“…much of the nutrition advice you commonly hear is steering you in the wrong direction.” – W.C. Willett, Harvard University
Preparing for The Smarter Science of Slim’s release (1/2/12), a lot of people have asked me “What made you want to do all of this research and write this book?” Here’s a bit of the backstory.
I like science. And about a decade ago my interest turned towards biology. I started digging into academic research on weight loss, health, and fitness. Immediately, I was shocked by how much of the research contrasted sharply with what we’ve all been taught about eating and exercise. The research wasn’t suggesting that we should eat less and exercise more to burn fat and boost health over the long term. In fact, it was suggesting just the opposite. That we should eat more and exercise less—but smarter.
This nearly knocked me out of my chair, and made me want to dig deeper. Even after a few more years worth of research confirming “eat more, exercise less—smarter” I was still having a hard time believing that “eat less, exercise more—harder” is not what science shows to be the best method to lose weight over the long term. Then something happened that changed my life and inspired The Smarter Science of Slim.
I hit some sort of subconscious critical mass of research because my mind spontaneously stopped asking “How can ‘eat less, exercise more—harder’ be ineffective?” and started asking “How can ‘eat less, exercise more—harder’ be effective?” After all, we’re dieting and exercising more than ever before, and obesity and its related aliments are more common than ever before. Also, obesity and its related aliments were much less common before dieting and exercise became common. Of course these points don’t prove anything, but they do suggest that we may want to question the assumption that eating less and exercising more is the key to long-term fat loss and health.
So I spent the next few years searching for proof that eating less and exercising more was effective in the long term.
Interestingly enough, the proof wasn’t there. What was there was a bunch of assumptions and rationalizations. Take this “three-step weight loss plan” from the American Council on Science and Health:
- Don’t expect a government bureaucracy to solve your problems.
- Don’t single out one substance and complain that addiction to it has caused your lack of overall self-control.
- When you’re ready to start dealing rationally with your weight problem, if you have one: eat less and/or exercise more.
May I propose a different three step plan:
- Try something
- Evaluate the results
- If the results are poor, then try something else (especially if the something else is supported by science)
But that’s not what I was seeing happen. So called “experts” proclaimed “eat less, exercise more” as if it were as true as 1 + 1 = 2. Then when it failed over and over for tens of millions of people, these same “experts” didn’t suggest something different. They’d simply say we need to starve ourselves more and spend more time on the Stairmaster. They’d tell us to do the same thing over and over and to expect different results. That’s not helpful. In fact, that’s Einstein’s definition of insanity.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein
Nobody seemed to be considering what actual experts (researchers and scientists) had known and proven for years: we are not the problem…the information we’ve been given is the problem.
For our whole lives “experts” have been telling us to burn fat by eating less and exercising more. If some starvation and cardio doesn’t work, we’re told to do more. If more starvation and more cardio doesn’t work, then we’re still not doing enough or there’s something wrong with us. Everyone assumes the quality of the treatment is correct, so the problem must be with the quantity or the patient.
That’s not what thousands of pages of scientific studies show. That’s why I felt we needed to know the smarter science of slim. Actual experts have proven that the problem is with the quality of our food and exercise…not the quantity. That’s the “smarter” bit of “eat more, exercise less—smarter.” Smarter refers to higher-quality eating and exercise.
“In reality, those who repudiate [reject] a theory that they had once proposed, or a theory that they had accepted enthusiastically and with which they had identified themselves, are very rare. The great majority of them shut their ears so as not to hear the crying facts, and shut their eyes so as not to see the glaring facts, in order to remain faithful to their theories in spite of all and everything.” – Maurice Arthus, in Philosophy of Scientific Investigation
So I decided that it’s time to grow our brains to shrink our bellies. To stop doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. After all, if the way to burn fat is to be food deprived—eat less—and time deprived—exercise more—for the rest of our lives, then we should all be overweight. But we’re not all overweight. Not even all of the people who eat and eat and eat while sitting at their desks all day are overweight. That’s because there’s a lot more going on here than we’re told about. And it all revolves around quality. Increasing the quality of our eating. Increasing the quality of our exercise. And increasing the quality of our information.
The Smarter Science of Slim is my effort to increase the quality of information available to us about weight loss, health, and fitness.
- P.J. Skerrett, and W.C. Willett. Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. Free Press New York City: Free Press, 2005.
- Arthus, Maurice, Warfield T. Longcope, and Henry E. Sigerist. Philosophy of Scientific Investigation: Preface to De L’Anaphylaxie Á L’Immunité, Paris 1921. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1943. Print.
- “HHS Tackles Obesity.” FDLP Electronic Collection Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 June 2010. <http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps1609/www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2004/304_fat.html>.