Posted by: SLS | March 2, 2011

Critical thinking caps on at all times please

After perusing the internet for a half hour and skimming a few articles this morning (nothing out of the ordinary), I felt especially annoyed at the amount of advice out there from established “advice givers” who are at best up-jumped know-nothings who happen to be at a certain level of comfort in their own lives that they feel qualified to instruct others in how to achieve this sort of satisfaction.

This advice tends to be some variety of the “don’t stress” talk and “everything in moderation” and it’s complete crap. If anyone ever says “all things in moderation” as an answer to a legitimate question you have asked, completely disregard them. It’s a cop-out that really means “I don’t have a clue about what I’m talking about” and “I don’t have to think about what I do and things work out so why shouldn’t the same work for you?”. It’s not an answer, it’s not helpful, and it’s just plain belittling to the people that are actually establishing facts from real research and real work. A question deserves an answer or at least an honest assessment of whether or not one can provide that answer. It does not deserve some hand-waving dismissive fluff talk by someone who can’t admit that they don’t have the answer and, worse, don’t feel like trying.

I see this most of all in regards to diet and exercise. A balanced diet and moderate exercise is supposed to safeguard us against obesity and chronic disease. Too many fitness gurus promote this regiment to people that are dying for real answers to change their quality of life, and while it may be empowering for a whole 10 minutes, the real effect of the talk amounts to nothing and the status of the poor questioning individual goes nowhere fast. The fitness gurus have it easy for reasons they may not even understand. Metabolic disease is not psychological. Pep-talks do not cure obesity, fitness plateaus, or eating disorders. Finding the root of the problem (or at least making the effort) does.

For instance: a question from the crowd is often “how can I prevent myself from eating too much or too much of the wrong thing?” and the answer is often “listen to your body and don’t overindulge and keep your foods in moderation.” However, a person with uncontrolled eating is likely not suffering from emotional disturbance and stress alone, but from genuine metabolic disturbances that disrupt satiation signals to the brain via the lack of metabolic substrate available in the body for use as cell energy. If they were to “listen to their body” they will inevitably eat more as their body thinks they are starving due to lack of available nutrients even while over consuming food. The problem lies in how the body distributes the available calories, not in the number of calories consumed. While psychological stress is often a component of overeating and eating disorders, it is probably not the cause of the problem, but is rather associated with the problem. Therefore, stress may actually be a result rather than a cause.

I understand the purpose of these pep-talk positive thinking messages and I wholeheartedly agree with the need to relax command an control over daily habits and lifestyle, however, there exists a real need and purpose for deliberate scientific process and fact dissemination. Please do yourself and your curiosity proper justice by seeking answers that don’t diminish or demean the value of your inquiry. I pledge myself to uphold that standard here on this site.

Thank you.

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Responses

  1. Agreed. I’ve been making a similar point to a friend of mine who goes by “everything in balance”.

    I only want to nit pick a little and suggest that you’ve somewhat overstated the case. For example, when you see someone who latches on to some fad and eats a very few number of foods, then moderation may be good advice. It may also be good advice for those who spend dozens of hours a week in the gym, or doing cronic cardio. So balance may be a good anecdote to extremism of various kinds.

    In brief, the value of very compact advice may depend on who’s getting it.

    Another problem with the idea of balance is that the meaning changes depending on how you set up categories. It will mean something very different to someone who is balancing between animal and non-animal based products, versus someone who is balancing between meat, fish, dairy, insects, and plants, and yet very different again if you balance by taking equal amounts from each row of the grocery store.

    • Thoughtful points. I agree that to actually heed advice, it must be in context, but my main point is, no matter the categories, advice givers must first measure the extremities before pinpointing any median between them. And, when they do come up with a median or balance, there must be a rationale other than “well, it may be good or it may be bad, but a little bit of everything can’t hurt too much”.

  2. Nice rant, I do agree. Although is it the mass of conflicting information where people get confused. Everyone has an opinion and with so many ways to express their view, information comes from everywhere.

    “After perusing the internet for a half hour and skimming a few articles this morning (nothing out of the ordinary)” – glad im no the only one!

    • :D

      Yes, the good information out there is sadly diluted by all the posers unwilling or unable to do more than regurgitate a few facts.


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