Sunday, February 12, 2006

Diet and Exercise

A recent study involving 49,000 women shows that a low-fat diet does not lower health risks. What does it mean? Who knows? I’ve heard so many contradictions and fads over the decades that I’ve concluded the science of nutrition is still young and learning. There are probably some reasonable nutrition guidelines, but you have to sort them out from new age wackiness, snake oil salesmen and political agendas.

Diet fads are particularly annoying. The only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you expend, by some combination of eating less and exercising more. Period. The only other ways to lose weight are liposuction and amputation. But con artists constantly come up with new promises of ways to get around calorie reduction and they make millions of dollars off the hopes and fears of people desperate to lose weight without dieting. If you look at the fine print on any weight loss snake oil, it will say something like, “for best results, use with diet and exercise.” In other words, you just spent $30 on a bottle of placebo.

There was a radio commercial that played everywhere for a year or so. It claimed to be some enzyme or hormone, I forget, that the body needs to get rid of fat. The commercials are gone now; I guess they got all the money they could from the gullible and are working on their next scam.

The Atkins diet is dishonest. It claims that you don’t need to worry about calories, just carbohydrates. You can eat all the calories from meat, cheese and eggs you want, just no carbs. I tried it for a few weeks. What happens is that you get sick of meat, cheese and eggs and since you can’t eat much else, you stop eating. It’s hard to overeat without carbs. It’s just a roundabout way of getting you into a low calorie diet. For some people it works, and more power to them.

Any diet that changes your eating habits radically will probably not work in the long run. If you drink some special milkshakes or consume nothing but onion soup, you will lose weight for a month, maybe two, but can you live like that for a long time? When you go off the diet, you go back to your old habits and put back on more than you lost.

You have to find some diet you can live with. Me, I’m still working on it. My weight peaked at 333 lbs., which is morbidly obese. I got that heavy eating from the five major food groups: cheeseburgers, pizza, burritos, sweets and pasta. I’ve lost 50 lbs.; at 283 I still have 100 lbs. I need to lose.

I’ve found that walking helps a lot. I listen to taped Objectivist lectures from the Ayn Rand Bookstore as I walk. Sometimes that motivates me to walk longer because I want to hear the whole lecture.

I’ve also found that I do better making moderate adjustments, losing a pound a week over the long run instead of starvation dieting. I’m looking for a diet I can live with the rest of my life.

And if I don’t lose weight, the rest of my life will not be long. Last fall I was diagnosed with diabetes type 2. At first I didn’t believe it. I figured I was just eating too much sugar and these stupid doctors diagnose everyone as diabetic to cover their ass so they don’t get sued. They made me go to a diabetes class with some 25 other people. There were hardcore diabetics there: one man was on insulin shots; another had swollen feet and looked like he was heading for amputation and a wheelchair. Of the 25 people in that room, I had the highest blood sugar according to the hemoglobin A1c test. That got my attention.

Up to now losing weight has been about looking good and attracting the opposite sex. Now it’s about life and death. Decades of sedentary living, filling my time with intellectual pursuits, has put me in a bad situation that I must turn around – or else. I’ll let you know how it works out.


Mike N said...

Myhraf, at 63 and retired after two heart attacks, I quit smoking, (one and a half years now) I walk about 3 miles every morning and do some exercises for abour a half hour at home twice a day. It works for me. I feel better. I'm still about 25 pounds overweight but working on it.

My wife lost 36 pounds just by cutting down on portion size. Neither of us are on any kind of diet. I think if you lost 50 pounds, you are on the right track. Keep up the good work.

Myrhaf said...

Thank you, Mike. Good to hear those things. And I always read your blog with interest.

Jennifer Snow said...

I've found, lately, that if I have a really good breakfast I'm not much hungry for the rest of the day and my diet isn't so onerous. I haven't been exercising because I'm still waiting for the OK from my doctor after breaking my arm (my preferred exercise is rowing).

I take Leptopril, not as a magic cure-all, but because it helps me keep up my energy without eating so much sugar. I also take as little as I can manage.

Blair said...


Just finished reading your 'health' post. I'm carrying about 40/50 lbs., too much on my frame as well. My problem is purely mental, as I cannot seem to be consistent in any exercise regime. The only thing I do constantly is walk, but I haven't increased my distance, to show any effects, in months.
Anyway, best thoughts and keep us informed. I read your Blog daily.

Myrhaf said...

Thank you, Blair. I always read your blog with interest, too.