“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.” — Mark Twain
This post will be about a magazine, not a newspaper, but close enough.
While digging through my research files over the weekend, I stumbled across a handful of diet and health articles from TIME magazine online. If you’ve ever wondered why people are so confused about diets and calories and weight gain, just poke through old issues of TIME. Despite all appearing in the same publication, the articles contradict each other. Perhaps that’s TIME magazine’s version of objective reporting: don’t just quote both sides in a debate — argue both sides yourself.
Let’s start with a 2012 article titled It’s the Calories, Stupid. That article was about a study conducted by George Bray, who concluded that macronutrients make no difference for weight loss … even though the carbohydrate content was the same in the diets he tested. I wrote about that study in this post, but here’s what TIME magazine had to say:
When it comes to weight gain, it’s all about the calories.
That might seem obvious, but popular diets continue to suggest that lowering or increasing certain dietary components — carbs or protein, say — is the key to weight loss. A clever new study by researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge shows, however, that it’s not what you eat but how much that matters when it comes to body weight.
Okay, so it’s all about calories, period. Calories in, calories out. Got it. Thanks, TIME magazine.
I found that article so enlightening, I moved on to another titled For Weight Loss Success, Think About When, Not Just What, You Eat:
Timing is everything for losing weight.
Say what? I’m pretty sure you just informed me it’s all about the calories, stupid. George Bray said so.
In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, the scientists monitored 420 overweight participants on a 20-week weight loss program in Spain. The volunteers were split into two groups: early-eaters and late-eaters. Since lunch is considered the largest meal in Spain–about 40% of the day’s calories are consumed in the mid-day meal–half the participants ate lunch before 3 p.m. while the remainder ate lunch after 3 p.m.
The late-eaters lost less weight overall, and shed pounds at a slower rate than those eating earlier. Those eating lunch later were more likely to skip breakfast or eat fewer calories, while the timing of breakfast and dinner didn’t influence weight loss effectiveness for either group.
Let me get this straight: the late-lunch eaters skipped breakfast and ate fewer calories, but they lost less weight. So now you’re telling me it’s all about the calories, stupid, unless if you consume your calories later in the day. Then you won’t lose as much weight despite eating less. Got it. Thanks, TIME magazine.
I guess at the very least, we can agree that if Americans would just consume fewer calories (preferably at an early lunch), the obesity rate would decline. To confirm that, I read the article titled Americans Are Eating Fewer Calories, So Why Are We Still Obese?
The good news: we’re eating fewer calories. The bad news: that’s not translating into lower obesity rates.
Two federal studies on the amount of calories Americans eat show that we are eating less than we did about a decade ago, and that we’re also limiting the amount of fast food we consume.
But if Americans are eating less fast food overall, why are obesity rates still so high?
Uh … maybe it’s because we’re eating too many of our fewer calories during a late lunch?
As encouraging as the calorie data are, the decreases aren’t significant enough to make a dent in the upward trend of obesity.
I bet you’re about to say it’s because we don’t exercise enough.
Refining that message may require delving deeper in what Americans are eating, and addressing the balance between the amount of calories that we eat and the amount we burn off daily through physical activity.
Pardon the interruption while I gripe about word choice. If you measure something, you quantify it as an amount. If you count something, you quantify it as a number. We don’t measure calories; we count them. It drives me batty when reporters write about the amount of calories we consume instead of the number of calories we consume. Anyway …
And while eating less is a good way to start addressing the obesity epidemic, it may be that slimming the national waistline means we also have to boost the amount of exercise we get every day.
So we’re eating less but not getting any slimmer, and that probably means we don’t exercise as much as we used to. To confirm that suspicion, I checked an article titled You Can Run But You Can’t Hide:
More Americans are exercising more often, but so far, we’re really not losing much weight. According to one researcher: “To tackle obesity, we need to do this. But we probably also need to do more … Just counting on physical activity is not going to be the solution.”
Okay, uh, so … it’s all about the calories, stupid, but when you consume those calories makes a big difference, and we obviously need to consume fewer calories to lose weight, even though Americans are consuming fewer calories without making a dent in obesity rates, but that’s because we don’t exercise enough, even though we’re exercising more than we used to without making a dent in obesity rates
Okay, got it. Thanks, TIME magazine.