-Pope, the creator and writer of “Well,” a daily health blog and weekly column for The New York Times. Her cover story in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine was “The Fat Trap.”

Rudolph Leibel, is professor of diabetes research and professor of pediatrics and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “Researchers know that obesity tends to run in families, and recent science suggests that even the desire to eat higher-calorie foods may be influenced by heredity. But untangling how much is genetic and how much is learned through family eating habits is difficult. What is clear is that some people appear to be prone to accumulating extra fat while others seem to be protected against it.”

Denver Science News Examiner “For years scientists and health care professionals have warned of the dangers of smoking, and tobacco use is still a major contributor to early mortality. But new research shows that it is is obesity that now causes even more fatal disease.”

The Atlantic “By 2015, four out of 10 Americans may be obese. Until last year, the author was one of them. The way he lost one-third of his weight isn’t for everyone. But unless America stops cheering The Biggest Loser and starts getting serious about preventing obesity, the country risks being overwhelmed by chronic disease and ballooning health costs.”

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  • Anonymous

    I remember as a kid that  JFK had a program to get and keep people fit. It started in the schools. Our inability to continue this certainly appears to be pound foolish.

    • Margaret

      I remember that, too. Weren’t we all supposed to take a 50 mile walk? I didn’t but then I didn’t have an exercise or weight problem.

      • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

        We had gym twice a week in the ’60s and ’70s.  I hated it.  Gym did more than almost anything to convince me that I hated sports.  I would have been happier walking around the field twice a week for 12 years.  

  • Eleanor Parkin

    As this is about the science of weight loss, I hope you’ll be discussing the work of the award winning science writer, Gary Taubes, “Why We Get Fat … And What to Do About It” and “Good Calories, Bad Calories:  Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health”. 

    • American for Health

      Absolutely! Furthermore, we can’t expect permanent results from temporary changes. Most people don’t maintain weight loss because they go back to the behaviors that made them overweight in the first. Weight loss, especially radical weight loss, requires a complete and lifelong change in behaviors. Changing obesity rates in America, likewise, will require a societal overhaul.

  • Anonymous

    Stop subsidizing corn.

    • GLuten Free Yankee

      AMEN! For under $2 at a convenience store you can get 32 ounces of soda pop, a bag of chips and have change left over for a doughnut or piece of candy.  Shame on our government for subsidizing the production and ubiquity of this garbage while not making fresh food and vegetables affordable and available, especially in food ghettos, rural and urban alike.

  • miro

    The science of metabolism is still in a very primitive state, so the nature of the problem is badly understood. Moral exhortation and social stigmas may permit weight loss, but if the body’s hormones are biased against this, then these solutions are likely to be only temporary. Already, there are widespread biases against overweight people in our society (e.g. in job hiring), but this has not slowed the obesity epidemic.

    Behavioral, lifestyle changes are notoriously hard to implement and maintain, and it is dishonest to hold these up as viable solutions for everyone when they work only in a small fraction of cases. Failure to change eating habits turns obese individuals into guilty, self-loathing social outcasts. 

    Although it is important to maintain individual responsibility for one’s own health, one cannot expect people to be responsible for that which they have little or no real control.

    If we spent as much money on biomedical research as we did on armaments and unnecessary, distant wars, perhaps there would be more effective therapeutic options. If the FDA took the consequences of ongoing obesity more seriously and rationally weighed those against the risks of new therapies, maybe we would now have more innovative therapies to choose from. 

    Obesity is at the root of the diabetes epidemic, and the social-economic costs of obesity, today and in the future, are enormous. We need to understand how our bodies work ASAP, and the NIH and FDA need to shuck off the complacent attitude that theories and therapies are decades away. 

    in lieu of understanding the root causes in metabolism, we need research on what behavioral change programs actually work for whom (this is similar in many respects to the problem of dealing with drug addiction).


    Aah yes, obesity…  The next big thing that will be used to divide, use, and punish us.

    For the record, I’m a fat American.  Why?  Lack of will, genetics, environment…  Who knows for sure? 

    My employer is already starting to hint at a higher insurance premium for those who don’t fit into a proper body mass index.  Testing the waters if you will in order to feel out the backlash.  It is coming, I’m sure.  Yet another reason to seperate us from our money.

    To those of you who are smug and thin, remember this;  sooner or later they will come for you.  History of cancer or diabetes in the family?  That is certainly worth a surcharge.  Time spent in a tanning booth?  There is another surcharge.  Regular drinker of diet soda?  Tsk Tsk!!  Lots of carcinogens don’t you know!!

    There may be no better example of the “slippery slope” that I’m aware of. 

    • betterin2012

      I’m a very slim and healthy 64 yr old woman… I know I’m lucky… I work out every other day… lots of aerobics and weights at the gym… I’m lucky I have the time to work out too. But I had a very overweight dad, brother, aunt and now an obese daughter who is only 33. I feel for those of us who are struggling with weight. I want to see all people treated equally and without  predjudice. I have great empathy and concern that people DO NOT discriminate against people who are not the ideal weight. I’m hoping for better medical help for those who need help to lose weight for their health. I’m looking forward to this show.

  • Yar

    Add a full hour of physical activity in grades K-12 to the school day.   Give  teachers a full hour for lunch with no responsibilities.  Can we afford these changes? Can we afford not to make these changes?


      What do you think the 20-50% of conservative Americans will say?

  • miro

    We just looked at the Atlantic article. Prevention is, of course, the first priority, but telling the American public what they must eat is absolute political suicide. Can we imagine imposing “carb taxes” or “calorie taxes” when we cannot even modestly increase gas taxes in order to fund our transportation infrastructure?

    Bariatric surgery may be effective in more cases than dieting (we think that gastric elecrostimulation, which is reversible and less invasive, needs to be looked at much more seriously as a bariatric solution), but it seems that most health plans do not cover this except for the morbidly obese.

    We think the structural problem is related to our largely employment-based health insurance system. Because their clients will likely change jobs and health insurers over their lifetimes, there is less incentive for insurance companies to get involved with expensive surgical interventions that may have payoffs over longer terms. 

    As with the rest of our economy and society, short term considerations overrule doing what’s best for the longer term.
    We need solutions that are sustainable in the long term.

    • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

      I think bariatric surgery is a mistake.  Nearly half the people who get it gain back most of the weight they’ve lost.  I think very slow weight loss is the way to go.  I like to eat, I hate to exercise, and I ate my way up to…well, being morbidly obese before I was 40.  Over the last 16 years, I’ve lost 45 pounds, so now I’m merely obese.  My eating habits are very gradually improving (which is quite hard as I dislike most fruits and vegetables).  Have less junk food in your house, save caloric splurges for special meals out, vacations and holidays.  Do something active every day, even if it’s just walking.  Park at the far end of the parking lot.  Every little thing will help without the pain of constant calorie-counting.

      • Gluten Free Yankee

        I agree about the surgery.  I know about a dozen women who have had the surgery (one died on the table at only thirty years old), and within the first year they resemble their “before” picture.  They also appear to feel miserable within months of the surgery. The three women I see frequently and in dining situations eat junk food and tend to order food with “Crispy” in the name. I wish they would get help with what drives them to make these poor choices.  A lifetime of bad eating and emotional eating cannot be fixed with a few hours of surgery and a couple of sessions with a nutritionist. There needs to be more psychological support to help overeaters hit the reset button.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YJOFCUW4S62AICSGYG562VMHZY Marje

        Your body is telling you something. According to my favorite source,  if you are type O blood, your body is acidic, purposely to digest meat. I eat steak for breakfast. And I stay slim, though my family body type runs to “three feet wide & three feet high.” But potatoes, eggplant, corn, and some other vegs and fruits are not on my diet. Those are for people with alkaline systems. So maybe your habits are not really improving. I’ve suggested on this thread that On Point have Dr. D’Adamo on the program to talk about his diet plans.

        • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

          That’s an interesting point.  I remember hearing about blood type diets back in the 90s but never paid them any attention.  I come from a long line of northern Europeans, some of whom were fat, and my blood type is O+,  They spent generations eating things like meat, cheese, ale, bread.  If I focus on eating chicken and small amounts of lean meat, I find I don’t gain weight.  Another odd quirk – female relatives who were fat early in life lost weight in their 50s and 60s and died on the thin side in their 80s and 90s.

    • L armond

      Yes, they shouldn’t tell people what they can eat, and make them feel ashamed of what is available to them, even from the food pantry, for which  the suppliers get a tax write off and subsidies.  Their ill health is a gravy train for the tax write-off, insured, and gated community people.  It’s like I say, You can’t speak truth to Pewter!

    • Anonymous

      For most, Bariatric surgery is an awful idea.  Severe starvation occurs which leads to severe loss of muscle which means those people will never be able to eat an appropriate amount and they will suffer psychologically. That is why most Bariatric patients end up gaining the wight back.  But the damage to their metabolism is severe and takes years to reverse, thus making future weight loss that more difficult.

  • Anonymous

    Obviously there is a genetic component and our food is full of corn, sugar, but I think it is mostly lifestyle choices.  I rarely see an obese person taking the stairs or walking up an escalator.  I never see someone who is thin eating on the subway.

    • mary elizabeth

      Obese people are hindered by their weight to do such as take the stairs.  The weight must be reduced first, it seems.
      There are many articles stating research into  insulin response and it’s contribution to obesity.
      One such is “Wheat Belly” by Wm Davis, M.D. or “Eat to Live” by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
      I cite these not to recommend  others to a certain diet, but as a means to understand the effect of some foods on the body.
      Genetics do play a part.

      • Anonymous

        I wasn’t refering to people who are obese enough to have mobility problems.  These people are sufficiently able to walk up stairs if they choose to.

    • L armond

      Maybe they are rushing between minimum pay jobs and are eating when they can.  Are u a wall streeter.

      • Anonymous

        No.  I’ve worked two jobs before and would have a small window for eating and still never ate a bag of cookies on the subway. 

        • L armond

          Well, I know you didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but be careful.  I have an Uncle that we have told over and over again Not to keep saying his medicine cost’s 5000 a month.  He does this in the 7-ll, in front of the uninsured, and people who are uncurably ill.  Of course, the uninsured don’t know is co-pay is $150, and his leukemia is cured.  He is your high church, pewter snob.  

    • Anonymous

      Maybe they don’t want to be sweaty when they get to work?  Doesn’t it stink enough on the Subway?

  • Bonnie

    Does weight gain due to pregnancy affect the brain/hormones in the same way?

  • Julie Zachary

    Tom, I have lost and gained at least 10% of my body weight several times. Once when I was about 5 years clean I started the Zone and had the worst cravings for my drug of choice! I stopped the diet and maintained my clean time and weight.

  • Allen

    My impression of a lot of the overweight is that they eat the wrong stuff and “with a big fork;” exercise is a contributor to keeping the pounds off, but wrong diet is a big thing.  Diet food companies have capitalized on this.  But just cutting out pizza twice a week, dumping the soda (yes, diet, too) down the sink and just eating less in the home vs. out (ever check how much salt is in restaurant food?!) and then substituting with good diet in moderation, sheds the pounds.

  • David Ketz

    To add to this discussion I highly recommend “Why We Get Fat” and “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes.  Our bodies most certainly do work against us while trying to lose weight.  It is not simply a matter of discipline.  Once one has put on weight, it is more difficult to keep it off.

  • Amy

    I think the take-away is that we need to keep our kids healthy and not let them get overweight so they won’t have to struggle with weight their whole lives.

  • Anonymous

    What has changed is Exercise.

    We used to walk to the store.  We used to WALK to School.  We used to Play Outside.  We used to do physical labor every day at our jobs.

    Now we drive everywhere, take the bus to school, play the playstation, and sit in front of computer screens for a living.

    • Neenytyo

      EXACTLY. We, th  way we used to be, are describing a time youth cannot even relate to. They must, must,unplug.

  • L armond

    People who are ‘disgusted’ disgust me.  The only two people in our family who got fat, was because they married into families that ate differently, and as orphans, had to go along to get along.  That sweet tea with High Fructose corn syrup.  My sister’s inlaws do all the cooking   but always bring it to her house.  She had no approval, so had to take the kids out.  She has job in stressful medical lab.  She is the best they have, but the ‘ladies that lunch’ look down on her.  

  • Jason

    I think the number one reason we are gaining weight as a society is more a product of our behavior and not the food we eat. Our kids sit around and play computer games, gym in public schools has been drastically reduced, and our day to day lives at work involve sitting at computer terminals all day. We were not meant to be sedentary AND well fed.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    When I was a kid, snacks between meals were unlikely, sugar drinks even more so, dinner for 5 had 5 servings and seconds were rare, desert was for holidays.

    People these days would think it was draconian – back then it was typical.

  • John

    Societally, the US has become less physicall active, changing from a manufacturing economy to a service based economy over the years.  Obesity would be perhaps partially explained by this trend, I think.

    However, I think another endemic problem we’re facing is this fear of parents not permitting their children to spend as much time outdoors playing (perhaps unsupervised) like some of us Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers did when we were younger.

    Add video games and the internet to that indoor confinement, and you have an obesity epidemic which has come only recently begun to fully blossom.

    Even I who have an ectomorphic body type have become clinically overweight.  My average bodyweight was 150-170 lbs at 6 feet tall for years, yet now I struggle to stay stable at 195…

  • Brian

    So much of this problem seems to have a psychological component. Does the guest differentiate between feeling hungry and feeling empty? John Bradshaw, the godfather of contemporary addiction theory and a believer in the genetic component of addiction still maintained he had never met a purely genetic addict. I would maintain the same is true of anyone who has significant weight to loose.

  • Annocon

    Processed and Fast Food and was not around when I was a kid. We ate “food,” even though today it would be considered fattening. We walked to school and everywhere else.

  • Paul Chenard

    A lot has to do with our built environment. Now a days people hardly need to move to do anything.  People walk just a few feet to their cars, then drive to their destination, then walk only a few feet into their office or place they’re heading too. If we had denser walkable communities, we’d be able to get more activity without really trying. People would walk more to their destination getting their daily exercise. 

  • Ecdoig

    Great discussion. What I think is missing from this talk and the article is what it would mean if we stopped focusing on weight as an automatic indicator of health (which it is not) and instead focused on how to enjoy, use, and love the bodies we have. Health can exist regardless of a number on a scale, as Ms. Parker-Pope alludes to in her article: low blood pressure and cholesterol, good sugars, etc. A focus on activity, balanced food intake, and body awareness can lead to a health body and mind despite the size of that body. The health value of being at peace with one’s body can not be underestimated.

    E. Doig

    • Soli

      This right here. Being thin is not automatically a sign that the person is somehow healthy. Plenty of normal weight people have health issues too.

    • GTG

      YES!  The only thing I would add is the harm that is being done, especially to children and adolescents, by the constant barrage of messages that there is something “wrong” with their bodies if they happen to carry a few (or more) extra pounds.  Making people self conscious about their bodies makes most people want to go home and hide, not get out and be more active.

  • Trudy S.

    My teenage daughter had some emotional difficulties requiring psychiatric medication that resulted in massive weight gain…over 70 pounds.  Since her medication has changed, she’s lost about 25 of the pounds but she has carried the remainder for the past 2 years.  Psychiatry has minimized the consequence of this well-documented side effect.  Based on our experience, the benefit of the medication was minimal and the weight-gain cost was very high.  How can we impress upon psychiatry that this is a problem?

  • Beez

    Overweight people need to eat well and excercise consistently and not worry about the actual weight. They will be improving their health by doing so and that is the right step to take. Alot of people lack the discipline but the important thing is to just do what you can.
    It’s hard to stay consistent. I love working out but my responsibilities make it hard to find the time, and sometimes, we want to have down moments with family, friends, or self.
    Obesity epidemic is due to processed foods, reliance on fast-food, over-eating, and the culture…lack of excercise, tv/net, driving to the cornerstore, etc. When I was a kid in the 80′s we were always outside playing, riding bikes, etc. Many of today’s kids really think they can play basketball, for example, because they play it on video games!

  • Jsilverhand

    do we know if genetic switches that might turn on a “fat gene” are transmitted through to offspring in the already-on-position if the parent is obese? 

  • Elenacorinntaylor

    Meditation and mindful eating.

    Just one factor in a large equation but we are sped up: Internet, fb, emails, tweets, computer games, television, need to be here, need to be there. We’re losing the ability to slow down and taste our food. Try breathing and putting your fork down between bites. Seem oversimplified? In combination with exercise it helped me lose close to 20 lbs and keep it off.

  • Muriel

    It may sound stupid but it seems that the best way to avoid obesity would be to prevent it by educating young children to eat a healthy diet, not drink sodas, eat as few processed foods as possible, and exercise.  Corn syrup which is in almost everything you buy today should be highly regulated.  There should not be access to junk food/drinks in schools. There is barely any time in elementary school children’s daily schedules to get up and move around.  (At our schools in Brookline kids have 1 to 2 15 min recess periods in a day and one of them included lunch!)  

  • Rnldjnsn

    Best way to lose weight and keep it off. http://www.fasting.com/ Do the fast and go vegan…

  • Yar

    Maybe the scale is the wrong tool to manage weight.  Monitoring blood sugar, and keeping it in the proper range, not too high or letting it get to low may be a better feedback system to learn your own body.  You don’t have to have diabetes to monitor your own blood sugar.   

  • Aaron

    Does this effect result from loosing muscle mass as well? Should I think twice before trying to put on muscle weight while I’m young?

    • cricket

      Absolutely not…you should try to maintain as much lean muscle mass as practical, at any age.  You should also commit to regular cardiovascular exercise, which helps to amp up the metabolism, thereby helping with weight control.

  • cricket

    Another factor not yet mentioned by Tara is that as we grow older, we lose muscle mass and our metabolisms slow down to the tune of about 5% per decade after the age of 30.  This makes it increasingly difficult for us to lose weight and maintain weight loss as we grow older.

    • Anonymous

      Yes.  After 30 the average person loses 6 lbs of muscle mass/decade.  That means that without resistance training, you can be a perfectly fit, thin 30 y.o. maintain you level of exercise and calorie intake, and still gain significant fat in your 30′s, 40′s, 50′s, etc.  

      Resistance training is just as important to overall health as a good diet and regular cardiovascular exercise.  This is widely known, and yet the guests here completely ignore it.  Amazing.

  • Mark Fenton

    The environment, not physiological changes, are driving the obesity epidemic. We’re really talking about twin epidemics of physical inactivity and poor nutrition. A concrete example: In 1969 over 40% of children walked and biked to school, and only 15% were driven by car. In 2001 bus ridership was basically unchanged, but nearly 50% of kids were being driven by car, and less than 15% walked and biked. We can’t just blame the individual, but we do have to take collective responsibility for community improvements, from safer streets for children to walk and bike, to local farmers markets. And we have to acknowledge that improved physical activity and nutrition are independent risk factors–if you’re more active and eat better, you’ll be healthier, even without dramatic weight loss.

    Sadly, this on-air conversation is focusing on the “fat apologist” viewpoint, which doesn’t help anyone.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YJOFCUW4S62AICSGYG562VMHZY Marje

      Trouble is, many of the people i know with kids live in deathly fear they will be kidnapped. No doubt from watching re-runs of such stories every hour on the hour on the boob tube. They won’t let their kids get out and really exercise and run and play, but keep them confined to the yard or the house, where they don’t get any exercise. Luckily, my step children don’t have obese in their families. So far they are slim enough but i worry about the future. Corn is in almost everything in one form or another. It’s dangerous stuff, IMO.

  • CatieB

    I’ll be leaving for my WW meeting within 15 minutes!  How pertinent this conversation is!  Reality in the WW world is that this is not only a life change but the weight loss mindset is constant and never wavering for the leaders we’re inspired by. Wow, is this really the right answer?  And as I continue to think on this yes–I do need to change my personal psychology and eat more consciously.  You know?
    My blood pressure starting to increase steadily is the Why I’ve continued this journey and will continue to.

  • Matthew Piaker

    It takes discipline, as you say.  What I do, which has been very successful, is wear a podometer, every day, from when I first dress in the morning until I undress at night.  The daily goal is a minimum of 10,000 steps.  This cannot happen without some thought or a plan, but I make it happen every day and am accountable to myself by logging it on a spreadsheet.  If one eats sensibly and gets over 10,000 steps EVERY day, the weight will come off…slowly but steadily.

  • Jemimah

    It’s really not that hard.  When I was younger, I, too went through the typical American female syndrome of gaining, losing, gaining, losing.  I had anorexia before I’d even heard of the word. I was really nuts.  Last time I ever weighed myself was when I was 19.  At that point, I tipped the scales at 180.  I didn’t eat too much around people, but alone, look out!  And I’ll bet you dimes to dollars that peole who say they eat well but still gain weight, are sneaking food. 
    I’ve always been athletic, but when I moved to Boston, I started jogging regularly and had a boyfriend who ate “normally.”  I started to eat whatever he did, exercised regularly and guess what?  I lost weight!  I also discovered that dieting is a bunch of hooey.  Now, 30 years (!) later, I’m still slim, I don’t think about it, I eat whatever I want and I stay active.  The key is exercise and eating the things you like, but not OVER-EATING. If you deny yourself the things you love, you’ll eat too much of something else. It really is this simple: eat a little less, play a little more.  You’ll feel better.  It’s so much less difficult that dieting and it works. 

  • Brigham

    What studies are being done on active, fit people who eat healthy diets but are still overweight?  

    • Ecdoig

      Look up studies on the “obesity paradox.”  There’s plenty (plenty!) out there on “fat but fit” and the protective nature of overweight against certain health conditions.  It just doesn’t get the media play.

  • Archibald

    We eat more sugar and sugar substitutes than we ever did.
    If we lose our sweet tooth by giving up sugar and substitutes, we will find we haven’t given up sweetness.  Apples and oranges will taste delicious. Vegetables will taste better. Baking chocolate, 100 % chocolate can be a regular treat and you will never need to diet again.  Archibald

  • Stan

    The major unrecognized contributor to weight gain is the increase in use of the automobile. How many families owned two and three cars in the 1950s or 1960s. NO ONE WALKS REGULARLY ANYMORE. Just consider your own experience finding a parking spot closest to the supermarket. The automobile has contributed at least as much to the American waistline as fast food in all its forms.

  • Em Shaw

    “Weighty Irony”
    It runs in my family to be naturally thin. Very often someone will comment on my weight: ” You sure are skinny” yet rarely if ever, have I heard someone say”You sure are fat!” . . .Em in Cambridge MA

  • Doug

    This story has a bit of a ‘duh’ factor.  Any athlete knows the more you work out (and the fitter you get), the more you need to work out to get the same level of burn.  It’s actually a good thing…that’s why endurance athletes train.  The more they do, the more their bodies can do with less effort (and less calorie burn).  A two mile walk is great for an obese person getting started, an elderly person, etc.  But the intensity (and variety) needs to build over time.  And guess what?  It’s addictive! To the point where weight loss (and maintenance) is just one advantage.  Work out time is also a time for deep thought, reflection, ideas, sorting out life’s complications, etc.  You’ll say goodbye to your therapist!
    On the food side, many have said it here…diets don’t work!  As a kid, my weight fluctuated until I went to Weight Watchers (only for a couple of months).  That was 30 years ago!  That’s when I really started learning about food and I have never stopped thinking about what I eat.  People need to get educated on how to eat and to change their eating habits for the rest of their lives.  I still cannot believe how much soda and crap people eat.  Over time, it can get to the point where you actually feel yucky when you eat the wrong stuff (or too much of it).  Believe me…I can put on 10 lbs. a week if I wanted to (like Bobby DeNiro in Raging Bull!!:).  That’s just my body type.
    Bottom line: to change like this is not easy.  You got to really want it.  But it does pay off big time.

  • Anonymous

    Most of the obese people aren’t the extreme examples the guest mentioned who exercise for hours a day.  There will always be overweight people as a result of extraordinary conditions but the problem is the population as a whole is getting much fatter and most of that is due to lack of even minimal exercise like walking and eating too much and making poor food choices.  Stop eating fries, chips, ice cream, and soda and start walking and most people will be fine. 

  • Steven

    The way Americans eat and live over the past 50 or so years has been guided by the food industry.  Lifestyles have become sedentary and processed high fat/calorie foods have become the norm for American families.  The human body has not changed in 50 years but the way people live and eat in America has.
    Steven- Boston

    • GTG

      I would add that the “weight loss” industry is also a culprit.  This multi-billion dollar industry has an 80-95% failure rate.  All those messages that we are too fat – more business for the diet industry!

  • Stillin

    Growing up healthy, in the 60′s, I watched all the women in my neighborhood, go from thin to middle sized frames, to a little bigger each year, ending up just rounded all over by their 60′s and 70′s. They all looked healthy to me. They all lived long, healthy lives. I think it’s just a sick society that wants everyone thin their whole lives…it was not what I witnessed.  They did not have diabetes, heart problems or anything. Some were active, some were not. I just think about them so often, as I gain a little each year, but I feel very good.

  • http://en-gb.facebook.com/onanov Donald Baxter

    Before you start your car to drive somewhere ask yourself what are your alternatives.  Most car trips are, round trip, 3 miles or less.  Many of us are capable of cycling of walking these distances.  Those who make those alternative choices have been proven to keep weight off.

  • DL

    No where in the Times article or today’s program has there been any discussion about weight training and how important that is in lifestyle change that is intended to lose weight. How does adding more muscle to the body affect weight loss?

    • Anonymous


      Building muscle while losing fat is very difficult, if not impossible for most.  However, maintaining muscle mass during weight loss is essential in maintaining the new weight and avoiding the metabolic damage indicated by the study.  

      Terrible oversight by the NYTimes writer to not mention the importance of maintaining muscle during fat loss.  

      Don’t get me started on the Columbia study, 800 calorie diet!?!?  That’s terrible advice for the vast majority of people.

  • Kathryn Tornquist

    When my 16 year old grandson was 12/13, I was concerned about him, because he had developed a “tire” around his waist. By the time he was 14, he had started to gain height.  In that process he lost ALL of that excess fat, and is quite a bean pole now.  Isn’t that a common pattern – hence my concern misguided? 

    If so, don’t we need to be extra careful about admonishing latency kids/preteens/even early teens to “watch their weight, or even our own identification of them as overweight, when it may well be their bodies preparing for height gain?

    • GTG

      YES!  There IS natural weight gain in latency and before major growth spurts.  A tremendous amount of harm is being done to the self esteem, confidence and body image of young people who are being told that there is something wrong with their bodies.  Putting children on diets is wrong – for their mental, emotional and physical health.  It sets them up for this “lifetime battle,” – the insulin resistance and metabolic disorders that come from yo-yo dieting.  Allowing children to be comfortable, confident and active in the bodies they have is far more healthy in the long run.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1128308759 Polly Pierce

    Do you think MSG is playing a role in obesity?  I have read that there are studies which show damage to hypothalamus which in turn alters leptin functioning.  When you look closely at processed foods, almost all of them contain MSG or ingredients which contain the same flavor booster (processed free glutamic acid).  

    Incidentally, I lost 50 pounds slowly over many years in my 20′s.  I’ve kept it off for 20 years.  For the past 5 years, I have stopped eating processed foods and recently I noticed my life-long food cravings are almost completely gone.  Curious, since the only thing I’ve cut out in the past few years is the chemicals in the processed foods.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YJOFCUW4S62AICSGYG562VMHZY Marje

      Way to go Polly. I do my best to avoid processed foods and especially MSG in any form.. Real food tastes better. 

  • Kris

    Had lost 35 and regained. Had the weight off for 3 yrs. +. Went through job losses; and stopped my regimen of “watchful” eating and walking program. it was a “head” thing, which I should have pushed through. Ergh! ‘Trying to start up again….’miss feeling lighter/healthier and wearing my nice clothes. No news here…losing weight and maintaining is hard,hard work and a forever thing!

    • Terry Tree Tree

      You did it once!  You can do it again!  It’ll be easier, because you know you CAN!  You also know the traps you fell into, so you will avoid them.

  • Erik Esselstyn

    Such grunting and groaning about finding a healthy weight, counting calories, hours of exercise. Yes, there are indeed folks with unique metabolic problems. However, how about simply eating foods that are not loaded with fat. As a comfortable vegan who exercises about an hour a day, body weight simply not an issue. The foods I eat simply do not contain the fat that caouses so many problems. The typical American diet – meat and milk – just loaded with fat.

  • Moygrace

    How about the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle? The books by Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., T Colin Campbell and others are enlightening. Heart disease halted, weight loss, diabetic states resolved, etc. are documented and scientifically supported. Also, the website Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is also quite informative.

  • Steven

    Somebody called and wondered how you can think about this as a life long battle and not get discouraged. I have found that with the exercise component at least I focus on how good I feel after exercise. I usually dread it but never regret it. At times, even during exercise, feeling strong enough to keep moving is a very comforting and energizing. As far as the food consumption component it is a barrier that one has to push through like resisting an itch. Losing weight and keeping it off is an heroic act. It helps us all.  

  • Connie

    Tom, there’s no need for medication!  If people cut sugar and white flour out of their diets, they can eat balanced meals (protein, whole wheat, brown rice, fruits & veggies) and drop a lot of weight.  They’ll feel healthier and more energetic, too! I know:  It worked for me and I’ve kept the weight off for years now.

  • TL

    Would like to hear the opposite problem discussed: extreme weight loss due to disease, surgery, stress, etc. and the challenge of regaining weight back to a healthy state.

  • L armond

    The same people who make money off the medicine, make it off the high fructose, and they are just looking for another ‘revenue stream.’  Look at what the FDA did by raising cochichine to patent status, just because of some lawyer looking for a loophole for traditional medicines.  They are the people who must have ‘proof’,  now if they can ‘prove’ why traditional things work, they can patent it, and give revenue stream to medical schools, universities, pharmacology, labs, This is Colinisation Medicine,  must pay for the rain and the sun next.  

  • S.C. Listener

    Maybe our collective consciousness is telling us to pack on the pounds to ready for a future event. There are also more boys being born… spooky

  • Anonymous

    Great topic!
    Acknowledging the past is important when making substantial change – but most of the focus needs to be on moving forward with the most healthful options that fit your lifestyle. At iBeamforLife nutrition coaching, our dietitians know that 80% of all health issues are due to lifestyle choices, and that sometimes it takes a knowledgeable guide from outside your circle to help you set smart, healthful goals that help create and reinforce long term habits that allow you to create a new normal – one that fits your life.  Our dietitians help people by providing care and mutual personal accountability – every day.

  • GTG

    Ms. Pope’s article did not go far enough stressing the fact that it is possible to be healthy in a larger body.  She also just mentioned that only 5-20% of people are able to successfully maintain significant weight loss for five years or more.  Constant messages that there is something “wrong” with excess body fat serves to make otherwise healthy people feel that they have a serious health problem.  Rather than “treating obesity,”  why not focus on health?  Exercise and well balanced diets are very important to health.  It IS possible to be healthy in a larger body – at age 45, my BMI is considered “obese.”  Much more importantly, though, my blood pressure, lipids and sugars are in the normal to healthy range.  I am an active person and a decent athlete.  I also happen to have a larger body.

  • Anonymous

    This show is making me feel bad about how I had forgotten to thaw my planned dinner of wild salmon yesterday and had Chinese food instead. 

  • cricket

    I don’t use a scale to monitor my weight…I use my pant size.  I steadfastly REFUSE to give myself permission to go up a size when I gain a little weight.  As a result, I’m either going to be incredibly uncomfortable, or I’m going to lose the weight.  It’s a behavioral approach that works for me.  I’m 55, and where the same pant size that I wore in high school. 

  • Guest

    I am amazed that no one is talking about CARBS. Look at today’s diet and most of it is “garbage” food, instead of “good” food. An education is required to know the difference between the two. No one is fat within my family but we treat food like medicines: limited, counted proteins, fats, and CARBS. My carb intake is between 30-40 grams per day during the week and more on the weekends that I am hiking, skiing, gardening, or doing something EXTRA. I haven’t eaten at a “fast Food” establishment in the last 20+ years but I do take CYTOMAX sports powder on hikes. Therefore, eat healthy food COOKED at home and are NOT processed. Limit all “white” foods, such as, potatoes, bread, etc. Most importantly, limit CARBS and eventually, the body will balance out to the proper food regime and one’s weight will adjust to one’s height. This is science !!!!

  • Carol

    I am finding none of this encouraging. I have felt guilty for years for passing on my ‘heavy’ genes to one adult son–who will fight weight all his life–pointlessly, I feel, as there are so many more interesting and stimulating ways to spend a life–it is SUCH A WASTE OF TIME. And now we learn “there is nothing you can do about it.” I can’t give him any hope at all that his life will be better than mine–obsessing about food and its avoidance. It’s not like a child contracting some disease; this, I am responsible for. I passed it on. This whole discussion just makes me angry and depressed. There is nothing uplifting and encouraging in it. Who has time to spend several hours a day exercising? Who can change his profession to the ‘health field’, just like that? This just feeds a feeling of hopelessness.
    Btw, both he and I exercise every day–a lot. But not 2+ hours. It’s just not possible. But even that seems pointless now.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      By exercising as much as you do, you keep yourselves healthier!  Why would you consider this pointless?  
         I didn’t get the impression that there is nothing that a person can do.  I did hear that an obese person that loses weight, cannot expect to keep it off near as easily as a person that has been at that weight.
         Muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue!  Therefore watching your weight can actually be part of the problem.  If you reduce your waist 2 pant sizes, you may still weigh the same, or near it.  You’re SLIMMER, and probably more healthy!
          A 400 pound person that can run a marathon without more problems than a 100 pound person, should worry about their weight?

      • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

        Um…has a 400 pound person finished a marathon?

        Some amount of fat is not a medical problem.  In fact, without some body fat, you’re going to be very sick.  But, with too much fat, you’re also going to be very sick.

        We can’t kid ourselves about this.  Some people do eat themselves to death.

        That said, I know many fat people who are in a vicious cycle of “I can’t be active, I’m too fat.”  “It hurts to move.”  “I look bad in a bathing suit/shorts.”  The more you build up activity levels, the less you will hurt in the long run.  I have arthritis and a bad back and my back is much better as I’ve been loosing some weight.

        Even little things – stand up more when you’re at a party.  Walk more.  Do more yardwork.  All of these things can help.

    • Anonymous

      Carol don’t give up hope.  There is a lot of poor information in this program.  Dr.  Leibel put his subjects on a severe starvation diet of 800 calories.  That is malpractice as far as I’m concerned.  

      Under such severe calorie restriction, muscle loss is inevitable as the body is shocked into starvation mode.  This has devastating long term impact on metabolism as the study shows.  

      But it’s a huge mistake for the Dr to blame this big change in metabolism on weight loss per se, and not on the severe calorie restriction which induces starvation mode.

      The problem for the layperson is that there is so much conflicting advice on health and fat loss that it’s really, REALLY hard to decide who to trust.  Given that, you may not believe me when I say that you should go to fat2fitradio[dot]com for outstanding, easily accessible advice on how to lose fat and keep it off without starving yourself. It’s not magic, it’s hard, but you can do it and still eat plenty. I know this may look like spam, but I have no monetary interest in it, and you don’t ever need to buy anything there to get all the benefit.  

      It’s hard to trust in a random stranger, but please do yourself a favor and give a quick look.  Listen to a couple of the free mp3 clips.  You won’t be disappointed and it will raise you spirits.

    • L armond

      Believe me, even in the ‘health field’ if you ‘ain’t one who has got’ you will get no consideration  on exercize, work station design, etc., etc.  The Management of for profit  hospitals, and even those who are run by foundations, take care of their own, and save their money for their ‘educational trips,’ and deny any other professional the ability to keep up their own credentials.  Once you work for them, your professional credentials, and accredidation can go to hell.  No engineer, industrial, civil, electrical or mechanical should waste their time working for any hospital.  They will only grind you down and kick you to the curb.  “They is special, don’t you know.”

    • midwestbruh

      Carol, I feel for you.  There is hope.  Overeaters anonymous is such a program.  Members have lost significant amount of weight and have kept it off for years.  It sounds like what was described in the program in terms of successful individuals who kept weight off.  Weigh and measure your food, abstain from certain foods.  It has worked for me.  I have lost 84 pounds and counting.  I no longer take my medicines and my diabetes is non-existent. Go to http://www.oa.org and you will find local meetings.  It is not a food thing is is a mind thing!  Best wishes.

      • healthyfocus

        it is not a mind thing…perhaps in the fact that your hormones are telling your brain to tell you you are still hungry when are are not.  
        I went to a few oa meetings;  I even talked to a potential sponsor.  It was so militant, it was not for me.   This person expected me to “follow” her with no questions asked.  Crazy.  I had to check in with her at 4:30 am.  
        Another member, husband of a leader, harassed me because I made a simple mistake.  
        I am sure there are good experiences with oa, but my experience is I found it to be filled with a bunch of people in need of real therapy.  

  • Haudi

    In September 2011, at the urging of my primary care physician I joined a 4-month wellness and nutrition group he and a licensed dietitian in his office were conducting. They had been running them since the fall of 2009. I was willing to try but skeptical and why not – nothing I’d tried before over the past 50+ years of my adulthood ever worked (or worked for very long). I was a “couch-potato” with issues relating to high blood pressure, cholesterol, and glycemic index. I was pre-diabetic and my BMI was at the upper range of the “obese” segment. The results have been transformative. Over the ensuing 16 months, I’ve lost 30 lbs. and 8 inches in my waist. I’m also healthier and in better shape by far than in decades, if not ‘ever’. I Nordic-walk at least 20 miles per week at a sustained 15 min/mile pace. I also do strength/resistance exercises at the gym twice a week. This past September, I did the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk – all 26.2 miles – in about 7 hours. I sleep like a babe and my mood is generally ‘happy’ in the sense of being content. My diet emphasizes fruits, veggies and other nutritionally “dense” foods. At my annual physical last spring, my doctor informed me all my test results were normal. Oh and did I mention I’m 70?? I guess results like those would allow the experience that produced them to qualify as “transformative”. Our group met Tuesday evenings for 15 sessions over the 4-month period. Each session had a theme that allowed for give-and-take on the subject as well as general sharing about how we were doing, issues we may be having, etc. The themes were generally directed at a behavioral change we were urged to undertake involving: exercise and activity (they are not the same!); food selection and nutrition; mindfulness; mutual support. Other than being urged to cut out foods with no or low nutritional value for the calorie consumed, there was no “diet” as such. Instead, it is about changes made gradually but “for life”. One last thing: there is a secret ingredient that, in my opinion, makes this program work as well as it does. That is the emotional connection or bond that appears to develop between and among the group members as they travel the path together toward the common goal of living a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. We use a private e-list – to share our insights, vent our frustrations, ask for help and, yes, “crow” about our successes. When one of us experiences a ‘win’, it gives the rest of us hope; when one confesses to difficulty achieving a goal, we discover we weren’t the only one. Sounds simple but my observation was that it’s crucial to help keep each other on track, not just during the 4-month term but even afterwards.
    Our group met Tuesday evenings for 15 sessions over the 4-month period. Each session had a theme that allowed for give-and-take on the subject as well as general sharing about how we were doing, issues we may be having, etc. The themes were generally directed at a behavioral change we were urged to undertake involving: exercise and activity (they are not the same!); food selection and nutrition; mindfulness; mutual support. Other than being urged to cut out foods with no or low nutritional value for the calorie consumed, there was no “diet” as such. Instead, it is about changes made gradually but “for life”.
    One last thing: there is a secret ingredient that, in my opinion, makes this program work as well as it does. That is the emotional connection or bond that appears to develop between and among the group members as they travel the path together toward the common goal of living a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. We use a private e-list – to share our insights, vent our frustrations, ask for help and, yes, “crow” about our successes. When one of us experiences a ‘win’, it gives the rest of us hope; when one confesses to difficulty achieving a goal, we discover we weren’t the only one. Sounds simple but my observation was that it’s crucial to help keep each other on track, not just during the 4-month term but even afterwards.

    • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

      I really wish I could tolerate more fruits and vegetables. I picked up what I thought was a piece of cheese at a party last week.  It was “hearts of palm” – I thought I was going to pass out.  But, congratulations on your excellent progress.  I know loosing weight and keeping it off is one of the hardest things you can do.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Eat the fruits and vegetables that you can tolerate.  Eat them BEFORE you eat the meat, or the bread.  You’re the main one responsible for your health, physical and mental.

    • Ellena0007

      Thanks for your post! Would you mind sharing where you took the wellness class? I’d like to find out more information. 

  • Sara Dadian

    Dear Tom,  
    I love your radio program.  I listen to your shows every day, via podcast, and always learn something new.  Thank you, and your team, for contributing so much to the lives of your listeners and for helping to ensure a more educated citizenry.

    I’m writing with a suggestion for an episode: Havana, Cuba, the loosening of US to Cuba travel regulations, and the number of ‘unknown’ University study abroad programs there.  I studied abroad in Havana, have returned countless times, and have recently started a pen pal exchange project between Londonderry High School (Londonderry, NH) and an architectural technical school in Havana, while also trying to develop a study abroad program in Havana for Boston University, my alma mater.  (BU still isn’t convinced that they need a study abroad program there…but I’m not giving up until I convince them otherwise!)  
    Harvard has an excellent program there as well as a very long history of intellectual and scholastic relations, while Tufts has been developing a program there for quite some time.  Brown, Duke, and Northeastern also have study abroad programs there…the list goes on and on.   

    Cuba is stunning, compelling, and in a very important way, worthy of our attention.  In the face of difficulty, Cubans maintain a remarkable level of optimism.  Conflict is met with invention and a resolute mindset to find the solution that ‘must’ exist.  Hardship is met with laughter and a very keen sense of humor.  These are lessons that could benefit all of our lives, and maybe even raise our American level of optimism a notch…
    A Happy New Year to you and all of your staff.  

    Very Sincerely, 

    Sara Dadian
    15 Robin Hood
    Londonderry, NH 03053 

    • L armond

      I second this motion.  Even on the bio-medical and neurology research, they are the cat’s pajamas on figuring out things.  And, the people in Europe funded the rehabilitation of Hemingway’s Vinca…because the snobs of America wont give anything without a tax write off.  And I have never met anyone from Cuba or South America who would drink any American soft drink.  They all buy them from bodegas so they get cane sugar.  Stevia was being used industrially and commercially in South America at least 20 years before American’s could get it.  The gated community sits on everything until they get their kids thru  college.  “They genes so fine.”  Hope you get the sarcasm between the quotes.  I grew up quenching my thirst on Yahoos.  Then I tried one and had to spit it out.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1128308759 Polly Pierce

    Exercise is key.  Start your meal with a plate of vegetables before you eat anything else and eat lots of vegetable based soups – this is how I’ve kept my weight loss for 20+ years.  I think people in America are disconnected with the purpose of food and exercise helps to reset that for me.  Food is meant to nourish our bodies.  Life isn’t so good when the body starts to fail.  When I exercise I am more connected to this concept and it is much easier to go for an apple and broccoli when I am yearning for something less healthy.   

  • Jack

    Tom, this program (and Parker-Pope’s article) would have benefited greatly from the perspective offered by Linda Bacon, PhD, in Health at Every Size. 
    A revised and updated edition of this book was published in 2010.) Bacon argues that so often dieting is counterproductive, and that the goal should be to achieve and maintain good health rather than to achieve a certain weight. In the last few minutes of the program the discussion turned toward this important topic. Please consider having Bacon as a guest sometime soon to discuss her approach in depth. 

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Excellent Point!

    • Skinny1

      MMMMM. Bacon.

    • Skinny1

      The problem with this is that obesity is so directly linked to health problems (T2DM, HTN, OSA, heart disease, cancer, etc) that you have to address the obesity to improve health. If you happen to be a patient who is obese without significant health consequences – a distinct minority – than you do not necessarily need to worry about the weight.

  • Anonymous

    The problem with the studies which purport to show long lasting hormone changes after significant weight loss all involved severely calorie reduced diets, thus it’s impossible to know if the weight loss caused the hormone changes or if the starvation caused weight loss. To the best of my knowledge it’s starvation which results in these hormone changes not fat loss per se.  

    Slow fat loss of less than 1%/week is considered optimal for avoiding sending one’s body into starvation mode.  If you plateau, then eat more to let body know you’re not starving.  This has been conventional thinking for most of the last decade; it’s a damn shame that the NYTimes health writer has missed this important component of fat loss.

    People who have a history of yo-yo starvation dieting have lost substantial muscle mass.  It’s the loss of muscle mass during diets without adequate resistance training/protein intake which has the biggest impact on diminished calorie requirements at the new weight.  This is especially problematic for women who lack the testosterone to easily gain it back.

    It’s now conventional wisdom among weight loss and fitness experts that resistance training to maintain muscle mass is an essential part of effective, permanent fat loss.  Yet no where was that mentioned by any of the guests.  It’s astonishing that this knowledge which is widespread in the fitness community still has yet to penetrate the main stream media.


    • Crackedvessel

      I agree completely – starvation causes these changes, NOT weight loss. 

  • Anonymous

    Stunning level of ignorance in this program.  

    The doctor/article recommends severe starvation in order to lose weight and then is surprised to find that under such conditions the body undergoes drastic hormonal changes and wants to do everything to gain it back.  

    Slow and steady fat lose is the key with a focus on maintaining muscle mass and avoiding going into starvation mode.

  • James

    Call it the Costco factor. More food, bigger servings!

  • Maurice

    To further backup the caller’s Woodstock reference, you might want to consider doing a show on chemicals that mimic estrogen/hormones and/or the effect of gut bacteria/antibiotics/digestion on obesity. I believe your guest alluded to different people gaining different amounts of weight on the same calories, implying a different digestion. Also, there is research that basically states that conditions your grandparents grew up in, feat or famine, determines your genetic predisposition and longevity. I believe that there are numerous researchers that are researching some fundamental change in the environment that is causing obesity.

    • Skinny1

      Can you link to a concrete reference supporting your statement that “there is research that basically states that conditions your grandparents grew up in, feat or famine, determines your genetic predisposition and longevity.”?

    • midwestbruh

      I find the Woodstock reference strange.  To base if there were fat people at woodstock based on a picture is crazy.  It’s just like looking at a picture of rich people and then making the assumption that there are no poor people.

  • Anonymous

    If one person is helped by reading a book called Wheat Belly by Dr. Davis, that would be awesome.  Eliminating wheat from your diet, all those industrial, refined carb heavy foods will do wonders for your health and your weight.  Nix the wheat, the refined sugar, the high fructose corn syrup, the omega-6 vegetable oils, the trans fats. 

  • Anonymous

    As uninformed and old fashioned as this may sound, the epidemic of overweight and obesity in this country is due entirely to environmental conditions. If obesity genes exist, and I’m sure they do, then they existed in 1962. If hormones that control our perception of hunger or fullness exist, and I’m sure they do, then they existed in 1962. Was obesity as a national health problem on anyone’s radar screen in 1962?  Of course not, because it was  extremely rare.  As many of you have pointed out, the activity level of children has plummeted with the advent of electronic entertainment and  instant communication. Instead of using their entire bodies to play and entertain themselves they sit on their bums texting and playing computer games. When I was a child, we didn’t exercise. we didn’t work out or  participate in formal sports programs as early as five years old. We simply moved, as children had done for thousands of years, and we were thin as rails.   On today’s show, in response to a caller’s comments about the dearth of overweight people in the sixties, Tara Parker-Pope as much as admitted that the problem is based on environmental circumstances and personal choices, not metabolism. She said meals are much more calorie dense than in the past, especially fast food. She also said that the the average working person has a far more sedentary job than was the case decades ago.To put the last two sentences another way, we eat more calories than we used to while burning fewer than in the past. Case closed, unless someone can tell me where those obesity genes and hunger hormones were hiding in 1962.

  • Donna

    I was surprised that none of the experts or callers stressed that in the past everyone cooked from scratch and that eating in restaurants was reserved for very special occasions.  Planning nutritious meals, shopping for ingedients, prepping and cooking food for yourself or your family is eseential to good health.  It is not called dieting; it is called healthy eating and it is your responsibility.

  • Ljo1943


    the latest science does not support that resistance training during weight loss prevents muscle loss.  the muscle mass will still deminish at the same rate as someone who does not do resistance training but, the retained muscles will get stronger.  this has been evidenced in more than one recent study.
    as a fairly highly trained athlete (a runner for over 30 years with 35 marathons under my belt), i have researched training, exercise and related topics.  the maximum oxygen uptake for 2 athletes with identical marathon times can vary as much as 40%.  everyone is born with individual metabolic rates.  i have six children and two of them can eat anything they want and not get overweight, the others have to be very careful of what they eat or they will get heavy.  i am 150 lb. man and i eat considerably less than my 112 lb. female training partner even though we train the same mileage and do identical hard/easy workouts together.  her caloric intake is about 400 more calories daily than mine.  there is no such thing as one size fits all.  like the author states, you need to learn your own body and adjust your lifestyle to fit its parameters.

    • Anonymous

      I’m not aware of those studies.  Do you have a citation?

      Among recent studies that I reviewed, these all show that resistance training minimizes muscle loss during weight loss:

      from 2011

      In overweight/obese older men undergoing weight loss, pioglitazone increased visceral fat loss and resistance training reduced skeletal muscle loss

      from 2010


      Resistance exercise in combination with a ketogenic diet may reduce body fat without significantly changing LBM, while resistance exercise on a regular diet may increase LBM in without significantly affecting fat mass. Fasting blood lipids do not seem to be negatively influenced by the combination of resistance exercise and a low carbohydrate diet.


      There were no significant weight loss differences between the DASH-RT and DASH groups (-3.6 +/- 0.8 vs. -2.0 +/- 0.9%, p = 0.137). The DASH-RT group had a greater reduction in body fat than the DASH group (-4.1 +/- 0.9 vs. -0.2 +/- 1.0 kg, p = 0.005). The DASH-RT group had greater changes in lean mass (+0.8 +/- 0.4 vs. -1.4 +/- 0.4 kg, p = 0.002) and strength (+60 +/- 18 vs. -5 +/- 9 N, p = 0.008) than the DASH group

      I don’t think this is controversial.  We also have a huge amount of anecdotal evidence from the world of bodybuilding that is highly suggestive that resistance training during weight loss minimizes muscle loss.

      Also check out this article on the benefits of slower weight loss on preserving lean body mass:


      Body weight and fat mass decreased in both slow reduction and fast reduction by 5.6% ± 0.8% and 5.5% ± 0.7% (0.7% ± 0.8% vs. 1.0% ± 0.4%/wk) and 31% ± 3% and 21 ± 4%, respectively. Lean body mass increased in slow reduction by 2.1% ± 0.4% (p < .001), whereas it was unchanged in fast reduction (-0.2% ± 0.7%), with significant differences between groups (p < .01). In conclusion, data from this study suggest that athletes who want to gain lean body mass and increase 1RM strength during a weight loss period combined with strength training should aim for a weekly body weight loss of 0.7%

  • Modavations

    Take your BMI and adjust for age.If you’re way off the mark,you pay up the wazoo.As you get in shape,you pay less and less until you reach optimum BMI.I guarantee we’ll all be Jack Lalanes in one year

    • JustSayin

      LOL -Jack LaLanne is dead.

      • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

        Yeah but he lived to be 96 and he looked pretty good into his 90s…

        • Terry Tree Tree

          True.   However, do you want to be a current-day Jack LaLanne?

  • working hard at it

    I believe all of our hormones have been messed up with chemicals in our cleaners and our homes and foods.  

  • Roy Mac

    Tara Parker-Pope is not intelligent.  What, exactly, is the reason people are fatter now?  And don’t give me cloud-crap about portions, blah, blah, blah.  Can it possibly have anything to do with the notion that everyone gets a medal?

    • Lazylazerbeam

      Roy, with all due respect, you are letting your fat bigotry get in the way of what you’re hearing. Tara Parker-Pope didn’t make this stuff up – she’s a journalist, reporting on new scientific understanding of weight loss and gain. 

  • Maryfeuer

    How does one get through to comment on air?? I’m getting a strange internal message at BU.

    • Joanne McKinney

      The reason you can’t comment is because the show was aired this morning,taped and re-run tonight.

  • Crackedvessel

    I’m so glad that people are talking about this, and I agree with a lot of what’s being said. HOWEVER – as a 50 year old woman who spent 1/3 of 2010 in the hospital in treatment for an eating disorder that has swung from anorexia to bulimia for 40 years, I really resist the idea of telling people who have a tendency toward obesity or overweight they should behave as if they have a lifelong health problem along the lines of epilepsy. In the hospital, my dietitian gave me a book called “Intuitive Eating.” It has been the only path out of a painful life full of self-punishment, self-hatred, and obsession.  I have probably lost a little weight since I started looking at life this way, but since I no longer weigh myself I can’t confirm that. I CAN confirm that I am no longer consumed by the consumption of food or the denial of food, or by misuse of exercise, as I was most of my life. My relationship with food and with my body is being repaired. It’s one thing to accept the body you have, but it’s another thing entirely to make keeping it slim the focus of your life. I am absolute evidence of that. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YJOFCUW4S62AICSGYG562VMHZY Marje

    On obesity: please interview Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo, who wrote Eat Right 4 Your Type and Cook Right 4 Your Type. 
    His advice took off 5 pounds the first two weeks of my BTD. 
    ( BLood Type Diet)

    He would be a fascinating guest. I have Type O blood and must avoid wheat, dairy and CORN. There is corn in just about everything and since Type O is the most common, I bet obese people who quit corn will see a difference pretty quickly. The diet is better for my digestive system, which was a mess and the main reason i went on the BTD. It really worked. 
    Please have him on your program. He has a website…dadamo.com (sorry my laptop is refusing to add hyperlinks today)

  • Joanne McKinney

    I’m very curious about why other countries don’t have the wight issues that we have in the USA. Traveling to Paris or Barcelona or Asian countries,we don’t see overweight people unless they’re visitors. What is the difference there? It can’t be genes…it must be the environment or a lifestyle difference.

    • Crackedvessel

      I believe this is because we are the only nation obsessed with weight loss, and dieting is the CAUSE of much of our obesity. You won’t catch many French people eating nothing but grapefruit or tea to shed a few pounds.

  • Concerned

    It is my understanding that Obesity rates have risen dramatically over the last few decades.  This could correlate with reduced activity, but possibly more importantly, with the Dietary recommendations from the FDA Food Pyramid and Dietitians to eat a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.  This style of eating seems more likely to lead Metabolic Syndrome, which can lead to a long list of maladies.
    From my reading over the years, I find high Glycemic  and highly processed foods to be a major contributor to Metabolic Syndrome and the resulting health consequences.

    I highly enjoy your show, although this is my first time commenting.

    • Anonymous

       The belief that low fat, high carbohydrate eating patterns have led to higher levels of obesity over the last few decades is a common, but erroneous one. While a small portion of the population has ,at various times, tinkered with the nutritional makeup of their diets, the majority have enjoyed a happily carnivorous lifestyle during those years. In the past thirty five   years, cheap fast food outlets such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, et al, have proliferated to the point of blight. More trendy  but still inexpensive chains such as Chili’s, TGIF, Applebee’s, and Pub 99 are a dime a dozen. The bread and butter of these places, no pun intended, has always been meat. Giant portions of fat laden burgers, ribs, steaks, burritos, and chicken wings is what we have wanted and those are the things these businesses have gladly given us.  The most popular cooking shows on PBS and The Food Network have not been shows about low fat or healthy eating styles. They have been the shows celebrating the western style diet in all it’s decadent healthfulness. Sub shops have always sold more meatball and Italian subs than they have veggie delights. We like our bread, especially when it’s wrapped around a nice hunk of animal protein.    

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  • Tina

    (By mistake, I submitted a version of this to the wrong show — today’s first hour — I wonder if anyone might be able to answer my questions here at this late stage, especially someone really familiar with ADD and/or Asperger’s Syndrome.  I ALSO missed about 5 minutes of this show, so ALSO, please forgive me if this was covered.  Sorry AND Thanks!)  
    Is it possible that kids with ADD and/or Asperger’s have a Social Learning component that prevents them from seeing that they are not as healthy in their overweight as their healthier-weight friends are; AND, is it possible that the Self Esteem movement ALSO does NOT help these kids because they feel TOO good about themselves, thus THREATENING their true Good Health?  Then, as well, there seems to be an aversion to SENSORY CHANGE that some people with ADD and/or Asperger’s have, making it hard for them to go from one Sensory State to Another — for instance, from a State of Comfort to a State of Exertion.  Has anyone studied this aspect of Healthiness at all, and do you have any suggestions for this difficulty:  the INABILITY TO INITIATE MOVEMENT and/or EXERCISE ACTIONS DUE TO AN AVERSION TO SENSORY CHANGE, especially away from a State of Sensory Comfort, with  resulting Unhealthiness?  Thanks very much!

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  • Monica

    My experience is very different than the story this show tells, and the science that I’ve read supports my experiences. Even though the guests on the show took the important step to take the blame off people (e.g. “They need more willpower.”), I am surprised and disappointed that this show did not even mention the growing body of knowledge that shows that our bodies process different types of calories in vastly different ways.

    Thus, a person who eats 500 calories of oatmeal in the morning will be less satisfied and hungrier throughout the day than a person who eats 500 calories of eggs and vegetables for breakfast.

    Please have another show that explores this!

    I am happy that people are realizing it is a mistake to blame ourselves and others for not being disciplined enough. Yet, when we then say, “it is a disease” and describe weight loss as a battlefield where we must always be hungry and exercise for hours just to not be obese, we make a huge mistake. This tells our matabolisms that our bodies are in starvation mode (we can go into starvation mode even when we have lots of extra fat on our bodies), and they will hold on to those pounds with fervor.

    The science I’ve read are found in these well researched books: 

    Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
    by Catherine Shanahan M.D., and Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss
    by Mark Hyman M.D. and there are many, many more articles and books out there.When I was overweight, I tried restricting calories, using all my willpower and then some, yet my weight either stood still or I gained, and I would be achingly hungry. Then I would gave in and eat potato chips, cookies, etc, and the more sugar and starchy foods I ate, the more I wanted. It acted as an addictive drug, never satisfying. So whether I restricted or not, I gained. Conversely, and much as the show describes, there were times that I restricted for long periods of time and then lost a lot of weight (and had lots of headaches, literally) and then quickly began gaining again when my body suddenly felt insatiable. This is the vicious cycle of the starvation mode.The way I lost weight and KEPT IT OFF was to do two important things: 1) Eat as many healthy fats as I wanted (and you may be surprised that this includes ONLY grassfed/organic animal fats, butter, olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil) and as many healthy proteins as I wanted (grass fed organic and wild meats, organs, raw grass fed dairy, sprouted beans) and 2) Cut out all sweeteners, stop eating potatoes, and rarely if ever eat pasta. I barely eat fruit, except the occasional berries. For this sugar, I had to go through a painful withdrawal period of about a week. The thing about this method is that it’s what our ancestors have thrived on for thousands of years. While I may have had to cut out what I was addicted to, I was able to satiate myself with wonderful creams, butters, and all the things our bodies need but  we are told are bad (there is a growing body of science out there that also shows how these fats absolutely necessary building blocks all the body’s processes). I now eat as many calories as I want and I don’t gain a pound. I weigh less than I did when I was 16. I have lost over 50 lbs. My mom, using a similar approach, has lost 150 lbs. She was overweight for 30 years, and has kept the weight off for 5 years (and is losing again as she cuts out more sugar and eats more fat).The moment I try to start eating chocolate bars and pasta again, I gain weight very quickly, and so does my mom. It’s not that I’m  eating more, it’s that I’m eating foods that send my body out of balance. Our activity levels have not increased or decreased, although I do feel that I want to exercise more for the sheer health and mental clarity and wellbeing it brings.This method has also helped my father in law to lower his blood sugar drastically (after years of diabetes medication, exercise, and veganism didn’t help his blood sugar) and to lose belly fat (he was otherwise skinny). This method changes the distribution of fat in the body to be closer to our cultural ideal. Belly fat is a sign of the blood sugar being out of balance and an upset metabolism.Again, please have another show on this topic! Thanks.

  • http://www.dpsinfo.com LaurieMann

    Great YouTube video on this very issue:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo&feature=share

  • Shawn-A.

    Hey Tom.  How about broadcasting, “Coming to You Live From Your University Town or Broadcast Station, A Production of The Creativity Institute llc, an llc buried under the silver dollar club in Reno so deep that the bumps and grinds can’t even be heard, let alone seen llc.  :(7   BTW Hope the ‘daddy show,’ is going to be heard soon.  Cheers, Shawn A. Von Orlebeck aka John Simpson

  • Shawn-A

    John Simpson is the author of ‘Raven Dancer,’ available on Amazon.Com and not yet reviewed to Tom or his kid, who actually read it.  :(7

  • John Myers

    Yes we are genetically the same as we have been for thousands of years – what has changed, and varies greatly from one person to the next, is our sensitivity to insulin/carbohydrates.
    It’s all about the carbs.

  • berdie

    How is it possible to do a show highlighting the science behind obesity and weight loss without including Gary Taubes on the panel?  His book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” is perhaps the most comprehensive literature review on the subject currently available; he lectures on the surprising implications of his research at medical and research universities.  He is worthy of an entire hour on his own…

  • DonnyT

    In reference to the idea of “America was leaner in the 60′s,” has anyone considered the effects of growth hormones, pesticides and artificial ingredients? Studies show that these generally are safe but I’ve heard nothing of long term studies over generations, which is almost impossible. My point is, we don’t know what kind of impact these chemicals have on our genes and I think we’re gravely mistaken if we underestimate humans’ evolutionary process.
    In martial arts, the Shaolin Monks believed if you hit an iron plate enough times a day, your fists would eventually harden like the iron. If changing our bodies is this rapid, compared to what scientists say can only occur over thousands of years, what do we think that the daily intake of these chemicals will do to our genes over generations?

    • Desiree Abraham

      Hear! Hear! 

    • Peter Lake

      America was also shorter in the 60′s.

  • John Myers

    Yes please get Gary Taubes on as a guest. Tara and Rudie talked about the hormones ghrelin, leptin and cortisol, yet never mentioned the hormone that is the chief regulator of body fat, which is insulin. This body fat ‘set point’ they keep talking about sounds like insulin resistance.
    This was another amateur night in the dark ages of endocrinology.

  • Rich

    More conventional wisdom that has led us to this point.  Taubes would be particularly welcome; might also suggest Robb Wolf.

  • Nick

    Permanent weight control does not mean permanent dieting.  It means change eating habit to one of eating nutrient dense foods, e.g. pastured meats; vegetables; pasture raised eggs (mine are so robust I scraped the last bit out of the shell with my finger); wild seafood; good fats; organ meats…….  The opposite of nutrient dense eating is the conventional food pyramid eating: grains; low-fat dairy; eggs w/o yolk, etc.  Eating low nutrition eating leaves one always starving.

    The fallacy at the heart of this discussion is the calories in/calories out, machine model of eating and exercise.  As other have suggested have Gary Taubes on, or Mark Sisson, or Robb Wolf, or Chris Kresser, on the show for balance and a discussion of a way of eating that not only is healthy and controls weight, but is satisfying.

  • Ron

    Here’s an easy to understand but quite damning review of Pope’s science:


    • Anonymous

       When I was a child in the sixties and seventies, we ate simple carbohydrates with every meal. The bread of choice, throughout the country, was Wonder Bread, a cheap, pasty white flour bread with as much dietary fiber as water. White potatoes, another simple carbohydrate, were on every other dinner plate. We ate them baked, mashed, fried, and  scalloped. Cookies, crackers, Pop-Tarts, horrible children’s cereals, white pasta, and chips of various kinds inundated our diets. The whole nation ate this way, not only my family. And obesity was rare. The authors of the piece you provide write as if carbohydrates as a food source simply sprang forth from the ether sometime in the last few decades and unleashed a wave of unstoppable obesity on the public. The truth is that no population has eaten as much refined, simple carbohydrate as Americans ate for the thirty or so years after WWII. We had insulin in our bodies in the sixties. Diabetes existed in the sixties, in much lower numbers, of course. Yet we were thin as rails, despite all the Wonder Bread, white rice, and French fries.We know that evolutionary changes require many generations to have any discernible effect on human biology. I’d like to have it explained to me how a generation which paid very little attention to weight or nutrition maintained healthy weight levels, despite their ingestion of copious amount of dreaded simple carbohydrate, while a generation obsessed with weight and diet can’t get healthy despite themselves.

  • Eleanor Parkin

    As an update, in a recent interview (http://thebrowser.com/interviews/gary-taubes-on-dieting) Gary Taubes says he has written “a letter to the New York Times in response to the Tara Parker Pope piece, hoping that we can get several hundred physicians to co-sign it. 200 have so far, after 18 hours up.”

  • Eleanor Parkin

    the URL for the interview with Gary Taubes was truncated when the comment posted.

    if it doesn’t load automatically, here’s the full address:


  • Shawn-A

    Hey Big Boy . . . ;()    How about losing a few yourself as you have always been a tub of lard according to your lovely daughter.  Ha ha ha.  -  :(7

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