Tag Archives: headlines

Obesity Society Recommends Half of America Should Waste More Time and Money

This week, I came across this little gem from the Obesity Society.  And let me state for the record that while a society composed of rad fatties would be cool, this society is not it.  Nope this society is composed of a whole lot of people who think that fat people should not live on this planet.

In light of my recent posts about how intentional weight loss efforts don’t work, how intentional weight loss (when it does occur) tends to be temporary and fleeting, how there’s no real evidence that intentional weight loss in itself helps people be healthier (nor is there likely to be such a study anytime soon as you can’t get people to keep the weight off long enough to study it), and how behavior modification does make people healthier whether they lose weight or not, in light of all those things the Obesity Society press release title is at least good for a laugh:

Sixty-five Percent of American Adults are Recommended Behavioral Weight-Loss Treatment, Study Shows
Of those, 83% should be considered for pharmacotherapy, 23% could be candidates for bariatric surgery

Yep, weight loss efforts don’t work, so MORE people need to try them.  Yes!  Bariatric surgery has tons of sometimes irreversible side effects (including suicide and accidental death) and often doesn’t result in permanent weight loss or improved quality of life, so clearly THAT’S what we should do.  Yes, most of the weight loss drugs approved over the last 25 years were eventually pulled because they resulted in minimal up front weight loss, almost no permanent weight loss and caused little problems like heart defects, high blood pressure, heart attacks and death.  So OF COURSE we need more people to do that.

Honestly, I don’t even know what to type any more.  The evidence continues to pile up saying:

1.  We don’t know how to help people lose weight long term.

2.  We don’t know if that elusive long term weight loss will make people healthier.

3.  We do know that a lot of the stuff we try to help people lose weight makes them sicker and sometimes dead.

4.  We do know that modest behavior changes in eating well, stress management, getting good sleep, coping with stigma, and joyfully moving our bodies helps us be healthy without bad side effects whether or not people lose weight.

And we keep adding 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 and coming up with the answer:

We just need to keep doing that stuff that doesn’t work even harder with more people.  It takes a COMMITMENT people!

I think I need to recommend a little “Weight Loss Headline Bypass Surgery” so I can just look at the actual research.  Because these conclusions are making me feel a little bit crazy.

Yup, that’s my prescription.  And I think the prognosis is pretty good.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie, AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Want me to  come speak at your  organization?  Click HERE to learn more.

Advertisements

Belty at CES: Comfortable Technology or Uncomfortable Community Rorschach Test?

If you follow the technology news at all,  you know that Vegas hosted the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week.  And if you follow the news at CES at all, you’ve probably heard about a new gadget from France that has been one of the darlings of the media this week.  This gadget, called Belty, is a smart belt.  Following the wildly popular electronic wearables trend, this digital belt adjusts to you–loosening or tightening to keep a steady grip on your waist.  So for example, if you stand up, the belt tightens.  When you sit down, and your tummy is slightly squished it loosens.  If you eat a meal, it loosens slightly.  If you come back from your high colonic, it tightens slightly.  Get the idea?

The belt also functions as an activity tracker and buzzes gently to let you know if you have been seated and sedentary beyond a certain set limit.  The belt is not yet for sale, nor is there a clear indication when it might be.  The product is kind of silly and the name is ridiculous.  So one might wonder just why it has garnered so much press.

Well some have speculated the media attentions stems from the fact that it is new, and extremely visual and lends itself to iPhone video shots of the belt developer/model’s crotch.

But I think the real reason this thing is in the media so much is that it provides an opportunity for everybody to weigh in on the “obesity crisis”–often while utilizing extremely bad puns.

Stuff tv’s headline is simple and accurate.  “Hands on with Belty–The smartbelt that adjusts itself to your waistline.”  Simple and factual.  Thumbs up for Stuff TV.  USA Today says that “Belty wants to make losing weight a cinch!” Get it?  See what they did there?  CNBC calls the product “A smart belt that knows when you are getting fat.” (Sort of like Santa Claus, it knows when you’ve been eating…) Yahoo Health says “World’s First Smart Belt Self-Adjusts to Signal Daily Weight Fluctuations”.  Well okay, it does tell an app on your smart phone when your waistline changes in either direction.  Some have suggested that the app shames its wearers with headlines like “Adjustable belt shames you into exercising more”.

Actually the belt does contain fitness tracking information.  It does buzz gently if you have been “sitting too long”.  But there is little evidence that the app does any shaming of any kind.  It tracks your waistline, but unlike other apps I’ve reviewed, it doesn’t call you names or  yell at you.  It buzzes gently, but it doesn’t give you an electric shock like the pavlovian bracelet I’ve talked about before.

In fact, all the while that some are touting the weight loss benefits of the product, others are criticizing it for “promoting obesity”.  To be clear, it doesn’t appear that the product plays happy theme music when your waistline increases (although that would be kinda cool).  There’s no “fat cat” feature that deposits money in your bank account as your girth gets larger.  Some have suggested that by the very fact the belt ever loosens, thus making you less miserable when your pants are too tight, encourages people to pile on the pounds.

The amazing thing to me isn’t that there’s a big, clunky, digital belt that gets bigger and smaller by itself.  The amazing thing to me is the sheer range of value judgements we impose on such a piece of tech.  The level of emotional stuff that the media and people in general are willing to heap on any product that has anything to do with body size, waist size and weight is remarkable.

Look people, sometimes a whirring clunky digital belt is just a belt.  Let’s just reclaim our collective minds and move on, okay?

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hire me to speak?  Click HERE!

P.S.S. Want to join my mailing list and get free stuff?  Click HERE!

B

Does Eating Margarine Cause Divorce? Correlation is not Causation.

There’s a lot of buzz on the list serves about a new website that just launched called Spurious Correlations.  The site reports a new “correlation” each day.  For example, the site points out that the correlation in Maine between eating margarine and divorce is over 99 percent.  Does this mean that Maine residents who want to maintain their matrimonial bond need to switch right on over to butter?  I mean 99 percent seems pretty darn compelling, right?  There are lots of other important correlations listed on the site including:

Per capita consumption of mozzarella cheese and civil engineering doctorates awarded–95%

Honey producing bee colonies and the marriage rate in Vermont–93%

US domestic price of uranium with accidental poisoning by alcohol–97%

Spurious Correlations is a wonderful tool for demonstrating that oh so important axiom, “correlation is not causation”.  This means that just because two things tend to happen together does not necessarily mean that one causes the other.  They might have a third agent which is causing them to happen together or they might have no relationship to one another whatsoever outside of a random statistical similarity.

I think that Spurious Correlations is a fascinating site.  I’ve spent way too much time tooling around in there.  But I also think it is an important tool for helping us understand our world.  Because so many of the people writing and talking about science on websites and blogs, on television, in magazines and newspapers get this relationship between correlation and causation so very wrong.  I think in some cases the writers and speakers don’t understand the difference.  But in other cases, I think the writers are very clear about the difference and simply report correlation as causation because it makes better headlines or sells more product.  Take this blog post for example.  I don’t have any proof that buying margarine causes a single divorce in Maine.  But I imply that there might be a cause by asking the question in the headline: “Does Eating Margarine Cause Divorce”?  It’s easy to see why I did that.  “Per Capital Margarine Consumption in Maine Closely Correlates with Divorce Rate” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  But I think most people would agree that even though butter tastes a whole lot better, eating oleo is unlikely to be the cause for divorce.  Either something else is going on to connect these two statistics, or they are completely unrelated.  So the difference between correlation and causation here is pretty easy to spot.

But what about the correlation between the total number of computer science doctorates awarded and total arcade revenue.  These two facts correlate at over 98 percent.  And it would be pretty easy to formulate a theory about how these two facts are related.  Maybe when there are more computer science students, it means there are more nerds that love to play arcade games.  Maybe more computer science doctorates means there are more nerds qualified to design and implement great arcade games.  With just the tiniest whiff of a potential relationship, our minds naturally leap to find ways that one of these facts could cause the other.  But there remains the very distinct possibility that there is no causal relationship whatsoever between these two statistics.

I find this particularly relevant in our current national hysteria over obesity.  It seems every week there is a new study claiming that this thing or that thing causes obesity.  And everywhere you look you see “proof” that obesity causes this problem or that problem.  But I think it is important for us to keep our wits about us and take a look whether these studies can sufficiently demonstrate that two correlated facts have a causal relationship.  For example, people are spending more time in front of computer screens than ever before.  Some have suggested that increased screen time causes obesity.  But do we know that is true?  Or are these things simply happening at the same time.  We also have more 24 hour gyms than in the previous century.  Is it reasonable to suggest that the increase in 24 hour gyms causes obesity?  Maybe dieting causes obesity, or exposure to certain plastics?  Heck, based on the correlation, one could easily suggest that talking about obesity increases obesity levels!  And how about the rise in medical insurance costs and the rise in obesity.  Does a larger number of fat people cause higher insurance rates or is there something else going on?  The question of the rise in health insurance rates is detailed and complex but how many people have simply jumped to the conclusion that the fatties are making their monthly premiums higher.  How many of us take the time to understand: the only way that we can prove that one thing causes for another is through careful experimentation where as many other variables as possible are ruled out and a causal agent is ultimately found.

So when you come across studies that demonstrate a relationship between say obesity and heart disease or obesity and cognitive function, I urge you not to just jump blindly onto the causation train.  Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Has this study adequately controlled for other causal factors?  Has it controlled for diet, physical activity levels, socioeconomic status, access to good healthcare, education, etc.?
  • Has this study identified a causal link that demonstrates why these two things are happening at the same time?
  • Is it possible that these two statistics are simply randomly related with no causal relationship whatsoever?

That is not to say that correlation never go together.  All causal relationships are also correlations.  But not all correlations contain causation.  These are important facts to keep in mind the next time you read a headline screaming about the causes of obesity or harm caused by obesity–or the next time you decide to buy margarine in Maine.

Love,

Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Want to go on a virtual vacation?  Ragen and I over at the Fit Fatties Forum are launching Virtual Vacations that allow you to exercise while virtually visiting some of the world’s most fabulous cities!