Back at It

Well, it’s been over a year since anything has changed around here. I intend to remedy that situation! At the moment I’m madly preparing to give a presentation at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Music Therapists in my capacity as copy editor of the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy.* After that I’m hoping to get all my little duckies in a row here on my blog. My plans include expanding the blog to include posts and pages about music and editing as well as the health coaching that was its beginnings. And I’ll also report about what has been going on with me in my absence. See you in June!

* Click on the Resources: Words tab of this blog to see the resource package from the conference.

To Weigh, or Not to Weigh

A public weigh scale in Austria / Photo by Andreas Praefcke (Own work (own photograph)) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
People react with shock when I mention that I weigh myself daily. After all, common wisdom dictates that this is a bad thing. I’ve even had a doctor have a hissy fit when I’ve mentioned this.

But why is it a bad thing?

Indeed, it is a bad thing if you use the data to reward or punish yourself. If you celebrate with a big hunk of chocolate cheesecake because the scale says you lost 2 pounds since yesterday, that isn’t so good. Or if you give up on new habits in despair because the scale says you’ve gone up 2 pounds since yesterday, that isn’t so good, either.

Even with very extreme dieting, you simply cannot lose or gain that much fat in a day. What you are measuring is dehydration or water retention or digestive issues or some other factor that isn’t actual weight gain or loss. It’s biologically impossible.

And that is precisely why I do like to weigh myself daily. With a weekly weigh-in, a larger-than-expected gain can indeed be true weight gain—or it can be some weird non-weight issue. I’ve had times when my weight has fluctuated as much as 5 pounds in one day. If I see that kind of change over the course of a day or two, I know it’s not something to worry about and that it will just as quickly reverse itself. But if I see a gradual increasing trend, I see it as an early warning signal indicating that I need to tweak my habits a bit before things get out of hand.

So if you find it kind of interesting to watch the strange ups and downs of the numbers on the scale and can treat this as useful data over the long run, go ahead and weigh yourself every day. It’s something that many long-term weight maintainers (such as many of those on the National Weight Control Registry) do.

But if you react emotionally to frequent weighing, then it’s not a good idea. Quite frankly, in that case I think it’s better not to weigh yourself at all. Focus instead on building good habits, and your health will improve regardless of the speed with which your weight does or does not come off.

Whom Do You Trust?

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Following media about health trends can be like watching a ping pong game—or worse, finding yourself in the middle of a contentious strata council meeting. Ever changing, ever conflicting, the information available is confounding.

I’ve read commentaries that say you must go to the original sources for your information, but I suggest you be skeptical of any lay person who claims to have done so.

First of all, you have to get to these studies, and many are behind firewalls, inaccessible without university library privileges.
Even if you do gain access the studies, they are often badly written, abstruse, and esoteric.

It is rare for studies to give clear-cut answers to anything, especially where humans are concerned. (If you believe in the validity of nutrition studies, check out what Christie Aschwanden of FiveThirtyEight has to say.)

Never mind the multitude of interpretations for any given study.

And then there are the studies that are simply poorly done; to discern the problems in these takes skills that many, if not most, of us don’t have.

Note, too, that one study alone does not provide a definitive answer to anything. Studies must be replicated and placed in context in order to provide as complete a picture as possible. Who other than a scientist specializing in a given subject has the time, let alone the resources, to dig up every study on a given topic, subject them all to rigorous scrutiny, and come to educated conclusions about them?

No, what happens is that people masquerading as experts read a bunch of abstracts found in a PubMed search, cherry-pick a handful that appear to back up their stand, and trumpet their opinions as the absolute truth.

Or sometimes they simply make up something that kind of sounds good.

So what do I recommend?

Find experts who present balanced viewpoints, who state opinions but back them up with a combination of evidence and practical experience, making allowances for possible shortcomings in their information. Check out their credentials. Be cautious if they are trying to sell you something (although in this day and age, selling books or educational programs is probably legit).

And if you’re reading blogs from people like me—people with solid knowledge who have walked the walk and can talk to you as equals—do read our words with some skepticism. Treat us as accessible routes to good, solid information but check out our sources, read other blogs, and weigh and ultimately balance different perspectives for yourselves.

Watch this space as my blog evolves. I’ve got some good resources to share.

Okay Folks, This Is It!

fireworks-2400pxSlowly but surely my website and blog are taking shape. Thank you for dropping by, although it’s still a bit early. Stay tuned for changes galore, as my awesome web designer and I continue to tinker with what I promise is going to be an attractive and interesting place to be.