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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Seven Myths of Obesity and Presumptions That May Not Be

Are you a big person who's been trying to lose weight?

I suspect that you are, which is cool.  I'm right there too.  If you are, then you probably need to learn to identify the myths of obesity and weight loss, courtesy of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Myth 1: Small, continued changes in our caloric intake or how many we burn will accumulate to create a larger weight change over the long term.

You've probably heard this one over and over again.  The Today Show, Good Morning America, and even high school health classes have shared this little tidbit.  I've tried it, and you know what?  It didn't work.  Not really.  Now, we know there is science behind this.

Instead, if you need to make a radical transformation, then you need to make radical changes.  There's no way around it unfortunately.  The trick is to find what kind of radical changes work best.

Myth 2: Realistic goal-setting in obesity treatment is essential. If no goals are met, patients can become frustrated and lose less weight.

Personally, I'm mixed about this one, but I do think you need some ambitious long term goals.  I tend to couple those with smaller, realistic goals that serve as milestones along the way.  That way, you're hitting "goals" while not taking your eye off of the bigger picture.  Obviously, your own mileage may vary on that.

The overall point is solid though.  If you set a goal to only lose 15 lbs, then what are you going to do when you achieve it?  Either you set another goal - and move the goalpost, which gets frustrating in its own right - or you simply consider it done and call it a day.  That may be fine...but if you start out at 330 lbs, a 15 lbs drop in weight is probably not going to do much for your overall health.

Myth 3: Slowing losing weight is better than shedding the pounds quickly. Quick weight losses are likely to be gained back.

According to the report, apparently those who made drastic weight losses were more likely to weight less down the road.  However, I report this with a warning.  Radical weight loss can be medically dangerous.  Losing fat too quickly could result in health problems later on, so consult your doctor.

Myth 4: You will only lose weight when you are "ready" to do so. Health-care professionals should measure each patient's diet readiness.

If you weight to be "ready", then you'll probably be screwed.  This is one place where treating poor eating habits like a drug or alcohol addiction probably doesn't work.  Of course, I've never personally seen a doctor assess a patient's readiness to diet when they need to lose weight.  I know my doctor didn't, and neither did a lot of others I've encountered, so I don't know how prevalent this myth actually is.

 Myth 5: Childhood gym classes in their current state, play an important role in the prevention of childhood obesity.

This surprised me at first, but I don't know why.  After all, I know for a fact that weight loss is far more dependent on your diet than it is on exercise.  As a result, gym classes wouldn't have any net effect on childhood obesity.  Of course, this also only addresses a single aspect of fitness.

Gym classes are great for keeping kids active, especially when you have kids who would rather sit at home and play video games.

Myth 6: Breastfeeding helps prevent future obesity for the breastfed baby.

As a man, I have nothing to offer on this front.  However, this is good news for my wife who was unable to breastfeed our kids and has wondered what kind of effect that could have had on them.  Well, now she can rest easy.

Myth 7: One act of sex can burn up to 300 Kcals per person.

Personally, I think this one has a lot to do with who is involved and how you're doing it, but I've also always thought the number of calories you could burn during sex was over-hyped.  Especially in certain circumstances that I'd rather not elaborate on here on a blog that's open to the public.

The report also took aim at a number of presumptions that they found little evidence to support.  For example, the argument that breakfast that stave off hunger was one, as was the idea that snacking between meals helps make you fat. One of the more surprising presumptions was that eating more vegetables helps you lose weight.

Of course, I have a theory on that one.  You see, in and of themselves, they don't.  However, they tend to take up more space in your stomach while also having a low caloric intake.  The result is that you end up eating as much food, but yielding fewer calories.  However, the vegetables themselves don't actually fire off any fat burning mechanisms.  Of course, that's just my theory from the comfort of my own home, so let's focus on the experts.

Back to the myths, the Diet Doctor had this to say:
Let’s hope the myths will die out soon, especially myth #1. Advice to just choose a smaller cookie or to take the stairs instead of the elevator will not make anyone thin. Period. This has been proven wrong.
Advice on “just minor changes” will not only lead to disappointment, but will also contribute to the prejudice against people with weight problems, as the advice incorrectly makes it sound like overweight people would be thin if only they had the slightest willpower.
A lot of “experts” need to stop spreading this common prejudice-creating myth in the media.
 I can't say that I disagree with that at all.  The truth is, these people go on television, spread this crap around, and then use it to argue with people who know that this is all bunk.  At least now, when they quote some "expert" they saw on television, we can now counter them with the freaking New England Journal of Medicine!


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