The Swagger #5 — Tuesday Edition

Why We [Really] Get Fat; Bad Diet Messaging; McAfee is Mensch

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Just a quick note before I dive in to today's thoroughly fantastic edition of The Swagger.

Over at my day job, FreeTheAnimal.com, I've just wrapped up, in draft form (like an hour ago), the culmination of a solid 8 1/2 months of hands-on research and bust-ass testing. So thorough was I that the writing part required only a few days. And it's tight.

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The only thing separating us are various natural talents and abilities that depend on things like age, gender, stature, and genetic gifts vs. genetic raw deals. So, nobody is going to have the same outcomes as anyone else, given the same inputs.

What can be said is that all normal people can have good to excellent outcomes given the same inputs, plus a little good old fashion bust-ass hard work.

If you're an experienced gym practitioner and are interested in trying out this unique workout matrix I've spawned, pre-publication, details here.

In This Tuesday Issue of The Swagger:

  1. Why We [Really] Get Fat (and What If Economists Wrote Diet Books?)

  2. More Awful LC/Keto/Carne Messaging

  3. Turns Out Judge Scott McAfee is a Good Guy and Republicans Get It [Stupidly] Wrong (Again)

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1. Why We [Really] Get Fat (and What If Economists Wrote Diet Books?)

Later in this section, I'm going to show you what has long been my favorite "diet paper." I say that with a hint of sarcasm, but bear with me, and you'll understand why. We're tackling the age-old question, or rather the blunt statement: why we get fat. Frankly, I don't know if everyone's ready for the answer because it's painfully simple, downright obvious, and there's absolutely no lucrative angle to it. The harsh truth? No one's really interested in the actual solution because it would bankrupt the entire diet industry as we know it. Imagine a world where the only diet professionals left are personal trainers, life coaches, and maybe a few personal chefs to help you get your act together.

Selling the truth is like trying to sell ice to Eskimos—pointless and frustrating. People claim they want the truth, but when it's staring them in the face, they'd rather pay top dollar for a comforting lie. Every diet under the sun, regardless of its theme, is essentially a beautifully packaged lie. And why are they all profitable? Because they work, to some extent. The minute someone switches up their routine, they see results, keeping these diet fads in business. It's not rocket science; it's just human nature to crave change.

Now, let's entertain a hypothetical that might just blow your socks off: what if economists wrote diet books? Picture this: diet advice stripped of all the fluff, devoid of any allegiance to a particular "diet tribe." Instead of diet gurus who see every problem through their narrow lens—be it carbs, fats, or the dreaded plant toxins—an economist would approach it with a sort of consequentialism or utility.

'Yea, but is that actually useful?'

In the realm of economics, there's no room for one-trick ponies. An economist would likely laugh at the oversimplified solutions peddled by so-called diet specialists. Imagine a diet book that doesn't try to sell you on a magic bullet but instead gives you the unvarnished truth about why we get fat and how to address it without lining the pockets of the diet industry. It would be a refreshing change, wouldn't it? But let's not kid ourselves. In a world that thrives on complexity and quick fixes, the straightforward, economics approach to the question isn't winning a Nobel Prize.

... Modern obesity research focuses a lot on food hyper palatability. In other words, people get fat because they eat too much, too often, and they do that because it tastes really good and you can't eat just one.

No shit, Sherlock. At least they're not saying it's for sure too many carbohydrates, not enough fat, or THE CHEMICALS!!! I'll give them that.

But it's Incomplete (and here's why).

First, it's not saying anything. Unless they're trying to say, 'to solve the obesity epidemic, alls we need to do is make everything smell and taste like rotten shit.'

That isn't going to happen, so there's really no point to any studies or research seeking to explain from even more angles that people really like good tasting food and will overeat it.

Second, food engineering to make foods drug-like, addictive, and irresistible is a) nothing new and b) still not the main cause because c) that's falsified for a thousand years (and longer).

What do I mean by falsified? I mean that hyper palatability, which as a contributor to obesity because of the drug-like deliciousness, is nothing new.

Ever since the dawn of agriculture and the development of combinations of crunchy and doughy grain concoctions, sugar, honey, and by-product (like caramel and nougat, etc.) concoctions, and butter and leaf lard...hyper palatability was on the menu. If you've ever been in a classic French pâtisserie, you've seen that scene.

Those have been around for perhaps hundreds of years in pretty much the form in the headline photo and more primitive versions a long time prior to that. Europeans are nothing if they aren't quite creative and skillful about producing the highest quality, expensive, baked concoction goodies and high-end confections.

Seed oils have been around for over 100 years...and all the other stuff too. Sugar has been around for thousands. Bread, for thousands.

And yet, Europeans never suffered that much of a noticeable obesity problem because of it...surrounded by far and away the most hyper-palatable, delectable, enticing treats the human mind can imagine.

They truly go out of their way and excel, and European Main Street storefronts, markets, and even supermarkets are to this day still chock full of such things. The ethic and tradition of high quality still persists, though they now have plenty of low-quality engineered stuff available, as does the whole getting fatter by the day world.

So, why didn't they have the runaway obesity problem way back, when the treats were far more enticing to the eye and pleasurable to the palate?

Answer: they have always been relatively expensive.

That's it.

In a sense, money makes you fat.

Well, that and food engineering, but not in the way you think. It has fuckall to do with THE CHEMICALS!!! or the SEED OILS!!!

It doesn't even have as much to do with people making more money, it's that the food engineering makes everything relatively less expensive. Cheaper. Why? To addict people? Again, the stuff isn't nearly enticing as it was (see the photo again).

The purpose of the food engineering is to make the stuff relatively less expensive, so lots more people have regular access to it within their budgets AND, the food engineering is about mimicking the pleasure of all the good classic stuff as best as possible. In other words, they're trying to get to that level of hyper palatability, but at a fraction of the cost.

... Quick anecdote. I visited Thailand, where I've lived the last 4 years, a number of times way back, from 1986 to 1990, 34–38 years ago.

I can't recall ever seeing a fat person. I'm sure there were some, just not enough to take any notice. One of the first things I noticed upon arrival in 2020 is that now, obesity is a thing (probably close to 60s and 70s USA), mostly among women.

I thought a lot about what changed, and the thing that got me really thinking about it is that Thais are still downright crazy about their own traditional foods. Obsessive, actually. They prefer their foods to ANYTHING. Out in rural areas, they'd turn down any spread in favor of their own dishes they eat every day all their lives. I know hundreds of people in rural Isaan who have never had a bite of any "farang" (foreigner) food in their entire lives.

So what changed?

I'll tell you what. In 1985, according to World Bank figures, 80-90% of Thai people were below the defined poverty line. By 2020, it had exactly inverted to only 10-20% being below the poverty line.

In short, 2/3rds and more of the country, over the space of 35 years, gradually gained the ability to eat pretty much as much they want, pretty much as often as they want.

There is zero mystery about what causes obesity, and it has never changed.

It is eating too much (of any sufficiently energy dense foods) too often.

And the economic ability to do so is the missing piece of this puzzle and is never acknowledged, so far as I can tell.

... It started with plain old economics. The industrial world got richer, and as it did, all food got less expensive as a percentage of income. This made for business opportunities in fast food and junk.

Previously, treats were treats because it was understood that they could not replace real food because 1) lack of nutrition and 2) it was expensive relatively. Pastry baking was a specialty because it was an expensive, luxury good and high-quality ingredients and special care was involved in preparation, which was very labor-intensive compared with butchering, supplying produce, or bread making.

As such, the cultural milieu adopted all the appropriate narratives (no eating between meals, you'll spoil your dinner, on special occasions, just a little, it's a treat, it's dessert, and on and on) ...these being accommodations with ourselves to negotiate away the real reason: too expensive to eat all the time.

But it took decades still for the overall food culture to change as industrial food engineering, processing, manufacture, and distribution made the junk similar enough in taste and texture to the real thing, but most importantly, orders of magnitude cheaper. If you didn't replace your good food entirely with junk, well, you could still eat a hell of a lot of it, and you could do it regularly, daily.

It has been so successful and the food engineering so effective that now, they can actually raise prices on the cheap crap, people will still buy it in hordes, and the profits are obscene.

And now, the culture is such that people can stuff their faces at will, eating too much too often every day, and not only do so shamelessly, but double down with hubris and engage in "positivity" activism.

It has nothing to do with seed oils and condiments, you silly little keto and carnivore people.

... Oh, my favorite "diet" paper, written by economists: The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence From A Historical Experiment, Journal of Economics; June, 2011.

Punchline: Many of you owe your very existence to that high-carb, high-glycemic 'loaded' "bag of glucose."

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