The world would have you believe that losing weight is easy, but the truth is, in many cases, you’re being fed a generous helping of falsehoods and misguided dieting advice.
The media, celebrities, weight-loss gurus, and the Internet bombard society with recommendations about how to shed unwanted pounds: Count calories, cut carbs, exercise more, skip meals, drink more water, pop a pill. Yet as more people try diligently to follow this advice, waistlines continue to expand.
Robert J. Davis, PhD, also known as The Healthy Skeptic, is an award-winning health journalist whose work has appeared on TIME, CNN, PBS, WebMD, and in The Wall Street Journal. The author of three previous books on health, he hosts the “Healthy Skeptic” video series, which dissects the science behind popular health claims. Davis holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, a master’s degree in public health from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, and a PhD in health policy from Brandeis University, where he was Pew Foundation Fellow.
His newly-released book is called Supersized Lies: How Myths About Weight Loss Are Keeping Us Fat – and the Truth About What Really Works.
Kim: Why are we fed so much misinformation about weight loss?
Robert J Davis, PhD: There are a number of players in this industry that stand to benefit from the spread of misinformation, whether it's people pushing specific diets saying this is the best and only way to lose weight... whether it's companies that are promoting supposedly weight-friendly foods that are actually just the opposite in many cases, whether it's gyms, which are great places to go to... whether it's supplement makers who tell us to take pop a pill and lose weight.
The list goes on, but the point is: there are a number of sellers of various goods and services that stand to benefit from the spread of this information. And what makes it even more frustrating is that what they're promoting doesn't work. So we keep coming back for more, and they make even more money, and they have an incentive to keep selling us the same things, because we keep coming back for more and getting the failed results.
Kim: What are some of the biggest weight loss myths that we encounter?
Robert J Davis, PhD: Oh, there are a number of them. One certainly is the idea that it boils simply down to calories in calories out, I like to sometimes it's called eat less, move more.
E L M M. And I like to say for many people, Elm street is a dead. Because if that's simply the way that people view weight loss, and unfortunately it is the way it's often presented to us, then we find that this leads to failure. And the reason is that is grossly oversimplified, weight loss involves far more involved biology of all psychology and involves.
It involves genetics and involves a number of complex factors that involves how our bodies respond to the calories we're eating and the food we're eating. So when it's boiled into the simple math formula of calories in calories out, I think that is a huge problem. And I think we need to reconceptualize how we think about weight and health and move away from this simplistic model.
Kim: Is BMI a truth or a lie?
Robert J Davis, PhD:I would say it falls more in the category of a lie. It's not completely a lie, but it's certainly a misleading statistic. That's the benchmark that we find everywhere, whether it's doctor's offices, the gym, the nutritionist, everybody, or most people, seem to use this yardstick for determining who is the "right" weight, who needs to lose weight, and who is underweight.
And the problem with it is that it's overly simplistic. It includes two measurements: height, and weight... and it's this one size fits all... whether you're a man or a woman, whether you're younger, whatever your race or ethnicity... it applies to everybody. And that's a big problem because we know that human beings come in many shapes and sizes - and to have this yardstick, which by the way, was developed in the 1800s... And it wasn't even meant originally to be a tool for assessing individuals; it was a statistical tool to describe populations.
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