Science Sound Bite: NYTimes’ “Fat Trap,” Tara Parker-Pope, and Unclogging Sinks


Update: Let’s repurpose this post to speak to Tara Parker-Pope’s recent NYTimes post “The Fat Trap” regarding the futility of traditional fat loss methods.

Parker-Pope is exactly right that studies show eating less of the typical diet and doing more of traditional exercise does not work for the vast majority of people. However, that does not mean we need to be “trapped” by body fat. Myriad studies show that by changing the quality of one’s diet and the quality of one’s exercise (vs. quantity of eating and exercise) long-term fat loss is not only possible, but practical.

Think about trying to burn body fat after years of the traditional American diet like trying to drain water from a clogged sink. Eating less of the same quality of food is like turning down the faucet. Doing more of the same quality of exercise is like scooping out the overflowing water with a teaspoon. Both are temporary ways to deal with the symptoms of the problem (too much water in, not enough water out). Neither does anything about the root cause (a clog blocking the sink’s natural ability to automatically balance “water in” with “water out”). That is why studies show eating less and exercising more failing long term 95% of the time.

The problem is the clog. The solution is clearing the clog. And clearing the clog requires thinking in terms of food and exercise quality, not quantity.

Reducing the quantity of food which lead to the clog and increasing the quantity of exercise which ignores the clog doesn’t really help us. That simply reduces the symptoms associated with the underlying clog. We remove clogs–and “drain” body fat long term–by putting the right quality in, and keeping the wrong quality out.

It’s not about less in and more out. It’s about higher quality in and higher quality out.

The only “fat trap” is being unable or unwilling to escape quantity-based fat loss theories which have been proven wrong.


8 replies
  1. JoAnn
    JoAnn says:

    I read Tara’s article just last week after it was quoted by the CEO of Weight Watchers in his blog. I could relate to much of what she said, trying repeatedly to lose weight with next to no success, watching others eat seemingly whatever they wanted and never gaining weight, while I watched every bite and couldn’t lose. It was frustrating and demoralizing. Then about a year ago I met a trainer who uses high intensity strength training to help clients and it’s 2 20-minute sessions a week, not an hour a day on the treadmill. The food plan is the 3 “Cs”, calories, carbohydrates, and chemistry. Use your calories on protein and vegetables, limit starches, and if you still aren’t losing maybe there’s a hormonal imbalance. Between the strength training and the different way of eating, I’m down 61 pounds and finally feel like I have a chance to lose it for good. Yesterday, I finished your book (a recommendation of my trainer) and it suddenly makes sense why this is working. I’ve been eating SANELY and focusing on quality exercise. Your book is a game changer. I think you’re doing a great service and I can only hope your message gets out.

  2. JoAnn
    JoAnn says:


    I’m enough of a believer that I had already written a review prior to your request. I think that anyone struggling with weight will feel vindicated, that it really wasn’t in our heads. We tried hard to lose weight, one program after another, with zero results. Or starving ourselves only to gain it back and then some. It has been almost a year since I started at The Exercise Coach found out there really is a different way. My Coach Pat Flynn is the one who recommended your book and after reading it, I felt like everything came into focus. Every single thing he has recommended to me is in your book. With the book, I now have a better understanding of the data and the science. That’s my long way of saying, yes I’ll continue to spread the word. I’m afraid there’s just so much resistance that it’s an uphill battle.

    • Jonathan
      Jonathan says:

      Wow! Thank you JoAnn. This research has really changed my life, and I’m delighted to hear that it’s done the same for you. – Jonathan Bailor

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