5 Popular Weight Loss Methods That Apparently Don't Work
Nobody has the magic bullet for losing weight, including me. However, I can tell you about some popular weight-loss techniques which science has found apparently don't do shit. At the very least, that may save you some time and money.
Wearable Fitness Devices Are No Match For Human Psychology
Remember Fitbits? That was a funny weekend in 2015. Everyone and their uncle thought that a pedometer would change the world for the healthier, or at least give us scientific proof that binging Netflix for 14 hours doesn't involve a lot of stepping. I think I still have one in the box somewhere, eagerly awaiting the day it feels a step and/or a pulse. Dare to dream, little fella!
In the last few years, wearable fitness devices have fallen on hard times. Lower sales and less overall enthusiasm have killed off a few products, and the problem with them seems to be a two-pronged kick to the nuts. The right nut is getting hit with the sharp-toed shoe of improper and inconsistent data tracking, while the left nut gets an open-toed shoe displaying the gross toes of human psychology.
A Stanford study showed that while a device like a Fitbit is pretty accurate at monitoring your heart rate, its ability to measure your energy output is way off. So they've mastered decades-old technology that will prove you're still alive, but when it comes to what you're actually doing with that life, they're clueless.
The other problem is the same one you get with literally every fitness gadget ever made, from exercise machines to juicers: The device can't actually force you to change your habits. In the case of fitness trackers, they can make working out more stressful. In one recent study, using a fitness tracker actually made it harder to lose weight. After enough weeks of the gadget reminding you of your failures, you'll remember that you can just take the little fucker off.
Cutting Out Pasta Doesn't Seem To Help Obesity
When you're in the market to lose weight, you traditionally want to avoid literally everything that's ever been worth eating. And pasta is typically at the top of the heap when it comes to food you should skip. This is because most pasta is just flour, water, egg, and salt dried in fun letter shapes and jammed in a can with tomato sauce and a Chef Boyardee label. All those carbs are bad, right?
Apparently not. Italian pastalogists released a study showing that pasta doesn't contribute to obesity, flying like a spaghetti monster in the face of numerous diets which assure you that low-carb is the key to your healthy future. In fact, it was linked to a lower BMI in that particular study. Before you point out that this study was sponsored by a pasta company (it totally was), know that other studies have found similar results. Getting calories and carbs in the form of pasta isn't any worse than getting them in some other way.
That's the part that I can't stress enough: Cutting down on the amount of pasta you eat will help you lose weight, in the sense that cutting down on the amount of total food you eat will help you lose weight. There's just no evidence that pasta is especially bad for you.
Low-Carb Beer Is Gross And Useless
Here's a conundrum: You're concerned about your overall health and the number of carbohydrates you consume, but you still want to get hammered, like, all the time. So how do you get your drunk on while also staying trim and svelte? Oh look, the TV just showed you an ad for "low-carb" beer! Corporations have saved us again.
So let's start with the fact that boasting that beer is low-carb is like boasting that your chocolate cake doesn't have any alcohol in it. Carbs kind of aren't a problem in beer. This study points out that the average beer tested had only 1.4 grams of carbs per 100 ml, and the low-carb options either cut less than a gram from that or, in at least one case, actually had more. I mean, you can still call it low-carb, because beer is just naturally a low-carb food. A can of beer has fewer carbs than a slice or bread or a can of cola.
You know what it does have? A shitload of calories. Yeah, excessive drinking can absolutely make you fat. But of all of the ways constant drunkenness can ruin your life, a carbohydrate overdose isn't one of them.
"Don't Go Shopping Hungry" Is BS Advice
If there's one thing we've all been taught about shopping since childhood, it's that you should never use the toilet at the Piggly Wiggly. The second thing is that you should never shop hungry because your stupid, hungry brain will gloss over all the apples and whole wheat bread and instead make you buy 16 hams. But not so fast, childhood lessons!
It turns out you maybe brought that ham collection home not because hunger had buggered a hole in your brain box, but because ham is delicious. The study we all rely on that "proved" shopping hungry is dumb is very likely all bunk. See, the researcher behind the study is Brian Wansink, a man who's recently had 15 of his studies retracted due to excessive bullshittery.
This particular study was also a tiny garbage fire. It was based on only 68 people, who fasted for five hours and were then tasked with shopping in a video game. Half got to eat Wheat Thins first, and that half bought more nutritious food than the hungry half, who bought more processed or higher-calorie foods. So we mostly believe you shouldn't shop when hungry because 34 people played a video game and bought more Twinkies than 34 people who ate Wheat Thins. Hell of a science ya pulled there, Wansink.
Turns out Wansink is the kind of researcher who (allegedly) engages in the awesomely named "P-hacking," which involves focusing your research only on things that offer statistically significant results, and ignoring data that doesn't bolster your desired conclusion. So he wasn't making up stuff per se; he was just ignoring everything that contradicted what he already wanted to say. This doesn't bode well for a career as a researcher, but it would make you a power player in the world of Twitter debates.
Plate Size Doesn't Affect What You Eat
I know it's entirely possible that you never heard this trick in the first place. On the internet, it's hard to keep up with the unending torrent of life hacks and life hack debunkings. If not, take my word for it that a few years ago, everyone insisted that the key to losing weight was to just eat off of smaller plates.
This little diet trick was based on something called the Delbouef Illusion, which is French for "beef mirage." The gist of the idea is that you perceive something as larger or smaller than it actually is when it's placed in a larger or smaller object. So a small portion looks bigger on a small plate, is the idea. And heck, that may be true, but your stomach doesn't give two figs about what your dumb brain thinks looks like a meal. You'll still want to eat more when you're done, no matter how small that plate was.
Sure enough, a newer study looking into the so-called illusion determined that when you've been food-deprived, you still retain the basic brain functionality to know that a saucer with a handful of corn sprinkled on it is not, in fact, a feast. A serving looks like a serving whether it's on a big plate, a small plate, or the back of a small dog. In fact, the hungrier you are, the more likely you are to accurately identify a portion size.
Also, who has the time to buy a bunch of small plates for mind sorcery? Just sloppily eat hot dogs over the kitchen sink like an adult.
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