Fat Mice And The Laws of Thermodynamics

      44 Comments on Fat Mice And The Laws of Thermodynamics

In a Weight Watchers discussion group, someone recently posted this advice:

The key to successful weight loss is simple mathematics . . . ingest fewer calories than calories expended in a day.

That second part of that sentence is, of course, correct. Your body won’t tap the energy reserves in your fat cells unless the energy is needed.  You have to expend more than you ingest.  But that doesn’t mean successful weight loss is all about “simple mathematics.”  Biological systems aren’t simple.

Unfortunately, too many people grasp (again, correctly) that gaining or losing weight requires an imbalance between the energy consumed and the energy expended, but then take a leap in logic and conclude that:

  1. Consuming additional calories is the root cause of becoming fatter (as opposed to a response to storing more calories as fat).
  2. Everyone who becomes fatter is either eating more or moving less than before.
  3. Consuming fewer calories will automatically lead to a lower weight and less body fat.

In other words, they think it’s about simple mathematics, just like a savings account.  To dispute any of these conclusions, we’re told, would be to ignore the laws of thermodynamics. So let’s see how that contention holds up in the face of controlled research.

In a study published earlier this year, researchers conducted two experiments, each lasting three or four weeks, in which obese mice were divided into two groups: a control group that ate freely (ad libitum) and a calorie-restricted group. In the first experiment, researchers first recorded the average caloric intake of the mice when they were allowed to eat freely, then limited the calorie-restricted group to 95% of that intake. In the second experiment, researchers observed the on-going caloric intake of the mice allowed to eat freely, then limited the calorie-restricted group to 95% of that intake. In other words, if the mice eating freely ate more, the calorie-restricted mice were given more food … but they were still eating 5% fewer calories than their freewheelin’ cousins.

A legitimate criticism of many diet studies is that the researchers relied on food-recall surveys or diet journals to determine how much people ate. Those methods can be notoriously inaccurate. Realizing this, the researchers on this study elected not to allow the mice to keep their own diet journals. Instead, the researchers precisely measured and recorded how much each mouse ate — even going so far as to examine the little critters’ cages and subtracting any bits of food they found from the food-intake totals.

In both experiments, researchers took precise before-and-after measurements of weight, lean body mass, and adipose-tissue mass. In the second experiment, they also used infrared sensors to track locomotor activity levels (“moving around” to us laypeople), and measured oxygen consumption and carbon-dioxide output to calculate how much energy the mice expended. I’d say that’s about as precise as a diet study gets.

Now, according to Jillian Michaels and the other leading experts in thermodynamics, there are only a couple of possible outcomes for these experiments:

  1. The calorie-restricted mice, who were prevented from making little pig-mice of themselves, ended up weighing less and were leaner.
  2. If the calorie-restricted mice somehow ended up fatter, it could only be because they were far less active than the mice who ate freely.

Yup … if you get fat, by gosh, it means you’re either eating more or moving less. Now let’s look at the actual results:

At the end of first experiment (four weeks), the calorie-restricted mice weighed a teeny bit less than their free-eating counterparts — the difference was not statistically significant, but it was there. However, the calorie-restricted mice also had 68.5% more fat mass, and 12.3% less lean mass.

Being put on a diet made them fatter.

At the end of the second experiment (three weeks), the average weight for both groups was virtually identical — it was also virtually identical to their baseline weights. But the calorie-restricted mice had 43.6% more fat mass and 6.4% less lean mass than the free-eating control mice. Once again, being put on a diet made them fatter.

Well, clearly, those fat little calorie-restricted mice must’ve spent too much time sitting around watching reruns of The Biggest Loser while their free-eating cousins were whipping themselves into shape by running on the big wheel, right?

Nope. According to the study data, there was no difference in locomotor activity levels between the two groups.

The calorie-restricted mice ate less, they moved around just as much, but they ended up weighing the same as the mice allowed to eat freely, and also ended up with more fat and less muscle. Oh, dear me … did these mice find a way to violate the laws of thermodynamics?

No, heck no, for the thousandth time, NO.

The researchers didn’t take body-heat measurements (too bad), but reported that the calorie-restricted mice expended significantly less energy: 5% less overall, and 20% less while at rest. Simply put, their metabolisms slowed down, even though they were just as physically active.  No laws of thermodynamics were violated in the process.

I once sent a link to this study to someone who insisted that according to the laws of thermodynamics, weight gain is caused by eating more or moving less, period.  His reply was something like, “That doesn’t prove anything!  I’m not a mouse.  I’m talking about people.”

Well, I agree that mice aren’t little furry people, which is why I’m not concerned when this-or-that food is shown to trigger cancer in mice.  (Mouse chow probably wouldn’t agree with me either.)  But remember, we’re talking about The Laws of Thermodynamics here.  They don’t apply to one species, but not another.  If mice can become fatter without eating more or moving less, yet somehow avoid violating the laws of thermodynamics in the process, then so can people.

The researchers were at a bit of a loss to explain why the calorie-restricted mice grew fatter, but I’m pretty sure we can rule out gluttony and sloth. They suggested perhaps the mice were reacting to the stress of a limited food intake.

“Reacting,” of course, means something hormonal was going on. (It wasn’t thyroid hormone. The researchers checked.) Perhaps the calorie-restricted mice produced more cortisol. Perhaps evolution geared the mice to respond to the threat of starvation by accumulating more fat, even if it means sacrificing lean tissue.

The point is, they didn’t get fatter by eating too much, and they didn’t get fatter because they decided to expend less energy. They began to expend less energy (in spite of being just as active) because they were being hormonally driven to accumulate more fat, even on less food.

Doesn’t that sound something like the process described by a best-selling science journalist who supposedly doesn’t understand that his hypothesis would violate the laws of thermodynamics?


44 thoughts on “Fat Mice And The Laws of Thermodynamics

  1. LeonRover

    Hey Tom

    Both in performing experiments (studies), and in deductions from established Laws – in Popper’s sense) – the principle of CETERIS PARIBUS – all other (things) being equal – needs to carefully applied, and stated.

    Too many of the “eat less or exercise more” brigade, do not EXPLICITLY state that “basic metabolic rate” must remain as before (being equal). Thus they are confounded by some results from OB-OB mice etc. I believe that in some experiments, when given little food, these mice down-regulated their BMR to the point of death, even while keeping their very large “belly rolls”.

    P S One experimenter called his fave OB-OB mouse “Morton”, ’cause his Daddy came from New Aw-Leans!

    Bingo. No one’s doubting the concept of energy balance here, but the body can defeat a decrease in energy intake by decreasing its use of energy.

  2. Christian

    Great post. This is how obesity textbooks should start:

    The first law of obesity: Overeating (or excess calories or positive caloric balance) and weight gain are synonyms. By the laws of physics, in particular the first law of thermodynamics, one does always accompany the other. In the same sense undereating (or calorie deficit or negative caloric balance) and weight loss are synonyms.

    And now that were done with physics, let’s talk about obesity and why we get fat.

    Ha … nicely put.

  3. Todd S.

    As a physicist one explained about the folly of trying to use the laws of thermodynamics to explain human biological functions: scientific laws only apply to laboratory situations where variables are controlled and systems are closed off from all other systems. The human body is not a closed system and our lives don’t take place in laboratories. Kcalories are units of heat, not measures of potency. There was a lot more to it, but you get the idea.

    That became obvious to me recently when I walked around outside on a 25-degree day without a hat. I transferred significant heat to the environment.

  4. Dana W

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you say the calories-in/calories out theorists say overeating is the ‘root cause’ of being overweight. I’m a manufacturing engineer, and we have lots of problems that crop up in production. One of the tools we use to get to root cause is the “Five Why’s”. We could put band-aides on problems if we stop too early with ‘why’, and put half measures in place when dealing with the problem. We could add an inspection step, or demand that the manufacturing operator ‘be more careful’, or re-train operators. We know these methods are not effective long-term. We have to get to the root cause and fix the real problem (design change, process flow change, etc). We have to ask ‘why?’, and I think Gary makes this point in his book. Some have not thought through the ‘why’s’, and insist being overweight is the “operator’s” fault. Let’s get to the root cause and stop blaming the overweight person.

    Exactly. Using fewer calories than we ingest is the how. It doesn’t explain the why.

  5. Jo

    Damn, and I thought I was going to lose weight sitting naked in the snow! LOL.

    Great post. It helped me clarify the issue of ‘energy balance’.

    Hey, there are all kinds of good reasons to sit naked in the snow. Weight loss just isn’t one of them.

  6. Drew @ How To Cook Like Your Grandmother

    So this came out in October. That explains why for the past four months I’ve seen all those stories on the mainstream press announcing most existing diets are wrong.

    Oh wait … I haven’t seen any of those stories. Odd.

    Perhaps you went on a media-free diet for four months … ?

  7. Brian

    I used to take the independent variable route when trying to explain this. Kind of got tired of eyes rolling over. So now I just excuse myself or change the subject.

    You should be careful: Jillian knows people, who know people. Like the other trainer, Bob. Come to think of it, never mind him. I can smoke him in any Wii game…

    If it turns into a Wii battle, I’m finished. However, I’ll put my seven-year-old up against anyone.

  8. DiscoStew

    Great article Tom. I’d like to see an experiment, involving humans or mice, along the following lines:

    Group 1:

    Calorie Intake (2500)
    Macronutrient Breakdown: P(10%) F(10%) C(80%)…..all high GI carbs

    Group 2:

    Calorie Intake (2500)
    Macronutrient Breakdown: P(40%) F(50%) C(10%)….all low GI carbs

    Give both groups the same exercise program.

    What would happen? I’d say the 2nd group would lose more fat. Why? Because of, in part, the TEF of protein. Then get the calories-in/calories-out people to explain the result.

    What do you think would happen Tom?


    I’d make the same prediction. I’d also predict the second group would maintain more lean mass.

  9. john

    Ha, I’m impressed with your ability to continually comment on people who say things like the above. First, someone stupidly references the “universal” laws of thermodynamics to explain fat gain. Then, another (who would seem to agree with the first) implies that it applies to humans but not mice!?!

    Before I got into math, I tried med school and couldn’t get through the first year. Having to listen to lectures about the wonders of the Mediterranean diet and getting a lowered grade for not factoring in patient compliance (by suggesting a diabetic not eat donuts), I realized medicine is an incredibly unscientific “science.” I once got into a cholesterol argument with who girl said something along the lines of, “Well, I’ve never read about it, so I’m just gonna go by what the experts say.” This is the culture of education and of America in general. Curiosity is discouraged, and obedience & trust of authority is encouraged. There is a very small percentage of people that lead an active mental life.

    I suppose it was to my advantage that early in my college career, I had a professor who struck me as being rather on the stupid side. Certainly cured me of assuming anyone with a PhD must be right.

  10. Cindy Rondeau, D.O.M.

    I love this! Would you give me permission to print this for my patients? All credits to you of course!

    Of course. Print away.

  11. Leah

    I love this, it will be such a helpful reference for people who don’t “get it”. Ironically, there was a Jillian Michaels ad on the page when I was reading this! She is everywhere!!

    Yeah, Google puts some strange ads on our pages. The ones from the corn refiners are particularly misplaced.

  12. Beth@WeightMaven

    After listening to Jimmy Moore’s recent podcast with Robert Lustig, I rewatched his “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” video and was reminded of one of the points he made: any attempts to explain obesity as a simple matter of calories in vs calories out (or gluttony vs sloth) needed to explain one thing: the increase in obesity of infants under 6 months. Lustig attributes it to increased fructose in formula (which he calls a “baby milkshake”).

    BTW, love the Jillian Michaels as one of the leading expert in thermodynamics ;).

    Clearly those babies are just nursing too darned much and not spending enough time playing with their toes. Someone should have a talk with them.

  13. Luke H

    Right on as always.

    I always thought it was interesting when nutrition classes would talk about calculating your basal metabolic rate as if it is the same for everyone and never changes.

    I think the only thing that can make people believe is for them to try it in their own lives.

    I know mine changes. Back when I was living on a low-fat diet heavy on grains, I felt lethargic much of the time. The engine was idling slowly.

  14. Katie @ Wellness Mama

    Great analysis of the study. I too would like to see a study like DiscoStew details above. Of course, I’ve seen the results of those two options in my own body, but perhaps it would take a study on mice to convince people. I’m impressed by your analogies on the law of thermodynamics. I too would like to print this (and yesterdays post) for clients, crediting you, of course.

    Print away, thank you.

  15. Leta

    Wonderful post, Tom.

    Metabolism is damn difficult to measure, and all but impossible outside a lab setting. And what we eat, not *just* how and how much we move impacts metabolism.

    This is a wonderful illustration to the “eat less move more” crowd that acknowledging metabolism does not violate the laws of thermodynamics.

    And it only takes a small shift in metabolism to start slowly gaining weight on the same food intake. This is then defined by the experts as “eating too much.”

  16. Amber

    Beautiful post! I am continually amazed that even apparently smart people can’t seem to grasp this concept. Maybe this example will finally make it clear to someone.

    I’m always a little concerned when people mention differences that aren’t statistically significant without repetition of what that means, because statistical significance is such a subtle concept. To anyone not well versed in such subtleties, you could appear to be asserting that the experiment showed a difference, albeit a very small one. However, by definition, the difference is so small that it is likely to have occurred by random chance, which means the experiment showed no difference. I’m sure you know this, but it made me uncomfortable to see what appeared to be a concession where none was needed.

    By the way, I received your DVD for Xmas this year, and enjoyed it immensely. Best of all, my 9 year old son, who has heard me rant about nutrition plenty of times, was motivated enough after watching it with us to actually say he wanted to more actively avoid sugar more of the time. Thank you!

    That’s a good point; I’ll try to remember to explain ‘statistically insignificant’ when I bring it up.

  17. Steve G

    This is a great follow up to the “fattie metabolism” exchange we had on your last post. I was actually thinking about those fat mice (and me), when I wrote the comments.

    As to the public experts, even Mehmet Oz seems to be slithering away from his pure “caloriies in – out” BS. My wife TiVos him, and I end up sitting through the playback, when I can stand it. Just last week on two shows he (1) Said that it was OK to eat a lot of eggs, because dietary cholesterol did not hurt you, and (2) MCTs like Coconut Oil are good for you. I fear Ms. Michaels may ambush him if he is not too careful 😉

    Steve G

    Wow, that is encouraging.

  18. Lori

    WWGF has several examples of malnourished groups with a lot of overweight members and points out that obesity used to be considered a disease of malnutrition. I wish Taubes had given more information more on this subject.

    The mouse experiment reminds me of when I went from eating a moderate, balanced diet (i.e., I was constantly hungry) to a program where I ate a lot more protein and carbs and exercised a lot more. I lost probably 20 pounds of fat. Granted, the exercise used some calories (and insulin), but I wasn’t exercising away hundreds of calories every day.

    My mom has been very overweight all her life and I’ve never observed her to overeat. She now eats two tiny low-carb meals a day–that’s all she’s hungry for. By the calories-in, calories-out idea, as it’s usually thought of, the weight should be falling off her. If she didn’t have to take insulin shots, she might well lose weight.

    So Tom, you can tell your friend that the mice represent some of us humans well. And thanks for some very interesting posts of late.

    Thank you for reading.

  19. fredt

    It is my opinion that the leading cause of fat rats is scientists.

    These rats are so inbred, gene spliced, and selected so that they could not live in a real rat environment.

    It is simple for me. For today, I will not eat sugar, grain, lubricants, and manufactured eatable products. I will see how I feel about it tomorrow.

    Calorie counting is like letting an accountants run a business. The only thing that was considered was cost, not the value. Very little understanding of what must be done, but knows if it was not done, but all to late make corrections. Oh well. Stuff happens.

    Overcome the insulin – sugar and the leptin – ghrelin dance and leptin resistance that allowed our ancestors to eat to volume during feasts and time of plenty, and now we live in a time of plenty. We need to learn to eat only to live, in the world as it exists today. It can be that simple to say, but not to do.

    Know that the government food plans are to take food off the election table, and provide a demonstration that there is enough food to go around, even if much of included food is only suitable for animals, and makes them sickly with age.

    But what do I know.

    The plan is also to keep the farm bloc happy during elections. Part of the reason so many useless government programs exist is tthat he few who benefit will fight mightily to keep them, while the great majority who don’t benefit have little interest in fighting to get rid of them.

  20. Sarah

    I’m a bit confused. If overall calorie restriction makes you fatter by way of stress hormones, how is overall calorie restriction different than intermittent fasting?

    I’m not suggesting that humans who fast will experience similar hormonal effects that make them fatter. The point was that for these mice, they failed to lose weight and actually became fatter than the control mice in spite of eating less than the control mice. According to those who insist that the laws of thermodynamics prove that becoming fatter can only result from eating more or moving less, that shouldn’t have happened. So their application of thermodynamics to weight loss is wrong.

  21. Curtis

    I can’t cite any studies, but my wild guess is that intermittent fasting works because when you eat in a short window (I use 4 to 5 hours for my eating window) you eat big. For me, at least, I eat a lot during my window and perhaps I “fool my body” into thinking that food is plentiful, so there is no reason to lower the metabolism. With IF, I definitely eat fewer calories than before but I have no reason to believe my metabolism has slowed. I lost fat, then stabilized at a nice weight. YMMV.

    People who are semi-starved long-term often experience a slowdown in metabolism, but of course that’s not what intermittent fasting is about. Like you, I eat well during my window.

  22. Mallory

    The first law of obesity: Overeating (or excess calories or positive caloric balance) and weight gain are synonyms.

    hahahhah ROFL. i guess some people cant feel when they overeating, because they eat shit, but i know fo rme when i get to my body’s fullness, im dont, and i figure for the day, thats my ‘metabolic rate’ wherever it falls

  23. DiscoStew

    Obese 6 month old babies!!!…..Very sad. But now that I think about it, I think I know the cause.

    I lift weights 4 times a week, do 2 aerobic classes a week, and do sprints down at the local park. Yet I have never seen any 6 month old babies doing the same. I can’t remember the last time I saw a baby in the gym lifting weights, or a baby along side me in an aerobics class, or a baby doing 40 yard sprints like I do. Obviously, previous generations of babies lifted weights on a regular basis, did some sort of cardio each week, and sprinted regularly.


    As a father of two, I can confirm your observation. Both of my girls at 6 months pretty much sat around drinking fat-and-cholesterol-laden mother’s milk.

  24. Lori

    @Sarah, re: fasting vs. long-term calorie restriction, I think that during our long history as hunter-gatherers, intermittent fasting was probably normal. On a given day, you might have nothing but leaves to eat. The next day, you might have plenty of meat. (Talk about not eating a precise number of calories per day.) I don’t think that a day of fasting here and there is enough to slow down your metabolism. According to quite a few people who’ve reported their personal results, they actually lose weight doing this, and they eat quite a bit during non-fasting days. Most of them say don’t feel terribly hungry while fasting.

    My sense is that long-term calorie restriction is different and might cause your body to dial down its metabolism and hoard fuel until it gets enough nutrients again. (Think of hibernating animals, and animals like camels that have a large fat deposit and go for long periods without eating.) Maybe something similar happens to us (and mice) when we’re underfed, even just a little: our bodies are preparing us to go without food for a long period.

    Of course, I could be wrong about any or all of this (and I hope someone will correct me if I am) and I’m sure there are other causes and effects involved.

    Re: Kraft, Warren Buffett owns a big piece of Kraft, too. But you can’t say the man doesn’t eat his own cooking.

  25. js290

    @Sarah: Intermittent fasting isn’t about calorie restriction, per se. One’s feeding strategy should be about hormonal balance. The goal of fasting, should one choose it as part of their strategy, is to extend ketosis so one’s burning their own fat stores for energy. Ultimately for health, burning fat is healthy, burning sugar is not, hence “low carb.”

    Tom’s post brings up a good point about body composition, which most people who talk about dieting miss. Weight consists of both fat and lean. The calories-in-calories-out “experts” can’t tell you the transfer function from “calories” to body composition (fat and lean). Or, as I’ve been asking lately, “What does ‘calories’ have to do with hormones?” We should really be talking about the contents of essential nutrients, not how much heat is produced when foodstuffs are burned in a calorimeter.

    I’m pretty much convinced that the more someone talks about calories the less they understand. I’ve started ignoring anyone who uses “calories” in the context of diet, health, and exercise. They may start telling you that things fall down instead of up… Yeah, no #@%$, Sherlock.

    Yup, it’s like taking a car to a mechanic because your mileage has gone down, and all the mechanic will do is yammer on and on about how much gas you’re putting in it, instead of trying to figure out what needs fixing in the engine or power train.

  26. uJack

    Have you ever asked one of these people who lecture you on the first law if they can tell what the other laws are and how they inter-relate? I think you’d find out real quick how much they do or do not understand thermodynamics.

    That’s what Richard Feinman has pointed out in a couple of papers, including this one:


  27. Marilyn

    I know this is a lovely subject, but I haven’t seen a lot of mention of it: “Calories in/calories out” seems to assume that digestion will always be perfect. But for some people, “calories in/calories out” might be just that. For a person with major digestive issues, many of those calories will simply wave as they pass by. I would guess that for the majority of the population, digestion is somewhere between perfect and very imperfect, which would make those “calories in” more or less available for all the things we’ve been considering — adding fat, heating, tissue repair, etc.

    Interestingly, I recently had an internet stalker — who has an obsession with disputing Gary Taubes and who insists it’s all about calories, calories, calories, it’s calories in vs. calories out period end of story, eating too much is the cause and not the effect and anyone who believes otherwise just hasn’t read the research, etc. etc. etc. — explain away the fact that I didn’t gain an ounce on a very high-calorie, high-fat, zero-carb diet by suggesting I had “fat malabsorption” issues. Really? Then where the heck did the unabsorbed fat go? If my body can simply dump fat calories — which wave goodbye on the way out, as you put it — then it’s not a simple matter of how many calories we eat. (We don’t eat calories, anyway. We eat food, some of which is combusted and produces energy measured in calories.)

  28. Howard

    My wife is thin as a rail, eats like a truck driver, and engages in almost no physical activity–she’s at her computer or reading most of the day. How do the “simple mathematicians” explain her? According to what they believe she should weigh around 400 pounds by now.

    They’d say she has a fast metabolism without asking themselves what that means.

  29. Lawrence

    So, what you’re saying is that calorie intakes aren’t the major issue when it comes to nutrition, but that the quality of the food you are ingesting is which in turns affect one’s metabolism? If so, that is intriguing.

    If your metabolism is working correctly (which the proper diet helps to maintain), your appetite will take care of itself. Over-eating is a symptom, not the cause.

  30. Poisonguy

    Let’s take another quick look at the “insignificant” weight change claim. To say the mice from both groups had insignificant weight change, comparatively, I think, is misleading as this weight change is measure in grams. But their intake was measured in calories, not grams, so let’s stick with calories, if you will. So, calorie-wise, the calorie-restricted mice have had an enormous shift in energy; an increase in energy (calories) by replacing bodily protein (4 kcal/g) with fat (9 kcal/g)—with far fewer calories ingested. So, they may not have gained weight, but they experienced an enormous increase in potential energy which is quite significant (let’s do an experiment to see who can burn it off quicker!). This is a great study to show the foolishness of the calories-in/calories-out riffraff.

    And according to the “it’s all about the calories” crowd, they should’ve lost weight compared to the control mice. Ending up at the same weight with a higher percentage of body fat is significant.

  31. Charise

    My understanding of IF is this:
    If you are ‘starving’ yourself but eating meat and things that don’t spike your insulin (i.e. the things we were MADE to eat), then your body is able to access your fat stores = you keep your muscle, and lose your fat first.

    If you are starving yourself but eating nothing but whole grains and all that Weight Watchers garbage, then your body has no way of burning anything but muscle for fuel since you’re in a constant state of elevated insulin.

    So instead of your body naturally realizing “okay, food is scarce, we’ll use some of that butt fat to last through this” your body goes “WE HAVE NO FAT ANYWHERE, I CAN’T FIND IT, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, LIQUEFY THE BICEP! EAT MORE! STOP MOVING! AUGGHHH!”

    I believe that’s why I felt absolutely starved when I tried Slim Fast.

  32. Quinlan

    Nonsense! Those fat mice need to get their lazy arses off the couch and stop stuffing their greedy faces with big macs and twinkies! 😉

    If they’re like humans, the leaner miced looked at them and said, “How can you let yourself go like that?”

  33. Jerica Michael

    LOL I just have to say, there are many times in which I would love the chance to do like on facebook and ‘like’ people’s comments. XD Many of them are just as funny as the post. I’m mainly looking at Charise’s here.

  34. Ben

    Hi Tom love the movie and the site. I found Gary Taubes new blog the other day and on there a very adamant and lets just say acidic person post a bunch of stuff about how Taubes knows so little about biochemistry. He then linked a site called http://carbsanity.blogspot.com and the first article referenced this article you wrote. I didn’t really have time to read the whole article but he basically said you were misleading in your post. One thing that did catch my eye was a comment that basically sad while rats didn’t get fatter they got fattier, by which I think he meant they didn’t gain weight but their body mass shifted to have a higher percentage of fat. And then uses that to explain why the insulin stores fat theory is wrong. Now I admit I didn’t read much of the site since I was in a hurry and his comments make him sound like a “don’t listen to those low carbers I’m the only one to listen too” kind of guy but I was wondering if you know what the hell he is talking about on his site…is he full of bologna?

    The site he linked is run by a mentally unbalanced person who has become obsessed with Gary Taubes and is now stalking him all over the internet and leaving dozens of comments on any site (blog, news site, etc.) that references him, all while insisting on remaining anonymous herself and apparently not recognizing that the stalking behavior is borderline insane — especially since 1) people who read Taubes and accept his hypothesis will end up going on the same diet she follows herself, and 2) she already has a blog in which to express her opinions, which ought to be enough for a mentally healthy person. Imagine what it would say about my emotional health if instead of being satisfied with writing my opinions on my blog, I also spent all day leaving dozens of comments on any site I could find that recommended a vegetarian diet, telling them how wrong they all are.

    Gary Taubes tried to engage her in an actual discussion, but she preferred to continue stalking and attacking him, so he gave up. She’s now attempting to pick fights with me as well, which I’ve elected to ignore. I’ve dealt with enough not-quite-sane people to know that the best strategy is to refuse to engage. They will happily spend eight hours arguing that the sun is blue, and when you finally give up and walk away because you actually have other things to do, they’ll say, “Aha! Afraid to debate me, aren’t you, huh? Huh?” Then they’ll call you at home to continue the argument. That’s pretty much what our almost-sane stalker is like, which makes the “sanity” part of the blog name worth a chuckle, if nothing else.

  35. Carol Bardelli

    “Clearly those babies are just nursing too darned much and not spending enough time playing with their toes. Someone should have a talk with them.” LOL!

    Mehmet Oz back pedaled on the whole grains on Good Morning America. He admitted they could be toxic. Maybe he’ll promote low carb openly one day. Jillian, on the other hand, is a lost cause. Biggest Loser is in bed with grain purveyor companies like Subway and cereal makers.

    I’m pleased to hear Dr. Oz is willing to change his mind.

  36. Ben

    Hey Tom thanks for getting back to me. I’m new to this side of the health stuff, I like most people believed the government recommendations. My eyes were definitely opened with your movie, Gary’s books and Mark Sisson’s website. Like every community it does attract its kooks and I don’t know who and where they are yet. I found the time to actually read some of the posts on that site…and lets just say I won’t go back. Even if I found the science listed on there convincing (I’m a high energy physicist so I do actually know something about science) I wouldn’t go back. There is a way to get ideas out there without being that acidic, its just unpleasant to read.

    My attitude exactly. The shame of it is, there’s some good stuff there. But there are also some very strange leaps in logic.

  37. Dana

    Miss (In)Sanity has issues with simple math, I’ve found. Some commenter on one of Jimmy Moore’s blogs stated that if you’re metabolically messed up you could wind up gaining two pounds of fat instead of one from eating a pound of junk food because your body would freak out and convert a pound of muscle into a pound of fat. This lady went nuts on him and ranted that it was impossible to gain more than one pound of weight from one pound of food. But he wasn’t talking about one pound of *weight*, he was talking about one pound of *fat.* It certainly *is* possible to change your body composition that way. Like the Twinkie Diet guy, who did indeed get his overall weight down to a somewhat normal BMI–but when he posted his body comp test results on his Facebook, he’d lost several pounds of lean mass and his bodyfat percentage was just under obese level for his demographic category.

    You’ll notice that a lot of these people arguing for calories and against hormonal factors in weight gain always want to bring the argument around to focus on WEIGHT loss, not FAT loss. If they put their focus on fat loss where it should be, after all, their approaches to the problem would soon be discredited and they’d all be out of a job. Nobody dealing with a weight problem wants to sacrifice muscle and internal organs to solve said weight problem–not really, and if given a viable alternative to that, will abandon those muscle-consuming weight-loss programs in droves.

    Kind of makes me wonder if CarbSane’s really Jillian Michaels, since Gary’s joked a few times about her in interviews lately…

    I don’t read her posts, but apparently when I wrote about the mice who got fatter on 5% fewer calories than the control group, she tried to explain how they became “fattier” but not “fatter.” So I guess if I’m 6’0″ and weigh 200 with 30% body fat, I’m no “fatter” than a guy who’s 6’0″ and weighs 200 with 5% body fat. I’m just “fattier.” Now that’s … uh … a beautiful mind at work.

  38. Steve

    “What would happen? I’d say the 2nd group would lose more fat. Why? Because of, in part, the TEF of protein. Then get the calories-in/calories-out people to explain the result.”

    The thermic effect of food in no way violates the energy balance equation.

    “Like the Twinkie Diet guy, who did indeed get his overall weight down to a somewhat normal BMI–but when he posted his body comp test results on his Facebook, he’d lost several pounds of lean mass and his bodyfat percentage was just under obese level for his demographic category.”

    This is incorrect; as you can see on his facebook page, his bodyfat percentage went down.


    Can’t quite figure out who you’re responding to, since this goes back a ways. From what I saw of his records online, he did indeed lose both body fat and lean tissue.

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