National Geographic’s Obesity BS
2007.10.15 prev next
Kirstie Alley, as played back from snippet of Oprah Winfrey: I really thought, I gotta crack the [weight-loss] code. I’m so irresponsible.
Howard Stern: Here, I’ll crack the code for you. Put a fuckin’ rope around your mouth. I just cracked the code! Here’s Howard Stern’s weight loss program. Tie a handkerchief around your mouth. And put your hands behind your back and handcuff ’em. You’ll lose weight. ... You reduce your calories, and you exercise.
—The Howard Stern Show, May 2009
HERE’S a seductive quote from National Geographic’s “Science of Obesity” program:
Contrary to popular belief, eating enormous amounts of food isn’t the only way to become obese. Small increases in calorie intake can lead to large gains in weight over time. A forty-year-old obese man who carries one hundred extra pounds of body fat has only consumed, on average, 25 more calories per day over his whole life, than he’s burned. This is the equivalent of eating an apple every three days.
Yes, tricky doublespeak is a great way to inform people about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to managing their weight.
Try going on a good, comprehensive exercise and nutrition program, such as Bill Phillips’s Transformation, but add one apple every three days on top of Phillips’s program. What will happen? In about three months (maybe more) you’ll be in superb shape and your friends, relatives, and co-workers will be begging to know how you did it! That’s what will happen. And if you keep that plan going for forty years (assuming you started when you were, say, twenty), you’ll still be in great shape. You will not become obese, not to mention morbidly obese.
Now, technically, National Geographic’s program didn’t lie. You just have to listen very carefully to what they said, which was that the 100-pounds-overweight man ate an average of 25 more calories per day than he burned. But guess what? If I weigh 200 pounds, and my next-door neighbor weighs 500 pounds (as does the guy being profiled during the part of the show from which the quote was extracted — a bit more than 100 pounds overweight, I’d say!), then my neighbor’s body burns about 2.5 times as many calories as mine, just in the course of staying alive, walking around the house, etc.
So if I must eat about 3,000 calories each day to avoid losing weight, he must eat about 7,500 calories per day to avoid losing weight! — plus another 25 calories if he wants to slowly increase to about 501.7 pounds over the next few months. To gain beyond 501.7, he’ll need to add even more calories to his already-7,525-calorie daily diet.
So, before you start thinking that a third of an apple a day can turn you into the morbidly obese person next door — think again. There’s a river of high-calorie food going into that guy’s maw when you’re not looking. It’s physically impossible for the human body to get that fat any other way.
Here’s another pearl of wisdom from the same show:
Whatever weight he’s able to lose through diet and exercise comes right back on as soon as he resumes his routine.
The show conveniently neglected to tell us exactly what “his routine” is, but if it’s heavy overeating and little or no exercise, then yes, resuming that “routine” would be expected to reverse the benefits of a (now-abandoned) diet and exercise program. Duh.
The show contained a lot of computer animations and an MRI body scan of an obese person, which is probably how it got the title “Science of Obesity.” But the most important thing about science is an unwillingness to obscure basic facts about a subject. To consider itself scientific, this show really needed to include a blunt exposition of what Mr. 500 Lbs was eating on a typical day. It didn’t contain anything like that, and instead used that “25 calories” sleight-of-hand to make it seem like the guy might barely have been overeating at all.
The rest of the show was similarly obfuscational. A very obese woman went to several doctors who “misdiagnosed her with simple overeating.” When she found the right doctor, he diagnosed her weight problem as caused by an imbalance of the “fight-or-flight” hormone cortisol.
OK, having too much cortisol in your body probably isn’t a good thing. And it might indirectly result in a weight problem for some people who wouldn’t have one, other things being equal. But it’s a scientifically proven fact that the human body cannot become very overweight, and cannot stay that way, without a large overconsumption of calories. Cortisol — or any other hormone for that matter — cannot provide those calories.
Should an overproduction of cortisol (if such is actually determined to exist in a patient) be treated? If possible, yes. But it’s very hard for me to be optimistic about this woman’s future when I see her doctor uncritically repeating his patient’s claim that her obesity exists despite the fact that “her diet is very balanced; she eats about 1,300 calories a day.”
And it’s also very hard for me to be optimistic about the general accuracy of information I get from National Geographic’s “science” shows, when they uncritically repeat such a doctor’s preposterous affirmations of his patient’s delusions.
Update 2007.10.18 — Today I saw the BBC show “You Are What You Eat” for the first time. Gillian McKeith tracked everything a very obese businesswoman ate in one week, and laid it all out on a big table for her to look at. The show doesn’t have the serious tone and computer imagery of the National Geographic program, but guess which one is more scientific? Hint: Science = laying out the facts in plain view, not trying to cover them up.
Update 2009.05.27 — Howard Stern Show quote added
Update 2009.11.09 — “Why Doesn’t Exercise Lead To Weight Loss? ... In the study, 58 obese people completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic training without changing their diets. The group lost an average of a little more than seven pounds, and many lost less than half that. How can that be?”
They didn’t change their diet from what, exactly? From the diet that made them obese in the first place? Big mystery!
Update 2010.07.01 — “Body-for-LIFE” changed to “Transformation”
Features (Regularly Updated)
A Memory of Gateway — news chronology of Apple’s ascendancy to the top of the technology mountain.
iPhone Party-Poopers Redux and Silly iPad Spoilsports— amusing litanies of industry pundits desperately hoping the iPhone and iPad will go away and die.
Embittered Anti-Apple Belligerents — general anger at Apple’s gi-normous success.
Now available on the iBookstore!
Joel on Software
The J. Peterman Company
Zombie Survival Guide plus Dawn of the Dead
Charlie Superfly Check “The First Time” to hear what she actually sang in the competition. HowardTV ripped it out and spliced in utter crap they had her sing later.
Real Solution #9 (Mambo Mania Mix) over stock nuke tests. (OK, somebody made them rip out the music — try this instead.)
Ernie & Bert In Casino
Great Explanation of Star Wars
Best commercials (IMO) from Superbowl 41, 43, 45, 46, and 47
Kirk & Spock get Closer
American football explained.
Piada. Yum. Like, Chipotle meets Italian.
Sonos and Opalum — awesome sound stuff I saw at CEDIA.
TV: The Jinx; Breaking Bad; House of Cards; Inside Amy Schumer
Celebrity Death Beeper — news you can use.
Steve Ballmer explains the secret of Microsoft’s success.
Making things for the web.
My vote for best commercial ever. (But this one’s a close second.)
Pinball Arcade: Unbelievably accurate simulation of classic pinball machines from the late ’70s through the ’90s, with new ones added periodically. Like MAME for pinball — maybe better.
Best 9/11 documentaries: Inside 9/11: Zero Hour; Inside the Twin Towers; 102 Minutes That Changed America
Favorite local pad thai: Pho Asian Noodle on Lane Ave. Yes, that place; blame Taco Bell for the amenities. Use the lime, chopsticks, and sriracha. Yummm.
Um, could there something wrong with me if I like this?
Irrefutable proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy.
This entire site as a zip file — last updated 2015.03.02
Champagne, By Any Other Maker
iOS Jailbreaking — A Perhaps-Biased Assessment
Embittered Anti-Apple Belligerents
Before 2001, After 2001
What A Difference Six Years Doesn’t Make
Stupefying New Year’s Stupidity
The Innovator’s Victory
The Cult of Free
Fitness — The Ultimate Transparency
Millions of Strange Devotees and Fanatics
Remember the iPod Killers?
Theory As Simulation
What Was Christensen Thinking?
The Grass Is Always Greener — Viewing Angle
Is Using Your Own Patent Still Allowed?
The Upside-Down Tech Future
Motive of the Anti-Apple Pundit
Cheating Like A Human
Security-Through-Obscurity Redux — The Best of Both Worlds
iPhone 2013 Score Card
Dominant and Recessive Traits, Demystified
Yes, You Do Have To Be the Best
The United States of Texas
He’s No Jobs — Fire Him
McEnroe, Not Borg, Had Class
Conflict Fades Away
Four-Color Theorem Analysis — Rules To Limit the Problem
The Unusual Monopolist
Five Times What They Paid For It
Bypassable Security Certificates Are Useless
I’d Give My Right Arm To Go To Mars
Free Advice About Apple’s iOS App Store Guidelines
Understanding IDC’s Tablet Market Share Graph
I Vote Socialist Because...
Product Naming — Google Is the Other Microsoft
Apple Paves the Way For Apple
Why — A Poem
App Anger — the Supersized-Mastodon-In-the-Room That Marco Arment Doesn’t See
Apple’s Graphic Failure
Why Microsoft Copies Apple (and Google)
Coders Code, Bosses Boss
Droidfood For Thought
Investment Is Not A Sure Thing
Exercise is Two Thirds of Everything
Dan “Real Enderle” Lyons
Ignoring the iPod touch
Manual Intervention Should Never Make A Computer Faster
Zeroth — Why the Century Number Is One More Than the Year Number
Longer Than It Seems
Partners: Believe In Apple
Gun Control: Best Arguments
John C. Dvorak — Translation To English
Free Will — The Grand Equivocation
What Windows-vs.-Mac Actually Proved
A Tale of Two Logos
Microsoft’s Three Paths
Amazon Won’t Be A Big Winner In the DOJ’s Price-Fixing Suit
Infinite Sets, Infinite Authority
Strategy Analytics and Long Term Accountability
The Third Stage of Computing
Why 1 Isn’t Prime, 2 Is Prime, and 2 Is the Only Even Prime
Lie Detection and Psychos
Microsoft’s Dim Prospects
Humanity — Just Barely
Hanke-Henry Calendar Won’t Be Adopted
Collatz Conjecture Analysis (But No Proof; Sorry)
Rock-Solid iOS App Stability
Microsoft’s Uncreative Character
Microsoft’s Alternate Reality Bubble
Microsoft’s Three Ruts
Society’s Fascination With Mass Murder
PlaysForSure and Wikipedia — Revisionism At Its Finest
How Many Licks
Microsoft’s Incredible Run
Collatz Conjecture ... Not Yet
The Size of Things In the Universe
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy That Wasn’t
Nobody Was In Love With Windows
Apples To Apples — How Anti-Apple Pundits Shoot Themselves In the Foot
No Holds Barred
Betting Against Humanity
Apple’s Premium Features Are Free
Why So Many Computer Guys Hate Apple
3D TV With No Glasses and No Parallax/Focus Issues
Waves With Particle-Like Properties
Gridlock Is Just Fine
Sex Is A Fantasy
Why the iPad Wannabes Will Definitely Flop
Predators and Parasites
Prison Is For Lotto Losers
The False Dichotomy
Wait and See — Windows-vs-Mac Will Repeat Itself
Dishonesty For the Greater Good
Barr Part 2
Zune Is For Apple Haters
Good Open, Bad Open
Beach Bodies — Who’s Really Shallow?
Upgrade? Maybe Not
Eliminating the Impossible
Farewell, Pirate Cachet
The Two Risk-Takers
Number of Companies — the Idiocy That Never Dies
Holding On To the Solution
What You Have To Give Up
The End of Elitism
Good and Evil
How Religion Distorts Science
Laziness and Creativity
Sideloading and the Supersized-Mastodon-In-the-Room That Snell Doesn’t See
App Store Success Won’t Translate To Books, Movies, and Shows
Silly iPad Spoilsports
Five Rational Counterarguments
Reaganomics — Like A Diet — Works
Apple’s On the Right Track
Mountains of Evidence
What We Do
Hope Conquers All
Humans Are Special — Just Not That Special
Life = Survival of the Fittest
Excuse Me, We’re Going To Build On Your Property
No Trademark iWorries
The Fall of Google
The Meaning of Kicking Ass
How To Really Stop Casual Movie Disc Ripping
The Solitary Path of the High-Talent Programmer
Fixing, Not Preaching
Why Blackmail Is Still Illegal
Designers Cannot Do Anything Imaginable
Wise Dr. Drew
Rats In A Too-Small Cage
Coming To Reason
Everything Isn’t Moving To the Web
Pragmatics, Not Rights
The Purpose of Language
The Punishment Defines the Crime
Two Many Cooks
One Last Splurge
What Heaven and Hell Are Really About
America — The Last Suburb
What the Cloud Isn’t For
What You’re Seeing
What My Life Needs To Be
Taking An Early Retirement
A, B, C, D, Pointless Relativity
Stephen Meyer and Michael Medved — Where Is ID Going?
If You Didn’t Vote — Complain Away
iPhone Party-Poopers Redux
What Free Will Is Really About
PTED — The P Is Silent
Out of Sync
Security Through Normalcy
The Case For Corporate Bonuses
Movie Copyrights Are Forever
Permitted By Whom?
Quantum Cognition and Other Hogwash
The Problem With Message Theory
Bell’s Boring Inequality and the Insanity of the Gaps
Paying the Rent At the 6 Park Avenue Apartments
Primary + Reviewer — An Alternative IT Plan For Corporations
Yes Yes Yes
Hey Hey Whine Whine
Microsoft About Microsoft Visual Microsoft Studio Microsoft
Hidden Purple Tiger
Forest Fair Mall and the Second Lamborghini
Intelligent Design — The Straight Dope
Maxwell’s Demon — Two Real-World Examples
Einstein’s Error — The Confusion of Laws With Their Effects
The Museum Is the Art
Polly Sooth the Air Rage
Morality = STDs?
Fulfilling the Moral Duty To Disdain
The Two Rules of Great Programming
The End of the Nerds
Poverty — Humanity’s Damage Control
Berners-Lee’s Rating System = Google
The Secret Anti-MP3 Trick In “Independent Women” and “You Sang To Me”
ID and the Large Hadron Collider Scare
Not A Bluff
The Fall of Microsoft
Life Sucks When You’re Not Winning
The Old-Fashioned Way
The Old People Who Pop Into Existence
Theodicy — A Big Stack of Papers
The Designed, Cause-and-Effect Brain
The Capitalist’s Imaginary Line
Education Isn’t Everything
I Don’t Know
Funny iPhone Party-Poopers
Avoiding Conflict At All Costs
Behavior and Free Will, Unconfused
“Reduced To” Absurdum
Suzie and Bubba Redneck — the Carriers of Intelligence
Everything You Need To Know About Haldane’s Dilemma
Darwin + Hitler = Baloney
Designed For Combat
Speed Racer R Us
Bold — Uh-huh
Conscious of Consciousness
Where Real and Yahoo Went Wrong
The Purpose of Surface
Eradicating Religion Won’t Eradicate War
A Tale of Two Movies
The Changing Face of Sam Adams
Dinesh D’Souza On ID
Why Quintic (and Higher) Polynomials Have No Algebraic Solution
Translation of Paul Graham’s Footnote To Plain English
What Happened To Moore’s Law?
Goldston On ID
The End of Martial Law
The Two Faces of Evolution
A Fine Recommendation
Free Will and Population Statistics
Dennett/D’Souza Debate — D’Souza
Dennett/D’Souza Debate — Dennett
The Non-Euclidean Geometry That Wasn’t There
Defective Attitude Towards Suburbia
The Twin Deficit Phantoms
Sleep Sync and Vertical Hold
More FUD In Your Eye
The Myth of Rubbernecking
Keeping Intelligent Design Honest
Failure of the Amiga — Not Just Mismanagement
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer = Be My Honey Do?
End Unsecured Debt
The Digits of Pi Cannot Be Sequentially Generated By A Computer Program
Faster Is Better
Goals Can’t Be Avoided
Ignoring ID Won’t Work
The Crabs and the Bucket
Communism As A Side Effect of the Transition To Capitalism
Google and Wikipedia, Revisited
National Geographic’s Obesity BS
Theodicy Is For Losers
A Memory of Gateway
Is Apple’s Font Rendering Really Non-Pixel-Aware?
Humans Are Complexity, Not Choice
A Subtle Shift
Moralism — The Emperor’s New Success
Code Is Our Friend
The Edge of Religion
The Dark Side of Pixel-Aware Font Rendering
The Futility of DVD Encryption
ID Isn’t About Size or Speed
ID Venn Diagram
Rich and Good-Looking? Why Libertarianism Goes Nowhere
FUV — Fear, Uncertainty, and Vista
Malware Isn’t About Total Control
Howard = Second Coming?
Doomsday? Or Just Another Sunday
The Real Function of Wikipedia In A Google World
Clarity From Cisco
2007 Macworld Keynote Prediction
FUZ — Fear, Uncertainty, and Zune
No Fear — The Most Important Thing About Intelligent Design
How About A Rational Theodicy
Napster and the Subscription Model
Intelligent Design — Introduction
The One Feature I Want To See In Apple’s Safari.