From a long interview of Gary Taubes:
Fat Head: You wrote something in Why We Get Fat that I think every frustrated dieter needs to hear: the proper diet will help us become as lean as we can be, but not necessarily as lean as we’d like to be. Once we become fat, is there a limit to how much fat we can lose without starving away our lean tissue? If so, what’s the barrier to mobilizing and burning those last 10 or 20 pounds of excess fat?(Via Glenn Reynolds.)
Gary Taubes: Simple answer, I don’t know. But it’s obvious that not every woman can have the body of an Angelina Jolie, regardless of how few carbs they eat. And not every man can have the body or the body-fat percentage of, I don’t know, a Matthew McConaughey, one of these actors who’s always taking his shirt off in movies.
That’s for starters. Some of us are wired to have more body fat than others from the get-go. Then I think when we grow up in a carb-rich environment, some degree of chronic damage is done to the way we partition fuel. Maybe our muscle tissue never quite loses its insulin resistance, or our fat tissue remains more insulin sensitive than it would be had we never seen carbs. Maybe our pancreas secretes a little too much insulin.
It’s hard to tell, but the way I describe it is this: if I grew up in a hunter-gatherer environment — and my mother did as well, because there are effects that are passed from mother to child through the uterus — I’d probably weigh around 175 pounds, even as an adult. Had I stopped eating carbs in my late teens, I might naturally weigh about 190 or 200, which was my football weight in high school. The fact that I not only kept eating carbohydrates into my forties but gorged on them during the low-fat, you-can’t-get-fat-if-a-food-doesn’t-have-fat-in-it years of the late 1980s and early 1990s means the best I can do now, even eating virtually no carbs at all, is about 220. And there’s nothing I can do to go lower, short of starving myself. Semi-starving myself doesn’t work. I tried that long ago.
Fat Head: So what’s the message for those people? Lose what you can and focus on being healthy, as opposed to obsessing with squeezing into a size-8 dress?
Gary Taubes: Precisely.