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November 15, 2009

I was having a discussion this past weekend with somebody who insisted that ‘clean eating’ could allow one’s body to magically burn extra calories.

Ok, he didn’t actually say that. What he said was that if he ate lean protein and lots of veggies, then he could eat huge amounts of food and still lose weight, but that if he ate lots of processed foods, he could eat less calories and still gain weight. When I suggested this might be due to having greater satiety and less water retention rather than ‘clean’ calories not fully counting somehow, I was instantly rebuked. No, the same exact number of calories could lead to weight gain or loss depending on the origin of said calories.

Now I often feel I come across as kinda sorta maybe completely obnoxious know-it-all on this blog. But if that’s the case, it’s only because I often feel at a total loss as to how to respond to this stuff in my real life. Generally, I make some suggestion as to another explanation, but I never tend to push. But it continues to annoy me in the same way that I have a friend who took airborne once, felt as if her cold (which she still got) was a little shorter and less severe than other ones and now decries ‘big pharma’ for getting it taken off the shelves*. When I pointed out that the problem was that it was making claims it couldn’t back up with any actual science, she just points to herself. Case closed, I guess.

What I really want to ask is are these people just completely ignorant of how science works or if they believe that they’re so damn special that their experience overshadows all other data. But I don’t, cuz I’m super nice and tactful. I just say it here instead.

At the same time, I do try to keep in mind all the crap I’ve bought over the years and how, at times, I even became really invested in said crap to the point where I wouldn’t listen to anything said against it. Then I remember how much I love super long sentences. Still do.

Anyway, I suppose I just wish I could find the perfect balance of sincerity and firmness that allows for better communication in these types of discussions.

*Afaik it’s still on the shelves, it just had to tone down it’s claims. Boo hoo.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2009 3:36 am

    lordy Ive been there. and now I simply say: INTERESTING. Im so glad Ive found what works for me and trying to segue into lighter chatting fare like movies 🙂

  2. November 16, 2009 9:04 am

    I have a friend who thinks silver is healthy, though fluoride is toxic and a conspiracy by the government to do ??? (doesn’t make sense to me, so I don’t remember). As a trained chemist, the thought of intentionally ingesting silver freaks me out, but that’s just because I’m “duped”, and being closed minded. And I haven’t studied the anecdotal “evidence”, and watched the conspiracy videos. Right, and I’m not going to. He also finds himself in the uncomfortable position of siding with Glenn Beck, in that climate change isn’t caused by human activities, and there are these many scientists that say so. Turns out, most of those scientists aren’t scientists, and of those that are, they’re not scientists in the field of climate change, so that leaves, what 100 scientists out of 1,000,000 who deny the science? Kind of reminds me of the cherry picking of FA. I even know enough biology to discount most of his health theories, and when I point something out to him that seems obvious to me, such that we don’t really absorb very much through our skin, he’s oblivious, won’t believe me. And he’s SURE that 9-11 was an inside job, despite the idiocy of our previous administration, because the way the buildings fell, etc. My ex is a materials scientist, and it makes sense to him, as he actually knows about steel, etc. But this guy is NOT one to let science get in the way.

    I just change the subject. He finds us scientists annoying, because we’re irrational to want numbers, controlled or at least empirical studies, and we him, as much of his stuff seems silly or even dangerous, to us. Plus, I have the annoying habit of pointing out his glaring contradictions when I see them, which is often. You can’t convince anyone who won’t believe the science, why bother?

  3. Tilleul permalink
    November 21, 2009 8:29 am

    There is some decent science that backs your acquaintance’s beliefs. Gary Taubes’s book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” makes a pretty good case for the argument that simple carbs (sugar, white flour) drive up insulin which encourages the body to store fat, whereas lack of sugar, etc. creates another process which encourages the body to use up stored fat. I don’t know how true it is, but it’s certainly worth a read. It’s 450 pages of intense science, so it takes a while to get through it (reading it out of order helped me).

    In any case, “clean eating” probably includes a lot less sugar than processed foods which often have HFCS for example. That would fit into Taubes’s theory. If you read the book, I’d be interested in your take on it.

    • November 21, 2009 10:38 am

      I’ve read it. I think Taubes’ best points come from the evidence of how so many nutritional recommendations are based on shoddy or incomplete science. And I do recommend the book to people based on that alone.

      For the rest of it, I think it’s wrong. Taubes’ ignores a lot of modern research which clearly shows that it’s the balance of energy that matters most to weight, not the composition of the diet. If you’re interested here are a few good critiques of Taubes’ work, check out these links as these people are more qualified than I am to talk about it:

      Also, if you go to the forums on Lyle Mcdonald’s site: you can do a search for Taubes and find some good (if colorful!) discussions. Here are two threads:

      • Tilleul permalink
        November 22, 2009 1:48 pm

        Thanks for the links, I checked them out (except mind and muscle, which for some reason wasn’t loading. I’ll try again later). They do have some good rebuttals; a couple of points I don’t agree with — bsdetective seems to misrepresent a few of Taubes’s positions.

        I’m not entirely sold on Taubes — for one, where are all the successful dieters? I do think his theories might work for some types of metabolisms, just like the super low fat thing works on cardiac issues for about 10% of the population.

        In any case, I appreciate that you try to point to good science on this blog. I’m also interested in your personal results. I am trying no sugar (was doing this before reading Taubes) but I know that for me this translates into less calories.

  4. November 22, 2009 7:02 am

    Great links on Taubes. I just roll my eyes when his name comes up, as I know the conversation is over, at least in terms of being useful at all to me.

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