Saturday, May 18, 2019

Saturday Stories: Dietary Guidelines, "Vaccine Injury", and "Chronic Lyme"

Kevin Bass, in his blog Nutritional Revolution, with the data driven case on how you can't blame people following dietary guidelines for a country's obesity rates.

James Hamblin, in The Atlantic, on the truth behind vaccine injury compensation.

Abby Hartman, in It's Training Cats and Dogs, with her first person account on walking to, and then away from, treatment for "chronic lyme disease".

Pic By Alan R Walker - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Calling People Successfully Maintaining Long Term Weight Loss "Unicorns" Is Dehumanizing, Unhelpful, And Misleading (And No, 95% Of Weight Loss Efforts Don't Fail)

A few weeks ago I tweeted about a patient of mine who is maintaining a 19% weight loss for 2 years, and who attributes her success to keeping a food diary and tracking calories, as well as to including protein with every meal and snack.

The point of my tweet was a simple pushback to those who want to claim that calories don't count or that counting can't help (like The Economist for instance whose recent article entitled Death of the calorie was the main reason I bothered to tweet), and those who claim that the only way to lose weight is their way (these days that's usually either #keto or #lchf).

A great many folks weighed in with their success stories, and some pointed to the National Weight Control Registry (where their over 10,000 registrants have kept off an average of 70lbs for 5.5 years). Others though weren't having it.

Instead they asserted that 95% of diets fail, that the weight loss industry was predatory (much of it is, no argument there), and called people who have succeeded "unicorns".

Unicorns. Not people. Mythical creatures.

And the implication of course is clear. Sustained weight loss is impossible. Those who succeed aren't human, or to succeed they employ superhuman efforts, sometimes even described as disordered eating and/or that those who succeed must be miserable. Consequently, trying is futile and those offering help (like me, as to be clear I am the medical director of a behavioural weight management centre) are unethical and are motivated by greed (despite the obvious irony that those championing explicitly non-weight loss programs are targeting the very same population of people and regularly charge a great deal of money for their services).

But boy, there sure are a heck of a lot of unicorns roaming around for something that supposedly fails 95% of the time. Putting aside the anecdotal facts that we all know people who have maintained weight losses, as well as my own office based experiences, this 2010 systematic review found that one year later 30% of participants had a weight loss ≥10%, 25% between 5% and 9.9%, and 40% ≤4.9%. In the LOOK AHEAD study, 8 years later, 50.3% of the intensive lifestyle intervention group and 35.7% of the usual care group were maintaining losses of ≥5%, while 26.9% of the intensive group and 17.2% of the usual care group were maintaining losses of ≥10%. Here's the DIRECT trial where mean weight loss at 2 years was 7.5% with 24% of participants maintaining losses greater than 22lbs. And in the recent year long DIETFITS study the average weight loss of all participants was 5%, with over 25% of participants losing more than 10% of their weights.

The Examine.com waterfall plots of the DIETFITS data

(And for an interesting thought experiment, have a peek at this thread from Kevin Bass that argues that even if the 95% failure number were true, those outcomes would be worlds better than the vast majority of medical treatments currently being offered for other chronic diseases)

So where does this 95% number come from? I could imagine it to be true if the goalpost for successful weight loss was total weight loss and reaching a so-called "healthy" or "normal" BMI. But that would be as useful a goalpost as qualifying for the Boston Marathon would be for running whereby the vast majority of marathoners won't ever run fast enough to qualify to run Boston. Does that mean non-qualifiers should be discouraged from running and told that running is impossible? It's also important to contextualize failures. If the methods being undertaken to lose weight are misery inducing overly restrictive diets, it's not people who are failing to sustain them, it's that their diets are failing to help them (which, with full disclosure, is the premise of my book The Diet Fix).

As far as what needs championing, it's certainly not failure. Given the medical benefits of weight loss, as well as the real impact weight often has on quality of life (especially at its extremes), what we need to collectively champion are the embrace of a plurality of treatments (including ethical behavioural and surgical weight management programs and greater access to them), along with more effective medications. What can simultaneously be championed is the removal of blame from the discussion of weight, fighting weight bias and stigma, recognizing that a person need not have a so-called "healthy" or "normal" BMI, that scales don't measure the presence or absence of health nor measure lifestyles, respecting people rights to have zero interest in losing weight or changing their lifestyles, that there is value to changing behaviours around food and fitness regardless of whether weight is lost as a consequence, and acknowledging that intentionally changing lifestyle in the name of health reflects a tremendous degree of privilege that many people simply don't possess.

Given the evidence maybe we can stop with the unhelpful, dehumanizing, and misleading unicorn talk, and while we're at it, stop telling everyone that failure is a foregone conclusion.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Monday, May 06, 2019

What's The Point of Tracking Your Calories With a Food Logging App?

First up, the quantity and quality of calories matter both to health and to weight. You can't gain without a surplus. You can't lose without a deficit. And the quality of the calories you're consuming will affect health and satiety which in turn will affect the quantity of them that you consume. Moreover, the bioavailable calories you consume will differ by food, and also likely differs by individual (which is why some gain and lose with more ease than others).

Next up, we're crappy food historians. We may forget portions, choices, or both, not all the time, but certainly some of the time. We can't possibly know what's in meals we haven't cooked ourselves. And even if we are cooking ourselves, most aren't going to be weighing and measuring everything and eyes are terrible at both.

And a recent study confirms some of the above whereby researchers looking at users of myfitnesspal found the average user was missing nearly a meal's worth of calories a day (445). Yet studies on food diary use pretty much invariably report they markedly benefit weight loss efforts.

Personally, though I think having some rough inaccurate sense of caloric intake is valuable (if you were in a foreign country and didn't know the exchange rate, price tags would still be somewhat helpful), more valuable is the use of the food diary to remind yourself that you're trying to eat thoughtfully and likely differently.

Human nature being what it is, without a system designed to consciously remind you to change your usual default behaviours, you're likely to drift back to those behaviours, healthy or not, and a food diary, even if inaccurate, if kept in real-time, will remind you many times a day that you're trying to change.

So long as you're not using your food diary as a tool of judgment, as it's not meant to be there to make you feel badly about your choices, chances are it'll be of benefit, and likely it'll be of benefit regardless of what it is you're tracking (calories, macros, carbs, whatever) and even if inaccurate, because it's primary job is to serve you as your constant change reminder service, not as your judge and jury.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Saturday Stories: Holocaust Memorial Day, Poway, And Synagogue Metal Detectors

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, may her memory be a blessing, murdered for being Jewish
A few days ago it was Holocaust Memorial Day, the day we commemorate the murder of 1 out of every 3 living Jews on earth prior to World War II. A week ago saw another murder for the crime of being Jewish, this time in California. Before that it was Pittsburgh. Though there's not much I can do about any of this, at least I can call your attention to these three pieces that try to weave it all together

Daniella Greenbaum Davis, in The Spectator, on antisemitism's new normal.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, in The New York Times, on how being almost killed by a terrorist last week has affected his resolve.

Carly Pidlis, in Tablet Magazine, on how Jews can no longer simply consider themselves safe in America.

Monday, April 29, 2019

New Study Suggests ADHD Steers Children To An Unhealthy Diet, Not The Other Way Around

To be taken with a grain of dietary recall data, but a new study, Children's Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms Predict Lower Diet Quality but Not Vice Versa: Results from Bidirectional Analyses in a Population-Based Cohort, found that an ADHD diagnosis led children to a less healthy diet, whereas less healthy diets did not lead children to ADHD.

The study was conducted in the Netherlands and it followed 3,680 children starting at age 6 and then ending when they reached the age of 10.

Put plainly, though more ADHD symptoms at age 6 were associated with less healthy diets at age 8, diet quality at age 8 was not associated with ADHD symptoms at age 10.

There are a number of proposed pathways to help explain how ADHD might affect diet quality. ADHD and its impulsivity may increase the risk of binge eating or loss of control eating, and the impact of ADHD on neurotransmitters may affect hunger and fullness. It's also possible that some parents of children with ADHD may offer foods their children prefer in order to decrease risk of conflict and/or reward desired behaviour.

Clearly more research on this would be welcome.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Saturday Stories: Freds, Sexism in Science, and Anti-Vaxx Marriage

Danielle Kosecki, in Medium, with her defense of Freds (less serious cyclists, and disclosure, I am one).

Mallory Picket, in The New York Times Magazine, on sexism in science's highest echelons.

Anonymous, in The Cut, on marriage with an anti-vaxxer.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Move More, Eat More? New Study Suggests People Do Eat More When They're More Active, But Not Much

One of the possible reasons that in freely living humans exercise doesn't seem to add up to weight loss as math might predict is that freely living humans might eat back their burned calories. Some may do so consequent to increased hunger. Others to a sense of virtue and the inclination to reward themselves for their hard work. Others still because marketing has convinced them that they must refuel, recover, replenish, etc..

A new study,Activity energy expenditure is an independent predictor of energy intake in humans, published this year in the International Journal of Obesity, set out to look at this phenomenon.

Now to be clear, the study certainly wasn't designed to explain exercise's impact on weight. It was just 7 days long and it involved the retrospective analysis of data from 5 prior studies and did not directly measure energy expenditure or energy intake. Instead researchers utilized estimated energy expenditure by way of heart rate and indirect calorimetry data, and energy intake by way of known to be problematic food diaries.

My stats skills are nowhere near good enough to comment on the various treatments of the data, but here's the scatter plot of the impact of energy expenditure on energy intake.

The increase in energy intake the authors attributed to energy expenditure wasn't high, roughly 3% of total daily calories (around 70 in this sample), an amount too small to explain away exercise's often uninspiring impact on weight loss.

Truth be told, I'd have predicted the difference to be larger as eating more consequent to exercise is something I know many people do for one or more of the various reasons mentioned above.

Of course none of this changes the fact that exercise has tremendous health benefits at any weight and that weight shouldn't be your driver for upping yours if you're able.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saturday Stories: IN MICE, Cancer, and Future Dementia

James Heathers, in Medium, explains why he started the Twitter account that only ever tweets "IN MICE"

Anne Boyer, in The New Yorker, on what cancer takes away.

Tia Powell, in Elemental (on Medium), on how she's preparing for her future dementia.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

RDs! We're Hiring! Looking To Fill A Full-Time Permanent And Possibly Some Part-Time Positions

Will copy our job posting below, but the tl;dr version is we're both growing (our digital distance tool is deep into development and should be ready for beta-testing come late spring or early summer) and one of our wonderful RDs will be heading off on maternity leave. Consequently, we're looking for some great RDs!

Prior applicants are welcome by the way. In fact many of the RDs we've hired over the years had applied more than once.

Here's the posting. Please send resume and letter of interest to jobs@bmimedical.ca
The Bariatric Medical Institute (BMI) in Ottawa, an inter-professional weight management office that includes medical doctors, personal trainers, registered dietitians, a social worker, a clinical psychologist, and a therapy dog, is looking for a permanent full time dietitian to join our professional and unique team.

We are looking for an individual who loves working with people and technology, is great at multi-tasking, is a team players, thrives off of challenges and responsibility, and wants to utilize his or her skills in making a dramatic positive difference in people’s lives.

Responsibilities will include:
  • Collaboration with interprofessional team members.
  • One-on-one counselling sessions to motivate and help patients live the healthiest they can.
  • One-on-one counselling sessions with parents of children struggling with weight to help them navigate a healthy eating environment.
  • One-on-one counselling sessions to help prepare patients for bariatric surgery as well as post-surgery sessions to help patients ensure that they succeed.
  • Design individualized nutrition plans based on each individuals’ unique lifestyles, metabolic rates and dietary likes and dislikes.
  • Write for BMI’s different social media outlets: Website, blog, vlog, and monthly newsletter.
The skills you’ll need:
  • Exceptionally strong motivational counselling skills.
  • Must have excellent listening skills, empathetic and sensitive to patient’s needs. We do not ever utilize negative reinforcement in our counselling.
  • Able to adapt nutrition advice to recent scientific research with thoughtful critical appraisal.
  • Must be innovative and give patients realistic and helpful nutrition advice.
  • Positive and non-restrictive approach to weight management.
  • Comfortable giving presentations.
  • Possess sound professional judgment, initiative and enthusiasm.
  • Good time management skills and ability to organize.
  • Excellent computer skills, and comfort with social media
  • Strong cooking skills.
The requirements we’re looking for:
  • Minimum one year of clinical experience
  • Registered Dietitian
  • Member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario and in good standing (or willingness and ability to join).
  • Master level clinicians are preferred, although not required.
  • Previous experience working in weight management and childhood obesity is an asset.
  • Working with us you will have access to a full gym facility as well as shower and change rooms. Physical activity and healthy living are the primary focus of our work and therefore we view your active lifestyle as a great asset.
Because we are looking for the best candidate our wages are highly competitive with those in the community and after the 3 month probation period, medical and dental benefits are part of our package.

We look forward to hearing from and meeting with you.

Are You Successfully Maintaining A Weight Loss OR Have You Recently Quit A Diet? If Yes To Either Question, Please Spare 2 Minutes For Our Research (Shares Welcome!)

Back in 2012 I first posted my wish for there to be a questionnaire that would serve to help individuals and researchers determine how easy or difficult a particular diet would be to follow.

I called it the Diet Index Enjoyability Total or DIET score, and my hope was that by using a series of simple Likert scales (descriptive scales from 1-10), researchers could set out to evaluate a particular weight loss approach's DIET score where high scores would identify diets that could actually be enjoyed, and where low scores would identify under-eating, highly restrictive, quality of life degrading, dieting misery. This would be useful both to individuals who could use the DIET score to evaluate whatever approach they were considering, but might also serve as a surrogate for shorter term diet studies to give a sense as to whether or not there's a low or high likelihood of long term adherence to a particular study's strategy.

I'm happy to report that thanks to the hard work of Michelle Jospe and Jill Haszard of the University of Otago, along with your responses, we have completed the DIET score's qualitative review and this survey is meant as a simple pilot to test the hypothesis that higher scores associate with longer term success, and we hope, that once collected, these results will be compiled along with our qualitative review for the DIET Score's first published preliminary study!

So again, if you're currently following a diet, or if you've recently quit a diet, we would greatly appreciate it if you were able to take just a few minutes of your time to fill out our quick survey by clicking here.

Thank you in advance!

Yoni

[Today's survey is the final one (hopefully) before we submit our paper on the DIET SCORE. Consequent to our first two surveys we tweaked our questions to make them more relevant and representative by way our your comments and expert feedback. Even if you filled our survey out last time, if you've been successful on your diet (any dietary strategy or approach, we're not picky) OR if you've recently quit your diet, we'd dearly love to hear from you and we promise, it will barely take 2 minutes to complete]


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