February 21, 2013

What We Don't Know CAN Hurt Us

Yup. I suck (but that's not the topic of today's post). I just wanted to clarify. I haven't posted for over a month. It wasn't so long ago, I would post one a day (maybe two if I was energetic). Since then, I've struggled to find the passion or drive or motivation to be interested in subjects relating to health.

But struggle no more! I found enough fodder to provide me with the energy to post on the latest obesity paper to be presented in the news (and one you have probably seen on the internet).  The latest article presented the myths and presumptions of what we know about obesity and weight loss.

Initially, when the article caught my eye, I was intrigued (and feeling a little too excited) at the thought of uncovering more mythology of weight loss (cause as you may know, myths and false beliefs run rampant in the world of fat fobia)...but I digress.  As I began to read, I felt my stomach turn into itself, my heart began pounding in my chest and a strange (but all too familiar) sense of heat began to accumulate in my face. All the things I knew to be true, those things that I share with my clients, were being challenged. From small goal setting, slow and progressive weight loss, and the benefits of eating breakfast, to assessing the stage of change the client is in before embarking on a change were all being classified as a myth.

What the frick is going on???????

It wasn't until I read the last page that the pieces started coming together. Although this study or article was funded, in part, by the New England Journal of Medicine, each of the 20 authors (yes...I said 20..I have never seen a longer list of authors in my academic life) reported on the funding they recieved from independant sources. The long list included funding from; Kraft Foods, Coke, Pepsi, Red Bull, Jenny Craig, Knowledge Institute for Beer (whatever that is), and too many pharmaceutical companies to mention (including one that is holding a patent regarding a method for regulating energy balance for body weight management). I wouldn't have known all this if I had just read what was printed on line.

All my fears of spreading falsities were lifted as I came to understand the bias of this article. The sad thing is, this is not the first (nor will it be the last) article or study that is funded by companies and institutions with specific interests in the weight loss industry. I mean, why would Jenny Craig want people to believe slow weight loss is the healthier option? Don't they, and other weight loss businesses rely on fast weight loss to sell products and services? Why would the pharmaceutical industry want us to focus on eating a healthy breakfast and goal setting, when they are coming out with pills to do the work for us?

I am not saying that this article is wrong. Research is building on itself and from that will come many enlightenments that we never considered. I'm just suggesting that you never assume research will be honest, pure, and non-bias when you read the latest news headlines (unfortunately the news reports do not attend to who pays for the study). It is important that we understand where the funding comes from and what the potential for bias is.

What we don't know or understand can definately hurt us and influence our choices over time. For instance, one could assume, after reading this paper, that goal setting, eating a breakfast, and practicing long and progressive weight loss isn't a healthy option after all and does no good...and that would be heartbreaking. I can see it now, people happily throwing away their plans, goals, and (worst of all) firing their health promoters...God forbid.

For now, until more research is able to replicate the findings of this article, I suggest keeping to your healthy practices while I keep on touting the "myths" of weight loss.

Whew...that was exhausting. Passion takes it out of me.



Casazza, K., Fontaine, K., Astrup, A., Birch, L., Brown, A., Brown, M., Durant, N., Dutton, G., Foster, M., Heymsfield, S., McIver, K., Mehta, T., Menachemi, N., Newby, P., Pate, R., Rolls, B., Sen, B., Smith, D., Thoman, D., Allison, D. (2013). Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity. The New England Journal of Medicine, 5, 446-454.

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