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The Zero Is Gone


I think Chobani has figured out that we’re on to them. Therein lies a tale.

Carol and I were shopping at Safeway the other day, and were browsing the yogurt section. Chobani has the most yogurt SKUs at Safeway, and damned near all of them have long been decorated with a huge, garish “0.” This is supposed to be a signal that Chobani yogurt has no fat and is thus healthy. (What it means to me is that the nutritional value in the cup is zero, and I avoid the brand.) What I noticed today at Safeway is that the zero is gone. They’re not making a big deal of their nonfatness anymore. Wow. We won.

Anybody who reads me regularly knows that I lost weight by eating more. No, I didn’t change the Laws of Thermodynamics. What I did is give the lie to the BS that one calorie is like every other calorie, and if you eat more calories, you gain weight. That’s not true. (Really. For the love of science, stop repeating it.) When I switched from eating Cheerios in 2% milk for breakfast and went to an egg fried in butter, I lost weight. Then I began eating two eggs fried in butter, and lost more weight. There’s two parts to the method: 1) Eat less grain and sugar, and 2) eat more fat. It works for most people. You won’t know if it doesn’t work until you try it. (I’ve beaten this to death and yes, I’ll stop now.)

In the decades following WWII, there arose a near-maniacal War on Fat, which was based on dodgy or outright fraudulent science, and won the day when Ancel Keys got the Feds to back him up. Suddenly, 2%, 1%, and skim milk were mandatory, butter was demonized, and (shazam!) the country gained the weight of a minor planet. You’ve heard all this before, from me and others. What most people don’t know is that Big Dairy went along with it. You’d think they would put up a horrible fuss, but they didn’t. Why is an interesting question, but the answer is pretty clear: Alluva sudden, you could separate the cream from milk, sell the cream, and still sell the milk.

This wasn’t always the case. Prior to the War on Fat, skim milk was used in a few recipes or processed into casein (Elmer’s Glue!) and much of the rest was fed to pigs. (What couldn’t be fed to pigs was often just dumped.) People who drank milk wanted whole milk. Cream wasn’t considered dangerous. People put it on their corn flakes, for pete’s sake. Cream was considered the most valuable part of the milk, and we consumed a monumental quantity of it without gaining weight. We picked up the weight in part by eating sugar, which was added to nonfat and lowfat dairy products to make them taste like something. But more to the point, full-fat dairy causes satiation, and low/nonfat dairy does not. That’s why skim milk is fed to pigs: It keeps them eating.

Huge dairy product manufacturers could buy cheaper skim milk, make yogurt or cheese from it, and then claim that these new, 0% products were healthy and desirable. The cost to consumers was about the same as full-fat products. Do the math.

The War on Fat is pretty much over, but old habits die hard. We’re going to be mopping up for decades. The absurdity called fat-free half and half still exists. I still have to shop a little for full-fat yogurt and cottage cheese. (Look for the Big 4, though it’s still small. I expect that 4’s on dairy packaging will grow, if slowly.) We should take some comfort in small victories, like the vanishing of the Big Zero from Chobani yogurt cups. I take even more comfort from the vanishing of the fat from my waistline.

I’m still looking for potato chips fried in lard. Sooner or later, we’ll win that one too.


  1. Liberty says:

    You might have to mail order them, but I know of 2 companies that sell potato chips fried in lard. They are both very tasty, but Good’s in particular remind me of what potato chips tasted like when I was a kid.

  2. Stickmaker says:

    When I was a kid my maternal grandparents still had milk delivery (talking early- to mid-Sixties, here). They’d pour the cream off the top to use in their coffee.

  3. Rich Rostrom says:

    This is an example of a widespread problem which needs to be attacked: the creation and propagation of harmful memes.

    A bad meme arises, and people adopt it and repeat it. How and why?

    Avram Davidson wrote a marvelous short story called “The Sources of the Nile”. The protagonist is an author who can never manage to get a book published in time to cash in on whatever trend it addresses. He meets an old wreck in a bar who says he knows The Secret. The wreck is the butt of editors, publishers, advertising and marketing men. But in dying, he passes on an address to the protagonist, who goes there, and discovers a family with unusual habits and interests. He has a flash of insight: This is where it all starts – where all the trends and fads and fashions begin!

    I don’t suppose there is such a core node in general. But I do think that there are some very ugly memes circulating, and people buy into them and do bad things. Some are specific factoids or claims.

    It would be very useful to track these lies to their sources, and then find out why these sources generate lies.

    In this case, it would be interesting to track the Fat Is Bad meme back. We know Keyes was a major inventor and propagator of it; did he originate it? If not, where did he get it from? We can look at supporting evidence now refuted and ask who created it – and why.

    1. This is a *very* cold thread, but I just finished a book that lays out the full history of the War on Fat, with about a hundred pages of citations. It’s called The Big Fat Lie by Nina Teicholz:

      Well-written, and probably the best such book since Good Calories, Bad Calories. It’s a good complement to Taubes because it’s largely about the history of the issue rather than the biochemistry. (Both books touch on both topics.)

  4. Bob Wilson says:

    I am curious why the emphasis on losing weight? Do you think lower weight is inherently healthy? After all, you could lose weight due to diarrhea by semi-poisoning yourself or by suffering from some other illness.

    IIRC you do not eat green vegetables like broccoli ? Is that right? How about fruit? After all fruit has a lot of sugar.

    1. Our problem as a culture and as a nation is obesity, not diarrhea. I was never fat, but by the time I was 45 I was getting a gut on me, and abdominal fat correlates to lots of bad things. In my particular case (which may not be the same for everybody, but my readers tell me it’s pretty common) weight tracks sugar intake, and to a lesser extent, grains. The whole point of my message here on the topic is: Try things. (Like cutting out sugar) and see if you lose weight. Obviously, if you’re already a twig and don’t need to lose weight, this message isn’t for you.

      I don’t eat most dark green vegetables, because I’m a supertaster and they are so bitter they make me gag. I do eat carrots and sweet bell peppers. (Raw green peppers taste bitter to me, but not so much as broccoli or asparagus.) I have a mild allergy to corn bran, so I eat only milled corn.

      Fruit is an interesting issue: When we evolved, fruit was something you could only get a the end of the summer, so it was difficult to eat a lot of it on a consistent basis. Fructose makes us fat, and the evolutionary logic may be that fruit is a way to put on weight quickly in anticipation of a lean autumn and winter. It only became a problem in recent times when we could get it cheap, and year-round. Carol and I eat a certain amount of fruit, generally apples and blueberries. We do eat it year-round, but we don’t eat it at every meal, and compared to a lot of people, we don’t eat much.

      There’s a weird fetish about dark green vegetables about these days, as though broccoli were some magical food-of-the-gods that overrides everything else in our diets, or even our genetics. (My suspicion is that you can do worse than your genes, but you can’t do better.) Much in modern diet thought appears to be magical thinking. We have yet to accept that everyone is different, and that people digest different things in different ways. We still haven’t shed the one-calorie-is-like-every-other-calorie fallacy, even though the science has been around for a while now and is well-supported. General health is a gnarly issue, but it’s pretty clear that excess weight causes much mayhem in the body. So losing weight if you’re overweight is an enormously important issue.

      My weight is stable now, and the weight I’ve gained in the last couple of years has been muscle mass due to weight training. I think I won that war, but I still keep an eye on my weight and my blood numbers. I share my insights here because they’ve helped me and a surprising number of my readers. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

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