Monthly Archives: February 2010

Smart Advice on Making Decisions

A brilliant friend of mine sent this to me the other day. It was written by Michael Bond and was printed in New Scientist Magazine issue 2732.

Though it is not directly exercise related, you can apply these tactics in your approach to living a healthier and stronger life.

How to avoid making foolish decisions

It’s easy for your mind to lead you up the garden path when it comes to making a good decision. Below are ways to avoid the common pitfalls.

CLEAR YOUR MIND Judgements can often be based on a piece of information you have recently had in mind, even if it is irrelevant. For example, bidding high at an auction after pondering the height of the tallest person in the room.

DON’T FALL FOUL OF SPIN We have an inclination to be strongly influenced by the way a problem is framed. For instance, people are more likely to spend a monetary award immediately if they are told it is a bonus, compared with a rebate.

DON’T LET EMOTIONS GET IN THE WAY They often interfere with our assessment of risk. One example is our natural reluctance to cut our losses on a falling investment because it might start rising again.

BE FACT BASED Don’t allow your beliefs and opinions to cloud your analysis.

THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT THE LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES When considering how a course of action will make you feel, talk to someone who has been through a similar situation rather than try to imagine your future state of mind; run mental movies about how an option might play out.

LOOK BEYOND THE OBVIOUS SOLUTION Don’t accept the first thing that pops into your head.

In our attempts to get “svelte and health,” we often adopt and perform irrational and dangerous diet, exercise and wellness practices. Rather than using science and rationality as a guide, many opt for the sensational.

Here are a few wellness practices (in no particular order) that are not healthy, potentially harmful and should be avoided if you are doing them to improve your health:

Very low calorie liquid diets
No fat / low fat diets
All fruit diets
Explosive style weight training (e.g., kettlebell training, Olympic lifting)
Inversion therapy (hanging upside down for long periods)
Applied Kinesiology
Magnet therapy
Steroid use
Spot reduction exercises to lose fat

And there are more. None of the above have science on their side – quite the opposite in fact.

Bear in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is – except sometimes.

And be wary of people who tell you what it is you want to hear.

My Plea To Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama was on Good Morning America on Tuesday, February 9th to discuss her war on adolescent obesity. She calls it the ‘Let’s Move’ campaign. I highly commend her effort and desire to end this ‘epidemic.’ You can watch the segment here.

While her heart and soul is right on the money, unfortunately, her information isn’t.

Physical activity is obviously important for kids. But when it comes to obesity, research indicates that lack of sufficient physical activity hasn’t a thing to do with why children are obese nor does added activity help reduce fat in obese children.

This is a fact folks. It seems counter intuitive right? But it seems so only because we have bought the idea, hook line and sinker, that exercise burns a significant amount of calories and that excessive calorie intake specifically, from fat, is the cause of obesity.

Mark Twain said:

The truth is easy to kill. But a lie well told is immortal.

The lie well told is that obesity is an outcome of sloth and eating too much food, specifically too much fat.

What’s also interesting, to me at least, is that the all the blame for inactivity gets put on technology. TV, video games, computers, etc. are all vilified while playing chess, reading books and building models for hours at a time are, apparently, perfectly alright. You never hear anyone shout “We’ve got to get our kids moving more and away from books, chess and practicing their musical instruments!”

When I watch my kids watch TV, they are almost always wrestling and doing handstands and cartwheels. When they read they are statuesque. When they play Wii, they are jumping around all over the place. When they play chess, they’re downright immobile.

Moving on…

In the text book Childhood Obesity: Contemporary Issues the authors discuss physical activity and obesity citing that some obese children are slightly less active than lean children (but not always) and that girls are less active than boys. Interestingly enough, the amount of activity that lean girls engage in was less than that of the obese boys. If physical inactivity is a cause of obesity, why then aren’t all girls obese?

On page 125 the book states:

It is thus possible to be an obese, yet active child or a normal weight but relatively sedentary child.

It doesn’t add up does it? We keep chanting the mantra of the need for more physical activity in children when science tells us it isn’t the answer to obesity nor is it the cause. So what is?

Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation. Let that statement ruminate in your mind for a spell. Before you read the rest of this blog, really let that idea sink in deep. I’ll say it again, obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation.

The question is, why do some people create and store more fat than others?

Dr. Richard Feinman, professor of cellular biology at SUNY Downstate Medical School and president of the Nutrition and Metabolism Society puts it this way:

The importance of the glucose-insulin axis in modulating the response to fat is established and forms the basis for the biochemistry that I teach medical students. Carbohydrates directly or indirectly affect whether or not fat is stored. This is in fact admitted to me in private by people who continue to defend the traditional doctrine that, in the end, says “you are what you eat” which is not real science. Metabolism is a process and, in the area of fat storage, the process is controlled primarily by carbohydrates which, beyond their role as a fuel source direct the disposition of fat to be stored or oxidized. This is what we teach medical students and has to be the basis for any attempt to stop the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, especially since it is established that the latter is a disease of carbohydrate intolerance.

In other words, two different people who eat the same number of total calories and perform the same level of physical activity can wind up with completely different body compositions – one fatter and one leaner. The difference is their metabolism and a person’s metabolism is controlled substantially by carbohydrates.

In other, other words, you are not what you eat – you are what your body does with what you eat.

Obese children are so because of what their bodies are doing with what they are eating. They store more of their ingested calories as fat rather than using the calories for fuel and bodily maintenance. This occurs in people whose bodies are insensitive to insulin and secrete more of this fat storage hormone in response to elevated blood sugar. For some, it doesn’t take much carbohydrate to elevate their insulin levels sky high.

Eating fat does not stimulate the secretion of insulin. Blaming dietary fat as a partner in the crime of obesity is only valid if carbohydrate is at the scene too. Carbohydrates are the culprit – the true villain in the midst. And since the focus has been on getting fat out of our diets, especially our kids, what sorts of calories have replaced the fats? You guessed it – carbohydrates.

Again, Dr. Feinman:

The deleterious effects of fat have been measured in the presence of high carbohydrate. A high fat diet in the presence of high carbohydrate is different than a high fat diet in the presence of low carbohydrate.

So Michelle, my plea to you is this: Please refocus your efforts to help end adolescent obesity by taking the time to look at the hard science on the subject rather than continue to spread, however innocently, the misinformation that physical activity and the current government issue food pyramid (~80% carbohydrate) are viable methods to ending this ever growing, easily reversible condition. As the late Carl Sagan said “Science as a candle in the dark.”

Our children desperately need us to break free from this paradigm paralysis. We need to get the right information into the minds of the American public as well as the rest of the world. I’m at your service and am happy to help.

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