Tuesday, January 18, 2011

She Blinded Me With Science!

227.0lbs, see? I told ya. Hopefully, by Saturday morning's weigh in I will be 223lbs. It's a goal I think is achievable. It's something that a lot of existing nutritional science views as unhealthy because it should be almost impossible unless you are starving yourself. Low calorie dieting plus exercise is what gets results! Eat less, exercise more! It doesn't work that way and never has, many scientific studies have shown this to be critically wrong. Even if you throw some of your own numbers in a spreadsheet and work the numbers for yourself, you can see how wrong it is. Think about it this way, a pound of fat is about 3500 calories. By conventional wisdom, if we take my Sunday numbers and substract today's weight - Tuesday, I should have burned at least (7lbs X 3500) 24,500 calories without consuming a single calorie! I looked at an online calculator for running and found out if I ran a marathon at my Sunday weight I would have only burned 4610 calories. If I were to eat normally, I would only have burned 2610. So according to the calorie in/calorie out theory, I somehow squeezed in almost 6 marathons in the past two days without eating. Heck I did eat and I ate well, so that means I ran just shy of 10 marathons. I need to take the day off now, my legs are suddenly tired from all the exercise I didn't do.

Let's move on to more science. I know.... snore. But if you don't eat your meat you can't have any pudding reader!

I just finished reading a pdf about the flaws in something called The China Study. Basically, the gist is this: scientist takes data from a large study and interpolates non related data from a second study and interprets the data to show evidential support for a vegan diet. The problem? None of the underlying data truly supported the theory he put forth. It was a blatant skewing of data to support his (wait for it) vegan activism. There is actually nothing wrong with veganism or vegetarianism in my mind. I truly think it can be a great lifestyle but saying it cures cancer and reverses heart disease is quite different. As Tim Ferriss noted, the statistical data in the study also showed that hand rolled cigarettes had the same effect as well. Does this mean that everyone should start rolling their own like some sort of suburban cowboy or ironic hipster? No. There are other factors in the study that were just thrown out or plain disregarded. It's not like this sort of thing doesn't happen very often, it happens all the time. Perhaps the scientist's conclusions were true but the study did not prove that and his activism certainly puts his credibility in jeopardy.

Now don't get me wrong, I am a huge science fan. It's just that the media and scientists themselves try to paint broad pictures with few qualifying details and lots of scary imagery. It reminds me of a teenager's notebook art: Godzilla is going to eat a car but for some reason there is no sky or ground, just a few random rectangles that are smooshed together to look like buildings. Take for example, the global warming debate. If all prognostications are true, then the sea levels will rise , temperatures will increase and the environment will change.

This has happened before, of course, but let's not muddy our Godzilla picture with meaningless things like people running in terror or a more believable background. In addition to all the scary things, we will get more arable land for farming and food production and forests will expand, just as it did the last time this happened. As USA Today blared the headline Global Temperature Highest in 1000 years, one must also posit that almost 1000 years ago the temperatures were very similar to what they are today. The fact that global temperatures have remained flat the last decade or so doesn't seem to have received the same attention. Why? In the global arena it is bizarro world, money talks and bullshit does too.

I hope global warming is true because, otherwise, we are going to be in a very dire situation soon. I dread the exact opposite, temperatures falling. Even now we read headlines that Britain is on track to have the coldest winter in 1000 years (see how this works now?). You can't grow grain on a glacier and believe me that is a bad thing. Until polar bears start attacking the children, I will reserve my final judgment on the matter.

I was also reading a study recently how two large dust bowls have appeared in the last decade. Well one dust bowl that was cited has always been a dust bowl, it's in China, near the Gobi Desert. The Chinese forced it into being arable land then plowed the hell out of it. Sort of like we did to parts of Oklahoma in the 1880's through the 1930's. So are these dust bowls proof of global warming? I am not sure since the time period we had our dust bowl was during the coldest years of the last century. The issue, that one honest scientist points out, is that there are almost too many variables to take into account to get an accurate picture. Closing off the debate between folks who believe and those who have a healthy degree of skepticism, just kills me. Why close off a debate? Money.

Here is how science works now, at least the sensationalist type of science, you work up a fantastical hypothesis so you can acquire funding. The more sensational or dire your hypothesis is, the more money you get. Is this the fault of science? I think not. Do I think it is the fault of the fund providers? Most certainly. We are human and we all still have the wonderment that is inherent in being so. Would you rather fund a study that proves it is possible that giant mutant lizards might attack Tokyo any day now or one that shows that a decrease in global carbon dioxide might be harmful to larger forests? Personally, I would choose giant lizard. It's the same reason people subject themselves to bad movies. Our politicians, corporations and grant providers have a tendency to think the same way sometimes and everything has and always will be political. Even well researched studies with ironclad conclusions and plain fact are disregarded for what feels better.

We love sensationalism, we eat it up. This is not a uniquely American problem, it is a global one. Due to various sorts of brain washing from media sources and activists, more people believe in "The China Syndrome" (really awful science) than efficient clean nuclear power. It's sad really that the co-founder of Greenpeace sees a nuclear future while the organization he created gnashes their teeth and throws on their hairshirts every time they even hear the word "nuclear". Did you know a coal plant puts off more environmentally damaging radiation and carcinogens than a nuclear power plant ever will? Now you do.

Maybe you are thinking, well science is an absolute, it is immutable - maybe you don't. Science is ever changing and is not immune to the deficiencies of the human condition - most scientists know this, empiricism be damned. If you believed that everything science does is pure and unadulterated then you are just being foolish. Maybe you would like to have a cigarette; science proved it was healthy like, what, a hundred times or so? Avoid peanut butter, a study in the 70's showed it caused cancer in rats. Activist organizations, tobacco companies and the government have all dabbled in the sins of science. Don't even get me started on things like The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and Margaret Sanger (she actually proposed limiting immigration that was detrimental to "the race" - her words not mine, wonderful).

Am I some sort of science hating moron? No. I just believe that everything should be looked upon with some skepticism. I've seen people do it with religion all the time but rarely take a second glance at science. Heck, even look at the numbers in a study you've read recently for yourself if you have a chance, they are often published via the web. Even though I have seen studies everywhere on what I am now doing, I do keep my head cocked to one side. It must be my birth place that is at fault, Missouri. It is the "Show Me" state afterall.

A lot of my experimentation with body weight is coming from different sources though all are ketogenic in nature. One will tell you that sugar alcohols are the devil while others say, "Heck, go ahead they aren't REAL sugars." The former is more true, they might not be sugars but they act the same way only slower. Atkins pushes this stuff like nobody's business - it is in everything. Yeah, the stuff tastes fantastic but it will get you in the end. Maybe it is a form of sabotage to keep you doing Atkins until you die.

As much as we have been told to associate the fat we eat with the fat on our bodies, it is the hidden things like sugar that really get to you. Nowadays, even if you cook your own meals (without paying attention), it is unavoidable.

Here is a little experiment I would like you to try the next time you are grocery shopping. Look at the label of everything you buy. Search for words like malitol, sucrose, sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, turbinado, cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup and fructose. Also look for sucralose and phenyalanine/phenylketoneurics (all of these effect blood sugar). What percentage of the food, sauces, etc, have these items in them? 20%, 40%, 90%? Do it and tell me what you find.

Here is experiment number two for you diet soda/tea drinkers. Eat as you regularly would throughout the day except skip the diet drinks you normally would have. Now at some point during the day, when you are least hungry, drink your diet drink. How do you feel within an hour or two?

Now for the advanced class: experiment number three. Make a good meal for yourself tomorrow morning. You can do this tonight before you got to bed if you like and put it in the fridge. Just make sure it has a large amount of protein, much larger than you normally would eat. Now eat that within at least 30 minutes of waking up, no excuses. How do you feel?

Experiment number four (the experiment that everyone has done without knowing it). This is going to be one you can do in your head right now. Do you use a microwave? Ever notice how it takes forever to cook something like a hunk of meat but it takes mere seconds to heat up something that has a lot of sugar in it? The cooking times are different and despite what the calorie chart tells us, the same caloric amounts of sugar and protein are not the same chemically or structurally.

Calories are a blessing and a curse. You could try eating your entire, supposed, daily caloric allotment in sugar alone and lose weight eventually. Why? You would be starving yourself of so many vital macro and micro nutrients that you would certainly lose weight. Also, there is an effect that Tim Ferriss hits upon in a bonus chapter where drinking the fructose or sugar laden water caloric equivalent of one of your normal meals will actually decrease appetite and make you lose weight (I would not recommend this unless you know what you are doing). Side note: The weight loss that happens while drinking sugar water has to do with lowering set points and your body's natural mechanism that associates smell with caloric intake, no caloric association - no calories. It's aptly named the Shangri La Diet. I am thinking I might try this after I reach my ultimate goal, just for experimentation sake. Heck, it has some pretty strong proponents and there is science beyond the diet to back it up.


Here is the before picture I promised. Why they allow me to work like this is anyone's guess.

And this is obligatory...

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