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October 14, 2013 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity, from the New England Journal of Medicine. Among the myths discussed: Small sustained changes in eating or exercise make a big difference in weight; losing big amounts of weight quickly is less effective long-term than slow and gradual loss; that PE classes help reduce weight; and, tragically, that "a bout of sexual activity burns 100 to 300 kcal for each participant." But take heart! The authors point out that presumptions around the badness of snacking and yo-yo dieting are not supported! (There is also a correction to the original article, because the issue of breakfast remains contentious.)
posted by mittens (163 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is fabulous - in particular, putting that "Rapid weight loss is bad for you and you never keep the weight off anyway" voice to bed.
posted by corb at 7:15 AM on October 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, to clarify for those skipping straight to the fray without RTFA - the "Myths discussed" are points that have been scientifically disproven, or found to have insufficient evidence to be used in a weight loss plan. It will be counterintuitive to those who've been brought up on these being the stone cold facts, rather than untested assertions and folk wisdom.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:21 AM on October 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Given that the average bout of sexual activity lasts about 6 minutes, a man in his early-to-mid-30s might expend approximately 21 kcal during sexual intercourse."

Two things:

-What counts as "sexual activity" in this case?
-I am going to strike it rich by convincing retailers of sex swings to invest in my new sex squat racks, sex uneven bars and sex stationary bicycles.
posted by griphus at 7:24 AM on October 14, 2013 [34 favorites]


Folk wisdom that guys in white coats have told you are the stone cold facts.
posted by thelonius at 7:24 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


White lab coats are very slimming and obscure the body.
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 AM on October 14, 2013 [17 favorites]


in particular, putting that "Rapid weight loss is bad for you and you never keep the weight off anyway" voice to bed.

I don't see either of those particular canards discussed in this article. It does not mention whether or not studies show that rapid weight loss is more harmful than any other kind, and it does not discuss long-term weight-loss studies in particular at all, except to say
there was no significant difference between the very-low-energy diets and low-energy diets with respect to weight loss at the end of long-term follow-up.
posted by muddgirl at 7:27 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should say potential canards.
posted by muddgirl at 7:28 AM on October 14, 2013


griphus: -What counts as "sexual activity" in this case?

They reference this paper: Heart Rate, Rate-Pressure Product, and Oxygen Uptake During Four Sexual Activities. May be NSFW if you work in the 1800s.
posted by mittens at 7:28 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd volunteer for the more exhaustive followup study...anecdata point: its strange that the gym rats I know cling to many of these myths more strongly than others I know -
posted by sfts2 at 7:36 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


They reference this paper...

I can only see the abstract but from what I understand, it's 6 mins from soup to, er, nuts, right?
posted by griphus at 7:40 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or vice versa.
posted by mittens at 7:41 AM on October 14, 2013 [25 favorites]


"Given that the average bout of sexual activity lasts about 6 minutes, a man in his early-to-mid-30s might expend approximately 21 kcal during sexual intercourse. Of course, he would have spent roughly one third that amount of energy just watching television, so the incremental benefit of one bout of sexual activity with respect to energy expended is plausibly on the order of 14 kcal."

Darn, there goes my weight-loss plan! Maybe I'll just stick to watching TV.
posted by etherist at 7:42 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


These myths flourish because people want some Basic Simple Truth, and are willing to accept any reasonable-seeming facsimile thereof. They don't want to hear complicated stuff about what you eat, and how much, and how much to exercise, and how often, and how hard, and oh you should really walk that 1/2 mile to the grocer to get a quart of milk, and also 4 hours of sleep is not enough for most humans, and is a great way to make yourself fat and unhappy.

People want to hear an authoritative voice issuing from a well-toned physique telling them DON'T EAT AFTER 9 AND DON'T EAT ANY FOODS WITH THE LETTER Y IN THEM, which simplifies stuff, and probably accidentally helps reduce caloric intake, especially among the berry set, and which of course enriches the authoritative voices and their accompanying physiques.
posted by Mister_A at 7:44 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems easier to abandon the human form and become some kind of gas or plasma.
posted by The Whelk at 7:48 AM on October 14, 2013 [61 favorites]


Based on what happens in the morning if I eat after 9 PM, I'm waaaaay ahead of you.
posted by griphus at 7:49 AM on October 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well then you'll be falling for stuff like, AVOID INTERSTELLAR GAS DEPOSITS—ONLY ACCRETE MOLECULES FROM WITHIN STELLAR TERMINATION SHOCK ZONES
posted by Mister_A at 7:50 AM on October 14, 2013 [25 favorites]


Thank you Metafilter, for brightening my morning. Apparently I'm in way better shape than the average guy, and I have more stamina too. Really? Six minutes? I really feel sorry for women now.
posted by fungible at 7:54 AM on October 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


"...a stimulation and orgasm session."

I feel like I should be filling out forms before something like that.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:58 AM on October 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


In the first "myth" they're conflating two unrelated issues: small, sustainable changes and the 3500 principle. Yes, the 3500 thing is bunk, because you're caloric requirements depend on your body mass, so if your body mass is going down, you'll have to reduce by that many more kcal.

However, having both spent time observing RDs and practicing, I have never seen anyone reference the 3500 kcal idea when recommending small sustainable changes, and I've never done it with patients, either. However, I have seen small sustainable changes lead to positive results (sure, anecdata, but whatever). Patients wean themselves off of high amounts of junk food while adding fruits and veg to their diet, and adding reasonable amounts of exercise, and they do this slowly so as not to get overwhelmed, and after several months they're weighing less, happy, and expressing wonderment that they ever ate the way they did in the past because now they have no desire to.

In other words, it's about giving yourself time to adjust to a new diet and lifestyle, and nothing to do with kcal measurements.
posted by antinomia at 7:59 AM on October 14, 2013 [19 favorites]


This piece does not even mention the caloric expenditure of thinking of England.
posted by sonascope at 8:02 AM on October 14, 2013 [28 favorites]


Yes, the 3500 thing is bunk, because you're caloric requirements depend on your body mass

I'm not sure you're on the same page as the researchers there.

The "3500 thing" is the idea that to lose one pound of fat you need to cut 3500 calories from your diet. They claim this is a myth because that number was developed in a very particular situation and doesn't hold true in other situations. That is, if you cut out 100 cal/day, you can't necessarily expect to lose a pound every 35 days because of it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:03 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


But dark chocolate and red wine are still good, right, better be, well in any case not changing.
posted by sammyo at 8:04 AM on October 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


This piece does not even mention the caloric expenditure of thinking of England

About four biscuits and a cup of tetley's, skim milk no sugar
posted by The Whelk at 8:04 AM on October 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


RustyBrooks, That's exactly what I'm saying. Small changes does not equal cutting 100 kcal/day. It involves doing other things, patient dependent. I've read the article debunking the 3500 kcal idea so I'm very familiar, I just didn't want to rehash it all in a comment.
posted by antinomia at 8:06 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should say potential canards.

Duck is pretty fatty and should be included only sparingly in a healthy diet. So keep it mostly potential.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:06 AM on October 14, 2013 [17 favorites]


sonascope: "This piece does not even mention the caloric expenditure of thinking of England."

I don't really know England - never been - so I just think of Helena Bonham Carter, hope that's OK.
posted by Mister_A at 8:12 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Don't these researchers include how many calories are burned just trying to get someone into the sack?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:14 AM on October 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


> "These myths flourish because people want some Basic Simple Truth, and are willing to accept any reasonable-seeming facsimile thereof."

... No. That's a completely different set of myths. Those do exist, and there are plenty of them, but that's not at all what's going on here.

Things like "slow weight loss is better and longer lasting" and "breast feeding is protective against obesity" are the kinds of things believed by people who have done their research and looked at studies and are conscientiously trying to do the best they can. The problem here is that the studies on health, diet, and exercise, once you get beyond some basic and obvious facts (healthy-ish diet and exercise are better than obviously crappy diet and no exercise) are immensely confusing and contradictory.

In fact, I have no idea whether this article is bunk or not. Oh, they quote studies showing these are myths? I could quote studies right back at them showing these are facts. Good studies, from reputable sources.

Who the hell knows? There's a mass of conflicting data from different researchers, and on top of that a million hucksters trying to sell you their bullshit swearing they are the ones with legit studies, and a ton of people on the internet ready to condescendingly tell you that everything you thought was wrong and how could you be so stupid, but they know better. Because they read something on the internet. And most -- probably almost all -- of these people sincerely believe that they have the true facts.

Screw all of it. I will stick to what few things are actually known (exercise somehow, don't eat an obviously stupid diet), and the rest can sort itself out over the next 100 years while my culture slowly gets over its weird obsessions and blind spots in this matter.
posted by kyrademon at 8:19 AM on October 14, 2013 [45 favorites]


Given that the average bout of sexual activity lasts about 6 minutes...

Crap, I seriously need to raise my game. Maybe if I learn an alternative position I can crank it up to a full Roger Bannister...
posted by Segundus at 8:21 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, don't miss the second link to the correspondence and discussion. It clarifies that phys-ed programs as they currently exist haven't been shown to help much with childhood obesity. Which of course doesn't mean it's not possible to put together programs that would be helpful.

And don't skip the link in the article to nine facts about about weight loss that are supported by current research.
posted by straight at 8:22 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


In other words, it's about giving yourself time to adjust to a new diet and lifestyle, and nothing to do with kcal measurements.

Screw counting calories. You want to know if you're gaining or losing weight? Exponentially Weighted Moving Average FTW.

Pay attention to what you're eating and what's happening to your weight. The cause and effect relationship, and the natural feedback loop inherent in it does the rest of the work.
posted by mikelieman at 8:23 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I notice they didn't say anything about glycemic index, carbs v. fats, low calorie v. slow calorie, etc. These are the fads that are creating all the chatter in my experience and are the sorts of things I think the audience for this piece would want addressed.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 8:24 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just happy when I get to have a real life conversation with someone where no one mentions weight or diet. Like it happens rarely enough that I keep track.
posted by The Whelk at 8:26 AM on October 14, 2013 [20 favorites]


kyrademon's right that it's just really, really hard to study the long-term effects of diet and exercise. The "myth" they debunk about the usefulness of the stages of change model of behavior change relies on volunteers who signed up for some kind of weight-loss treatment. That doesn't help a provider know if it's of any help in the general patient population.

Some studies seem to show that simply keeping track of what you eat is as effective as trying to make specific changes in your diet. If so, then of course it's going to be hard to show the effectiveness of a particular diet. This is also related to what they call a "fact," that diets work but recommending diets doesn't work. The importance of choosing a particular diet may depend more on how much it inspires you to stick with it than the specific nutritional content of the diet you choose. Maybe.
posted by straight at 8:30 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


CONCLUSIONS
False and scientifically unsupported beliefs about obesity are pervasive in both
scientific literature and the popular press. (Funded by the National Institutes of
Health.)


You know, I'm not sure that really needed formal study. But it's nice to be able to point to something peer reviewed when you go 'broscience, dude. broscience'.
posted by mikelieman at 8:31 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


These are the fads that are creating all the chatter in my experience and are the sorts of things I think the audience for this piece would want addressed.

It's in the follow-up article about structured meals - Low-carb and it's follow-ons and knock-offs have been a "fad" for 15 years now, and shows fairly good results, provided you stick to the dietary guidelines, and make a habit of counting carbs (and an innumerable host of other factors are going your way.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:32 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's the essentially confounding principles to studying diets and weight management.

(1) If you want to manage your weight, pretty much any strategy can work, albeit with differing levels of effectiveness, at the end of the day, you're in control of your weight.

(2) You can't change people, and it doesn't matter because people really, really don't want actually change and to leave their 'comfort' or 'safety' zones. ( See also, They Live, Zizek, Sunglasses.... )
posted by mikelieman at 8:34 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it's time for another nothing works, you will probably die fat article? Awesome. Let me know when it's time for another we found the secret and you really can lose weight and keep it off article. I enjoy periodically imagining myself as thin.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:38 AM on October 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


The article announces that things are myths - but the 'myths' they cite are exaggerations

Small Sustained Changes in Energy Intake or Expenditure
Myth number 1: Small sustained changes in energy intake or expenditure will produce large, long-term weight changes.

I don't know who thinks that small changes will produce large results, but if someone wants to manage their weight, small changes that produce small results are beneficial. The 1st step for many people, including me, is to stop gaining weight. Small increases is activity may not be miraculous, but are a step in the right direction.

Myth number 2 boils down to "Can't be proved or disproved."

Importance of Physical Education
Myth number 5: Physical-education classes, in their current form, play an important role in reducing or preventing childhood obesity.

My school phys-ed courses were mostly horrible, and I was fit despite them. Often, the smaller, less strong, overweight or not-in-shape kids are picked last for teams, making them feel worse. But we got outside once or twice a day in grade school, and played jump-rope and other games. I'll bet better phys-ed would help kids learn to enjoy being physically active. Also boils down to "Can't be proved or disproved."

Myth number 6 boils down to "Can't be proved or disproved."

Sexual Activity and Energy Expenditure
Myth number 7: A bout of sexual activity burns 100 to 300 kcal for each participant. Give us a few extra calories for the effort to remove clothes, and a few for heart rate staying elevated for a little while after sex. If you're only burning 21 kcal, put it in your dating profile and I'll look a little further.

presumptions
Early Childhood Habits and Weight
Value of Fruits and Vegetables
Snacking and Weight Gain

I found the article really discouraging. The authors say that aren't being nihilistic, but this report will get lots of coverage. Snacking isn't associated with weight gain so go ahead and have a bowl of ice cream. Fruits and Vegetables aren't a major part of weight loss, so have more rice and forget the green beans. Dealing with obesity isn't just about weight. It's about a healthier diet, about not becoming diabetic, it's about being in better shape and having a healthier heart.

Setting goals for weight loss higher is good to know. Encouraging speedy weight loss for people who can achieve it is good to know. If you don't eat breakfast, you're okay. But please do breast-feed your baby; it will help you lose weight, which they don't mention. Support phys. ed. and playground time in schools - kids need a break, and encourage physical education to include nutrition. If you snack, make your snacks healthy. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, etc. Exercise.

Look at old pictures - most people didn't used to be fat. But we got cars, fast food, junk food, tv, videogames, kids who stay inside after school.

The list of things that work includes diet drugs and surgery. Those should probably be used for more extreme cases and their inclusion without much comment makes me distrust the article. They end with suggested treatment or prevention strategies may work well (e.g., increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables) but only as part of a multifaceted program for weight reduction. Jeez, no shit, Sherlock. Way to bury the lede.
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on October 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm just going to live like my noble ancestors and take lots of speed.
posted by The Whelk at 8:44 AM on October 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


But what's the one weird old tip?
posted by desjardins at 8:50 AM on October 14, 2013 [24 favorites]


Their logic in evaluating the PE 'myth' is flawed and odd. They note that the amount of exercise that happens in the class is insufficient to drive BMI down. OK, that jibes with my experience.

But that's not the point -- it's physical *education*. You learn the basics of some sports, and then some people go on and pursue them at a level that does matter. That didn't happen to me, personally, but I have at least three childhood friends that it did happen to (however much they hated PE class, itself).
posted by gurple at 8:53 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Often, the smaller, less strong, overweight or not-in-shape kids are picked last for teams, making them feel worse. But we got outside once or twice a day in grade school, and played jump-rope and other games. I'll bet better phys-ed would help kids learn to enjoy being physically active.

Actually, I've heard that a lot of schools are doing away with recess, which sounds like it would do more towards encouraging outside play - so, maybe bringing that back would go further.

As for the sex expended bit - my first thought was that this news could lead to a lot of men trying to last longer during sex purely for the health/caloric expenditure reasons and no other. And then my second thought was, "you know, I actually may be okay with that."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:57 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


the amount of exercise that happens in the class is insufficient to drive BMI down

this is because it fails to make you taller
posted by thelonius at 9:02 AM on October 14, 2013 [19 favorites]


Interesting article. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:04 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


this is because it fails to make you taller

Sad but true.

Anyway, the idea that vegetables can make you thinner is bunk. The idea that snacks can make you fat is bunk. The idea that eating a reasonable diet—and controlling your portion sizes and total calorie intake—is not bunk. But you can't really sell that.
posted by Mister_A at 9:05 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


but the 'myths' they cite are exaggeration

So the myths they cite are not true? distortions of the truth? Why yes, I think that is the point.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:07 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyway, the idea that vegetables can make you thinner is bunk. The idea that snacks can make you fat is bunk. The idea that eating a reasonable diet—and controlling your portion sizes and total calorie intake—is not bunk. But you can't really sell that.

Yes but vegetables can help with portion control and calorie intake for a lot of people, as long as they are prepared properly. And some people have difficulty controlling themselves while snacking, especially while engaging in passive activities like internets and TV.
posted by sweetkid at 9:09 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The idea that snacks can make you fat is bunk.

Doesn't this rather depend? I mean, if you're eating 4000 calories per day in snacks and then you cut all of those out without increasing any other part of your diet, you're going to lose weight.
posted by yoink at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I lose weight by never ever looking in the last place I put it. THANKS MOM!
posted by srboisvert at 9:12 AM on October 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes, that's it exactly, sweetkid. Unfortunately many people don't seem to understand that, for instance, adding vegetables to an unhealthy high-calorie diet without taking anything away won't do you a darn bit of good. Couple that with a press that demonstrates no aptitude for covering science and health, and a vibrant get-thin-quick industry, and you see a lot of people with unrealistic expectations and big frustrations.
posted by Mister_A at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with looking at PE in schools is that it isn't a sufficient intervention. We're basically teaching our children to be sedentary all day (sitting kills) and try to make it up with a quick half hour of activity once a day (if that). Which we now know doesn't really work for protecting against insulin resistance and related obesity.

A better type of intervention to study would be those like "Activity Bursts in the Classroom" where standing and doing something is incorporated into academic classes. Dr. Katz claims they see obesity and ritalin prescriptions go down in schools where it's implemented, while academics improve.
posted by antinomia at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Myth number 2 boils down to "Can't be proved or disproved."

I think you're mixing up "has been shown to have no effect either way" to "can't be proved either way." They're citing studies that show that over the long term these things make no difference. That disproves the myth that these things are essential to long term weight loss success.
posted by yoink at 9:14 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


yoink: "The idea that snacks can make you fat is bunk.

Doesn't this rather depend? I mean, if you're eating 4000 calories per day in snacks and then you cut all of those out without increasing any other part of your diet, you're going to lose weight.
"

It's the idea of snacks qua snacks being the problem that is bunk. Of course if your snack is a deep-fried Oreo cookie burger... you are Paula Deen.
posted by Mister_A at 9:15 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some snacks can make you thinner...

"I am actually thinking of getting another bag, I want to weigh myself before I have some and after, because I pooped so much I think I may actually lose weight."
posted by billiebee at 9:15 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do they say what the one weird trick discovered by a mom is, tho?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:19 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fiber pills.
posted by The Whelk at 9:19 AM on October 14, 2013


Here is my one weird trick to a flat stomach:

Always remember that...
A Mounds Bar is not a sprinkle.
A Twizzler is not a sprinkle.
A Jolly Rancher is not a sprinkle, sir.
Perhaps in Shangri-la they are, but not here!
posted by Mister_A at 9:37 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Surgeon General's Warning: Frogurt toppings contains potassium benzoate.

(That's bad.)
posted by griphus at 9:41 AM on October 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


If you are having sex to burn calories, you are doing it wrong.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:48 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


on the other hand, going to the gym so you can have better sex is uh ....something that happens. Talk to my hip flexors about that
posted by The Whelk at 9:51 AM on October 14, 2013 [7 favorites]



I don't see either of those particular canards discussed in this article.


Mmmmmm. Canards.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:55 AM on October 14, 2013


Myth number 5: Physical-education classes, in their current form, play an important role in reducing or preventing childhood obesity.

So nice to see this down in black and white. I often say that my formal K-12 education was a joke, and PE was the dumb, non sequitur punchline.

PE as it has existed in American public schools, at least since the WWII era, is nothing more than an excuse for the few already-athletic-elite kids to have forty minutes set aside during the school day devoted to their fun and enjoyment, and the adult-sanctioned and -aided belittlement and abuse of those not already at their level.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:07 AM on October 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


PE as it has existed in American public schools, at least since the WWII era, is nothing more than an excuse for the few already-athletic-elite kids to have forty minutes set aside during the school day devoted to their fun and enjoyment, and the adult-sanctioned and -aided belittlement and abuse of those not already at their level.

That may well be true, but I do find it sobering and surprising that according to this piece even a well run PE program that guarantees participation by all children will have no impact on obesity rates.
posted by yoink at 10:15 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is how I try to eat: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." In Defense of Food - An Eater's Manifesto, Michael Pollan. However, I oftentimes gravitate to caloric-richer delights, mostly dairy. I wish I could run faster than my couch, or my internet-facing chair, but no. I need to get out more. Side note: Can we as American consumers get over the fact that "low fat" isn't really a thing?
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 10:24 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


even a well run PE program that guarantees participation by all children

Yeah that's something ain't it? Stands to reason though - PE is a couple hours a week, maybe. Put that against family life and it's a drop in the bucket. Like with education in general, parental involvement is the key determinant of the outcome.
posted by Mister_A at 10:26 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found the Conflict of Interest disclosures amusing, though it probably says more about the state of science funding than any bias on the part of these researchers:

Dr. Astrup reports receiving payment for board membership from the Global Dairy Platform, Kraft Foods, Knowledge Institute for Beer, McDonald's Global Advisory Council, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Basic Research, Novo Nordisk, Pathway Genomics, Jenny Craig, and Vivus;

Drs. Brown and Bohan Brown report receiving grant support from the Coca-Cola Foundation through their institution.

Dr. Mehta reports receiving grant support from Kraft Foods.

Dr. Newby reports receiving grant support from General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.

Dr. Pate reports receiving consulting fees from Kraft Foods.

Dr. Rolls reports having a licensing agreement for the Volumetrics trademark with Jenny Craig.

Dr. Thomas reports receiving consulting fees from Jenny Craig.

Dr. Allison reports serving as an unpaid board member for the International Life Sciences Institute of North America; receiving payment for board membership from Kraft Foods; receiving grant support through his institution from Wrigley, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, Vivus, Jason Pharmaceuticals, Aetna Foundation, and McNeil Nutritionals; and receiving other funding through his institution from the Coca-Cola Foundation, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Red Bull, World Sugar Research Organisation, Archer Daniels Midland, Mars, Eli Lilly and Company, and Merck.

posted by oneirodynia at 10:27 AM on October 14, 2013 [21 favorites]


That may well be true, but I do find it sobering and surprising that according to this piece even a well run PE program that guarantees participation by all children will have no impact on obesity rates.

It makes sense to me, actually. Kids who are not already athletically inclined or already participating in athletic extracurriculars are not likely to be inspired towards anything further in the unavoidably oppressive atmosphere of required gym classes. There does not exist a suitably athletic pastime in which all kids can participate 100% free of ability segregation and at least some level of bullying. I have no idea what a viable solution is to childhood obesity (and/or childhood bullying for that matter) but I can tell you for absolute certain that it is not gym class.
posted by elizardbits at 10:34 AM on October 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


unavoidably oppressive atmosphere of required gym classes.

Oh, FFS.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:35 AM on October 14, 2013


"Do they say what the one weird trick discovered by a mom is, tho?

Phen-phen.
posted by klangklangston at 10:36 AM on October 14, 2013


Oh, FFS.

Why don't you elaborate instead of sneering? I found them unbelievably tedious and frankly grim for the kids who were already getting bullied for weight issues. Athletic coaches often double as gym teachers, which leads to team players receiving preferential treatment and the kids that could actually benefit from one-to-one attention getting lost in the shuffle.
posted by elizardbits at 10:39 AM on October 14, 2013 [33 favorites]


To be fair, my phys ed classes taught me the important life skills of weaseling out of things and making myself more of a burden by being present than absent.
posted by griphus at 10:40 AM on October 14, 2013 [46 favorites]


How do I make that little guy flipping over a table?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:46 AM on October 14, 2013


There are elementary schools with daily PE times? Huh.
posted by tilde at 10:46 AM on October 14, 2013


(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
posted by griphus at 10:46 AM on October 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


Snacking isn't associated with weight gain so go ahead and have a bowl of ice cream. Fruits and Vegetables aren't a major part of weight loss, so have more rice and forget the green beans. Dealing with obesity isn't just about weight. It's about a healthier diet, about not becoming diabetic, it's about being in better shape and having a healthier heart.

I think this is pretty far from the authors' point though. Green beans are almost certainly better for you than ice cream, weight change or lack thereof notwithstanding; it's just that changing your habits around vegetables and snacking alone is not likely to produce weight loss. Which is good to hear because it goes against what I feel is a common misperception that obese people are all obese because of junk food, and if they just ate vegetables and healthy home-cooked meals instead, they would be trim.

In their "facts" section the authors also underscore that exercise is beneficial for health even if it doesn't result in significant weight change, and that regular exercise even appears to mitigate many of the health effects of obesity. I think that's a good message to get across as well.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:47 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, what Griphus said. Also the table was covered in food, not too much, mostly plants.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:49 AM on October 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


I totally agree with elizardbits' assessment of what gym classes were like even as I pretty much had the same "FFS" reaction to getting into this as entropicamericana. The easy explanation, I guess, is that we all contain multitudes, etc. etc.

The truth is probably that, oppressive as gym class was, the more pernicious evil I have to deal with these days is well-meaning nerd friends who take every opportunity to expound on the grudges, hurts, and resentments they're still nursing from how dodgeball shook out for them in 1986. God knows, I still have mine and they're as endless.

So I agree with both of you entirely, I guess.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:49 AM on October 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


The list of things that work includes diet drugs and surgery.

They also say that environmental interventions can be as good as the best diet drugs, and in their table of "facts" they only recommend surgery for the most refractory, life-threatening cases.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:50 AM on October 14, 2013


Green beans are almost certainly better for you than ice cream

Yes, but what about red bean ice cream? Blast and confound those heartless Japanese confectioners!
posted by elizardbits at 10:50 AM on October 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why don't you elaborate instead of sneering?

I'd rather do both. Making you schlep your fat D&D-playin' ass around a track or up and down a court for 45 minutes a day five days a week is not oppression. And I say this somebody who had a fat D&D-playin' ass in high school. I swear, I think I'm the only person on MeFi who was bullied in school and picked last for teams who isn't carrying a sequoia-sized chip on his shoulder about it for the rest of his life.

Do you think team players are the only ones who receive preferential treatment in school? I saw the academic wunderkindren get away with murder while Moose the Football Player, who could have benefited from one-on-one attention in the classroom, got lost in the shuffle. It happens. Let the jocks have their glory 45 minutes a day in PE class, because lord knows it will be the last time most of them experience it.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:51 AM on October 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


Much as I did (truly) enjoy PE class despite not being overly athletic--I continue to play basketball with tremendous enthusiasm and shit-talking and a considerable lack of anything resembling talent for the game, for example--I do agree that I know many, many people whose only association with exercise is stripping naked in front of peers that are much better looking then shambling around a gym half-assedly while getting yelled at by jerks and as such refuse to exercise even when the modern gym experience is more or less "bored suburbanites watching basic cable" and less "Indoor Lord of the Flies Only You're Showering Together Like Middle School Isn't Awkward Enough."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:51 AM on October 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


I had an (unidentifiable, to me) ice cream bar in China which I am pretty sure had intact frozen peas in it. So weird, and yet SO GENIUS.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:52 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not carrying any kind of fucking chip, dude. If anything I feel like I have shit to atone for for having been one of the athletes receiving preferential treatment throughout my entire school career. But please, by all means, continue to assume you have the slightest fucking clue about my motivations.
posted by elizardbits at 10:54 AM on October 14, 2013 [21 favorites]


Not sure if you meant me or entropicamericana or both, elizardbits, but for my part, there wasn't a speck of judgment intended in my comment above. I legitimately agreed with everything you said and thought it was fairly stated. I just wince when the topic gets brought up because it tends to go south so fast.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:58 AM on October 14, 2013


I swear, I think I'm the only person on MeFi who was bullied in school and picked last for teams who isn't carrying a sequoia-sized chip on his shoulder about it for the rest of his life.

You don't have the chip on your shoulder, no, but that beam in your eye is showing.
posted by griphus at 10:59 AM on October 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


We accept her! We accept her!
posted by mikelieman at 11:03 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


there wasn't a speck of judgment intended in my comment above

Nope, no worries.

Also tbh I am sorry I snapped at entropicamericana. As you said, it's a tinderbox of a topic. And today is in general a shitty day for me.
posted by elizardbits at 11:03 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry to disappoint, but I honestly don't think about it all except when people here talk about their experiences, and I go, "Oh yeah, that happened to me too. I forgot all about that. I wonder what [x] is up to these days?"
posted by entropicamericana at 11:03 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Carrying that chip on my shoulder should be burning at least as many calories as sex. Not that it will make me lose weight, though.
posted by theora55 at 11:05 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm wondering whether streamed PE classes would be more helpful or not. I would have felt a lot less awkward in a class where my athletic abilities were closer to the mean, but also it could be a shitty stigma to be placed in, say, remedial PE.

Some kind of elective system would also have been dope (maybe I could've learned to squat properly at 12 instead of 24!) but I realize I might as well be asking for a GFP-tagged unicorn given that the overwhelming trend is to slash school budgets and remove PE programs and recess entirely.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:07 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sex with me burns even less than 21 kCal per encounter, because I just let you sit back while I do all the work.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:08 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Carrying that chip on my shoulder should be burning at least as many calories as sex. Not that it will make me lose weight, though.

Just try not to eat the chip.
posted by yoink at 11:08 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


PE class was a waste of time. Calling it a "class" is putting it too far above study hall, and assigning way too much importance to the teachers who ran it.
posted by smidgen at 11:08 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm crossing you off The List, DirtyOldTown. I engage in vigorous aerobic sex only.
posted by Mister_A at 11:09 AM on October 14, 2013


I can do thirty minutes of aerobic activity with my heart rate, measured with chest strap, at or above 150 BPM.

Just sayin'
posted by mikelieman at 11:10 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just try not to eat the chip.

Yes I know I lose points because it's not on the shoulder but also fuck you.
posted by Mister_A at 11:11 AM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was a typical unathletic nerd-child who hated gym class. One of the wonderful things about getting into my late 20s was realizing I actually love exercise and sports. Wonder of wonders, I learned that it's just as enjoyable for me to push my body as it is to push my mind, and that being part of a team can be a good feeling.

I actually have a lot of sad feelings that (in North America at least) this jock/nerd binary is so pervasive. Gym class needn't be a nightmare, but clearly it often is, and I wonder how much damage to our adult bodies and our adult spirits occurs because many people never get over the resulting deep antipathy towards exercise and athletics. PE of some kind seems vital, maybe even more vital than music and art (which, don't get me wrong, I think are also 100% necessary in the curriculum), but it needs a big re-think, it seems.
posted by erlking at 11:12 AM on October 14, 2013 [18 favorites]


I had one genuinely shitty gym teacher in high school. Not because she Made Me Do Sports, but because she was just so shitty about it. Like, openly discouraging and mocking and so on. Anyway, it was a track class, and everyone had to complete a certain number of laps and I was awful at it. Still am. So one day I'm doing particularly poorly and it takes me longer than everyone else to finish and she keeps me on the track until I do, just staring at me in silence the whole time. And I'm running the laps, powered by sheer spite, and it takes about twenty minutes. She never did it again after that, and I suspect that is because whatever I ended up making her late for was a lot more important than the math class I was missing.

Next year I had track again, with a teacher much more sympathetic to the fact that fucking track jesus. One day I was late to class, so I didn't get changed, and as I was taking off my coat to sit in the bleachers, my cigarettes fell out of my pocket in front of him. And I'm like oh shit because having a pack of smokes in school is grounds for Serious Disciplinary Action. Anyway, he look at the cigarettes, looks at me, gestures for me to pick them up and says "yeah, you don't have to run. I don't need you wheezing and passing out out there." And that was that.
posted by griphus at 11:13 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I'm the only person on MeFi who was bullied in school and picked last for teams who isn't carrying a sequoia-sized chip on his shoulder about it for the rest of his life.

And surely your experience is definitive, guaranteeing you understand everyone else's experience. If it didn't happen to you, it didn't happen.
posted by straight at 11:14 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


it does not discuss long-term weight-loss studies in particular at all

It cites two studies on the impact of the rate of weight loss on long-term weight maintenance, both of which indicate advantages of more rapid initial weight loss:

Lessons from obesity management programmes: greater initial weight loss improves long-term maintenance.
However, the literature shows that initial weight loss is positively, not negatively, related to long-term weight maintenance.
The association between rate of initial weight loss and long-term success in obesity treatment: does slow and steady win the race?
Collectively, findings indicate both short- and long-term advantages to fast initial weight loss. Fast weight losers obtained greater weight reduction and long-term maintenance, and were not more susceptible to weight regain than gradual weight losers.
And here's another similar review not cited in the OP's article:

Very-low-calorie diets and sustained weight loss.
VLCD with active follow-up treatment seems to be one of the better treatment modalities related to long-term weight-maintenance success.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:19 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


To be fair, my phys ed classes taught me the important life skills of weaseling out of things

Ah, the skill that separates us from the animals--except for the weasel.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:19 AM on October 14, 2013 [18 favorites]


Also, just to be clear, if people are getting belittled or discouraged in math class because they're not perceived to be "brains" or "nerds" or whatever, that's also a big problem -- but this thread is about obesity, and one of the points raised by TFA was the ineffectiveness of PE classes.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:21 AM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The snacking thing I'm finding curious. Do they mean "given the same caloric intake and make-up, it doesn't matter if it's in three meals or snacks here and there?" If so, I'll buy it.

The harm in snacking is accountability--is it a net add over and above your meals. I started a more focused weight lose effort a couple weeks ago, modeled after what my wife did. Basically, I use My Fitness Pal to log everything I eat, as well as any exercise I do (along with help from a FitBit). I've lost about 5-6 pounds in a bit over three weeks.

When I saw just how relatively active I was--from biking, as well as just walking to and from the bus--I was perplexed about why I wasn't losing weight before. Then, I compared my food logs to what might have been typical before. I might have the same sandwich, but, instead of water, I'd have a 20 ounce soda (250 calories) and a bag of chips (150-225 calories). Add a donut in the morning, some sort of snack or beverage in the afternoon, and I would easily get 1500 calories before I got home from work.

In short, it was the snacking and crap was overwhelming activity.

Ultimately, it is less about a diet, per say, but holding myself accountable. By having the input/output metrics, I could see just what I was doing. If I wanted to have a tradeoff ("I'll indulge now and be good later"), I record it. When "later" comes, ignoring it is much more difficult as I can see the impact of the indulgence. Likewise, I could have a big meal because I rode my bike. I understand how much extra that biking bought me, and can make sure it doesn't exceed the burn.*

*Recognizing that a lot of these metrics--basic metabolism, effort expended on the bike, etc, are based on some generalized model, and actual mileage may vary.
posted by MrGuilt at 11:24 AM on October 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's borderline eponysterical there, Mr Guilt.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:28 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is poor, poor work.

The myths they debunked are worded so specifically that the attacks mean almost nothing.

"Debunking" myth one does not mean that small changes don't do anything, just that it is more complicated than common simplifications.

The debunking of myth two doesn't even make sense because they simplify things in their reporting. Of course the group that is trying to lose 100# is going to have more 100# losers than the group aiming for 50#. They're also going to have more 80# losers, etc. But none of this means that you should shoot for a huge weight loss goal just to shoot for it. More importantly it also doesn't mean you shouldn't pick what you think is realistic or reasonable for your body.

They myth they debunk in three is itself a debunking of a myth. It isn't that large rapid weight loss is better than slow, gradual weight lost, it is that they are the same.

Skipping to myth 7; they start with something and then change the goalposts to debunk it. I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone that "bout of sexual activity" gets changed to a man having sexual intercourse for six minutes.


MrGuilt just said much of what I was about to on snacking. Again, they're making a very specific claim that cannot be turned around or generalized. This is the problem. Folks in this thread are already glancing at the headlines and chapter headings uncritically and claiming that SCIENCE HAS SPOKEN. This paper is going to spawn new myths that will be debunked 20 years from now.
posted by mountmccabe at 11:30 AM on October 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


It cites two studies on the impact of the rate of weight loss on long-term weight maintenance

Ludwig_van, I was responding to corb's assertion that the linked article disproves the idea that "Rapid weight loss is bad for you and you never keep the weight off anyway". I did look at the linked studies prior to posting. As far as I can tell, neither of these studies evaluated the health of the patients beyond their weight, so Statement #1 is not disproven. And neither of the studies looked at weight beyond 24 months, so Statement #2 is not disproven (although I would be surprised if anyone claimed that people who lose weight absolutely never keep the weight off.)

The myths they debunked are worded so specifically that the attacks mean almost nothing.

Exactly. They do not disprove what readers think they disprove.
posted by muddgirl at 11:32 AM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


ludwig_van: It cites two studies on the impact of the rate of weight loss on long-term weight maintenance, both of which indicate advantages of more rapid initial weight loss....VLCD with active follow-up treatment seems to be one of the better treatment modalities related to long-term weight-maintenance success.

I have gone the "initially rapid weight loss" route twice with two different plans, and I don't understand how anyone doing Very Low Calorie Diets 1) manages to stay awake for more than three hours at a time; 2) has the energy to get to the bus station or corner store; or 3) doesn't die of starvation when following these regimens.

I'm serious -- sure, you lose weight, but you also aren't consuming enough fuel to sustain anything beyond basic respiration, let alone an exercise plan.
posted by tzikeh at 11:45 AM on October 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm wondering whether streamed PE classes would be more helpful or not. I would have felt a lot less awkward in a class where my athletic abilities were closer to the mean, but also it could be a shitty stigma to be placed in, say, remedial PE.

Some kind of elective system would also have been dope (maybe I could've learned to squat properly at 12 instead of 24!) but I realize I might as well be asking for a GFP-tagged unicorn given that the overwhelming trend is to slash school budgets and remove PE programs and recess entirely.


Both of those would have been great for me and the kids I knew. Dance classes would have been awesome, at least a lot more awesome than years of trying to disappear into the wall during endless co-ed volleyball because I knew I'd be verbally abused by teachers and students alike if I either went for the ball and missed or got in the way of one of the jocks who was going for it and made him miss.

I asked our H.S. teacher if the girls who were interested could just go in a corner and work with a video, or if we could walk around the track on the days class was outside, but that's when her How-Dare-You-Put-Your-Actual-Physical-Fitness-Above-Your-Role-In-The-Hierarchy rage kicked in.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:49 AM on October 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't disagree with a lot of the nitpicks leveled against this piece, and made many of them myself when I first read it awhile ago. I think myth #1 is particularly strangely presented. But I'm sympathetic to the authors as well, because the idea space is so incredibly cluttered and the potential misconceptions about weight gain and loss so numerous and varied and subtle that it's extremely difficult to disentangle them for a general audience.

Understanding a physiological principle is one thing; getting one individual to successfully implement it into their life is another; getting a large and diverse group of individuals to implement it is another still.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:50 AM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm feeling stubborn but I'm not ready to believe that PE classes are ineffective. I grew up a nerd in class, but as I look back PE exposed me to a broad range of athletic events. It was clear that more praise and interest was given to eye-hand coordination events, but through it I also discovered that I have killer endurance. It was gratifying to see that I could outpace the ball handlers by a devastating margin in a one mile run. I found my thing* and I could only hope that others might too, but I realize not all Gymn classes are created equal. I had my share of hazing too but I can't be the only person who thinks PE was useful to cultivate a lifetime habit just as much as arithmetic has made it normal for me to solve everyday math problems.

* actually my thing is the bike, but slow twitch endurance in general
posted by dgran at 11:50 AM on October 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


The choice thing is interesting to me because I thought what we did in my high school was more common, which was exactly that. Every quarter or so they'd tell us what activities we could pick from as well as who'd be running them (which wasn't especially hard to predict as it wasn't like the basketball coach was going to suddenly run the football class, but was useful if there was one you wanted to avoid) and there'd be four or five, some the usual ball sports (I was a regular in football, basketball, and softball) and some stuff like strength/weight training, a dance class taught by one of the female coaches, badminton, tennis, etc.. We weren't a really fancy school so I really thought it was more common. Maybe that's why I had a decent experience, I dunno.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:00 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why don't you elaborate instead of sneering? I found them unbelievably tedious and frankly grim for the kids who were already getting bullied for weight issues. Athletic coaches often double as gym teachers, which leads to team players receiving preferential treatment and the kids that could actually benefit from one-to-one attention getting lost in the shuffle.

FWIW, the gym class in school was the one I looked forward to, because it was the only one where the teacher would tolerate no bullying of any kind.

Of course, he talked me into playing football which lead to a broken femur and all sorts of trouble from that, but... That also led to me joining the swim team and going to state, so...

Gym class is a land of contrasts.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:01 PM on October 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I will say that one awesome thing about my PE class is that we did canoeing (I went to a pretty normal public school but my hometown is on a big lake) and trail biking. At the time I didn't actually know how to ride a bike! So I and one other kid had to practice going around and around the track by ourselves before we could join the rest of the group. Writing that out, it sounds like that could have been horrible, but it was really not bad at all because I got to work at a level I was comfortable with, and in the end I turned out to love biking. Maybe that's an anecdote in favor of streaming.

And even though I haven't really been canoeing since, I still have really positive memories of it and it's something I never would have been able to try otherwise because of the barrier to entry in terms of equipment, etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:02 PM on October 14, 2013


Who are these guys who can finish in six minutes, teenagers? I'm 45 and I haven't been able to finish in less than half an hour in almost a decade.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 12:02 PM on October 14, 2013


They are definitely not taking SSRIs, that's for damn sure.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:04 PM on October 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Who are these guys who can finish in six minutes, teenagers? I'm 45 and I haven't been able to finish in less than half an hour in almost a decade.

My wife says the sooner I finish the sooner I can get the sobbing done and she can get some sleep.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:06 PM on October 14, 2013 [18 favorites]


Who are these guys who can finish in six minutes, teenagers? I'm 45 and I haven't been able to finish in less than half an hour in almost a decade.

Marry me
posted by billiebee at 12:16 PM on October 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


There does not exist a suitably athletic pastime in which all kids can participate 100% free of ability segregation and at least some level of bullying.

Obviously your PE teacher never introduced you to the R2D2 Circle and the C3PO Walk.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:25 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


School PE class convinced me that I hate and am terrible at every single exercise or athletic activity on earth, including all sports, running, dance, golf, and walking. Because I learned it in school, I was convinced that was true, and so I did absolutely no exercise other than incidental walking until I was about 25. Now, I walk, run, and do yoga, and still, every time, I have an enormous inferiority complex about it and feel sort of terrible about myself every time I'm not completely perfect at it the first time I try it. School PE class actively destroyed any and all self-esteem or good feelings that I may have had around physical activity, and I've spent the last decade or so trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to build it back up again. And I'm actually very flexible and have excellent balance, even though my eye-hand coordination is shit, so there are a lot of athletic activities that I could have been really good at.

The problem with PE isn't that it's bad to make kids exercise, or that it's bad to make kids try different kinds of sports even if they're not going to be good at everything, or that it's bad to give kids the opportunity to get outside during the day and play. The problem is that for a huge number of kids who aren't naturally good at the usual PE activities (team sports played with balls, mostly), the way that PE is taught in most US public schools makes them think that they're un-athletic in general. And the fact that it's taught, almost universally, by people to whom those activities come naturally who can't really understand why anyone might be embarrassed or afraid to play just makes matters worse.

We see the same thing happening in math class to kids who aren't naturally numerically inclined, and in English class to kids who struggle with reading, and in lots of other school outlets. There are some kids for whom English class actively turned them off to reading by making them feel stupid or bored or afraid. But in that circumstance, we don't say, "well, since we haven't been able to make this subject work for kids who aren't naturally inclined to it, schools must just not be very good at teaching it, so we should stop having that class." But neither do we say, "well, some kids suck at this subject, but some kids do really well, so we should keep doing exactly what we're doing now without making any changes to try to allow a larger number of kids to succeed at different skill levels or types of tasks." Instead, we try different ways of teaching, and we track the classes, and we give kids different material in hopes that something will spark their interests, and we train specialized teachers to work with the kids who are having trouble in ways that actually reach them where they are.

If we actually want school PE to be an opportunity for all kids to develop a basic level of fitness and the opportunity to find activities they can enjoy for a lifetime, we can't keep doing it the way we've been doing it. And if we continue to insist that the best or only way to teach PE is by letting the football coach force everyone to play flag football until some of them cry, we shouldn't be surprised when the class has no effect on their life habits.
posted by decathecting at 12:28 PM on October 14, 2013 [42 favorites]


Gym class was very positive for me but thinking about it, it was kind of an extracurricular extra and not actual gym class. I went to school in Canada, so a little different, but it's my impression that our PE was pretty similar to American PE, except it wasn't required anymore in high school (which meant I didn't take it). PE in junior high was stupidly tedious and boring - we had to take sit-down tests on the rules of the sports we were learning about, and I'm pretty sure we had to start every class by running a lap - but they had this annual thing called Performance Excellence Awards or something like that, and you got a nice badge in various colours depending on how you did. I was decidedly non-athletic but I was starting to get concerned about my weight (because I was a girl undergoing puberty, not because I actually had a weight problem) so I decided to start running and try to get the highest level badge for running so my hips would shrink, and I went running after school for a couple of weeks and then I got the highest award badge in running, and no badges at all in anything else because I sucked at everything else, having no interest in it. I hugged that award of excellence to my heart for years, and it was the reason I tried rowing when I was in high school, and I still think of myself as a kind-of-athletic person, or anyway as somebody for whom that's an option, more or less entirely based on this extra thing they did.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:32 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I had an (unidentifiable, to me) ice cream bar in China which I am pretty sure had intact frozen peas in it. So weird, and yet SO GENIUS."

They do this all over Asia. When we were in Thailand, they had vanilla ice cream with peas and corn in it.
posted by klangklangston at 1:07 PM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Much like Rachel's trifle in Friends.
posted by sweetkid at 1:54 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who are these guys who can finish in six minutes, teenagers? I'm 45 and I haven't been able to finish in less than half an hour in almost a decade.

Not even a humblebrag dude.
posted by gyc at 2:40 PM on October 14, 2013


Who are these guys who can finish in six minutes, teenagers? I'm 45 and I haven't been able to finish in less than half an hour in almost a decade.

Also, who are these guys putting the average around five-and-a-half inches? Babies?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:50 PM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


decathecting: "The problem with PE isn't that it's bad to make kids exercise, or that it's bad to make kids try different kinds of sports even if they're not going to be good at everything, or that it's bad to give kids the opportunity to get outside during the day and play. The problem is that for a huge number of kids who aren't naturally good at the usual PE activities (team sports played with balls, mostly), the way that PE is taught in most US public schools makes them think that they're un-athletic in general. And the fact that it's taught, almost universally, by people to whom those activities come naturally who can't really understand why anyone might be embarrassed or afraid to play just makes matters worse."

I agree. Presumably there are all sorts of rationales for why team sports are the default mode for gym classes, but I'm not particularly competitive and don't find playing these games to be motivational in any way. It just cemented in me a distrust of all "sporty-sounding" activities which I am still unlearning.
posted by desuetude at 2:50 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you are having sex to burn calories, you are doing it wrong.

Food fetishist, eh?
posted by jeremy b at 2:53 PM on October 14, 2013


My last high school, which was private, had a good system: the athletically inclined did team sports after school, while people like me did gym class during the day. I usually took "Outdoor Skills," which was taught by the director of athletics, and we went canoeing, rock climbing, nature walks, etc. Once we tried meditation and we all fell asleep -- the teacher said we'd all succeeded in reaching another level of consciousness, so that was okay. For a while I was the only person in the class and I ended up splitting logs for the teacher's fireplace, which in retrospect is kind of strange but I enjoyed it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:05 PM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


You guys who didn't have severe, initially-undiagnosed asthma as a child really missed out. I spent 6 years of my life with a doctor's note sitting in the library during PE class reading -- it was freaking awesome!

All that changed when I got to performing arts high school, though. stupid mandatory mime requirements to graduate *grumble grumble*
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:51 PM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


In the six minutes, are they counting the time it takes to set up and then hose-off and break down the equipment, and also the weeping? Because that's exactly right.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:51 PM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I started tracking my kilobytes using MyFitnessPal a couple of weeks back. I've fixed my ratios to 40% protein, 30% fat and 30% carbs, which I want to fiddle with a bit more (more protein and fat, and less carbs, but it only lets you do it 5% at a time) but which is working okay for the time being.

My body's standard energy usage is 12000kj a day, so I've fixed it to 9500kj and am not fussed if I go over by 1000kj, as long as I keep my carbs as low as I can. Do a little bit more walking here and there, and beer only fortnightly instead of weekly. Two kilos off, and using my overhead press as a guide my strength hasn't been affected, so it's all working pretty well so far.

Anyway, I recommend you grab MyFitnessPal or some other calorie tracker, and give it a spin for a couple of weeks. It's an eye-opener if nothing else.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:56 PM on October 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I had daily PE classes throughout elementary and middle school and hated it with a passion. I joined the swim team in high school mostly to get out of PE and wound up really enjoying it. Joined the water polo team as well. In college I became a lifeguard and met a lot of athletic friends who introduced me to surfing, snowboarding, backpacking/hiking, mountain biking, and weightlifting, all of which I wound up loving.

Had I been exposed to any of these activities in all of my years of PE classes maybe they wouldn't have been so terrible and I wouldn't have thought of myself as "bad at sports" or "unathletic" in general. But PE was all track, football, dodgeball, volleyball, or soccer. Mostly track. The goal of PE should be to expose kids to a wide variety of physical activity, not force them to do sports they don't enjoy over and over again, year after year.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 4:33 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


just as enjoyable for me to push my body as it is to push my mind, and that being part of a team can be a good feeling.

Of all the negative lessons I "learned" in PE class -- the inverse of this (that "teams" are dumb animals) was easily the most damaging and the most helpful simultaneously.
posted by smidgen at 5:18 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I recommend you grab MyFitnessPal or some other calorie tracker, and give it a spin for a couple of weeks. It's an eye-opener if nothing else.

Seconded, it's pretty good! It's still kinda finding its feet in some ways, though. Their search can be frustrating, because nothing ever seems to get dropped so you get multiple versions of the same things with wildly different nutrition info. Not such a big deal when you're cooking meals yourself and adding individual ingredients (though you almost always have to throw the word "generic" into those searches and that's annoying), but when you do eat out somewhere it can be a pain finding the correct version of a thing. Also, when I started I estimated my weight, and about a week later after getting a good scale I changed my profile weight (NOT just "checking in" my weight on a specific day) to reflect my actual weight and it counted it as a 5 lb loss so I was all "Nooo I didn't earn that! Don't lie to make me feel better, app!" First world problems, right there.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:18 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually stopped using MyFitnessPal because of cooking meals myself...it just got kind of intolerable to have to input every single ingredient of every recipe, then try to measure how much of the total I was having (ahhh, 7/16 of the hummus!). On the other hand, having to note down snacks was enough of a pain to really push into my consciousness how much I was rummaging through the cabinet looking for something crunchy.

I took my insurance's health assessment quiz today. It turns out I am overweight by their measure, but that's okay, because their advice is: "Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week." Which...is that even possible? Two pounds per week? MyFitnessPal raised an electronic eyebrow when I tried to suggest that.
posted by mittens at 5:29 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two pounds per week is pretty significant weight loss, eating at a pretty significant deficit, and for most people would be their lean mass rather than their fatty mass unless they approached it very rigorously. Who wants that? Nobody, that's who.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:07 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Inspired by this thread I just signed up for My Fitness Pal, put in today's food and exercise, and... well, there's my problem. Yikes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:19 PM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Two pounds per week is pretty significant weight loss, eating at a pretty significant deficit, and for most people would be their lean mass rather than their fatty mass unless they approached it very rigorously.

Resistance training is protective against lean mass loss even at large caloric deficits. You can lose 2 lbs. per week without losing lean mass until you get to very low levels of body fat.

This is from Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon:
Research on men and women undertaking a very low calorie diet found that even with a 12 week long diet consisting of only 800 Calories and only 80 grams of protein per day, the people in the study were able to maintain their muscle mass as long as they were exercising with weights three times per week. [Bryner RW. Effects of resistance training vs. Aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 1999; 18(1): 115-121] In another study, men restricted their caloric intake by eating 1,000 Calories less per day than they normally ate for 16 weeks. They took part in a weight training program 3 days a week and were able to maintain all their muscle mass while losing over 20 pounds of body fat. [Rice B, Janssen I, Hudson, R, Ross R. Effects of aerobic or resistance exercise and/or diet on glucose tolerance and plasma insulin levels in obese men. Diabetes Care 1999; 22: 684-691] In yet another study, women undertaking a reduced calorie diet for 16 weeks were also able to maintain their muscle mass by training with weights three times per week. [Janssen I, et al. Effects of an energy-restrictive diet with or without exercise on abdominal fat, intermuscular fat, and metabolic risk factors in obese women. Diabetes Care 2002; 25:431-438]
posted by ludwig_van at 6:29 PM on October 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have no idea if this works for anyone else, but I found that exercising in the morning on an empty stomach makes it easy to control how much I eat. Just go for a walk or do a short, relatively intense workout.
posted by stavrogin at 6:35 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I took my insurance's health assessment quiz today. It turns out I am overweight by their measure, but that's okay, because their advice is: "Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week." Which...is that even possible? Two pounds per week? MyFitnessPal raised an electronic eyebrow when I tried to suggest that.

It's definitely possible, but probably more difficult and less advisable if you are just a little overweight. The deficit is 1000 calories a day—so if your Total Daily Energy Expenditure is 2200 calories, you could only eat 1200 calories a day.
posted by entropicamericana at 6:42 PM on October 14, 2013


The deficit is 1000 calories a day—so if your Total Daily Energy Expenditure is 2200 calories, you could only eat 1200 calories a day.

Didn't we just read in TFA that weight loss in lbs is scientifically NOT linearly related to caloric deficit?
Recent studies have shown that individual variability affects changes in body composition in response to changes in energy intake and expenditure,7 with analyses predicting substantially smaller changes in weight (often by an order of magnitude across extended periods) than the 3500-kcal rule does.5,7 For example, whereas the 3500-kcal rule predicts that a person who increases daily energy expenditure by 100 kcal by walking 1 mile (1.6 km) per day will lose more than 50 lb (22.7 kg) over a period of 5 years, the true weight loss is only about 10 lb (4.5 kg),6 assuming no compensatory increase in caloric intake, because changes in mass concomitantly alter the energy requirements of the body.
posted by muddgirl at 6:50 PM on October 14, 2013


Granted 1200 calories a day is a bit closer to the original study, which called for 800 calories a day, but still.
posted by muddgirl at 6:55 PM on October 14, 2013


It's not that weight loss isn't related to caloric deficit, it's that energy expenditure is not static. An energy expenditure of 2200 calories with an intake of 1200 calories would lead to a weight loss of roughly a lb. per week, but not indefinitely.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:25 PM on October 14, 2013


have no idea if this works for anyone else, but I found that exercising in the morning on an empty stomach makes it easy to control how much I eat. Just go for a walk or do a short, relatively intense workout.

I've been doing a 16/8 Intermittent Fast for 671 days now, with my first meal as lunch every day. Consequently I work out towards the end of my fast more often than not.

I have no idea what effect -- if any -- that has on my appetite, because I'm going to eat lunch at noon anyway.
posted by mikelieman at 8:05 PM on October 14, 2013


Who are these guys who can finish in six minutes, teenagers? I'm 45 and I haven't been able to finish in less than half an hour in almost a decade.

Not even a humblebrag dude.


To be fair, endurance and desensitization are very much not the same thing. This is an important distinction to make, especially during activities that are... fun but uncomfortable. Where holding back on purpose would be rude and grounds for a paddlin'.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:31 PM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yea working out in the morning helps regulate my mood and appetite all day, resulting in more mindful eating and therefore weight loss. So.
posted by sweetkid at 8:40 PM on October 14, 2013



Two pounds per week is pretty significant weight loss, eating at a pretty significant deficit, and for most people would be their lean mass rather than their fatty mass unless they approached it very rigorously. Who wants that? Nobody, that's who.


I'm sure a lot of people want that, would accept that, because the number on the scale rules all. I mean, after all, that's one of the components of your BMI, right? Your height, your weight, that's it. Your body shape or composition is irrelevant in that equation. As long as you weigh Less Pounds, that means Healthy and Attractive. Even if those Less Pounds are muscle, you are no longer overweight, you BMI is in line, and your insurance company will stop sending you obnoxious emails.

According to that formula, the healthiest I have been in my life was when I was fleeing a severely abusive relationship, living on booze, cigarettes and shivering fear. My hipbones stuck out in the back, I felt like shit. BUT I had a BMI of 19.8! WOW So health! Many compliments!

So yeah, a lot of people DO want that. Because we have internalized that skinny=healthy, full stop. And we also have been led to believe that two pounds a week weight loss is normal, simply because (according to some) it is the maximum recognized safe loss rate.

(I have found that 1/2 pound to 1 pound a week is doable, and since it's not starvation to the point of intolerability and energy loss.)
posted by louche mustachio at 8:57 PM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


It just cemented in me a distrust of all "sporty-sounding" activities which I am still unlearning.

PE was horrible for me too. Apparently, in 10 years of PE classes, no one noticed that I couldn't run fast because I had allergies that stopped me from breathing, and I couldn't play sports because no one ever taught me the basics (like how to throw a ball).

Basically as soon as I was living independently and had any income I was able to get the allergies fixed and learn how to do things I actually liked, such as biking, hiking, and kayaking.

Still I'm pretty resentful that PE teachers were more interested in humiliating me and the other non-athletic students rather than trying to figure out our natural inclinations and build on them. Imagine if I could have biked for PE credit -- I would have been all over that!
posted by miyabo at 9:21 PM on October 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wish I could say that PE ruined athletics for me, but the blame belongs to my father. He ridiculed failure without correcting it. If I or my brother threw perfect spirals, then we didn't throw far or fast enough. Here, as elsewhere, he pounced on our faults. He may have intended this treatment to toughen us up, or to drive us on in spite of him, but the spite he engendered only drove us away. Our mother, with whom we lived after our parents divorced, never encouraged us to take up a sport. I still don't know how to properly throw a ball.

Gym class, as much as I disliked it, never left as strong an impression.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:35 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me, throwing a ball is a lot like maths, which is another thing I was meant to learn when I was a kid: I can't do it and have never been able to, but conversely have never needed to, because the second I left school I used a calculator for the tiny bit of maths I ever had to do, and should I have required a ball be thrown, there were ball-throwing machines to be had.

Children now need to be learning those Minority Report hover-computer interfaces, and how to sit up straight and speak more clearly.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:46 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd volunteer for the more exhaustive followup study...anecdata point: its strange [...]

I still can't figure out if "anecdata point" is a funny or not...

Also, yep, hated PE. Even though I was not porky and not awful (well, not awful awful), I just wasn't a natural at anything, and the kids who were natural were always just leagues ahead. I still feel like a fraud anytime I do anything sporty. After reading this thread, I'm fairly convinced that general PE should be abolished. Although everybody should be made learn to swim.
posted by amorphatist at 9:50 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


holding back on purpose would be rude and grounds for a paddlin'.

Marry me.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:46 PM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


ludwig, I think you and muddgirl are in agreement (she said they weren't "linearly related").
posted by en forme de poire at 11:15 PM on October 14, 2013


Who are these guys who can finish in six minutes, teenagers? I'm 45 and I haven't been able to finish in less than half an hour in almost a decade.

PUNY HUMANS, MY ETHEREAL SPACE MEMBER CAN ENDURE FOR AEON UPON TIMELESS AEON.
posted by atrazine at 3:44 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


miyabo: "Basically as soon as I was living independently and had any income I was able to get the allergies fixed and learn how to do things I actually liked, such as biking, hiking, and kayaking. "

Hiking is just...walking (with maybe a little scrambling if you feel like it) to explore an interesting outdoor location?!?! And kayaking is just hiking in waterways!?

I am not kidding when I say that I did not figure this out until I was about 30.
posted by desuetude at 8:47 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The choice thing is interesting to me because I thought what we did in my high school was more common, which was exactly that... We weren't a really fancy school so I really thought it was more common.

Certainly possible. I always went to small schools, where there were never more than 2 (but usually 1) PE teachers for each sex. When there were 2 per sex, one was assigned full-time to the pool and the other to the gym. Depending on the peccadilloes of the school schedule, you usually got something like one pool period and two or three gym periods a week. Sometimes your pool period was every other week (I suspect this was when the school only had a part-time teacher assigned there.)

So, everybody was stuck in the same gym class together, doing whatever struck the teacher's fancy, which was usually the team sport they spent most of their afterschool time coaching, or the one they thought would result in minimum injury with minimum supervision.

We did have an occasional unit on something different, like bowling, table tennis, or archery (turned out I was pretty good at archery), but the jocks made a lot of noise, and it required the coaches to actually go around and explain rules and techniques to students, so we never did them for very long.

In my last year and a half Miss Femalecoach and Mr. Malecoach realized that their classes were small enough that they could open up the divider, get one or two games of volleyball going, and trade off nominally supervising while the other disappeared.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:49 AM on October 15, 2013


Basically as soon as I was living independently and had any income I was able to get the allergies fixed and learn how to do things I actually liked, such as biking, hiking, and kayaking.

Never really had allergies when I was a kid, but whoo boy this was me. I am crap at things like basketball, volleyball, tennis, and anything involving a lot of hand-eye coordination; but I am all over hiking and kayaking, and would love to do more camping. Mom and I were recently talking about how I've been doing things as of late like camping out overnight on Governors' Island and kayaking down in Red Hook once a week in the summers and hiking through Moab in the winters, and Mom said that she'd been talking with one of our old hometown neighbors - whose son was the uber-jock from my neighborhood - and they both marvelled that they didn't know where this sudden sportiness came from in me.

I bit my tongue before snarking that it always was there, I just hadn't ever been given the chance to do sports I actually liked.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


the overwhelming trend is to slash school budgets and remove PE programs and recess entirely.

I don't really believe in replacing classroom time with computerized tools like MOOCs and apps, but PE would actually seem to be an ideal candidate.

An app can tell that you're running/hiking/biking using GPS, and it can ask for verification from an adult for other activities. And it can group students with similar interests together, even students from different schools in the same city.

You'd just be required to do X number of hours of physical activity per term, where you could be doing anything from team sports to hiking to salsa dancing. The app would have tons of activity suggestions built in, or you could make your own with agreement from the teacher.

You could have one PE teacher just advising/helping two or three hundred students who are all off on their own different fitness plans.
posted by miyabo at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem is that for a huge number of kids who aren't naturally good at the usual PE activities (team sports played with balls, mostly), the way that PE is taught in most US public schools makes them think that they're un-athletic in general.

What's funny is that I love team sports played with balls now, after thinking for a long time that I was hopeless at them and every other athletic thing ever. Turns out I'm just reeeeeally slow to catch on, but I keep improving and catch up once I get a chance to do it for a while. I was laughably bad at soccer and volleyball when I started to play as an adult, but I'm a pretty solid player at both now after 7-8 years of playing (I mean, not pro obviously but well above recreational-level). For some reason a lot of people don't really improve much year to year so I ended up passing a lot of people who were much better than me when I started. And surprise, sports are WAY more fun when you finally understand the basics.

My PE classes had each sport for just a few weeks, so I never got to "catch up", and I was consistently terrible at literally everything. Not great for the athletic self-esteem. I do understand that it's good to try a range of sports, but it would've been nice to actually learn one of them. I often wonder how much better I'd play now if I'd really learned how to play as a child. I wasn't about to try out for the soccer team when I knew I was the worst player in PE, and the "just for fun" leagues for really little kids weren't an option for my parents, even if I'd wanted to play. Maybe one solution could have kids choosing between a general "assorted sports" PE class vs. a more specialized class with one or a few different sports/activities?
posted by randomnity at 11:33 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Randomnity, your post reminded me of my experiences in my elementary/junior high band. We had assessments with the music teacher at the start of the year, and together decided what instrument best suited the student's style and abilities, and what level of band they would be best suited to play in. "Hey, you're tall and quick, but not aggressive. More defensive-minded. How about we put you in [beginners, intermediate, or advanced] [sport or activity] for the year?"

I also like miyabo's suggestion. If the ultimate goal of PE is to train a habit of physical activity into an otherwise sedentary citizenry, then something like that (a Fitbit for every child!!) seems much more reasonable and useful than making kids cry because they can't throw a football.

Getting rid of PE is an awful idea. Reforming it is a good one.
posted by erlking at 12:07 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Music is the best analogy! The way our PE was designed felt exactly like playing a different instrument every 2 weeks throughout elementary/high school, with the same resulting skill level (i.e. none). I guess it's more obvious that practice is needed with an instrument than with a sport, for some reason. Or maybe most kids do fine with the current system, I dunno. I do know that most people I knew didn't enjoy PE and nearly everyone dropped out when we could (grade 10?). I never bothered to ask anyone else why, though. It just seemed obvious to dislike it.
posted by randomnity at 1:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mom said that she'd been talking with one of our old hometown neighbors - whose son was the uber-jock from my neighborhood - and they both marvelled that they didn't know where this sudden sportiness came from in me.

Empress, this is me to a T. The uber-jocks from my rural Midwestern high school have all (based on their Facebook photos) filled out and out and OUT in the intervening 30 years and I, the sad, short, slow, chubby kid who got picked last for every.damn.thing. is a fairly successful midlevel amateur bicycle racer at age 45. And I'm back to running again, and happily doing so because some kind soul triathlete friend of mine clued me into Pose method and barefoot /minimal shoes to fix my gait problems. This speaks to the posters above who said that the state of physical education in this country (and probably more generally) is hilariously bad. There is endless exercise-related bullshit available out there on the internet (and honestly the minimal shoe movement is probably as guilty as any, but that one actually works for me, so I'll just run with it) and no real expertise in helping people find the thing that moves them, so to speak, beyond a thousand ripped jarheads shouting UR DOING IT RONG.

The major problem with obesity in this country, I'll posit, with no better authority than I am an Internet Person with a Keyboard is this. Most of us are bored as hell and don't know how to change that. I'm as guilty as the next person. I am bored sick of my stupid, dreadful, monotonous glorified-file-clerk-cum-waitress desk job, but I need to do things like buy cat litter and groceries, and I have no college degree and no realistic means of securing one, so I am stuck.

Boredom kills. It leads to useless circular habits and thought patterns that wear trenches in our neural circuitry that become damned difficult to override. I see my colleagues all sitting here in cubicles mindlessly refreshing Facebook and snacking on chips from the downstairs vending machines and I'm suddenly reminded of the show horses I had in my youth that would chew stalls apart, walk gigantic trenches in the subfloors of their stalls, colic themselves eating their bedding, and wear their teeth to stumps cribbing on the panels. They were literally bored sick, and had become entrenched in the same kind of mindless, repetitive, obsessive behaviors as us cubicle jockeys.

Boredom --> anxiety --> stress/depression, which leads many down the path to the entire complex of metabolic ills and other problems.

The problem is, like me, most of us are either somewhat comfortable with this rut we've dug ourselves into, or we fear changing it, or a little bit of both.

I am lucky in that my job affords me a small bit of wiggle room to ride my bike to and from work and during the day (assuming I get my 42.5 hours in every week). The problem with that is when you get stuck in the boredom/depression hamster wheel, it becomes a bit too compelling to just keep refreshing Facebook and not ever go outside because, well, what's the point?
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:48 PM on October 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


Boredom kills. It leads to useless circular habits and thought patterns that wear trenches in our neural circuitry that become damned difficult to override.

Seriously. Some days I feel like that bear playing tetherball.
posted by asperity at 8:56 AM on October 16, 2013


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