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Rush Limbaugh just doesn’t get it (part 2)

November 27, 2010

In the last post about Rush Limbaugh we went over why he was wrong… so very wrong…, but in this post I want to discuss something much more important and that is what happens when diet and exercise issues become political and are argued by pundits.

A Little Background

When I was in University I studied philosophy.  I really enjoyed it.  I remember in one class the professor was teaching us about the world in which Plato lived.  It was about the political atmosphere at the time, specifically the sophists.  Plato did not like the sophists.

The Sophists abandoned science, philosophy, mathematics and ethics. What they taught was the subtle art of persuasion. A Sophist was a person who could argue eloquently – and could prove a position whether that position was correct or incorrect. In other words, what mattered was persuasion and not truth. link

To me, there is no doubt that the sophists have returned in the form of the political pundits.  They have no concern for concepts of truth or right, they exist only to appear to be right, to appear to win arguments. To me these people are the worst form of person.  I believe that there is a tremendous amount of truth out there, truth that can be discovered using the scientific method by people who are seeking it, wherever it might be.


Those of you who followed my experiment with McDonalds cheeseburgers know that I am concerned with truth and information, not falsehood and misinformation.  Many people were joining in on the argument that McDonalds food wouldn’t rot and that was a good reason to not eat it.  I was questioned thousands of times for ‘defending’ McDonalds (yes the McDonalds post got more than its fair share of attention).  I am willing to bet thousands of people knew that the so called ‘experiment’ showing that a McDonalds cheeseburger doesn’t rot was just dehydration and the conclusions were entirely false, but they still chose to disseminate those findings because they served their purpose: Getting people to stop eating food that is bad for you.

Even when the truth reveals facts that don’t help us, such as McDonalds beef being as likely to rot as organic beef, we need to report them and accept them.  We are pretty sure that fast food is assisting in our surge in obesity, but we need to know how and why.  If everyone believes that fast food causes obesity because of chemicals in the food, chemicals that McDonalds is secretly putting in there, then as a whole, we will develop some pretty crazy beliefs, such as Kirsty Alley’s Organic Liaison diet (The only reason I haven’t gone after it more is because it is so crazy!  Honestly, in the how the diet works section she suggests that your body is like a house and all of the chemicals in your body are like junk in the attic and the accumulated weight of them is why you gain weight….)

So, truth is not only important, it is necessary to get us going in the right direction, as a people, as a society and certainly as healthy countries.

Well here is where Ol Rushbo comes back into the picture

If you need it, the transcript is here once again.

Anyway, Michelle Obama’s on this big obesity kick, right?  Gotta eat healthy stuff, gotta eat the garbage that she grows in the garden, nothing but fruits and vegetables… She’s all upset that the only food available to poor urban people are convenience stores, the 7-Elevens…  So she’s complaining about food deserts, and Michelle Obama wants to punish Big Food and Big Retail for not putting quality food stores in poor neighborhoods, right?  And that’s why there’s an obesity epidemic, right?

So the crux of the issue is, to Rush, that the Twinkie diet proves that Michelle Obama is wrong.  If you eat less calories than you burn, no matter the source, you will not gain weight, therefore, Michelle Obama is wasting time and money fighting food deserts.  Again, the argument is all wrong.

What we need to know

The calorie in versus calorie out theory, the overriding principle in weight loss, isn’t the complete picture, but it i does lead us to an interesting fact.  The thing is, most of us eat to be full.
Almost everyone I know who is overweight has a love of food and a love of feeling full.  We eat until we are full even if we feel overfull 10 minutes after we stop eating.

If you accept calories in versus calories out and the belief that most overweight people overeat to feel full, then you are left with the following conclusion:  The calorie density of the foods you eat is of critical importance to your weightloss.  Calorie density is the number of calories per gram that a food has.  For example, Cucumber has a calorie density of 0.13 (that is .13 calories per gram), but Lays Flamin’ Hot Chips have a calorie density of 5.71 (that is 5.71 calories per gram).  A Twinkie has a calorie density of 3.57.  A Little Debbie Zebra Cake has a calorie density of 4.32.  The calorie density of a Twinkie is 33 times higher than cucumber.  Hell the calorie density of a Twinkie is more than 3 and half times that of full fat yogurt sweetened with sugar.  The entire chart of calorie densities can be found in You Are Not A Fit Person (the book).

So, how heavy a food is, is essentially how filling it will be.  The fewer the calories per weight the better the food will be at filling you up with the fewest calories.

The point is, junk food is all at the very calorie dense end and fruits and vegetables are all at the very other end.  So to get full eating calorie dense foods you will eat way too many calories and become overweight.  Instead, by including vegetables in your meals you can get full and not consume too many calories.  All of this is the calorie density theory and it gnores the additional fact that evidence shows that foods that are high in sugar and fat have addictive properties.  This makes a difficult situation-trying to stay fit while eating only junk food-into an impossible situation.

So the twinkie diet supports the theory that calories in versus calories equals weight gain or loss, but it doesn’t address the feelings of addiction he may have been having for junk food while he was on the diet, or the ridiculously small portion sizes he ate because he was on a very public diet, one that was sure to get international attention.    It doesn’t address how hard it would be to eat such small volume or weight of food in a day.

What Rush Didn’t Tell Us:

There is something else to the diet that Rush didn’t share as well and that is that the doctor on the diet supplemented his diet with vitamins and protein shakes.  They fit into his caloric intake but they were in no way junk food.  Protein shakes are ] probably the best way that I know of to feel full and lose weight.  A full shake is about 200 calories and is very filling for about 4 hours.  I would be curious as to how the doctor would have faired without the vitamins and protein shakes, but he was very public about the methods he chose to use in his diet, although that detail was left out by Rush:

Okay, along comes Mark Haub, professor, human nutrition, Kansas State University, who ate a Twinkie every three hours, and when he got tired of Twinkies, he ate Doritos, sugar cereals, and Oreos.  And he was out there to prove that pure calorie counting is what matters most, not the nutritional value of the food.  And the premise held up on his convenience store diet available in what Michelle calls food deserts. He lost 27 pounds in two months eating Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, and sugar cereals.

According to CNN, the source that Rush Limbaugh got the diet story from:

Two-thirds of his total intake came from junk food. He also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. And he ate vegetables, typically a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks.

Ironically, that can of green beens is probably more vegetables than an average overweight individual eats.  I would argue that it would be nearly impossible for the average person to get through the day eating only the following:

  • 2 twinkies
  • 1 Little Debbie Star Crunch
  • 1/2 of an individual snack bag of Doritos cool ranch
  • 1 cup of Kellogg’s Corn Pops with milk
  • 1 Little Debbie Zebra Cake
  • 1 Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie.

But that was all of the junk food that he had in a day.  Even if you gave him one more twinkie and the rest of the individual snack bag of Doritos instead of his protein shake you are dealing with a pathetically small amount of food in a day.

If you are overweight the real purpose of food is to fill you up.  That is the feeling you need.

If you are eating a regular meal at McDonalds for example, you will have a hard time staying within a daily calorie limit of around 1800 calories.

  • Quarter pounder with cheese: 535 calories
  • Medium fries: 380 calories
  • Medium coke: 210 calories
  • Total calories: 1125 calories.

One regular sized meal is more than half of this daily calorie amount and that is not a big meal.  Be honest, how often can you go to McDonalds and not want more?    If you eat three meals a day at fast food restaurants you are going to SERIOUSLY exceed your caloric intake.  Eating at fast food restaurants and convenience stores gives you almost no options for low calorie density foods.  When you shop at grocery stores and cook at home it is very easy to cook vegetable side dishes and to buy and eat fruit.  That is the point of the problems with food deserts.

Once again, Rush has proven himself wrong

I wonder if he can imagine how often he does that!!  The calories in versus calories out debate shows exactly why food deserts are a problem for us.  Without access to balanced meals (by balanced I mean a low calorie density), we will struggle with our weight and with pundits trying to prove themselves right at the cost of knowledge we will all struggle with rampant misinformation.  After all, the reason that Rush Limbaugh knows that food deserts are not a problem and that garden grown foods are garbage is:

I’ll never forget when I was on William Shatner’s show on Bravo, Raw Nerve, and during the interview he asked, “How do you know?” I was so certain about something. “How do you know?” I said, “Because it’s my job to know.”  “How do you know all this?”  One of the reasons I know what I know is that I know liberals, and I know liberals lie, and if Michelle Obama’s gonna be out there ripping into “food desserts” and saying, “This is why people are fat,” I know it’s not true.  “Rush, do you really believe that? It’s that simple to you, liberals lie?”  Yes, it is, folks.  Once you learn that, once you come to grips with that, once you accept that, the rest is easy.  Very, very simple.

Wow…  Rush’s health advice is literally the opposite of whatever liberals say…  They say food deserts are bad, Rush says they are good,  They say food deserts are good, Rush says they are bad.  No wonder you continue to lose arguments Rush, you aren’t even arguing a point, you are arguing an anti-point.

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