Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wait, what are we supposed to do now?


Spaghetti Squash in a sauce of tomatoes, olives, preserved lemons and chilies.

This bowl of leftovers was breakfast this morning, along with a piece of whole grain toast. Once in a while I crave something VERY savory after a morning workout (and I was out of oatmeal).

The workout has shifted, too. My trainer has mixed it up to promote muscle growth on some of my more stubborn areas. The next month's schedule is:

  • Monday: (Morning) Boxing, Cardio (Evening) Back and Shoulders
  • Tuesday: Chest and Quads, Cardio
  • Wednesday: Boxing, Hamstrings and Calves, Cardio
  • Thursday: (Morning) HIIT, Cardio (Evening) Arms
  • Friday: Boxing, Chest and Shoulders, Cardio
  • Saturday: Running 10-12K, Back and Arms
  • Sunday: Running 8-10K, Pilates

Running has sort of been cut back due to the freezing weather. I'm hoping the chance of 10-18" of snow this weekend is only that... a chance. I miss being able to run outside. Treadmills and cardio machines are pretty boring, which may explain why so many people's plans to exercise never reach long-term goals. But I'm working hard at it as I like that I am finally maintaining my weight and health, even if it means some boring times on an elliptical after weight training.

And then another article in the NY Times appears about obesity and weight loss. Maybe I should really go and become a dietitian...there must be a lot funding for research nowadays!  

 But I think that's the point of the paper on which this article is based. A lot of what we keep hearing about healthy eating and lifestyles are referred to in the report as "myths" and "presumptions" which have been based on research that's not necessarily thorough (or with a diverse enough clinical group) and the results are often, as one doctor mentions, "reasonableness bias.” Things sound like they should make sense and therefore we believe them a fact. And yet more and more of these studies are done. I studied information theory and social epistemology in grad school, and this idea of the group developing what is considered common and accepted knowledge is very similar to that concept. We hear stuff that sounds right and therefore we all believe it, even if it's not realistic. As the report states:  

"Confirmation bias may prevent us from seeking data that might refute propositions we have already intuitively accepted as true because they seem obvious (e.g., the value of realistic weight-loss goals). Moreover, we may be swayed by persuasive yet fallacious arguments...unless we are prepared to identify them as spurious...Moreover, we often settle for data generated with the use of inadequate methods in situations in which inferentially stronger study designs, including quasi-experiments and true randomized experiments, are possible...In addition, eliminating the distortions of scientific information that sometimes occur with public health advocacy would reduce the propagation of misinformation."

(Ooooh, snap on Public Health! You've been burned, obesity informatics!)

What they also point out is that the (my term here) coddling of people looking to lose weight doesn't quite help. By "coddling" I mean the "if you just move a little more and eat a little less, it can make a huge difference when your obese." Evidently it can't. Neither does merely providing opportunities for weight loss, such as free exercise places or new bike paths or enforced gym classes. Not only do you need to do it for yourself, you need to actually do more than you initially think.

I look back on this journey and realize that I haven't been doing this as "gradually" as I originally thought I was. Just eating a light lunch and walking home made me feel better about myself, but it didn't actually start me down the right path. What worked was pushing myself beyond my comfort zones. Losing a pound a week may seems gradual, but
it took a lot more work than "reasonable bias" would imagine. 

And that's where my trainer comes in. After all, his website says it best: "Just Shut Up and Lift." 

Maybe that should be the conclusion reached by funded research!


Casazza, Krista, Kevin R. Fontaine, Arne Astrup, Leann L. Birch, Andrew W. Brown, Michelle M. Bohan Brown, Nefertiti Durant, et al. “Myths, Presumptions, and Facts About Obesity.” New England Journal of Medicine 368, no. 5 (2013): 446–454. doi:10.1056/NEJMsa1208051.

“Myths of Weight Loss Are Plentiful, Researcher Says.” Well. Accessed January 30, 2013.

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