Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why it is important to challenge sources of misinformation

Serious talk here.

This is something that I can imagine is easy for people to misunderstand and misjudge people's motives on. There's so much vitriolic argument and debate over different approaches to health via training and nutrition.

Really, there are any number of healthy and positive approaches one could adopt or recommend for losing weight or otherwise getting into shape. We could debate that one is more suitable than another for achieving an elite level performance or condition goal, but then again... your goal might not be such an elite level, and therefore another approach might be more suitable to your needs and circumstances. Really, so long as it is healthy and positive and it suits you and makes you happy, there's not much to argue about.

Do what's right for you, and let others do what's right for them.

Misinformation is different though.

The reason to call people out for spreading misinformation isn't because you're likely to "win" the debate and have them change their opinion. It's not just because someone is "wrong on the internet" as annoying as that is, let's face it.

You're never going to get through to these people and change their mind. Some of them are using that misinformation to push some "health" product or program, and... well, sometimes it is pretty obvious, and other times we only speculate as to whether they actually know they're a scumbag and a scam artist, or if they've convinced themselves that the ends justifies the means and even if the information is not accurate, if it scares some people into a healthier lifestyle then the ends justifies the means. Either way, I'm convinced that in the vast majority of cases, if there is a product involved the "root sources" of misinformation are entirely aware that what they're saying is not true.

That's the top level of scumbags, the root source of deliberate misinformation or I should actually say disinformation related to health and nutrition. Your Dave Aspreys, your Food Babe Vani Haris and so on. Absolute charlatans making a fortune from lies.

Perhaps a level down from those are the people who've simply been duped. They've read an article or watched a video, found it interesting and plausible, and bought into it. Then they feel obliged to share this information. There's a bit of ego involved here but who knows, maybe you can reach these people. There's no shame in simply being mistaken, in believing some information that seems plausible but turns out to be incorrect under closer scrutiny. The same can't be said for indignantly insisting on a "fact" in defiance of all evidence to the contrary.

You do have your "self appointed expert" types as well. Basically you're talking about people who've maybe pondered a topic for two and a half minutes, speculated on an answer of how it all works, and then decided "yep, that's it. I've figured it out. Gosh I'm awfully smart". I'm sure I'll never understand how anyone could be quite so egotistical and arrogant to really believe that "me thinking about it for a few minutes" out ranks "the collective opinion of experienced professionals who've devoted their lives to researching and furthering our understanding of this field". There's no shortage of people who seem to think like that though, for some reason. You're never going to get through to them, either.

So why bother?

Speaking of dreadful advice that isn't healthy
and doesn't even work....
The reason it has to be done is to protect other people from practices that may be detrimental to their wellbeing. Since many sources of misinformation manage to reach a broad audience through fear mongering and sensationalism, there's the potential for widespread harm, particularly in the areas of health and nutrition.

Now whether the harm is that people simply are unable to make progress in losing weight due to following shit advice, or that advice is so irresponsible that it is tantamount to the active promotion of an eating disorder such as orthorexia nervosa, it is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.

There's a lot of money being made by unscrupulous people via promotion of orthorexia.

Unfortunately. And make no mistake, that's what all of these diet programs are. The idea that there are certain foods you shouldn't eat, because they cause illness, weight gain, premature aging, or whatever... and that there's a list of foods that don't have those effects which you'll have to pay for... nonsense.


Monday, August 18, 2014

True Or False: Anything Short Of Perfection Is Failure

Serious training + half arsed
dietary consistency = results I'm
not entirely unsatisfied with.
Perfect adherence. Perfect discipline. Perfect ripped, shredded, lean and muscular physique. Anything less just aint good enough, right?

False.

A couple of things have got me thinking. You know that's always a recipe for trouble, me + thinking.

There's a movement on one of the industry groups in my facebook feed, and for once it's actually a good thing. It is PTs posting HONEST photos of themselves... like, no myspace angles, no convenient lighting. The real picture.

And it's like... body acceptance, right? And satisfactory results through sensible and moderate approaches; nothing restrictive or extreme. I'm all on board with that. But... at the same time it could be taken the wrong way. I'm for body acceptance in terms of "sure I could still go a little further but actually I'm quite happy where I am for now", rather than "this is as far as I can go and I am learning to accept that", as if people are REALLY at the limit of their potential and anything further is an unreasonable expectation akin to the promotion of unhealthy approaches.

They aint. The difference between where one person is at and where another is at comes down to how tight their targets are, how consistently they adhere to those targets, how consistently they hit the gym, and how long they've been at it. Oh and a better training strategy always makes a big difference too. Genetic potential though? Very few of us are anywhere near the limit of our genetic potential. That's something that only comes into it at advanced, competitive levels.

So the other thing is my feed is frequently full of idiots talking about for example "any sugar intake will spike your insulin levels, which puts you into fat storage mode for the day!" that's a cut n paste from some dumb idiot answering a question about which fruits not to eat.

The problem is... sometimes these orthorexic broscientist types are actually in killer, advanced level shape. So there's a tendency for the uneducated observer to assume the super ripped person obviously knows better about this stuff. It does seem to make sense, the person in killer shape saying "this is what it takes" would know, right? More so than the person in just "quite good" shape.

Not necessarily though. Just because what you're doing is working, doesn't necessarily mean it is working for the reasons you think it is. On the nutrition side, it is working because at the end of the day what you DO eat brings you to a suitable total intake... not because the stuff you DON'T eat would spell instant doom. When people start splitting hairs about which fruits and which vegetables are the "good" ones and which ones you need limit... jesus christ man, it is getting beyond a joke. That sort of nonsense is clearly not in anyone's best interests, least of all the general public who already think that success in weight loss is an unlikely goal requiring an unreasonable level of effort.

My own physique is down to a fairly half arsed adherence to hitting suitable targets with a mix of processed and fresh foods subject to my tastes. There are times I feel like maybe I should step it up, hit my optimal targets accurately and consistently and really prove how far you can go with flexible dieting without having to develop a paranoia about processed foods, grains, the "wrong" fruits and so on.

A couple of things about that though. Number One; do I really care enough about what fkn idiots think, to push myself beyond what I'm enthusiastic about just to prove that I'm right? And more importantly, Number Two; is that the message that I want to send to my clients and followers? That it's "not good enough" until your haters reluctantly concede that it is good enough? Number Three... actually I'll come back to Number Three a little later.

Screw that. I am about providing that balance, between LEGITIMATELY achieving great results through an effective training program, while still enjoying life outside of the gym and not have to stress out about your food choices. You do need to be a little bit mindful and organised in order to hit reasonably close to your targets, but that's not a lot to ask of yourself.

I believe people are only limited by their level of enthusiasm. Do the very bare minimum of turning up to training regularly and hitting reasonably close to your targets with the foods you were going to eat anyway, plus a little more of the good fresh stuff (fruit and veg) and you will be amazed with the results. If you then become enthusiastic enough to do a little more, provided you fuel up appropriately you'll see even better, next level results.

There's a massive difference though, in doing what you're enthusiastic about versus reluctantly doing what you feel obligated or pressured to do.

Oh I almost forgot! Number Three is that plenty of guys and girls do take this "flexible dieting" approach all the way to competitive level of body building and figure modeling. At the end of the day, it's about total intake and optimal macro ratios. Some choices of foods will fit easier into those targets than others, but nothing needs to be excluded outright because there's something "bad" about it that instantly means you won't be successful.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Establishing healthy eating habits for success in your weight loss and fitness goals.

Here's something I posted elsewhere last night, along with a link to my "Just eat healthy. What does that mean?" entry from a while back.

Don't set the standard too high as to what level of "healthy eating habits" you need to adhere to. Appropriate total intake, enough protein and fiber, your required serves of fruit and veg... other choices as best suits you. That's healthy enough. 

Now... we can think of any number of extra "but shouldn't they also?" type points as well, which are probably advisable. There's probably no limit on the amount of suggestions we could make for eating habits what would be helpful, beneficial and just simply put "a pretty damn good idea". Does that mean that any, much less all of them are crucial, though? Will the whole house of cards come tumbling down if we slip on just one these beneficial points, resulting in chronic ill health and out of control weight gain?

Absolutely not. Bizarre though, that we see such suggestions made so often and so frivolously on so many health and fitness type blogs and pages. It is highly irresponsible.

In my professional experience, I don't ask for any more than those few points listed in the first paragraph, and I consistently find that people will naturally gravitate towards including a greater amount and variety of the healthier choices of their own accord. As they see results from training due to now being adequately fueled, enthusiasm and self belief increases, so they start to adhere even more consistently, and start aiming for more "optimal" targets rather than merely "adequate". This is clearly a much better situation than clients being bullied and badgered into eating things they are not enthusiastic about, and made to feel guilty or ashamed if they fail to adhere.

My observation is that many coaches (or individuals without coaches) set impossible (and unnecessary) standards, and the end result is the opposite of what anyone wants. There are studies (damned if i can find the link right now) that confirm this; the more restrictions you put on people, the more likely they are to end up binging on one or more of the banned choices. This is counter productive, obviously.

Now if you are in the habit of "by default" hitting that appropriate total intake mostly from the more healthy choices that you find suitable... you're going to get results. You're meeting your requirements, so you're not going hungry and likely to give in and over eat later. You're meeting your requirements from choices that appeal to you, so you're not testing your willpower needlessly abstaining from enjoyable meals. It is merely a matter of getting organised, planning a day in advance, and before long your habits are in line with your requirements and you can do it on the fly by intuition. The odd day when you do go off the plan due to whatever circumstances is irrelevant in the context of habitually meeting appropriate intake by default the majority of the time.

In other words don't psych yourself out treating every choice, every aspect of your nutritional habits as "make or break, do or die". Set out to do the bare minimum, and you will succeed in your goals.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Science vs opinion

i was just thinking about the Large Hadron Collider. It took 10 years to build, and according to wikipedia
The LHC was built in collaboration with over 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries, as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories.[3] It lies in a tunnel 27 kilometres (17 mi) in circumference, as deep as 175 metres (574 ft) beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland.
That's a lot of time and expense and effort, to find this "higgs particle". I have tried and failed to understand exactly (or even approximately) what that is, but you've gotta think if they've gone to all that effort and expense they've gotta be pretty damn certain of success.

in which case... wouldn't that be proof enough? "We are so sure this is what's up, we're going to spend 10 years and however much money it takes to build this thing to prove it". To me that's like... you know what? That's good enough for me. I'll take your word for it.

That's not how science works though. They have to prove it. And from time to time you'll read where they were sure of something, set out to prove it, actually discovered it was something else and they aren't even sure why just yet but they're going to try to figure it out.

You read about studies too, where the result is "a suggestion" that something is plausible enough to warrant a more stringent study to make absolutely sure. And sometimes the more stringent study actually suggests the opposite.That study might be carried out by the same people, or by others. The prime example would be when the researchers who provided key evidence of gluten sensitivity thoroughly showed that it does not exist, in a later study. Still, I've observed several people dismissing the later study in preference of the first one, which better suits their confirmation bias.

So... when you think about all this. When science says "we know this to be true", or "we have established that this is a fact", the standard is really as high as high could be. It's not just "here's the idea we're going to run with" and no one wanting to throw a spanner in the works with an opposing theory. That's the thing, they actually TEST those theories so they KNOW if they're right or not.

And yet...

Whether it is self appointed nutrition experts, anti vaccine campaigners or whoever else... there are so many big mouths out there who'll completely reject all of that on the basis of "well, I thought about it for a few minutes and this is what seems most likely to me". That'd be fine and there'd be a cause for debate, if it was on a topic that had never been tested.

When something has been tested, the method scrutinised, retested again, and the findings are consistent with our observations... there' s no shame in being corrected if you're an untrained person who had speculated on the topic and come to a different conclusion.

To insist that you're still correct though in defiance of the body of evidence though? To insist that your personal speculation be considered as a valid alternative to tested and proven theories? That is sheer arrogance and belligerently willful ignorance.

While we do all have a right to an opinion, in cases where presenting that opinion as fact can impact the wellbeing of others, we have a moral obligation to ensure that this opinion is accurate and factual, based on the best available evidence.




Saturday, August 2, 2014

Science vs scammers and scare mongers.

The following will be rather an unscientific style of science lesson. Enjoy.

There are many different ways to run a scientific study but generally speaking, you need to have something called a "control group". In a weight loss study... maybe you're testing a weight loss pill or something. You have one group of people who are taking the pill and you want to determine whether or not it causes people to lose weight. You have another group taking a placebo pill that you know does nothing, and you want to compare the amount of weight lost in each group.

Of course, the people don't know which group they're a part of, and they all think they are testing a "working" weight loss treatment. Usually what happens in these studies is that people in both groups lose a similar amount of weight. Whether they're taking the pill that supposedly has all these fat burning ingredients, or they're taking the "empty" pill...similar result.

You can logically conclude that in either group, since people have an expectation of losing weight due to the treatment they are trialling, this is probably enough to influence them to make a few decisions regarding food choices during the day that are more conducive to weight loss. "Maybe just a half serve, I'm supposed to be losing weight" for example.

Now... it might only be one or two very small deviations from their less mindful, and slightly excessive normal eating habits, but still enough reduce total calorific intake by enough to result in some weight loss. We know that at least one of the pills does absolutely nothing. It isn't even supposed to anything, and the only instruction people are given is "take the pill and go about your business. Record the results for us". Therefore the loss of weight comes very simply by making a few more mindful choices during the day resulting in total energy intake being reduced to a less inappropriate amount.

I want to emphasise the point... a couple of very small changes from normal habits resulting in slight reduction of total intake.

Therefore when you see people arguing about what's "allowed" in a particular diet... "are potatoes ok? yes but only these types and not those"... "you can't eat these foods because of this reason" and so on... you can logically conclude that they're idiots who don't know what the fuck they are talking about.

What these studies really prove, even if they're funded by marketers trying to prove "people lost weight taking our pill", what they're really proving is "people can lose weight with no special conditions or drastic changes in habits simply by being more mindful of not consuming an excessive amount".

That is PROVEN. You all know someone who has lost a few kilos just by making one small change in daily habits.

So... that might not be enough to take you all the way to your goal but the lesson is, don't pay attention to scare mongers talking bollocks about which foods are and aren't allowed on a diet and what special & drastic conditions need to be adhered to. It is all down to a more appropriate total intake relative to fueling your lifestyle at your healthy goal weight.