Good Calories, Bad Calories

The book

Gary Taubes is a god.
Admittedly, one of the reasons I neglected the task of reviewing this book is most definitely due to own human failings and limitations.
J.R.R. Tolkien wove stories which moved gracefully across thousands of miles, through thousands of pages, from book to book to book.
Even the astute Middle Earth bibliophile would stumble at the responsibility and the honor of reviewing a book written by someone so knowledgeable and learned that even with great care the reviewer is stumbling for words to describe what cannot be described.
Color me the moth to the silver-haired flame of Taubes.
Gary Taubes, celebrated science writer who put aside a great amount of time, and with great effort, weaves together a long, little-known history of a people dependent on the fat of the land (literally) who were lost along the way.

The Guide to Middle Girth
Our own story begins with Taubes’ discussion of the forefathers of medicine and nutrition and a man named William Banting. Giving personal accounts of the characters in an easy-to-identify-with way, readers learn who led the charge in the fight against insulin.
The great and demonstrable antithesis to our heroes could perhaps be outlined best in the structure of the system that advocated a switch to primarily grains and low-fat lifestyles (think food pyramid and scientists favoring those lobbies) from the largely higher-fat, lower processed foods of earlier times that humans thrived on prior to agrarian lifestyles taking hold.
As the machinery of knowledge moved ever forward, forged from the hammers of so-called ‘dietary progress’, east coast scientists with an eye over all and ears that would not hear sealed the fate of a nation, enslaving them in adipose.
With evidence generally questionable, the scientists oppressed the voices of reason and millions of years of human nutrition. The studies which showed that changes in the diets of the indigenous peoples could create such a seemingly sudden obesity and disease rate among the Sioux, Jamaicans, Africans and the South Pacific Islanders.
In a world moving into information chaos, with conflicting information threatening to beat us down, and where many could break the chains and fight for knowledge and freedom, many eke out lives of silent desperation in caves lit only from those who smirk through skewed studies and conflicting interests.
Though not Gandalf, Frodo or Bilbo, Taubes is, himself the storyteller, putting us in his book-filled, hearth-warmed study and unraveling the long history of how we arrived at where we are today… because of science.
Brilliant, flowing and a read so stuffed to the gills with information you would claim your brain had had second breakfasts, this is not a book one reads once and files away. This is a tome begging owners to write in its margins, to underling passages and to become a part of the unwinding journey, willingly drifting along as a Hobbit looking for hope.
And as the scientist delivering us from the scientists, Taubes delivers.

The Two Chowers
Taubes’ book flows largely in neat, chronological order, making the pages readable, and the book difficult to put down.
Rather than appealing to dogma, over 100 pages of concise attributions to studies and resources burden the text beautifully with a “look for yourself” enabling, making readers both teachers and activists for health.
The index is extremely well-organized, and the notes, often found at the bottom of pages lend a quality of depth as sides, though spoken to us by a friend in the seat next to us during a lecture. They are welcome and are obviously the love’s labor of a man so filled with knowledge he had to share with us lest he burst from excitement.
The book, thousands of rousing aha moments of epiphanies and often with a reader gritting teeth in anger at the pap being fed to consumers who trusted science and the government as the final say for so many years, is a must-read.
For friends inclined to being overwhelmed by the information, I recommend starting at the end of the book and moving forward, chapter by chapter, so as to see where modern science has taken us and where we indelibly began–as a species without agriculture: lean and lithe, and without obesity.

There is always hope
From the prologue:
“The reason for this book is straightforwards… solutions.
The chronic diseases of civilization, the inability for studies to adequately show cause and effect, and the call for more studies to test the conventional wisdom may cost so much financially when so few boast to know the answers for so many.”
And at what cost to civilization, which slowly asphyxiates under the iron thumbs of so few.
Like Tokein, Taubes is a modern day man who believes that we can overcome, and that there is hope worth fighting for, and that we already possessed the tools to fight–we’d just lost them along the way. His message of change through effort, science and information, we can free ourselves from the faith-based fears being promulgated from those ruled by money and lobbyists, farm subsidies and schlock.
In a world brimming with fear and Koko Krispies, we have one man who, as a labor of love and through a sense of unrelenting duty, leads us through, so long as we are willing to make the journey.
Thank you, Gary Taubes.
Good Calories, Bad Calories
Number of pages: 640 pages
Size: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.7 inches (Hardcover), 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches (paperback)
Available in Hardcover and Paperback
Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (September 25, 2007), Anchor; Reprint edition (September 23, 2008)

To order: visit

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  1. I’m about to get my second copy. My first is just about shot from re-reading and from using it as a reference when discussing the merits of low-carb eating with friends.
    I would never have thought of low-carb as anything other than a weight loss gimmick if it hadn’t been for Gary Taubes. I did lose some weight, but can’t seem to keep losing. (Too much insulin resistance?) But a number of long term, chronic issues are slowly resolving themselves. Aches and pains have eased up. Mood is lighter and more even. I’m not keeping Tums in business any more. I’m not claiming any miracle cures here, but life is just better, and I’d NEVER have stuck with it if Taubes hadn’t done all that work.
    Good review, Cleo.

  2. Kyle Murphy says

    Taubes is a god. I like that. Dude certainly looks like one.

    Would that make <a href="; PaNu </a> his prophet?

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