Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Stories: History, Mammoths, and the Most Important Story on Earth

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker asks if it helps to know history?

Wait But Why with a great piece on taming your inner mammoth.

And Matti Friedman in Tablet with a fascinating piece that in 3 days has been shared over 50,000x on how and why the media made Israel the most important story on earth.

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's my US News and World Report column that aims to answer whether or not you should skip breakfast, here's the Twitter debate I had with Bryce Wylde regarding proof vs. promise and red palm oil benefits, and here's a quick Q&A I did with the Charlotte Observer on nutrition, dieting and public policy.]

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Onion Reports on Subway's New Footlong Marketing Campaign

Stay with today's Funny Friday video right until the end to ensure you don't miss the amazing dig at Taco Bell.

Have a great weekend!

Horrified Subway Execs Assumed People Were Buying Footlongs To Share With A Friend

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coca-Cola Never, Ever, Markets to Kids - Scholar's Choice Edition

You know Coca-Cola would never ever target kids with their advertising, right?

I mean that's what they told me in a medical journal once, and no doubt Coca-Cola branded Barbie dolls aren't meant for children, nor was this rated for ages 4 and up Santa's Helper Coca-Cola iPhone app, nor these Coca-Cola comic book ads, nor this Coca-Cola Dr. Seuss soda dispenser at Universal studios, nor this Coca-Cola baby rattle.

Nope, Coca-Cola never targets kids.

That's why this product my wife spotted for sale at Scholar's Choice (a store for teachers to buy gear for their classrooms) must be mislabeled.

You see it's a 3D puzzle of a Coca-Cola can and according to Scholar's Choice it's meant for 10 year olds and 11 year olds:

But clearly that's just plain wrong because remember, Coca-Cola never, ever, markets to kids.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Guest Post: The Fitness-Industrial-Complex is Deceiving You!

A short while ago science journalist Patrick Mustain wrote to me detailing a new initiative of his called New Body Ethic. After taking some time to look at it, I asked Patrick if he'd be willing to write a guest post to introduce this worthy initiative to Weighty Matters readers. If your job involves working with clients to help improve their health, fitness, or lifestyle, please take a moment to read through and then consider signing up.

The Fitness-Industrial-Complex Is Deceiving You.
A Group Of Fitness Professionals Is Setting Out To Change That.
Patrick Mustain, MPH, MA

Chances are, at some point in the last few days, you have been lied to about health. It’s a safe bet that some magazine or TV show has told you (yes, you!) that you can lose weight easily and quickly. This blatant lie is constantly being debunked by health and obesity experts, yet it persists, and people seem to continue to believe it.

More insidious, perhaps, is a not-so-obvious deception that permeates the language from the fitness industry--that dieting and exercise are things that you should be doing in the first place, and that failure to do either stems from a lack of personal responsibility, or some moral deficit.

Let’s put this notion to rest. Dieting and exercise are crazy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people who fail to do either, and the sooner we can all acknowledge this, the happier and healthier we’ll all be.

For most of the history of life, the most important thing, for most people, was obtaining and conserving energy from food. Feeling guilty about eating food, and burning energy just for the sake of burning energy would have made no sense to our ancestors.

Of course, 10,000 years ago, we didn’t have cars, escalators, and office jobs. We didn’t drink refined sugar with every meal, we didn’t eat dessert every day, we didn’t shape our children’s food preferences with billions of dollars in marketing, and we didn’t have an industrialized food system dominated by hyper-palatable, energy-dense, nutritionally devoid, highly-processed products.

Clearly things are quite different now than they were 10,000 years ago, and in lots of good ways--we don’t have to chase down and kill our food. Thankfully, most of us will not be chased down and become meals ourselves. And we have plumbing. But, along with these advances, we’ve inherited a growing burden of obesity and chronic disease, soon to overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death worldwide.

Enter the fitness industry.

As obesity and its associated health problems have reached global pandemic levels, the fitness industry has flourished. According to, the number of fitness centers in the U.S. went from roughly 17,000 in 2000 to almost 30,000 by 2008, and this growth is showing no signs of slowing down. A cursory glance at fitness websites, reality shows, magazines, gym literature, et cetera will tell us that the fitness industry is here to save us from being fat.

But being fat is not something that we need to be saved from. What we need to be saved from is an environment unlike anything any living thing has experienced in 4 billion years of evolution. A report from the Lancet concluded:
Obesity is the result of people responding normally to the obesogenic environment they find themselves in.
Let me repeat: responding normally.

It is no surprise that we hear very little from the fitness industry about fostering an environment that prevents weight gain. Weight gain is the fitness industry’s bread and butter, so of course the focus is going to be on the quick fixes, the anecdotes about extreme weight loss “successes,” and the false sense of ease and speed—very little that actually has a meaningful impact on health. All these things keep people striving for that unattainable goal, and coming back for that next issue of Shape, the next insanity workout, and the next belly-fat-busting miracle supplement. But the brilliant thing about all these products is that when they don’t work, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough to make them work. You failed at the diet. You didn’t exercise quite enough.

There are many health and fitness professionals out there who want to change this culture of fitness. They understand that health and wellness and come from a lifelong process of learning how to take care of one’s body, for the long-term, not the quick fix. They seek to understand the environmental and cultural contexts in which we make our health decisions. They avoid focusing mostly on aesthetic outcomes. Rather, they try to help their clients learn to appreciate their bodies the way they are in the moment, but also to realize the wonderful potential each body holds for overcoming challenges, adapting, and learning new skills and movements.

At New Body Ethic, we’re bringing these health and fitness professionals together to speak with a unified voice. We’ve had personal trainers, fitness instructors, physicians, physical therapists, gym owners, dieticians, health writers and more, from all over the world, sign our pledge to help make the culture of fitness more responsible, inclusive, and hype-free—to make fitness work for everyone.

Are you one of these professionals? Do you know one? If so, please visit, and spread the word. You can follow along on our blog, or keep up with us on social media. We’re here to kill diet and exercise with good food and natural movement. We hope you’ll join us.

Patrick Mustain, MPH, MA, studied kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, public health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, and medical and science journalism at the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is currently a Communications Manager at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, and a writer and multimedia producer for Scientific American’s Food Matters blog.

Patrick started his personal training and fitness career after catching the fitness bug in the U.S. Navy. He spent eleven years asking the question: “How can we make it easier for all people to live healthier lives?” This is the best answer he’s come up with so far. He likes climbing on things, running around outside, and sandwiches.

You can see Patrick’s writing and multimedia work at his website,, and you can follow him on twitter @patrickmustain.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Visionary Quotes from 1929 Obesity Textbook - On Sugar, Corn Syrup and Refined Carbs

Plainly prescient.
"Meanwhile our sugar consumption continues to increase. Has it reached the maximum? Are the advent of highly refined glucose and the growing consumption of corn syrup, in addtion to other refined carbohydrates, about to make the proportion of sugar calories in the daily diet of our people even larger? These are questions that deserve careful consideration in a candy loving nation."
(This is the last of this series - hope you enjoyed).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Visionary Quotes from 1929 Obesity Textbook - On Processed Food

On sugar and processed foods. I think the authors were wizards. BTW, another quote on both again tomorrow.
"The fact that one-fifth of our diet, nowadays, consists of this vitamin-free food (sugar) is especially important because the other four fifths have also lost much of their vitamin potencies in the refining processes to which so many modern foods are subjected. If we continue to refine more and more foods, and to include in our daily calorie ration an ever larger proportion of pure sugar, the time may come when we shall feel a serious lack of one of these food "accessories". Our diet will have become dangerously diluted by the substitution of pur sugar for some of the old-fashied vitamin-bearing or mineral-bearing foods."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday Stories: So Many Links!

Michael Specter with a longread in The New Yorker covering anti-GMO crusader Vandana Shiva.

Alex Parker in Mother Jones with the killer headline question, "Should we regulate poop as a drug?"

Benjamin Breen with a delightful piece in The Appendix about the King of the Islands of Refreshment (it's not a fast food piece).

A fascinating video by JT Singh that unveils a little bit about life in North Korea.

Brendan O'Neill in The Telegraph calls to question the ability of the UK to still label itself civilized or democratic.

Gillian Bennett posts her own suicide note online - and it's a must read (note the "Next Page" button at the bottom of each page of the note - total note's 4 pages).

Investigative journalist Richard Behar with a deep dive in Forbes on the media's reporting on the war in Gaza.

And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, below are the two pieces I did with TVO's The Agenda. I can't tell you how great it is to have the luxury of time to really have a discussion.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Deep Thoughts with Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman)

Of all the male TV personas out there, there's none I'm more fond of than Park and Recreation's Ron Swanson, and while this isn't technically a Ron Swanson Funny Friday video, I'm pretty sure everything Nick Offerman ever says will for me be spoken by Ron Swanson.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Visionary Quotes from 1929 Obesity Textbook - On BMI and Ideal Weight

Why don't doctors and other health professionals know this yet? This is the concept that both underlies Dr. Sharma's EOSS staging system and plagues BMI's individual application.
"It is often difficult to answer the question: How much ought I to weight? It is far more important to know how the weight is changing. If a person's weight has long been stationary, and he is able to do effective work; if he has no obvious disease, and, if, especially, his build is like that of other members of his family, he may conclude that his weight is normal for him.".

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Visionary Quotes from 1929 Obesity Textbook - On Dr. Oz (Sorta)

The FTC and Health Canada should take note of this next quote from way back in 1929. Bang on the money I'd say.
"An intensive study of medical frauds and fads made over a period of nearly twenty years has convinced me that in the whole realm of quackery there is no field that is more easily worked nor one that offers greater financial returns to the medical swindler than that devoted to the exploitation of "cures" for obesity".

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Stories: Must Watch on ISIS, Pastafarians, Ebola, and Health Care.

VICE and their must watch full length story on ISIS. As one of the comments on my Facebook page put it, this is the stuff of World War 3.

CTV's Josh Elliot covers the story of a British Columbia man who is citing his right to religious freedom as rationale for not taking off the colander he wears on his head when having his driver's license renewed (which by the way is something you are legally allowed to do in a number of countries including the United States and the Czech Republic (as seen up above)).

The Toronto Star's Jennifer Yang and her harrowing story of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Journalist Matthew Herper with a fabulous piece on what he learned about health care when his cat died.

[And if you don't follow me on Facebook or Twitter, here's a piece I did for The Globe and Mail on embracing imperfections as a path to success.]

Friday, August 15, 2014

He Will be Missed

Today's Funny Friday video - Robin Williams and a full standup special - watch it before it gets taken down (but not with kids).

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Visionary Quotes from 1929 Obesity Textbook - On Society

Given society's never ending unhealthy and toxic focus on weight, the "reducing craze" isn't all that difficult to understand today but that doesn't make ideal weights or BMI based goals any less crazy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Visionary Quotes from 1929 Obesity Textbook - On Weight Loss

A patient of mine brought in this fantastic 1929 medical diet book. Over the next few days I'm going to post some of my favourite quotes, starting with the best of all:
"The movement to prevent unwise and fanatical reduction in body weight must be considered as an activity of preventive medicine worthy the consideration of every intelligent man or woman".

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

About that "Powerful" New Obesity Video Everyone's Sharing

I wasn't going to comment as I didn't want to call attention to it, but having been sent this video over a dozen times now I realize I'd better add my voice.

I'm not a fan.

It's everything that's ugly about society's attitudes towards weight boiled into a 2 minute video treatise on how gluttony and sloth are to blame for obesity....oh, and add in lazy parents.

Presumably the point of the ad is to cause viewers with weight, and parents of kids who may be struggling, to feel sufficient guilt, shame and self-loathing that they finally decide to change their ways.

Well I've got news for the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta folks who produced this ad (and that equally misguided one up above) - if guilt or shame had any lasting impact on weight or behaviour the world would be skinny, as guilt and shame are the two things that the world bends over backwards to ensure that people with weight never run short of.

And yes, parents have a real role to play in all of this, but fear and shame aren't likely to get them there.

As I've said before, childhood obesity is a symptom of a broken environment, kids haven't changed, the world around them has, and part of the world's changes (but by no means always the lion's share) include what are now considered to be normal parental feeding behaviours. Shaming the symptom without tackling the cause is likely only to add to the belief that fat shaming has a role to play in fixing the environment, and yet fat shaming is anything but helpful.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Not So Sweet Reality of Health Canada's Proposed New Sugar Policy

My American readers may have missed this, but Health Canada, has proposed that on Canada's future nutrition fact panels there'll be guidance surrounding "total" sugar, rather than "added" sugar. Health Canada is advising a 100 gram cap on "total" sugar and so if something you eat has 25g of sugar, that'll be reflected as 25% of your total daily maximal recommendations.

What does that mean? I think Health Minister Rona Ambrose explained it pretty succinctly,
"we're treating sugar as sugar, whether it's from an apple or it's from a yogurt or it's from a cookie."
Why is this a problem?

Try this on for size.

If you had just 2 apples, a banana, a serving of carrots and 2 cups of milk you'll hit this nonsensical total sugar maximum with none of the sugars involved being added by anyone other than mother nature.

Perhaps that's why Marion Nestle was quoted in the Globe and Mail as stating if Health Canada sticks with this plan Canada will become "a laughing stock".

As to how these recommendations could have made it this far, aside from these recommendations appeasing the food industry, perhaps it's because as Minister Ambrose reported,
"The way we approached it - the way I approached it, is from a parent's point of view."
Here's a thought. How about we approach it from the point of view of science and consider the impact of diet on chronic disease which in turn suggests "added" sugar as the type we should limit, and instead of providing Canadians with the wrong message of capping "total" sugars at 100g, provide them with the guidance that "added" sugars be capped at somewhere between 25-50grams?

Please consider sharing this. Perhaps with enough noise this can still change.

[I'd tell you to go to head to the online consultation on the new Nutrition Facts Panel, but having completed it myself, it's clear Health Canada isn't interested in formative feedback. Instead they're wondering what you think of the size of the fonts they've chosen, whether you look at the %DV and if you think being told 5% is a little and 15% is a lot is useful, which of 3 approaches looking at total and not added sugars you like best, whether or not you think uniform serving sizes are helpful, if you like the new layout of the ingredient listings, and finally what you like most, what you like least, and any additional comments you might have....but not more than 500 words please. As far as I'm concerned, the online consultation is just a lip service exercise and far from a formative one.]

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Saturday Stories: Too Many Links to Summarize Edition

The clearly much, much, smarter than me Andrew Stokes and why he thinks when considering the impact of weight on mortality maximum lifetime weight is crucial.

The great Gary Schwitzer weighs in on the aspirin prevents cancer story.

The delightful Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian weighs in on the saturated fat and our flawed dietary advice.

The inimitable Dr. Joe Schwarcz weighs in on the gluten-free discussion.

The I've only just discovered her Amanda Marcotte weighs in on Richard Dawkins' seeming misogyny

The indefatigable Jeffrey Goldenberg weighs in on what it might look like if the balance of power between Israel and Hamas were reversed.

Friday, August 08, 2014

There Will be no Beans on Mars

My inner 5 year old loved this fantastic Funny Friday video ad for beans.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Is Nestlé's "Portion Device" the Stupidest Front-of-Package Program Ever Devised?

That's it up above.

It's a graphic that Nestlé is going to place on their candy packaging telling consumers what a serving is and they're literally calling it a "Portion Device" and describing it as "new" and "innovative".

As to my question of whether or not it's the stupidest front-of-package program ever devised the answer to that question is likely the same as the answer to this question - will people still eat the whole package of Smarties (for you Americans they're the same thing as M&Ms) if the front of the box says a serving is only 15 of them (meaning there are 3.7333333 "Portion Device" servings in a 50g box)?

If you're going to put anything other than a warning on the front of a package of Smarties, it should be the calories and added sugar you'd get from consuming the entire box, because that's what consumers do, and no doubt Nestlé already knows that.

(and if you were wondering, the whole box (and not the King size, just the regular) contains 230 calories and 9.25 teaspoons of sugar)

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Breaking News: The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Wins the Stupid Award

Here's the ad copy. I think it speaks for itself,
"$1 from every Deep Fried Cheesecake sold will be donated to the JDRF, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes research. Our goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people's lives until we achieve a world without T1D".
The JDRF may be hoping for a world without type 1 diabetes, but clearly not one without type 2 diabetes given their promotion here of heading to Denny's in the first place let alone consuming Deep Fried Cheesecake, or in the past when the JDRF promoted the consumption of a "Mega-Jug" of Pepsi at KFC.

And no, this is not a joke or a photoshop.

[Hat tip to Deana Ruston!]

I Shit You Not - Presenting McDonald's Summer Camp for Kids Age 6-12

Truly, it's almost beyond words.

It's summer camp. For elementary school kids. At McDonald's in the Philippines. And it's been running since 1991.

What will the campers do there?

They'll serve as free child labour for McDonald's. No, really. According to the Kiddie Crew homepage,
"During each workshop day, Kiddie Crew members will get to experience on-floor training like greeting customers and assisting the crew at the drive-thru and front counters; showcase their skills through creative art workshops; and learn the importance of hard work, discipline and teamwork, through values formation lessons."

And there'll be lots of positive branding opportunities for them as well - including this awesome camp song (really, it's so insane you have to click it):

And if you think you can stomach it, here's McDonald's own 10 minute video highlighting the the week-long, imerssive advertisement that parents actually pay McDonald's to sear into their kids' brains.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Meet the 8 Registered Dietitians Campaigning Against the Proposed National Soda Tax

So the other day saw New Haven congresswoman Rosa DeLauro introduce a national soda tax bill in the US House of Representatives.

The SWEET Act, if passed, would see every teaspoon of added sugar in a beverage you purchase cost you one additional shiny penny at the register.

And boy would those pennies add up.

The tax would raise $10 billion a year with the monies in turn being earmarked for programs to combat the diseases that high sugar intakes exacerbate or cause. Examples of such programs include subsidizing fresh fruits and vegetables in schools and for SNAP (food stamp) recipients, funding school-based interventions and policies such as farm-to-school programs, increasing access to healthy food in low-income neighbourhoods, paying for social marketing campaigns to counteract the marketing strategies used by the beverage industry to market sugar-sweetened beverages to children, and helping in establishing state-wide, comprehensive obesity and diabetes prevention programs. Not to mention the fact that the tax also might lead to a direct decrease in soda consumption as has potentially occurred in Mexico since their soda tax was implemented (I say potentially only in that causation can't be formally proven, but in the quarter since Mexico implemented their soda tax, consumption has dropped nearly 3%).

As far as burden to consumers go for all for all of this, it'll be minimal. To put the proposed tax in some perspective, even if you're chugging a litre of Coca-Cola a day, the tax would only end up costing you an additional $2 a week.

Sounds pretty amazing to me - so amazing that it's almost unfathomable that any nutrition or health professional would oppose it as after all, we're talking about an annualized $10 billion national injection of health and nutrition programming and subsidies, along with the potential bonus of decreasing sugar sweetened beverage consumption.

You'd think that RDs across the country would be rejoicing, and yet...check out these tweets from registered dietitians Jen Haugen (Greater Minnesota Media Spokesperson, Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), Robyn Flipse, Neva Cochran (past president of both the Texas and Dallas Dietetic Associations), Rosanne Rust, Ann Dunaway Teh, Jill Levinson, Pat Baird (the president of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), and Melissa Musiker (Chair, State Board of Dietetics and Nutrition at District of Columbia). The first 7 were posted within hours of congresswoman DeLauro's SWEET Act introduction in the House, while the last was a response to this post:

So on what planet would an RD feel so strongly about a soda tax that he or she would not only privately think to him or herself that it won't work or isn't wise but also broadcast their opposition to it to the world via social media? On the planet where tweets from RDs can be purchased or so it would seem.

Have a peek at the ending of each of those first 7 tweets. The first 6 end with #Client disclosures, while the last (from the president of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) ends with the totally insufficient and undecipherable (and likely illegal) #client short form of #cl. Those hashtags are meant to inform readers that the authors' views therein are paid for or influenced by their clients - presumably arms of the food industry that would be unhappy if a soda tax ever passed (which in the case of the first 7 RDs include PepsiCo., Coca-Cola, The American Beverage Association, and the Corn Refiners Association, among many others). That last tweet? Well it's from an RD who is employed by APCO Worldwide - Big Beverage's PR firm of choice - and given she identifies self as RD in tweet, I'd think disclosure should require her to identify as working for the food industry as well.

But maybe I'm assuming too much. Maybe lots of RDs are opposed to taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and are also, on their own volitions, actively speaking out against the proposed health promoting soda tax. So I asked Colby Vorland if he could scan his database of 197 RDs on Twitter for tweets that included the word "soda" or "tax" posted on July 30th and 31st (day of, and day after, bill introduction). And while clearly not a complete sampling of RDs on Twitter it's telling that the only negative sentiments expressed among the 197 RDs on Colby's list came from among those folks listed up above.

Putting all questions of tax efficacy at changing consumer behaviour aside, it certainly appears from their tweets that for them, the $10 billion a year for health and nutrition programs and promotion that a soda tax could raise, is outweighed by the $s directly or indirectly paid to them by their #clients.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Saturday Stories: Natural News, Worlds that Are, and Syrian Advice

Nathanael Johnson via Grist explaining why you should never trust anything that comes from Natural News.

Great piece regarding the Middle East that's sure to upset everyone regardless of their allegiances that explains the root of the problem preventing rational discussion being, "everybody wants to deal with a world that they want rather than the world as it is".

Syrian activist Aboud Dandachi reminds Europe that, "when a Syrian tells you that you are in deep shit, you may rest assured that the shit you are in is deep indeed."

(And because one or both of these arguments may well come up in the comments let me pre-emptively mention that if you argue that one horrifically racist and genocidal blog post represents all Israelis, or that the horrifically racist and genocidal Hamas charter represents all Palestinians, please reconsider your ability to have an intelligent discussion on pretty much anything. Similarly, if the blog post (written by a loathsome and idiotic American teenager who lives in his parents' New Jersey basement and was posted by him without editorial oversight only to be hastily removed and renounced by the Times of Israel and soon thereafter to be recanted by him) outrages you, but the (official since 1988 and still current) charter doesn't.)

[And if you don't follow me on Twitter or Facebook, here's a podcast I did with U of T's Dr. Greg Wells on some of the most straightforward changes that you can make to help with health and/or weight.]

Friday, August 01, 2014

44s of Crazy Cuteness to Start off Your Day

Today's Funny Friday is delicious.

Have a great weekend!