Monday, March 12, 2012

Soapbox of the Month - The Diet & Exercise Debate

I just read a very interesting article titled "Why We Are Fat" because that's what I do when I see such an enticing title shared by a friend on Facebook at 11:00 PM.

The article starts out with the featured biochemist, Barbara Corkey stating that she does not feel that diet and exercise alone are the answer to the obesity epidemic in America. Now, I am no biochemist, so I read the rest of the article, but my initial reaction was bullshit it's not.

I've operated under the simple understanding that if you consume the proper amount of calories to support your basal metabolic rate plus any additional activities one might participate in while not at rest, you should not gain weight. I believe one should take it upon his or herself to understand about how many calories he or she needs in a day, which in the age of the interwebs, isn't that difficult to do. And just to be a jerk and offer a completely contradictory article to the one posted above, let's not forget about the man who lost 27 pounds on The Twinkie Diet.

Now if you know me, and especially if you're related to me, you know I'm a wannabe know-it-all when it comes to health and nutrition. I tell people the first step to making changes to their diet is to only shop around the outer aisles of the grocery store, avoiding all the packaged and processed crap in the middle. Get your produce, get your lean protein, get your dairy and whole grains, and GTFO before the 2-for-1 Keebler cookie promotion starts hollering your name. Sure, you can eat Twinkies and lose weight but really, that's just gross.

I will add here that I am also a bit of a hypocrite, which I can only justify by the fact that I'm firing on all cylinders for the majority of my day and that when I do things like make homemade Snickers bars it's because I am totally of the same caliber of athlete as Michael Phelps and therefor I really do need 5,472 calories a day.

It's not because I was with him when he smoked up and got the munchies.

Back to the point... there was one somewhere, I promise...

If you read the whole article about Dr. Corkey (who is a PhD) you'll find she is a fascinating and super intelligent woman and I would not want to say anything that would begin to question her findings. Like I said, she's the expert, I just have my opinions based on, well, me. What I love about her research is how careful she has been in conducting it to find the keys to these metabolic problems that seem to be plaguing our country. Clearly, there ARE other factors at work than just whether someone is simply eating too much. The important thing to note, I think, is that people in general just aren't admitting that they are eating too much junk.

Think of it this way: If you eat fries until you are full or eat apples until you feel full, which will have you consume more calories?

The thing I'd love to see Dr. Corkey do with her research when she reaches a point where she feels she can publish her findings is to collaborate with the health and medical communities to create a comprehensive plan to fix our obesity epidemic. I don't think it would only be focused around curing the diseases associated with obesity, per say, but curing our mental disconnect with the food we have been putting into our bodies.

If I were part of her brain trust, I'd call it the "Stop Being Stupid and Pay Attention to the Shit You Put In Your Mouth Plan."

We're a society that tells itself, "It's OK, I had a rough day. I deserve to not think about what I'm gonna eat for dinner and just order what I want." We look for the shortest path from point A to point B. We spend too much time in our cars and in front of computers. Sure, some of us may be genetically predisposed to develop metabolic diseases, but the best thing we can do is to take steps to prevent it from happening, not scramble to treat it once it rears its ugly head.

Lastly, we can not afford to discredit exercise as a very important part of the big picture. I'm not talking about being skinny. I'm not talking about getting beach-worthy 6-pack abs. I'm talking about being fit and strong. Your heart is your most important muscle; you have to give it a workout just like any other part of your body. The impact of aerobic exercise and resistance builds bone density which will help prevent osteoarthritis. Your body will, regardless of fitness or diet, begin to lose muscle mass starting at the age of 40, so it's vital to maintain a strength routine to make sure the remaining muscle fibers can pick up the slack for the ones that die.

Am I saying don't ever eat ice cream, or that you can't take a day off to lay around and blog and catch up on "Top Chef" and "Modern Family" (me)? Absolutely not.

Simply put, if we are fat because of our genes and the additives in our processed foods, then we can definitely change one of those things. Certainly, it wouldn't hurt us to pick up a pair of dumbbells while we're at it.

Now that I'm done rambling, please share your thoughts and reactions!

1 comment:

Kate said...

As a scientist, let me just say, that article is such a crap fluff piece it made me want to puke. I hate articles like that. They always try to make science seem much more grandiose than it is, and there was far too much "She's just so cutting edge!" crap for me.

But, back to the heart of it, I actually think you and her are on the same page. Your advice of "only shop around the outer aisles of the grocery store" (probably some of the best nutritional advice I've read) is right on because it avoids the processed food, and what she's suggesting is that processed food is metabolized differently in the body than unprocessed food because of food additives. Specifically, her research seems to be more focused on the cause and possible treatment of type-2 diabetes rather than obesity, but obesity is just so flashy that of course more people will want to read that their obesity is caused by something other than themselves. From the diabetes standpoint, I kind of thought her research sounded cool. By studying how insulin-producing beta cells respond to various chemicals, it might be possible to find better treatments for making those cells respond in the proper way rather than requiring insulin injections. With insulin injections, you still have large fluctuations in blood glucose levels, so definitely a treatment to make your beta cells function properly would be preferable. Unfortunately, that doesn't really help people with type 1 who are otherwise healthy, but their beta cells have been destroyed. Finally, I agree that the article started off irresponsibly by saying things like overeating and too little exercise don't cause obesity, because they do, and that's not what her research is saying at all. I believe she is just proposing an additional factor to the problem, which lots of nutritionists have suggested for years by saying "Avoid the processed foods!"