Some sanity on obesity

It’s an epidemic, a wildfire burning out of control, a raging pandemic, the boogeyman here to get us all. By some accounts (wild extrapolation of a handful of dubious data points) by 20xx 150% of Americans will be obese and by 20xx 133% of Americans will have type 2 diabetes (a non-disease, merely a blood number with some adverse consequences). Go vegan, or at least vegetarian. And of course locally sourced all nature. Evil food is all around of us and we have to go to extreme diets to have a chance of survival. Beware!

Yes, I’m describing the hysteria of the anti-obesity, anti-diabetes, anti-processed food crowd. Stay away from anything that is white (flour, sugar, salt) and eat nothing but kale and quinoa (or the fad of the day). In short this puritanical crowd sounds like the old anti-sex crowd of days past (and still present for some Repugs). You’re doomed unless you are born again in purity. Pollan and Bittman and Lustig will save us.

It’s hard being a moderate. Torn between the extremes of BigFood and BigPharma who are rapaciously harvested profits as much as they can and the nutrition scolds cabal truth is hard to find. But fortunately, ever now and then, science prevails.

Disclaimer: I used to be obese (just barely within the definition but definitely way too big a belly). And now I’m not. I adjusted my diet a little (mostly just calorie quantity) and drastically increased my exercise. Now I have avoided even starting diabetes meds and got off both cholesterol and blood pressure meds. Hurrah! But the nutrition crowd did me no good at all (other than burning a few calories ranting at them). Some common sense and moderation was the ticket. And sanity. Food is not evil – too much food is bad. The only thing wrong with the stuff nutritionist hate (fat, sugar, even the debunked dietary cholesterol consumption) is mostly high calorie density food and you should definitely observe moderation with these. Vegis are good but not a religion. You should eat the right amount of foods you like – period!

And get lots of exercise.

Typically exercise is downplayed by the nutrition scolds. They’d rather have a villain and Monsanto and McDonalds and BigGulps make a great pinata. Blame it all on the evil satans attempting to make you obese and med dependent.

But what about personal responsibility! Sure you can consume way too many calories at fast food or other high calorie food choices, but really, folks, it’s simple – calories in must be no more than calories burned and if it’s getting rid of the excess weight calories in must be less than calories burned. And despite stupid nonsense from nutrition scolds as far as just obesity goes (there are other more valid arguments for “balanced” diet) calories are just calories.

So why is exercise denounced. Well, for one thing it’s hard and time-consuming. It’s certainly true it takes more time to work off calories than to consume them. But there are a ton of benefits to exercise, esp. long and slow (forget the high intensity fads, they’re maybe 20% more per hour than good aerobic exercise, so hike an extra mile or bike an extra three miles instead).

And finally there is proof. Here in just a news release about a study but at least from a reputable source, American Journal of Medicine, rather than some woo-peddling “integrative” (aka quack) medicine source.

Yes, there is an increase in obesity, not quite the cherry-picked and exaggerated reports you get elsewhere, but it is real and it is causing health problems. So how about some scientifically grounded advice on what to do about it instead of a bunch of zealous ideology.

It’s lack of exercise that is more readily correlated with average weight gain. We sit on our butts too much not eat at fast food joints too much. In fact since this study covers the last 20 years that is all well within the existence of fast food and processed food and sugar and flour and all the other substances the scolds denounce. But during that time, when plenty of bad food choices were available (and not really increasing) exercise decreased, quite dramatically for some groups and there was rising obesity. Too much sitting around, too much working (this time period is also a time where many have been forced into extra hours or multiple jobs making time for exercise scarce) and not enough moving.

So instead of Pollan’s “eat real food, not too much, mostly plants”, I say, now backed by science “eat enough food and move enough” – balance. You want that ice cream – it will cost you, so don’t eat it unless you have the time and inclination to work it off. If you do exercise then you can eat what you want (counting, or at least being aware of, calories). But also recognize exercise means sweating a little, a slow-paced loop around the block isn’t going to do it. 10,000 steps a day – a good start, but 5000 faster steps probably even better, but 2000 extreme steps, that’s wrecking your body.





About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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