Week 5 – Finding Truth in a Sea of Lies

There is a lot of good information about health and fitness out there.  There is an order of magnitude more bullshit out there. Set aside the bad actors like Men’s Health actively peddling lies for money (current headline: Can Eating for your Bloodtype Help You Lose Weight?  No, and there is no evidence this works, and everyone knows it.) The real problem are the evangelicals.  No wait, not that link.  Those guys were awesome.  These ones.

Lots of people struggle with their health goals.  They either don’t put the effort in, they don’t have a good plan of attack, or they have a good plan of attack that happens to not work for them.  They try it, and it fail. Repeat this over, and over and over, and “nothing works.” Then, after years or decades of trying, bam. Something works.  Maybe they actually put the effort in for the first time (that’s me, this time.) Maybe they get on a good plan (ok, that’s me too.) Maybe the plan is just a good fit for their preferences and habits (yep, me here again.)

And this leads to the error in logic.  You’ve tried everything, and everything failed.  Then you found this one thing, and it works. And being a social creature, you want to tell the world.   This doesn’t make you a bad person – just the opposite! You “know” the one thing that works, and if people would just try it, they can skip over all the pain and disappointment you had.

Just.  Do. This.  One. Thing.  Paleo. Veganism.  Keto. Whole Food Plant Based (we just called that vegetarianism in my day.)  Lift Heavy. No, Lift for Hypertrophy. Pilates. Yoga. Crossfit. Whatever.

I’m just going to say it: Muscular Christianity was weird.

You know what that makes most people?  Evangelicals. Lots of these even have the strong odor of moralism.  

This is how your body is supposed to work. Eating dolphins is a sin.  Real men lift heavy. Real men Eka Pada Rajakapotasana until they can smell their own taint.  

They have one data point, and they want everyone to know it and love it like they do.  They are not good sources of information. But good information is necessary for my throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks method of fitness improvement.  After all, my goal is to work smarter, not harder.

So what would a good data source look like?  Well, N would need to be a lot bigger than 1.  So we need lots of people. And some personal anecdotes are important, but so is access to larger statistical data.  Group think is always a danger, so we’d need a conflict resolution mechanism that rewards good ideas not conformity to ideology.  That mean… oh crap. I know what that means.

See, there is this engine that someone built.  Its fuel is the autistic rage of over-educated social idiots, and it spits out hate.  It’s a weaponized hive of scum and neckbeardery. But it has all those features we are looking for.

Never read the comments

That’s right, my trusted data source is (Lovecraft help me), Reddit.

See, Reddit has this social dynamic where, to win a fight, you have to ascend the scale of reliability to appeal to the notions of the overeducated idiots of Reddit.  The weakest form of argument is the anecdote. A better argument is the appeal to group wisdom. Then low-quality internet article, then high-quality internet article.  And the winning argument on Reddit is a link to a journal article that you haven’t read.

So yeah.  Reddit. If a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems, Reddit is a machine for turning antisocial behavior into reasonable fitness advice.

I should take a step back and say that there are two kinds of Reddit communities.  This is my own taxonomy, but I say there are two kinds. First are the process based.  These are all about how to get fit and healthy. /r/keto, /r/veganism, /r/HIIT, /r/weightroom.  Then there are the outcome based communities. /r/fitness, /r/loseit, /r/gaint. The first are a breeding ground for evangelicals.  The second aren’t invested in a way to get there, just get there. Get fit. Lose weight. Bulk up.

It’s in those places that I look for information.  And you know what… it’s scary how good that information is.  Probably not quite as good as a specialist medical profesional like a physical therapist or a bariatric nurse, but better than a general practitioner.  At least in my experience.

I’ll prove it.  Using Reddit’s favored resolution mechanism.  Factors Associated With Weight Change in Online Weight Management Communities: A Case Study in the LoseIt Reddit Community.  They studied activity in /r/loseit, one of those outcome based communities.  They found “Our findings suggest that among active users of a weight management community, self-declaration of higher BMI levels (which may represent greater dissatisfaction with excess weight), high online activity, and engagement in discussions that might provide social support are associated with greater weight loss.”

/r/gainit, /r/loseit, and /r/fitness are three subreddits to get to know, if you are looking for diet and fitness information.  All three have high-quality content in their wikis, and generally you can get a good answer to a question if you post it.

Of course, all things in moderation.  Reddit makes you stupid

Bonus 1 week challenge:

Go read about how veganism doesn’t make you live longer.  Found this link on Reddit.