Or maybe it isn’t. As Childhood Obesity News has discussed, a person is apt to occasionally think, “Everything I know is wrong,” especially when encountering contradictory headlines about the same topic. This is particularly true in the world of weight loss.
“Spin” is important in any aspect of life. Try telling the teacher, “The dog ate my homework.” Good luck with that. But, “The dog ate my homework, and then had a seizure and died,” throws a different light on the matter. It’s no longer just a kid trying to get away with something. It’s a kid whose pet just died, and any teacher insensitive enough to question such a claim from a child suffering grief might get into trouble. Especially if the dead pet story turned out to be true. (Okay, never mind the homework. Better to just let it go.)
Spin can make the difference between success and failure, between acceptance and rejection, between wealth and bankruptcy. Much of the spin we see out there is relatively innocent, but some is malevolent. Often, spin happens because to challenge it would be dangerous or disproportionately expensive. Sometimes it happens because people are just too busy to follow up on news items that sound a bit wonky.
Spin is Here to Stay
In the realm of news, spin is inevitable. In America, most people value the fact that various points of view and opinions can be heard. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that all opinions and points of view are equally valid. We don’t get to decide what is objectively true. We do get to decide whether what we are hearing holds up to scrutiny. The point is, a lot of different cases are made regarding the “how” of weight loss. A person can fully intend to stop being obese and still not know what to do.
One widely-promoted concept is the idea of making small changes to everyday existence that can add up to better health and even weight loss. For instance, parents have been advised to ditch the baby stroller as soon as a toddler is capable of walking. Many professionals have advocated more walking, especially for children, and many cities have taken steps to make this possible for their residents. If at all possible, kids are advised to ride bikes to school, rather than buses.
For adults too, many experts recommend small lifestyle changes, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even walking to work. But then, along comes a study with 20 attributed authors that calls the “small changes” trope a myth. These researchers consulted tons of scientific literature as well as everyday media, and came to the conclusion that, contrary to popular belief, small sustained changes cannot produce significant or lasting weight reduction. Their scholarly explanation begins:
Predictions suggesting that large changes in weight will accumulate indefinitely in response to small sustained lifestyle modifications rely on the half-century-old 3500-kcal rule…
This is truly discouraging. At the same time, another school of thought holds that small changes in human behavior are cumulative and synergistic, not additive, and somehow have a multiplier effect. Many motivational speakers and life coaches tell a parable of two entities traveling along next to each other. They might be ships sailing across the ocean or birds flying through the sky. The point is, if one of those individuals stops following a parallel route, and turns even a single degree toward either side, before long the two will be miles apart.
They will be as far apart as the old you and the new you, when you follow the slight adjustment plan. A page that explains this philosophy is “How to Establish New Habits the No Sweat Way.” As for who is right, each belief system has equally strong defenders. But as long as they can’t hurt, and might help, why not go ahead and make those small, healthful changes—just in case?
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity,” nejm.org, 01/31/13
Image by Daniel Oines