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Two Reasons Why We Get Fat

I’m re-reading the excellent Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes and will be sharing lots of my notes and highlights.

So let’s get right to the good stuff. While there will be outliers and complications, the truth is that most of us get fat for two simple reasons:

  • when insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat in our fat tissue
  • our insulin levels are determined by the carbohydrates we eat

The more detailed explanation from Why We Get Fat (emphasis mine):

First, when insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat in our fat tissue; when these levels fall, we liberate fat from the fat tissue and burn it for fuel.

Second, our insulin levels are effectively determined by the carbohydrates we eat–not entirely, but for all intents and purposes. The more carbohydrates we eat, and the easier they are to digest and the sweeter they are, the more insulin we will ultimately secrete, meaning that the level of it in our bloodstream is greater and so is the fat we retain in our fat cells.

Carbohydrate is driving insulin is driving fat,” is how George Cahill, a former professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, recently described this to me.

So there you have it. Control your insulin levels and you can control your fat. Hopefully the book will cover how to control insulin levels in more detail (I bet it does).

If you haven’t read Why We Get Fat, do so now, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Fit to Fat to Fit

Great article at CNN on a fitness trainer who gained 70 pounds and lost it in one year.

The part that really jumped out at me was how fast someone can go from the pinnacle of fitness to about my (current) size:

He gave up the gym and started consuming junk food, fast food and soda. In just six months, he went from 193 pounds with a 34-inch waist to 265 pounds with a 48-inch waist.

Of course he wrote a book too.

Omron HBF-500 Scale Review

Omron HBF 500 reviewI’m using the Omron HBF-500 Body Composition Monitor with Scale to track my weight, body fat, visceral fat, skeletal muscle, resting metabolism, and BMI. I really like the scale and I’m happy I bought it. If you aren’t tracking your body fat at all right now, I recommend you buy this or a similar scale that tracks body fat. There are less expensive options if you already own a scale and just need a way to track your body fat, such as the Omron HBF-306C Fat Loss Monitor (recommended by Lazy Man from Lazy Man & Health).

*Note – You need to be between 18 – 80 years old and between 3’4″ to 6′ 6-3/4″ tall for this scale to work for you.

The Omron HBF-500 Body Composition Monitor with Scale is about the size of a typical bathroom scale, but with a little more weight and bulk (hey, just like me!). With a multitude of buttons and a complicated digital display it looks quite a bit more advanced than the average bathroom scale, but don’t let that scare you–it is very easy to use once you get familiar with it.

You need to spend a few minutes configuring the scale before using it the first time. The first step is to set the date and time because the scale stores up to 90 days of results.

Next, you enter some personal information so the scale can track your statistics. This can be done for up to 4 people, and if you don’t want to store data or if you have used up all 4 spots, anyone can use the scale by selecting a ‘guest’ profile. You can also delete profiles and create new ones at any time.

Once you’ve stored a profile, using the scale is fairly simple, although you need to pay attention to the order of operations in order to get correct measurements.

Before stepping on the scale, turn it on with a large button on the back. The display flashes and changes to 0.00 when ready. After the display shows 0.00, and before you step on the scale, lift the display unit out of the scale (the small T-shaped thing) and hold handles firmly. Select your profile number and, finally,  step on the scale. Wait a few seconds for the display to show your weight and begin to flash ‘START’. Then, raise your arms up to a 90 degree angle while holding the display (this all sounds a lot more complicated than it really is).

The scale rates your results in each category, based on your age and gender, with 4 classification symbols “-, 0, +, ++” (0 is normal). And these are saved for 90 days, so don’t worry about remembering everything each time you weigh in.

If you want to quickly check your weight without all this rigmarole, just turn the scale on, wait for 0.00 to display, and step on without grabbing the display unit. You don’t need to select a profile and your weight won’t be saved.


The instruction book is very informative on its own. Take some time to read it, because it describes what each category is, why it matters, and what range you should be in. For example, I had never heard of visceral fat before (it’s fat that surrounds internal organs). Turns out, too much visceral fat leads to high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

There is some debate over how accurate this form of body fat measurement is, but, unless you’re entering some sort of competition, all that matter is establishing a baseline for tracking your progress.

For myself, I was never going to go see a personal trainer or other professional to get my body fat measured, so this scale provides an easy to use body fat measurement at home that I can do any time (this is extra important when you don’t feel too proud of your body in its current shape).

I paid about $65 for the scale at You may not want to spend that much money on a scale, but I would encourage you to get something, anything that allows you to measure your body fat. Omron also makes a handheld fat loss monitor for about $27, which makes sense if you already own a scale and want to save a little money. Or, if you don’t already own a good scale, just spend a little extra andget the Omron HBF-500 Body Composition Monitor with Scale so you can establish a baseline and track your progress over time.