I’m Ok, You’re Ok

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.
― Dale Carnegie

Every morning I get a slew of articles on health. I read them when I have time, which unfortunately is not often these days. But today there were several that were just too good to pass up. To start us off right, let’s read about this poor woman:

Lindsey Averill spent most of her life thinking things would be better if she could just get skinnier. She counted calories and worked out, but still couldn’t reach the size she wanted, the one she saw on TV and in magazines.

The point of this is that Lindsey, after twenty years of trying unsuccessfully to get thin, has finally given up. Instead of trying to be thin, she’s decided to love herself as she is and is making a movie about it.

Called “Fattitude,” the movie, slated to be finished in 2015, is aimed at exposing discrimination against overweight people in pop culture and in daily life. It’s also meant to teach people that they can embrace their bodies at any size.

I’ve called this woman “poor” and I’d like to explain what I mean by that: this is sad. What’s sad isn’t that she’s happy with her size or that she’s making a movie. What’s sad is that she’s been trying for 20 years to get smaller–using all the advice given her by conventional nutrition and diet wisdom–and has utterly failed. What does this tell us?

That she’s a big, fat, uncontrolled, lying slob!!!

Oh. How do you know this?

Because she’s fat!!

But she’s been trying to lose weight for twenty years.

No she hasn’t! If she really tried, she would be thin. She obviously overeats and doesn’t exercise.

So you’re saying that someone with the drive and discipline to start this anti-fat-shaming movement and make her own movie has never been able–in twenty years–to summon up enough self-control, drive, or discipline to just eat a bit less and exercise a bit more?

Exactly.

We’ll leave that bit of logical insanity and just explain what all this does tell us: American conventional wisdom on how to lose weight is completely, utterly, stunningly wrong. If it was right, 60+% of our population wouldn’t be waddling off to see this movie.

That’s not even the saddest thing about all this. The article goes on:

After a fundraiser for the movie went live on Kickstarter.com in April, Averill started getting harassed. People sent pizzas to her house, signed her up for weight loss products and posted her address online. They even called with death threats. Averill admits being scared, but said it also showed how important the Fattitude project is.

People are so sweet.

What’s frightening is that anyone would get so worked up just because someone wants to say that she doesn’t think being fat is all that bad. I mean, after all, the woman has a point. In this particular study, researchers found that being underweight was far more likely to kill you than being overweight, and about as dangerous as being obese.

Or this one, where they found that overweight (BMI 25 to <30) was associated with a significantly decreased risk of death and when compared to the acceptable BMI category, overweight appears to be protective against mortality. In fact in that study it was even better to be in obese category I than to be underweight. Only when you got to the obese II category did they find fat people doing worse than others.

Or there’s this study, where they looked at people with chronic heart failure. Both the overweight and the obese had better long-term survival than people of normal weights, or who were underweight. And what if you have a stroke? Same thing, folks. If you’re hoping to survive after your stroke, your chances are better if you are overweight or even obese than if you are of a normal or less than normal weight.

Isn’t this fun?

Now naturally all those studies were just as flawed as the ones saying that eating a steak will kill you. None of them actually established causation. It’s just as likely that whatever was killing people was also making them weigh too little–that losing weight was a symptom of their ill-health, not a cause. But while such associations and correlations cannot prove, they certainly can disprove. These studies DO tell us the hypothesis that it’s always better and safer to be a “normal” weight than overweight is wrong. Perhaps they are suggesting to us that we’re conflating our culturally-determined definition of “pretty” with “healthy.” This would be the human equivalent of saying that this dog:

Next week, they'll get his hair dyed
Fiffikins

is clearly healthier than this dog:

He's just eaten your toddler
Rex

In fact, you should feel free to kick that second dog if he’s uglier than you’d like.

Back to our heroine. She’s right about something else, too. Society hates fat people, which is funny since society is so fat. So what’s going on? Is it that last 38% of the population that isn’t fat hating on the remaining 62%? Maybe fat people hate themselves but don’t want to admit it, so they take it out on other fat people? Maybe people just have an innate desire to hate someone, and it’s safe to attack the fat in ways it’s not safe to attack other people groups. And of course we can’t forget the people who are so insatiably prideful that they need a constant ego boost just to get through the day, achieving it through cutting down someone else to make themselves feel superior.

But maybe everyone is just good and fed up. You know what I mean?

The fat are sick and tired of being fat; sick and tired of dieting and running around like hamsters on the wheel, and all for nothing.

The thin who got there by hard work are sick and tired, too. Sick and tired of living in a perpetual state of starvation; sick and tired of hours at the gym; sick and tired of it getting harder and harder every year; sick and tired of fat people they think aren’t trying like they are.

And the effortlessly-thin are sick and tired, too. Sick and tired of everyone around them being so fat when they’ve been told it’s “so simple”; sick and tired of thinking that they’re being forced to pay for other people’s gluttony and laziness; sick and tired of not feeling good and not having any idea why.

And the root problem is that all the Correct Diet Advice isn’t helping anyone. Chronic overeating of carbohydrates, coupled with low-fat foods, most of it toxic unnatural fat, and enormous gobs of artificial sweeteners that do more harm than good affects different people in different ways: but none of them are positive. Some become unalterably obese. Some manage to be thin if they fight an unending battle to stay that way, and a battle that typically gets harder and harder with age. Those with really different metabolisms and genetics may find weight management effortless; but those same foods make them irritable and prone to all the same diseases and conditions (IBS anyone?) that the fat get; only without the warning symptom of getting fat first.

And while we’re tearing down fat people, we also have this article that tells us we can maybe be smarter if we just lose weight! The article’s title says it all: “Lose Weight to Gain Brain Power?”

Studies have shown that brain function declines in people who have too many extra pounds.

Actually the study found nothing of the kind. All it found, and all the study claims to have found, is an association between cognitive ability and BMI. There’s no information at all about what is causing what.

Excessive carbohydrates, folks, make you fat. They also affect your brain, particularly when they are from refined grains and simple sugars. Sugar and refined grain have both short-term and long-term effects on the brain, and high blood sugar, high insulin levels, and hypoglycemia are all brain killers, too, as any diabetic or person with Alzheimer’s (also known now as Type 3 Diabetes) can testify. Here, here and here and here and here and here and here.

So what did our brave researchers do to prove the fat people are more stupider than thin people?

The researchers recruited 17 severely obese women who planned to have Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

Before they went under the knife, the women took … tests…Another group of 16 women served as controls… [T]heir BMIs were much lower (22.3, on average). The lean women took all the same tests … It turned out that women in both groups did equally well on the cognitive tests. But compared with their initial results, the obese women improved on one of the tests – the Trail Making Test – after their surgeries, the researchers found.

Seriously?

Wanna know what really happened?

Before the surgeries, the obese women’s brains appeared to be working harder than the brains of the lean women…

The blood tests showed that the surgeries made the women more sensitive to insulin and reduced the levels of proteins associated with damaging inflammation. It also increased the levels of a hormone called GLP-1. Similar hormones have been shown to benefit the brain by reducing inflammation as well as the number of beta-amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

Here we get to it. Did you notice the little logical error in the second sentence; the one that clues you in to the reporter’s bias? Blood tests showed the the surgeries made the women more sensitive to insulin. Blood tests can show you nothing of the sort. What the reporter meant to say, of course, is that the blood test showed that after the surgery, a recovery period of six months on a strict low-carb diet, and weight loss, the women’s blood tests showed greater sensitivity to insulin. The women had lower red flag markers for future dementia. They also lost weight. Ergo, losing weight caused them to be at less risk for dementia. Ergo, if you lose weight, you’ll be smarter.

I read the article in question just now. Now I feel a little sick to my stomach. Tests showed that reading the article caused a  5% decrease in stomach acid levels, increasing risk of nausea.

Know what you have to eat after bariatric surgery? A very strict low-carb diet. In fact, it’s almost a zero-carb diet for the first six months. That alone could account for the weight loss. I mean, when I ate a very low-carb diet I lost 100 pounds in six months: and no one stapled my stomach shut or bypassed whole parts of my intestines.

Cutting out gobs of carbohydrates could also account for the modest brain improvements. Being in ketosis, which is what happens when you eat almost zero carbohydrates for that long, has long been associated with exactly the kind of brain function improvement they saw here: enhancing memory in those with Alzheimer’s. Know what else a low carb diet does? It lowers inflammation. Know what else it does? Anyone? THAT’S RIGHT. It makes you more sensitive to insulin, just like these women. Oh, and reducing the beta-amyloid plaques? Low carb diets do that, too. And here.

Low carb diets are known to do all the things this reporter assumes weight loss or surgery did for these people…who were all on a low carb diet.

I also find it disturbing that the reporter saw that these women performed just as well on tests as thin women, but, based on some levels of different things in their brain, decided to pronounce them stupider. This bothers me because science is always discovering things that don’t work the way they expected them to and having to re-evaluate their ideas.

Recently they studied this hunter-gatherer tribe in Africa and found that they were wildly healthy. But the tribe’s gut bacteria is completely different from ours in America–to the point of having enormous levels of what we consider “bad” bacteria and what we’d say in America were “dangerously” low levels of “good” bacteria. This means our understanding of “good” and “bad” in that context is totally wrong. You can look at these fat women’s brains and say they have red flag markers for future dementia, as far as we understand it now. But you can’t look at those markers and say that the thin women were smarter when everyone did the same on the tests.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have lunch.

 

Plato says he’s hungry

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3 thoughts on “I’m Ok, You’re Ok

  1. This is scarily similar to how many, many “scientific” facts of the day are decided. It is a dizzying trail of illogical leaps from one unrelated thing to the next that supposedly proves everything and means nothing. You are on the right trail here. I think you will appreciate the steps of insanity to the carbon 14 story when I get time…….

    1. Oh dear. I’m looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time.

      Of course some people will be livid at this suggestion, but I’ve just been reading an interesting theory about how long science will last in the post-Christian era. The contention is that since it was the spread of Protestant Christianity that sparked intellectual freedom and then the scientific revolution, and designed the scientific method, without Christianity they will eventually die. In the absence of absolute truth and a God to whom we are responsible, there’s no reason for the scientific method or for honesty in science. In fact without an objective moral standard (and of course “what everyone kind of feels is right this decade” is not an objective moral standard) we should expect to see scientists skewing their results towards what will make them look right, what will get them the most money, what someone pays them to find, or simply what they’d prefer to be “true.”

  2. There are already plenty of examples of what your book predicts going on right now in the scientific community. Dishonesty for gain, personal or ideological gain, either one. It hasn’t made the news nearly as often as it has happened, but studies are constantly skewed to what the researcher was either paid to figure out, the researcher’s personal opinion of what the research should point to, or popular opinion. There often aren’t negative reports published from what is expected in research. Or if there is, it is couched in such confusing terms that no one can figure out without a lawyer and a sharp eye for detail.

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