Sunday, January 31, 2010

An outbreak of sense in the mainstream media

I was visiting my parents this weekend and on Saturday I was flicking through their Daily Mail. The self righteous hypocrisy of it usually just annoys me - it preaches old fashioned values while reporting the lurid details of celebrity gossip in a disapproving yet exhaustive way.

Anyway there were two articles which cuaght my eye and gave me hope:

The Big Fat Lies about Britain's obesity epidemic

This is a good essay with three premises:

  • Starch is making you fat
  • There is no evidence that saturated fat is a health problem
  • Exercise for weight loss is overrated.
Good Gary Taubes style stuff. In fact I would not be surprised if the author had based this on Taubes.

The other thing reported was a diet used by Margaret Thatcher to lose 20lb in 2 weeks: basically a low carb diet - meat, leaves and berrys.

The Maggie diet - whisky, spinach and 28 eggs a week

Here is a quote from her archive:
MT in fact discussed the diet in an interview with the Sun on 13 March 1979. At that point she acknowledged weighing 9.5 stone (133 pounds) and was 5'5" tall. The Sun's reporter speculated on the political logic of it all: "After all, if a person can't control her weight, doesn't it occur to everybody that she may not be able to control other, more important things?"

There is a pdf of the diet sheet here.

Anyway, that last quote -

if a person can't control her weight, doesn't it occur to everybody that she may not be able to control other, more important things?

Reminded me of a study I saw last week, which seems to bear the idea out

An Experimental Study of the Role of Weight Bias in Candidate Evaluation

Obese individuals are evaluated negatively and attributed negative trait characteristics in several contexts including employment, health care, and education. The current experimental study of college students examined the effect of body mass on the evaluation of political candidates and examined whether the gender of the candidate moderated the relationship. A series of ordinary least squares regression analyses found an interactive effect between candidate obesity and candidate gender for global evaluation and for several trait characteristics. Specifically, obese female candidates were evaluated more negatively than nonobese female candidates and nonobese male candidates were evaluated more negatively than were obese male candidates. This interaction persisted even after controlling for standard political and demographic characteristics of the evaluator. These findings suggest that weight bias exists for obese female political candidates, but that larger body size may be an asset for male candidates. The ability of candidates to be successful may depend less on their policy positions or even party affiliation and more on their physical attributes than has been previously assumed.

Thatcher was right. She needed to lose weight to be viewed more positively


Anonymous said...

First off I find it interesting that fat men were preferred candidates. But in a way I guess it makes sense? Im not sure why though. Are skinny men not trusted, or does a fat man exude wealth?

Jim Purdy said...

From the first article, about starches:

"While we've all been brainwashed into thinking that fat is the killer we must avoid ... starch - in the shape of pasta, bread, cereals, potatoes and rice - has been quietly adding on the pounds, while we are being told that it's good for us."

That is hugely important information, at least for the millions of people who are sensitive to those foods.

The 50 Best Health Blogs

Stephan said...

Hi Chris,

That article sounds like it's verbatim Taubes. Do you remember his NYT article titled "What if it's all been a big fat lie?"

Chris said...


there is a link in my post to the Taubes article. I think she has been heavily "influenced"!

Indomitable Spirit said...

Hi Chris

Thanks for this v interesting post. I saw a nutritionist a couple of years back who was effectively a maverick, as she was promoting the eating of butter over margarine, loads of eggs, meat etc. Oh, and she also suggested avoiding refined carbs, wheat products etc.

It's amazing how difficult it can be to avoid carbohydrate products though. I have to take my own food to work now, as our canteen is geared towards keeping the masses happy.



Chris said...


she sounds like a very good nutritionist!

Eat real food (no packages), get rid of refined carbs and sweets, get rid of grains. Take it easy on the fruit. That is a great start. Prioritize meat and eggs, butter, veggies, cream

I can usually find something at the work canteen , just avoid the pies and pastas. Stick with meat and veggies.

Indomitable Spirit said...

Hi Chris

Funny, the nutritionist said pretty much the same as you just did. She certainly advocated plenty eggs, and we've largely gone with that. We'll often have meat and veg, but no rice, pasta, potatoes etc.

Surprisingly it's not as easy as you would think to just have meat and veg at the work canteen. They're cooking to appeal to a junk food addicted student population.