My comment on the “Fat Trap” article from the New York Times

I just read The Fat Trap, an article about how hard it is for people who have been obese and lost weight to keep weight off because of significant hormonal and metabolic changes. To summarize, the article says these people are in a biologically altered state after they lose weight; a state that causes them to put the weight back on much more rapidly than someone who has never been heavy. The article is well done and worth the read. And while I agree that there is much more to weight loss and keeping it off than “eat less, move more,” I think the researchers are wrong here. Most importantly, I think fat people will read this piece and give up hope that they will never be able to lose the weight and keep it off.

It is in the beginning of the article, where the author describes how the experiment was conducted, that I knew what the outcomes for these obese people would be without having to read another word. Here is an excerpt that lays out how the experiment was conducted:

“Beginning in 2009, he and his team recruited 50 obese men and women. The men weighed an average of 233 pounds; the women weighed about 200 pounds. Although some people dropped out of the study, most of the patients stuck with the extreme low-calorie diet, which consisted of special shakes called Optifast and two cups of low-starch vegetables, totaling just 500 to 550 calories a day for eight weeks. Ten weeks in, the dieters lost an average of 30 pounds.

At that point, the 34 patients who remained stopped dieting and began working to maintain the new lower weight. Nutritionists counseled them in person and by phone, promoting regular exercise and urging them to eat more vegetables and less fat. But despite the effort, they slowly began to put on weight. After a year, the patients already had regained an average of 11 of the pounds they struggled so hard to lose. They also reported feeling far more hungry and preoccupied with food than before they lost the weight.” (The Fat Trap from the New York Times)

Of course these obese people started gaining weight back immediately–they were STARVING. On top of that, they were not educated about how to manage their cravings and how healthy fats are the key to maintaining blood sugar. Instead, this cutting-edge research that attempts to go deeper than the clap trap peddled as solid nutrition advice and obesity research (basically the law of thermodynamics applied to a biochemical process a la “eat less, move more”). They completely miss the boat by using the old, tired low-fat, starvation diet approach with obese people who need to be nourished with ample protein, carbs and FAT to lose weight, not to be starved.

While I think it is great that these obesity researchers are attempting to go deeper and explain the complexities of obesity (and that it is not just a matter of will power), I am so disheartened that they are using nutrition advice that has so clearly failed the obese. We need to get the fresh ideas around the new science of weight loss (read Darlene Kvist’s article about this new approach) to these researchers so that they don’t add to the hopelessness so many obese people already feel about their weight.

I would love to hear what you think of the article! Leave a comment.

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12 Comments on “My comment on the “Fat Trap” article from the New York Times”

  1. Reynaldo says:

    Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great article on
    our site. Keep up the good writing.

  2. A couple of things I wanted to shout out about but the first and foremost is how wonderful it is to share in your success and victory! What an amazing inspiration you are and how incredible for you to share your journey! Many, many blessing to you. ❤

    Similarly I once was largely obese, several times like many who have tried it all. I am so lovingly excited to say that I have maintained my current weight for the last four years and am now an iPEC certified personal development coach who works with clients who are so ready to break free from the restricting / permitting cycle that we fall prey to. It is my passion and purpose and life is absolutely wonderful!

    My thoughts on the NY TImes article are very similar to everyone else and yours. So insightful of you to recognize that we feed the "it's no use" gremlins that keep us from moving forward with this kind of information. The essential piece I see missing is all of those you mentioned PLUS no one addressing the elephant in the room which is why many of us eat when we are not hungry anyway and the reasons we don't stop when our bodies are satisfied. I spent twenty something years knowing what I should be eating and how much to exercise and yet…. I did not make those choices. I began to long for freedom and to just be able to trust myself. I can say that after twenty years I am able to claim that trust in myself… love for myself.

    The science is important, the nutrition, all of the wonderful, wonderful ways you are feeding your body to keep it happy and satisfied as is learning the art of extreme self care and a very deep self love and gentle curiosity.

    Many, many thanks again! I look forward to sharing your experience through your blog! XO

  3. I am so tired of the low-fat-calories in, calories out nonsense that misleads so many people. I know from experience how useless following that advice is. But that’s all I ever heard about until I started listening to “Dishing Up Nutrition”. I listened to a couple of podcasts where you were a guest and I can’t wait until this weekend’s one is up. It is very inspiring. Thank you.

  4. […] My Life Lived with Fat – “They completely miss the boat by using the old, tired low-fat, starvation diet approach with obese people who need to be nourished with ample protein, carbs and FAT to lose weight, not to be starved” […]

  5. Nicki M. says:

    Diet and nutrition studies these days are such rubbish- I find it so disheartening to try and keep up with the latest research, but have to discard so much of it out-of-hand based on the same criticisms you mentioned above… on the other hand, my critical thinking skills have greatly improved since I started this WOE. =)

  6. thisistheone says:

    as someone who was reading this article, and once again facing gain from a previous loss, I found it very disappointing. It caught be by surprise when she quoted about the low fat recommendation. It dis=credited the whole article. However this theory keeps WW in business. Thank God for Jimmy Moore. Thank you for writing this repsonse, I now have faith again.

  7. Tracey White says:

    I so agree with you. ANYONE would start piling the pounds back on after such a diet, not just obese people. They effectively lowered their metabolism and then when they tried to maintain, it was likely near impossible. It’s so common sense to us that it makes one wonder how the researchers can’t see it themselves!


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