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Science Sound Bite: NYTimes’ “Fat Trap,” Tara Parker-Pope, and Unclogging Sinks


Update: Let’s repurpose this post to speak to Tara Parker-Pope’s recent NYTimes post “The Fat Trap” regarding the futility of traditional fat loss methods.

Parker-Pope is exactly right that studies show eating less of the typical diet and doing more of traditional exercise does not work for the vast majority of people. However, that does not mean we need to be “trapped” by body fat. Myriad studies show that by changing the quality of one’s diet and the quality of one’s exercise (vs. quantity of eating and exercise) long-term fat loss is not only possible, but practical.

Think about trying to burn body fat after years of the traditional American diet like trying to drain water from a clogged sink. Eating less of the same quality of food is like turning down the faucet. Doing more of the same quality of exercise is like scooping out the overflowing water with a teaspoon. Both are temporary ways to deal with the symptoms of the problem (too much water in, not enough water out). Neither does anything about the root cause (a clog blocking the sink’s natural ability to automatically balance “water in” with “water out”). That is why studies show eating less and exercising more failing long term 95% of the time.

The problem is the clog. The solution is clearing the clog. And clearing the clog requires thinking in terms of food and exercise quality, not quantity.

Reducing the quantity of food which lead to the clog and increasing the quantity of exercise which ignores the clog doesn’t really help us. That simply reduces the symptoms associated with the underlying clog. We remove clogs–and “drain” body fat long term–by putting the right quality in, and keeping the wrong quality out.

It’s not about less in and more out. It’s about higher quality in and higher quality out.

The only “fat trap” is being unable or unwilling to escape quantity-based fat loss theories which have been proven wrong.