Friday, February 28, 2014

It's Time to Explode Some Dieting Myths

Let's face it, we're fed a lot of bull-oney about dieting and proper nutrition. Not all of the myths perpetuated about dieting stem from malicious intent. Scientists conduct studies that seem to indicate one thing, and then later studies which are based on advances in technology and/or understanding contradict those earlier findings. What is infuriating is the refusal to let go of ways of thinking that have been proven to be wrong.

One prime example of this is the Body Mass Index, or BMI. BMI has been used for decades as a way of gauging whether or not a person is overweight or even - SHUDDER - obese. It has the advantage of being a fairly straightforward measure that makes some sense as it is arrived at by dividing a person's height in inches by their weight. A score between .18 and .25 is considered good. If you are between .25 and .30 you are considered overweight, and anything over .30 is considered obese.

Unfortunately real-life experience reveals the faults of this measurement. For instance, according to BMI I would be considered obese. I do happen to possess what is commonly referred to as a mirror, and I am fairly confident that, pudgy though I might remain even after losing 30 pounds, I am not obese. In fact I don't even think I would have qualified as obese pre-weight loss, but that might be a matter of conjecture.

Indeed BMI is just not a very useful tool when applied with people who have large frames or who are athletes. In fact, it is pretty much acknowledged to be - and I'm being charitable here - an incomplete measure of health and fitness. Just google "problems with BMI" and you'll get a ton of articles and links detailing all the faults with BMI. And yet doctors insist on relying on this fairly outdated measure when discussing your diet.

Enter Nir Krakauer who, with his father Jesse, has devised an alternative measurement called ABSI, which stands for A Body Shape Index. The background paper can be found at this link, and the actual calculator here. What they've done is tweak BMI, but in a way that intuitively makes sense, by adding waist circumference to the calculation. According to this measure I am now merely in the overweight category, and actually am above average (or I guess below avaerage, as it were) for my age group. Now I'm not promoting this just because it happens to put me in a better light, but rather because it makes intuitive sense and is backed up by reality. Now I'm sure that even this has its problems and faults, but it does seem to be an improvement over the traditional BMI.

On a slightly different note, it is clearly one of the missions of this blog to show that you don't have to just eat leafy greens in order to lose weight, and that meat is a perfectly healthy and acceptable part of any diet, granted that you eat in relative moderation. So I am pleased to link to this Business Insider article exploding 8 ridiculous myths about meat. The article is just wonderful, and this might just be the best part:

Quality meat is pretty close to being the perfect food for humans. It contains most of the nutrients we need. There is even a study in the literature where two guys ate nothing but meat and organs for a year and remained in excellent health (37).
All I can say to that is:

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