Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Special Event #272
CE Offered: PSY
Presidential Scholar Address
Sunday, May 25, 2014
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
W375e (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): Obesity, Weigh gain
Chair: Michael Perone (West Virginia University)
CE Instructor: Michael Perone, Ph.D.

Why We Get Fat: Adiposity 101 and the Alternative Hypothesis of Obesity


Since the 1950s, the conventional wisdom has held that we get fat because we eat too much and move too little. Virtually all research on obesity and its related chronic diseases is predicated on this notion. The problem has always been that doing the opposite--eating less and exercising more--fails almost invariably to cure the problem, suggesting the possibility that our underlying hypothesis is simply incorrect. What's the alternative? Before World War II, European clinicians argued that obesity was caused by a defect in the regulation of fat tissue metabolism. By the 1960s, it was clear that fat accumulation is fundamentally regulated by the hormone insulin, which in turn is secreted primarily in response to the carbohydrates in our diet. So a reasonable hypothesis is that we get fat not because we consume more calories than we expend, but because the carbohydrates that we eat happen to be uniquely fattening. A simple revision to first principles in our underlying assumption about the causes of weight gain will have profound and far-reaching implications.

Gary Taubes, author of the bestselling Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health and Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, is an award-winning science writer and a correspondent for Science magazine. The only print journalist to have won three Science in Society Journalism awards, given by the National Association of Science Writers, he has contributed articles to The Best American Science Writing 2002 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000 and 2003. Taubes has spent years synthesizing research in every area of science connected with the impact of nutrition on health. His 2002 New York Times Magazine cover story "What If It's All a Big Fat Lie?" caused a big stir in the ongoing fat-versus-carbohydrate discussions. Then in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories, he went on to show that the key to good health is the kind of calories we take in, not the number. In it, he argues that it is refined carbohydrates and sugars that lead to heart disease and diabetes and cause us to gain weight, not fat and cholesterol. Through his research, Taubes shakes our preconceptions about diet and health to the core, and challenges scientific studies that have been misinterpreted and prescribed as advice for the general public for years. He offers instead new ways to eat, live, and think about health, based on the highest caliber of scientific research.
Target Audience:

Psychologists, behavior analysts, graduate students, and anyone interested in whether our underlying assumption about the causes of weight gain are valid.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants should be able to (1) Understand the epidemiology and natural history of obesity; (2) Develop a basic understanding of the hormonal regulation of fat tissue; and (3) Understand the role of carbohydrates in regulating fat accumulation and the nature of behavioral changes that have to be made to prevent or treat it.
Keyword(s): Obesity, Weigh gain



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