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xposted from Tumblr.
@neiltyson is doing a series of Tweets on Things you might say if you never took Physics. I've only seen a couple; the first was something asinine to the effect of thinking perhaps you'd be better off in a car accident without your seatbelt. I sort of huffed and rolled my eyes at that, but today's was "I'm overweight even though I don't overeat."

OK what? I was willing to let it slide before because generally he's all about the importance of science, and I like science and am generally sympathetic to the cause of more education being better. But "overweight" is based on BMI which is completely bullshit science, and "overeat" is meaningless (by whose standards??), and the whole statement is completely perpendicular to science at all. (Plenty of people who don't overeat are overweight; basically every athlete ever is overweight according to BMI tables. Personally, I just gained 30 pounds from antidepressants without changing my diet or activity level. I'm writing this on a damn smartphone so I don't have links, but Google "diets don't work" or look up Shapely Prose or, I don't know, Health at Every Size, or fucking pay attention for a second, and you'll find the same things I did.)

But all of this is tangential to the issue at heart, for me: I never took physics. I love science; most of my closest friends are scientists or engineers. I grew up conducting impromptu physics experiments with my dad. I placed out of freshman science and got to take Biology early.

But I have a math learning disability. I have dyscalculia. I scored so poorly in my algebra classes that when I tried to sign up for physics my school did not allow me to do so. My science education formally ended at chemistry (which I was OK at, but the math was incredibly hard). I have never been able to overcome my disability enough to master functions, although I excel at trigonometry.

So no, I never took physics. I understand how the world works, have a decent grasp of the scientific method, and know fine well what a seatbelt does for you in a traffic accident. I also have a decent grasp of the complexity of the human metabolism.

But I don't really understand what @neiltyson is getting at. And I kind of want to curl into a little ball. I'm a learning-disabled athlete, and a person I admire greatly, one of the world's foremost proponents of science education, has just dismissed me as a fat lazy ignoramus.

Thanks, Neil.
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On June 5th, 2013 07:10 pm (UTC), kkatowll commented:
It also completely ignores the role of metabolism...possibly your weight increase with the drug was due to a change in your metabolism.

It sounds like he's focusing solely on calories-in, calories-out. And yeah, to some extent if you take in fewer calories than you use, you will lose weight. Except depending on how you do that, you might burn muscle instead of fat, which will slow your metabolism, requiring you to take in even fewer calories next time to lose more weight, and also might cause your heart to lose muscle mass, increasing your chance for heart disease WHILE "losing weight."

But in general, yes, people can lose weight by reducing calories. That does not mean they are currently eating too many calories though. It could mean they once ate too many and are now eating the right amount for their body, otherwise known as maintaining current weight. Or, it could mean they are generally eating the right amount for their body, but sometimes overeating (like we all do, at parties and holidays and so on) and getting way more punished for it by their body because of their particular body chemicals, metabolism, etc.

If weight loss was simple, everyone would do it. It is a very complex balance of many different things. Doctors can't agree on how to do it, and most people (MOST! like almost everyone!) can lose no more than 10% of their body mass, whatever that mass is, no matter how overweight they are. I didn't know that til Sandy's fertility doctor casually mentioned that he'd never expected her to lose as much as she has, because almost no one can manage it.

As for BMI, though, I gotta disagree with you a little. Sure, BMI is not a perfect system and can be particularly skewed by those with a great deal of muscle mass. But, for example, Sandy is 320 lbs. She was once 450 lbs. By any measure, this is overweight. So while we can all disagree about the use of BMI in certain people, such as athletes like yourself who work out for hours, there is a line over which people are obese, and no longer active at all, and for these people, BMI is one of many reasonable measures to consider when tracking improvements (or the lack thereof).
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On June 6th, 2013 12:41 am (UTC), tehta replied:
I guess one possible view might be that, yes, BMI is a possible method for gauging personal progress, but as an absolute measure it's one of the less reasonable ones, especially in the 25-30 "overweight" range that many active people fall into? (Actually, even for progress, it's not ideal... one of the reasons I hate tracking my weight is that I know I can increase in size without changing my weight at all. And BMI is weight with labels, basically.)

I guess body fat percentage might be better? Although I think fitness goals always work best for me, especially in terms of motivation. I mean, "I want to have a BMI of 20 so people will find me prettier" is just innately depressing, but "I want to be able to do 50 pushups so I can be all hardcore" is kickass.
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On June 6th, 2013 01:18 am (UTC), dragonlady7 replied:
Thing is? According to BMI there's no difference between 450 and 320 lbs. They're both "morbidly obese" and there's absolutely no difference between them
So, it's kind of pointless. Neither of them is "overweight". That's a whole different category.
In order for me not to be "overweight" I would have to cut off both of my breasts.
People have set points, and they vary tremendously according to their body type. BMI is simply a table made of the averages of a small sample of young white men tabulated in the 1920s. There is no actual health meaning to it, never was; it was just a measurement of averages taken for an insurance company.

But anyway, that wasn't what I was writing about, I was more upset by the thing that was the point of the entry, but whatever.
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