by Max Brantley
If schools reinstated physical education classes, a lot of fat children would lose weight. And they might never have gotten fat in the first place if their mothers had just breast fed them when they were babies. But be warned: obese people should definitely steer clear of crash diets. And they can lose more than 50 pounds in five years simply by walking a mile a day.
Those are among the myths and unproven assumptions about obesity and weight loss that have been repeated so often and with such conviction that even scientists like David B. Allison, who directs the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, have fallen for some of them.
Now, he is trying to set the record straight. In an article published online today in The New England Journal of Medicine, he and his colleagues lay out seven myths and six unsubstantiated presumptions about obesity. They also list nine facts that, unfortunately, promise little in the way of quick fixes for the weight-obsessed. Example: “Trying to go on a diet or recommending that someone go on a diet does not generally work well in the long term.”
Having lost (and regained) at least 500 pounds over a lifetime of yo-yoing, I concluded a long time ago that genetics were destiny. Doesn't mean I quit trying. Several have asked about my latest 90-pound drop and so here's my secret plan, which I've employed successfully several times over the years:
About 11 months ago I stopped empty alcohol calories, swore off desserts and began eating reasonable amounts three times a day — long on vegetables and fruit. I also upped my activity to about an hour a day of walking, plus weight lifting three times a week. It works, or it does for me. A permanent life change? I wish. But my record isn't promising. The body cries out for a frosted mug of draft beer, a rack of ribs slathered with sweet and mustardy sauce and a slab of carrot cake, with a cream cheese icing about two inches thick.
The New England Journal's summary of the myths:
We identified seven obesity-related myths concerning the effects of small sustained increases in energy intake or expenditure, establishment of realistic goals for weight loss, rapid weight loss, weight-loss readiness, physical-education classes, breast-feeding, and energy expended during sexual activity. We also identified six presumptions about the purported effects of regularly eating breakfast, early childhood experiences, eating fruits and vegetables, weight cycling, snacking, and the built (i.e., human-made) environment.