The Real Big Fat Lie

In Taubes’ article in the New York Times Magazine, he reiterated a myth common among Atkins and other greasy diet proponents.[145] “At the very moment that the government started telling Americans to eat less fat, we got fatter,” wrote Taubes.[146] He argues that since the percentage of calories from fat in the American diet has been decreasing, and the percentage from carbohydrates increasing, carbs are to blame for the obesity epidemic.[147]

Of course a quick trot across the globe shows that some of the thinnest populations in the world, like those in rural Asia, center their entire diets on carbs. They eat 50% more carbs than we do, yet have a fraction of our obesity rates.[148] Taubes also left out that the amount of added fat and total fat Americans eat has also been increasing–we’re eating more of everything now, fat and carbohydrates. Grease and protein peddlers blame our obesity epidemic on a low-fat diet that our nation never ate.

Thirty years ago, the average woman ate about 1500 calories per day, now it’s closer to 2000.[149] Men also significantly bumped up their calorie consumption. With that many extra calories, we’d have to walk about two extra hours a day to keep from gaining weight. As analyzed in the May 2004 USDA report on obesity, with more calories, yet the same sedentary lifestyle, of course we gained weight.[150]

The reason we’re fat is not because of bread and fruit. Much of the obesity crisis has been blamed on eating out more (Americans spend almost twice as much time per week eating out as exercising),[151] soft drinks, snacking, bigger portion sizes and “the enormous amount of very clever and very effective advertising of junk food/fast food.”[152] Our children, for example, are subjected to 10,000 ads for processed food every year.[153] There’s no way parents can compete. As one medical journal pointed out, our children “will never see a slick high-budget (or even low-budget) ad for apples or broccoli.”

Twenty years ago, a typical US bagel was 3 inches; now it’s twice that and contains a whopping 350 calories.[154] Outback Steakhouse now has an appetizer of cheese fries, which breaks the scale at over 3000 calories, an appetizer containing more calories than most people eat all day. One would have to walk about 35 miles to burn that kind of thing off.[155]

The standard coke bottle used to be around 6 ounces. Then came the 12 ounce can. Now we have the 20 ounce bottles, or, of course, the 64-ounce “Double Gulp,” containing about 50 spoonfuls of sugar. In fact, the Double Gulp is selling so well that 7-Eleven considered an even larger size, which a company spokesperson described only as a “wading-pool-sized drink.”[156]

The National Soft Drink Association boasts on their website that “Soft drinks have emerged as America’s favorite refreshment. Indeed, one of every four beverages consumed in America today is a carbonated soft drink, averaging out to about 53 gallons of soft drinks per year for every man, woman and child.”[157] Interestingly, the introduction of high fructose corn syrup (primarily consumed in soft drinks)[1160] around 1970 seems to exactly parallel the sudden rapid rise in obesity in this country.[158] Thanks in part to the American food corporations, becoming overweight, as one prominent obesity researcher pointed out, “is now the normal response to the American environment.”[159]

There is no mystery why we are the fattest country on Earth. “We’re overfed, over-advertised, and under-exercised,” says Stanford obesity expert John Farquhar. “It’s the enormous portion sizes and sitting in front of the TV and computer all day” that are to blame. “It’s so gol’darn obvious–how can anyone ignore it?”[160]