Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, 1.11

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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36 Comments

  1. From the “Sex is Good for Us” story:

    “The editor-in-chief of that journal, Dr. Irwin Goldstein, says that when you read about the physical benefits of sex, “you can’t help but say, ‘Holy God! Sexual activity is a very important thing to do. Human beings were really meant to do this.’ ”

    I, um… wait, what?

  2. @anonentity: That’s actually a good question that I don’t think is addressed in that particular article. It’s just a mainstream piece, though, so I imagine there’s more in-depth information somewhere online. Go ahead and look. It’s “scientific research.”

  3. The only reliable way to lose weight is to eat less or exercise more. Preferably both.

    Ok, I already got that part. But more importantly, how am I supposed to do those things? Ignoring hunger is about as easy as ignoring an itch or ignoring the urge to sleep.

  4. You know, it wouldn’t be hard at all to determine whether it’s sex itself or just physical release that does all of this.

    Just get a couple of groups together, ones that are having sex regularly and ones that are taking matters into their own hands regularly. Perform the same tests on both groups, look for differences.

  5. “The only reliable way to lose weight is to eat less or exercise more. Preferably both.” And I very doubt about the second one. And the first is not always effective. Moreover, belt size is probably more relevant to health than weight. Anyway, eating less and exercising more is good for health, no matter if you lose weight or not.

  6. @catgirl: It’s not so much about how much you eat as what you eat. Filling in the corners with cookies will get you different results than using broccoli, celery or the like. And different people metabolize food differently, so it’s all about personal experimentation.

    In my own experience, cooking at home vs. eating out or hitting the gym three times a week vs. not is enough to start the weight dropping; integrating such activities as habits has proven to be the challenge.

  7. I’m with @catgirl.

    From what I’ve read, some foods are good at suppressing the appetite. I’m a big fan of a small handful of nuts, seeds and dried fruits to take the edge off for a while.

    Also, I read recently that insulin is a BIG factor on how the body converts sugars into fats. All that modfied corn starch is really bad for you.

    Getting dumped lost me 8 pounds earlier this year. Getting loved-up again put them back on. Beware!

    Oh, and Chinese “slimming tea” (Malva verticillata) as well as being a laxative acts an appetite suppressant.

  8. Re: sex is good for us, they did comment in the article that it was difficult to tell whether more sex makes you healthier or whether healthier people have more sex. I suppose one way to determine this would be to take people in the less sex/less healthy group, give them more sex and document any health improvement. I doubt they’d have any problems finding participants for the study.

  9. While I agree that this diet pill/drop/juice/tea/shit needs to stop and that as a general rule “eat less calories and exercise more” works — to say it “eat less and exercise more” is incredibly misleading and dangerous.

    For one, when I started snacking constantly throughout the day (like, a constant graze) I lost weight because it was things like vegetables and hummus versus cookie/pretzels/cupcakes/chocolate etc. It took care of the hunger and made me feel like I was eating ALOT more, and yet it was fewer calories than one cookie.

    By saying “Eat less, exercise more” I believe you can head into eating disorder territory really quick.

    Another note: hunger =/= eating for comfort. I find a lot of people confuse being hungry for just wanting to eat for comfort or because they are bored.

  10. Finally read the article on male prostitution in Nevada being legalized.

    “You guys can’t scare me,” said Commissioner Lorinda Wichman before voting in Davis’ favor. “I’m going to try this.”

    This is probably not what you wanted to be quoted as saying in regard to legalizing any kind of prostitution.

  11. @csrster: I think the jury is still out, but Taubes makes a very persuasive case that excessive consumption and lethargy are consquences of obesity (ie fat retention) not causes.

    Taubes makes a very convincing case that he is an idiot of the first order. He says one thing I agree with: The business of nutrition is greatly at fault for not having put more effort into organising randomised trials. Until they are done, we’ll never really know, and we shouldn’t pretend that we do. Yet none of the 10 points he makes are supported by such evidence. If they don’t know then he doesn’t either except to him you can add the charge of hypocrisy.

  12. @Surly Nymph: You make a very good point about “eat less, exersize more.”

    What happens if someone starts to eat less, and still doesn’t lose weight? Also, starving your body — by drastically cutting your calorie intake in one go — can make it even harder for you to lose weight, because it screws up your metabolism so much. And then you get frustrated and give up, or get an eating disorder.

    I think it should be changed to: “Portion control, eat when hungry and not for comfort, eat nutritious foods but don’t be afraid to indulge every so often, and get enough exercise.”

  13. @marilove:
    I like yours better. Though….. what’s “enough” exercise ? 30 minutes a day? What if you’re still mobidly obese? (I know a woman who runs triathalons that weighs over 300lbs.) There was a study done on some amish guys that found that many of them needed at least 4 hours a day of physical activity to stay at a “normal” weight.

    In the video I liked above Gary Taubes makes an interesting point. The way we currently deal with obesity is by treating a physiological problem as if it were behavioral.

    It seems pretty clear that engaging in healthy behaviors is healthy, not smoking, getting exercise, eating reasonably well will make you healthier. But it is not clear that doing this will make everyone, or even most people thin permanently.

    I think the best thing we could do to solve the “obesity problem” would be to seperate ideas about being healthy from being fat.

  14. @shinobi42:
    The way we currently deal with obesity is by treating a physiological problem as if it were behavioral.

    It seems pretty clear that engaging in healthy behaviors is healthy, not smoking, getting exercise, eating reasonably well will make you healthier. But it is not clear that doing this will make everyone, or even most people thin permanently.

    I think you have captured the contradictions of the problem nicely. We have decades of research showing that calories in – calories out = weight. My grandfather had people essentially living inside large calorimeters in the 1930’s and demonstrated just this. The human body can be modeled fairly simply. The human mind, however, is the tricky bit. Most people just lack the whatever to follow the relatively simple formula of eat less exercise more. This is not a judgment on my part. I say it in the same way that I would say they lack blue eyes or they lack large feet. Humans are hardwired to eat and procreate. To gain weight in a time of abundance is good genetics and good evolution. I think it takes something fairly unusual to go against this. Most people’s bodies can lose weight just fine, but their brains won’t let it be easy. Nor should it be.

  15. @marilove: I totally agree. That’s why I explained that I understand the idea behind it but the wording can be extremely dangerous and can lead some people onto the path of eating disorders. I also didn’t say anything about starving yourself — that’s why I think the initial wording of the article wasn’t ideal.

  16. @Surly Nymph: I brought up starving because when people want to lose weight, a lot of the times they want to lose a bunch right away, so they just stop eating, thinking it’ll help them drop a bunch of weight in one go, when in reality it’s pretty counter-productive.

  17. @davew: I totally stole that sentence from Gary Taubes, don’t judge me.

    Some other research shows that calories in and calories out is NOT a cut and dried scenario. If you listen to the video above you can hear a lot of interesting research from a historical perspective about people who were starving, but were also obese by our standards.

    There were other studies done of attempted weight gain by naturally thin people that showed it was extremely difficult for them to gain large amounts of weight. Whereas some people have a hard time losing weight. Another study looking at twins found that weight is largely determined by genetics.

    But generally I agree, weight gain is an evolutionary trait that can be beneficial. If you think of it as a genetic and evolutionary trait though it does seem odd to assume that our behavior alone could alter the weights our body end up at.

    It’s just interesting that this has now become a

  18. @shinobi42: Some other research shows that calories in and calories out is NOT a cut and dried scenario. If you listen to the video above you can hear a lot of interesting research from a historical perspective about people who were starving, but were also obese by our standards.

    So I listened to the whole thing. Didn’t you find the whole “things they don’t want you to know” vibe rather off-putting?

    In essence Taubs is doing is searching through literature to shoot down hypotheses he doesn’t agree with and build up the hypothesis he does agree with. It is interesting, but when finished, all he’s done is promote an hypothesis. This is fine so far as it goes, but next someone has to take the hypothesis, turn it into a theory, and test the theory. It would be a mistake to think his talk means anything more than this.

    The good news is the theory has been made and tested. Low-carbohydrate diets work. They work about as well as any other medically-safe diet that has been tested both over the short term and over the long term. Although it would be a mistake to say the hypothesis is completely correct because there are diets that are not low-carbohydrate that work also. For example the diet my mother is on to control her diabetes works just fine. She lost 30 lbs and got to stop taking the drugs.

  19. @ Davew:

    If you watch the youtube link I posted, the lecturer describes how things like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) disrupts Leptin which regulates our perception of how full we are upon eating. If you eat or drink food with HFCS, you will tend to eat more than you would had you eaten foods that don’t disrupt Leptin.

    A can of non-diet soda like Coke is particularly bad since it is full of sodium to make you thirsty for more soda and it is also full of HFCS so you don’t taste all the sodium. The HFCS in the soda will not only get readily get converted to fat, but it will also alter your perception of how full you are so you will on average eat more calories. HFCS is for lack of a better term, a nutritionists nightmare.

    BCT

  20. @davew:
    So he evaluates research and comes up with a theory, based on previous research, that has already been proven to be relatively correct, and because his tone is “conspiratorial” he’s wrong? It sounds to me like someone who has read old research and drawn a conclusions that conflict with the dominant narratives.

    I actually find it refreshing to have someone question the dominant narrative regarding weight and weight loss. Weight loss is a huge industry in the US, as is food, and a lot of the research done on weight and diet is funded by companies interested in promoting weight loss, or feeding people. That makes it hard for me to just swallow whole a lot of obesity research.

  21. @shinobi42: So he evaluates research and comes up with a theory, based on previous research, that has already been proven to be relatively correct, and because his tone is “conspiratorial” he’s wrong?

    No. A conspiratorial tone doesn’t mean he is necessarily wrong, but it is a hallmark of people who are almost always wrong. “I am right, but I can’t convince the experts.” Hmm. So either we are supposed to believe that the experts are so hidebound by conventional thinking that they can’t see The Truth or perhaps this guy, with no medical training, isn’t as correct as he thinks he is. The patent clerk is sometimes right, but it just doesn’t happen all that often.

    More importantly, however, this guy very carefully used the word “hypothesis” not “theory”. I give him high marks for this. I even think his hypothesis is interesting, but hypotheses just are cool ideas backed by some observation. Theories are testable. Theories are falsifiable. The difference between these is all the difference in the world. Even good theories in medicine aren’t worth much until backed by clinical trials.

    The other thing that bugged me about this presentation is it led to the idea that weight loss is impossible unless you follow his ideas. To illustrate this he brought up some individuals, small populations, and genetically damaged mice to show that you can be obese and starving. I’m sure such a thing is possible, but these examples were clearly malfunctioning. A body that won’t use fat reserves even when all else is depleted isn’t working right. This doesn’t illustrate anything except bad genes which he admitted most of these examples had.

    And I’ll say again that theories based on low-carbohydrate intake have been made and tested. They do not lead to a revolution in weight loss nor are they a complete bust. These diets work about as well as every other credible diet which is to say not very well.

  22. @Billy Clyde Tuggle: If you watch the youtube link I posted, the lecturer describes how things like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) disrupts Leptin which regulates our perception of how full we are upon eating.

    I haven’t watched the video yet, but I will try to squeeze in some time to listen to it soon.

    Speaking personally I have eliminated HFCS from my diet. This was not a goal per se, but fell out of a desire to eliminate overly-processed foods in general. It’s been an interesting experiment. I’ve discovered a few things:

    – I can make mustard faster than I can go to the store and buy it. It tastes much better too.

    – I can make fruit syrup faster than I can go to the store and buy it. It tastes much better, too. Cranberry syrup is especially delightful.

    – Jams without HFCS taste better than jams with, but neither taste as good as homemade.

    – Making your own crackers is possible, but not worth the effort except for special occasions.

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