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September 28th, 2006


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10:34 am - Childhood obesity (aka weird things you hear on the radio)
This post isn't going to be funny, probably; it's basically just that I heard something on the radio today that made no sense whatsoever to me, and that I disagree with, "science" or no "science."

Feel free to leave this one alone (oh, and no flaming; I will delete such comments).


There was a family-related medical spot on the radio as I was driving to work this morning. As a response to the so-called epidemic (I'm still not sure that's an accurate term--though it is an effective one in terms of creative imagery) of childhood obesity, a medical doctor gave as her medical opinion that portion control should be practiced very young. So far I'm with her; that only makes sense. Kids shouldn't be able to just eat what they want when they want, and how much they want.

Then she said, "A good way to measure the portion is a tablespoon per year of age."

Now, maybe, just maybe, she meant that to be of more than one type of food, not a total for the meal. But there was no clarification made. It sounded like she was saying that's a good meal size.

That's just illogical. I know that I ate probably four to six times that much per meal when I was a kid, and I was as thin as a rake until I hit 15 and started filling out. Ditto most of my siblings.

It's true that my mom is into eating healthy: whole grains (white bread? what's that?), fruits and veggies, very little sugar and candy only on holidays. Lots of dairy to make up for the meat we couldn't always afford.

But I always figured that if you wanted to make sure your kids didn't become obese, the best thing to do is what my parents did: three regular sitdown meals and two snacks inbetween (3 if you could a snack at bedtime), healthy food in healthy variety, and not allowing eating to simply become a habit. To enjoy eating, but not let it rule you.

"A tablespoon per year of age" seems like one of those quick-fix attempts to solve a situation that was created more by lack of family rules and good habits than by a desire to eat to a feeling of satisfaction.

It's too little too late, if it's not blatantly unhealthy (depending on the kid's metabolism--I guess mine must have been pretty darn high).


I just don't like it when people tout something like that, which flies (to me) in the face of reason. Not in the basic idea, but in the ridiculous boundaries it tries to set.
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[User Picture]
From:amberdulen
Date:September 28th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC)
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I'm pretty sure she would have meant serving size: like when they tell you to estimate one serving of meat as a pack of cards, etc. So it would be 5-11 servings of grains, 4-5 servings of fruits, 2-3 servings of meats, and so on; you just can't give your five-year-old the same "serving size" as your twelve-year-old. Except for dessert, because then the five-year-old will whine about getting less.
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 28th, 2006 06:22 pm (UTC)
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Then I revise my complaint to "people should say what they mean," because if *I* could misinterpret that, then just as surely could other people. Possibly with unpleasant consquences for the kids.

And as I said, the basic idea of serving size is very sound...people like this doctor just need to be careful how they phrase it, because listeners assume they have the authority of science behind them.
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From:kalquessa
Date:September 28th, 2006 06:50 pm (UTC)
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I'm with you, here. I'm all for people really looking at their serving sizes. I believe that unthinkingly huge servings are part of the general American weight problem. That's why the Jenny Craig system is one of the few diets I'm really in favor of, because it's not a single, implacable rule applied to everyone, it's a system of making you actually look at how much food you're eating versus how much you actually need and so forth. But the rule you quoted above did sound like a stupid implacable rule that failed to account for people actually being different, just like the "carbs are eeevil" craze. (When did carbs become evil? How are we all still walking around if carbs are this insidious force of darkness that is going to turn us all into balloons?)
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:September 28th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
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(When did carbs become evil? How are we all still walking around if carbs are this insidious force of darkness that is going to turn us all into balloons?)

*sporfle* I used to tell my mom that I was going to eat a bagel for my bedtime snack if I wanted to--I don't believe that carbs are evil. Nor red meat, for that matter. Nor dairy products (fortunately I am not lactose intolerant, that would make me so sad).

We are omnivores.

It has to do with excercise or lack of it, and portions, and using food as comfort rather than nourishment--that's why we Americans are having problems with this. IMHO.
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From:jd3000
Date:September 28th, 2006 07:33 pm (UTC)
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(When did carbs become evil? How are we all still walking around if carbs are this insidious force of darkness that is going to turn us all into balloons?)

I don't believe that carbs are evil.


Lewis Black expressed the right amount of derision for the Atkins Diet:

"Turns out we've all been eating the wrong thing...since the DAWN OF CIVILIZATION!"

I agree that excercise is essential, possibly more essential than diet. The body can handle truly vast amounts of calories if it is given a way to turn those calories into kinetic energy. :-D

-JD
[User Picture]
From:feliciakw
Date:September 28th, 2006 08:01 pm (UTC)
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I agree that excercise is essential, possibly more essential than diet. The body can handle truly vast amounts of calories if it is given a way to turn those calories into kinetic energy.

Honest, I saw an ad a long while back for "The Amish Diet." Eat as much as you want of anything. Of course, the flip side is that you have to then go out and work the farm by hand and do all your household chores without the benefit of modern automation.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:September 28th, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC)
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Exactly. :-)

I don't exercise enough. Can't go for walks when it's dark out (dangerous city and no walking buddies), can't afford a gym, don't have room in my apt. to do proper exercising or even *own* a treadmill or anything like that. There's a small gym at my office, but I can't bring myself to come to work early or stay late enough to bother.

Shame on me.
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From:feliciakw
Date:September 28th, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC)
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(When did carbs become evil? How are we all still walking around if carbs are this insidious force of darkness that is going to turn us all into balloons?)

I won't nanner on about the whole "carbs are evil" thing, 'cause, you know, grain since the dawn of human civilization and all that. But in today's food production industries, carbs too often have all the nutrition refined/processed out of them (hence the need for "enriched" flour). And it wasn't until I started reading about the "good carbs" vs. "bad carbs" thing and how carbs affect insulin levels in the blood and how that relates to metabolizing fat that things started to make sense. I'm a carb addict, but I also have a very strong family background of diabetes; hence I'll always have to be careful of my carb intake (says she who loves pumpkin pie, and pumpkin bread, and spice cake, and shortbread, and . . . and . . . and . . . ).

Then there's the whole "you can eat as much meat as you want" (I'm looking at you, Atkins). Except animal protein is a source of bad cholesterol . . .

Which brings us back to "all things in moderation."

Duh.

:-)
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:September 28th, 2006 08:20 pm (UTC)
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Well, good carbs, yeah: whole grains with the nutrition left in. Whole wheat bread (or some kind of awesome multi-grain) with peanut butter = my favorite snack ever.

The whole grains even provide fiber.

And yes, naturally, moderation in all things. It just gets annoying when people try to pin all the wrongs of health on one item: carbs, meat, dairy, sugar, chemicals (though I do try to avoid MSG; it's crack, and will make me eat more of whatever it's in, eww, brain control!).

That way, we only have to adjust one thing, rather than our whole lifestyle. *sigh* We silly humans....
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From:kalquessa
Date:September 28th, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
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But in today's food production industries, carbs too often have all the nutrition refined/processed out of them (hence the need for "enriched" flour).

You have a point there, and I'm willing to admit that there are, indeed, bad carbs (I'm afraid my beloved Cheetos are among these agents of evil, woe is me). But it's not actually carbs that are evil, just how we prepare and eat them (carbs being far and away the most common type of comfort food that is eaten to satisfy not hunger but some emotional discomfort).

But the whole Atkins craze drives me bonkers because it's so American, playing to our desire for instant gratification at the expense of the future. As if anyone is going to give up bread for the rest of their lives. Pshaw.
[User Picture]
From:jd3000
Date:September 28th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC)
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Give us this day our daily bacon.

-JD
[User Picture]
From:kalquessa
Date:September 28th, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC)

Man's God-given right to bacon

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When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for everyone to have bacon...
[User Picture]
From:jd3000
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:08 pm (UTC)

Re: Man's God-given right to bacon

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Ask NOT...what your bacon can do for you...
[User Picture]
From:kalquessa
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:14 pm (UTC)

Re: Man's God-given right to bacon

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I regret that I have but one bacon to eat for my country!
[User Picture]
From:jd3000
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC)

Classical Literature

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Cry 'Bacon!' and let slip the dogs of war!

-JD
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)

Re: Classical Literature

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You guys are so silly....
[User Picture]
From:feliciakw
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
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(carbs being far and away the most common type of comfort food that is eaten to satisfy not hunger but some emotional discomfort).

This gets me to wondering--just idly, mind you--if this is more of a cultural thing. Yes, ice cream and chicken&noodles and mashed potatoes and cookies and the like are considered comfort foods--in America. I wonder if other cultures have different comfort foods. Or is it some common element in carbs--the sugars or whatever--that elevate certain brain chemicals (seritonin?) and regardless of culture, it's that element of carbs--in whatever form is culturally handy--that make them comfort foods.

Does that make sense?

But the whole Atkins craze drives me bonkers because it's so American, playing to our desire for instant gratification at the expense of the future.

I will so second that. The desire for instant gratification in general is something I think Americans are way too addicted to. (And I don't really exclude myself from that description, either.)

I actually had a great deal of success on the South Beach Diet. I was highly skeptical of it as just another fad diet--got fed up with those years ago--until my doctor recommended it by name for my husband and myself, and I felt much better about it when I was reading the book and discovered that the doctor who created SBD stated that he was appalled by the Atkins diet and how it encouraged unlimited meat of any kind.

That's why it drives me a little nuts when I explain South Beach to people and they go, "Oh, it sounds just like Atkins." Then I start listing all the things that are allowed on (Phase 1 of) SBD (healthy things like legumes and beans and such), and they go, "Oh, you're not allowed that on Atkins."

Indeed.

Then I read about the re-vamping of Atkins, and I'm thinking to myself, "It's South Beach. Heh."

But lest anyone think I'm advocating SBD, I'm not. I mean, I'll tell you how effective it is, but then, so is Weight Watchers. Everyone needs to find their own diet/exercise regimen that works for them.
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From:jd3000
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
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Everyone needs to find their own diet/exercise regimen that works for them.

Exactly. Mine is very simple. "Eat less and exercise."

Dave Barry once described this as the world's first diet plan, inscribed by cavemen on a stone tablet, and everyone who used it got very fit because the tablet was extremely heavy to lift. :-D

-JD
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From:kalquessa
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC)
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Does that make sense?

It does, and now I'm wondering, too! That wound be fascinating to research (says the girl to whom "research" means a desultry spin through Wikipedia).

I don't know much about the SBD, though I've heard good things about it. The one time I made something from a SBD recipe I think I replaced all the healthy substitutes with the original sugars and fats because I cook for a family of skinny people with crazy metabolisms that can eat cookies by the armful without gaining weight. *envious sigh*

Personally I'd rather exercise for weight loss rather than diet beyond the sensible everything-in-moderation code. But that's what works for me, and like you say, everybody's different, and it's all about what works for you. Tossing out all forms of carbs doesn't work for anyone, as far as I know.
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From:jd3000
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
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Personally I'd rather exercise for weight loss rather than diet

I've found this personally true as well. I can get in a good walk on my usual hilly route that takes half an hour and I'm done for the day, whereas I'd have to practice dietary over-integrity 3-5 times a day. No contest. :-D

-JD
From:dafne99
Date:September 28th, 2006 10:17 pm (UTC)
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I did extremely well on SBD and felt phenomenal. But then the old comfort foods slipped in.... Yeah, I've been meaning to get back on SBD for a while now. ;)
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From:lapinguina
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:09 pm (UTC)
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It's also silly at the other end of the spectrum: by that standard, my 82-year-old diabetic grandmother's serving sizes should be what, five pounds? Ew.
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC)
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Hee! I didn't even think of it that way! Wow, that's an image. *chortles*
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From:trinityday
Date:September 28th, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC)
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That just doesn't make sense, the way it was said. And if you heard this on the radio, then the host didn't do his/her job and ask what on earth s/he meant by that...
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 28th, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)
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My point precisely. :-P
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From:kerravonsen
Date:September 28th, 2006 10:17 pm (UTC)
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Radio health advice is worth what you pay for it.

The "obesity epidemic" I figure has some multi-factored causes, which nobody seems to be actually doing anything about:
- lack of exersize
- in the US, huge portion size probably has something to do with it too (I was astonished by how huge the portion size of US fast food is)
- over-refined foods with too much fat and sugar
- for women, an obsession with models that look like famine-victims, leading to unhealthy dieting which leads to a reduced metabolism which makes people fatter (yes, it's paradoxical, but that's one reason why 95% of diets don't work in the long term -- the diet causes the body to think that one is in the midst of a famine, so it reduces the metabolism, and keeps it reduced to get ready for the next famine)
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 28th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
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All true. Sadly true.
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From:mistraltoes
Date:September 29th, 2006 08:45 am (UTC)
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Okay, I'm going to say up front that obesity misinformation is one of my hot buttons, so I'll try to keep this short. But the doctor's suggestion is misleading, if not entirely wrong. There are studies which pretty clearly indicate that dieting before puberty is the fast track to intractable adult obesity. So while everybody should eat reasonable portions of healthy foods, I fear the way she's phrased that may actually hurt some people.

There is a problem with the way in which the medical community addresses obesity. Not only is it many years behind the research community, but the results of the research, when known, are being misunderstood and misapplied. We know that a fairly simple formula controls weight: eat more calories than you burn, and you gain. Eat fewer calories than you burn, and you lose. The problem is that we take that simple formula and apply a simple, intuitive approach--eat less, or burn more (via exercise), or both--and assume that approach will work for everyone. Unfortunately, it only works for a person with a healthy metabolism, and the overwhelming majority of people who are obese (as opposed to ten or fifteen pounds overweight) simply don't have one. Telling people to eat less and exercise more is great for the pharmaceutical companies and diet and exercise industry, but it doesn't work for the portion of the population who needs the help most.

As for the 'epidemic' of obesity, my opinion is that it's caused by too much emphasis on slenderness which leads to inappropriate dieting and metabolic slowing; inactivity; and a food supply that's been badly damaged since WWII in an effort to increase market appeal and profitability (the sugar content of our fruits and veggies has skyrocketed, our meat and dairy are laced with growth hormones, and our processed foods are downright dangerous).
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From:jd3000
Date:September 29th, 2006 03:32 pm (UTC)
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Unfortunately, it only works for a person with a healthy metabolism, and the overwhelming majority of people who are obese (as opposed to ten or fifteen pounds overweight) simply don't have one. Telling people to eat less and exercise more is great for the pharmaceutical companies and diet and exercise industry, but it doesn't work for the portion of the population who needs the help most.

Yes, but excercise definitely does increase the metabolism, and enough to make a diet effective. Or are you talking about people too obese to properly excercise?

-JD
[User Picture]
From:kerravonsen
Date:September 30th, 2006 01:16 am (UTC)
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Well, I know that with me, I'm in a sort of catch-22 situation, since besides being obese, I have a tendency towards plantar fasciitis, which basically means ones tendons are stretched too tight from the bottom of the foot to the calf, which makes it painful to walk. Which makes it harder to exersize, which makes it harder to lose weight. And the weight itself aggravates the things which make it harder to exersize. I feel as if I'm running towards an ever-retreating goal, a chimera that I'll never reach.
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From:mistraltoes
Date:September 30th, 2006 10:44 am (UTC)
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Actually, almost nobody is too obese to exercise. Even somebody obese enough to be bedridden could exercise by moving their arms and legs around, and it would be simultaneously aerobic and anaerobic, both elevating the heart and breathing rates and building muscle.

And yes, exercise will increase the metabolism (though there appears to be a point of too much exercise, where it kicks in the same starvation response as too few calories does). But how much it assists in making a diet effective (and BTW, a diet isn't considered effective unless the weight stays off for over a year; losing and gaining weight is more dangerous than not losing it in the first place) depends to a great extent on whether or not the metabolism is still functioning somewhat normally.

When I say that obese people don't usually have healthy metabolisms, what I mean is that by the time a person has progressed from 'a little chubby' to 'clinically obese', there's almost always damage to the energy storage and burning process, whether it be insulin resistance, diabetes, or a number of other things (some of which we likely haven't even discovered yet). Not just a slow metabolism, but diseases; things that exercise may assist in managing, but won't cure. That's one reason why it's so important to prevent obesity--because prevention is easier than reversing it.
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From:izhilzha
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC)
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There are studies which pretty clearly indicate that dieting before puberty is the fast track to intractable adult obesity. So while everybody should eat reasonable portions of healthy foods, I fear the way she's phrased that may actually hurt some people.

Thank you! I knew I'd read something somewhere that directly contradicted what this woman was saying (or what I was hearing her say), but I couldn't remember exactly how to phrase it.

Huh. I wonder--I have a pretty healthy metabolism (actually, a pretty fast one, it runs in the genes, I think), but now I'm wondering if the fact that I've never dieted except for refraining from refined sugar may have *kept* it that way. That would be cool. Kinda like my hair being strong because I've never bleached it.
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From:mistraltoes
Date:September 30th, 2006 10:48 am (UTC)
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I think it's a good bet that not dieting has supported your having a good metabolism. And the whole-grain bread is probably even more important than the sugar; white flour elevates blood sugar much faster than table sugar does. The best diet I know is nothing white--no white flour, white potatoes, white rice, refined sugars. Somebody ought to tell Larry. :(

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