Monday, January 14, 2013

Get Educated! (Guest post by

Welcome to January and the rush of well-meaning resolutions to improve ourselves, improve our health, and improve our body composition over the coming month. There’s no denying that the collective attitude towards self-improvement this time of year is pretty motivating, and I’m all for setting goals. However, this season can also be infuriating as hell. Crowded gyms, diet humble bragging on social media, and most of all, the rampant spreading of misinformation.

This new year, as you consider what you want to do to improve your body or lose weight or eat healthful foods, I beg you to reconsider your knowledge and unlearn everything you know about diet and exercise.

Let’s back up for a second so that I may explain. Last summer, I started reading Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It, an incredible work that looks into the research behind why exactly it is that we get fat. I’ve been curious about this ever since I realized a few years back that people really began to balloon in the 1980s, and have always wondered how exactly the obesity epidemic came to be. After I finished Why We Get Fat, I immersed myself in books, blogs, and personal accounts of what nutrition, health, and fitness really should be, and anecdotes about what really works for individuals.

After my 16 years of competitive swimming came to an end, I struggled to understand what was contributing to a slow-but-steady weight gain over the course of several years, despite the fact that I still exercise and continue to eat what would normally be considered a healthy diet. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re incredibly misled about what to eat and how much (and how) to work out. Taubes and many others in the Paleo/Primal community have convinced me that it’s mostly what we eat, in fact, and not as much the duration of our exercise. What we’ve been told for decades, especially that saturated fat causes heart disease, that dietary fat makes you fat, and that grains are good for you, is all wrong. In fact, it’s based on criminally bad “research” that has resulted in one of the most pressing public health crises in modern times.

There’s an incredible amount of information out there about how our bodies store fat, how exercise affects hunger, how calories don’t matter as much as the type of food you eat—the list goes on and on. I’m not going to get into specifics or preach nutrition, because I want you to take a step in educating yourself—truly understanding the science of nutrition, obesity, and exercise for overall wellness—so that you’re better armed to make decisions about the food you eat and how you integrate fitness into your daily life. Personally, I’ve found that I function extremely well on a Paleo and sometimes Primal (like Paleo, with high-quality dairy) diet, which keeps my energy levels constant, my hunger at bay, and my exercise-induced asthma to a minimum. The physical results that begin to show in only a few days don’t hurt, either.

To help you get started with your self-education, here are some of my recommended reads and favorite resources:

Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It, Gary Taubes
Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes (this book is just oh-my-God-wow, an absolute tour de force in the fields of nutrition and journalism, an absolute must-read for any science junkies out there)
The Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson, written by Mark Sisson (check out the Primal Blueprint Success Stories forum for some incredible stories and inspiration), written by Robb Wolf (one of the main dudes behind the Paleo movement), written by Zoe Harcombe (click on “The Knowledge” and enjoy the posts on the upper right of that page)

There are some other links in a post on this subject on my own blog.

In closing, I want to bring up an often-cited phrase about weight loss/improving body composition, that we know exactly what we need to do, but the difficult part is doing it. Actually, I think the opposite is quite true (try changing your mindset and watch it become so)—we have never had a clear idea of exactly what to do, but the easy part, once you understand the science, is sticking to it. Being armed with the right knowledge is probably 98% of success. And there’s no better motivation for me than knowing the facts. I wish you all a happy, healthful, productive 2013, and I’m looking forward to sharing my journey with you here on as well as at

DubyaWife's Take: Katherine's call to "get educated" is a premise I can't stress enough. Over 3 years ago I knew very little about healthy living but started my journey in learning as much as I could. From how to read labels, to what "fat free" means, to organic foods, learn what you put in your body and how it affects you. You can find Katherine on her aforementioned web-site or on twitter @katherinemccoy. Thanks for the education, Katherine!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this and for sharing. I agree that being educated about food and exercise is extremely important. I suspect it's also important to keep updating our knowledge as science learns more and more about the world around us (food etc) and our bodies.