Don’t Believe the Hype

Okay Kiddies, time for school. Let’s learn how to read some of the junk fired at us daily that tells us what to do with our health. Here is yet another example of how the “scientific” research model (breaking things down into little pieces and thinking we can say something about the whole from it) of finding data to inform health decisions is incomplete: recent NYT article on components contributing to weight gain. Go read it real quick. Two pages, wont’ take too long.


So, yay!, there’s MORE evidence that refined carbs are a problem (not that the subsidies for those are going to go away any time soon). And it isn’t just the calories, it’s how you get them. (I didn’t realize we all still believed that, but okay, good!) And, it looks like getting enough sleep matters. But there is little mention in the article about this study (which I do not think I can bother to waste my time reading in full) about the fact that the so called “number of pounds” connected to consumption of each type of food is actually a correlation coefficient, which is a fancy term that means “appears to be related to”. Catch that? NOT “causes”. They did not establish causation here. I’m not even saying they should try. Variables interact, and it is nearly impossible to say anything about the interactions from this article or the study.

The NYT author also makes the mistake of interchangeably using “metabolism” and “weight gain”. NOT the same thing (see 180 Degree Health for more info). Another assumption in the article is that the study matters because low weight equals health. Not so. Folks who are thin, or who undereat and overexercise can be just as unhealthy as the person who overeats and underexercises. Anorexic ain’t healthy, neither is bulimia, and folks with these issues are not typically obese.

Don’t get me wrong – this does not mean I condone soda consumption. Having it occasionally isn’t going to matter much, unless you are severely diabetic, so it all depends. All I’m saying is that the results of this research can be used as helpful guidelines, like: eat more foods in their recognizable state, get enough sleep, and watch the refined carbs. But more than anything, start paying attention to what your body is telling you! When you’re hungry, eat. Don’t eat things that make you feel like crap afterward. Don’t eat things you are allergic to (increased inflammation=increased stress response=increased weight). When you feel antsy, get moving. When you’re tired, sleep. Don’t watch so much frigging tv – you know it – there’s a little voice that tells you it’s not really helpful. That little voice also tells you that if you habitually ingest chemicals, you will pay for it at some point. If stress is affecting your life (and you know it is), get some coping skills or make changes to reduce it.

Alas, this approach requires paying attention…more on that next time.

So what did we learn today? Don’t just believe everything you read without questioning it! Nope, not even this post. In fact the more sure someone is that they are right, the more you better question what they have to say (see the Dunning-Kruger effect).

Class dismissed.

About Cynthia M Clingan

Cynthia Clingan is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Columbus, Ohio who offers somatic psychotherapy, spiritual coaching, and meditation and mindfulness instruction.
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