Sandra Aamodt’s Why Diets Make Us Fat

Sandra Aamodt’s Why Diets Make Us Fat

The holiday season with its cakes, cookies, and pies is upon us. Are you already planning a food binge followed by a January of “paying for your sins” and working out like crazy? If so, I highly recommend Sandra Aamodt’s book, Why Diets Make Us Fat.

Key topics:

✔️ My own experiences with bulking and cutting… and how it gets harder as you get older.
✔️ Some people have been on diets or eating plans for their entire adult lives. This cannot be sound for mental or physical health.
✔️ The items in the supermarket may have changed over the last few decades, but basic human biology has not.
✔️ I go back to the Buddhist idea of the The Middle Path or The Middle Way. No extreme behaviors or wild benders with food. Likewise no starving yourself either.

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Transcription by

Hello, hello and welcome to today’s episode of the Causey Consulting Podcast. I’m your host, Sara Causey and I’m also the owner of Causey Consulting, which you can find online anytime at Recently, I heard a story that definitely made an impact on me. And I feel like it could be the story of so many women. And honestly, in increasing number of men to this lady was talking about how she had been invited to one of her close friend’s birthday party before the pandemic. So I don’t want to get a bunch of emails about improper COVID behavior. This was written long before COVID was a thing. She had received an invitation to a close friend’s birthday party. And instead of feeling excited or happy about it, she felt stress and anxiety. And it really hit her as she was standing in her closet looking for something to where she was going through all of these personal negotiations with herself. And when I go further into the story, I am positive that you’ll be nodding your head in agreement, because you’ll understand you’ll empathize. She was thinking about the food that would be there, and the wine and the birthday cake, and how all of it would be good. And she would want to partake in it and enjoy herself. But yet she felt like she couldn’t. She was worried about the calories and the carbs and the fat grams. And well, if I really enjoy myself tonight, then I’m going to have to spend the next week paying for it, I’m going to have to cut calories here and maybe I can skip breakfast tomorrow. Or maybe I can just have a Iceberg lettuce salad for dinner for the next three nights to pay penance for the sin of choosing to enjoy myself at my friend’s birthday party. And she had an epiphany standing there that for her entire adult life, going all the way back to when she was a teenage kids still in junior high, she had been on some kind of a diet or some kind of a meal plan. There never been a time in her adult life where she had trusted herself to manage her own eating habits without outsourcing it to a meal plan, or a diet plan of some kind. And the gravity of that really hit her and she thought I don’t want to live this way. And I don’t want to pass this disordered relationship I have with food on to my children, or to my nieces and nephews. I don’t want the next generation of young people to say Well, yeah, okay, I too, have spent my entire adult life on some kind of a diet. I’m not happy with my body, I can’t go to a birthday party and just simply enjoy the food and the wine and the company, I have to obsess over every bite of food that goes into my mouth, or every sip of wine that I take from this glass. And as I was listening to her tell the story, I was more and more nodding my head because I understood. And I related, I mean, at different times in my adult life, I have been on some very strange eating plans. And some of them didn’t necessarily seem strange at the time. Because I think as Americans, we have a pretty high tolerance level for diet and nutrition Bs, you know, these snake oil salesmen and charlatans can, in the moment, convince us of almost anything. There was a period of time in my 20s, where I was very like diet and fitness oriented. And this was back before everyone had smartphones, and everyone had laptops, and there was all the mobility where you could work from home or you could work remotely. And the job that I had at the time, I worked when I was there when I was but in seat in the office from eight to five, I worked and then the rest of the time I was at home and I was able to do my own thing in there. The boundaries between work life and home life had not blurred at that point in time. And I spent a large degree of my personal time working out and obsessing about what I was or was not eating. I was always looking for the next thing. Well do I need to count macros? Maybe I need to adjust my carbs. Maybe I need to try this or try that maybe I need to do carb cycling. Maybe I need to do intermittent fasting. I mean, I remember talking to some bodybuilder dudes who told me that they set an alarm to get up in the middle of the night and eat so that they could break the fast that much quicker. And keep metabolism up. I mean, you know, my thing is if something is working for you, if you’re happy with it, you’re healthy and you feel like it’s working for you. You do you but for me the idea of setting an alarm to get up at like 2:30 in the morning and drink half a gallon of milk and eat a porterhouse steak is probably, you know, not good. I also knew a guy at the time who was a boxing coach and hand to God, this is true. He carried a George Foreman grill– one of those small ones– with him everywhere. He traveled with it. He always had one like he had this whole separate like duffel bag rig thing that he kept his George Foreman grill and he had one at the gym. He had them at home, he had them in his car. So like any time that he went anywhere, he could just whip out this George Foreman Grill. Out of nowhere, like poof, there’s a grill and I can start just making tons of chicken breasts. And I look back on that now and I just laugh at the time. It was like damn, you know, that guy’s super disciplined I guess but I look back on it now and it plays in my mind like a farce. When I think back to my own habits of that time, there was no joie de vivre, there was definitely no joie de manger, but there was also no real hoie de vivre. Everything had to be weighed and measured and calculated. And I had a very like suspicious relationship with food. I felt like I had to work out all the time, even if I was sick or injured, which as you can probably guess, led me to have a lot of injuries. I mean, I have some kind of hinky joints and questionable areas of bursitis now, and it’s really because I had that misspent time in my 20s, pushing myself way beyond the point of what I should have been doing. It was not healthy, it was obsessive. And here’s something else I remember, it was never enough. There was always a lower body fat percentage I needed to get to there was some part of my body I wasn’t happy with there was, oh, I can pinch some skin on this part of my body. And so this is gross, and it needs to be remedied. Maybe I need to start working out three times a day, maybe I don’t need to take a day off. And I mean, I would feel bad about having a rest day. And I would feel bad about you know, if I got sick or something and I couldn’t finish a workout, I would feel bad about that I would feel guilty and lazy and gross. And kids. That’s no way to live. You know, if you’re listening to this broadcast, and you’re a young person, like do not spend the prime of your life thinking that your body is disgusting. And you need to just work out 24 hours a day or there’s something wrong with you, you can be healthy without pushing yourself to some dastardly extreme, I promise you, one of my best friend’s went on this severe and in my opinion, bizarre grapefruit diet one time. And like, because of all the acid that he was consuming all the time, by eating these massive amounts of grapefruit, it actually did permanent damage to the enamel on his teeth. And I remember a diet that I went on, I don’t even remember now what it was called. But it was like you, you had to eat all of these little mouse meals in two hour intervals. And and I remember like, never feeling full, never feeling satisfied. Never feeling that sense of ease. Like I understand. In in the Western world. In America, in particular, it’s like, a lot of us want to eat to excess we go we we are not in tune anymore. With our body’s natural signals of hunger and thirst of satisfaction of Ooh, I’ve pushed it too far. So it’s not about eating to the point where you feel like a stuffed thanksgiving turkey. But it’s also very unsatisfying. If you just you never feel full, you always feel like you’re walking around in a state of perpetually being hungry. And after a while, like for one thing, it’s all you can think about is I’m hungry, I don’t feel good. I feel empty. I don’t feel correct in my own skin. After a while like your willpower which I’m using in quotation marks, your willpower breaks down, you’re like dammit, I need to eat and then that’s when the binge comes on. So it’s like any little bit of weight that you’ve been able to take off through this sheer misery comes right back on when you have this grand blowout vendor. So remember this diet where it’s like you’d eat at 6am 8am 10am noon and so on until about six o’clock in the evening, but you would have these tiny meals and so it would be like alright, at 10am you’re going to have Five almonds, exactly five almonds and two celery sticks. And you know what if you can eat that, and that’s enough to fill you up and satisfy you, I guess you’re a better man than I am. Because it certainly didn’t fill me up, I’d be like, Oh, this is awful. But the logic, you know, again, I’m definitely using air quotes there. The logic behind it was that, well, if you’re eating every two hours, you’re never really going to get like super hungry, you’re never going to get starved out. And you’ll always know that your next meal is coming. So it’s like, you can try to psychologically fake yourself out that, you know, even though you’re not eating anything that’s rich, or anything that’s particularly filling that sticks to the ribs for a while, at least you’re getting the eat frequently, you’re eating these little tiny mouse meals, but you are getting the eat all freaking day long. First of all, working outside the home having to pack that much crap to go with you to eat in these two hour intervals. And trying to do it at these very precise times is not always very conducive to getting your work done. And you’re also just walking around hangry all the time. And for me, like during the holiday seasons, I always made the sort of deal with the devil so to speak that from Halloween. Until New Years, I would loosen the reins and just really eat you know, enjoy things like homemade holiday cookies and pumpkin pie and the turkey dinner Thanksgiving. My birthday is at the beginning of December. So there’s usually this convergence of like Thanksgiving and then my birthday I remember one year there was it was like Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and my birthday all fell together and and went over to my friend John’s house to celebrate with he and his wife. And we just we had this like extreme Hanukkah feast. And I remember being like, oh, oh, I don’t I don’t even know if I can fit in my pants anymore. I should have worn sweatpants over there in hindsight, I guess. So during this, you know, roughly two month period of time, there’s Halloween, there’s Thanksgiving, there’s my birthday, there’s Christmas, there’s new year’s, there’s all of these reasons, socially speaking to eat a lot of rich, decadent foods, drink alcohol and just, you know, eat, drink, and be merry and wear your sweat pants that can go can accommodate a very large amount of size gain or temporary bloating and my way of paying penance because again, this is, to me, it seems a very American thing. I’m going to do something that I enjoy but then I’m going to have to pay the piper for it, I’m going to have to do some kind of absolution to make up for the fact that I dared to indulge. Maybe it goes back to Puritan times I’m I’m not sure where that comes from in our culture. But my way of paying penance was I will lift very heavy, I will really do what I can to set personal bests during this time to gain a good base of strength and then in good come January the second it’s going to be time to further pay penance by stripping off the fat so I essentially if you if you know anything about weightlifting, I will be doing a bulk followed by a cut. And the idea being well I’m gonna use all of these calories and fat grams to good use, I’m gonna I’m gonna turn the evil foods into something good by getting stronger and being able to lift heavier and heavier weights. And then in January as we start going into another calendar year, then all all up my cardio and I’ll try to get rid of the fat so that at least I’ve got some real good muscle gains from from all this fun and I’ve been having. But I’ll tell you, with each passing year, getting getting older and having metabolic changes, it would get tougher to go through the cutting process. And it’s funny because earlier this year, we’re going into like, you know, January of 2020. I remember feeling so bad. It was horrible. I felt like I had the flu except I didn’t. It was like my body was trying to purge all of these toxins from having eaten a lot of junk, followed by then trying to eat a lot of rabbit food, drink a lot of water and and my body went through this like two week rebellion. It was hard to get motivated to exercise. It was hard to do much of anything. I just felt such profound fatigue. And it was so bad that I wrote a letter to my future self. I got into my journal and wrote a letter to my future self for about this time of the year. Like don’t, don’t do that again. You know, I think it’s time for you to be done with that habit. It’s time for you to not go off the rails during the holiday season and then think that you’re going to be able to make up for it by doing some sort of cut with a lot of cardio and a lot of rabbit food. Like, just remember, I’m writing this to my future self to say just remember how terrible and Ill that you felt from doing this like, okay, you did it. And now it’s time to learn from it and move on. So last year, when I was out doing some second hand shopping, I found a copy of Sandra Aamodt’s book, why diets make us fat, the unintended consequences of our obsession with weight loss. And I bought it for a couple of bucks. And I thought, Man, one of these days, I’m going to read this. So I went on my one of these days, I’m going to read this shelf. And after hearing that lady’s story, and feeling it resonate with me so deeply, especially going into the holiday season, reading recipes that are oven, a tunnel and winter time and holiday nature, thinking about homemade Christmas cookies and gingerbread men and all of that. I thought I’m gonna read that book. Now, if this seems to be it feel it feels right in my spirit, and it seems to be an opportune time to do it. Now I want to really be clear about something just as ambit does in the book. It’s not a Diet book. It’s not a meal plan. It’s not her giving you some magic wand of like, Okay, well, you know, as a neuroscientist, I’m going to tell you the exact ratio of macronutrients you need to be eating, or I’m going to give you some trick where you can psych yourself out and be able to magically lose all this weight, or magically be able to subsist on 500 calories a day. This is not that and thank God for it. I’m going to read to you the Table of Contents because I feel like it gives you an excellent idea of what’s in the book if you haven’t read it. And certainly if you’re thinking about buying it. Part one is called The trouble with diets and includes the chapters the diet rollercoaster. Boy, isn’t that true. willpower runs out. also quite true. How diets lead to weight gain, the weight of beauty, our brains fight weight loss. Part two is why we gain weight and includes the chapters early life and adult weight, stress, shame, and stigma. When calories don’t count, blame your ancestors, follow the money. And part three concludes with a better way and includes the chapters eat with attention, enjoy sleepwalking through dinner, healthiest better than thin, change your lifestyle, change your health, and good habits beat good intentions. Now, if you’ve watched her TED talk about why diets don’t work. She shares some very interesting graphs about health. And they’re broken down by people who are thin, overweight and obese. And one of the things that struck me during that TED talk is that with a certain group of habits, things like consistent exercise, eating fruits and vegetables, not smoking cigarettes, and drinking in moderation. People who are thin, overweight and obese, that have those consistent habits are actually in the same health range. Now the people who are obese that are eating things like fast food and smoking cigarettes, drinking to excess, they had the worst score of all, but it was like all other things being equal. Everybody that had those habits, regardless of how many pounds they were overweight, we’re still healthy. Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying that you need to throw caution to the wind. And right now just go order two large pepperoni pizzas and get a two liter bottle of pop, and just just go for it just just have a big bender. I’m not advocating for that. And and it doesn’t either. It’s more about learning how to eat mindfully. And understanding when you’re hungry versus Well, I’m eating because it’s noon. And this is typically when I have lunch, or I’m eating because grandma really wants me to have a slice of this cake. I’m not hungry right now. But I feel like I kind of have to or she might get mad at me. or eating because you’re bored, you’re frustrated, you’re lonely. You’re upset about something maybe your boss was a real a hole at the office. And so you get home and mow through a sleeve of cookies to cope with feeling bad about it. That’s not a good healthy way to live. You’re not coping with your emotions and you’re using food as a way to make yourself feel better, which in my mind is going to inevitably lead to weight gain. New food should be used to fuel your body and to satisfy you when you’re hungry, not to throw a cloak over uncomfortable emotions that you’re dealing with. And that is one of the points that Aamodt makes in the book as well as the TED Talk, you’re not likely to lose weight from reading this book, unless you’ve just been doing a lot of emotional eating, or eating way past the point of fullness. So one of the big steps that she advocates is pay attention to the signals that your brain is giving to your body. Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? When do you feel full? At what point does your body say? Yeah, we’re good. You don’t need to keep shoveling food in the piehole. Because I’m so I’m solid right now. It’s cool. Another point she makes, especially when it relates to things like willpower and decision fatigue, is that it is so exhausting. Trying to fight against your body’s metabolic rate your body setpoint, where your brain has sort of decided that you need to be weight wise, it’s very tiring, having to count every calorie having to monitor every step having to like produce a printout of your workouts and look at Okay, did my heart rate get up high enough? Did I hit the fat burning zone? If I didn’t, then screw it, it just wasn’t a good workout. All of that is so mentally exhausting. I would add to it. It’s also physically and spiritually exhausting to being told that your body is ugly. I mean, it doesn’t matter if it’s you telling yourself that or you feel like it’s society or someone, another person has told you that it takes a toll on you to just be battered all the time. I’m not thin enough, my body is not good enough. I’m not athletic enough, I can’t do this fast enough. I mean, God, having that kind of negative self talk going in a loop is so destructive. And in reading amis book, it also helped me to realize that was one of the things that I hated about that every two hour mouse meal diet is essentially is telling people, you cannot be trusted with your own body. Don’t allow yourself to get hungry, because you’ll lose control. You cannot be trusted not to binge eat. Don’t Don’t ever let yourself get hungry because it’s dangerous. What kind of malarkey is that? Really don’t allow yourself to ever get hungry. That’s such black and white to polar opposite thinking I’m either gonna eat little tiny portions that never satisfy me or I’m just gonna say To hell with it all and go to a buffet and eat like 10,000 calories in one setting, there is a happy medium. And the older I get, the more value that I see in the Buddhist teaching about the middle way or the middle path, not going off the rails into a very like Spartan, ascetic lifestyle where you say I am not going to have any pleasure. I’m not going to do anything fun. I’m just going to live a very dour plain kind of life, versus being a party animal and saying, Yeah, I’m gonna eat a whole pizza in one setting. And I’m just going to eat candy all day long. And I’m going to eat birthday cake every day for breakfast. Like, there’s a happy medium in between those two. But for me, it’s very, it’s scary. And honestly, the word that’s popping into my mind right now is diabolical. It’s it’s really awful to tell somebody that they cannot be trusted to manage their own feelings of hunger and thirst. Because if they allow themselves to feel that way, they’ll just go off the rails and have a terrible bender. Even though it might seem like kind of an ironic time to watch Dr. Aamodt’s TED talk or to pick up her book why diets make us fat, I really think going into the holiday season, this is such an opportune time. You know, if you’re the type of person that’s like, I, I am going to be so virtuous. I just won’t even eat a single Christmas cookie. I will only allow myself to have one bite of turkey at the dinner and the rest of the time I only iceberg lettuce, like you need this book. Likewise, if you’re going to stuff yourself past the point of comfort, and have to take all of your clothes off and lay under a fan. You know, not that I’ve ever done that. No, I’m just speaking for a friend wink wink. That’s not healthy either. And so I would say especially if you have found yourself drifting towards one of those extremes or maybe both of those extremes at different times in your life. I highly, highly recommend Dr. Aamodt’s book and her TED Talk. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please share it. If you haven’t already, take a quick second to subscribe to this podcast and leave a review for us on iTunes. Bye for now.

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