What was the point of Fat Head?

With all the reminiscing over childhood days I was reminded of a scene in Fat Head where Tom Naughton shows cars lined up to drop kids off at school.  He contrasts this to how he used to walk to and from school often twice a day as he went home for lunch.  That scene could have been shot in my neighborhood these days, and is a far cry from my childhood.  I walked to school most days -- I'd like to exaggerate and say uphill both ways, but it was only uphill one way -- 3 hills to be exact.  In milder weather I rode my bike.  And, like Tom, after school spent several hours most days playing all manner of running games.  It definitely seemed that Tom was making a case for less activity contributing to the obesity epidemic.  If not, what am I missing?

I'm not sure what the point of the movie was other than some sort of anti-government hissy fit.  But it seemed to make the case that we do eat more and move less.  That's if there even is an obesity epidemic at all, and the stats are not wildly overblown to allow growth of government and regulations.  The movie opens with some shots of obese people that Tom says you'd think we would see everywhere if obesity was as big a problem as we're told.  Yet he claims it took several hours at different locations to get his footage.  He also discusses his own BMI and how this measure is a poor measure of fatness.  So ... there's no obesity epidemic after all ... or it seems he's making that case.  

Next he goes after Super Size Me and the demonization of fast food restaurants like McDonalds.  He spends quite a bit of time discussing how Spurlock couldn't have possibly eaten enough calories or the calories he claimed to gain the weight he did in that movie.  I suppose he's trying to say that overeating isn't causing the phantom obesity epidemic?  Then the experts chime in on how much we're eating and drinking between meals.  Still, he then goes on to prove that someone can eat at McD's for a month was it and not gain weight.  What does he do?  He counts calories.  Sure, he cuts the carbs a bit, but mostly he is able to consume three fast food meals a day that cause him to lose a little weight.  He shows calorie totals in the 1700-1900 cal/day and he lost a bit of weight.  Being in calorie deficit tends to improve lipids.  Sounds like Twinkie dude.  Of course later we get the "Bologna" that if we cut calories we'll lose weight.  AHEM!!!

One last thing Fat Head goes after is the idea that fast food is addictive, trying to make the case that it's not.  HUH?  Oh yeah, that's right, it's only the carbs that are addictive which is why Americans are addicted to plain brown rice and would rather toss the burger from the Big Mac so they can finish the bun.

Of course at the end of the movie we get the Taubes/Eades pitch for evil fattening carbs being converted to fat and locking fat away in our fat cells nonsense and how we overeat because we're gaining weight.  And Tom goes on a low carb diet.  I note that for this segment we are not provided with the caloric content of his diet.  And we're told Tom slothed around then too.    Based on this we're left thinking eating too much and moving too little therefore has NOTHING to do with becoming obese?  Tom just proved it!

That's funny, perhaps Tom should watch the first half or so of his own movie again.  There's no obesity epidemic, but if there is one it's because we eat more than we used to and move less than we used to.  


ProudDaddy said…
All good points as usual, Evelyn. However, the movie is entertaining because of the humor, and if it gets some people to cut down on processed foods, then it has done some good. When I first viewed it, I didn't realize how carbophobic Tom is -- I thought the main point was that animal fat isn't necessarily a killer. His lecture on Science for Smart People, or somesuch, may be riddled with errors that you can spot, but it saved me from a lot of false conclusions. (Not enough saves, as you have witnessed, but a lot!)
1leone said…
Hi Evelyn, I'm relatively new to this 'carb is evil' dogmatism (which I'm not) but was wandering if there is any validity to the claim that carbs do alter the size of the LDL particles. I would appreciate if you could link to any articles you may have written on this.

MAny thanks,
Tonus said…
The impression you get, watching the film, is that his point-of-view was changing as he was making it. He admitted that originally, he and a friend were pitching a (libertarian-themed?) series, and the first episode was going to poke fun at Supersize Me. His research led him to Eades and Taubes, and thus the film winds up going in that direction.

So we go from the idea that watching calories is important, to a much more nuanced approach that points the finger at carbs. It's a noticeable change. Early on, he chides Spurlock for implying that fast food is fattening (noting that Spurlock was gorging on 5,000 calories a day), then by the end of the film *he* is implying that fast food is fattening (because it contains so many carbs and sugars).

I get the feeling that, if he had decided to re-shoot the first half of the film, Fat Head would be a very different movie. A film version of LLVLC, perhaps.
Unknown said…
Dr Oz speaks

Mehmet Oz, M.D., Director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center: "Unlike for many diseases, the cure for obesity is known. Studies with thousands of participants have demonstrated that the combination of a dramatic change in eating habits and daily exercise results in weight loss, including a 60 percent reduction in the chance of developing chronic ailments such as diabetes."

We can all go home now
Unknown said…
I think part of the reason kids are less active these days is parents are afraid to leave the kids unattended by adults, so they drive the kids from one place to another. Given what we read in the news it is understandable.

Back when I was young during the Jurassic period we would be unattended pretty much all the time so we were more active.
Lesley Scott said…
"I get the feeling that, if he had decided to re-shoot the first half of the film, Fat Head would be a very different movie. A film version of LLVLC, perhaps." No kidding. I seem to remember Anthony Colpo writing about how he helped Tom with the cholesterol portion. In a re-tooled LLVLC version, I highly doubt there'd be any Colpo to balance the opinions of the shapewear-wearing Dr. Girdle.
Swede said…
The tag-line on the Fat-Head website says: "You've been fed a load of bologna."

Shouldn't that be a good thing? Bologna is very low carb. You could eat it all day every day and not gain a pound.
Woodey said…
I got into low carb and followed the Taubes/Naughton line of reasoning because they sounded science-ish and I was scared. I had just had a series of reactions to my blood pressure meds that sent me to the hospital, as well as a few follow-ups to my Dr. I thought these two guys had the answers I was looking for.

Three weeks later I was off of the meds and losing weight. I thought Fat Head and Taubes were the Second-Coming. Long term was a different story and I recently stopped being a strict low carber. To be honest I have enjoyed adding some carbs back into my diet and have not had any blood pressure spikes or blood glucose issues. It’s been nice to get away from the low carb community and take a serious look at the flaws in the diet and “science” they use. The prevailing attitude is its “us vs the man”, I really don’t like that attitude and think it borderlines paranoia.

Reflecting on Fat Head after reading this thread I see that Tom’s movie is disjointed and I now see that his weight loss was due to him counting calories and not porking out, something I overlooked while drinking the kool-aid.

“it's only the carbs that are addictive which is why Americans are addicted to plain brown rice and would rather toss the burger from the Big Mac so they can finish the bun.”

I love it when people use humor and common sense to cut though the crap.
Brian said…
I believe Tom's main theme is government sucks at everything it does. Food/diet just happened to be the vehicle. I thought it was funny, despite the fact I don't see eye to eye with him. With respect to diet, it definitely does more good than harm in my opinion - especially as it relates to fat.
CarbSane said…
Hi Brian, I'm pretty much with him on this -- though not quite the anarchist many in the community seem to be. I don't see the movie as harmful except in the end where we get the BS Taubes/Eades starving cells and insulin myths.
Woodey said…
Don't forget to fry the bologna in massive amounts of coconut oil or butter. Hell, fry it in both at the same time.
Woodey said…
The good things I got out of my low carb experience was that saturated fat is not evil nor is cholesterol, but that is mainly due to the info I read from Malcolm Kendrick.
Mr. Wrong said…
I disagree with you for the same reason that I come to view your website. It questions what we have been told by certain scientist, doctors, and media that have been pandering agendas. Be it Paleo, Primal, Archevore, Vegetarian, Vegan, Fruitarian or just simply low cal, there seems to be no shortage of experts arguing the pros/cons of saturated fats, whole grains, fructose, food reward, hormones, exercise, etc.
I find the arguments refreshing and have learned quite a bit watching the 'experts' go at it. Taubes challenged the mainstream and though his outcomes are questionable he did bring to the fore many flaws within that paradigm just as you do with Taubes thinking. It just seems par for the evolution of thought on the subject. I think that being challenged to defend your position only brings you closer to the truth.
bentleyj74 said…
I've actually done that.


It's not bad :)
Lerner said…
This might interest you, from the (low-fat) Pritikin group:

"In addition, it would be incorrect to generalize from Dreon et al's results and conclude that all VLF diets inevitably lead to an increased number of small, dense LDL particles (pattern B). Indeed, at the Pritikin Center we found that the LDL status of 6 of 22 subjects actually changed from pattern B to pattern A (a predominance of large LDL particles) while consuming a VLF diet, which is the exact opposite of the trend observed by Dreon et al."

But this might trump everything:
Contrary to current opinion, both small and large LDL were significantly associated with subclinical atherosclerosis independent of each other,
traditional lipids, and established risk factors, with no association between LDL size and atherosclerosis after accounting for the concentrations of the two subclasses."

Her argument is that particle number (LDL-P) is what matters.
Sanjeev said…
> What was the point of Fat Head?

career building.

Laying the foundation for 20 years worth of speaking engagemets.