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I am Thankful (for condescending idiots part 1)…

November 24, 2011

We here at ‘I am not a fit person’ (that is to say, me), would like to wish everyone out there celebrating the awesome holiday known as US Thanksgiving, a Happy Thanksgiving.  I am a huge fan of this holiday and celebrate it every chance I get (which isn’t often enough given I am Canadian).  In fact, if I don’t get a 3 turkey year (Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving and Christmas),  I consider it a dark year.  This year I will be hunkered down at my brothers house with family and friends watching football and sending out the odd email to pretend I am still at work…

This year I am thankful for many things, but as the Author of ‘You Are Not A Fit Person’, I am especially thankful for all of the fit people out there, especially the condescending ones…  I know that sounds odd, but I can’t help it.  You see, sometimes I wonder if my message is clear enough… and it seems that right when I am asking this question, one of the most influential news sites on earth decides to run a story like this: Little Daily Tricks to Wake Up Slimmer

Now, if the name doesn’t tip you off to just how offensive this article is, let me help guide you through it.  By the way, I don’t have any issue with the authors who gave these tips because they may have been given off the cuff as just simple little tips that may help and then were whipped into this article about simple weight loss that will help you lose 20 pounds by the editor.

So, back to the issues.  First, many of us in North America struggle with weight gain.  I have spent the last 5 years keeping my weight down to a manageable 5 to 10 pounds over ideal, and even I am stunned by how much work this has taken.  Every day we hear a new story about the rates of obesity in the US, and this story is usually brought to us by someone with a simple plan to turn this around.  Still the actual statistics are disturbing:

During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more. (CDC, click link for breakdown by state and a nifty animated map)

Now, I work hard to keep my weight down and I worked hard even when trying to get my weight down didn’t quite work.  It was never a case of not working hard.  After being through all of this and discovering just how damn hard it was for me to keep my weight down as I got older, I look at the percentage of overweight Americans and think, wow… these people need some help finding strategies that work for them.  I bet a lot of them are discouraged at how hard they have been working and still failing.   I bet a huge proportion of them are disappointed that, as far as I can tell, there is LITERALLY no one that they can trust with realistic weight loss advice.

So, when I see a headline like ‘Little Daily Tricks to Wake Up Slimmer’, I am sure of 2 things.  1)  The person who wrote or published the article does not have a clue what it is like to be overweight, and 2) these tricks are a pile of crap.  You see, it would be bad enough if they were just saying here are some techniques to lose weight, as if a handful of techniques are going to help, but it is actually the wording of ‘Little Daily Tricks’ that tips me off to what the article authors are thinking.  They are thinking that we are all a bunch of lazy, dumb fat people who are wondering whether we should watch Maury or Dr. Phil before we have our mid morning hungry man feast and wash it down with our first Super Big Gulp of the day.  We won’t do anything that requires any work at all to lose weight, but if you package it up as a ‘Little Trick’, well, maybe I will give it a shot when I get out of my lazy boy recliner to empty my catheter bag.  The title reeks of the hubris of the fit person.  It is dripping with patronizing ignorance.  Most of the fitness experts work their ass off in a gym or on a track or trail.  Imagine if I offered them some simple tips to run faster without having to do any work?

So what is this article about?  It reads:

  We get it: You want to lose the jiggle but don’t want to blacklist your favorite eats, count every single calorie, or overdose on gym hours. The great news is, you can drop weight without dieting: Experts say making small change-ups to your day is one of the best ways to lose. We grilled health and fitness pros for the tweaks that will help your shape the most. Road test a few, and you could shed 5 (this week!), 10, or even 20-plus pounds without a whole lot of effort.

Do the people who publish this crap not understand just how offensive this is.  5 pounds this week?!!?  With just some simple tips?!!?  20 pounds???  What are these wonder tips??  Let’s take a look at these:

#1 Power up PB

“Buy natural varieties of peanut butter and pour off the oil sitting on top. Each serving will have 20 fewer calories and 2 to 3 fewer grams of fat. It’s a small difference that’ll add up to a couple of pounds per year.” —Amelia Winslow, personal chef in Los Angeles and founder of the healthy food blog Eating Made Easy

I personally do buy natural peanut butter because I am trying to eliminate added sugars in my diet and the only way to do that is to stop eating any foods that are overly sweet (and have added sugars).  The thing is, I was just going to check about the 20 fewer calories claim so I went to the Skippy website and checked their natural peanut butter and WTF??!?!  The ingredients include ‘Roasted Peanuts, Sugar, Palm Oil and Salt…  I guess they are all natural, but I don’t think that is the point of the whole Natural Variety thing.  Jif has the same thing going on in their natural peanut butter.  90% peanuts?!?!  What about the other 10%???

So, first and foremost, you want to cut sugar out of your diet, that isn’t a small thing but it is necessary, so instead of buying the big brand name peanut butters, pick up Adams Natural Peanut butter.  I like mine with salt, but if you are trying to reduce salt in your diet they do have a no salt added one.  Ingredients: Peanuts, contains 1% of salt or less.  Sounds pretty basic.  As for pouring off the oil?  I don’t.  I stir it in and put it in the fridge.  Natural peanut butter in the fridge is pretty solid.  It is just peanuts, and it isn’t the easiest stuff on earth to spread.  It is extraordinarily calorie dense.  200 calories for 2 tablespoons, so don’t eat it often.  It has a very high fat to protein ratio and the odds of you not eating it on bread are slim to none.  To give you an idea of how calorie dense it is, the straight peanut version is higher in calories than the Skippy version with Palm oil and sugar!!

So, this isn’t the most offensive tip, but even on its own it is pretty bad.  If all you do is pour the oil off of your peanut butter before eating, you aren’t going to lose any weight.  Not 5 pounds in a week, a month or a year, unless all you eat is peanut butter and you eat tons of it!!  What is offensive is that the person writing this claims that this will add up to pounds a year…  Why would someone suggest this?

The answer is that there is a nearly childlike belief that weight loss and weight gain is a simple math problem.  If I eat 20 fewer calories a day for a year, that will be  5300 calories.  There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, so to compensate for that lower calorie consumption, my body will have to burn 1 and 1/2 pounds of fat a year…  The thing is, that isn’t how fat loss works.  Not at all, not even close.  This measurement idea has been heralded by the king of weight loss foolishness, David Zinczenko in his Eat This, Not That series.  It doesn’t make sense though.  Think about it.  Lets say I continued this weight loss technique (peanut butter scheme)  for 2 years, I would lose 3 pounds.  How about 10 years or 20 years, hey, I am down 30 pounds.  What if I only had 25 pounds to lose?  Am I now starving to death?  Is my body eating its own muscles for survival, all because I pour the oil off of my peanut butter?  Your body doesn’t work like that (Gary Taubes has an incredible lecture on this issue).  It is a complex machine that brings itself into states of equilibrium based upon what you eat, how much you exercise, the time of year, the hours of daylight, the amount of sleep you get and your age, among thousands of other factors.  Most of all though, this technique itself depends on how much peanut butter I eat.  If I lived on peanut butter, this might have a significant effect (that is the basis of optimization theory), but it is likely that you don’t.

#2 Pop To It

“Skimping on fiber will make you gain weight. Forget the pretzels and go for a bag of low-fat popcorn. It has five times the fiber and only 90 calories for six cups, so it’s filling and satisfying. A recent study found that when women doubled their daily fiber intake from 12 to 24 grams, their bodies absorbed 90 calories less per day. You could lose almost 10 pounds in a year!” —Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD, author of The F-Factor Diet: Discover the Secret to Permanent Weight Loss

Forget the pretzels and go for a bag of low-fat popcorn?!?!  Why would you recommend a bag of popcorn?  You shouldn’t be eating popcorn, it is a butter drizzled carb (Even low fat has a fair amount of fat).  Apparently you would recommend this because pop corn has more fibre than pretzels, in fact 5 times the fiber.  The thing is, in your 90 calories of popcorn you get a pathetic 3 grams of fibre to just less than 1 in pretzels.  Popcorn is better than pretzels, but so is a bran muffin, peanuts and froot loops.  Why would someone recommend a food that is marginal in fibre, especially as a fibre added snack.  An apple or an orange would be better.  Much better would be something like strawberries, refried black beans, green peppers, celery or All Bran Buds.  There is a table of high fibre foods in You Are Not A Fit Person.

Fibre is good, very good.  You should eat a lot of fibre in your diet, as much as you can.  Popcorn isn’t good.  Don’t eat it.

#3 Dance your butt off

“Kick up your heels and go dancing with your girlfriends—or have a solo dance session at home. Fast-tempo dances are not only a blast to do, but in an hour you’ll torch 400 to 500 calories. That’s equivalent to light jogging on the treadmill, but it’s way more fun!” —Christine Avanti, author of Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food: Lose the Fake Food and Kickstart Your Weight Loss
Dancing is hard.  Very hard.  Has anyone here really danced for an hour!?!?  I have done a half iron man (I keep reminding people of that by the way), and there is no way I could dance for an hour.  No way, and not only because I am an embarrassingly bad dancer either, but because it is exhausting.  Mind you, jack me up on some X and who knows…  Seriously though, there is no doubt that dancing is great exercise, but the problem isn’t going dancing, it is having a regiment of exercise that is consistent and increasing in intensity.  How often can you go dancing, 3 times a week: not likely?  Do you dance without drinking?  I don’t.  I would end up drinking a ton on my night of dancing and end up way behind in the battle of weight loss.  The more we try to define activities as exercise the bigger a problem you are going to have.  I know this sounds counter to what we are hearing today, but the reality is, you need to exercise effectively and not allow yourself to count your night out drinking and eating as part of your workout regiment.  You need to have a measurable high calorie workout that you can perform regularly.  As well though, you need to enjoy it.  If you can get on a dance team or do Zumba, great, that counts, but a solo dance session, I would think this is a recipe for failure.

#4 Switch things up

“At the gym, lift one set of heavier weights than you’re used to. And on your walk or run, add backward walking and sideways shuffling in one-minute bursts. You’ll challenge your muscles in new ways, work them at a variety of angles, and improve your balance. These things will tone you up and burn extra calories.” —Gunnar Peterson, celebrity trainer to A-listers (including our December cover star Sofia Vergara!) in Beverly Hills, California
What???  This could be good advice, especially when combined with a trainer and an actual exercise routine, but as just a tip… are you kidding me???  Please know what you are doing in the gym with weightlifting.  Don’t just grab a heavier weight.  You should have a plan to increase your weights when you are working out, but that is only after you have perfected your technique.  Don’t be doing this alone.  Get help and advice in the gym.  Go to Crossfit or get a personal trainer from time to time.  By the way, skip the backward walking and sideways shuffling as well.  Instead see about following a running plan to increase your distance, or if you are a few years in to running, look at introducing intervals.

#5 Nix nighttime eating

“Cutting out after-dinner snacking is a quick way to help you shed 5 pounds in a week. At night, we’re usually scarfing down junky foods in front of the TV—and it’s easy to consume a meal’s worth of calories, plus belly-bloating sodium. If you’re typically hungry before bed, it might mean you’re eating dinner too early, so push it back. Snack on fruit at 3 p.m. Then at 5 p.m., have a snack bar. At 7:30, you’ll be ready for dinner, and you’ll be eating late enough to stay full for the rest of the evening.” —Heather Bauer, RD, author of Bread Is the Devil: Win the Weight Loss Battle by Taking Control of Your Diet Demons
Like so many of these tips, there doesn’t sound like there is anything wrong with this advice, but it isn’t great advice.  The thing is, one of the leading experts, probably THE expert of healthy eating, Dr. Barry Sears, says that you should eat a late night snack.  According to Dr. Sears, you should eat a snack right before bed and eat breakfast within a half an hour of waking up.  This is to minimize the amount of time that you aren’t eating and thus minimizing a starvation response.
Is Dr. Sears right?  I don’t know.  I do a know I don’t eat a snack right before bed, but I also don’t go to bed hungry.  I think it is more important to plan your timing of meals than it is to worry what time you are eating your last meal.  Cutting out snacking is more important than after dinner snacking, and I think that this tip misses the entire point.  Don’t snack on a snack bar at 5pm though…  Most of you know of the easy 4 meal plan that I recommend in You Are Not A Fit Person works, but whatever you do, plan to eat enough smaller meals that you are never hungry.  That is the tip here… not eating after 7…  An ever better tip is don’t EVER eat in front of the TV…  and seriously… 5 pounds???
I will be back to rip the remaining tips shortly, but in the meantime, I hope I have done my part to brighten everyone’s holiday season.  Enjoy your turkey and your family and friends today.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2011 7:44 am

    Thank you Mark for making me laugh on Thanksgiving after I ate my SMALL pie of pecan pie! Damn, I can’t lose weight in my sleep?? 😦
    Off to Zumba!!

    • September 19, 2014 4:06 pm

      I don’t know who you wrote this for but you helped a brohter out.


  1. Zumba West Virginia, And Zumba Class zumba songs West Virginia | Diet & Weight Loss

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