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Obesity and Fitness Are Revolutionized By Reddit, Not Doctors (greatist.com)
212 points by jc4p on Aug 11, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 197 comments



What's missing in this article is mention of actual scientific evidence. I can believe that traditional nutritional recommendations are on flimsy ground, but replacing them with new cargo-cult ideas isn't necessarily better. Do these newer recommendations have good science behind them? My lurker experiences in /r/fitness are quite mixed; they seem like nice people, but the specific diet plans are very heavy on anecdotal evidence, with people professing very high confidence in recommendations relative to how much evidence there is (if anything, it reminds me of alternative-medicine communities). They're also a bit too focused for my interests on bodybuilding/image/etc. rather than measurable health outcomes, e.g. reduction in heart-attack or diabetes risk rather than muscle definition.


Far from alternative medicine. The beliefs touted by /r/fitness, such as intermittent fasting, increased protein consumption (many times more than the FDA recommendation), progressive load resistance training, and NOT focusing on cardio for weight loss are highly researched. The leaders of the /r/fitness community are incredibly well-versed in science and there are extremely intelligent debates that take place on /r/ fitness. The problem is that these concepts rarely make it to the mainstream on their own.

There's lot of links to the research, but this wasn't the appropriate article to include them. :)


Yeah, lots of broscience there. There are other communities where people actually are looking at the scientific literature and testing hypotheses on themselves. I think the fitness stack exchange is closer to that.

That was my methodology for fixing my condition that I was told was incurable. I looked at pubmed for any study at all on the condition, even animal studies. And if there was anything promising that was not dangerous to do, I tried it.


Have you actually looked at fittit? A lot of the most vocal and active contributors and moderators are credentialled to hell and back.

Silverhydra, for example, is considered a minor deity thereabouts. He's a registered dietitian, an amateur bodybuilder and is the co-founder of examine.com, for which he reads literally dozens of studies per month.


> He's a registered dietitian, an amateur bodybuilder and is the co-founder of examine.com, for which he reads literally dozens of studies per month.

I am not amused by this. So he reads a dozen papers per month? That's not good... that's just terrible. Is there anyone that reads a more healthy amount?


And you read more? Less? Your qualifications to opine are?


Well, yes, I do like to read more than that. But I am not selling myself off as an expert on nutrition or whatever? I'd rather find someone who reads more, so that I can avoid the garbage.


Mate.

He's not "selling himself" as an expert in nutrition.

He is an expert in nutrition.


I'm actually thankful for the focus on near-term goals rather than living to 75 instead of 70.


I don't mind that people are interested in bodybuilding/fitness, but if it's positioned as a replacement for traditional nutritional science, that's not the main goal of nutritional science. And personally it's not my interest: I don't really care about bodybuilding/fitness, but I do care about minimizing my risk of serious health problems. It's not clear to me that the two goals even result in the same recommendations; it's quite possible that there are diets that are good for short/medium-term muscle building which are not good for, say, long-term organ health. At least, I would want to see scientific evidence one way or another.


The key obstacle to weight loss is the same as any form of self-improvement: Motivation. Most people know what they need to do in order to lose weight. They just don't do it because its hard to motivate ourselves to do things we're not used to doing. i.e. It's hard to defy our habits. Healthy people don't defy their habits any more than unhealthy people do. They just have healthy habits. So when you're trying to become healthy the goal should not be to "lose 5 pounds this week", but to form healthy habits and break unhealthy ones. This kind of thinking is crucial. You might have enough willpower to defy your habits long enough to achieve your weight-loss goal, but only forming healthy habits will keep the weight from coming right back.

This is possibly why doctors aren't terribly useful. They can tell us when we need to lose weight and perhaps even give us a general idea of what we need to do, but they really aren't trained to focus on habits and motivation. Even if they were, everyone responds differently to ideas and we each need to sift through a lot of possible ideas to find ways of changing our habits that are actually compatible with how we live and think. It's a matter of brute-force. A doctor has maybe 10 minutes to set you on the right path, but you can spend hours upon hours reading reddit looking for things that will work for you.

One point in the linked article that I absolutely disagree with is that cardio is unimportant. To be fair, he only really said it's unimportant for weight-loss. If all you want is to look pretty then perhaps it's not crucial, but it absolutely is important for being healthy. Above I said that forming healthy habits is a way to side-step the need to constantly motivate ourselves, but the truth is that it also takes effort to change our habits! Having the strongest possible motivation helps, and I've found that being healthy so I can do things like play sports and hike is a better motivator than simply looking good.


Couldn't disagree more. Motivation implies some sort of personal failing or personal weakness, which leads me to believe that you buy into the"eat less, exercise more" mantra.

I would just like to point out a few things.

You state that "most people know what they need to do in order to lose weight" as if there is some cut and dry method to getting thin. Well, I suppose starvation diets ARE that easy, but nobody sticks to them, so they are useless in the long term. This brings me to my first point. If losing weight were as simple as following a specific regimen and the pounds fell off there would be no obesity problem. Nobody chooses to be fat. In fact fat people generally hate it and try incessantly to lose weight. I think the advice that these people get from their doctors, the government, the fitness gurus etc. is almost universally wrong. I could write much more on this subject, but consider that most people that want to lose weight try a variety of methods, and conspicuously none of them work. If this were isolated to just a few people I would say it is a personal defect, but since it is such a widespread phenomena (and growing) I must say I don't think it can simply be explained away as bad habits. People need good information on what to do, and by and large they aren't getting good info.

The other thing that I would like to point out is that the focus on exercise is a relatively recent development, and even though more people are exercising than ever before, there has been absolutely no slow down in obesity rates. Go to any gym and you will see an abundance of fat people trying to get fit. It simply doesn't work. They stay fat.


Yes, I buy into the "eat less, move more" idea. But then, I'm a physicist and I believe in the laws of thermodynamics.

I am in complete agreement with you that starvation diets, fad diets, and other cook-book regimens are likely to result in failure. The point I was trying to convey was that this failure comes from the fact that it takes willpower to follow these, while you're much more likely to succeed if you try to form habits that don't require willpower to follow. I was borderline obese once myself, but I never followed any specific diets or regimens. I just learned healthy habits.

Exercise is absolutely crucial for good health. Just being skinny doesn't necessarily make you healthy. Perhaps there was less focus on exercise in the past because people were, on average, much more active in their daily jobs. Today, paper-pushers really need to exercise to be healthy.


Nobody is disputing the first law of thermodynamics. I do question your interpretation though. Firstly because the human body is not a closed system, and secondly, because there are different ways to interpret the laws as they relate to nutrition.

Consider that x is the calories required to run your body at a given weight, and y is a surplus amount of calories.

Traditional view:

If you eat x + y calories your body will store y as fat.

Non-traditional view:

If your body needs x calories to function, but it's trying to store y calories as fat you need to eat x + y calories.

The non-traditional view is becoming more favorable amongst obesity researchers. If you have an obligate weight gain caused by a biochemical defect, then you better eat the calories to satisfy the needs of the body.


The key obstacle to weight loss is the same as any form of self-improvement: Motivation. Most people know what they need to do in order to lose weight.

I don't disagree with this, but sometimes motivation is more enabled by a society or cultural milieu and sometimes it's less enabled. In our society, the default is towards simple sugars in everything from ubiquitous soda to donuts in the break room to sandwiches to white rice in restaurants to high-fructose corn syrup in damn near everything. The larger the cultural inertia, the harder the change. Ask vegetarians: in the U.S., meat-eating is the assumed default. I've read that, in India, vegetarian food at events, parties, and so forth is basically the norm.

They can tell us when we need to lose weight and perhaps even give us a general idea of what we need to do, but they really aren't trained to focus on habits and motivation

It's actually more pernicious than that. As described by Taubes in Why We Get Fat (http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Get-Fat-About/dp/0307272702?ie=...), the government and doctors have spent the last 40 years convincing everyone that a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet is optimal, and government agencies and many researchers have ignored evidence to the contrary. I don't think this reflects malice on the part of individual doctors, but it does reflect systematic misinformation about what effective nutrition actually is. So doctors haven't only not given "us a general idea of what we need to do," but they've actually told us the opposite, even unwittingly.


> Motivation. Most people know what they need to do in order to lose weight.

Maybe. But I think the issue is some people, based on bad advice, focus their motivation on eating right and exercise. Many times that split focus leads people to over-emphasize the exercise part, and that often comes at the expense of the food part. They'll probably see some progress on their goals, but they may be slow and not nearly as rewarding as they expected. That can be a huge de-motivator.

Also, as you said, the article didn't say cardio wasn't important, just that it's not necessary (or the best strategy) for weight loss. If you're going to point someone towards a healthy diet or a jogging regimen, the healthy diet is often the way to go.


I don't disagree that you can lose weight without doing cardio. However, I think people should want to be healthy rather than merely skinny. There are some pretty unhealthy skinny people out there.


Motivation is important, but knowledge is important too, and most people only have a general idea what they should do. For example, I've known a number of folks who go to a class for the first time and way way overexert themselves. This is unhealthy, and really destroys motivation to go back in a way a more appropriate level of exercise does not.

Additionally, seeing results is motivating, so I'd argue that to some degree, picking effective routines is going to help long-term success. (You don't have to have the perfectly optimal routine, of course, just a decent one)


I'm not saying people have no need of knowledge, just that acquiring the knowledge you need is generally a lot easier than finding ways to actually make yourself put it into practice on a long-term basis.


Disclosure: I actually never used reddit for fitness advice, but it does look nice enough that I wish it had been around earlier! I used to be unfit, but I got myself sorted out before reddit really came along. To find good advice I had to read a lot of trash along with the good and evaluate everything critically. If you throw enough ideas at the wall eventually some stick. So in that spirit, here are some of the revelations that helped me the most.

-Gyms suck. The ideal gym member buys a life-time membership and then shows up twice. As such, many gyms aren't really set up to help you form good habits. What do even good gyms really offer that you can't have at home though? Exercise machines let you isolate specific muscles and avoid injuries that can come from bad form when using free-weights, but free-weights really are better if you learn proper form. Free-weights force you to develop stabilizing muscles and generally won't let you neglect muscles that are needed for real-world movements the way some machines do. If you train with free weights you're less likely to injure yourself playing sports. When you're twenty-something injuries aren't a big thing because you heal so fast, but after thirty they suck and you really need to avoid them! Free weights are also really cheap. In fact, you can find people giving them away for free on a regular basis.

-Rowing machines rock. Even if you live someplace that's always warm (I don't) you should try to get a little variety in your cardio workouts. Owning a good cardio machine can really help with that. Unfortunately, most home exercise machines are built for the same people who buy lifetime gym memberships and then never use them. i.e. They're not built to last very long if you actually use them. I wore out a few cheaper machines and then decided to find something that would last. Elliptical's can give you a pretty good workout, but good elliptical's are horrendously expensive. You can get a fantastic rowing machine for less than $1000, and they can really kick your ass. (I generally don't like giving away free advertising, but concept2 really is worth taking a look at here.) Why aren't rowing machines more popular? They make you look ridiculous and bad form can lead to injuries. Learn to row properly!

-Listen to your body. Our bodies do a great job of telling us when they're hungry, what they're hungry for, and how much food is enough, albeit that last one with an annoying amount of lag! A hugely beneficial healthy habit to form is not to eat when you're not hungry. We get psychological cravings for food that we simply don't need to eat. Learn to subvert those. Other times we crave something specific, like fat or salt, and then eat something "healthier" hoping that it will satisfy us only to wind up eating what we were craving in the end anyways. End result: we just ate more than we would have if we'd have just eaten what our body wanted in the first place! Forcing ourselves to eat too much healthy food is unhealthy, as bizarre at that may sound. Our bodies do tell us when we've eaten too much, but only well after we've done so. It's okay to stop eating while you're still hungry. In fact, you really should stop eating while you're still hungry. It takes time for us to feel sated no matter how much food we shovel in. You may be surprised at how little it takes to feel sated versus how much it takes to feel bloated! Give yourself time to feel sated and, if you still feel hungry, eat a little more. That way you're eating to not feel hungry instead of eating to feel full. There's a big difference!

-The most important workout is the one you least want to do. You slept poorly last night. You have a cold. You had a rough day at work. You have every excuse to take it easy, but if you get that workout in, every other workout you do will be that much easier to motivate yourself to do. If you start cutting yourself some slack pretty soon you'll be skipping workouts because a dog looked at you funny.

-Do the math when reading food labels. 1 serving is not necessarily what you'll eat. e.g. Potato chips frequently list the nutritional data for a serving size of "10-12 chips". That is not how normal humans eat potato chips.


I dunno on that last point. Yes, silly excuses are bad, but if you are sick (more than just stuffy nose) or injured (more than just a paper cut), I'm pretty sure going to the gym can wind up being destructive. Especially if you pass out.


Most rules tend to break down if you take them to extremes. ;) If I really don't feel capable of working out I don't, but if I just feel really crummy I'll at least try to do a reduced workout. Quite often, once I get into it, I have no trouble finishing.


Disclaimer: this post is going to go into some of my personal experiences with weight loss, fitness, and reddit.

In March 2012, not all that long ago, I was considered obese. Living a life primarily behind the computer screen while leading an engineering team at a rapidly growing startup (over 100% growth in the last year alone) left little time for me to consider my fitness.

I'd eat trash -- burritos four or five times a week, pizza or fast food the rest. I never cooked, because I "didn't have time." I didn't work out for the same half-assed reason.

I realized in early April that I weighed more than I ever had before, that I was not satisfied in my appearance, and that I was very likely introducing unwanted health issues.

Like many other things in my life (coding, managing, infosec, etc.) I took the "dive deep" approach into health and fitness.

I experimented with several diet and fitness plans, until finally finding one that seemed sustainable for me. I'm not trying to start a flame war about diets -- I've seen far too many of them in the last few months -- but a very low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet (called "keto") works extremely well for me.

I found a reddit community (surprise!) called /r/keto that shares recipes, support, and tips with each other. Especially in the beginning of my diet, it was an invaluable resource.

I started my keto diet on April 18th, at about 255 lbs. Today I weigh 189.

I'm still not where I want to be (yet), but I can personally attest to the extremely kind and supportive atmosphere that reddit provides when working towards a goal like this. We rejoice in each others' victories and help each other through the harder times.

That said, there are downsides, too. I already mentioned the diet/exercise flame wars that go on -- for example, Low-Carb/High-Fat (LCHF) diets vs. High-Protein/Low Fat vs. Low-Fat Generalized, etc. I think that each of these diets can work (science supports that), but different people need to figure out what works for them.

The problem with these subreddits -- /r/fitness included -- is that they develop a hive-mind towards their respective goal. /r/fitness almost makes a joke of it ("join a gym, quit facebook, get girls"), and "starting strength" is recommended all the time, in response to pretty much everything. Not that these are bad recommendations at all, just something that I see a lot.

The communities are very welcoming, but when an individual strays from the hive mind, they can also be very discouraging.

Hope this lends a little insight and personality to the article!


I have a pet hypothesis that one of (for instance) Keto's main benefits is that it shakes up habitual eating patterns. Instead of trying to eat less of foods you're used to eating a lot of, you're forced to develop new habits around entirely new food.

I've also gone from 250-ish down to 170-ish (although over the course of 2 years, not 4 months, lol), but I haven't really bought into any specific diet. I just don't eat out.


Expanding on the theme of unexpected benefits, I think that one of the things that makes weightlifting helpful for weight loss is causing cognitive dissonance when eating crap. Since the first increases in what you can lift come from increased inter- and intramuscular coordination and are thus very rapid and really astounding, you can quickly get a feeling of agency and the belief that you are becoming a sporty person. Both will help you make better food choices.


^ this. I've done a lot of research/experimentation/thinking about keto, and this is definitely one of the factors. Along with the increased satiety from higher dietary fat, higher TEF from increased protein, improved insulin sensitivity (less hunger crashes), etc, of course. :)


While I don't literally follow the advice of /r/fitness, a lot of my dietary philosophy is aligned with the general advice there.

It's all about your diet, cardio helps but is totally unnecessary. I don't have more than 3 hours a week to lift very heavy, and don't want to spend more time at the gym. I have better things to do. Yet, I'm down from 185lbs a few years ago to 145lbs and 7% body fat and will likely hit 6% or lower soon. You've all seen Fight Club, you know what that looks like. It's a huge personal satisfaction and you feel healthier than ever.

How? Cut calories and cut carbs to 100g a day or lower. Primal/paleo/IF work wonders, but you still have to count calories very carefully at the end of the day. The whole "eat whatever you want as long as it's fat and protein" works down to maybe 10-12% body fat, but below that you need to start cutting.

Mark Sisson might give you the impression that you can eat all you want, but you got to look at some of his food logs to get an idea of how you can look like him at age 50+. He's got quite a few IF + 800 calorie zig-zag days in there, just to give you an idea. That's not easy, or for the faint of heart. It requires a lot of sacrifice and an iron resolve.


"It's all about your diet, cardio helps but is totally unnecessary."

I ate craploads of crap (high calories, sugar) in SF but because I cycled everywhere I kept a lean body.


That will work, you have to ultimately adjust the diet to perfectly fit your lifestyle of choice. I don't eat crap or drink in the first place, in large part because there's indication that sugar, refined grains and alcohol are the major cause of the most common western diet diseases (obesity, diabetes, cancer and so on). I'm shooting for the long term here.

With exception for the time when I'm out meeting people, I'm chained to a desk (either sitting or standing) and thus lead an ultra-sedentary lifestyle. I can get better health than most and free up time for things that matter to me by simply avoiding unnecessary food. It's a worthwhile sacrifice, and I think a very smart bargain.


Well done on your results. I enjoy VLC myself, but must say that I don't find the keto subreddit very worthwhile. The community support aspect is undoubtedly beneficial for those in peaks and troughs, but aside from that, what remains seems to mostly be "off-limits-imitation" recipes, and chest-beating about eating a bucket of low-quality bacon or whatever.

I guess what I'm saying is that the fundamentals of this type of diet are self-contained enough that just getting on with it once up and running is worth considering rather than staying hooked in to the ebb and flow of a community.


I find r/paleo to be a bit better than r/keto but I think the best content for these sorts of diets is found outside reddit. marksdailyapple.com is a good resource.


I have a similar disclaimer: personal weight loss, no reddit.

The main point of this post: I was under the impression that high-protein diets are not healthy over the long term. That such diets lead to health problems because of the high protein content.

I agree that less intake, more exercise is vague advice, but aren't nutritionists a better source of advice? It doesn't seem difficult to find more nuanced advice on the internet, although I just sort of figured it out on my own.

Anyway... I entered college at 270lbs. I gained weight eating at the dining hall (pizza, etc.) After hating myself long enough, I decided to lose a lot of weight. Contrary to some comments in this thread (stating that running / cardio doesn't result in much weight loss), I did it by running. I ran 3-5 miles 4-6 times a week (for awhile it was just 3 miles). For a 3-mile run, I would burn about 500 calories. When you consume about 1700-2000/day, and run 3 miles 4-6 times a week, that adds up quickly, especially considering you're burning calories even after the run.

I also ate a diet consisting of reduced everything (fewer carbs, fewer proteins, fewer fatty foods). I focused on eating a lot of vegetables, fruits, some lean meats, and healthy grains.

After four months I was down to 200lbs. Years later, I'm around 185. I've gone up a few pounds at points, but never let it get out of hand.

This post is cluttered, but I guess my main point was that it's not much more than exercise more, eat healthier. And eat healthy in a way that you think "this is my diet for the rest of my life." I'm perplexed by people who initiate insane diets that deviate from the dietary habits of humans for thousands of years; or spend a ridiculous amount of money (I was lucky to have an indoor track at my college, but these days I just run outside).


r/keto diets are usually low carb high fat, with moderate amounts of protein.

For high-protein are you referring to protein and kidneys? Bones?

"I'm perplexed by people who initiate insane diets that deviate from the dietary habits of humans for thousands of years;"

The Inuit, Athabaskans, the Siberians, and Masai, and many other groups of people are keto or close.

"I agree that less intake, more exercise is vague advice, but aren't nutritionists a better source of advice? "

The ADA is unfortunately sponsored by many fast food companies like Coca Cola. My own story is that I started the course track in undergrad to become a dietician, but switched out because I was frustrated with it. I was mildly overweight at the time, but my main problem was continuous GI issues (IBS and GERD). The school dietician (who was VERY overweight and a professor for some of my nutrition classes) told me to eat more fiber, low fat, and that I could control my symptoms with medication if that didn't work. It didn't work and the medications I had to go on had significant side effects.

Thanks to googling and messing around on Pubmed, I found some small promising studies with low-carb and GI problems and decided to try them for myself, even though they violated the typical advice for my condition (low-fat, high fiber). And it worked really well. And I also lost weight. And felt awesome.

Later on the internet the FODMAPs concept for GI problems, which is hilariously popular with Australian dietitians, but unheard of in the US until recently because US curricula is so miserable outdated and slow to change. FODMAPs is a diet that restricts certain types of foods that ferment in the colon. And because it only restricts certain carbs, I have been able to broaden my diet significantly.

In the end, I have more time to hack my own condition and read random crap on the internet than any dietician or doctor ever will.


A co-worker of mine lost 125 lbs because of r/keto!


I'm sorry but the content on Reddit is very shallow compared to popular fitness and nutrition forums that have been existing and going strong for many years. There is nothing in this poor article that shows Reddit to be superior in any way. It is very questionable that Reddit's weak voting system improves the quality in any way (and reputation and other voting systems are available on many forums anyway).


It's not just the content alone that makes the difference. A few things:

- It's the community that makes you feel like a part of something. Compared to popular fitness boards, you don't go to reddit only when you're in the 'trying to lose weight actively' mode. You just go to reddit and then these posts show up in your stream keeping you actively engaged. YMMV of course.

- It serves as a gentle break-in to more detailed/technical information. Most of the advice there is usually watered down from some technical sources, which people/FAQs eventually link to in case someone needs more information.

The third and perhaps the most important point would be,

- people see 'regular joes' like you and me losing xxx pounds and know by their posting history that they're not a made up figment of the advertisers imagination. This works on two levels, not only does it give confidence to the average guy, it also ensures that he's not being fed some bullshit theory in lieu of money.

The major fact that people get amazing results without throwing money at the techniques seems to lower the barrier to 'hmm maybe I should try this.'

I'm a big time fan of keto and have had great results and I have but r/keto to thank for this.


The average person and the population in general doesn't need advice any deeper than the "shallow" content found on Reddit in order to live a healthy lifestyle, and because the information is often so easy to swallow, it makes new members feel infinitely more comfortable.

Sally next door doesn't need to know about carb-loading and iso-whey protein shakes. Forums all about that stuff are incredibly intimidating and geared towards individuals who typically want to go above and beyond what is considered a normal healthy state.

Reddit offers easily digestible information with support from a huge community. I'd argue that's all you really need to fight obesity.


Obesity and Fitness are not revolutionized by a forum full of people telling you what worked for them. The revolution comes when people find what works for themselves. So far, it's very far away.

News flash: Most people don't go on Reddit. gasp Calm down. I'm sorry I frightened you. But it turns out you don't get a revolution by a small number of people who use a particular forum looking for fitness tips from their formely fat peers.

In the future, you will be able to go online, fill out a questionnaire, and for a small monthly fee receive one of several pre-programmed diet and exercise programs, complete with local gyms that are part of the program and can help you perform your exercise requirements. A local food store will also be part of the program, with a special aisle of diet food for you to buy from. The solution comes from tailored, marketed, cult-of-the-self products that suck you in for long enough to make a dent.

The problem I see with the fitness portion is creating a fitness product without real user engagement. You've seen it before plenty of times: CrossFit. P90X. Tae Bo. Yoga. The Brazilian Butt Lift. They can all pretty much work to get you in better shape, but there's nothing keeping a random person engaged in it enough to continue for long. For someone starting out for the first time, they have to have an enormous amount of motivation to continue once they see how difficult it will be to begin.

To my mind, the easiest way to get people stuck on fitness is to Facebook it. Make it addictive and interesting, and make them obsessed with how they are doing. Give them micro stats. Gimmicks and social fluff to turn it into a game. Anything to keep them hooked, to the point where the exercise is just a small component to them. The diet becomes the same, giving lots of interesting variables and an infinite number of simple user-friendly options to continue getting healthy while being obsessed with a new toy.

If it's done right, they'll have gone weeks with the program, eating right, and working hard, and suddenly find they've made some noticeable gains. The rest takes care of itself. The revolution comes when people don't really notice that they're being healthy.


> In the future, you will be able to go online, fill out a questionnaire, and for a small monthly fee receive one of several pre-programmed diet and exercise programs, complete with local gyms that are part of the program and can help you perform your exercise requirements.

As opposed to present-day, where people have to join a gym, and then receive a programme?

> A local food store will also be part of the program, with a special aisle of diet food for you to buy from.

Eeugh, special diet food. Unless that "special aisle" is known as the "vegetable section".


This sounds like a pretty good approach. Why must it be "in the future"? Why don't you work on it yourself? This is Hacker News, after all.


His description is exactly what the site founded by the author of the post (and where I work) is :)


Your marketing might need some work. All I know about Fitocracy is that it's a forum, with some kind of "show people how many hours you've exercised" thingie. I don't remember any kind of questionnaire thing, or being given any kind of tailored workout program or dietary regimen.


It's called fitocracy. :)


Not surprising that this is an unscientific article.

What evidence is presented that "ignoring the fitness advice of doctors" achieves "better results"?

Anecdotal evidence, that's what. 1 dude. The author even cites a "completely unscientific, but accurate chart." That says it all.


How strong have you ever known anyone to get by following the advice of doctors?


Given that every single Olympic athlete is advised by doctors I would say, "pretty damn strong".


I firmly believe that for most things, fitness and health included, the internet will always be lightyears ahead of what is published in peer-reviewed journals. Now, new ideas get thrown on a blog for millions to (potentially) see, the ideas are read and analyzed by a portion of the general population, and then they're either rejected or expanded upon. It's the perfect meritocracy of ideas, and the slow peer review process can't keep up.


> the internet will always be lightyears ahead of what is published in peer-reviewed journals

The thing is, its not as if r/fitness or /fit/ invented the low-carb diet or the paleo diet. They just spread it to people who'd otherwise never engage in debate/discourse about nutrition (which is of course commendable.)

> It's the perfect meritocracy of ideas, and the slow peer review process can't keep up.

I think Reddit and blogs have seen enough false witch hunts and outright lies to know that the internet is very, very rarely a meritocracy. Peer-reviewed processes aren't meant to serve as a proxy for the general population, or to spur rapid progress; in fact, their goal is serve as objective judges of validity and accuracy.

This is somewhat akin to when people complain about the difficulty in passing legislation in the U.S. Things like bicameral legislature and checks and balances were instituted specifically to slow down the passage of legislature and allow a more deliberate review process.


All the things you said are true but remember, not all doctors are up to date with research and even if you can find a lot of false information on the internet, you're more likely to also find the truth than you are with an outdated physician.

The general practitioner that has followed me since I was born whenever I was ill or hurt is someone who has nearly stopped reading anything about medicine since he finished his study and got his job. On his own admission he doesn't even use computers much and doesn't read the research you can find on places like pubmed. He's nearing retirement and I'm going to change my physician (in France you have to declare one to prevent people from hopping to one place from the other whenever they're ill and "paranoid" and save costs to our health care) once I get done with the paperwork, since I am very lazy when it comes to anything that has to do with paperwork. Btw I know all this about him because he's rather talkative and love to waste time once he's done with the check up. One thing that enforced my laziness in looking for another one is the fact that it can be good to have a physician who knows all your health history from the start, even if he's somewhat incompetent.

When you end up with that kind of "doctor" the internet doesn't look so bad.


It just blows my mind that there are sections of the internet where smart people can analyze peer-reviewed articles the second they come out and shine a light on them. This is the kind of thing that happens in close-knit communities like /r/Fitness and SomethingAwful a lot.


Actually, there's a ton of great stuff published in peer reviewed medical journals, it's just ignored, especially if the research was done outside of the U.S and almost assuredly if it's done outside of Western Europe.


Ugh. I'll take science over whatever fad the general population finds interesting/appealing.


This is the first time I have seen the reddit fitness stuff. I was big at the beginning of the year. Wasn't even thinking of a diet. Then I read a comment here on hn posted by Aramgutang, on the best books of 2011 thread, where they recommended reading the four hour body. The community behind the four hour body was a huge motivator for me to lose 40 lbs and really it does change the way you think about things. I think reddit offers a similar backing to your diet. You need support, sometimes it seems pointless, but when you are feeling good, you will never feel better. Everywhere you look is temptation to sabotage, a strong community behind you really helps. I always wanted to thank Aramgutang so thank you.

PS Get a kettlebell.


You're very welcome. Inspiring someone to become more healthy is probably the most rewarding inspiration there is.


Well, once again thank you. It's crazy how some tiny comment on the internet can really change some random persons life. When I started to read 4HB, I was like whoa, that comment on HN was/is my hirjaku moment. It was the door to the other side. So once again thank you so much.

I looked up your email at one point to send a gratis note, but couldnt find anything. Glad you spotted out my comment. Not sure how you found it :)


From reading the article I get the impression that the author isn't that familiar with the scientific literature at all. The evidence he presents against the usefulness of cardio for weight loss compares a group of weightlifters against a group of runners who ran only 20km per week and they still lost marginally more weight than the weightlifters! Cardio really should be a minimum of an hour per day, at least 5 days a week if weight control is the goal. Health benefits accrue much sooner, though.

Science certainly hasn't weighed in on favor of high protein diets or abandoning cardio unless you cherry pick specific smaller studies to get what you're looking for. On the other hand there are HUGE studies supporting cardio, both for weight loss and for health.

I've written about this many times before on HN:

According to the 32,000 person study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1999), "fit persons with any combination of smoking, elevated blood pressure, or elevated cholesterol level had lower adjusted death rates than low-fit persons with none of these characteristics". The same study found that aerobic fitness had a far more important impact on longevity than obesity did. Fantastic Voyage, Kurzweil and Grossman, Chapter 22.

Here's a report on a study that monitored over 100,000 people:

Paul Williams, Ph.D., author of the study, found that men who ran two or more marathons per year were 41 percent less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, 32 percent less likely to have high cholesterol, and 87 percent less likely to be diabetic than non-marathoners. Those who ran only one marathon every two to five years also had significantly lower risk for these conditions than non-marathoners. The benefits of running marathons were largely independent of total number of miles run per year by participants, indicating that isolated distance running bouts in preparation for marathons may have been effective in decreasing risk of disease. Even runners who didn't run marathons - those who included longer runs as part of their usual exercise routines - were less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/140104.php

Here's a different piece on how regular hour-long runs stimulate neurogenesis and memory improvements in middle aged humans:

http://www.dana.org/news/brainwork/detail.aspx?id=7374

Distance running is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. Racing marathons can be reasonably low-risk with sufficient training, but it's the training that gives benefits.

In terms of life expectancy, endurance athletes such as marathoners and cross-country skiers live about 2 years longer than sprinters, 4 years longer than power lifters and 6 years longer than the general populace. (warning- small sample sized case study) http://www.mdconsult.com/das/citation/body/163630869-2/jorg=....

Recommended food for thought for those convinced that low-carb is the optimal diet: Why is it that both Atkins and Taubes got so fat on very low carb diets while Japanese people traditionally ate (and many still do eat) rice at every single mean, lunch, breakfast and dinner? Maybe a bunch of high protein eating redditors don't have all the answers.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/07/15/the-never-e...

http://www.paleopharm.com/what-if-gary-taubes-is-a-big-fat-l...

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/16/no-surprise-...

My own personal experiences are largely irrelevant, but FWIW the leanest and fittest I ever was, I was getting nearly 80% of my calories from carbs. And the time in my life I gained the most, I was only getting closer to 20% of my calories from carbs. I can respect someone who encourages testing, a la Seth Roberts' "n=1 studies". I can't respect someone who puts up a few blog posts and claims to know more than the entire medical establishment. Americans are more into protein and more into weightlifting than any other nation I've ever seen. And while there are a number of muscled-bound guys strutting around, there are a whole lot more fat people buying into the same pop weight-loss ideologies.


This is a joke right? I almost stopped at the first sentence.

There are many studies detailing the inefficacy of cardio for weight loss for various reasons -- from Friedenreich (2010) which actually compares cardio vs. non-cardio groups... to Willbond et. al (2010) which talks about the overestimation of caloric expenditure.

Not to mention the meta-analysis from last year: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21787904

But I guess you prefer observational, correlational studies instead. Of course people who run marathons are likely more fit. Derp.

Guess what, those who drink diet sodas are more likely to be overweight. I guess diet sodas make you fat?


It is not a joke.

Firstly, meta-analysis are generally amongst the worst things to go off (study selection makes it very difficult to control for a researcher's expectations). The link you provided doesn't even say how much cardio the subjects were doing.

Secondly, the studies I cited were massive and far better controlled than most. Feel free to offer a link to a larger and better controlled on if you can.

Thirdly your link, despite its problems, supports my argument. Participants reduced their waist circumferences by 2cm in 6 months!

Interestingly the first search result for "Friedenreich (2010)" is your own tweet, but looking further I found that he recommends exercise for cancer prevention. In fact, this presentation I found in the first page of results recommended more cario than any other type of exercise: http://wellspring.ca/Wellspring/media/common/documents/wells...


Friedenreich found that the test group lost more weight than the control group as well via. cardio. Yet I posted it in support of my argument anyway. Why?

It took an average of 35 hours of cardio to lose 1 lb of fat.

I'm not saying that it does not cause weight loss. I am saying that it's ineffective. Of course cardio will cause some weight loss vs. doing absolutely nothing. Of course it's good for your health. No one is arguing that.

Then again if you're saying that someone should run 1 hour/day for 5 days a week... which is unrealistic for 99% of the population, and unnecessarily complicates weight loss (not to mention makes it unsustainable)... then you probably don't have a problem with 35 hours to lose a pound.


Running 20 minutes/day 7 days a week is very realistic for 90% of the population. That's enough to keep the body in a good shape.


You don't have kids, do you? Become a full time parent, then see how much time you have left.

And note that in this thread the standard for what you should do is an hour a day 5 days a week rather than 20 minutes a day for 7 days a week.


I do, and I don't have a problem finding 20 minutes to run every day. Become better at time management before posting nonsense like that.


Let me guess, your spouse isn't in a medical residency?

Before I had kids, I never had trouble finding time to exercise and had little sympathy for people who did. Since I've had kids my ability to exercise has varied with life circumstances. At the moment it is very hard for me because my wife is in a medical residency, so most of the time I'm an only parent to small kids.

In particular in periods when I exercised, I've found that between my personal rhythms and outside climate, morning is the only time that it makes sense for me to do so. (Perhaps you are happy running in 100+ degree heat, but I am not.) But when I'm on my own trying to get 2 kids up, ready, and out the door, before I start doing other stuff, I don't have 20 min where I can safely disappear on them.


Not many people's spouses are in medical residency, and have children who are too young to be left unsupervised for 20 minutes.

Even if you broaden it a bit (single parents, spouse in the military on deployment, etc) you are not looking at 90+% of the population. And most people looking after small children are pretty active anyway (due to all the lifting, running around, and so on).


http://singleparents.about.com/od/legalissues/p/portrait.htm estimates over 13 million single parents in the USA. Granted, not all of their children are small, but a lot are.

Also in every family with small kids, if one parent wants a piece of freedom, it puts pressure on the other parent. So even if it is theoretically possible, if half of those parents get the freedom to exercise in the morning, the other half do not.

Does it amount to 10% with a legitimate difficulty in scheduling exercise? I'm not sure. But it is more than I would have guessed before I had kids.


Staying as a single adult in the house is a long-term choice. You can: marry, invite your friend to live together, invite your parents, rent our a room or two in your house and ask for occasional babysitting help from them.

You can move into somebody else's house too.


How do you find time for HN?


1. I can do HN with the kids in the house and use my ears to supervise. I can't do that with exercise. (My son is right now sitting next to me, counting and recounting his allowance.)

2. I can comfortably do HN while it is too hot outside to exercise.


hm. a machine solves both problems; I mean, I don't have kids but most of the cardio I've done in the last 5 years or so has been on a machine; instead of watching children, I watch silly action movies. For me? it's to distract me from the monotony. Action movies were made for my attention span; but it seems you could just as easily supervise children.

That said, I certainly feel a lot more difference from resistance training than from cardio, and diet changes have been more effective than either in controlling my weight. (e.g. an hour a day of running is not going to keep me from ballooning out if I use mountain dew as my primary caffeine delivery mechanism.)

I mean, you can get a really nice treadmill for a grand and a half; by the standards of medical care, that's really cheap; Personally, I've also had some success using the manual type (which can be had for $50 or so on craigslist) unlike most other cheap cardio equipment (I utterly destroyed a rowing machine through a month of daily use... most low-end cardio equipment wasn't designed for actual use by a 200lb man.) the manual treadmills seem to be fairly durable. "I'm going to go push the shopping cart" I'd say. It does take a bit more concentration than an automatic, just 'cause if you stop, it stops, but eh, it's certainly usable, and you get a little bit of upper-body work done, too; it really is very much like pushing a heavy shopping cart.


This is a reasonable alternative, but I hate it because of the monotony. Taking care of kids involves lots of little interactions and quiet periods, so would not break the monotony. But perhaps I should look into getting a setup where I can do that while I'm on the computer, killing two birds with one stone.

Thanks for the suggestion.


Calisthenics can work well while watching kids. With no setup or teardown time, they work nicely for opportunistic, "hmm, looks like he's going to be occupied for a few minutes" holes in the day.

We also went running with a jogging stroller when the weather was nice. Our son usually loved the ride, and was asleep by the time we got home (bonus!). That might not work on its own with kids, but one of the places we went running was a local school with a track and a playground. I know the kids in this house consider a 30 minute visit to a playground far too short, and that's more jogging than I can handle.


I have done plenty of calisthenics. What I've found for myself is that while I am engaged in a workout routine, I'm really NOT available for child care, nor is it a good idea if unsupervised small children are near. Curious small children walking up trying to figure out what you're doing when you're about to, say, go into jumping jacks can be bad...

Families are different. I'm glad that calisthenics work for you in that situation. They have not for me.

For the record, my current lack of a regular exercise routine is temporary.


I understand. I'm not being critical of you -- just trying to help with what's worked for me in a similar situation. I mostly did squats and push ups, and the extent of my son's involvement was to add a little bit of . . . resistance . . . to the latter exercise. ;)

I understand the difficulty; when you're a sole caretaker, focused time to do things tends to be limited to naps and schooldays, and then it tends to be used for more system-critical things like taking showers. I hope your situation improves in time. :)


So take the kids to the park and either run with them in a stroller (if small enough) or run around the park while they play (larger kids).

Either way, get them up earlier and out with you while you run. Good for them too!


My daughter needs over 12 hours of sleep, and has trouble falling asleep before it gets dark. I'm not going to make her get up earlier without very good cause.

Also I would not trust you to supervise preschool children in a public space. You clearly do not know what is required to do so responsibly.


Over-supervising children hurt them more than helps. Children need their freedom too.

Besides, if you do not exercise - it's bad for your children. It's especially bad if they do not exercise either (because you don't have time to play with them, and don't allow them play alone, because you want them to be extra safe).


Ah, classic. Everyone always thinks that they know better than you how to take care of your kids. I have never understood how people like you don't realize exactly how rude you are.

But for your information, over-supervision means different things at different ages. It is not over-supervision to insist that there is always an available adult that a 4 year old knows how to get the attention of. It is over-supervision to insist that you always be within earshot of a 14 year old. It is one thing for my daughter to be playing in my back yard with me inside of the house. It would be quite another for there to be no adult available when she suddenly realizes that she needs to poop because I am running around the block and won't be back for 15 minutes. (The problem is not that she will have an accident, it is that she does not wipe herself sufficiently well.)

Also what is exercise is relative to your abilities. For instance yesterday we went on a 2 hour hike up a mountain before the heat of the day set in. For her there was a definite cardio element. For me, traveling at her pace, not so much. (My wife and son set out a bit earlier and went at their pace. When we met up they had done 3x the vertical that I did, and had much better exercise.)


How about hiring teenager next door to watch for your kids while they are sleeping and you exercise?


They are all getting ready for school in the morning themselves. And besides, have you ever tried convincing teenagers to get up earlier in the morning? (The ones that I know around here would prefer to sleep in.)


My now teenager wakes up for school herself at ~6am starting from ~age 8.

Though I know that other kids might be different. But you need to find only one babysitter.

How many teenagers in your neighborhood did you ask?

Besides, there are not only teenagers, but housewives who wake up in the morning anyway.

Or how about this: you exercise while your wife and your daughter are sleeping (or your wife is getting ready to go to work. Or while your daughter is sleeping alone.

Or take your daughter on a run with you in a stroller. She may keep sleeping if it's an issue to wake up.

You may ask your older kid to babysit younger daughter while you are taking 20-minutes run with your cell phone and give another cell phone to your older kid.

You may take two 10-minutes runs if you worry that kids cannot be left alone for 20-minutes.

There are so many ways to find a way/time to exercise ...


I've talked to every teenager that lives within a block of me. Which is about 7. Only 2 are potential babysitters, and neither is available at times that interfere with school, including the morning. The housewives that I know have their own children to take care of and would not be interested in visiting my house that early.

My wife's schedule is highly variable from day to day and week to week, but is generally pretty crazy. She's frequently up and out of the house before 5 AM. Or works overnight. Or sometimes is lucky stays at home until 8:30 AM. Scheduling my life around hers is a complete non-starter.

My daughter is unfortunately easily awakened in the morning. Her grumpiness when she lacks sleep lasts all day. She resists afternoon naps even when she doesn't have activities swimming lessons to be awake for. Interrupting her sleep so I can take her running at 6 AM is therefore very much not in her best interest.

As for regularly leaving the house empty with sleeping kids while I go for a run..how about I let you have that argument with my wife? I'm quite aware of what will happen, and don't disagree with her.

My 7 year old son with ADHD is NOT an adequate caregiver. (I can just see it, now you're about to give a lecture about how ADHD isn't real. Please resist the temptation until you read up on the last 15 years of research...)

Are you done being a complete ass to a random internet stranger yet?

(Incidentally, you've now topped my list of people I dislike here.)


It seems to me that you are looking for an excuse for not exercising as opposing to looking for a solution.

Could you please share what exactly you don't like about me?

I just shared my perspective on how you and other people could fix their lack of exercise problem. That somehow triggered your negative attitude toward me. Why?


Could you please share what exactly you don't like about me?

My theory would be that what I don't like is that I don't like you being a moralizing ass who is quick to judge, lacks empathy, and always missing the mark.

Start with your first entry in this thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4372686

Continue with everything else you've said. Up to and including your last post where you assume that I'm just looking for an excuse not to exercise rather than the truth that I'm a person with a rather overwhelming life at the moment.

If I was the type of person who just wanted excuses to not exercise, I could not have maintained successful exercises for years in the past. I would not be confident that I will re-establish one in the future. Yet you do not see this as being a possible situation, so you categorize me as just, "...looking for an excuse." And therefore confirm your world view that people like me are an impossibility.

If I hated you a little more I would hope that you could experience as many personal challenges in your life as I do in mine at the moment. But I don't hate you enough for that. Yet.

Respond if you want to. I'm done dealing with you and won't reply back. At the moment my kids are being taken care of by a babysitter, and I have contracting work that I need to get back to. Because, you see, doctors in residency make under minimum wage, so I have significant financial responsibilities on top of my parenting ones...


Why would kids stop you from getting exercise? Get a stroller and give your kids a ride while you are running. Or give them bicycles and run with them.

Not sure why we all should follow "1 hour runs 5 times per week" suggestion. We are not professional runners.


> Guess what, those who drink diet sodas are more likely to be overweight. I guess diet sodas make you fat?

Not the best analogy - because there is some evidence that artificially sweetened beverages have fueled the obesity epidemic (by possibly overriding our typical satiation point for sweet foods).

See:

* http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/32/4/688.short * http://www.nature.com/oby/journal/v16/n8/abs/oby2008284a.htm...

Though not everyone agrees:

* http://jn.nutrition.org/content/142/6/1163s.abstract

Trying to sort out correlation vs. causation is particularly challenging with this debate.


Diet sodas are very very low calorie (some think they all are zero, but many are like 10cal per 20oz, so still negligible but not 0). Regardless, diet sodas do not make people fat. They may somehow affect other things that then increase our likelihood of eating bad things if we do not have will power, but they do not themselves make us fat


Correlation does not imply causation. People who play basketball are tall. Therefore playing basketball makes you taller.


^ this is exactly what I am saying.


>Found that men who ran two or more marathons per year were 41 percent less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, 32 percent less likely to have high cholesterol, and 87 percent less likely to be diabetic than non-marathoners.

Isn't it obvious selection bias? People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and with diabets do not run marathones.

>Americans are more into protein and more into weightlifting than any other nation I've ever seen.

Same is true for refined sugars and completely unhealthy standart eating choices. If you walk into non high-end supermarket a-la Whole Foods or PPC it's just hard, and in some categories impossible, to buy healthy food.


If you walk into non high-end supermarket a-la Whole Foods or PPC it's just hard, and in some categories impossible, to buy healthy food.

What supermarket are you referring to? I've had no difficulty finding healthy food at Pathmark, C-Town, Supremo, or any other low end supermarket.


Yes, unless one has an overly restrictive view of what "healthy" means, that's an unbelievable statement. I've never been to a grocery store that didn't sell lean meat, cheese, fresh vegetables, potatoes, dried beans, and so on. And I've been to some grocery stores in pretty bad neighborhoods...


Well, if you need some healthy food, then yes, but not healthy food of a specific kind. For example, buying whole wheat bread in Safeway or QFC goes like this: ok, this bread is called whole wheat, it contains regular wheat as well, and HFCS, move on. Next one has regular wheat in it as well and more sugar than cookies, move on. Next one has list of ingredients so long, that by the time you finish reading it, you don't remember if you saw whole wheat, yeast, and salt in the list. Oh, that was the last bread called "whole wheat" in this store, no bread for you today.

Believe it or not, in Whole Foods there is a bread labeled with exactly three required ingredients - whole wheat, yeast and salt.


Alternatively looking at the other group: Are you comparing people who exercise to people who don't? If you are, and your conclusion is "aerobic exercise is necessary"... you have a flawed study.


Well, it does seem pretty convincing as support for the conclusion "aerobic exercise is sufficient". If the choice is between sufficient and unproved things, how can you rationalize disregarding sufficiency?


Disclaimer: Anecdotal evidence.

Cardio really should be a minimum of an hour per day, at least 5 days a week if weight control is the goal

First of all, who the hell has time to do a minimum of five hours of cardio per week? Some people have families or businesses to run. Getting a runner's high may be great for you, but you in no way need to spend an hour doing just cardio for effective weight loss.

My reasoning? The better your body performs, the quicker you see changes in it. Doing just an hour of cardio a day will not create a body at peak performance. You might be able to run a marathon, but you also might not be able to do a push-up. This is not your whole body working at peak performance. So you're missing out on vital conditioning by using all that time for cardio.

On top of that, you can get similar gains in endurance and cardiovascular fitness by doing a variety of high intensity workouts, and they need not last longer than 30 minutes (IMO) if done at top speed. I have no way to prove this other than the theory that lots of muscles trained to perform both slowly and quickly and at intervals of rest and high performance is going to have an overall greater conditioning effect than an hour of the same muscles doing the same thing at approximately the same pace.

I'll leave the meatheads to expound the virtues of resistance/weight training on strengthening the muscles needed to do such a demanding cardio workout in the first place.


That's not how it works. You get different gains from doing sprinting than from long distance. Your muscle fiber composition, your lactate threshold, your VO2 max and your economy of oxygen use are all maximized at different distances.

For marathon runners, it's the final variable that becomes huge, and you just won't improve that without a solid base of distance running. Even 5k runners, for whom VO2 max and interval work is crucial, benefit greatly from one long run per week (usually around 20km if they're serious).

It might surprise you that there's been a general trend in cross-country at the collegiate level towards slower 90 minute daily runs instead of the faster 60 minute ones so popular a decade or two ago. http://runningtimes.com/Print.aspx?articleID=15744

You can lose weight with no cardio at all. However there is a veritable mountain of research that suggests that an hour of cardio per day is good for you. If you can't get that much, some is better than nothing. It doesn't have to be running all the time, either. Playing with your kids or going on hikes will do good for your health even if it doesn't single-handedly take care of your weight problems.

Running just happens to be an exercise that allows a particularly high HR and lactate threshold compared to others such as biking, rowing or hiking.


The people who say that you shouldnt worry about cardio for weight loss typically mean exactly that, _for losing weight_. Cardio has many benefits, but for the time it involved, it simply does not burn a huge amount of calories! ;f somebody wants to simply lose weight, then it isnt a bad supplement, but if somebody wants to look better naked (not even if a sexual way) then weight lifting is a better addition to cardio because after losing your desired amount of weight you wont end up skinny-fat. If you have the time to do both, then sure, lifting and cardio makes sense, but if your primary goal is to improve how your body looks and dont want to spend 10+ hours a week exercising, then weightlifting is your best bet.

The reason for all of that is diet is the biggest factor BY FAR for weight loss and for most obese people, no amount of cardio will fix their diet. Cardio is not bad by any means, and to achieve true fitness you need strength and conditioning, but for most people trying to lose weight in a busy schedule, its place isnt as important as most assume


> Why is it that both Atkins and Taubes got so fat on very low carb diets while Japanese people traditionally ate (and many still do eat) rice at every single mean, lunch, breakfast and dinner?

Because eating a lot will make you fat, and eating a little will make you thin. Whether you eat proteins, fat or carbs, you can gain or lose weight depending on how much you eat.

I haven't studied it very much, but just eating less works for me.


No way. Try getting fat eating just protein. It is so incredibly hard. Just try it.

Now, try getting fat eating nothing but fat+protein. Hard, but much easier than just protein.

Now, try getting fat eating just carbs. Easy.

Now, try getting fat eating carbs+anything. Easy.

A "calorie is a calorie" isn't true now and never has been. It was a very simple model. Our understanding has changed and we now know much more.

For instance, there are hormonal changes that come from eating the above (re: hgh secretion, testosterone production (both up and down) and insulin (which we knew all along)).

Eating little does help you lose weight, but the key is the word 'weight'. If you are beyond trying to just be a certain number on a scale and care about things like muscle, performance, body fat percentage or how you look, there are other things to consider.

For instance, trying to build muscle? Eat protein+carbs post working out heavy with weights. Do not eat carbs before you workout. Which means, fat+protein only before a workout.

Trying to lose fat? Have a long way to go? (say upper teens+ in body fat). Do very low carb (protein+fat+veggies like broccoli) for 6.5 days a week. The evening of the 7th day, eat protein+carbs (the carb refeed). do this until you like what you see in the mirror. (this is a muscle sparring approach).

Just trying to live a normal life and don't care about the two above (and you don't exercise much)? Generally restrict carbs to around 100g a day MAX. You aren't using them, so your body doesn't need them. If you keep giving your body carbs it doesn't need, overtime you'll get fatter. Play with the number of carbs a day, but know this is the one dial you have.

You'll have much better results with this than lowering the total calories.


The first part of your comment isn't exclusive to "a calorie is a calorie." Protein has been shown to be more satiating than either fat or carbs, and the low blood sugar following an insulin spike from a high glycemic, carb heavy meal will strongly promote hunger. If you can manage to eat a ton of carb and protein calories, you will probably lose some water weight initially, but overall stay the same relative to other macronutrient distributions.


> If you can manage to eat a ton of carb and protein calories, you will probably lose some water weight initially, but overall stay the same relative to other macronutrient distributions.

There is another reply in this thread where I talk about goals, so I won't repeat what I said there here.

In reply to the above, what is lacking in that is what happened right before someone at protein+carbs. If someone worked out with heavy weights, the body is actually primed to use both the protein and the carbs to rebuild the muscle. You are actually going to use them.

If someone is going to eat protein+carbs after sitting on the couch all day, everyday, the body is not primed to use them.

Let's say you at the exact same meals in either case, you'll get very different results? Why is that? Because a calorie is not a calorie. Hormones play a HUGE role in all this. Understanding the role they play, the timing of them and how to manipulate them is vitally important. "a calorie is a calorie" neglects this and we end up with people thinking eating x, y or z is ok b/c someone who else eats them successfully under different circumstances for different goals.


Yes, it is hard gaining weight only on protein

Because protein gives a very strong fullness sensation

So you end up eating less calories overall than with a mixed protein/carb (and fats) meal

And a calorie is a calorie with a big if: if your macro nutrients are in range


> And a calorie is a calorie with a big if: if your macro nutrients are in range

The statement, 'a calorie is a calorie' is used to make the point that macro ratios don't matter for weight loss/maintenance. ... so then the argument is won, and we can all agree that a calorie is not a calorie.


My personal experience is the opposite, I find eating only protein for dinner leaves me without a fullness sensation. Such as Sashimi, I can eat that forever while Sushi (with rice) fills me up.


[deleted]


From the study: 5% of energy from protein (low protein), 15% (normal protein), or 25% (high protein)

25% is not high protein. That means 75% is coming from either fat+carbs.

On a typical cutting (VLC) day, I'll eat 50% protein+45%fat+5% broccoli. And I don't consider it a high protein day.

If the average person reading this ate 40% protein + 40% fat + 10% veggies (like broccli) + 10% carbs (sweet potato, rice etc), their weight would stabilize much better, faster and for a longer period of time.


"Carbs" is such a vague word there are complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates, a blanket statement calling both "carbs" is generalizing.


Same for fats.

This is why nobody should be taking fitness advice from random non-professionals on the internet


Does anyone think there is a place for bad fats in their diet today? I mean, do we really need to be explicit there?

I'll give you carbs, but fats? If you are reading this and it is unclear...do not eat bad fats. Good fats are fine.

So to be explicit on carbs (if someone is unclear): There is actually a place for all carbs. If you are lifting heavy weights, post workout you can eat simple carbs. I personally put dextrose in my shake.

And then, depending on my goals, I'll either eat complex or simple carbs until I go to bed. Like I said, depends on my goals at the time. Same goes for my general advise to others....all depends on their goals and how they react to the carbs.

PS. I'm actually a professional so....


> Does anyone think there is a place for bad fats in their diet today? I mean, do we really need to be explicit there?

You probably do really need to be explicit there. From Taubes' article that started it all:

"Foods considered more or less deadly under the low-fat dogma turn out to be comparatively benign if you actually look at their fat content. More than two-thirds of the fat in a porterhouse steak, for instance, will definitively improve your cholesterol profile (at least in comparison with the baked potato next to it); it's true that the remainder will raise your L.D.L., the bad stuff, but it will also boost your H.D.L. The same is true for lard. If you work out the numbers, you come to the surreal conclusion that you can eat lard straight from the can and conceivably reduce your risk of heart disease."

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-...


Bad fats still do good things for you. It's weird, but you actually need some saturated fats in your diet. But more of the 'good' fats is safer. The only fat you should never eat is trans fats [anything listing 'hydrogenated' or 'shortening'] because they negatively affect both HDL and LDL.

Fucking dieticians, how do they work?


Bad fats aren't saturated fats. Milk is saturated fat. Milk is pretty awesome for you, especially if you are trying to gain muscle.

Trans fats, as you mention, are the real bad fats. The whole '80s and '90s in terms of diet really, really screwed us up. I wish I knew then what I know now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_fat


Almost every article you find from Googling "good and bad fats" show all saturated fats as bad, because of a increase in risk of cardiovascular problems in some studies. Completely ignoring the wealth of positive[1] effects[2] from saturated fats. They even lump in trans fats as if they have exactly the same risk factors.

[1] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/09/2... [2] http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/

P.S. you know there's a whole anti-milk cabal that tracks down and castrates anyone who says milk is good for you? be careful out there.


Clearly we should all be eating Lemon Curd.


> Now, try getting fat eating nothing but fat+protein. Hard, but much easier than just protein.

This one isn't hard at all. I unwittingly gained a bunch of weight in one period because I was busy at work and too lazy to make proper food, so I just ate a lot of peanuts as snack food, 'cause I'd heard they're somewhat healthier than other snack foods. Peanuts are basically nothing but protein+fat, but I gained a bunch of weight because they're so calorie-dense (one 8-oz bag has like 1500 calories). I'm not 100% sure, but I think the fat+salt aspect might promote overeating; I can't imagine eating enough walnuts, say, to gain weight, but I can munch on salted/roasted peanuts all day.


You were probably eating Planters or some other 'big brand.' Most peanut snack foods come loaded with sugar, carbs, and bad oil. http://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/food/peanuts/car...


No sugar/etc., just salted peanuts. Ingredients: peanuts, salt. It's hard to counteract eating thousands of calories of peanuts daily, though (for a while I was going through 2x bags, i.e. 3000 calories/day just from peanuts).


Most low/no carb diets say to stay away from nuts in general because they are generally starchy and have hidden carbs.


I just have to mention that while doing what is "optimal" might seem like hacking health, it really isn't in terms of total gain. A strict diet and gym workouts are almost the opposite of appreciating food and sports. Learning to cook, socializing over dinners, playing sports in teams, learning new things that you can actually use, living a sustainable life etc. is what's going to give you the most value in the long run, not living like a "sober food alcoholic".

I don't mind people trying to hack weight loss, but don't forget that the science behind it should be for your situation, that there's a huge survivor bias and you'll need a long term plan as well.


I agree completely. There's also a mountain of evidence to support the health benefits of good social connections and a low stress life. Dancing is one form of cardio that I've seen come up again and again in papers about warding off lifestyle-related ailments.


> Cardio really should be a minimum of an hour per day, at least 5 days a week if weight control is the goal.

This is mistaken, and recommending this myth (at least five hours a week) is part of why so few people can stick to a fitness regimen.

HIIT, and in particular, Tabata intervals, have been proven to alter your body's metabolic processes within 6 weeks, with just 10 minutes 3 or 4 times a week. Once the metabolism shifts, the person begins to burn fat "at rest" far more than the long exercise type of athlete.

The goal isn't to lose calories during the exercise itself, but to shift how your body stores and uses energy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-intensity_interval_trainin...

"HIIT is somewhat counterintuitive in this regard, but has nonetheless been shown to burn fat more effectively."

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmc...

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Metabolism:_Clinic...


There are quite a few things in the above so I won't touch on them all. Though, I must ask...what is your goal?

My belief is that nearly everything in how someone eats, worksout and approaches fitness and health should be decided AFTER they understand what their goal is. Nearly all the studies above seem to have no idea what they are actually testing (the goal).

Right now I am an amateur powerlifter and bodybuilder. I play sports like hockey, basketball and flag football. In the past I did triathlons and ultramarathons with friends. Do you think I approach the different phases in my life EVEN REMOTELY the same in terms of diet and exercise?

So what is your goal? I'll provide a quick handy guide for some I read above.

Trying to maximize your years on this earth? Only known way is to calorie restrict. Like extreme calorie restrict. Say, around 1000-1200 cals a day.

Trying to maximize athletic performance in power sports (hockey, football, basketball, baseball etc)? Sprints+heavy weights for a workout. Carb cycling for food (high carb days post working out, low carb days when you don't work out).

Trying to maximize athletic performance in enduro sports (distance cycling, distance running)? Know your carb maintenance level, eat for that + protein and lower(ish) fat (fat + carbs leads to weight gain almost universally. So, if you NEED to eat carbs as your main source of fuel, you'll need to lower fat if you don't track your carb intake very closely). *

*Note: there are plenty of people that perform enduro sports on VLC (very low carb) and use fat as their fuel. However, I haven't found studies on this yet so I don't recommend it wholesale. If someone wants to try it and can work through the re-acclimation period in their body, give it a shot.

I can go on, but I need to know what people have in terms of goals. I personally wasted too many years middling around without knowing what I actually wanted to achieve. I know others do as well. Know your goals, then you can set your approach to achieving those goals....persist and you'll hit 'em!


> Trying to maximize your years on this earth? Only known way is to calorie restrict. Like extreme calorie restrict. Say, around 1000-1200 cals a day.

Has this ever been proven to work in humans? I know it has been found to be true in rats, non-human primates, etc, but humans already have abnormally long longevity for mammals (http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/5701/does-every-...). The types of changes calorie restriction triggers in other animals may have already be part of a regular human.


>Trying to maximize your years on this earth? Only known way is to calorie restrict. Like extreme calorie restrict. Say, around 1000-1200 cals a day.

Hardcore males doing CR for health and longevity, pushing it as far a they can go, average about 1700 - 1900 a day. At 6+ foot and 120 pounds.

5 foot female might hit 1100 or 1200, sure.

Keep in mind that's an average though. If you cheat once a week or two weeks you could easily eat a 1200 calorie diet on the other six days and have it work out the same.


> Hardcore males doing CR for health and longevity, pushing it as far a they can go, average about 1700 - 1900 a day. At 6+ foot and 120 pounds

Picking a calorie calculator at random on the internet seems to suggest otherwise.

http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm

I put in 6'0", 120lb male, age 30 and just looking for basal metabolic rate gives 1500cals. Sedentary gives 1850cals.

I've read elsewhere (can't find source) that most CR advocates are recommending AT LEAST 20% reduction in cals to actually qualify as CR, some saying 30%-40% are more appropriate.

Those numbers from above cals are 1200 and 1480. If using 30% reduction they are 1050 and 1295.

There is emerging evidence that while CR is effective, an alternate approach that is less extreme could also be just as effective: intermittent fasting[1]. I believe the IF approach warrants more research, but I'm doing it anyway b/c it also aligns with my current goals for powerlifting and bodybuilding. Hoping the research pans out in the longevity department as it will be a bonus ;)

[1] - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie_restriction#Intermitten...


>I put in 6'0", 120lb male, age 30 and just looking for basal metabolic rate gives 1500cals. Sedentary gives 1850cals.

I've spent a bit of time researching CR and I can tell you those numbers are way too low.

As an anecdote, one of the most dedicated and extreme practitioners in the world is at about 6 foot 120 pounds and his diet:

>Tonight’s calculations are based on Michael’s caloric requirements, and those requirements are as strict as they come. Unlike April’s daily average of about 1,300 calories, which really is an average (she likes to go out drinking and dining with friends on weekends, and doesn’t mind enduring a few 1,000-calorie weekdays to save up for the splurge), Michael’s regimen of 1,913 calories a day is exactly that: 1,913 calories every single day

http://nymag.com/news/features/23169/index1.html

>There is emerging evidence that while CR is effective, an alternate approach that is less extreme could also be just as effective: intermittent fasting[1].

There are a lot of controversial things in CR research (high protein vs low protein for example) but one thing that has been pretty much conclusively established is that IF only gives CR benefits to the degree that it ends up lowering calories. Many people do find that IF makes it easier to stay on a restricted diet, but ultimately, it comes down to calories.


> Americans are more into protein and more into weightlifting than any other nation I've ever seen. And while there are a number of muscled-bound guys strutting around, there are a whole lot more fat people buying into the same pop weight-loss ideologies.

How on earth did you generalise from people who control their diet and training to become "muscled-bound" to the rest of population who clearly don't?


The concept of fitness in the US slants more in that direction. Living in Taiwan, I knew a lot of people interested in controlling their diet but not many who were interesting in building muscle mass. Health magazines weren't full of models showing off muscles, either.

For whatever reason, there is a very American tendency to focus on muscles. Men and recently more and more women on TV are muscular. The trend has been going on for the past 50 years and the effects even show up in toys!

http://www.lhup.edu/tmitchel/wmst/pope.pdf

Edit since I can't reply: Yeah, it's a lot easier to tweet about how manly you are living off of bacon and protein powder than it is to actually hit the gym regularly.


OK, sure, there's been a cultural shift towards muscularity as part of the conception of masculinity.

But that doesn't change the observed fact that most people aren't doing the hard yards to attain a muscular physique. Because it doesn't happen by accident.


Hell, it's difficult enough to make happen on purpose.


I don't know about studies on cardio or what not, but I'll say that as a D1 runner, I have never seen an overweight person who runs more than 50 miles per week (and I have met thousands of runners in my life).


Most basketball players are tall. I guess basketball makes you taller.


And???


I want to be really tall like a giraffe. I guess I'll go eat the leaves from the tops of the trees.


You really have no clue what I'm saying, do you?


You're just posting a stream of sarcastic comments. Please go back to reddit if this is your level of discourse:

"This is joke, right? I almost stopped at the first sentence."

"Derp"

"Most basketball players are tall. I guess basketball makes you taller."


An obese person can become thin; a short person cannot become tall. No, I don't understand what you're saying.


Ever see a local marathon? There are tons of people who are overweight that run them. I'm sure some of those overweight people are running high mile numbers.


You would be surprised, but the overweight people doing marathons still do less than 50 mpw. I am meaning a consistent 50 throughout the year -- not "peaking" at it.

If you know some counterexamples personally, I'd be very interested in hearing about them -- it would be an unusual situation.


I know several personally, but I hate using personal anecdotes as evidence. These people religiously run 45-55 miles a week (slightly below your number, I know, but there is nothing magical about those last 5 miles).

They also run a slow 50. But, they still run around 50 a week and they are overweight.

The point being there is nothing magical about running long distances and being lean, IMO. Someone could (and like I said, I know several) run that and be overweight). I know plenty of people who ride bikes 150-200+ miles a week and are overweight.

What I suspect you mean when you say 50mpw is that someone running 50mpw at 5 min/mile pace (or less) is not going to be overweight. And that is probably true. But you are factoring in intensity then, which changes the equation entirely.

For instance, I know someone that lifts weights 4 times a week for 1 hour a day and is fat. He's been doing it for years.

I also know someone who lifts weights 4 times a week for 1 hour a day and just won a local bodybuilding contest.

There are so many things I didn't say in the above it isn't worth talking about them? What are they eating? What does their workout look like? Are they both lifting the same weights? How intense are they working out? Adequate sleep in both cases? Any sprinting?

Like I said, I suspect what you meant in the 50mpw case was also something about intensity, not just distance.


Hmm. Well that's interesting. I guess I was wrong. I'm even more surprised with the 150-200+ miles cycling. I suppose intensity does have more influence than I would have thought.


What I never get about those overweight runners is why don't their joints give in? Running 50 miles if you are overweight seems like a receipt for arthrosis.


Regarding Marathons; As recently as this year the Mayo Clinic has looked at Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise[1]. I also recall a study a couple years back that showed inflammatory damage to marathoners hearts for up to 3 months after running the event.

Regarding all the studies you have quoted, all of them are epidemiological in nature, and do not prove causal relationships. These studies have hundreds of confounding variables that cannot be understood, and are only as good as a person’s memory (can you remember how much protein you ate in 2011 on a weekly basis?). These studies are used to build hypothesis that THEN can be actually tested.

Now in regards to the scientific literature on the actual physiological processes involved; recent studies have shown [2] [3] that longer forms of exercise such as jogging and running etc. burn more calories DURING exercise, but have an overall negative impact on the hormones that influence weightloss (cortisol etc.). Whereas research [4] [5] [6] on weight lifting and short bursts of high intensity have shown that these forms of exercise light up all the fat loss hormones for even days later, and outperform cardio/aerobic exercises. Not only that, but looking at the aerobic exercises from a hormonal standpoint, these types of exercise negatively affect hunger and stress hormones. [7] [8]

Also I don’t see where there is “food for thought” by looking at Taubes and Atkins any more than looking at the hundreds and thousands of success stories (on places like reddit) who follow this protocol.

My 2c.

[1] http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(12)0...

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&...

[3] http://jcem.endojournals.org/cgi/content/full/83/2/626

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&...

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&...

[6] http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v32/n4/abs/0803781a.html

[7] http://alturl.com/dnwr

[8] http://ajpregu.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/296/1/R29


I really fail to see how you can put this forward for your first piece of "scientific literature on the actual physiological processes involved" just after complaining that all the studies I've quoted are epidemiological in nature, and do not prove causal relationships. This first study you trumpet demonstrates no causal relationship, is taken from a smaller sample, has muddier data and repeatedly supports the findings of the studies I cited!

It examines hypothetical damage from long term distance racing. It opens with:

"A routine of regular exercise is highly effective for prevention and treatment of many common chronic diseases and improves cardiovascular (CV) health and longevity"

And it clearly states that its model is hypothetical:

"Additionally, long-term excessive sustained exercise may be associated with coronary artery calcification, diastolic dysfunction, and large-artery wall stiffening. However, this concept is still hypothetical and there is some inconsistency in the reported findings. Furthermore, lifelong vigorous exercisers generally have low mortality rates and excellent functional capacity"

As I mentioned earlier, racing long distances isn't necessary for health benefits and can be damaging if you don't have enough of a fitness base. Training for long distances on the other hand is overwhelmingly positive.

The other studies you cited don't all say what you say they did:

2) shows higher cortisol from intense exercise than moderate

3) finds that high cortisol increases fat storage

4) finds that after a 100 minute weightlifting session, the BMR rises enough to burn only an additional 60 calories over the next day.

5) similar to 4 but with fewer details

6) finds more weight loss from 3x/week HIIE than 3x/week SSE

7) examines hormonal response hours after a long swimming race

8)finds that both resistance and aerobic exercise temporary suppress appetite, but did not examine effects on caloric intake


I didn't place it just after I complained about your lack of non-epidemiological studies, it was before that. I didn't say it proved any causal relationship, but rather that its being looked into, and yes its a hypothetical, and i don't see how it has muddier data, when rather than being based around some questionnaire actual tests were performed on the subjects.

With regards to the studies; I said that long running sessions have a negative affect on weight loss and [2] says that long high intensity sessions increase cortisol secretion, [3] says high cortisol leads to increased fat storage. I said high intensity show burts of exercise increase fat loss, that includes [4] [5] showing increased metabolic expenditure post exercise and [6] directly showing short high intensity interval training being better for weight loss that steady state exercises. Also I dont see how the fact that [7] shows a long swimming race being an issue, and if you actually read [8] the resistance exercise took place over 90 minutes sessions, well past the anaerobic area of short high intensity training.

Look I am all for running, I try to get out and do 10-15km per week, but blanket statements that say you should run 1hr every day and all is well, are not backed by science.


> Japanese people traditionally ate (and many still do eat) rice at every single mean, lunch, breakfast and dinner?

Agree with the majority of your comment but I think the above could be attributed to their smaller portions.


In the 4chan/reddit there is a weird distortion field that makes those communities associate fitness with aesthetics. Running and jogging are widely and overtly depreciated in favour of only "cold iron and do you even lift ?" memes. Bodybuilders are there models.


You are confusing bodybuilding, which has an aesthetic goal, with weightlifting/powerlifting, which has functional goals, hence the names. There is, of course, somewhat of a continuum. Just look at pictures of olympic weightlifters in the lightest weight groups and what they lift. This is pure explosive power and coordination, as those lifts are very complex. Then you have powerlifters, who still aren't very bulky and do complex full body motions under high load. A bodybuilder, however, does many isolated repetitions (with little weight) to cause muscular hypertrophy. /r/fitness, by the way, advocates functional strength training.


I assure you /fit/ is all about aesthetics.


I don't go on reddit much anymore, but the /r/paleo community is almost directly responsible for my 75+ pound weight loss. They easily supplied the basic knowledge & a sense of community.


"When it comes to weight loss, creating a caloric deficit is the most important thing that matters; eating less, not moving more, is the most realistic way to do so."

What? Please read Gary Taubes "Good Calories, Bad Calories" or "Why we get fat". He is one of the leading thinkers in nutrition and is worshipped by other gurus like Tim Noakes (who wrote the runners bible Lore of Running). Taubes spends the first third of "Why we get fat" rebuking this "first law of thermodynamics" approach to dieting.

I'd also argue that nutrition today is evolving from an anecdotal approach to what works e.g. Dr Atkins discovering that if he eats meat-only he gets thin, to a science based approach where we are beginning to understand the profound effect insulin has on fat storage and why dietary fat does not make you fat.

Reddit is a great resource for new data, but not a source. It does however have some amazing pointers. Another case in point is the cult of Mark Rippetoe fans on Reddit and the AMA that Rip did on Reddit a while ago which was awesome. [Rippetoe is pretty much God in strength training circles and his book "Starting Strength" is the strength training bible.]


I have read Christians "refuting" evolution too.

I give a guy who doesn't thermodynamics (one does not refute that in a popsci book) the same credit.

If he had really discovered something important, he would not be worshipped. He would present evidence to other researchers, who would confirm his experiments, etc.


Taubes has been presenting evidence to other researchers. But the medical establishment takes a loooooong time to change its collective mind on stuff like this.

Here's a relevant video:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4362041487661765149

In that video, I think Taubes actually refutes the "law of thermodynamics" approach to losing weight in a single picture, with an existence proof. There exist people who are emaciated in half their body (say, the top half) and obese in the other half (say, the bottom). According to the "law of thermodynamics" approach, such a person should simultaneously "eat less, move more" (to cure their bottom half) and "eat more, move less" (to cure their top).

This is clearly impossible advice to follow. These people need some other form of advice. Once we figure out what that advice should be, it's probably going to be of benefit to people who are fat or emaciated over their entire body rather than a selected part.

As for your analogy: I'm an atheist, but if any Christian that others saw as "refuting" evolution had as much social proof as Taubes - had huge communities of my peers recommending his work - I'd kind of be inclined to check it out and see what he had to say.


"Reddit’s voting system provides a reliably transparent soundboard for fitness knowledge."

Any studies showing that? I find such online discussions interesting, and certainly sometimes they might reveal better information than just going to your doctors office. But these are just people hanging out online - just because they vote something up doesn't mean it is proven, it just means they like to believe it. In fact, for any theory you can probably find an online community that believes in it and votes up things supporting that belief.

The latest studies I read about seem to indicate that low carb and so on are irrelevant, calorie reduction is all that counts. But if you want to believe in low carb, you can probably find lots of anecdotes proving its effectiveness. Possibly because the low carbers accidentally also reduced calorie intake. (Although my own criticism of those studies is that it remains unclear how differing diets allow you to keep calories low. One snickers bar might have enough calories for a day, but it would be difficult to just eat one snickers bar every day, contrary to eat lots of whole grains).


> because the low carbers accidentally also reduced calorie intake

Accidentally is a loaded word there, because if low carb diets tend to make people eat less, then that is an enormous, critical advantage over competing diets.


Totally agree - as I said, it would be difficult to sustain a low calories diet on chocolate, simply because of the craving it induces.


> Here’s a discouraging fact: A 220 lb. man walking up 27 flights of stairs burns the caloric equivalent of half an Oreo

I always hate these statements because they are misleading. It is true the amount of energy required to lift 220 lbs 27 flights of stairs is about half an Oreo, but you burn a lot more than that. To put things in perspective, you burn 35 calories smoking a cigarette.


Reddit's /r/fitness is like the 4chan of fitness I stopped reading it due to the bickering and posturing, I'd say a wee bit of roid-rage is leaking through.


No, 4chan.org/fit/ is the 4chan of fitness.


This is a lazy, spiteful stereotype.


No, it isn't. Read the posts for a while and you'll see a pattern of certain groups who have an absolute view of what they perceive is right and aren't shy to say it. Maybe the mods are better now but I gave up reading anything there after a few months.

Another bad one is r/coffee lots of bickering there too, it must be the caffeine or lack of it.


People with strongly-held opinions share those opinions with others? Shocking.

I was referring to your "roid rage" slur, by the way.


It's not a slur it's pretty obvious going by some comments in r/fitness, but like I said I gave up reading r/fitness.


As a developer I bristle at the idea that 'if it's not in the curriculum, what can you do?' The doctors are at fault here for not reaearching and advocating for the research needed.


You don't seem to have any idea about how complex medicine is. You wouldn't say the same thing about a specialist in IT ("This DBA doesn't know enough Java!").


For specialists, sure. But for a GP shouldn't it be essential to be knowledgeable and effective about basic fitness and nutrition?

My (relatively uninformed) impression is that studies of fitness and nutrition are surprisingly unsophisticated relative to research for curing specific diseases.

This is basically the debate of preventive care vs. palliative care (and, I guess, the argument that one allows for much higher profits than the other).


Western medicine has historically never been focused on preventative medicine; their role has traditionally been to make you healthy, not keep you healthy. It's not the conspiracy some might suggest, it's just that historically you called a doctor when you were ill, not for lifestyle advice. When it comes to fitness, you still don't - unless you're talking to a sports doctor, you're not going to get a useful training programme tailored for your needs.

Regarding GPs in particular - they aren't really about keeping you trim and terrific. They're about dealing with niggling issues while flagging serious ones for referral to specialists. They do know about basic fitness and diet, but they're not specialists in the area - see sports doctors and dieticians.

Also consider that diet is a rapidly moving target at the moment - there's a lot of contradictory opinion and new info coming out all the time. It's not a GP's role to stay at the bleeding edge of medicine. That's what specialists do, and as the specialists settle on the right thing, it filters down to the non-specialists. You can of course find GPs who take special interests in certain areas, and may get lucky and find one that loves fitness and diet.

Also, 'palliative' doesn't mean 'after injury', it means 'relieve symtoms without attempting a cure', and most doctors would rather cure a problem than use the patient as a cash cow (there's enough work out there, even before you get to the ethical issues). Perhaps a better pair of terms would be preventative/proactive vs reactive care.


Great comment, and I agree with you on all counts. I believe western medicine should put more emphasis on preventive care and GPs, as most people's first and sometimes only point of contact for health-related matters, should be much more informed and proactive about their patients' fitness and nutrition.

Regarding diet being a rapidly moving target, that is exactly my point. It seems to me, as an uninformed layman, incredible how much we've learned about diseases like cancer and yet how relatively little we seem to know about diet, fitness, and the behavioural research related to them. Not because these topics are in any way more simple than understanding a specific disease, but because they affect everybody.


It's not just profit.

It's hard to get funding for research into training. Nobody wants to be the public research administrator who put $$$ down for research into the effects of hypertrophy. So the studies that do get done tend to be small.

A lot of what is known about sports science relies on meta-studies, because so many training studies are of the form "we took 20 college-aged males and divided them into three groups ..."


It's remarkable to me that hackers are against every form of alternative medicine, except regarding nutrition.

If I told you that the American Cancer Society said wearing pendants to protect from electromagnetic radiation was hokum, it would be case closed. But when the ADA says [low carb diets are nonsense](http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=10645#.UCemyU...) it's contentious.

I wonder why?


Hackers are in favor of following methods that are testable and that work. When it comes to fighting obesity, the medical establishment is obviously clueless - they don't have any advice to give that has a track record of long-term success. It's not clear why their advice doesn't work, but it's clear that it doesn't. Which leaves room for alternative theories that at least might work.

I also think you're overestimating how much hackers approve of mainstream medicine generally. There is quite a lot of bad science in the medical field generally. If we were legally allowed to build our own medical devices and mix our own drugs and practice medicine ourselves, I suspect a lot of us would be inclined to do that. The government hasn't yet made it illegal to give advice on diet and nutrition, so you see more people giving advice on diet and nutrition than you see people giving advice on, say, dealing with cancer.


> There is quite a lot of bad science in the medical field generally. If we were legally allowed to build our own medical devices and mix our own drugs and practice medicine ourselves, I suspect a lot of us would be inclined to do that.

Well, and if you're not allowed to, some people just do it anyway.

http://groups.google.com/group/diybio

http://diyhpl.us/wiki/diybio/faq


I've lost a ton of weight (no pun intended) by being an active member of r/loseit. Nothing else. That community helped me achieve my goals. It is just an amazing place.


"Nothing else."

I find this doubtful.


What is it that you found doubtful? Or did you not understand the message behind the sentence? It meant that I did not use any gimmicks or pills or surgery. I relied (still do) on the community as a tool to achieve my fitness goals. Of course, I still run about 20 miles per week, and bicycle an equal amount. I control what I eat by counting calories and I also calculate how much to eat in order to keep a deficit of 3500 calories per month (one pound of fat per month basically).


You made the statement as if to bolster the subreddit as "revolutionary". It's effective, but there's nothing medically or socially revolutionary about fitness support groups. You followed healthy patterns and share your successes with others.


You don't get it. :)

Where reason is king all the flowers are black and white.

Good luck.


I think the main appeal of communities like this is that there is a central place to cheer on people who are trying to get into improving their health. You see something similar going on at Pinterest, which, for all its scientifically debunked advice, tries to encourage and inspire people to work out.

It doesn't matter how good your workout and diet regimen looks on paper, if you have to multiply that result with an enthusiasm of zero.


I was thinking this. That is, even if a lot of the advice is bunk, as long as it's not harmful, anything that gets people actually thinking "Yeah, I can do this!" and giving it a go has to be valuable.

For example, if my prime goal in life were to get as many people coding as possible, I'd rather have an eager but bad VBScript developer I could train up than someone who doesn't really care about programming either way. Ditto for fitness, perhaps.


Since fitness people usually start from a very, very bad level of exercise and dieting, you'd have to do some seriously stupid stuff for the net effect of your regimen not to be a big improvement regardless. Compared to programming or anything else, it's not that important to use the perfect way to improve most of the time. Especially when all the research happens at the cost of actually doing what you set out to.

So what if you can't burn fat from targeted areas on your body, when your overall weight decreases and will eventually shed that tummy fat you've been bothered by.

This is one of the reasons I like Hacker News as a community a lot. I think it sometimes makes starting a company sound way too easy (and buzzwordy), but there are a lot of people here who would never have started their companies, if they hadn't found a community here to cheer them on.


r/fitness is good for an average person but I would not say it's as good as you make it out to be. Other bodybuilding and fitness websites are much better. Also, most of the advice on r/fitness comes from /fit/.


Sure, the depth of the content is not as good as other forums, but a peripheral point I think the article was trying to make was that the accessibility of such resources is what makes it so revolutionary. I'm an avid reader of r/fitness and one of the things that makes it so appealing it me is how much of the advice relates to me, an average guy who spends much of his time on the internet.


People always end up believing what they want to believe, even if it's illogical or totally insane.

But, no one has ever put on weight on a calorie deficit. NEVER.

This being said, you can get overweight or even obese if you eat too much, be it green beans or lard.

Similarly, you can lose weight eating "bad" foods, if you maintain a calorie deficit.

Obviously, for long term results, it's best to eat good food, exercise regularly and do both with moderation.

That is it. This is all there is to know on that topic.

PS: Anyone above 500 pounds can lose 100 pounds fairly quickly. Using such an achievement to prove that this or that miracle diet is best...is disingenuous.


> But, no one has ever put on weight on a calorie deficit. NEVER.

The vast majority of people who lose a substantial amount of weight through calorie restriction gain it all back and then some within a few years. Though they do lose in the short run (say, 6 months), they're worse off three years later than if they had never dieted at all. This simple fact - that dieting doesn't work in the long run - suggests that telling people to lose weight simply by dieting is BAD ADVICE.

Given that doctors are giving people bad advice, there's still plenty of room for people to try to come up with BETTER advice.


You need to re-read my post.


You wrote: "This is all there is to know on that topic."

That seems pretty obviously false - there's more we know now and there's much much more we could know, even if we don't know it yet.

Before that, you wrote:

> Obviously, for long term results, it's best to eat good food, exercise regularly and do both with moderation.

What exactly constitutes "good food" is one of the things under discussion and is something else "there is to know on this topic". Whether it's "best" to do both "with moderation" depends on how the terms are defined and what your goals are. For instance, it might well be better to exercise irregularly than regularly.


>But, no one has ever put on weight on a calorie deficit. NEVER.

I want to be a pedant and correct that to "body fat" instead of "weight". A change in diet can stress the body into retaining extra water weight, causing a temporary increase in weight.


There are definitely temporary adaptations and self-preserving mechanisms that slow down the process, but the laws of thermodynamics still hold.

Also, the calorie deficit does not even need to be large. 100-200 calories a day will already make a bit change in the long run.

Part of the problem is that people want results fast. Again, faster than even the laws of thermodynamics would permit.


After reading almost every single comment in this story, I have come to 1 conclusion:

Geeks on Hacker News should not be giving out diet, nutrition, and fitness advice.

(No one should be taking the advice anyway.)

Diet, exercise, and nutrition stories on Hacker News always seem to be messy. They do end up being entertaining seeing all the back and forth controversy though some times.


there are 2 different purposes here. the high saturated fat diets - yeah that will drop weight. No one really knows what the long term effect on cardivascular disease (i.e. damage to arteries) will be, since they haven't been practiced for the several decades it takes to find that out.


Ooooh! Delayed interstitial. Out of there.


... and as of now, also by hacker news.


What's very inspiring are the body transformations posted by members of forums. Just check out the ridiculous before-and-after shots on the following thread from the SomethingAwful Forums' fitness subforum:

http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=333...

Threads like these are what inspire people to radically change their lifestyle, start lifting weights, and stay motivated. They go on to keep fitness logs to keep themselves publicly accountable, and also join Fitocracy and weight/diet-tracker sites. There're also a lot of helpful resource threads on such forums, informing newbies on diet, exercises, supplements, etc.

On the scientific side of things, I've spent the last few weeks reading a range of PubMed(Central) articles and various blogs and forums on fitness and diet. There are many schools of thought, but many are mostly supported by anecdotal evidence and not studies.

What I've found most helpful are scientific studies/articles, e.g.

- Evidence-based resistance training recommendations http://baye.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/ebrtr-Fisher1.pdf

- ISSN recommendations for supplementation http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2853497/?tool=pu...

- Protein per day for muscle-building: 1.6 g/kg of bodyweight (not the 1+g/lb that many sites tout) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129150/

- Reduce saturated fat intake and replace with polyunsaturated fats, not carbs or monounsaturated fats http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19211817

Scientific bloggers are also good to read, if they assess studies critically - people like Bill Shrapnel, DH Kiefer, Bryan Chung, Stephan Guyenet, Alan Aragon. Check their blogs out if you aren't already following them.

My current understanding of various controversial topics, based (mostly) on studies:

Calories in, calories out - absolute calories matters, but is mediated by the effect of composition of diet. Consuming more protein tends to result in an increased lean-mass-to-fat ratio (whether due to satiety, hormonal effects, or a combination of the two).

Carbs/sugars/starches - high glycaemic-index carbs are riskier than saturated fats for heart disease. They are also associated with weight gain. The endless intake of rice in Asian countries (like mine) makes many of us fat and at risk of heart disease.

Dietary cholesterol - probably not as bad as previously assumed, but having >6 eggs a week actually increases your risk of heart disease/events.

Intermittent fasting - I haven't seen the scientific evidence for this, though a friend assures me it's out there. All I see is Berkhan's leangains.com and I'm not sure I'm convinced. I searched PubMed for a bit but didn't come across anything.

Diet vs exercise for weight loss - diet is the key to weight loss. Neither cardio (whether HIIT or low-intensity) nor resistance training alone is particularly effective at causing weight loss (claims of raised metabolism notwithstanding); you need a calorie deficit as well.

Training to muscular failure - training to failure actually provides more efficient strength gains.

Genetics and muscle - genes play a major, possibly the largest, role in determining how much muscle mass individuals can gain and how easily they do it. "...it appears that those who are naturally lean and muscular to start with, can gain strength and size to a much greater degree than naturally ‘skinny’ individuals." i.e. ectomorphs won't be exploding with muscle in short order, despite their best efforts.


> Dietary cholesterol - probably not as bad as previously assumed, but having >6 eggs a week actually increases your risk of heart disease/events.

Do you have a reference? I've been unable to find one (or for that matter, anyone who's actually seen one). I have found examples to the contrary: e.g. http://www.sherdog.net/forums/f15/88-year-old-man-eats-25-eg... (anecdote aside, it has other references as well)


I went back and read the source paper carefully, and realised this was a mistake on my part. The relevant study:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10217054

----

After adjustment for age, smoking, and other potential CHD risk factors, we found no evidence of an overall significant association between egg consumption and risk of CHD or stroke in either men or women. The relative risks (RRs) of CHD across categories of intake were less than 1 per week (1.0), 1 per week (1.06), 2 to 4 per week (1.12), 5 to 6 per week (0.90), and > or =1 per day (1.08) (P for trend = .75) for men; and less than 1 per week (1.0), 1 per week (0.82), 2 to 4 per week (0.99), 5 to 6 per week (0.95), and > or =1 per day (0.82) (P for trend = .95) for women.

----

At face value this seems to imply increased relative risk (1.08) of >=1 egg per day, and that's what I concluded. But reading the results section of the paper, I came across this:

----

Because of the relatively strong correlation between consumption of eggs and bacon, we further adjusted for bacon intake. The adjusted RRs across categories of egg consumption are less than 1 per week (1.0), 1 per week (1.00), 2 to 4 per week (1.04), 5 to 6 per week (0.78), and 1 or more per day (0.93) (P for trend=.36) for men; and less than 1 per week (1.0), 1 per week (0.81), 2 to 4 per week (0.96), 5 to 6 per week (0.91), and 1 or more per day (0.78) (P for trend=.73) for women. Additional adjustment for other foods including whole milk, fish, beef as main dish, chicken, or cereal had little impact on the results.

----

So it looks like 5-6 eggs/week actually resulted in the lowest relative risk of heart disease, at least when the effect of bacon is accounted for. >=1 egg/day resulted in lowered risk as well. It's quite telling that bacon raises the relative risk significantly while meats, milk, and cereals did not.

So, sorry I posted misinformation, and thanks for pointing this out. I hope this post helps elucidate the current state of research for anyone reading. I'm actually happy, because I've been eating 5 eggs/day on-and-off lately and was reluctantly considering reducing my intake. Now I get to continue eating dem eggs! (At least, one or two a day...)


Thanks.

It's amazing how many things we believe (and when I say "we", I mean society, including e.g. doctors whose job it is to know better) that have never been scientifically looked at properly -- or worse, were looked at and shown to be wrong.

My current list:

- dietary cholesterol is bad for you (truth: essentially irrelevant)

- serum cholesterol is bad for you (truth: it's a marker, not a cause. apparently, the body makes more of it in an attempt to solve other problems, which will manifest faster if you use statins to reduce cholesterol)

- dietary sodium is bad for you (truth: blood pressure is tightly regulated, and dietary sodium has very little to do with serum sodium and blood pressure, unless it is in ridiculous excess. Too little sodium is also harmful)

- butter is bad for you. (truth: some is bad, some is good. butter is so ill-defined to make general statements useless. grass-fed organic european style butter is good for you)

- you should avoid introducing allergens such as nuts to young kids, lest they develop allergies. (truth: not clear, but observational evidence show inverse correlation between how early you introduce nuts and the prevalence of nut allergies)

- weight change is equal to c*(calories in - calories out). (truth: only in the tautologically useless sense. generally wrong the way 99% of the people apply it. nutrition science is anything but)

I'm looking for a rigorous study that shows toothpasts are helpful (indeed, that brushing is helpful). Some studies by Weston Price (and his successors) imply that cavities correlate with grain and sugar consumption, and that brushing is not helpful against cavities if the diet is bad.


> - serum cholesterol is bad for you (truth: it's a marker, not a cause. apparently, the body makes more of it in an attempt to solve other problems, which will manifest faster if you use statins to reduce cholesterol)

That's an interesting (and good) point - if it's (mostly) a marker, actively reducing it without addressing the root cause makes no sense as a strategy. But the probability remains that a high reading indicates underlying problems. The uncertainty lies in whether it's only HDL or LDL that's a negative indicator, or the ratio of HDL to LDL, or a particular subtype, etc. My previous reading of bloggers on this topic only left me more confused.

> - butter is bad for you. (truth: some is bad, some is good. butter is so ill-defined to make general statements useless. grass-fed organic european style butter is good for you)

I guess it would be easier if it was specified that "high sat-fat butter" is bad for you, or the like. I don't know about the composition or nutritional analysis of grass-fed organic euro-style butter, but I do think it still makes sense to regard saturated fats with suspicion, at least under current studies. Do you have any studies to share on this?

> - weight change is equal to c*(calories in - calories out). (truth: only in the tautologically useless sense. generally wrong the way 99% of the people apply it. nutrition science is anything but)

I've been wondering if the composition of macronutrients affects the metabolic rate significantly, resulting in increased calories-out. Or if macronutrients are somehow wasted as excess heat, or excreted only half-used. That would clarify the apparent conflict, in my mind.

> I'm looking for a rigorous study that shows toothpasts are helpful (indeed, that brushing is helpful). Some studies by Weston Price (and his successors) imply that cavities correlate with grain and sugar consumption, and that brushing is not helpful against cavities if the diet is bad.

Not heard anything about this, but such studies would be interesting to read. I've heard doubts and disparagement expressed about the advice given on the Weston Price foundation's website (not about the views of the man himself), though.


> I guess it would be easier if it was specified that "high sat-fat butter" is bad for you, or the like. I don't know about the composition or nutritional analysis of grass-fed organic euro-style butter, but I do think it still makes sense to regard saturated fats with suspicion, at least under current studies. Do you have any studies to share on this?

Apparently, grass fed vs. grain fed does NOT culminate in "high sat-fat" or "low sat fat". There's a lot more, to the point that no one seems to have a better characterization than "healthy cows, grass fed, organic, european style (ver high fat content)".

refs: don't have any peer reviewed off hand, but Seth Roberts and Dave Asprey have quite a bit (nothing as high caliber as NEJM or BMJ or nature -- but convincing data nevertheless)

> I've been wondering if the composition of macronutrients affects the metabolic rate significantly, resulting in increased calories-out.

There are well known thermo-generating nutrients, I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case. But there's also a lot to be said about the biome composition (recently shown to control type 2 diabetes in rats, as in cause and cure by replacing gut cultures).

> Or if macronutrients are somehow wasted as excess heat, or excreted only half-used

Oxidation is the dominant energy conversion mode, but it by no means the only one. Glycolysis is about 20-50 times less efficient, and is used under some circumstances (most notably, but thankfully not commonly, cancer); So assumptions about energy availability are kind of flaky.

Not to mention, paper (cellulose) is a carbohydrate - if you assume 4kc/1gr of carbs, you should be able to live well on paper.

> I've heard doubts and disparagement expressed about the advice given on the Weston Price foundation's website (not about the views of the man himself), though.

I've heard them too - but when they had any specifics, and I tried to verify them, it seemed those doubts were FUD rather than genuine scientific inquiry.




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