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"if nobody could ever eat “ultra-processed” food but everything else was the same, they would overeat something else."

The whole point is that processed food reduces the amount of necessary mastication and digestion to consume the same amount of calories. You can theoretically eat as many calories of apples in a sitting as is found in a sleeve of Oreos, but the whole point is that people don't do that. Processed foods in particular sever the relationship between fiber and sugar, which means that you're eating a far higher amount of sugar before you reach satiety. That's why "calories in, calories out" is so misleading - the type of food you're eating deeply influences the amount of calories you eat! And we know that empirically.

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What about a hand of bananas, though? That doesn’t require much work, you hardly need teeth to eat bananas. I think the point of ultra-processed foods (that is the big change from traditional) is that they are shelf-stable and can be kept around and available at all times. People didn’t used to eat while working, now everyone can have snacks at their desk. The idea of “intermittent fasting” is just a re-creation of what used to be normal, people not eating all the time.

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I think 800 calories of chips, pretzels or pastries are vastly more palatable than 800 calories of bananas. And I like bananas!

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Feel like it's a combo of quick, easy and tasty not necessarily how much fiber is in there. But lack of fiber probably doesn't help either with some of the foods.

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founding

I think fiber, and also the keto focus on fat and protein, are relevant because they make it “less easy” to keep eating.

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Yep, try overeating on just steak. Its almost impossible. You will quickly hit satiety and be done.

You can also add regular salad stuff and get the same effect. It's win you start adding sugar, bread etc that the overeating starts

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Feel like it helps comparatively to other choices (with more sugar and fats) but feel like I could still be in the over eating range if I could open up a bag of cheap and tasty steak, brisket, or salmon bites whenever. But meat is expensive and has different storage needs.

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You can absolutely, 100% overeat steak. When I was a kid, I could polish off an entire roast beef.

This stuff is idiosyncratic. I make myself a dessert of chocolate protein powder mixed with water. I love the taste, but it's impossible to eat more than a few hundred calories.

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It’s true that ultra processed foods are often calorie dense, and not as satisfying. Also (1) they are cheap, and (2) they can be stored a long time on shelves or in cupboards. That makes it a lot easier to indulge whenever and wherever people get an urge.

That said, it’s loading the deck to compare a steak to bananas. It’s really easy to overeat, without resorting to overprocessed foods,if you don’t pay attention. Go to chipotle and try to have less than 1000 calories at lunch. Go to Five Guys - a burger and fries can get you to 2000. You have to pay attention. That’s not ultra processed, and it’s way too much for most people. When i was in the habit of eating as much red meat and cheese as I wanted, it took more and more to feel full, and I gained weight, even though I was exercising almost daily.

Nowadays, when I go to a restaurant that has calorie counts on the menu, an entree with red meat and a starch usually has about 1000 calories. Add a glass of wine or beer, add an appetizer or have a roll and butter, and you are way, way over what you should eat at one meal unless you’re 25 years old and training for the Tour de France. A 600-800 calorie meal, which is more in ballpark for most people (and even on the high side) requires careful choices and active restraint.

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Bananas are shiny baubles for the capitalist imperialist dogs and a symbol of how they oppress the workers of the world!! 🤣

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I think this gets at the bait & switch behind the ridiculous "ultra-processed foods" idea. The term is only defined as "food that's particularly easy to eat a lot of" or "particularly delicious foods" when it comes time to pretend it's useful (and obviously it wouldn't make sense to refer to either of those things as "ultra-processed"). The rest of the time it's just an incoherent jumble of things united only by a vague sense of what's natural.

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This exactly. It's about feeling satiated. A 300 cal bag of chips will leave me wanting more whereas a 100 cal banana will satiate my need for snacks for a bit. Ultra processed foods are high calorie low satiation, which is a dangerous combination.

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Personally I think this whole debate overcomplicates things. Everyone knows that overeating is bad. So just eat less. It’s not rocket science, it just takes some discipline.

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Have you ever struggled with being overweight, Milan? (Serious question, if you have, my apologies for assuming). This is like telling someone who has a drinking problem that actually if they just drink a lot less they'll probably be fine. People who are chronically obese just do not have the capacity to resist overeating on a regular basis.

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People who have always been on the smaller side (and like you, I'm not saying this is Milan, because I don't know) underrate the effect to which you have to learn to ignore your body's signals when you're trying to lose weight. My body will tell me I'm hungry when I know I don't need food, for example. Imagine if you got a solid 8-10 hours of quality sleep every night, but by noon every day you felt like you needed a nap. It seems like a matter of discipline to just say to yourself, "Oh, you don't need sleep, we got plenty of rest already", but the urge to give in to biological pressures can be overwhelming.

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Honestly, I don't understand what's hard to understand. Like, if you're normal-weight and you don't get why people can't just eat less, let me suggest an experiment: try starving yourself down to an extremely unhealthily low weight, a cancer-patient/famine/hunger-strike weight, and keeping yourself there for a few years. If you can do that, then come back and talk about how easy it is to just eat less--because that's exactly what it feels like. That's what an overweight person's body thinks is happening when they try to lose weight--that they're dying by starvation, voluntarily, despite being surrounded by food. Don't wanna do that experiment? Then shut up.

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Man that hunger pain is so real. I’ve been on Ozempic for a couple weeks now and I’m getting to the point where I almost miss the pain. Like you know how after a bad breakup your heart hurts so intensely and eventually the space that heartbreak took up just becomes a void and it is almost worse? That’s where I am right now.

It’s extremely strange to not feel like I am starving all the time. I also miss the dopamine rush after a binge, collapsing on the couch after eating a medium dominos pizza and begging god for forgiveness.

Down 10 pounds now though.

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So glad that medication is working for you. I think the fact that it is some effective really speaks to how biologically based hunger really is and how little "will power" often refers to lucky genes or health and not moral fortitude.

I have ADHD and resisted taking meds for years because it felt like a crutch or shameful for some reason when it felt like I should be able to just muscle through things with grit. After starting Wellbutrin and having my dopomine and attention system actually process so that I would "see thing to do it" and do rather than "see thing to do, mean to do but get distracted, and then hate yourself later" was so freeing.

But after a few weeks I also had a period of mild rage that this was what so many people's lives were always like and that I had so much guilt and shame over something that really was a matter of brain chemistry and not virtue.

In a similar way, after always being quite thin, I started a new migraine medication that pretty universally adds 20 lbs to patients weight. Even with that weight gain, I still have a very healthy BMI. But it has taken my body from "society goal weight" to "society acceptable weight" and that has honestly been a little rough. It is made more frustrating by the fact that I have not changed how I eat or exercise. The medication has just adjusted my metabolism. Part of what sucks is having folks stop assuming that I must have great self control, which I never really did.

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not to mention EVERY holiday, birthday, celebration or event of any kind has at it's core the eating of unhealthy food.

So you are a recovering crack addict where crack is on display EVERYWHERE you go.

That's what it's like.

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And people won't take no for an answer. I almost flipped out on someone last week who kept shoving a piece of cake in my face. I think it makes them self conscious about their own obesity when I turn it down. It took years though for me to get to this point, and it's still a struggle at times.

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Cake at a birthday party is not crack man c’mon

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This a great way to describe the experience of losing/trying to lose weight!

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

This is exactly it, but it goes beyond losing weight, and extends to not gaining weight as well. I am a pretty trim guy, and so is my entire family. I get SUPER uncomfortable when I overeat, to the point where I often won't have seconds if I take even a 2 minute break after eating firsts. I stopped going to all you can eat sushi in university because while my friends seemed to relish the food coma they would get into (and which you would have no choice but to do, as people always over ordered), I found it absolutely miserable.

Now, I think even for me, it is easier to overeat processed foods, and especially desert, which is why I try to not keep too many in the house. I also think intake regulation is a bit easier with even moderate exercise, which I get from walking the dog and playing sports 1-2 a week. So these are a couple behavioural modifications people can undertake pretty easily, but will still only take you so far if you are like at the 10th percentile of how quickly you feel full.

For a more scientific take that lines up with this theory, read the Hungry Brain.

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This is me as well, the feeling of being overfull is literally one of my least favorite things. Just enormously uncomfortable.

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I never understood how people could feel sick from eating too much until I got pregnant. Then I realized that of course other people find it easier not to overeat, if you feel this bad when you do you just stop! Unfortunately it didn't last after I had the baby.

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For most of my life I have not in fact been on the smaller side, so I really am not all that sympathetic to complaints about how difficult it is to stick to a diet.

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

This is a remarkably self-centered view of a complicated issue that impacts tens of millions of Americans, and hundreds of millions of people around the world. Imagine if someone said "I've been sad/depressed before, so I am not really sympathetic to complaints about how hard it is to just snap out of a depression."

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Exactly, stop feeling sad, just decide to feel happy, what's so hard about that? [Pounds head on desk]

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As I said I just do not think this particular issue is that complicated, unlike depression. Most people who are overweight are that way because they overeat.

Unlike depression you really can just eat less.

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Fat cope

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I don't know what to tell you, man, but on this topic and, frankly, quite a few others, I've observed a pretty stark lack of empathy (or hell, even sympathy) on your part for others who seem to be struggling.

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

The ironic thing is that Milan will jump down the throat of anyone who he interprets to be speaking on issues that minorities, women, or college students have an interest in. But on this and (as you made) quite a few other topics he's willing to cast that aside and tell hundreds of millions of human beings that they're just too weak willed to put down the french fries.

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This is such a callous thing to say lol. I'm happy for you that you lost weight. I also lost a lot of weight purely through diet/exercise, but it was hard as fuck. Nights spent awake trying to ignore pretty painful hunger pangs, being the odd man out at social functions when everyone else was eating, throwing away lots of food and dealing with the guilt of waste, etc. I don't know how you could've gone through that and come out with no sympathy for how difficult it is to do, especially for people who have a lot of other stuff going on in life.

Also just being honest, man, but while I'm sure 170lbs was significantly overweight for your age and obviously entitles you to an opinion, I don't think it really gives you a lot of insight into people who have struggled with chronic obesity their whole lives at 250+lbs.

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The simple fact is that 97% of people who lose weight gain it back after a few years.

I think sometimes people are in denial about that because they hate the idea that all their hard work will be moot.

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Get back to us in 10-15 years when you don't have the metabolism of a college kid :)

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It’s not clear that metabolisms change so much as people become more sedentary as they get older.

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WIth this worldview it seems like you should be a Republican, unless what applies to food doesn't apply to "we don't need to help unemployed people, they should just find a job," "we don't need to help people with learning disabilities, they should just try harder," etc.

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Exactly my thought. For some reason, people who otherwise are aware of the complicated interplay of biology, psychology, social, cultural, genetic, and environmental influences in a vast array of arenas cannot for the life of them comprehend that those same factors combine to make the obesity epidemic more complicated than "just eat less". And when you tell them it's more complicated they respond, as Milan does, by saying "it just isn't. You really can just eat less."

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Key difference is factors that are or are not in your control. Whether someone else hires you ultimately isn’t. What you eat ultimately is.

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If you've been small for your entire life, you've never had to maintain a serious caloric deficit over a serious length of time, so I'm not sure how that experience is relevant... Especially since you're in college, an environment far more conducive to keeping weight off than working a 9-5 with a family.

I lost a lot of weight and kept it off, which I'm very thankful for, but when I see people who haven't managed to, I don't think "what weak people," I think "but for the grace of God go I," because I know how hard that is. I also did it in college and probably would not be able to do it over again--and certainly would not be able to nearly as easily--now that my life is much more complicated.

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Put another way, Milan is just restating the problem rather than offering a solution. The problem of obesity just is the problem that many people do not have and cannot gain the discipline to eat less.

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Freddie in the comments, hide your kids, hide your wife!

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Give him credit, he is absolutely correct this time.

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I can’t credit him, he doesn’t have free will, his choices are predetermined 😃

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Mic = dropped

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Yes, it kills me to admit it, but Freddie actually made some good points here.

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And then he had to ruin it with his “no free will” nonsense.

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And hide your husband too because Freddie's commenting on everyone out here!

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My theory is that some people are more susceptible to a craving of sugar and salt, like some people are more susceptible to be addicted to opioids, etc. The food industry has unwittingly hacked them to be addicted to their products.

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Yes, I have. I was very overweight as a kid; I think 90 something percentile for my age. January of 2021 I was like 170 lbs and not particularly muscular. Dropped down to 145 through diet and exercise and now I’m back at 170 but with a lot more muscle. So I do think I’ve earned the right to my opinion on this.

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we’ll see how you’re doing with this when you’re 40. Edit: Well, actually we probably won’t see, because the entire population will be on GLP-1 drugs by then.

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7/11 is gonna sell dollar a dose GLP-1's right next to the slushee machine. It's gonna be a glorious future for all.

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There would be a great Kwik-E-Mart joke here if the Simpsons are still around then, and if Apu is able to be uncontroversial again.

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"Spandex jackets, one for everyone."

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It might not change when he's 40. I'm 48 and still don't really gain weight. I've come to appreciate how lucky I am that way.

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Oh, so I didn't just lose 60 pounds in the last year in my mid-40s without surgery or meds, just through tracking calories (and honestly exercising less because taking care of my toddler has dramatically decreased out-of-the-house exercise opportunities)? Well damn, my scale must be broken or something!

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Honestly I did something similar when I was 38. The weight loss part works about the same, the muscle building is much tougher.

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Just watch me ;)

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Congrats on getting Josh to comment

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That's quite an accomplishment. I, too, lost a lot of weight doing 'eat less, move more'. 90 lbs, in fact, after my second child was born. But I can tell you that the trade offs and opportunity costs in terms of how much of my brain space went into that project was quite a sacrifice. It truly became a part-time job. I actually quit a full time one to do this (enormous privilege). Pandemic came, I regained some of it. Then I discovered keto/low carb/carnivore and while it's still an effort, it's a heck of a lot easier to lose or maintain by avoiding UPFs than just 'eat less, move more'. When the most easily available and accessible calories are UPFs, satiety is the key.

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Bravo to you. Losing weight post kids is insanely hard. When you’re exhausted and watching little ones, the urge to munch is intense.

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I think this is the issue with Milan's blanket 'just put the donut down' POV. When you're a child, and he is the same age as my first, your brain just doesn't have as many competing priorities so it is indeed easier to JUST eat less.

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I agree the tradeoffs are tough. It's not something I could have done if my life was really stressful.

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I’m happy for you Milan and I hope your health and fitness journey continues to be rewarding.

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Thanks and to you as well

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

> Have you ever struggled with being overweight

So I have. I was at a BMI of around 30 (border between overweight and obese) in my mid 20s. I decided that I hated feeling like garbage (and myself to be honest) so much that I had to make a change. I prioritized exercise and reasonable (but not perfect) eating over almost everything else. And it worked!* Both my parents also lost a lot of weight by making similar changes.

*I'm not saying it's easy - in fact quite the opposite. My relationship with food is still far from perfect, and it's challenging most days but worth it.

edit: so what am I trying to say we should do? I agree that saying "just stop overeating" isn't enough. But I think we shouldn't deny people's agency either. Try to give people encouragement *and* tools to help them control their eating (up to and including pharmaceutical!).

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Fantastic comment. This is what is so promising about the new drugs on the market as they can really help install the needed discipline but essentially make it biological. There are some people that can muster the needed discipline to sustainably lose weight but it's extremely difficult. Certainly those people deserve a lot of credit and I damn well wish I was one of them. I just hope these drugs become cheaper, or at the very least, covered by more insurance plans sooner rather than later. I know they have been coming down in price but a lot of us still can't afford them while also paying a mortgage and other mandatory expenses. Hopefully Trump's massive tariffs will fix all this and I'll be able to get me some of that sweet Ozempic goodness!

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19Author

I knew this comment section would get heated! My 2 cents (and this based on conversations with nutritionists and the studies they've pointed me too), is that so much of this comes down to the circumstances one was born into. And generally, poverty makes things like exercising and taking time to eat well very very hard.

But I think having that general macro sympathetic view for the obesity problem coupled with Milan's more micro view for improving one's own personal behavior is a neat combo!

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Something Rory told me when we met up IRL is that he thinks working out makes people more right-wing.

The basic left-wing idea is that your outcomes are determined by factors outside of your control; the basic right-wing view is that your personal choices determine your outcomes. When it comes to exercise and fitness you can clearly see the results of your personal choices.

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There is a bell shaped curve of exercise response. If you have 1000 people and all have them do the same muscle building exercises you’ll find at one extreme exercise non responders. They do the program and nothing happens. At the other extreme you have exercise hyper responders. They do the routine and make huge progress.

It’s obviously a lot easier to go to the gym every day if you see dramatic gains form the work you put in. But it’s also easy to be on the 95th percentile of excercise response and think it’s all due to your hard work .

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I don't see how this tracks. The entire thrust of left politics is reform, amelioration, improvement... progress. Recognizing that many of life’s most important outcomes are determined by factors outside any person’s control is just accepting basic facts about human evolution and the laws of physics. Despairing about these facts and opposing attempts to change the “natural order” is right-coded, while striving (often impetuously and ineffectively) to improve the outcomes these facts generate is left-coded. The fact that “free will” is an illusion does not negate the ability of individuals or societies to change for the better. If it did then there would be no “left” politics at all.

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Given what we know about educational polarization and given that working out actually comes with real cost (gym equipment at home, gym membership, trainers etc.), I suspicion is the correlation is actually opposite; people who work out more are more likely to be Democrats.

Now the caveat is that men workout more than women on average. https://www.mdlinx.com/article/who-exercises-more-men-or-women/1TK8wn2e1IPcZYwBFE1cqC And men are way more likely to lift weights. Which given what we know about gender breakdown in voting means weight lifters are going to be a pretty conservative group.

So, if we narrow just to weightlifting. The stat doing the work here is that men are much liklier to be weightlifters AND more likely to be Republican.

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Working out is not that expensive. All you need is a flat surface to do some body weight exercises and a pair of running shoes to get your cardio in. A gym is nice but it’s not necessary.

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It's true that you can work out with limited expenses. There is growing evidence that resistance training (using bands or weights) has such strong benefits everyone should be doing it.

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We need a video of you and Ben doing prison work outs, Shot Caller style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNmPznRYMjs

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This has 100% been my experience. I think there’s an element of coincidence there but it’s an interesting coincidence.

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Walking down the street in liberal NYC vs conservative Dallas, the evidence points toward right-wingers eating a lot more donuts on the couch.

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It has been notable to see people like Paul Ryan and Marjorie Taylor Greene be super workout freaks.

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Jamaal Bowman can put up numbers, but he does not seem to be long for this political world.

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"But I think having that general macro sympathetic view for the obesity problem coupled with Milan's more micro view for improving one's own personal behavior is a neat combo!"

This is so true. There are obvious systemic factors that have led to the rise in obesity, and at some level those might be addressable through work at the system level. Yet individual people can also have significant agency to change their own circumstances at least to some degree through their own personal choices regarding food and movement. The former has more explanatory power in most situations, but the latter is almost always the best personal advice to give to someone. The former gets coded as "progressive" and the latter as "conservative" or "reactionary", but they really work hand in hand but just need to be applied at the correct level of analysis.

Apply also to any number of hot button culture war issues of the day.

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The problem for me though is that from a policy lens this "neat combo" isn't really useful. It reminds me of a internet food fight (sorry) from back int he day where a middle aged conservative white guy at Forbes wrote an essay about what he'd do "If I were a poor black kid." https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2011/12/14/trolling-the-internet-with-if-i-were-a-poor-black-kid/ The the thing is his advice on an individual level isn't wrong! It is in fact smart to stay clear of drugs and gangs and work hard in school and go to college and get a good job and not have kids until you're married and do all the things that Montel told you to do.

The problem, from a society wide and policy view, is that "just work harder and be more disciplined" isn't going to actually address the problem more than rounding off a few of the sharpest corners for a small group of people. After all if intergenerational poverty or being overweight were this easy to address, why do we see so much of it? And that's where I think a lot of the pushback to Milan is coming from, to many people he's doing the "just stay in school and be like Clarence Thomas!" thing but for overweight people, which actually isn't going to address the social problem we are talking about (even if it did work for him/Clarence which it did!) and clearly doesn't work for lots of people. It's not surprising people find this approach, well, annoying.

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In some ways poverty probably makes exercise easier. E.g., you are more likely to walk or take the bus rather than drive.

But it definitely makes good eating hard, and that's an interesting public policy issue that politics writers like Matt ALMOST NEVER talk about. Like, we could actually stop subsidizing corn and tax it, and use the money to subsidize lettuce and apples. Obviously we can't do that because Iowa is super-important in presidential politics and California and Washington are blue states, but as a policy matter we COULD do that. There's no reason the cheapest food in my neighborhood has to be Little Caesar's Pizza. Public policy did that and we can change the subsidies!

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True! But Little Caesar's is also not expensive! And it should be!

And at least where I am, fresh fruit is VERY expensive. And shouldn't be!

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Sure. But the fact that both Little Caesars and rice and beans are roughly equally cheap I think backs up my argument. The price isn’t the deciding factor; some people are choosing to make the less healthy choice and would benefit from making a different choice.

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And you're saying that second line as a Southern Californian!

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Have you actually lived on rice and beans? If you haven't, try it for 3 months, then get back to me about your recommendation to do that for longer.

There's a reason every culture in the world that lives on the basics expands their diet as soon as they get any money.

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I'm allergic to beans 😳

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Yes I have, that is what I am doing this summer and what I did last summer

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It's not *just* the money, though obviously that's important. My life as an affluent person is much easier than life for a low-income person, and I *still* occasionally just want to eat something that tastes really good, like pizza. I have the money and time to make salad, but I don't like salad as well as I like pizza. When your life is hard, it's easy to let yourself make bad choices just so you get a little relief.

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If the 2021-22 inflation bump taught us anything it should be that "let's make food more expensive" is not going to fly with the electorate such that it is,

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How about making salads cheaper?

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"Biden wants to TAX YOUR BURGERS and subsidize SOCIALIST SALAD!"

Again a red meat VAT and cheaper salads is a good policy idea but basically politically impossible.

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"Iowa is super-important in presidential politics"

Is this going to hold true much in the future? Iowa hasn't been a swing state for a while, and the Democrats junked their caucus.

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One can only hope. But so far I've seen no movement from politicians on ethanol and other favorite son Iowa issues.

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Is that a solely Iowa thing or more a broader Plains States thing?

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The only obesity problem that really gets my attention is that among the poor (and, to a certain extent, the question of why some working class folks just don't care if they develop huge guts from fast food and beer— but that could also be a byproduct of generational poverty culture.)

This is why addressing the processed foods issue (along with food deserts in poor neighborhoods and income inequality) might help people become more healthy.

The rest of us have the resources to do research and try stuff until something works. (BTW, you might have to do this over and over again as you age.)

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Running is fast and the most efficient exercise. But the hardest for people to get into.

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It's not practical for older people, or anyone who has trouble with their joints.

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What I said directly contradicts that, the science directly contradicts that, and of course the important moral point is that DIFFERENT PEOPLE METABOLIZE FOODS VERY DIFFERENTLY FOR REASONS THEY CAN'T CONTROL, INCLUDING GENETICS. It is profoundly immoral for you and your boss to be here lecturing people about how they should just eat less when a) you are not dietary scientists and b) he had bariatric surgery! The vast majority of our obese population does not have access to that surgery, or to semaglutide. You cannot find credible experts in the field who will tell you that ordinary people can just regulate their eating until they're thin. Our entire evolutionary history cuts against that. Modern life cuts against it.

It's JUST like the greedflation argument here - the argument is that corporations didn't just become greedy recently. OK, cool. Apply your own logic: is it remotely credible to suggest that our obesity crisis arose because everybody all of a sudden became feckless and lacking in will power? We're not even eating dramatically more calories than we used to!

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

"It is profoundly immoral for you and your boss"

Um, Matt didn't say that. He said that if we weren't overeating ultra-processed food, we'd most likely be overeating some other tasty food, because tasty food is tasty and we like to eat it more than is probably healthy for most moderns.

In fact, Yglesias very much said that the increase in weight has been going on for as long as we have records, as prosperity and nutrition increased.

In earlier phases this showed up as less malnutrition and increased height, now it's showing up as obesity but if you look at the increase in weight or calories it's pretty linear.

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The problem of “ultra processed” foods is that they are salient, accessible, and cheap. Other foods are more costly and more difficult to overeat (fancy cheese and cured meats are quite calorie dense but much more expensive for example.)

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"Ultra processed" foods may be unhealthy in other ways too, of course. Lacking in fiber and micronutrients, have chemicals that disrupt hormones / confuse the systems that regulate how much we eat / etc. I imagine someone who got fat on a diet of Pop Tarts, Twinkies, and potato chips would have worse problems than someone who got fat on a diet of cheese and bananas.

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I really think "ultra processed" is a red herring.

It's probably making the obesity problem worse, but I just pulled a bag of store brand potato chips out of my pantry.

Ingredients: Potatoes, vegetable oil, salt. Not a lot of mutlisyllabic compounds there. These are NOT fancy-pants organic chips, they're the cheapo store brand.

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Matt wrote exactly the opposite of what you say he wrote.

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But Freddie’s dishonesty is excused because of his targets are “profoundly immoral.”

It doesn’t matter if his accusation is blatantly false, because his is using bully logic to make the targets for his abuse the transgressors and to excuse his own conduct.

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

Milan is saying this, but Matt isn’t. Matt is ignoring important palatability factors and I think overestimates how easy it is to get fat eating apples and baked potatoes instead of pie and fries, but is still directionally correct that our food environment changing to have a ton of easy and tasty calories thrown at us all day is a likely cause of obesity, not a change in willpower.

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Very much agree that this piece would have been more interesting if it had included a deeper discussion of the increasing incidence of hyper-palatable foods (which tend to be ultra-processed) but are specifically engineered to stimulate an addictive response to specific flavors/chemical combinations. This strikes me as exactly similar to modulating levels of nicotine in cigarettes to promote an unhealthy addiction.

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Pie and fries are not ultra processed foods

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I don’t think I claimed this, and don’t really know what UPF if it has some scientifically recent technical definition.

I do observe that these randomly chosen examples do definitely have a bunch of processing to make them very calorie rich and very tasty, especially the kind that comes on shelves in little boxes, which is the vast majority of what people meat. Fries, for example, are fried in industrially produced seed oils after being produced in large factories and frozen. I do not have home made wedges drizzled in EVO in mind. Even homemade pies will use a grocery store crust (e.g. graham cracker) crust and include a lot of added industrially refined sugar, and mostly people eat the stuff that comes in a bag or frozen box which has a ton of other stuff.

Regardless I think you take my point.

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1. Not my boss anymore

2. I’ve lost a bunch of weight without drugs or surgery and all it took was consistency and discipline

3. Read carefully and you’ll notice that I didn’t say the obesity crisis was caused by diminished willpower; I said that increased willpower is an underrated solution

4. Pretty sure average calorie intake has gone up over the last ~50 years

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3) Please provide a citation to a study that demonstrated an effective mechanism for increasing willpower in general, as well as one that shows how that can be applied to people struggling with their weight in a way that will have broad based uptake to effectively reduce the obesity epidemic.

C'mon Milan, your espousing a shockingly simplistic view of this issue. Do you really think people struggling with obesity just aren't trying hard enough to get it under control? Do you really think nobody has thought to try and find a way to improve people's willpower so that this societal problem can be improved? Maybe this issue is just more complicated than your subjective experience would lead you to believe.

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

>3. Please provide a citation to a study that demonstrated an effective mechanism for increasing willpower in general,

We have this now! It comes in a lovely syringe and costs way too much money ;)

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Exactly. And it's entirely divorced from the notion that people can just will their way to better habits.

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There is in fact some academic literature on the topic of “effortful control” and the benefits (and limits) of training oneself to cultivate it. There is also a big pop culture / Malcolm Gladwellian simplification engine that devolves into sloganeering and steams headlong into the replication crisis. I have never had the weight/obesity problems many here are describing, but I have several close relatives who do, and who have suffered their entire lives because of it. What strikes me most is the continuity of this problem with overcoming other addictions, including the very real and sometimes unbearable physical pain of it. So while I would never argue that “just eat less” is profound or useful advice for many or most life-long sufferers, it is also true that some people can overcome life-threatening addictions through sheer force

of will.

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Some people can overcome poverty by winning the lottery. That's not evidence of the fact that the solution to widespread poverty is lottery tickets. You need to identify mechanisms that work for a broader swath of the population.

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I mean, you are right and wrong. You are right in that it's not impossible to lose weight, plenty of people do it, willpower is a key part of it, etc. And there's a tendency-- especially on our side of the political spectrum-- to dismiss behavior-related descriptions of basically ANYTHING. So for instance, obviously long term homelessness contains a huge behavioral component; there are jobs available that people don't look for, there are apartments sometimes available that have rules that people don't want to obey, etc. And liberals and lefties don't like to talk about this stuff and it codes as victim blaming.

But at the same time, it isn't as simple as "well, you just stop eating". Compulsions are real. It's like Nancy Reagan saying "just say no to drugs". She was right that this was a good idea, but it's not so easy for an addict to do. And people really do have food addictions, they are difficult to kick, and one of the reasons we end up with Slow Boring pieces about Ozempic and bariatric surgery is precisely because tons of people find this a lot more difficult than you did.

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Yes, but continuing the analogy, we try to offer people a hand up, like stable housing, clean clothes, guidance in applying for jobs, etc.

In the same way, we should try to give people tools and encouragement to improve their eating and exercise habits, not just say they are at the mercy of forces outside of them, which is where I think the pendulum has swung lately.

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> I’ve lost a bunch of weight without drugs or surgery and all it took was consistency and discipline

lmao you're not even old enough to rent a car, let's see how it's going when you have a few kids, a mortgage and a desk job

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Somehow I get the sense that it will still be simple to not eat too much

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

And I get the sense you're smug and unimaginative 🤷‍♂️

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Milan, your old boss is a smart guy with a good work ethic. Why isn't he smart enough to just eat less?

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

You’re 21? We will revisit this conversation when you’re 42.

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Milan, I think your dedication to a healthy lifestyle is admirable. Good for you! I don't know what good comes from telling people to buck up and be more disciplined, however. Does it really serve a purpose? It's like telling someone who lost a beloved spouse and is sunk into depression to just suck it up and feel better. What have you accomplished by so doing?

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I don’t think the depression/obesity comparison makes sense because the causes of depression are complicated and the causes of obesity aren’t really.

What I have accomplished is explaining why I think a certain argument on this topic is wrong.

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Depression is just caused by not having the willpower to get up and do stuff every day.

For example: I was feeling bad this morning. But then I exercised willpower and got up and felt better. Same thing you did with weight loss!

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I don't know if you noticed, but people have a tendency to overcomplicate things, especially when emotions and/or cortisol get attached. And different personality types are different. Overeating and eating crap are often symptoms of depression and stress, which is why the comparison to depression is apt. The solution to overeating may well be easy in theory. But in practice, to someone who feels overwhelmed, and especially with low self-efficacy, it feels impossible.

And daily calorie limits are pretty damn low. Shit, I drink my daily calorie limit in milk alone every day, and I drink 1% milk. And it's not something I'm willing to give up.

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Freddie is emblematic of the moral decay we have seen in discourse. Rather than engage with what is said, he just assumes that something more convenient was said and hammers that.

It is lazy. It is nihilistic. It is unconcerned with knowing. It is the reason people here mock him.

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He's wrong about Matt but he's right about Milan, here. "More willpower is a solution to obesity" is like "getting a job is a solution to poverty."

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Getting a job depends on someone else hiring you. Choosing to eat less is entirely up to you. Might not be easy to do consistently but it is in your own hands.

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Milan, literally nobody who wants to lose weight is unfamiliar with the concept of willpower.

While I hope for your sake I'm wrong, the odds are overwhelming that you will gain the weight back. Not saying you shouldn't try, or to minimize your accomplishment. I have friends who lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off. But they are not the norm.

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This is the point when you realize how many of the commenters here must be fat slobs.

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Or maybe it's that every American is pretty likely to have a close relationship with at least one person who has struggled with chronic obesity and, not being callous people, they have some sympathy and understand that it's pretty hard for them to lose weight? Or maybe some of us are former "fat slobs" and have lost the weight, but we experienced it as being vastly more difficult than Milan portrays it as being.

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I don’t think that it’s trivial to lose weight. However I don’t have very much sympathy for the morbidly obese. When I see People of Adipose Tissue sitting and scowling through their beady little eyes behind their SUVs’ steering wheels I want to scream at them “You are not human-shaped anymore! Fix this before it is too late!”

This country is fucking WALL-E and it has to stop.

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You don’t seem to care what was actually written, only what is rhetorically easy to hammer against.

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Freddie was elected to LEAD, not READ.

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I forgot that he heads the Freditburo.

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Cool use of all caps. Also, pretty sure holding strong opinions disagreed with by you is very far indeed from "immoral."

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Oh god you’re so young. Wait till your metabolism slows down and we will talk again.

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This is a misconception. Your metabolism doesn’t “slow down” in the sense that people think. What happens is that as people age they typically lose muscle mass and exercise less so they burn less calories but keep eating the same amount of food. You can combat this by working out.

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Do you know any old people? My mom walks 5 miles a day she had a Fitbit and now has a Apple Watch and it’s clear that her pace has slowed from 12 minutes a mile to 17 minutes a mile over the 10 years from 60-70. That’s just the reality of aging. If you ran a 6 minute mile in high school you can’t train your way to a 6 minute mile at 70.

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You are agreeing with me. She is burning less calories because she has less muscle mass and her heart can’t do the same output. So if she eats the same as when she was 25 she’ll gain weight.

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I’m disagreeing with your assertion that she could get back to 12 minutes by working out more.

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There were some old guys doing 6 minute miles in a trial run with a club I was part of years ago. I did it in like 5:39. Now I am slow like an overweight corgi.

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Well, there is such a thing as getting old.

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So I have read that our metabolism really starts slowing in our 60s. The biggest driver is people become more sedentary as they age (desk jobs.)

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The way I understand it, a few of us are blessed with high metabolism for life, a few of us are cursed with low metabolism for life, but most of us have it slow down as you describe.

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Yeah, my impression is that metabolism slowdown in one's 30s and 40s is driven more by muscle loss and a more sedentary lifestyle. If you hold those constant, then the metabolism slowdown is still non-zero but relatively minimal

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I'm 68, been a cyclist all my adult life, and I'm here to tell you that you can't hold off the muscle loss with more exercise. That's something you can't hold constant. How I wish I could.

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Do you lift weights?

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This is way too simplistic. I've noticed the effect when I switched from eating chips to eating cashews. It is much much easier to overeat on food like chips than it is to overeat on cashews.

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>It is much much easier to overeat on food like chips than it is to overeat on cashews.<

Not remotely true for me. Mind you I could easily get through 3/4ths of a large size bag of Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream (pre-Ozempic, that is). But I could also absolutely gorge on cashews—and cashews are quite caloric—about 5% more calorie dense that a typical potato chip, in fact.

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With cashews you are at least getting a more nutrient dense food so the overall effect will likely mean you eat less of something else. The challenge with low nutrient density in foods is that it also promotes overeating as your body is looking for those nutrients. Calories are not equal in terms of the effect on humans- there's plenty of evidence and research proving that.

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Yes but at the end of the day you can make the decision to put down either

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You are describing executive function, which is often linked directly to clinical disorders like depression and ADHD, which you have admitted in other comments are very difficult to treat or change. If you accept that lack of this function is serious and resistant to simple fixes when it manifests in disorders, then you should also accept that 'just choose not to eat' is not a serious to weight problems.

Your should also do some reading about orthorexia, because people much smarter than you have done a lot of work in this area, and you should understand that work if you want to have an educated opinion on the subject.

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Discipline is very easy to describe and quite hard to practice. You are young and will have much better opportunities with the co-eds if you have a nice body. Most of us are old. Many of us like our current partners and aren’t at risk of being dumped for a few extra pounds.

If my wife up and left me tomorrow, I’d lose 20 pounds in two months.

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If your wife left you, you would lose more than 100 pounds immediately.

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That’s fine but that just goes to show that, as you said, right now you are making choices that preclude you from losing 20 lbs but could make other choices that would cause you to lose 20 lbs if you chose to.

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I strongly object to the word “choices.”. I am wholly material and my actions are merely the unfolding of physical processes, including especially evolution through natural selection. I have never made a choice in my life.

Still, my understanding of my incentives makes me confident that I would lose weight in the hypothetical world where my wife left me.

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"I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.” -Slaughterhouse 5

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This may be a more philosophical disagreement but I don’t buy that you couldn’t just wake up tomorrow and decide you wanted to lose some weight and then change some of your eating habits accordingly to achieve the result

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Could the average married 40 year old dad lose some weight if he blew off family dinner to go to a salad shop, and went to the gym instead of getting the kids ready for school in the morning? Sure he could.

Alternatively, he could just throw some cash at GLP-1 agonists and get the exact same results. Because it's not actually about willpower at all, it's about the particular constraints your life circumstances and metabolism impose.

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we can only know the answer tomorrow. until then, it’s stochastic.

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It is definitely more complicated than that. At least for perimenopausal women. I eat fewer calories and exercise more than I did 10 years ago, yet I still gain weight. Related to what Geoffrey G says above, this may appear not to be true for rich women because they can pay for various sorts of cosmetic procedures or spend the time or not worry about lack of energy when doing things like "cleanses" which really is just not eating.

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I'm glad you noted this because one thing I wanted to say very slowly to Milan is "You're a man. There's a reason men are more likely to hold this (wrong) opinion about losing weight than women"

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YUP. I’ve always done a lot of aerobic exercise and avoided UPFs, courtesy mostly of a wise mother and healthy upbringing. But then I hit 40 and developed thyroid disease and it simply does not work anymore. I’m ten pounds heavier than I used to be without any lifestyle changes at all.

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I’m sorry to hear that. But my observation is that obesity has increased by a lot over the last few decades while the rates of various health issues that cause weight gain have not comparably increased, and therefore cannot be driving the rise in obesity.

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is there a rise in obesity over the past 20 years? I would think it would have leveled off around then. Being from Memphis I know fat people, and it doesn't seem to have changed.

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I think the consensus is that the number of heavy people is steady, but those heavy people are getting heavier.

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There’s also this whole idea of weight set points, where once your body gets used to being at a certain weight, it’s very resistant to change.

IIRC, researchers checked in on contestants of that show The Biggest Loser years later and found that people were really struggling to maintain weight loss—because their bodies seemed to be requiring fewer and fewer calories, more and more exercise, to maintain a steady weight lower than their previous set point.

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As an engineer, the phrase "it just takes some discipline" is a giant red flag that an initiative has failed before it even started, and will continue failing until people stop substituting intensely fallible human discipline for an actual solution.

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Milan is taking a lot of heat, but the fact is that irrespective of all the very real problems that people have which are given in the other comments and with which I have sympathy, in the end the only way to lose weight is to eat less than you're burning. You can do that in a number of ways some of which are harder than others, but it's up to each person and their health providers to figure out the right way for themselves.

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People want to make hard things into complicated things, as a way of explaining the difficulty. But some things are simple and also hard! So it goes.

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I would note that many disagreeing with my take on choice and personal outcomes with regard to weight feel the opposite when it comes to choice and outcomes with regard to, say, gambling.

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I dunno, I think a gambling addiction is just like other addictions. Overeating is a hard addiction to break because it's impossible to just not eat for an extended period of time (plus that turns your body into starvation mode and you retain every crumb). Our reward centers that get hijacked by cocaine and meth actually evolved so we would have an addictive response to food!

I tend to agree with David Abbott about free will being an illusion, and I'm sympathetic to people with addictions of all. We should make casinos and lotteries illegal to make it harder for folks to gamble. We should prosecute the antisocial behavior hard drug use engenders, support recovery networks and evidence-based rehab (both forced and voluntary), and, idk, nuke Mexico and China to reduce the supply (/s), but I'm not very judgmental of addicts - there but for the grace of God go both you and I - but that doesn't mean we should tolerate criminal behavior or that I want to open my home to someone in the throes of addiction.

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Yes but turn that around: I agree with you on the gambling posts, which makes me all the more puzzled you're taking this "it's personal willpower and that's all there is to it" line here.

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Probably, but it's also true that the effects of overeating are visible to the world every time one is in public unlike gambling and some other vices so people naturally tend to take it a bit more personally.

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Maybe you're referring to specific people, but I feel pretty much exactly about gambling as I do overeating. For many people, gambling is a fun and manageable vice. For an appreciable number of people, it's crippling, and it's profoundly stupid to make it much easier for those vulnerable people to destroy their lives.

Food is much more complicated, since nobody can simply swear off food.

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In any of these discussions, there’s always one comment like this.

I thought this comment section was above it, but apparently not.

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The whole point of cutting out UPF is it makes it harder to overeat, between it taking longer to chew, lower calorie per volume and increased satiety it is much harder to overeat if you cut it out. Yeah sure some people can have the discipline to not overeat UPF but judging by the obesity epidemic most cannot.

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>So just eat less. It’s not rocket science, it just takes some discipline<

Or some drugs.

I've been on the big O since mid January. It's truly not a magic elixir—you still have to be careful about your diet (at least I do). And I watch my weight like a hawk. But it does make eating a reasonable quantity of calories much easier.

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It's *so* much easier. Milan's way of framing the issue is totally foreign to how it was when I was losing weight unassisted, it's so not just a matter of thinking to put down food you don't need. But that basically is how it works when you're on GLP-1s. You just think "wait, I probably shouldn't eat this," and then you just don't.

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Yep, just some $1,200/month injectable discipline!

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You're young. I used to think the same way. Think of something you have an addiction to and stop it for a month. If you have the will power, it likely wasn't an addiction to begin with. Lucky you. We need to stop shaming people.

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A degree of shaming may be helpful. Should we shame drunk driving?

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If shaming worked, nobody would be fat.

Maybe shaming works in some cases. It definitely doesn't for overeating.

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“If it’s a real addiction it can’t be cured via willpower” is a weird no true Scotsman argument

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I'd say you're doing the reverse. Pretty much nobody lives their life fully according to their values. That gap would disappear with more self discipline. But at some point, we recognize that the self discipline required so exceeds the average person's capacity that there's no point in demanding it. If a problem afflicting 70% of the country doesn't qualify, I'm not sure what does.

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Shame on you for telling us not to shame others.

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Just don't break the law, do drugs, start wars, or do other things that are harmful. Just do only things that benefit yourself. Congratulations, you've solved the majority of humanity's problems.

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Bizarre oversimplification, akin to saying "you can't afford your rent/childcare/healthcare"? Just work more hours!

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No, it really isn’t. How high your rent is depends on what your landlord charges you and what the local market is. Your employer has a great deal of leverage in determining your wages and hours. What does and doesn’t go into your mouth is by and large determined by you and people can choose to eat less.

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Counterpoint: there were fat people before Oreos.

Many people were calorie-constrained, and unable to become fat because they were closer to the malnutrition end of things, but those with effectively limitless access to food still often became fat.

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I think the more relevant comparison is post 90s or even post 2000s, when serious hunger was quite low, but obesity rates continued to rise.

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/-/media/Images/Health-Information/Weight-Management/Graph-7rev.jpg

I don't think the rise of super processed foods is the only explanation, but certainly seems to be a plausible one.

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founding

Matt’s point is that it isn’t just about serious hunger - it’s also about food being cheap enough that people stop thinking about whether they feel like spending a bit of money on a snack at the movies or something from the vending machine or whatever.

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Ryan that's an interesting chart and you are right that my "before Oreos" comment doesn't cover it.

But, does the rise of processed foods address that recent increase either? I mean the foods were already very very processed by the late 90s. I can't believe that expansions to the Oreo line or new flavors of Doritos really changed things that much.

This feels like another factor at work. (People sitting around on computers, perhaps?)

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I think you might be underestimating the changes in processed food over the last 25 years even, and how much more of it Americans eat today.

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It’s the opposite especially for kids. The food people eat is a lot “healthier” and less processed today than say 1984. I mean just look at the collapse in soda consumption.

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Interesting. I look at kids' food these days and am shocked. Some school require parents to only provide individually wrapped/sealed snacks etc, and that just tees them right up for processed foods. "Granola bars" are just candy bars, yogurts are basically ice cream with some probiotics, juice boxes, etc. etc.

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My first reaction is very Principal Skinner: "Am I out of touch? No. It's the children who are wrong."

But really, do you have examples that would help with the point? If anything I felt like there was a bit of a backlash against all the junk I grew up with. It is possible that my view is distorted by moving rapidly upward in socioeconomic status though. Brooklyn recently seemed a lot more healthy than the Midwest of the 80s & 90s, but perhaps the Midwestern food options got even worse since I left?

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Yes! Freddie, you know I disagree with you a ton, but you are 100% right in this case! Hyper/processed food is DESIGNED to be super palatable, to make you want to eat far more than you need to.

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My take is that, to a large degree, the brouhaha over "ultraprocessed" foods misses the forest for the trees. That is, it's a part and parcel with (or a direct development from) the "cheaper food" hypothesis, which in turn is ultimately a story of gigantic improvements in agricultural (and probably food-processing, too) productivity.

A frozen pizza and a sleeve of Oreos is a pretty calorie dense meal, sure! People shouldn't eat that crap on a regular basis. But a big part of the reason they do is it's comparatively cheap. If the above were a $20 meal, folks would eat it a lot less often.

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People were dying in molasses floods 100 years ago, when 1/3 of Americans were not waddling mounds. The casual availability is obviously the problem, not the bogeyman processing.

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Jun 19·edited Jun 19

I think they go hand in hand. Like if there was nothing but whole foods (edit: the concept not the store). available I just wouldn’t eat 600 calories of watermelon like the volume of the stomach just isn’t that high.

It could rain strawberries and I wouldn’t match one gas station bag of Doritos.

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Plenty of high caloric foods can be found at Whole Foods.

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Sorry that wasn’t supposed to be capitalized. I mean like unprocessed food items not things from the grocery store.

A lot of sort of food writing uses this term like some Michael Pollan as an alternative to processed. I’m not sure if it’s a real term of art.

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