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The Skeptical Diet

I am overweight. In fact, I am proud to say I am overweight. Ok, actually I’m proud to say I am overweight because I am no longer obese. On December 27th, 2006 I began what I am now going to promote as the “Skeptical Diet”. 

It was during my families 2-month long Christmas get-together-o-rama that begins in early-December and well into January now. I was feeling fat and bloated and sick of being fat and bloated. I won’t even describe the heart-burn (or “chest napalm” as I fondly remember calling it). I am 29 years old. I am 5′ 6”…. and I weighed 205 pounds. Whoa there fatty. My BMI (the Body Mass Index which is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, what’s yours?)  was 33.1. Well into the obese range (anything above 30 is obese).  As of this morning May 17th, 2007 I am now at 183 with a wonderfully overweight BMI of 29.5.

You too can follow the “Skeptical Diet” all you have to do is follow my simple step-by-step program. I hope you are sitting down for the secret. The secret is… I thought myself thin, yes that’s right I used the Laws of Attraction and thought myself thin… Ok, sorry.

Honestly I just exercised and ate better. No secrets. In fact, if you go to the NIH’s Department of Health and Human Services website and read their “Controlling your weight” section that is pretty much exactly what I am doing. That’s it, no gimmicks.

For the science buffs this is how this simple equation works if you want to lose weight.

Total energy consumed (calories) < Total Energy used (physical activity)
where Total Energy = Daily Energy (normal activity) + Additional Energy (exercise)

Let’s break this out into something a little more complicated.

Total energy consumed (calories) – Daily Energy used = Additional Energy to be used (how much exercise you need to maintain your weight).

Most people with a desk job (I’m a web developer) and no other significant sources of exercise (I determined walking to the basement fridge for a Dr. Pepper doesn’t count) will not burn enough calories (Daily Energy used) to, at minimum, maintain their weight. I was only burning about 1800 calories/day if I was lucky but I was consuming 2500. And don’t kid yourself you probably are to. So take my numbers and do the math

2500 (Total Energy) – 1800 (Daily Energy) = 700 (Additional Energy)

Holy obesity batman! That’s a lot of calories to burn everyday, trust me 300-500 is pretty damn good. So being the smart people that you are you’ve probably guessed that I ran out and bought a Vibrobelt and whatever the hell this is to give me a jump. Ok fine I didn’t do that either I’m trying to spice this post up a little. I just moved the 2500 down to about 2000 and bingo 200 calories of exercise before I start to lose weight.

So exercise plus reduced calorie diet. If only someone had thought of that. You know Jared from Subway? Guess what, he “started a reduced calorie diet by eating two Subway submarine sandwiches a day” and “incorporating exercise into his daily routine”.

That’s the secret or you could “Ride the Snake!!!”

So you’ve read this far and you want to know how much should I weigh? As a rule of thumb I use the BMI and shoot for dead in the middle which for me is 140-ish however that is likely to be an unreasonable goal and quite frankly my goals are usually much more short term (like I want to get into the 170’s but the time the kids school year is over which is very soon, eek!). But that begs a bigger question, “How do you calculate your ideal weight range?” and that turns out to be a more difficult question to answer and many medical studies suggest the BMI for many is very unreasonable.

In a recent Salon.com article Julia Wallace reviews the new book by Gina Kolata, Rethinking Thin. Her new book, although not receiving a favorable review mostly on her writing style,

“…attempts with some success to provide a comprehensive history of the diet, a survey of 20th-century weight-loss research, and a personal saga of several determined dieters enrolled in a University of Pennsylvania study on weight loss.”

The main point of her book goes to the heart of what many new medical studies are beginning to show, that your weight has more to do with your genetics than your diet and that a strict definition of cookie cutter thin is actually in many instances unhealthy. Here’s a small sampling, 70% of body weight is genetic, people with higher BMI’s live longer, or Higher BMI = Lower risk of breast cancer.

As a skeptic I find it a lot easier to suspend my skepticism especially when offered the easy way out in regards to things like my health. A pill for weight loss? I know the science may be behind this concept but without some heavy duty behavior modifications such as those that often accompany gastric bypass surgery these types of things are just as likely to fail or at best be temporary reductions in weight as the Atkins or South Beach diet.

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Filed under: Health, Science

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