The Weight of the Nation: More in(s)anity


"Go ahead, eat your candy and cake"

I just saw the second episode of HBO’s “Weight of the Nation”. Oh, boy. Did they really have to burn money on producing a glitzy show with the exact same failed message that everybody has already heard X number of times before?

You know, the exact same advice that has failed us through the entire obesity epidemic. The same advice that repeatedly (at least 17 times so far) turns out to be the least effective when actually subjected to scientific tests. In a word, crap advice.

You guessed it: it’s all about desperately trying to ignore your hunger, counting your calories and eating “balanced diets”. And a balanced diet is as usual defined seemingly without a shred of science involved. A balanced diet is basically what the “experts” believe that you should eat.

This is the worst part: Any junk food can in theory be “part of a healthy balanced diet”. In fact, you shouldn’t even attempt to quit the junk food. You’re actually warned from even trying! Check it out:

From part 2 of Weight of the Nation

Dialogue subtitled in yellow:




She basically tells us that obese people should keep eating the food that made them obese. Anything else would make them “feel bad”. She then tells us that by exercising more you can get a similar release of opioids in the brain as from food. Thus people who overeat (gluttons) should just exercise more (stop being lazy) to get the opioids that they need.

Ok… so people who eat too much bad food, people who have a hard time controlling the amount they eat, shouldn’t even consider trying to quit. Instead, exercise is the solution! Hmmm.

I just started to wonder why this magic method hasn’t been used more often for other kinds of addictions. But then I found some extra material on the HBO website. It turns out they have already figured it out:

From the extra material on the web:




The better solution? You guessed it: these smokers should just exercise more, then they would forget about smoking.

I found one more web only video:

And by the way




She then goes on to tell us that alcoholics should just exercise more. Then they would have no trouble controlling their drinking.

Telling alcoholics to give up alcohol completely is apparently stupid. That would make them feel bad, so it doesn’t work.

Satire or reality?

I confess. The last two examples were made up by me. I know, they’re silly. But in what way is the real one less silly?


The WHEAT of the Nation

Newsweek: Why the Campaign to Stop America’s Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing


Top comment

  1. Becoming a blind, type-2 diabetic amputee, on dialysis, would sure make anyone feel much worse than giving up junk food.
    Read more →

All comments

  1. luke
    Is that the same lady in Dr. Lustig's YouTube mini-series videos?
  2. Alexandra M
    "Is that the same lady in Dr. Lustig's YouTube mini-series videos?"

    Yes, it is. Maybe she's "not a scientist but plays one on TV."

    "She then tells us that by exercising more you can get a similar release of opioids in the brain as from food."

    That has never happened for me! People tell me about it all the time, but my own 20-month experience in working out with a personal trainer 5 hours a week plus 2 1/2 hours of cardio was nada. No opioids. No endorphins. I sure got hungry though! (I'm sure it didn't help that there were about 50 TVs in the gym and almost every single one was tuned to a cooking channel and even the news stations had incessant ads for food of all kinds.)

    The comparisons with tobacco and alcohol are very apt.

  3. panny
    It sure does look like her... it's either her twin or it is her. She mustn't have watched it!!
  4. moreporkplease
    (begin snark) I really have to worry about you, Andreas. Why do you keep going on and on about the health of *patients*? Why don't you care about the health of *pharmaceutical and medical companies*? That's what's important - no one cares about those lazy ugly fat people.

    We have to convince everyone that weight loss in any way except through Lap-Band and the forthcoming obesity drugs is impossible. Otherwise insurance companies won't pay for them, and people might not buy so many drugs. Then what would we do?

    We really depend on you to use to focus on important things, Andreas, and not waste time with mere patients. I really worry that you're missing the revenue opportunity here. (snark over)

  5. George I., M.D.
    This is sad. I went to a CME lecture 2 weeks ago where a pediatric cardiologist advised the pediatricians in attendance to recommend skim milk and whole grain foods for their obese patients. she then went on to advise plenty of exercise because we all know how effective that is as a weight loss tool. This is a prime example of group think. I tell my colleagues about this until I am blue in the face yet I'm the one the "odd" one.
  6. Sara
    Yes pretty sure it's the same lady, I actually watched the first movie and it sounded exactly like her. Dr Lustig is actually in the first video as well.
  7. This second episode just made me mad. Obese person after obese person interviewed, all with the same story. I tried this, I tried that. Really? Do or do not, there is no try.

    The trouble is, as we know, ordinary diets just don't work. Heck look at those two ladies at the end who still have to count every single calorie and run for miles to maintain. Surely that is not the answer?

    I will watch the next episodes and hope they are not as depressing as the second.

  8. BA
    The entire obesity "epidemic" is solved by comprehending the following sentence --

    Carbohydrates make you fat.

    Unfortunately, the careers of the mainstream authorities are built on over-complicating this issue with layer upon layer of bad advice.

  9. While I do not doubt that addiction to comfort junk foods is very real, this segment made it sound like an addiction that was almost close to impossible to break away from. Is this sort of dramatization healthy or conducive to the development of healthier habits?
  10. Linda
    "I tell my colleagues about this until I am blue in the face yet I'm the one the "odd" one"

    George I., M.D.

    Damn, wish you had a practice near Des Moines, Iowa. I am so tired of being told the same old garbage year after year!

  11. KevinF
    You can't take away the comfort meth from the rednecks either. That's why I'm cooking up a batch here in my trailer right now.
  12. I sleep on a bed of steak with sheets of bacon - now that's comfort food.
  13. Janknitz
    In the third part, this same lady says that fat should be avoided because it "causes us to overeat.". She said that when our ancestors managed to kill an animal the instinct was to eat as much fat as possible so we are genetically programmed to keep eating fat, even when our nutritional needs are met.

    HUH???? Ever hear of satiety??? I'd like to see her try to eat an entire stick of butter. How could they get that so backwards???

  14. John Myers
    Great point Janknitz. Hot dog eating contests are popular, I would love to see a bacon eating contest. A little bacon goes a long ways - very satisfying. Same with butter.
    What HBO is putting out there as answer the to the obesity epidemic is pretty demoralizing. They might be the most respected media source. Their original shows are well regarded, and you have to pay a lot for access. And then they recognize the obesity problem but their solution is more of the same.
    The cognitive dissonance may be hard to overcome. I read "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall and he argues that we survived for thousands of years as a species by persistence hunting, where early humans, before inventing spears or other weapons, chased game animals to exhaustion and killed them and ate them (which would be much less pleasant for an animal than raising them and killing them suddenly as we do today in a way, though CAFOs may make it a wash) and McDougall later concludes that we should be on a vegetarian diet. He obviously thinks a calorie is a calorie. Despite this incongruity it is probably the most amazing book I've ever read, or it could be a tie with "Good Calories, Bad Calories".
    Whatever. I went on a zero carb diet over the last Holiday season and I lost 25 pounds without ever being hungry, eating to satiety. I went from 170 to 145. People around me ask questions about how I did it and I give measured, rational answers. Can I (we) make a difference? I hope so.
  15. mezzo
    Another sad thing about all this is that it puts people off exercise. I have been there myself - I bought the message that running/jogging would turn you into a fat-burning machine and help you lose weight and feel great about yourself. I ran every day. It made me feel good about myself. I actually enjoyed it. I went to the gym. Same thing. But did it make me lose weight? Nope. Nada. Zilch. Not a pound. SO I GAVE IT UP. And that is what people do. Exercise doesn't deliver on the weight problem so people give it up and end up fatter and "lazier" than before. This stupid message is a double negative whammy. It does not help with the weight and on top of it turns people away from what could be a good and healthy experience, i.e. getting out and about, getting some muscle power and getting fit.
  16. The funny thing about this is that the arguments of the conventional wisdom for high carb and against low carb keeps changing. A couple of years ago:

    "No, no, no... sugar addiction does not exist. Sugar can not in anyway be compared to real addictions to cocain, heroin, nicotine or alcolhol."


    "No, no, no... it is futile to even think about trying to stop eating sugars. It´s a habit that can´t be broken and you will feel miserable if you try it. But I still however recommend people with a real addiction to cocain, heroin, nicotine or alcolhol to try to stop.

    Number 2. (conventional wisdom) Today:

    "Fats make you overeat. Fats äre caloriedense and the least satiating macronutrient."

    Tomorrow: (Well, actually this agument has already been made in Finland by proponents of the convetional wisdom but my bet is that it will take some years before you will start hearing it in th US)

    "High fat diets are so satiating that they constitute a major risk for growing children since they will reduce thier calory intake so much that it will hamper their growht and development."

  17. FrankG
    I have a thought about the addictive quality of sugar, refined starches and grains:

    Maybe it is a little "out there" but I hear the same kind of advice being given to those of us with Type 2 Diabetes, "we deserve to eat normally, just like everybody else"... even if that means having to increase our medication to compensate for the high blood glucose levels.

    This advice is being given by those who are eating sugar, refined starches and grains.

    Would we accept encouragement to take other addictive substances from someone who is currently addicted to that substance?


    As for physical activity, I tried all the above with gym memberships etc... but it s only since I changed my body from fat storing mode (high insulin) to fat burning mode (low/normal insulin) that I have spontaneously become active; looking for ways to burn any excess energy by constantly fidgeting, walking etc...

  18. Becoming a blind, type-2 diabetic amputee, on dialysis, would sure make anyone feel much worse than giving up junk food.
  19. Jana
    I watched The Skinny on Obesity and didn't pay much attention to her so I forgot what she said exactly, I was more interested in hearing what Dr. Lustig had to say. People are going to watch this "documentary" and because it is produced by HBO and it's pretty to look at, they are going to just nod their heads and say, "Of course this is the way to go. How come these fat people can't follow such simple advice?" I wish HBO and other powerful film producers would start filming the LCHF, Primal and Paleo movement with a positive spin on it. Get people thinking about eating real food! That would be nice.
  20. George I., M.D.
    “This is sad. I went to a CME lecture 2 weeks ago where a pediatric cardiologist advised the pediatricians in attendance to recommend skim milk and whole grain foods for their obese patients. she then went on to advise plenty of exercise because we all know how effective that is as a weight loss tool.”

    This is sad, indeed. But, it is going to be a long battle trying to eliminate medical dogmas such as “calorie-in, calorie out”, “eating less and exercising more”, "eating low-fat for heart health", “the whole grain goodness” and the list goes on. It seems that no scientific evidence can dislodge these dogmas from the mind of most medical doctors and the mainstream medical community.

    On the other hand, I really can’t blame doctors and other professionals who are sticking to the medical dogmas in the area of nutrition. Because promoting the best in science and the best for patients and the public in general is a risky business that requires a lot of courage. It is sure to threaten many established careers whose owners normally benefit more from status quo. It is almost always a threat to funding a research project, a threat to obtaining political support, a threat to the ability to attain leadership roles, etc.

    Therefore, I don’t think that we can afford to outsource the responsibility for our own weight and health management to our medical community or government officials. This is the Age of Personal Responsibility and we are all personally responsible for our own health, and our kids’ education, and our retirement – among other things.

    One way to take responsibility for our own health is to learn as much as we can about nutrition and to share our knowledge and to experiment with food to see what works best for us and our families. And if we have a doctor who is brave enough to be open-minded about nutrition and evidence-based medicine in general, then we can consider that as a bonus.

  21. Donna E
    Violeta, very good points about the constraints on medical professionals, which is why at the professional level we need more Andreas Eenfeldts and Mary Vernons and Eric Westmans. At the grassroots level, I think it's important that we be passionate but also COMpassionate, firm but also as polite as possible, and above all not too close-minded/dogmatic. I heartily agree that we have the responsibility to "learn as much as we can about nutrition and to share our knowledge and to experiment with food to see what works best for us and our families."
  22. Great commentary and very similar to the one I wrote which everyone can check out at The five horsemen of the apocalypse - The IOM, NIH, CDC, USDA and FDA are responsible for this epidemic yet act as if they did not collude with the food manufacturers and their kind. If they acted responsibly or at least scientifically, we wouldn't have this epidemic.
  23. So many professionals are afraid to go against CW. I was saddened to see that the Pennington Research Institute in Baton Rouge, founded by the one time famous physician Dr. Alfred Pennington who used the low carb diet on Dupont executives in the 1950s to great success, but the institute now recommends the same calorie counting SAD most doctors do, and this may have been the case for a while, but I was surprised. Three steps forward, five steps back.
  24. American, male, age 42. I have lost 90 pounds since October, 2011 doing LCHF. Thank God for our Diet Doctor, Gary Taubes, Dr. Lustig, Tom Naughton and the others who have clearly, concisely, logically, patiently and convincingly explained why and how carbohydrates are bad for our health and our waistline.

    I would like to add another name to that esteemed list: Mark Rippetoe. While losing my 90 pounds, I have been doing an exercise program called Starting Strength, which is a book and exercise program promoted by Mr. Rippetoe. Unlike cardio ad nauseum exercise (the goal of which is to cause the breakdown and elimination of body tissues), Starting Strength is an exercise program designed to make the human body stronger by building the muscular and supportive structures of the body. When combined with our LCHF way of eating, the result is a stronger, more flexible, leaner, better, healthier body.

    For those of you who are anti-exercise for weight loss. please do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Exercise is valuable to the human form! Know that there is an intellectual approach to exercise out there that is the polar opposite of the "hamster on a wheel exercise" recommendations put out by the low-fat people and practitioners of other conventional wisdom. Google Starting Strength and learn for yourselves.

    As radical and effective as LCHF and low carb paleo eating are, so is Starting Strength as an exercise program. I eat LCHF to reduce my body fat levels and I do Starting Strength to increase my strength, vitality and appearance. I like to tell people to eat LCHF to lose fat, but to look better (i.e. not like a dessicated marathon runner or concentration camp survivor) built up your muscles! For ladies, muscle gives your lower body curves. Not fat.

    Regardless of your age and past success/failures with exercise, please look into an exercise program like Starting Strength. It is a perfect adjunct to LCHF dieting.

  25. Sara
    Watching episode 4 of the weight of the nation and they seem to be on the money with the problems with Agri-business. How sugar, corn, soy farms get subsidies and fresh veggie farms gets no help etc. So not all bad. They also point to the packaged foods as the big problem, added sugars, added soy based fats, added wheat etc.
  26. sophie
    Great comment Dirty Dan.

    Also, as CW goes, exercice, aerobic or strength building, also increases muscle mass, which in turns increases metabolism. This may or may not be true but for now I think it makes sense.

    I always enjoyed running, but as soon as I increase my exercice regimen I can clearly feel my hunger increase. When I was running 16K (which by the way never made me lose that much weight), there was a point past the 9,10K where I always started to have strong food fantasies that persisted until the end of my run. However, no food has ever given me the euphoria or dopamine/endorphin release of exercising.

    Right now I am a fan of low intensity swims with paddles to build my upper body strength and long walks everyday.

    Exercise can be wonderfully healthy and has amazing benefits, but to equate its effects with those of eating energy/fat/calorie/sugar dense foods is a gross mistake.

  27. DirtyDan

    Exercise has its own benefits and perks and is an integral part of human health and wellbeing. And, although it should be part of a lifestyle designed to maintain a healthy weight (primarily for maintaining the insulin sensitivity of the muscles, which exercise does well), it should not be viewed as a primary tool of weight LOSS. LCHF on its own does that.

    Some words of caution about personal trainers: most are salespeople, either for themselves or their gym; in the US, there are no mandatory standards or licenses for personal trainers despite the proliferation of many private "accrediting bodies" many of which are simply mills where you send in your money and they send you a certificate; just because someone looks like they are in shape does not mean they have the knowledge to get you in shape - they may have been born lean or muscley; personal trainers make their living getting you to come back for more sessions, so their goal is to feed your ego; At the gym I see people wasting their time and money with personal trainers all the time and feel soprry for them, as they are victims of conventional wisdom and marketing.

    My point is to encourage people to educate themselves about exercise just as we have educated ourselves about diet and LCHF. Swimming is lovely and any activity that one does is better than the activity/exercise they do not do. But if you are seeking a highly effective exercise program as an adjunct to LCHF, please look into Starting Strength and educate yourself.

  28. DirtyDan,

    Absolutely agree with you about exercise and about gyms. Food is the key to weight loss. Exercise helps with insulin sensitivity and improves the mood and strengthens the body.
    From my experience, gyms are a waste of money and can also be potentially very dangerous because many "trainers" don't have any qualifications and you can get injured working with them. (Never mind being ripped off by gym owners who, based on my experience, are mostly people with shady business practices.)

    So, as you said, we all need to educate ourselves about exercise and find an exercise regimen that best suits our needs. For me, it is long-distance running, spinning (I have my own bike at home) and weight lifting (I have my own weights at home but body weight exercises are excellent so you don't even need to invest in weights).

  29. Violeta

    Look into Starting Strength. You might be impressed by the benefits of a true strnegth program. Body weight exercises are impractical if you are not already strong enough to do them and frequently place the joints in a position of extreme mechanical stress. Not healthy. Also, weights are scaleable, almost infinitely, for the individual's personal strnegth level. You can do barbell presses with anywhere from 10 to 1000 pounds. Finally, LSD (long slow distance) exercise encourages the retention of body fat for fuel for future workouts of long duration with elevated heart rate as well as thinning of bones and upper body muscles to lighten the load. I would exercise (pun intended!) caution when it comes to LSD exercise. Strengthening the body's tissues through progresive resistance is a great way to aid in improving body composition, as well as for health and appearance. If you must ride a bike or run, do sprint workouts that challenge the body for brief, explosive movements. Those movements tax the muscles, skeleton and energy system differently from LSD work.

    Work out smart, not hard! And ignore conventional wisdom. Gym owners and PTers can only rip you off and waste your time if you let them through your ignorance. Empower yourself with knowledge. Google Starting Strength. Not to be overly - evangelical about it, but SS is as great as LCHF!!!

  30. julie
    Oh, please. When you LCHF have kept it off for a few years, then I want to hear from you. Otherwise, maybe consider that calorie balance is not a great conspiracy against you, just reality.

    Normal weight 4 years now, previously obese. I love the gym! I love fruit! I would rather die than eat low-carb, major yuck. I don't eat low-fat, but I certainly don't try to maximize consumption. Talk to me when you've kept it off as long as I have.

  31. Alexandra M
    11 years. What's your question?

    "I would rather die than eat low-carb..."

    I'm sure that's an option for some people.

  32. Jean50
    Take a look at this! Which thumbsuccer researched this?

    - Low-carb, high-fat diets could be to blame for an upsurge in unhealthy cholesterol levels in the blood of Swedes, a new study suggests.-

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