Billi Gordon Ph.D.

Obesely Speaking

Small Mistakes With Huge Consequences

The crux and crucible of the obesity pandemic.

Posted Aug 11, 2017

Shutterstock Image purchased by UCLA CNSR for Dr. Gordon's usage
Source: Shutterstock Image purchased by UCLA CNSR for Dr. Gordon's usage

Obesity is a global pandemic; calorie-restrictive diets and exercise plans are not the solutions. Hormone dysfunction causes the disease, but we do not treat obesity as a disease. Instead of focusing on its origin, we fixate on the immediate consequences, such as weight gain from overeating, which is not the issue. Why a person overeats and gains dangerous amounts of weight is the issue. Like a bacterial infection causes night sweats and fever, excessive weight gain and overeating are symptoms, not causes. No physician would treat a fever with Tylenol without treating the cause since that would only temporarily mask the problem, not solve it and inevitably worsen it. The global obesity pandemic and the multi-billion-dollar weight-loss industry suggest we are treating the fever, not the infection.

A nonexistent epidemic sires a pandemic

In the 1950’s the American Heart Association (AHA) saw a sudden rise in cardiac-related death and presumed there was an epidemic of heart disease, which was not the case. Life expectancy increased because of Smallpox, Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis vaccinations. Since the risk for cardiac diseases increases with age and more people were living longer more cardiac-disease-related deaths occurred. After misinterpreting the Center for Disease Control population study report, the AHA decided that dietary fat lead to obesity, which caused heart disease, which was now an epidemic. They immediately recommended fewer fat grams and more carbs and exercise.  

The government began spending millions on fitness programs, and America became more physical but no slimmer. Then we learned that eating more carbohydrates caused weight gain, which was problematic because carbs could not be good and bad for weight gain. Then nutritionists explained that it was calories, not carbs that cause weight gain, giving rise to the concept of "fattening foods," which implied that all calories are the same, and we began calorie counting –which was an egregious error.[1] 

Understanding Calories

Calories measure units of energy determined by applying heat and the first law of thermodynamics (energy in a closed system will remain constant minus work). The AHA, physicians, and dieticians swore by this measure for years, ignoring another obvious factor - the first law of thermodynamics applies to closed systems.  The human body is not a closed system; many variables influence how we process the energy value of food, such as genetics, environment and body size. [1] 

Despite the steady rise in obesity, dieticians and physicians insisted that calories-in minus calories-out equal weight gain or loss; therefore, if one decreases the calories consumed and increases the calories expended by exercising weight loss will occur. This assertion relies on two false presumptions: 1) Everyone’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the same, which is curious because to determine BMR you factor in age, weight, height, and gender, and 2) Exercise is a significant way to burn calories.  Most of our calories are used to maintain vital functions (e.g. blood production, organ function, routine maintenance, etc.)[1] A 200-pound man cycling vigorously for an hour only uses 500 calories. 

Shutterstock Image purchased by UCLA CNS for Dr. Gordon
Source: Shutterstock Image purchased by UCLA CNS for Dr. Gordon

Claiming a calorie is a calorie did the most damage because it seemed obvious - like a dog is a dog seems obvious.  However, if a poodle humps a person's leg they push it away; if a pit bull does the same thing, one fakes an orgasm.  So yes, a calorie is a calorie, but do calories from avocados cause the same metabolic responses as calories from bacon, or refined sugar calories cause?  Of course not, but this is now – that was – not now.  

Calories-In Vs. Calories-Out

Humans are hunters and gatherers. So evolution designed our bodies to decrease caloric expenditure when caloric intake decreases. So, the fewer calories consumed, the fewer calories burned. This sliding metabolism is why low-calorie diets inevitably result in minimum weight loss, followed by returning to old eating habits and inevitably regaining the weight lost plus a few pounds. Although people and most likely their peers and out-of-touch professionals often blame the lack of discipline, self-agency, intelligence or motivation, that is not what's happening.  

Shutterstock Image purchased by UCLA CNS for Dr. Gordon
Source: Shutterstock Image purchased by UCLA CNS for Dr. Gordon

The brain, taking its marching orders from evolution, not the AHA is trying to return the body to its original weight.[1] Still, most people put Dominos on speed dial, dive into a vat of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey and eventually surfacing a few days, weeks, months, years and God only knows how many pounds later with pepperoni on their breath, staggering out of a sugar-salt-saturated-Fat-refined-carb-combo-coma.

Like gravy, the plot thickens

In 1977, the food industry lobbyists strong armed the U.S. Senate Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs to rewrite the McGovern Report (TMR), omitting facts that reflected poorly on their products to keep America counting calories and hooked on low-fat food – even though America was growing fatter and fatter.  Why? Major food manufacturers began substituting refined sugar for fat to maintain taste. Refined Sugar is not food it is an addictive drug that uses the same brain circuitry as cocaine or heroin. Replacing dietary fat with sugar was the beginning of America’s low-fat food obsession, sugar addiction, and the obesity epidemic.[1] 

Image from Foodbabe
Source: Image from Foodbabe

Also in 1997, the AHA curiously began selling their seal of approval to food companies to put on their products. It was very lucrative for the AHA, but as we all know, but all inevitably forget at times, profit is an essential goal, but an ugly God. Worshipping an ugly God caused the AHA seal of approval to appear on some very heart unhealthy products.

Overweight people who fall off diets are not the problem. Despite what less informed sources may say, obesity is not the result of a character flaw, lack of discipline, or intelligence. There is a man, whose top weight was over 1,000 pounds. Nobody’s character is that flawed; no one is that unaware or undisciplined, especially not someone who graduated from the University of Michigan with honors; has a Ph.D. in neuroscience;  and conducts brain research at UCLA, as this man does. Not approaching obesity the way we approach other diseases is the problem, not the people suffering from the disease, or their character traits.

It is unlikely that the AHA, the Senate Committee constructing the McGovern Report, or even the large food manufacturers set out maliciously to cause the global obesity pandemic – who would deliberately do such a thing? There were mitigating circumstances – the original error occurred in the 1950's. The CDC and the vaccinations were products of the 1940's; they did not have the instruments, experience or the luxury of hindsight that we have. The food industry lobbyists, like most people, were just trying to do their jobs. 

More importantly, placing blame requires surrendering the power to change, which is not a deal worth making. You can make incredible improvements in your life with change, whereas assigning blame just gets you off the hook, but there are no victims, only volunteers.  

The history of America's food addiction, which we passed on to the world, is only significant because to move toward the right place, we need to understand how we arrived in the wrong place. Other than that, the only history that matters now is the history we make responding to the Obesity Pandemic, which Molecules of a Pandemic (coming 8-12-17) and Loving A Broken Body (coming 8-13-17) will discuss.  In the interim....

— Remain fabulous and phenomenal.  

Personal Photograph taken by my Physical Therapist
Source: Personal Photograph taken by my Physical Therapist

This blog's mission is "to speak from the head and the heart about obesity." So a word from my heart.

I'm so grateful to my healing team: Drs. Amy Weinberg, Anne Meyer, Timothy Neavin, Kevah Shariff;  Gary Abrams, who has been so much more than an incredible RN/Nurse Practitioner; my physical therapists: Duncan and Ami; my hypnotherapist Maureen Pisani. With their guidance, I have gone from over 1000 pounds to 472 pounds so far — 290 pounds since January 17, 2017

I was bedridden and could barely roll over in my bed for more than a year. They came to my house and spent countless hours lobbying for me with Insurance and pharmaceutical companies. They aren't paid for any of those things. My health team,  in cohort with my family, friends, fellow Michigan alumni cheerleaders, and the entire Wolverine Nation have been the difference between life and death for me - Especially Dave Brandon. Greg Clary, Bill Conway, Safia Saleh Fitzpatrick, Pam St. John and of course, Jim Toy.  

Finally, my cardiologist, and friend, Walter F, Kerwin M.D. (The Evil Badger) — managing my heart is a rough gig.  I flatlined many times, but I'm still here. So for whatever mistakes cardiologists or the AHA may have made as a group; The Badger has more than compensated for it by providing excellent care for many people.  True, he is obnoxious, vain, annoying, snarky and clueless, but that's a  requirement to be a Wisconsin Badger.  

"Sometimes healing is not a matter of medicine, but a matter of opportunity," Hippocrates says. I say severe healing a matter of human kindness.

So show up and show out just don't give up!  There's kindness in this world, and strength in your heart.  

Special shout out to my editor Lybi Ma, and the great people at Psychology Today, for the opportunity to express myself, share my thoughts and show gratitude for my gifts from the Universe. And to the nearly 2 million readers I've collected here, you've been my beacon in an endless night, and you always will be. Namaste.-Dr. B 2daG


1.    Fung, j., The Obesity Code. 2016, Vancouver, BC, Canada: Greystone Books.

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