Arguing With Idiots

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It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is after all a specialized discipline and one that most people consider a dismal science. But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance. — Murray Rothbard, economist

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about economics. It’s a post about the strange combination of ignorance and arrogance. As I’ve told my wife more times than she’d probably prefer, it doesn’t bother me much when people are arrogant but well-informed, and it doesn’t bother me much when people are ignorant but humble. But when ignorant people are arrogant, that gets me riled.

Long before I became fascinated by nutrition science, I became fascinated by history and economics. I’m not sure exactly how many books I’ve read on economics, but it’s easily more than 20. I certainly don’t know everything about the subject, but I know more than most people by a long shot.

I saved the quote from Murray Rothbard because over the years, I’ve been amazed at how many people I’ve encountered who are exactly like he described: never took a class in economics, never read a book on economics, but are nonetheless full of loud and vociferous opinions on everything from the economic effects of tax rates to the cause of high oil prices. They know what they know, and by gosh, they don’t need to bother with any research to keep knowing what they know, because they already know it — and anyone who disagrees must be an idiot. (This attitude was rampant in Hollywood.)

Since creating this blog and putting my YouTube clips online, I’ve noticed the same phenomenon in discussions about health and nutrition: once some people form an opinion, they are incapable of changing their minds. I can more or less understand why researchers whose reputations or grants are tethered to a particular theory will cling so tightly to it. As described brilliantly in the book Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), they engage in mental cherry-picking of the evidence to convince themselves they are Doing the Right Thing. It’s not good for science, but at least their opinions are based on research, even if the research if flawed or incomplete.

What I don’t understand are laymen who have nothing at stake professionally, yet form strong opinions about diet and health without looking at any research whatsoever, then go ballistic if those opinions are challenged by someone who, heaven forbid, might actually know something they don’t. One of the Fat Head clips I uploaded to YouTube is titled Why You Got Fat and explains how insulin drives fat storage. That clip recently drew this comment:

you know what would really make your body stop storing fat??? if you got off your lazy f@#$% asses and did something!!

Ignorance and arrogance combined … my favorite combination. For some reason, challenging the simple “eat less, move more” advice for losing weight seems to bring these goofs out of the woodwork. Some people just know it’s all about counting calories — in my experience, they’re usually people who’ve never had to lose weight, and therefore consider themselves experts in how it all works. Since they’re thin, that proves they know how to be thin … MeMe Roth comes to mind.

I kept my reply to the arrogant ignoramus short:

Glad to see you’ve done so much research on the biochemistry of weight loss. If only I’d spoken to someone with your deep understanding of metabolism and endocrinology before shooting the film, I might have gotten it right.

Agreeing with arrogant ignoramuses is my preferred method for dealing with them, and has been for well over 24 hours.

The way I see it, anyone who challenges your current beliefs with logic or evidence is an opportunity, not a threat. When I sent the first cut of Fat Head to Dr. Mike Eades, he replied with a long email telling me which parts he liked, but also informed me some parts were scientifically incorrect. It never would’ve occurred to me to dig in my heels and tell him I already know what I know, so that’s it, and he must be wrong. I asked him to explain why those parts were wrong and point me to the evidence. He did. I learned valuable new information precisely because he disagreed with me.

But arrogant ignoramuses don’t see it that way. They believe changing an opinion, no matter how uninformed that opinion might be, can cause paralysis below the neck, or erectile dysfunction at the very least, and must be avoided at all costs.

I’ve tried replying to their comments with logic or evidence, but they have this amazing ability to shrug it off and go on repeating themselves. So I’ve ended up engaging in what my wife calls (by way of encouraging me to stop) Arguing With Idiots. It’s pointless, as last night’s online debate eventually convinced me. Here are some highlights, with the opponent’s comments in italic, mine in plain text:

If carbs and so evil than why are so many chinese and japanese and indians, who eat white rice on a daily basis, thinner and healthier than americansky?

Their thinness is partly hereditary; Asians have higher levels of osteoporosis because their bones are thinner. Thin-boned people also tend to be more resistant to becoming obese. As for the carbs, they actually consume fewer of them than a typical American. They eat rice, yes. We consume rice, pasta, french fries, donuts, sodas, frappucinos, bagels, breakfast cereals, deli sandwiches, Snickers bars, Little Debbie Snack Cakes and ice cream.

they consume fewer? Hmmm, eating LESS seems to be the determining factor, hein?

If only it were as simple as that. By eating fewer carbs and (especially) a lot less fructose, they are less likely to become insulin resistant and therefore less likely to go into fat-accumulation mode. It’s not just about how much you eat; it’s about the hormonal changes produced by what you eat. If hormones signal your body to store more fat, yes, you will likely eat more because you’re storing more calories and therefore running short of fuel for your cells.

how about the nutrition professor who lost 27 pounds eating mainly junk food?

He averaged 173 carbohydrates per day, which is less than half of what a typical American consumes. By his own estimation, he reduced his carb intake by over 100 grams per day on the “junk” diet. His food log is online, so I ran the numbers. “Mainly junk food” was media hype. He ate many meals consisting of steak, chicken, protein shakes, etc., then tossed in some donuts and twinkies. It wasn’t a junk food diet, it was a diet that included some junk food.

So on one hand you say sugar and carbs are evil, but when I point out about this nutrition professor you counter by saying that he simply was not eating too many carbs, which is exactly what I have been saying. You can eat anything: as long as you less calories than you need, you will lose weight!

No, I’m saying if you restrict calories AND keep your insulin low enough to allow your body to burn fat, you’ll lose weight. Professor Haub ate twinkies and donuts but still consumed a LOW number of carbohydrates while restricting calories, same as I did in my documentary. That means his insulin likely dropped. If insulin stays high, your body reacts to calorie restriction by slowing your metabolism, eliminating or reducing the calorie deficit. That’s why so many diets fail.

Right, he restricted CALORIES. If i eat 100% sugar everyday, but only eat 500 calories I will lose weight.

Duh, do you think? First off, that’s 125 carbohydrates, second, your body would suck up every calorie so there’d be no need for insulin to convert carbohydrates to fat and store them, which is what happens on high-carb diets, and third, you’d also become sick and lose muscle mass.

So you admit that to lose weight, you need to eat less calories?

Go to YouTube, search ‘Taubes science weightloss,’ watch the lecture on the actual science, pay close attention to the sections about populations where food intake was low, malnutrition was rampant, yet a high proportion of adults were obese. Then see if you still believe it’s all about simply counting calories.

then why do all scientists disagree with taubes, who is a journalist?

Really, all the scientists disagree? That must be news to the many scientists whose articles I’ve read, whom I’ve interviewed or corresponded with, who agree very much with Taubes. As for him being “just a journalist,” he’s a journalist with a degree in physics from Harvard and a master’s in engineering from Stanford. He’s won the science writer of the year award twice. Try coming up with something besides a weak appeal to authority to prove your point.

many of them do. the majority. sugar is bad for you, no doubt, but taube’s takes his reasoning too far. and he doesn’t have a masters in engineering.

This is like talking to a child. Yes, he has a master’s in aerospace engineering and another in journalism. Look it up. If you’re more psychologically comfortable deciding you already know how metabolism and fat accumulation work than with looking into the actual science, be my guest. I really don’t care if you choose to stick with your current beliefs.

not just my beliefs, but the beliefs of the majority of nutrition scientists.

Well, that explains the fabulous success rate of the diets they’ve designed. Nearly 2% lose weight and keep it off — can’t argue with those credentials! Like I said, if you want to simply declare that already know how metabolism works and avoid looking into the science for yourself, I don’t really care.

[Yes, this is the point where I should’ve stopped replying to the ignoramus. Took me a while longer to wise up.]

you thesis is completely wrong. plenty of people eat carbs and sugar and are thin. it’s because they simply don’t eat more than they need. you even admitted it, so i am not even sure what point you are trying to make

Yes, because plenty of people are what they call “metabolically gifted,” which means they don’t become insulin resistant. Most people don’t fall into that category. Plenty of people smoke two packs per day and never develop lung cancer, so I guess to your way of thinking, that proves smoking isn’t a cause of lung cancer.

No, you are wrong. There may be mulitple ways to lsoe weight, but eating less calories will result in weight loss. I didn’t see any fat people in the concentration camps.

You didn’t see any healthy people in concentration camps either. If you starve people, duh, they’ll lose weight. They’ll lose muscle mass and eventually digest their own organs, too. That isn’t the point. The question is whether you can burn body fat without sacrificing your muscles and wrecking your metabolism simply by restricting calories without changing your hormonal balance, and the answer is no. That’s why people who starve themselves on diets usually end up fatter.

you don’t have to starve yourself; you can just eat less. instead of eating and 8 inch grinder and bag of chips for lunch, you can eat a 6 in grinder and an apple.

[At this point, I began to realize I was talking to wall and decided perhaps the smart move would be to just agree with him.]

Thank you for sharing your superior biological knowledge with me. I appreciate it. You’re right and I’m wrong. Weight loss is purely about counting calories, hormones have nothing to do with it, diabetics don’t become emaciated and die without insulin, and there’s never been a poor population that became obese despite living on less than 2000 calories per day. None of that ever happened. You’re clearly correct, and I thank you.

So how do devout hindus who don’t eat meat and eat rice and lentils and such be healthy? or are they really unhealthy?

If you consider having one of the highest rates of heart disease and diabetes in the world, “healthy,” okay, yeah. You might want to do some research on this stuff before popping off.

[Oops, my mistake… I backslid and actually replied.]

Indians have a high rate of heart disease and diabetes?? Where is your source? Remember, I am stalking about people from India, not Native Americans. Also, what group of peolple were obese despite eating less than 2000 calories a day?

[I was trying to figure out how he decided I believe Native Americans are Hindus, then reminded myself to just agree with him.]

You’re correct, I simply made up the statement that people in India have high rates of heart disease and diabetes. I admit it here and now. Same for the obese populations who live on little food. As you’ve surmised, I don’t actually put any research into my documentaries, speeches, or blog posts. I thank you for sharing your superior knowledge of biology, endocrinology, metabolism, and Gary Taubes’ resume. Your beliefs are 100% correct and I urge you to keep them.

So you can’t provide one source to back up the claim about heart disease in India?

Like I said, I don’t actually do any research. I just make stuff up, as you’ve surmised. Do a little Googling and I’m sure you’ll instantly confirm your belief that heart disease, obesity and diabetes are low in India.

Oh yes, the good old “Google it for yourself and find out!” You made a claim that Indians suffer high rates of diabetes and heart disease. It is up to you, the claimant, to provide proof. All I am asking for is one link to a study that support your claim. You made the claim. So provide support for your claim.

Like I said, the claim was pure drivel, all made up. I do no research whatsoever. So instead of troubling yourself with spending, say, 20 seconds doing Google research, I urge you to cease your relentless open-mindedness and try very hard to simply accept that you already know everything. I know it’ll be difficult, but try, man, try.

You made the claim. I am waiting for evidence for you claim. If it only takes 20 seconds to retreive, then it should be no trouble for you.

You’re right. I suddenly feel an overwhelming need and obligation to convince you. Please sit there staring at your screen, and I’ll provide you with sources as soon as I can. Do not leave your chair until you hear back from me.

[At that point, I went to the kitchen for a small dish of almonds and then watched Sunday Night Football. I enjoy a good debate with people who’ve actually done a bit of research and can back up their beliefs, but no more arguing with idiots. That’s my rule.]

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167 thoughts on “Arguing With Idiots

  1. Sean

    A few years ago reading The Economist pocket World in Figures, I was surprised that the Middle East, the birthplace of the neolithic revolution, led the world in diabetes. Although I suspect this has more to do with sugar consumption (sweetened tea) rather than wheat consumption. Here’s what they listed for 2007:

    1) UAE 19.5% !!!!!!!!
    2) Saudi Arabia 16.7%
    3) Kuwait 14.4%
    4) Oman 13.1%

    When 1 out of 4 people have diabetes you know something is really messed up.

    Wow. I guess they’re trading oil dollars for sugar.

    Reply
  2. Paul Eilers

    I think the guy you were arguing with is my younger brother. He loves to debate and argue, just for the sake of arguing. Even when he KNOWS he’s incorrect. He just gets a cheap thrill watching others get riled up over nothing.

    By the way, I love me some Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, and have read several of their books on economics.

    Their books are great. You’d probably enjoy Thomas Woods as well.

    Reply
  3. Lori

    On the subject of being aware of what you don’t know, a friend of mine in the dance scene likes to say he doesn’t KNOW lindy–the dance he won a national championship in.

    Some of the worst dancers I see are those who try to teach dancing on the floor (that is, not in a class). Some of the people they try to teach are competent instructors who charge for the services. Even after they see the person dancing circles around them with another partner (one who can actually lead or follow), they persist in trying to teach. It’s not only stupid, but bad manners.

    All the great dancers I’ve ever known were aware that there was always room for improvement–and they all seemed to have an IQ far into the triple digits. I’ve never met a great dancer who was an airhead.

    One of the coaches of the Baltimore Ravens said of Ray Lewis, who is quite possibly the best linebacker in the NFL, “He watches game films like a coach, but he still listens like a rookie.” There’s a man who’s smart enough to know he doesn’t already know it all.

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  4. Ms. X

    If I may suggest, the whole purpose of having a blog is so you don’t have to argue with idiots. With a blog, you can state what you want, and people come around and read them, or not.

    But you’ve got two blogs, so you know that, right? When you get an idea, write it on your blog then go play with the kids.

    Bears repeating, perhaps.

    Good advice.

    Reply
  5. Nick S

    This is a pretty common kind of argument that I used to have before I swore off arguing with idiots entirely. Take an example from a bodybuilding forum, paraphrased.

    Some guy: It’s impossible to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time.
    Me: I’ve found it is possible, but only with a carbohydrate-restricted diet.
    Idiot: No, it isn’t, stop deluding yourself.
    Me: I know it defies conventional wisdom, but it works. Here is my weight graph and here are my Crossfit Total numbers.
    Idiot: You’re only losing weight because of exercise.
    Me: My food log records too many calories for that to be the case.
    Idiot: You’re counting wrong.
    Me: I’ve eaten two pounds of bacon this week alone. Here is my food log.
    Idiot: Your diet is full of fat; you’re going to die of heart disease.
    Me: Here are several academic sources which disagree with that assertion.
    Idiot: So I’m supposed to believe some blog? Lipid hypothesis! Calories in = calories out! Laws of thermodynamics!
    Me: Okay, here are extensive rebuttals to each of those points, with MLA-style citations of the relevant articles. Also, you do realize that people poop, right?
    Idiot: How do I know those articles even exist?
    Me: Here are links to the citations on JSTOR and PubMed.
    Idiot: That doesn’t prove anything. Link me the article.
    Me: I can’t. I am quoting the relevant sections from books and they are not free online.
    Idiot: Then they definitely don’t exist, and you are stupid.
    Me: There’s a wealth of information about this subject, here is a Let Me Google That For You link with several useful results on the first page.
    Idiot: I wanted studies, these are not studies, you are stupid.

    And then I surrendered to the stupid.

    I feel you.

    Reply
  6. Your Older Brother

    “Can’t remember where I saw it, but I liked this sentence: The larger the island of knowledge, the larger the shoreline of wonder.”

    Acutally, it’s

    “…the LONGER the shoreline of wonder.”

    You saw it hanging on a wall at the house. I think one of Mom’s friends (Serafini?) gave it to her after she completed her Master’s.

    Cheers!

    Bingo! Thanks for jogging my memory. It was “longer,” and I believe Al Serafini may have painted it himself … ?

    Reply
  7. Rabbi Hirsch Meisels

    Thanks G-D you lost your mind and did answer his comments, this way we got a nikce blog post with some short and sweet answers to some common questions. (Asian, Indians, etc.).
    if you ever run out of topics to blog about (doesn’t seem likely, but just in case) you can make a FAQ list, of commonly asked questions, and short answers.

    Rabbi Hirsch Meisels

    I’m not in any danger of running out of topics, but that wouldn’t be a bad post anyway. Nice thing about YouTube debates is that all comments and replies have to be short. There’s a character limit.

    Reply
  8. Brian Mallard

    So in keeping with your new position of not arguing with idiots, I will not hold my breath waiting for you comments on the Child Nutrition Bill because, as her highness, Michelle avec Le Grande Derriere said, “we just can’t leave it up to the parents.”

    Well, the advantage there is that people in government feel no need to listen to us little people, so there’s no possibility of an endless debate.

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  9. Galina L.

    Hello, Tom,

    I am a Russian who lives in America for last 15 years. I could tell you the main difference between American food and Russian one. On streets of Moscow it is difficult to see so many obese people as here. Majority of teens are really thin.People are not a picture of health, of course, rate of CVD is high enough,a lot of people drink(o, yes!) and smoke.

    Main difference is that Russians don’t snack that often, don’t believe in a low-fat food and diet drinks, consider late heavy dinner as a very unhealthy one.Potatoes and bread are stable, of course. Fish is more affordable and very popular. Cabbage soup is eaten almost daily as a part of substantial lunch.

    When my son’s friends come to visit him and ask for some snack, very often I am at loss, because I rarely have a food ready to be consumed without cooking. I try to improvise, of course, using bread,cheese and deli items as a raw material for snack preparation. When it comes to drinks, it is even worse. In order not to keep sodas for local children consumption, I bought some syrup and keep it in a fridge for special occasions.

    When our girls have friends over and they want snacks, they get deli slices, cheeses, nuts, fruit, olives. We’ll see if that affects our popularity rating among the neighborhood kids.

    Reply
  10. Debbie

    Sheesh, I can see the urge to bat your head against the wall. But people *can* learn! I confess that back in the 80s, early 90s, I was a rabid low-fatter, never quite a vegetarian, but trying to trend in that direction. When my sister got pregnant with her son in 1987 her obstetrician gave her a diet sheet that included things like eating bacon and eggs for breakfast and steak for dinner (a man ahead of his time!), and I, to my shame, railed against the diet and how dreadfully unhealthy it was, and how she would be so much better off having oatmeal and skim milk for breakfast and lean fish for dinner. I had read Atkins but his prose read, to me, like a snake-oil salesman, and turned me even further into the low fat camp. I figured anything that had Atkins as a proselytizer just had to be wrong.

    But I began to come around in the late 90s when I read a copy of “Protein Power”. The Eades’s science-based explanation of why low carb worked reached me in a way that Atkins never could, and ended up changing my whole life. So people *can* learn, even old set-in-their-ways dogs. You just have to find the right way to reach them.

    Alas I don’t have the technique it seems. I have never been able to convince one single person that eating this way is better for their health. No one actually tells me I’m *wrong* but all my friends and family treat my way of eating as mostly an amusing eccentricity.

    The first time I saw an informercial featuring Atkins, I was very turned off by him. Like you, I “knew” lowfat was the way to go, so I assumed he was a quack. Thank heavens most of us are capable of changing our minds.

    Reply
  11. Labby

    You are stronger than I. That person was someone who was never going to stop. If you provide proof to one question, he would simply move on to something else.

    I just want to say that I loved the movie Fathead. I have been doing a lot of research into the nutritional and health benefits are carbohydrate restriction and increasing protein and fat in the diet. In the past, I read numerous books and took college level courses in nutrition. These all pushed the low fat/high carb approach that is endorsed by the government. Until recently, I strongly believed in this method. However, the evidence is much more compelling in favor of lowered carbs and increased protein and fat when one reads about the published research.

    Because of this, I have recently moved from a low fat/high carb diet (to lose weight) to a carb-restricted diet that includes plenty of low carb vegetables, fresh meats, cheese and eggs and does not eliminate or restrict saturated fats. Not only do I feel better, but I’ve lost weight faster and more easily on MORE Calories (about 1800 per day) than when I was losing weight on a low fat/high carb diet (about 1550 Calories per day.)

    You’re right, he never would’ve stopped. They’re like a little dog who bites down on your pant leg and won’t let go.

    Reply
  12. Galina L.

    Sorry, my first comment was not about the content of your post. It is amazing how much animosity in all discussions about nutrition, diets and weight loss. Garry’s blog is not the worst place because there are a lot of people there who are less ignorant than people reading CNN health news. And I am trying to understand what makes that particular issue so dividing. May be it is that somebody who is naturally thin (not insulin resistant) just unable to comprehend how anybody leading healthy lifestyle may have a weight problem. We say- “nutritional composition matters more that calorie consumption”. They hear – “calories don’t matter and I am going to pig out on whole pig”. We say “exercise more, eat less approach doesn’t work”, they hear – “since exercise and calories restriction don’t work , I will lay on my coach eating because me being fat is not my fault”. It sounds for them like some new theory created in order to excuse gluttony.They hear not what we are saying, plus some religiously devoted vegetarians comprehend our message as a direct threat to their cult.

    The only way to deal with it is to try to turn emotions out of discussion. If they are unable to comprehend what Garry is saying , they are doomed.

    I think you’ve got it right. People who are naturally thin or lose weight easily often assume it must work the same for everyone else.

    Reply
  13. Jo

    “People who actually know a lot are aware of how much they still don’t know.”

    LOL, maybe I’m cleverer than I thought!

    Great post – I work with someone like those posters. They suck the very life out of you.

    I only communicate my ideas when I think people will listen. Drop an idea here and there rather than try a full on conversion (I’m not very good at confrontation!!). Often our ideas take flight even if we don’t see it happening.

    It’s weird, though, how some of them show up out of nowhere to post comments. If I’d never studied the topic and then saw an animated clip explaining how insulin drives fat storage, I would assume whoever produced it might know something.

    Reply
  14. Fred

    I think you handled that as well as anyone could. Especially the way you ended it. I still live out in LaLa land, CA and it never ceases to amaze me the insanity people tell each other both on forums and even worse in person.

    I’ve work as a fitness coach for many years (I say coach not trainer because I have a Bachelors in Sports Med and additional S&C certs, not a weekend PT cert and a head shot) and I still have people trying to tell me what works.

    And it doesn’t surprise me how many people cling to their ignorance as superiority. You find it in fitness mags all the time.

    Curious, have you or anyone ever had the chance to ask one of these so-called “obesity experts,” how many people they have helped to get in better health with their overwhelming wealth of knowledge?

    We know their answer already: the diet was correct, but the dieter failed. Or as Dr. Oz put it when Oprah regained all her weight, “Oprah isn’t craving food, she’s craving love.” No, Dr. Wizard of Oz, she was craving food, as most people on your diet would.

    Reply
  15. Milton

    Hey Tom, great stuff.

    OT: I was just watching Fat-Head on hulu (yeah, I know, I should really purchase it sorry :)) and was wondering 2 things. 1) is that you in the clips where someone says “follow the money” and 2) is that from an actual movie?

    That’s me in a dark garage, doing a line from “All The President’s Men.”

    Reply
  16. Rocky

    Seeing you interact with these arrogant geniuses, I’m reminded of a quip that a friend of mine once offered:

    “I simply don’t have a shovel large enough to fill the world’s intellectual void.”

    LOL.

    Reply
  17. Dave

    The secret to always being right: admit when you’re wrong.

    You’ll appreciate this as a fellow programmer: a client once asked me if their system’s code could be modified to do XYZ. I replied that I didn’t know — since I didn’t know, and would have to do some research first.

    Her response: “Oh, my gosh, thank you! What a pleasant change that is!”

    Huh?

    She went on to explain that her previous programmer was apparently incapable of ever admitting he didn’t already know everything, so if she requested some complex function and he wasn’t sure how to do it, he would just tell her it wasn’t possible.

    Reply
  18. Sylvie O

    Suggestion: next time someone brings up India as an example of how people can be fit and healthy on a vegetarian lifestyle, simply ask them how many athletes represent India at the summer Olympic Games and how many medals they bring home (this, for a country of over 1 billion people, former British colony). These numbers speak for themselves.

    Hadn’t thought of that. I usually point out that if vegetarianism is the key to superior physical prowess, the NFL would be 100% vegetarian. Those guys will do almost anything to gain an edge.

    Reply
  19. steven

    I’d love to see your take on econ/politics. You’re a bright guy with a lot of knowledge in that head.. share it!

    Regarding answering the critics, it would be nice to see you do a real debate with someone who has read all the same research you have, but has a different interpretation. For example, James Krieger would be a good start. He has some great posts on how Insulin, and how it’s not the enemy the LC’ers make it out to be:

    http://weightology.net/weightologyweekly/?page_id=319

    Another might be Alan Aragon, who doesn’t believe the alarmist view of singling out fructose:
    http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/01/29/the-bitter-truth-about-fructose-alarmism/

    Or ‘CarbSane’ who has a “sane” approach to carbs. She has a great debate with Gary Taubes, where I must say, Taubes comes across short on answers but heavy in hand waving.

    http://carbsanity.blogspot.com/2010/10/11-critical-conclusions-of-taubes.html

    I write about economics and politics (and other topics) on my other blog, http://www.TomNaughton.com.

    Jimmy Moore gathered several replies to Krieger’s article about insulin:

    http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/does-insulin-deserve-a-bad-reputation-the-low-carb-experts-weigh-in/9458

    Reply
  20. Ms. X

    If I may suggest, the whole purpose of having a blog is so you don’t have to argue with idiots. With a blog, you can state what you want, and people come around and read them, or not.

    But you’ve got two blogs, so you know that, right? When you get an idea, write it on your blog then go play with the kids.

    Bears repeating, perhaps.

    Good advice.

    Reply
  21. Nick S

    This is a pretty common kind of argument that I used to have before I swore off arguing with idiots entirely. Take an example from a bodybuilding forum, paraphrased.

    Some guy: It’s impossible to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time.
    Me: I’ve found it is possible, but only with a carbohydrate-restricted diet.
    Idiot: No, it isn’t, stop deluding yourself.
    Me: I know it defies conventional wisdom, but it works. Here is my weight graph and here are my Crossfit Total numbers.
    Idiot: You’re only losing weight because of exercise.
    Me: My food log records too many calories for that to be the case.
    Idiot: You’re counting wrong.
    Me: I’ve eaten two pounds of bacon this week alone. Here is my food log.
    Idiot: Your diet is full of fat; you’re going to die of heart disease.
    Me: Here are several academic sources which disagree with that assertion.
    Idiot: So I’m supposed to believe some blog? Lipid hypothesis! Calories in = calories out! Laws of thermodynamics!
    Me: Okay, here are extensive rebuttals to each of those points, with MLA-style citations of the relevant articles. Also, you do realize that people poop, right?
    Idiot: How do I know those articles even exist?
    Me: Here are links to the citations on JSTOR and PubMed.
    Idiot: That doesn’t prove anything. Link me the article.
    Me: I can’t. I am quoting the relevant sections from books and they are not free online.
    Idiot: Then they definitely don’t exist, and you are stupid.
    Me: There’s a wealth of information about this subject, here is a Let Me Google That For You link with several useful results on the first page.
    Idiot: I wanted studies, these are not studies, you are stupid.

    And then I surrendered to the stupid.

    I feel you.

    Reply
  22. JeremyR

    I have had numerous arguments with people like this and like everyone has said they just won’t listen to facts, they have made their minds up and their GP and the Government agree with them so how could they be wrong. I gave up arguing years ago now I just grin and keep my opinions to myself.

    The one common retort they use against the LC diet argument is that it can’t be healthy because you are cutting out a whole food group and that means it’s not balanced so can’t possibly be healthy. It also really annoys me that when low carb is mentioned they somehow hear “no” carb. I used to respond with something like “if you believe a balanced diet is optimal why are you cutting out all the fat, thats not balanced?” To which the common response is the usual bullshit about heart disease. Drives me nuts.

    And yet many of those same people applaud if you tell them you’re giving an entire food group called “meat.”

    Reply
  23. Fred

    I think you handled that as well as anyone could. Especially the way you ended it. I still live out in LaLa land, CA and it never ceases to amaze me the insanity people tell each other both on forums and even worse in person.

    I’ve work as a fitness coach for many years (I say coach not trainer because I have a Bachelors in Sports Med and additional S&C certs, not a weekend PT cert and a head shot) and I still have people trying to tell me what works.

    And it doesn’t surprise me how many people cling to their ignorance as superiority. You find it in fitness mags all the time.

    Curious, have you or anyone ever had the chance to ask one of these so-called “obesity experts,” how many people they have helped to get in better health with their overwhelming wealth of knowledge?

    We know their answer already: the diet was correct, but the dieter failed. Or as Dr. Oz put it when Oprah regained all her weight, “Oprah isn’t craving food, she’s craving love.” No, Dr. Wizard of Oz, she was craving food, as most people on your diet would.

    Reply
  24. Walter

    I wanted to post the link to the article showing that stupid people don’t know they are stupid, but someone beat me to it. It went to the cartoon site and found another one appropriate to this topic.

    http://xkcd.com/406/

    There are a lot of good cartoons at this site, its going to take me much longer than usual to get from Fat Head to Free the Animal, might not get to Gary Taubes at all today.

    Very good cartoons.

    Reply
  25. Sylvie O

    Suggestion: next time someone brings up India as an example of how people can be fit and healthy on a vegetarian lifestyle, simply ask them how many athletes represent India at the summer Olympic Games and how many medals they bring home (this, for a country of over 1 billion people, former British colony). These numbers speak for themselves.

    Hadn’t thought of that. I usually point out that if vegetarianism is the key to superior physical prowess, the NFL would be 100% vegetarian. Those guys will do almost anything to gain an edge.

    Reply
  26. steven

    I’d love to see your take on econ/politics. You’re a bright guy with a lot of knowledge in that head.. share it!

    Regarding answering the critics, it would be nice to see you do a real debate with someone who has read all the same research you have, but has a different interpretation. For example, James Krieger would be a good start. He has some great posts on how Insulin, and how it’s not the enemy the LC’ers make it out to be:

    http://weightology.net/weightologyweekly/?page_id=319

    Another might be Alan Aragon, who doesn’t believe the alarmist view of singling out fructose:
    http://www.alanaragonblog.com/2010/01/29/the-bitter-truth-about-fructose-alarmism/

    Or ‘CarbSane’ who has a “sane” approach to carbs. She has a great debate with Gary Taubes, where I must say, Taubes comes across short on answers but heavy in hand waving.

    http://carbsanity.blogspot.com/2010/10/11-critical-conclusions-of-taubes.html

    I write about economics and politics (and other topics) on my other blog, http://www.TomNaughton.com.

    Jimmy Moore gathered several replies to Krieger’s article about insulin:

    http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/does-insulin-deserve-a-bad-reputation-the-low-carb-experts-weigh-in/9458

    Reply
  27. JeremyR

    I have had numerous arguments with people like this and like everyone has said they just won’t listen to facts, they have made their minds up and their GP and the Government agree with them so how could they be wrong. I gave up arguing years ago now I just grin and keep my opinions to myself.

    The one common retort they use against the LC diet argument is that it can’t be healthy because you are cutting out a whole food group and that means it’s not balanced so can’t possibly be healthy. It also really annoys me that when low carb is mentioned they somehow hear “no” carb. I used to respond with something like “if you believe a balanced diet is optimal why are you cutting out all the fat, thats not balanced?” To which the common response is the usual bullshit about heart disease. Drives me nuts.

    And yet many of those same people applaud if you tell them you’re giving an entire food group called “meat.”

    Reply
  28. Walter

    I wanted to post the link to the article showing that stupid people don’t know they are stupid, but someone beat me to it. It went to the cartoon site and found another one appropriate to this topic.

    http://xkcd.com/406/

    There are a lot of good cartoons at this site, its going to take me much longer than usual to get from Fat Head to Free the Animal, might not get to Gary Taubes at all today.

    Very good cartoons.

    Reply
  29. Laurie

    John Adams: Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

    Aldous Huxley: Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

    Thomas Fuller: Get the facts, or the facts will get you. And when you get them, get them right, or they will get you wrong.

    “Comment is free, but facts are sacred,” former UK Guardian editor CP Scott, 1921.

    I gather so much information from FATHEAD, GCBC, etc., and the blogs and discussions. I learn so much additional stuff from the comments and countless times a book suggestion or anecdote will spark my further research and sussing out of ideas. My head has been happily spinning for the past 2.5 years. I am idiot-debate averse, so I thank you kindly for taking that particular bullet(s).
    This ‘forum’ has been monumental for me

    “We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts.” — original source unknown, often attributed to Sen. Daniel Moynihan.

    Reply
  30. Chris

    I was looking into the subject of “unlearning” what we know to be true. On a Franklin Covey blog was this quote from Albert Einstein:

    “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

    Was he talking about the policy that lead to the Obesity Epidemic?

    The half life of a college education is, what, a couple of years? By the time you graduate about half of what you learned is no longer relevant. Life is one big seminar and lifelong learners get more out of life.

    Thanks for being a compelling seminar leader, Tom.

    I finished college 28 years ago, so the relevance of what I was taught must be close to zero by now.

    Reply
  31. Larry

    Once I was chatting with a woman on the internet (while we both should have been working), and she told me she had a cheeseburger for lunch with chili cheese fries on the side, and she felt terrible, physically rundown and tired. She asked me what I had, and I told her grilled chicken breast (unbreaded) with steamed broccoli. She quickly agreed that my lunch not only sounded much better than hers, but that it was also healthier all the way around, and she should have done the same.

    Before the day was over, we started chatting about our struggles with weight loss and I mentioned that I had been having some success by eating low carb. Her response? “Oh, I’d never eat low carb. It’s unhealthy.” *face palm*

    Over months, we continued to discuss our meals and low carb eating, but she could never reconcile her admitted healthiness of my meals with what she “knew” about low carb diets. I can’t go as far as calling her idiot, because I used to suffer from the same block myself.

    Yikes. Sounds like serious cognitive dissonance.

    Reply
  32. Marc

    That was so painful to read. I have similar arguments on a weekly basis. I totally agree with your policy of not arguing with idiots, but it’s so hard not too when you are continuously challenged by them. I’ve been eating a Paleo/Primal diet for 10 months now with amazing results. Sticking to the diet is the easy part. Arguing with idiots is the only side-effect. 🙂

    I agree it’s difficult not to take them on. But once you realize you’re talking to a wall, it’s pointless.

    Reply
  33. dlm

    Who are the 2% who keep weight off on low calorie diets — anorexics?
    I was always thin (with a thick waist) with little exercise, until I quit smoking, hit menopause and became diabetic. Somehow I gained 35 lbs on a 5’4 osteoporotic, pale body. On Richard Bernstein’s Diabetic Solution (and Protein Power and Atkins) I very quickly lost the liquid carb buildup and became “nondiabetic” after junking the lifelong sugar/starch addiction. Now we have Gary Taubes’ masterpiece: GCBC. The arrogance and ignorance that most bother me come from the medical and nutrition industry. Is it threatening to consider a different idea not in your bible?

    You mention high insulin slows metabolism — is that why I’m now hypothyroid or could it be from sudden restriction of carbs?

    A slow metabolism could have a number of causes.

    Reply
  34. Dave

    I recently had a more level headed conversation with a friend who insisted it was all about calories. I asked her at what point in time does the body do the math and take off the weight? She had no answer so I helped her out. Does it do the math at the end of the day before bed? End of the week? Hourly? Still no answer.
    I let her know the body requires fuel every second of life and uses hormone balances to decide what it needs to store and what it needs to burn. Not math.
    Then I asked her if arithmetic was a simple idea and she thought it was. I then asker her is she thought the human body was a complex machine and she agreed that it was. I asked if she believed that a complex machine like the human body relied on simple arithmetic to decide if it was going to store fat or if maybe there was something a little more complex involved. Over 2 weeks now and she is still thinking about her answers.

    Good job of making her think.

    Reply
  35. Laurie

    John Adams: Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

    Aldous Huxley: Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

    Thomas Fuller: Get the facts, or the facts will get you. And when you get them, get them right, or they will get you wrong.

    “Comment is free, but facts are sacred,” former UK Guardian editor CP Scott, 1921.

    I gather so much information from FATHEAD, GCBC, etc., and the blogs and discussions. I learn so much additional stuff from the comments and countless times a book suggestion or anecdote will spark my further research and sussing out of ideas. My head has been happily spinning for the past 2.5 years. I am idiot-debate averse, so I thank you kindly for taking that particular bullet(s).
    This ‘forum’ has been monumental for me

    “We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts.” — original source unknown, often attributed to Sen. Daniel Moynihan.

    Reply
  36. Chris

    I was looking into the subject of “unlearning” what we know to be true. On a Franklin Covey blog was this quote from Albert Einstein:

    “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

    Was he talking about the policy that lead to the Obesity Epidemic?

    The half life of a college education is, what, a couple of years? By the time you graduate about half of what you learned is no longer relevant. Life is one big seminar and lifelong learners get more out of life.

    Thanks for being a compelling seminar leader, Tom.

    I finished college 28 years ago, so the relevance of what I was taught must be close to zero by now.

    Reply
  37. Larry

    Once I was chatting with a woman on the internet (while we both should have been working), and she told me she had a cheeseburger for lunch with chili cheese fries on the side, and she felt terrible, physically rundown and tired. She asked me what I had, and I told her grilled chicken breast (unbreaded) with steamed broccoli. She quickly agreed that my lunch not only sounded much better than hers, but that it was also healthier all the way around, and she should have done the same.

    Before the day was over, we started chatting about our struggles with weight loss and I mentioned that I had been having some success by eating low carb. Her response? “Oh, I’d never eat low carb. It’s unhealthy.” *face palm*

    Over months, we continued to discuss our meals and low carb eating, but she could never reconcile her admitted healthiness of my meals with what she “knew” about low carb diets. I can’t go as far as calling her idiot, because I used to suffer from the same block myself.

    Yikes. Sounds like serious cognitive dissonance.

    Reply
  38. js290

    @steven, does Alan Aragon’s rebuttal of Dr. Lustig question the validity of the biochemistry he listed in the metabolism of glucose, ethanol, and fructose? As Dr. Rosedale put it, you can be sure things are happening at a cellular level. The biochemistry was the most interesting and compelling part of Dr. Lustig’s lecture.

    If someone is going to refute Dr. Lustig’s lecture, they better be doing it on the biochemistry level, not on some observational study/statistical analysis level. It’s impossible to escape the biochemistry happening in the cells.

    As far as CarbSane, I skimmed through her post, and it seems like she’s just arguing for the sake of arguing. The point I get out of Taubes’s work and Fat Head (and all the other paleo/primal/low carb blogs) is it’s trying to point us in a different direction (180 degrees from the current one). And, it doesn’t hurt to try. If they don’t work, go back to whatever you were doing before. Again to paraphrase Dr Rosedale, anything would be an improvement on what most people are currently doing now. The trick is finding out what’s optimal for oneself. It’s not necessary to change the world. Just make it a little better for oneself.

    For me, if science shows something inconclusive, I’m siding with nature until science catches up. This is essentially DeVany’s paleo filter.

    Tom, you should practice some Socratic irony when arguing with those suffering from Dunning-Kruger. Louis Theroux’s Wierd Weekend show was a good example of this. 🙂

    I believe I practiced some Socratic irony with another ignoramus who showed up to comment. It apparently worked; he left the arena after a mere three back-and-forth replies. My effusive praise of his grammar, spelling, and deep understanding of biology was apparently more than he could take.

    Reply
  39. Marc

    That was so painful to read. I have similar arguments on a weekly basis. I totally agree with your policy of not arguing with idiots, but it’s so hard not too when you are continuously challenged by them. I’ve been eating a Paleo/Primal diet for 10 months now with amazing results. Sticking to the diet is the easy part. Arguing with idiots is the only side-effect. 🙂

    I agree it’s difficult not to take them on. But once you realize you’re talking to a wall, it’s pointless.

    Reply
  40. dlm

    Who are the 2% who keep weight off on low calorie diets — anorexics?
    I was always thin (with a thick waist) with little exercise, until I quit smoking, hit menopause and became diabetic. Somehow I gained 35 lbs on a 5’4 osteoporotic, pale body. On Richard Bernstein’s Diabetic Solution (and Protein Power and Atkins) I very quickly lost the liquid carb buildup and became “nondiabetic” after junking the lifelong sugar/starch addiction. Now we have Gary Taubes’ masterpiece: GCBC. The arrogance and ignorance that most bother me come from the medical and nutrition industry. Is it threatening to consider a different idea not in your bible?

    You mention high insulin slows metabolism — is that why I’m now hypothyroid or could it be from sudden restriction of carbs?

    A slow metabolism could have a number of causes.

    Reply
  41. Dave

    I recently had a more level headed conversation with a friend who insisted it was all about calories. I asked her at what point in time does the body do the math and take off the weight? She had no answer so I helped her out. Does it do the math at the end of the day before bed? End of the week? Hourly? Still no answer.
    I let her know the body requires fuel every second of life and uses hormone balances to decide what it needs to store and what it needs to burn. Not math.
    Then I asked her if arithmetic was a simple idea and she thought it was. I then asker her is she thought the human body was a complex machine and she agreed that it was. I asked if she believed that a complex machine like the human body relied on simple arithmetic to decide if it was going to store fat or if maybe there was something a little more complex involved. Over 2 weeks now and she is still thinking about her answers.

    Good job of making her think.

    Reply
  42. js290

    @steven, does Alan Aragon’s rebuttal of Dr. Lustig question the validity of the biochemistry he listed in the metabolism of glucose, ethanol, and fructose? As Dr. Rosedale put it, you can be sure things are happening at a cellular level. The biochemistry was the most interesting and compelling part of Dr. Lustig’s lecture.

    If someone is going to refute Dr. Lustig’s lecture, they better be doing it on the biochemistry level, not on some observational study/statistical analysis level. It’s impossible to escape the biochemistry happening in the cells.

    As far as CarbSane, I skimmed through her post, and it seems like she’s just arguing for the sake of arguing. The point I get out of Taubes’s work and Fat Head (and all the other paleo/primal/low carb blogs) is it’s trying to point us in a different direction (180 degrees from the current one). And, it doesn’t hurt to try. If they don’t work, go back to whatever you were doing before. Again to paraphrase Dr Rosedale, anything would be an improvement on what most people are currently doing now. The trick is finding out what’s optimal for oneself. It’s not necessary to change the world. Just make it a little better for oneself.

    For me, if science shows something inconclusive, I’m siding with nature until science catches up. This is essentially DeVany’s paleo filter.

    Tom, you should practice some Socratic irony when arguing with those suffering from Dunning-Kruger. Louis Theroux’s Wierd Weekend show was a good example of this. 🙂

    I believe I practiced some Socratic irony with another ignoramus who showed up to comment. It apparently worked; he left the arena after a mere three back-and-forth replies. My effusive praise of his grammar, spelling, and deep understanding of biology was apparently more than he could take.

    Reply

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