A few weeks ago, I watched comedian Bill Maher’s biting segment calling for fat-shaming to make a comeback. Maher attributed excess weight to overeating (or a result of a calories in/calories out imbalance). He encouraged viewers to blame fat people for being fat.
That’s a cruel and ineffective suggestion, as late night talk show host James Corden pointed out in his viral response to Maher. It’s also a suggestion grounded in poor nutrition science. It’s not overweight people who should be blamed for being overweight. It’s the scientists and medical professionals who, for decades, have been advising us to eat food that makes us fat.
Calories in/calories out is one theory about how we gain and lose weight, but it’s not necessarily the correct one. Doctors may focus on calories because they’re something that can be easily measured. But we’ve long known that not all calories are equal, and that obesity is caused by a hormonal imbalance, today usually exacerbated by processed foods. Eating 100 calories of meat is not the same as consuming 100 calories of juice, though the food industry has done a very good job at convincing us otherwise. The main factor responsible for controlling our weight is insulin.
“All carbohydrates break down into sugars, and when we eat them, our bodies secrete insulin,” explains endocrinologist, Dr. Mariela Glandt. “Insulin is the hormone that carries sugar out of our blood and into cells, where they can use it for energy. When there’s too much sugar in the blood, the body secretes more and more insulin to cope with the excess sugar. This can eventually lead to metabolic syndrome.”
Since the 1980s, doctors have been recommending a low fat diet full of carbohydrates. A low-fat, high carb diet is a recipe for hunger. Essentially, we’ve spent decades eating according to guidelines that ignore the facts of human metabolism. It’s dietary fat and protein that make us feel full, while carbohydrates drive insulin, and insulin drives hunger. Obesity is rarely a person’s fault. We’re victims of an experiment called, What happens to Americans when you remove the natural fat from their diet and replace it with carbs and refined oils? The answer is more than 100 million adults have pre-diabetes or diabetes. Some 122 million people have cardiovascular disease, which causes approximately 840,000 deaths each year. And three-quarters of American adults are overweight or obese.
Thanks to the food pyramid and the plate-method of eating, we’ve created a situation where our bodies are constantly over secreting insulin, and it’s making us sick. As The NYT headline that Maher highlighted says, poor diet is the leading cause of death in America.
In 2020, the USDA will release updated recommendations. Those need to be based on the current evidence of soaring obesity rates since low fat recommendations became our guidelines. It’s time to ditch the instructions that gave our grandparents and parents high blood sugar, fatty liver, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides, cardiovascular disease and strokes, and have made so many of us overweight. What needs to make a comeback is not fat shame, but dietary fat. Seriously, bring on the butter. Get rid of the carbs.
Many medical professionals will say that we haven’t run enough trials to know whether a diet with more fat is safe. But we do have all the evidence of what humans were like before we made cheese puffs a food pyramid category. Over two thousand Americans dying every day of cardiovascular disease is not an indicator of good heart health. And you don’t need to go to medical school to be able to understand that hundreds of millions of overweight people means we’re doing something wrong.
How many people with Type 2 diabetes will it take to change regulations?
Maher is right that we should be having a conversation about the obesity epidemic. It needs to be a fair one, based on good science and heavy on empathy and compassion. The American Diabetes Association’s website says, “Everyone’s body responds differently to different types of foods and diets, so there is no single “magic” diet for diabetes.”
While it’s true that we may have individual differences, what we have in common is that diabetes means pretty much the same thing for everyone: it’s a carbohydrate intolerance. For a vast majority of people with diabetes, then, a low carb diet with protein and fat would be that single “magic” diet, if only we’d acknowledge it.
Great article, Jessica! I applaud you for speaking out on the distasteful rant by Bill Maher and for including the painful loss of your friend. I am so sorry for your loss but it is so important for people to understand the seriousness of diabetes. James’s rebuttal was on point – good show, James. Diabetes and the associated complications affect all of us at some point in our lives, either due to the illness of a friend or close relative and in different ways. All three of my brothers are diabetics – not one of them is fat; I was… Read more »
Who is Bill Maher to shame anyone about anything? He is a short, ugly little troll who has no business talking down to anyone. Idiot.
So sad about your friend. We’ve all felt hopeless about our diabetes, probably more times than we’d like to admit. I had to retire because of my diabetes last year. I got very sick, ended up on insulin, worked very hard to get my A1c and blood sugars down with diet and exercise, then promptly gained 25 lbs very quickly. No one told me an insulin side effect is weight gain. This has broken my heart and made it very hard to work at my diabetes. What’s the point? I can’t win this fat fight. So don’t bother shaming me,… Read more »
Years ago, I tried eating what I pleased as long as I was in the 1200-calorie range per day. I ate ice cream and other junk, but stayed within my allowance. I lost not one ounce. About a year later I went low-carb and lost 74 lbs. Later still, I went keto and lost over 25 more lbs. It defintely matters what I eat as to whether I lose weight or not, and I know I’m not that unique.
It also matters how much you exercise along with the diet! They go hand in hand.I’ve been a type 2 for 22 years and I tried everything to keep my sugars in line and my weight down, but nothing worked the way it should until I combined both healthy eating and a regular exercise program. Now I am a healthy weight and off 90% of the meds I was on.
” magic bullet?” Hardly! I have followed. Strict lie carb, high fat, moderate protein diet for years. At first it was wonderful, but in addition to insulin I was taking Victoza. I had to discontinue the Victoza, and increase the insulin. I never varied in what I ate. I promptly gained 25 lbs. My fasting glucose numbers shot up, and my A1c went higher and higher.
Thank you for this article, I’ve been trying to tell my mother that low carb is the best way to go with diabetes, but she refuses to listen. Even if I show her these articles, she still doesn’t believe it!! I honestly don’t get it.
I’m so sorry about your friend.
Good for James ! I never liked Bill Maher, and dont have respect for him or his opinions.
He is totally ignorant of the facts yet that never stops him from spewing out his unsolicited views which are always negative and or demeaning. In a few words…
He’s an educated idiot!
Educated? I had no idea he’s educated. Couldn’t tell from his rant.