The Men Who Made Us Thin, Part Two

      39 Comments on The Men Who Made Us Thin, Part Two

Here’s the second episode of the BBC documentary series The Men Who Made Us Thin.  This episode deals with exercise and drugs as failed methods for treating obesity.

The first half takes us down memory lane to revisit the fitness craze that sparked jam-packed health clubs, aerobics classes, and of course Jane Fonda’s workout videos.  As the researchers who are interviewed explain, the belief that aerobic exercise induces weight loss is certainly entrenched, but was based on bad science — which is why even today, health clubs are packed every January and half-empty by May.  People put in the time and effort, don’t lose weight, become frustrated and give up.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with exercise itself.  Exercise (the right kind) is great for overall health, endurance, mood, etc.  Part of our Sunday routine is to go to the recreation center, where Chareva and I take turns lifting weights while the girls swim.  I’m delighted that as I near age 55, I’m stronger than I was at 35.  I feel good when we leave the gym. Chareva was delighted recently when she was checking out at a hardware store and the clerk looked at her arms and asked, “Do you lift?”

But the notion (heavily promoted by the fitness industry) that walking on a treadmill or dancing around the aerobics room a few times per week is going to lead to significant weight loss simply isn’t true.  I believed it was true for years and had a difficult time letting go of the idea … perhaps because exercise = weight loss just feels cosmically correct:  if you put out that much effort, you should be rewarded with the weight loss you desire.

Unfortunately, the research shows otherwise.  Here are just a few examples:

In this study, women participated in aerobics and resistance exercise sessions five times per week for 24 weeks.  That’s a lot of exercise.  The result?  On average, the women lost 2.2% of their body mass and 10% of their fat mass.  A 10% loss of fat mass may sound impressive at first, but let’s do some simple math.  If a woman is at 35% bodyfat (obese) and weighs 175 pounds, that’s 61 pounds of fat.  So the reward for 24 weeks of exercising five times per week is … dropping six pounds of fat.  Whoopee.  Clean up your diet, and you could lose that much fat in a few weeks.

This study supports a point one of the researchers made in the film:  Kids don’t get fat because they don’t move around as much as their lean peers.  They get fat first, then stop moving as much.  (That’s why I cut the walking-to-school bits from the Director’s Cut of Fat Head.  It was after the original release that I learned I got in wrong in that section.)

This article about a meta-analysis of studies on kids and exercise makes the same point, only in reverse:  getting fat kids to move around more doesn’t make them thinner:

Researchers analyzed results from 14 earlier trials that assigned overweight and obese youth to a diet and exercise program or a diet-only intervention. Those programs lasted anywhere from six weeks to six months.

Most studies found kids tended to have a lower body mass index (BMI) – a ratio of weight in relation to height – and a smaller percentage of body fat after completing either type of intervention. Adding aerobic exercise such as jogging or dance to a restricted-calorie diet had little effect on weight loss.

Once again, results like these don’t mean I’m against exercise for fat kids.  Here’s why:

However, kids who did resistance training lost more body fat than those who didn’t exercise, according to the analysis. Strength training for an hour or less each week was tied to an extra half a percent drop in body fat and a greater increase in muscle.

Forget the jogging.  If you want to improve your body composition, lift some weights. Toned muscles make you look and feel better, whether you lose weight or not.

When the episode of The Men Who Made Us Thin recounted the aerobics/Jane Fonda craze, it occurred to me that waaaay back in the day, I did some bits on those topics in my standup act.  So I dug out a box of tapes and found an old Hi-8 tape from the 1990s.  Fortunately, I also found my old Hi-8 analog camcorder in the attic and was able to transfer from the Hi-8 to a digital camcorder and then to my Mac.  Since the exercise bits were short, I included few minutes on other topics as well.  (As was usually the case when recording in a crowded club, you’ll see some good close-ups of a waitress’ head.)


39 thoughts on “The Men Who Made Us Thin, Part Two

  1. Tom Welsh

    Unfortunately, Tom, there don’t seem to be many inflexible rules in this subject. I have struggled for decades to get out of the “obese” BMI bracket and down nearer to a normal weight. About my best try was 14 years ago, now, when I signed up at a local gym and began going there every single day. I would walk rapidly on the treadmill (gradually shifting to a jog, and tilting it so I was running uphill, as I got stronger). After about an hour of that I did Nautilus for another 20-30 minutes, warmed down, and left.

    For the first 3-4 weeks, there was no significant effect. Over the following 5 months I lost about 3 stone. True, I was often skipping lunch because I was at the gym instead. But there was not the slightest trace of the “eating more to compensate” that we hear so much about.

    Sadly, I eventually got bored, convinced myself I couldn’t afford the subscription, and quit. Sure enough, 6 months later I was right back where I started. But that was because I quit! I feel confident that if I had gone on with the same routine, I would have wound up at my ideal weight and probably maintained it.

    I don’t deny for a moment that there are many people who can’t lose weight through exercise. But I think it defies common sense to say that no one can. In exactly the same way as it defies common sense to say that fat and red meat make you fat and sick, when people have been eating them for millennia. Since time immemorial, it’s been known that people who do intense physical labour for long enough get lean, sinewy, and strong.

    Sure, there are always exceptions. But recommending aerobic exercise as a weight-loss plan for most people has clearly been a failure. We’ve also seen that even people who work at manual-labor jobs all day can become obese.

    I look at burning calories through exercise as the flip side of consuming fewer calories. Both are intended to create a calorie deficit, which is a necessary but not sufficient condition for significant weight loss. Burning off body fat requires both the need to burn body fat and the ability to burn body fat. Without the ability to burn body fat, the body responds to the deficit by slowing down the metabolism or consuming lean tissue. So depending on your hormonal state, you may or may not lose fat faster through lots of exercise.

    I agree that the commonly-observed “exercise makes you hungrier” result is probably conditional. If your diet is allowing you easy access to your fat stores, you may end up “eating” your own body fat and feel just fine. When I was a regular jogger but living on my vegetarian diet of pasta and potatoes, exercise definitely made me hungry — that’s why I was a fat jogger.

  2. Bex

    Oh you would have LOVED the programme we got last night /sarcasm

    The Unhealthy Generation – why our kids are fat, and the presenter spent time at a residential fat camp for kids…..

    One of the kids didn’t like his food.

    I’m not surprised…

    It was cold pasta salad (blech) and sugar free jelly – surely you’d give them fruit?


  3. neal matheson

    Cripes that BBC show was just painful. My biggest peeve is when people start using evolution or “ancestors environments” with almost literally no idea of what they are talking about.

    Agreed. Being 40 pounds overweight is not good for survival if you chase/are chased by wild animals.

  4. A Red Herring

    Don’t take this the wrong way but looking at your standup makes me realize just how excellent famous comedians have to be. Just getting the pacing and delivery right looks so easy but it’s obviously extremely hard.
    Jokes that are funny on paper can suddenly flop on stage.
    Thinking about this reminds me of Geoff Colvin, his deliberate practice concept and how he talks about going from good to great at something is mostly the result of insane amounts of work and sacrifice. Insane amounts I hope to achieve myself as a writer (and who knows? maybe I won’t starve). I came very close to deciding to become a comic; I’ve got both the innate desire to tell myself stories, and, to make people laugh. It’s been said that if you don’t have that innate desire you won’t make it because there’s no real external incentive to do stand-up (or to write fiction books, honestly)
    How did you decide to do comedy?

    You are correct; what looks easygoing and natural to the audience is the result of lots of hard work. If I had a dry spell between gigs, I could feel that my timing was off for the next couple of shows.

    I decided to try comedy for two main reasons:

    1. After years of trying to keep a band together, I was tired of having my success depend on others being equally dedicated, which they never were. It seemed that every musician I worked with eventually had problems with drugs, alcohol, wives or girlfriends who wanted them to stay home, general laziness, etc. I remember the exact night I gave up on working with other musicians: Another guy (who seemed totally dedicated and enthusiastic) and I had developed a Smothers-Brothers type act with songs and schtick. At our first paid gig, he showed up drunk and couldn’t remember his lines or his harmonies. It was hugely embarrassing and I couldn’t wait to bolt from the stage That as was the “never again” moment for me.

    2. I had published some humor pieces in newspapers and magazines and figured doing standup was basically a matter of talking about the kinds of subject I’d written about. I was dead wrong on that. What’s funny to read and what’s funny to hear are related, but not the same. So I took a job as a doorman at the Improv in Chicago and watched real comedians do their thing 10 or so times per week. Then I completely re-wrote my bits and started going to open mikes, always recording my set and listening afterwards to analyze and make improvements. When I felt I was ready, I auditioned at Zanies in Chicago and got my first job as an opener.

    1. Angel

      I discovered a similar concept on my own while I was working as a Russian translator in the Navy, a very challenging job that I really wanted to do extremely well at. I found that getting to about the 90% level of competence (as I judged competence) took a certain amount of effort (I’ll say X amount of effort). Getting that last 10% of competence didn’t just take another 10% of X, though – it took another whole X, which really surprised me – that was A LOT of work!

      I did find that once I had reached that 100%, though, the habits and discipline I had developed to get there kept me 100% competent with not much more effort than that needed to coast along at 90% – so I certainly found that it was worth it. It’s interesting to me now as I go through life, I can pretty easily spot the people who choose 90% (or less) and those who choose to go the extra mile. The latter people tend to be pretty rare.

      Thanks for posting the stand-up routine video – you are a very good comic. I would not object to more such videos being posted in the future. 🙂

      I may dig out more bits later.

  5. George Wilson

    I think exercise makes you feel better but it doesn’t make you loose weight. In fact, for me it seemed to stall weight loss as I replaced fat with denser muscle. No problem, as I was starting to trend out from a major weight loss effort and I like the trimmer look it gives me. (I bought a new suit with a ‘modern’ cut – for the more athletic build – yippee!)

    I mix a little Fred Hahn’s ‘slow burn’ concept with some stretching and some aerobics. I found his ideas on power did result in reasonably quick progress in building muscle. While he is not a big fan of stretching, I’ve found it to be good for my mobility. I do weight training Monday and Friday, following his advice to have 3-4 days between sessions. I do aerobic cycling on Wednesday. This seems to tie the systems together and I find real benefit in my avocation as a Bluegrass singer. Also I found myself at 10,000 ft in Park City, UT last week and I didn’t have any altitude issues.

    I’m fortunate in that the company for which I work built a big fancy gym, with professional trainers, as an employee benefit. All it costs me is time.

    Fred’s method was a big help to me as well. I got quite a bit stronger and stopped hurting myself, which allowed me to stay on track.

  6. A Red Herring

    near the end:
    “a fat persone in evolutionnary terms is a survivor”
    No, a fat person is bear food.

    Getting fat to a point is useful for survival, but certainly not if your belly makes you more attractive to bears and easier to catch.

  7. Cary L

    As of yesterday the first 3 episodes of this 4 part series is up on Youtube. Have enjoyed them tremendously and the information presented is powerful to say the least. Thank you for sharing this Tom, much appreciated!

      1. labrat

        Thanks Tim – I’m one of those impatient people!

        There’s a lot of interesting information in this series but it’s unfortunate that the only solution this reporter sees is more government intervention. Haven’t governments done enough damage already?

        I certainly think so. Let’s start by getting the government out of the food and nutrition business, then go from there.

  8. Galina L.

    I am an exercise enthusiast ans a harsh critic of using exercise as weight-loss program at the same time. Things you do to normalize you weight should last for years, like a low-carbohydrate diet. The minute you stop doing it, it stops working. Starting exercise may work as a weight-loss intervention initially for many people, especially if it is a big change in their usual routine. The more you do it, the more your body gets adjusted to it, you try to add more, you get injured and stuck in that situation. Here is a great blog-post by Kindke -don’t stop exercising – it makes you fat Cessation of physical exercise changes metabolism and modifies the adipocyte cellularity of the periepididymal white adipose tissue in rats. Unfortunately, injuries are serious issue, and absolute majority of people who exercise a lot will be dealing regularly with sport or overuse injuries.
    I love to move for fun and entertainment – skiing, skating,swimming dancing, yoga, tai-chi, hiking, I love it all. I am strong, move with an ease, my balance is very good. Exercising does wonders for my mental balance and autoimmune conditions. It is the safest and healthiest way to get high. Last month I am giving a pole fitness a try, it requires even more strength, and I am not sure how much it could be improved for me being almost 53 years old. .

    That’s one of the main reasons Fred Hahn’s slow-burn method has worked so well for me: I don’t injure myself and have to take a month off. And I have no intention of ever stopping. I see elderly people who can barely shuffle along or need a walker, and I’m determined not to become one of them.

  9. Chuck

    Back in 2008 I decided to go on a diet too. My starting weight was 276 lbs. I did the calorie counting method and started at 2000 calories per day (since that is what all the nutritional labels are based on). I lost an average of 4 lbs. per week (no exercise except what I got at work), and when it slowed down I would take 100 calories off the daily total. After losing 50 lbs. this way my weight loss stalled out, so I bought a book by a famous TV trainer.

    At the time I thought it was weird how the book claimed cutting fat out of your diet was bad and that it was important, but at the same time preached all these low fat recipes. Huh, I’m confused. Fat is good and important but you should eat a low-fat diet. It also stated that the best way to lose weight was to fool your body by varying calorie intake per day(1700 one day 1500 another etc.). This would keep your body from adjusting to the same calorie intake per day and keep it guessing. I thought well, it’s worth a shot.

    I followed this advise and did the exercise program in the back of the book (5 days a week 🙁 ). I finally got to my goal weight of 172, which is what my BMI was suppose to be (5′ 11½”). I knew the BMI scale was a load of @$#! but I though what the hell, I’ve gone this far. Not long after reaching my goal, I stopped the exercise program, and kept my weight around 176 lbs. I also lost a lot of muscle, and could no longer pick up the heavy objects with ease like I used too. I thought that was odd because the exercise program involved some weight lifting, so you could have leaner stronger muscles. Shouldn’t I be stronger then? Funny how after losing 100 pounds 10 push ups are just as hard as they were before.

    The food I ate was mostly vegetarian and grain based. I didn’t eat much meat because it had such a high calorie count. 2 days after starting the diet, I was super run down and had no energy. I started taking multivitamins and that perked me up. I kept this up until about the fall of 2010 (Holiday time). The cravings for the things that I was not eating were starting to take over again (cookies, candy, mom’s dinner rolls, etc.). At the beginning of 2011 my pants were getting tight again and the will power was eroding away. I also quit my job because I could not take the B.S. anymore (it was a horrible place to work). Then I just sat around the house eating carbage and slowly getting fatter.

    Like most people, I figured that my laziness and loss of will power is what got the best of me. Then about a month ago I stumbled upon your movie while searching HULU and watched it. I started my low-carb diet right then and there and haven’t looked back. The weight is falling off rapidly and I feel great. I hesitate to call it a diet, because it in no way resembles a traditional diet – starvation, iron will, bad food, deprivation, horrible workout regiments etc.

    Since seeing the movie I have watched your other You Tube videos, read a lot of your blog here and done some of my own research. Now I understand why my previous diet did work so well. It wasn’t the calorie reduction or the “healthy” food choices, it was because I cut sugar out of my diet. I learned one of the easiest ways to cut calories was to cut out sugar, (and unfortunately most meat) and even though I had a high carb diet, the amount was severely restricted by calorie reduction.

    Thank you for opening my eyes and educating me. Now I can be thinner and healthier without having to kill myself in the process. Keep up the good work. I hope you post more videos of your standup act in the future, even if they aren’t about food and weight loss. You are very funny.

    I’m glad you found the “diet” that isn’t a diet in the deprivation sense. Eating this way ended years of frustration for me as well. No counting, no going hungry, just eating until I’m satisfied.

  10. Karen T

    I just attracted a crowd small crowd to my “career capsule” (cubicle) by laughing out loud at your stand up video. On the plus side, it is a great way to introduce people to the Fat Head website 🙂

    Thank you.

  11. Beowulf

    I’m lean and very active (active jobs, active hobbies, also lift weights). I also eat a lot. People are so set on the idea that “I can eat a lot because I burn it off” that they just can’t wrap their heads around it when I say that, “I burn a lot of calories because my body is hormonally interested in burning extra stuff instead of storing it. If I ate less, I’d feel less inclined to move around a lot.”

    My new personal training clients also look like they get a brain cramp when I tell them that exercise won’t make them lose weight beyond a small amount, if that.

    It’s an uphill battle, but I’m glad you’re fighting it and providing good information for people. Thank you!

    I like the term Gary Taubes used in GCBC: a compulsion to move. People who are naturally lean have bodies that don’t like to store fat, so they feel compelled to burn off excess energy by moving. Chareva’s dad is like that. He has a hard time sitting still. Both times her parents stayed with the girls while were on the cruise, we came home to find wood chopped, benches built, furniture moved, etc.

    1. Firebird7478

      If I rent some kids, will they babysit them so I can get some work done around here while I take a cruise? 😉

      I’m not sure how you’re going to take a cruise and get work done at the same time.

  12. Kevin

    Hi Tom,

    From what you post, I gather that I eat a similar diet and exercise a similar schedule that you do. Specifically, I eat a mostly paleo diet and lift weights in a Type IIB exercise system about once a week.

    I think one problem with this new-fangled nutritional science is that people forget that we aren’t science experiments. We aren’t raw data. I liken this to Dave Ramsey in the sense that if it was all about math, nobody above the sixth grade would get themselves entangled in debt. Debt is an emotional issue; this is why its better to pay off your debts small to large rather than large to small; because the emotional gain of winning overshadows the math of a larger interest rate.

    My point is that while traditional exercise may SCIENTIFICALLY do next to nothing for weight loss, it may break a mental or emotional habit which can help. Waking up an hour early, dedicating yourself to a new routine, and pushing through difficult or excruciating exercises day after day may offer a lot more emotional support than any scientific justification.

    I enjoy eating mostly a paleo-like diet. I enjoy walking my dog Michael about 2-3 miles a day. I’d rather be a vegetarian than run a marathon, and that’s saying something. I’m perfectly content with a 90% Paleo diet and some high intensity exercises.

    Occasionally, I enjoy eating pizza and other junk foods. I know they aren’t good for me, but sometimes I just don’t care and demolish a whole pie. And wince in pain the next day as the wheat tears apart my intestines.

    We aren’t science experiments. Most of us don’t eat the same, strict foods found in the rigid clinical studies on nutrition (even the good ones). Sometimes we have a bad day, and Dr. Doritos comes to the rescue. (I don’t care for Doritos, but anyway I digress).

    I just come back to the point that there are so many people shouting SCIENCE and sometimes I feel that this is becoming another four-letter word, even if the science is correct. Like global warming (climate change or whatever), even if the science is correct, any “solution” is political, affects people, their economies, and their way of life, and as such is a political issue. The payroll tax (Social Security tax) is also set up exactly this way. FDR set up the system so that a payroll tax would shield the benefit from future politicians. Emotion trumps logic any day of the week. This is why I’m surprised why people blame Congress for being a mess. We vote them mostly for emotional reasons, not intellectual reasons, so why does anyone wonder when the intellect is missing in Washington?

    I’d argue that exercise helps people lose weight not due to any physiological change, but because it helps them give a sense of accomplishment. I’m well aware of the fact that many scientific studies argue that exercise only makes people hungrier. I’m also aware that weightlifting and HIIT exercises are the most effective overall. Mathematically there is no way one can defend Social Security, but tell that to someone who collects their monthly check as a way to support themselves. Perhaps this is the same dilemma with the “Move More” crowd.

    Ultimately, that’s one reason I like your blog and views. You have some science to back up what you like, you can dissect the bad science quite well, but ultimately you have a “This works for me because I like it and I can do it” philosophy. Human beings aren’t science experiments – we are emotional creatures. Sometimes there is a rhyme and reason why we do things, other times there are not.

    You made several good points, and I agree that the mood-enhancing effect of exercise may keep a person motivated to, say, stick to the proper diet. I’d offer one caveat, though: waking up early every day (earlier than your body wants to wake up) and pushing yourself to exercise without sufficient recovery time between sessions can mean a lack of sleep and elevated cortisol levels, both of which encourage weight gain.

    On one of the cruises, a woman complained to Fred Hahn that she gets up early every day to go jogging but couldn’t lose any more weight. Fred told her to forget the jogging and get more sleep. That seemed counter-intuitive to her, and she clearly wanted to believe that all that self-discipline was paying off somehow, but she later mentioned on Facebook that she followed his advice and started losing weight again.

  13. Dallas

    I had searched your name on YouTube a number of times hoping to find some old stand-up of yours. Thanks for posting this. It was very entertaining 🙂

    I haven’t uploaded much of my old standup act. Here’s a short bit:

    1. Dallas

      If you ever decide to make a documentary about babies, you could call it “Itchyhead” to go with “Fathead” 🙂

      Or big itchy head.

  14. Lisa McClure

    Thanks for sharing these videos, Tom! Boy, the BBC series is a real trip down memory lane, isn’t it? I can remember my Dad had one of those butt shaking machines back in the 60s. My mother always bought into the theory that fat people ate because they were neurotic (bored, depressed, poor self image, etc.) or because they lacked will power and self discipline. I had left home by the time the idea came along that people were fat because they were too lazy to get out and exercise.

    Well, I was born with a roll of “baby fat” around my middle, and when it didn’t disappear in adolescence as I have been promised throughout my childhood, I knew that I had inherited my body type from my Dad’s side of the family, and that I could spend my life starving and obsessing about food, like my Dad’s mother, or just be fat.

    In the late 70s my Dad lost a lot of weight on Atkins, and I did, too. Damn, I looked and felt great that year. So, I did know pretty early on that carbs were bad for me. But after I fell off the wagon and gained all the weight back, I realized that I was going to have to make a lifetime commitment, and frankly, that’s a heck of a big commitment when you’re 20 years old, and finally free to eat anything you like. At that point, I basically said to myself, “I don’t want food to rule my life. I’ll give up carbs when my health forces me to do it.”

    Frankly, I can’t imagine that I could have resisted all media propaganda and peer pressure and stayed low carb for the past 3 decades. Now, I’m in my 50s and have been “on the wagon” since October 15, 2012. At this age, a lifetime commitment doesn’t seem such a big deal anymore. I do want to thank you so much, Tom, for your wonderful Fathead documentary. I laughed all the way through, and as a Libertarian, I totally “got” the message. Your film reminded me of my earlier promise to myself, and helped me finally “take the pledge”.

    Carbs really don’t tempt me at all anymore, but dealing with the public perception that low fat = healthy is still a burr in my side. I think we do have to communicate the truth about fat and carbs, and I hope that with the Internet, we can overcome all the miscommunication, so that those who really do want to start eating high fat/low carb healthy from a young age can get peer / media / health support to do it.

    I think there’s a groundswell out there, with more and more people realizing it’s the sugars and the grains that are to blame for many of our health problems, not fats. The powers-that-be can keep preaching lowfat and hearthealthywholegrains all they want, but all they’ll do is lose more respect and more trust — which, as a libertarian, I see as positive development.

  15. Jim

    What do you make of the Loma Linda group in California consuming the worst possible diet imaginable? They are unique in the fact that they are mostly lacto-ovo-vegetarians and have extraordinary health and longevity. Unlike other groups with nearly an identical diet who have relatively poor health. Some contribute it to their inner peace and associate it with their religion. A view I do not buy at all.

    A lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet that excludes sugar and other junk is going to produce better results than the SAD. Since stress is a contributor to heart disease, I do believe inner peace or whatever you want to call it makes a difference.

    1. Jim

      Thank you. A “view I do not buy at all” was a poor choice of words. I too believe reduced stress would be a positive factor. Just don’t believe the inner peace alone would elevate them into a “Blue Zone”. Particularly when grains and soy are a focus for them.


      1. Jim

        My hope is that someone will find a strong link between the two drastically different diets. High fat/low carb and low fat/high carb diets producing similar results. At least in the case of the Loma Linda group.

        I do have my own thoughts but my own theories turn out to be incorrect nearly every time. In this instance, I was looking for a specific group of people known not to consume a specific item. This was the only such group in the world that I could find not consuming it(or at least known not to consume it).

        Ironically, they’re also one of the top five healthiest groups in the world and have the worst diet(from my perspective). Too much of a coincidence for me to ignore. However, I’m hoping someone will find the same thing that I’ve found but without the influence of a know-nothing like myself. If someone comes to the same conclusion separately then this would help confirm my own thoughts on the matter. Don’t mean to be deceptive, but please investigate.

        Thank you,

        From what I’ve seen it’s a diet featuring lots of vegetables and other whole foods and is devoid of sugar, white flour, candy, soda, etc. One site also described it as a diet that focuses on low-glycemic foods. In other words, it’s a lot like a paleo diet minus the meat. I would expect someone on that diet to be healthier than people who eat the standard American diet.

        1. Jim

          This group is connected to the invention of cereal. High on the glycemic list. It is a part of their belief system. Frankly, their focus is sugar. Not processed sugar though.

          It appears you’re a computer programmer. An example: You have a growing number of documents. Say a thousand to begin with. Your task is to parse the title and store as a field in a db. The documents are written by a thousand different individuals with a thousand different styles. Most contain titles but some do not. Some contain delimiters some do not. You want this function to last at least until your retirement. You don’t want to mess with it again. What do you do? You find the pattern.

          Forgive me. I don’t intend to be contentious. The reason I’m requesting this of you is because I believe you and I are somewhat on the same wavelength. It’s a win-win situation. There’s no doubt to me that I’m missing many things. There is much to learn from a group such as this. There’s nothing to learn by ignoring them.

    2. Richard Tamesis, MD

      I work in Loma Linda (no, I’m not a Seventh Day Adventist), and what you see in the press about the longevity and health of SDAs is very different from what we see in clinics with just tons of patients with obesity, diabetes, inflammatory problems, cancer and cardiovascular diseases taking a whole drugstore worth of meds. Don’t believe the hype about their diet in the media.

      1. Jim

        Thank you. I do suppose my request was not a fair thing to post here. I came from the opposite direction(ending with this group) and was hoping to find someone who could make a reasonably strong argument. Most significant to me was this study:

        It stands out as an anomaly. Other studies produce different results. Since making the request in this forum, I’ve received positive feedback from a certain research scientist I respect. If there’s any truth in my own crazy thoughts, they will shine. If not, they will fade. In any case, they are now out of my head and I’ve moved on.

        Those studies seem to be all over the map. I have a handful of them in my files showing that vegetarians and vegans are more prone to depression and eating disorders.

        1. Jim

          Yes. Comments regarding this particular study consistently lack substance and are generally based on assumption. The assumptions may or may not be true. However, since they are nothing more than assumptions, they help reinforce my own particular theory. A theory I don’t particularly care for.

          Here’s an example commentary regarding the study:
          It is possible this study stands apart from the others because vegetarians within this group experience greater esteem among their peers, are more confident in their own spirituality, or are more conscientious in other areas of their lives just as they adhere more strongly to the teachings of their religion. Regardless of the precise reason for this one anomaly, six out of these seven studies found that vegetarians are more likely to experience mental disorders.


  16. Eddie Jacobs

    I’m not entirely convinced that you were off base with the walking to school bits in the documentary. I can pretty much pinpoint a majority of my weight gain around the time I got my drivers license and started driving everywhere. Before that I walked anywhere I needed to go.

    I was wedded to that idea myself, but the research says otherwise. Kids get fat first, then don’t move as much. Even in studies where people did aerobics five days per week (and I’ve seen two different ones like that), the weight loss after six months consisted of a few pounds.

  17. marie

    Losing significant weight by calorie-restricted diets and/or punishing exercise reminds me of Mark Twain’s quip : “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”
    One trouble I see with deprivation-type approaches of friends and relatives, whether it’s exhaustive cardio or staying hungry on a long diet, is the psychological one.
    The deprivation’s success at the beginning reinforces the idea that it’s all about will-power.
    People feel so ‘in control’ and virtuous while it’s working and proud of their accomplishment. Then later when weight comes back on, as it does for the vast majority, they berate themselves and think they must ‘just try hard’ again, essentially punishing themselves.
    That’s a vicious cycle right there, so that eventually self-esteem is in the toilet and they feel stupid and weak-willed, as well as fat, tired and ugly.
    Thanks for pointing to this BBC series and your commentary, while the funny stand-up worked as a huge relief! I watched it first and then again after the episode to re-balance my mood 🙂

    That willpower/berating cycle was quite familiar to me back in the day.

  18. Walter Bushell

    Everyone has noticed that the men who made us fat have been far more successful so far than the men who made us thin. Anyway, there are a significant number of women on both sides.

  19. Hilary Kyro

    The memes of the Weider bodybuilding empire and the Jane Fonda fitness formula, were respectively, “No pain, no gain!” and “Make it burn!” If you aren’t getting results, it is no doubt because you failed to push yourself through the pain and soul searching of the Spanish Inquisition or you lack a plastic thingy to measure protein pasta that costs $12. Force, humiliation, repetition and malnutrition led to injury, disease, disappointment, depression, death and degrading Diet Coke burps.
    I hope the lesson taken from all this pain is not what the BBC bangs-on; diet and exercise is a waste of time and money, government please help us not have so much pocket money to afford too many crisps!
    The lessons are lo-fat starvation was a fail and grinding cardio was a boring way to earn an Oreo. You can transform your body and your life with your eating, movement and attitude.

  20. Mary

    This is one topic on which I don’t agree with you. I don’t agree with Mark Sisson either. You both are forgetting something (or ignoring it). A lot of people cure moderate depression with exercise and keep stress at bay – and this requires both intense bouts of cardio and weight lifting. I do both and I can promise you that if I don’t, I won’t lose weight. I’m living proof of that. I did the Whole30 Challenge recently and lost 8 lbs in one month – which proves diet is super key. But I’m positive that if I’d exercised more (not rabidly or like a mouse on a wheel, though), I’d have not only dropped more weight, but I’d have seen even better results in the toning of my body. Not to mention that exercise, especially cycling, makes me high as a kite and puts me in my happy zone, i.e. no depression, i.e. no drinkie-drink, i.e. no over eating or eating what I shouldn’t. I can stay primal/paleo easily and willingly if I stay in my happy place and exercise. But I’ll only exercise if I’m in my happy place…I think you get my point. It goes full circle. Without the proper diet (PR/PA), nope, I won’t lose weight. But even with the proper diet, without exercise, nope, I won’t lose weight. And likely I won’t follow proper diet. Crap…I’ve now confused myself.

    Okay, carry on- love your blog! 🙂

    I don’t disagree with that. If exercise puts you in a mood where you’re more likely to stick to the diet you know is right, it has indirectly aided in your weight-loss efforts. Exercise (the right kind) can absolutely improve your muscle tone.

  21. Mark Powlett

    Great to see that so many people have seen these shows and also want to debate what they say in them. What isnt in question is the money that people spend on diets.
    I wonder if eating a more healthy diet and doing more exercise with education is better than giving all this money to big corporations?!

    I’d say so, yes.

  22. Drew @ Willpower Is For Fat People

    One minor thing, just because this is a big pet peeve on a fitness site I hang out on: There’s no such thing as a “toned” muscle.

    People – mostly women – are always asking how to exercise to “get toned” without “bulking up”. They’re apparently afraid that if they pick up something heavier than a purse they’re suddenly going to explode like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Believe me, I’ve been lifting a whole lot of heavy stuff trying to blow up like that. It ain’t that easy, and you won’t do it by accident.

    Exercise can make muscles bigger. Diet can reduce the amount of fat covering the muscles, increasing definition. But “tone”? Doesn’t mean anything.

    And don’t get me started on yoga or Pilates supposedly giving you “longer” muscles. Even if that were true (which it’s not) who wants longer muscles?

    Developing muscles like Arnold requires a perfect combination of genetics, hours and hours of hard workouts, and steroids.


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