It’s a question of scale

The festive season has passed us by in a blur of flashing lights and tinsel. Thank goodness for that! Unless you were super disclplined throughout the eating and drinking you probably gained a few pounds and are feeling a little down on yourself. Well, I am here to save the day! Click here for an excellent illustration of the scale of the universe as drawn by XKCD.

This is an excellent webcomic and it regularly has a great sceptical angle.

A logarithmic (log) scale is based on multiplication instead of addition. In a linear scale (like your ruler) the steps are evenly spaced. In a log scale (like my diets) the steps increase or decrease in size. Speaking of log scale diets, Kevin Trudeau has been fined $5 million for claiming that by following his new diet you will be able to eat any darn thing you want. After you have finished phase 4 of the diet, which will be when you die. So after you die you can eat anything you want. Great!

If you have been especially indulgent in the past year you might find yourself looking for a new diet to try out. I am not one for new years resolutions, but a lot of my friends have listed “lose weight” on their 2009-to-do-list. You might be out surfing the net, searching for a new way to shift those extra pounds when you stumble across this gem of a website. Within it’s hallowed electronic halls Jimmy Moore reviews 14 new diet books to help you fit into your old jeans. Lets take a sceptical look, shall we?

I would like to start by pointing out a little bit of science. People gain weight when the amount of calories they consume exceeds the amount of calories they burn. It is that simple.

Calories Consumed > Calories Burned = Weight Gain

Calories Consumed = Calories Burned = Weight Maintained

Calories Consumed < Calories Burned = Weight loss

If I want to loose weight I have to ensure that my daily intake of calories does not exceed my daily usage. I can do this by reducing the amount of high-fat foods I eat and by ensuring that I get a little physical activity. This is not quantum physics people!

Jimmy feels that living by these principles has

made us fatter and fatter and sicker than we’ve ever been!

I do not know how he came to this conclusion, but it does allow him to feel as though he knows better. His book review reads like one giant “Name that logical fallacy” game. There are two fallacies I would like to point out because they are repeated so often in Jimmy’s book review, so lets get started!

In Jimmy’s works Book 1: Refuse to Regain tells us;

twelve “rules to maintain the body you’ve earned.” Some of them are obvious (weigh everyday, exercise, limit your menu to healthy foods), but others aren’t so commonplace (commit to a three-month opt out period from modern foods, eat only foods our ancestors would have consumed, and make sure you have one acceptable treat per day).

Right off the bat Jimmy contradicts himself by pointing out the “obvious” rules. Exercise and healthy food? Won’t that make me fat and sick? Furthermore the assertion that we should only eat foods available to our ancestors is a classic argument from authority. It is flawed reasoning, trying to convince us that our ancestors somehow consumed the optimum human diet. Truth is hunter-gatherer Homo sapiens would  have survived on a diet of meat, fruits and vegetables and grains. They also would have expended a lot of energy hunting and gathering these foods. Jimmy compounds this error by urging us to buy this book written by a “bariatric physician”. That’s a double Argument from Authority Whammy!

I thought I might actually learn something when Jimmy arrived at Book 3: The Science of Perfect Weight. That feeling was demolished when I realised that this book was authored by Bob Proctor, the person responsible for “The Secret”.  Jimmy tells us

This book is less about the nuts and bolts of shedding the pounds and more about getting your mind right about what it needs to be focused on in order for the “perfect weight” to happen

That’s right, the “science” is wishing yourself thin. If that worked we would all look like Kate freaking Moss! The Secret is not Science and nor is willful thinking . Magical thinking is not what got you into those size 40 jeans and it’s not what is going to get you out of them! Get real.

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3 responses to “It’s a question of scale

  1. Peter has elaborated nicely on this program. Having done four Master Cleanse’s, I can say that it is now officially a part of my life. I have become a Vegan because of it, 1 1/2 years into being Vegan. This program has changed my life, and Peter’s book is a welcome addition to the literature. Well worth having when on the cleanse, and certainly helpful in deciding to try it.

  2. Wanted to detox after grouting tile in a 2500sq.foot home with no gloves! On day 6, had a strong metalic taste in my mouth all day long–after that, it was gone. My gum disease-gone. Swollen, chapped hands, were now smooth. Feeling generally “under-the-weather”, now have more energy than my teen-age kids. This is amazingly simple, low cost, and effective. What more could you ask for?

  3. You are 100% right! There are no short-cuts or magical cures – exercise, cut out the junk-food, and you will eventually start to see results.
    Jimmy is right about one thing. From my experience, focussing your mind on the problem does help. I’m not implying that focus will make the weight go away – however, simply being conscious of your food choices, and picturing the effect those aerobic classes are having on your figure does keep you motivated.
    When I walk, I try to visualise how big my butt is from behind – that’s enough motivation for me!

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