Sunday, October 7, 2007

Wifezilla vs Dr. Laura

Dr. Laura is a very successful radio talk show host. Her call-in show, which deals with psychological issues, family and relationships, is broadcast over 275 radio stations across the country. She is direct, blunt, controversial, and pulls no punches when discussing premarital sex, abortion, feminists, the political left, homosexuality, and any other topic that comes her way. And, despite the title of this blog posting, I am a big fan.

I listen to her often and find myself agreeing with her about 85% of the time. The 15% where we disagree, she still provides me with a very valuable service. She forces me to not just have a knee-jerk, emotional reaction to her comments, but causes me to actually examine carefully the REASONS I disagree with her. Her words of advice have their prejudices, and have set many groups off in the past...the homosexual community for her comment that being gay is a "biological error", the political left for her support of the Iraq war (and just about everything else), and now ME for some of her comments about obesity.

She has answered several calls over the years about obesity and weight loss. Sometimes it's women complaining their husbands are getting fat, sometimes it is woman upset that they can't seem to lose weight. There is also a fair share of male callers upset that their wives have had the nerve to gain weight after giving birth to their round-headed rolly-polly children. Dr. Laura's take has consistently been that you have a responsibility to bring your best self forward when in a relationship, and that you have a responsibility to your spouse, children, and others to be a healthy as possible. Sometimes she may come off sounding like she is supporting some shallow, self-centered Peter Pan when she agrees that the wife should lose weight, but her ideals are spot on. You DO have a responsibility to your loved ones to be as healthy as possible. It isn't fair for you to gain a bunch of weight, incur health problems and then force your spouse or children to have to deal with the consequences of your actions. Yes, I AGREE with her on this. My issue, however, is with the advice she gives on how to solve the weight problems.

Dr. Laura's typical advice could come straight from the USDA. Follow the food pyramid, eat less, move more. Cut calories, join a gym. Eat more fruits and vegetables. This is the message that is repeated over and over again in the mainstream media, told to school children and repeated by medical professionals all over the country. Too bad following that advice has such a horrific failure rate. According to many diet studies, between 83%-95% of dieters not only gain back any weight they lose from dieting, but they go on to gain even more. The calorie restriction model doesn't work for most people, but in fact, makes them fatter.

But what about exercise, the other recommendation to help lose weight? From my personal experience, while exercise did help with my flexibility, stamina and boost my mood, 2 years of consistent exercise 6 days a week for 1 hour per day did absolutely nothing to help me lose weight. And by exercise, I mean water aerobics twice a week, belly dancing every Wednesday, trips to the gym, and hiking along steep mountain trails. For the longest time I thought I was some kind of freak, but apparently I am not alone.

"exercise - as necessary as it is for us -- won't make us thin.

"I think fitness and medical professionals are doing a disservice to their clients when they position exercise as a way to lose weight," said Jennifer Portnick, personal trainer and certified aerobic exercise instructor at Feeling Good Fitness in the Bay area. "Becoming active may or may not result in a change in weight."

But few of us realize that the most significant body of research shows exercise doesn't appreciably change body weights at all."

But gets better!
"many studies have found women actually gain weight and body fat with exercise. In another study in which obese women did 6 months of aerobic exercise 4 to 5 times a week, one-third of them gained as much as 15 pounds of body fat, with the average of the gainers being 8 pounds. That's body FAT, not weight, emphasized Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia, a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and author of Big Fat Lies: The Truth About Your Weight and Your Health (Gurze Books, 2002). "Just to make it clear that the weight gain was not muscle, as fitness buffs might assert. Thus a true skeptic might ask whether "exercise" has contributed to the obesity epidemic!!""

Gary Taubes tackled this subject in his New York Magazine article "The Scientist and the Stairmaster".

He reports; "Over the course of eighteen months the Danes trained nonathletes to run a marathon. At the end of this training period, the eighteen men in the study had lost an average of five pounds of body fat. As for the nine women subjects, the Danes reported, “no change in body composition was observed.” That same year, F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer, then director of the St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital Obesity Research Center in New York, reviewed the studies on exercise and weight, and his conclusion was identical to that of the Finnish review’s eleven years later: “Decreases, increases, and no changes in body weight and body composition have been observed,” Pi-Sunyer reported."

So Dr. Laura is recommending to her millions of listeners that they should follow a calorie restriction regime with an 83-95% failure rate, and adopt an exercise program that does not help you lose weight, but in fact may cause you to gain. Now, it's not my intent to pick on Dr. Laura here. She is just repeating commonly accepted ideals that are held dear by the main stream and reinforced daily in the major media. It is just a shame that someone as smart as her can be mislead, and as a result mislead additional millions in the process.

The reality is people gain weight because of carbohydrates, genetics, insulin reaction and hormone function. As experts recommend, you consume a diet rich in carbohydrates (processed or otherwise), then your body releases gobs of insulin. This hormone causes you to store fat while making you hungrier at the same time. Following the recommendations of doctors, the government, nutritionists, and a well-meaning Dr. Laura, you eat food that promotes more insulin release, and also waste money on a gym memberships, buy useless exercise equipment, starve yourself or take weight loss pills and still pile on the pounds. You are told you are unhealthy because you are overweight. In reality, you have a metabolic disorder that, untreated and feed the wrong types of food, causes your weight gain. The fat is the effect, NOT the cause.

By confusing the cause and effect, the blame is put on the fat person's character, not the real culprit...a different type of metabolism, some very annoying genes, and an extremely poor diet pushed by the medical community and big agriculture. Obviously having someone like Dr. Laura reinforce the bad information doesn't do an overweight person one bit of good. Listeners to her show are interested in morals, values, and doing the right thing. That is the core and draw of her program. When being overweight is made in to a character issue instead of a biological issue, everyone is hurt. The overweight individual gets advice that will not help them, and other listeners are fed scientifically unproven ideas that they will pass along as fact. Prejudices that fat people are weak, lazy, stupid, gluttons and have no willpower is reinforced. Even beyond the scope of her listeners, the bad information continues to flow.

Unfortunately, it's doubtful Dr. Laura will wander by on accident and read this blog. Even if she does, there is even more doubt that a lifetime of belief that people just need to move more and eat less will be changed by my post. But if you are a Dr. Laura listener and happen to read this blog, keep it in mind and do your best to pass on the correct information. Listen to Dr. Laura when she talks about premarital sex, marriage, honesty and other moral issues. Since body fat isn't a morality problem, you can ignore her when she starts telling the overweight what to do. Don't waste energy getting mad at her....even a genius can have an off moment. Just go get yourself a steak cooked in butter instead.


Sue said...

I also agree with Dr. Laura's radio talk.

Wifezilla said...

Like I said, I like her show. I just wish she would stop giving out crappy diet advice.

Hunger happens on a cellular level. It isn't a matter of willpower or bad character. Being overweight is the result of a metabolic disorder. Until a person understands it is their reaction to insulin and carbohydrates in their DOCTOR RECOMMENDED diet that are making them fat, they will never be able to lose weight.

"Moving more and eat less" doesn't work. Dr. Laura telling people that "people are just lazy and want to eat because it makes them feel good" doesn't help one bit.

Once the actual mechanism is understood, THEN it is a character issue if they still keep eating breads, potatoes, rice, corn, and other garbage.

She's a smart lady. It is just painful for me to hear her spout garbage about diet when she is so right about so many other things.

Anonymous said...

Hi folks! Thank you for discussing this important issue. I've been receiving and reading innumerable emails from folks who don't diet but simply "eat less and move more" in spite of "cellular urgings" to the contrary - and it works! Whine less and move more! warmly,
Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Wifezilla said...

Hi Dr. Laura,

If "move more and eat less" worked, there would not be a 95% failure rate for that weight loss method. Not only that, I would have never gotten to 280lbs as a very active person who often ate much less than her skinny friends.

Only by addressing the actual cause of my obesity (high blood glucose levels, high insulin levels, and reactive hypoglycemia due to ingesting easily digested carbohydrates and sugars) was I able to lose the weight and bring my blood pressure from 149/95 to 101/62.

A very interesting book outlining the research, medical community consensus/recommendations as well as pop media reporting on the whole diet issue (and it's abysmal failure to get people to actually lose weight and keep it off) is "Good Calories Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes.

If time ever opens up in your busy schedule, you may want to check it out.

I love that you "preach, teach and nag", I just want you to have all the information before you do so.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm late in the game by about a year, but I finally have a work schedule which allows me to listen to Dr. Laura again.
I agree with you, wholeheartedly. Her advice on SO many things is spot on and, by following is, I have a loving, amazing husband and a very strong sense of who I am.
Her diet advice is so OFF, and I am so glad that you wrote this piece.
I am over 100 lbs. overweight, was about 50 lbs. lighter when I met my husband... who loves me no matter what. I tried the "logical advice," ate less and the'right' things, exercised more, and gained 50 lbs.
What works for me is LOW carb. Anything else packs it on.
I think, within the past year, Dr. Laura has become more and more vehement about weight. It's sad, because weight is, as you said, not a character defect.

Anonymous said...

My wife has had a very hard time losing weight too. Especially since she had our kids. I've tried to encourage her and even went on a diet with her. I lost 40 lbs. to set an example, but she quit after two weeks. I realize it's harder for women to lose weight, but now she's developed a health condition because of it. Every time I bring up the topic she shuts down, is depressed for days, and thinks I don't love her. Is there anything I can do to help her? Is the solution a low carb diet? She is a beautiful strong woman who is an awesome mother to our kids.

Wifezilla said...

Hi Anonymous,

Sorry your wife is having a hard time right now. Refined carbohydrates (and excess carbohydrates in general) have a profound effect on hormones and mood. They are also, unfortunately, very addictive. I know people that have anxiety attacks just thinking about giving up bread or sugary drinks.

Many low carbers have reported help with their mood when breaking the sugar/carb habit, but it isn't easy. The first 2 weeks can be VERY difficult.

Expecting your wife to get off the carbs when there is still a house full of bread, chips, juice, soda, etc..."for the kids" isn't realistic. Excess carbs aren't just bad for your wife because she is over weight. They are bad for ALL OF YOU especially the children. Don't even have them in the house. You will all be better off.

Three books I strongly recommend are Natural Health and Weight Loss by Barry Groves, Protein Power Life Plan by Mike & Mary Eades, and Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.

These will give you a solid education on how excess carbohydrates effect the body and general health. Remember, obesity is a SYMPTOM of a greater underlying problem. If you just focus on the extra weight, you wont solve the problem and may cause more damage in the process.

Also, if she is having episodes of depression, she needs to see her doctor. While cleaning up her eating may help, depression isn't something you want to mess around with.