Dieting/WLS, Fat, Reading, Self-Image, You've Got to Be Kidding Me

So that weight loss book thing…

Paul and Marianne have already covered this story about a study of 9 to 13-year-old girls involved in one of Duke University’s weight loss programs, which found that girls assigned to read a book with a weight loss story line (“Lake Rescue”) lost a little bit more weight than girls who read a non-diet book, and girls assigned to read no book at all gained a little bit.

The “Lake Rescue” group decreased its BMI scores 0.71%, the group that read another book decreased its BMI scores .33%, and the group that had no intervention increased its BMI scores .05%.

(Note: Marianne says “There is no indication that the girls who read the book that was not about weight loss and the girls who didn’t read a book at all gained weight,” which is accurate in response to the WaPo article she links to, but not in response to the study itself. For some reason, that article didn’t include any numbers on the other two groups.)

Marianne, our editor, and I were discussing this over e-mail this morning, and here’s what I said (yes, I’m blockquoting myself):

What I really want to know is how many pounds we’re talking about here. The fact that I’ve read 3 or 4 different articles on this now and haven’t seen a number other than the percentage by which they decreased their BMI tells me there were probably about 2 or 3 lbs. difference, max, between the girls who lost the most and the ones who gained. I don’t think I touched on this specifically in the “train yourself to read critically” chapter, but now I wish I had. “Statistically significant” weight loss is such a red herring — in these studies, a few pounds can be significant by scientific standards without changing the subjects’ health or even appearance noticeably. And I can’t count how many times I’ve read something like this, looked up the original study, and found out that yep, the difference in question is less than 5 lbs. The classic example is Alli — over a 2-year period, people combining dieting and Alli lost an average of THREE POUNDS more than the control group that was just dieting, and that’s enough to qualify it as a weight loss aid. One that makes you crap your pants.

Also, I can’t seem to find out the exact ages of the girls in the different groups. The whole cohort is 9-13, an age group within which some big fucking bodily changes naturally occur — and the study measured the girls’ weights twice, six months apart. So okay, first, six months have passed, and you’re seriously trying to tell me you can measure the effect of reading a single YA novel, as if no confounding factors might have cropped up in that time? Second, six months for a girl between 9 and 13 can be the difference between a child’s body and a woman’s body. How do we know the girls in the no-book group — a whopping 17 of them — didn’t hit puberty during those six months, or start to, in which case, a gain of .05% of their BMI is nothing? I mean, it’s nothing anyway for growing kids, but seriously, a weight gain so tiny you won’t even tell us exactly what it is in pounds, over a period of six months, is supposed to make us think a group of girls around the age where you start to develop breasts and hips is doing something wrong? And meanwhile, a weight loss almost as tiny in a different group of girls who might skew more toward 9 than 13 for all we know, also over a period of six months, is supposed to make us think a weight-loss case study disguised as a novel is some sort of magic bullet?

The fact that this has garnered so much attention — all of it, natch, with commentary on the “childhood obesity epidemic,” even though the increase in childhood obesity, just like adult obesity, has leveled off — makes my fucking blood boil on a couple of levels. First, because they have proven exactly squat, but the media is so hungry for new angles on the always crowd-pleasing OMG FAT PEOPLE ARE FAT story, they’ll take anything. And second, because I want to cite these researchers for flagrant misuse of children’s literature. As Marianne said:

Fiction that is written in order to preach a certain course of action rarely succeeds. It winds up formulaic and awful. If a writer isn’t telling a story that they believe in – that contains truth in all the fiction – the story will fail. It becomes propaganda.

Good books can make outsidery kids feel less alone, escape their troubles for a few hours at a time, and imagine possibilities beyond what they’re offered in their own lives. Encouraging fat kids to read novels is a fabulous idea, as far as I’m concerned. But encouraging them to read goddamned weight loss propaganda completely subverts the point of reading for both pleasure and enrichment as an outsidery kid — which is to enjoy being absorbed in a world where you aren’t made to feel like shit about yourself.

Which leads me to my final thought on all this. Given that all these kids were involved in a weight-loss program to begin with, and dieting is often a trigger for eating disorders at that age, if (big if) we stipulate that “Lake Rescue” had a real effect on the group of girls who lost a tiny bit more weight than the others, how, exactly, did that happen? Were they inspired to become even more extreme in restricting their food intake or exercising? If so, is that really a good thing?

61 thoughts on “So that weight loss book thing…”

  1. Good points all, Kate. BMI can change due to height too. What are the odds that none of these 9-13 year olds grew at all during 6 months?

  2. ugh. Yeah, statistically significant is totally meaningless if it is not IMPORTANT, people. There is a little something called the fucking MAGNITUDE of the effect.

  3. oh, and why the hell do people think it is ok to tell kids to lose weight? There were a few threads here at SP where shapelings shared their stories of childhood, and they were seriously heartbreaking. WTF is wrong with people?

  4. Your last paragraph was the first thing I thought of. Oh, so these weight-loss books are “thinspiration”–awesome.

    So sad. When I was bulimic I thought I would rather have an ED than be fat. SICK SICK SICK! Yet, I can’t help but get the feeling from all the “obesity epidemic” press that this idea underlies all of it–oh, how sad that people have eating disorders. But at least they aren’t fat. Fat is YOUR FAULT for being lazy and bad, and having an eating disorder is kinda glamorous (except for the whole puking thing, I guess.) and obviously you’re just really sick. Which you are. Way sicker than the average fat person, in fact.

    And, yes, why the hell are kids that age being encouraged to lose weight? If they need to be, encourage them to exercise and eat healthily, I guess, although I’m not really sure what the best way to do that would be. Why do people think that shame is an effective and appropriate weight loss tool? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

  5. a .71% change in a BMI of 30 would be a .21 points or a BMI of 29.79… or for a person who is 5′ 5″ tall a change in weight from 180 lbs to 178.5 lbs (give or take 1/10 of a pound)

  6. ummm… sorry Kate to bother you, but my comments aren’t showing up. I’m sending this to see whether I am being blocked somehow (in which case you will, at some point, have the opportunity potentially to see this message) or whether my computer is just not processing the comments for some reason. Really sorry if it’s just a delay and I’m being an inpatient little so-and-so.

  7. Children’s and YA books in which characters lose weight are sadly ubiquitous. Sometimes the weight loss is there “for its own sake” and sometimes it’s a symbol of inner character improvement and emotional growth. None of these are even close to okay.

    Many of here have discussed a book called The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler. It’s got a huge dose of HAES, but it’s not 100% free of anti-fat bias. Protagonist Virginia does lose weight over the course of the book, and although her weight loss is one of the realistic things that can happen realistic when someone stops comfort-eating and begins exercising, it also reinscribes the dangerous equation that HAES will necessarily lead to weight loss. I wish she had simply not mentioned any change in Virginia’s level of fatness, or mentioned the fatness staying the same while the confidence shoots through the roof.

    Recently I was devastated to see Mackler having written, “More than anything, though, Virginia’s weight was a metaphor for all the ways we feel insecure, don’t measure up, don’t fit in, don’t think we’re as deserving as other people.”

    Authors, please to stop using our fat bodies as a “metaphor” for bad things. Our bodies are actually blood and bone and flesh and fat. We don’t exist to be used as metaphors.

  8. Lexy, thanks for doing the actual math! It hurted my thinky muscle.

    And Bunny, since I see your comment posted here, I’m hoping the problem has resolved itself. You definitely haven’t been banned or anything!

  9. Once again the main stream media has taken a press release about some non-detailed and relatively preliminary results (they were presented at a conference, but apparently haven’t been published yet) and have spun them into a pronouncement on lifestyle. There’s no way to even evaluate the details of the study since it hasn’t been published. At least the result wasn’t “reading makes you fat”, though.

  10. Why, oh why is anyone encouraging 9-13 year old girls to diet? This makes me stabby. I just went to a feminist film screening of the movie Sexy Inc , which talks about the extreme pressure put on “tweens” and teens to be super sexy but not sexual. This shit breaks my heart.
    I was in that age frame when my mom started me on the dieting crap, which lead to 4 years of eating disorder hell.

  11. As far as I recall – and I always was and still am a voracious reader – nothing, but nothing, has ever been guaranteed to put me off a book so much as the suspicion that it was trying to preach at me. Especially at that age. Major rule of fiction: if you let a ‘message’ get in the way of the story, the story will suffer. (Incidentally, was this a real, published book, or did someone at Duke U. write it for the purposes of the study?)

  12. When I saw that all the differences were less than 1%, I just snorted and thought “that’s NOISE, not results, people”. Especially if they’re not controlling for growth or puberty or for heaven’s sakes, needing to use the bathroom!

    They’re not grasping at straws. They’re not even in the same ballpark as the straws (to tangle a couple of sayings).

  13. Also, as a significant (statistically) number of girls in this study are of age to be having their periods, how do we know any weight gain couldn’t be attributed to period weight fluctuations?

    I know I grew a cup size in a 6 month period when I was 12. This would have resulted in a statistically significant weight gain for me.

    There are so many other factors involved here that I just don’t see how anyone can possibly claim that this study is statistically sound.

    *Note: I am a statistician with a master’s degree and everything.

  14. Yay! Glad to hear I’m not banned. Anyway, I basically did some calculations. If a child at 11 years old weighs 36kg and is 144cm high at the start of the study, the BMI decrease of 0.71% could represent anything from a WHOPPING 0.255kg weight loss or a whole 5mm height growth. The increase of 0.5% could represent gaining 0.180kg in weight or wearing socks that are 0.4mm thinner than at the last measurement!

    In children going through puberty. In 6 months.


    I wonder what their margin of error was.

  15. Math and I are not very good friends, so this whole thread is showing me what bullshit gets thrown out to see if it sticks. I suppose next we’ll be reading about half a dozen similar studies out to prove the “common knowledge” that reading weight-loss books helps adult women lose 75 pounds a month while sleeping.

  16. Yes, children, propaganda is such a *good* thing! And, if you believe that I have some lovely swampland in Florida I’d be happy to sell you.

    Not to mention, the kids read the book. They’re told more exercise and less calories will equal the magical weight loss. Of course we all know diets don’t fucking work. So now we have kids who have been told how easy it is to be thinner – only they aren’t any thinner. Now we’ve set them up to feel like failures and to blame themselves because they can’t lose weight like the kid in the book did.

    Yep, that idea is just a winner all around…NOT!

  17. I suppose next we’ll be reading about half a dozen similar studies out to prove the “common knowledge” that reading weight-loss books helps adult women lose 75 pounds a month while sleeping.

    I bet a statistically significant amount of woman will lose over 10 pounds overnight after reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”!

    Sadly, I would have eaten this up (haha) as a kid. Well, perhaps not 9-13, but 12+ definitely. I was a big consumer of thinspiration.

    A local research center was looking for “overweight” teen girls for a study on “controling their eating” or some such nonsense a month or two ago. It was advertised on a local listserve, and I very hesitantly followed up explaining why I thought that was a terrible idea. I got one positive response privately and no negative responses. (I was nervous but thought: WWSD?)

  18. This is heartbreaking. Frankly I don’t care even if the book had produced a weight loss of any significance–the damage to young girls’ psyches caused by willingly exposing them to magical diet thinking at the age of NINE is just too much to risk. As it is, if this phantom result occurred in any other field it would never get any publicity. It’s a non-result, just as the numbers (but not the article with its cutesy “getting tweens to slim down” catchphrases) say.

    As you mentioned, the total lack of impressiveness of weight loss in products/strategies that have been studied and promoted for that purpose has always boggled my mind. Frankly for the price of something like Alli or Meridia, were I inclined to take something like that, I would expect the odds to be good that I would lose at LEAST 20 pounds, and keep it off. Or, I’m fairly tall, so let’s say some equivalent percentage of my weight. Especially since god knows what stresses the drug (since it’s usually a drug) in question is putting on my liver, kidneys, digestive system, etc. But the results are always as you describe… something–even in a study sponsored or performed by someone who has a vested interest in the product–produces a weight loss of maybe 5 pounds. You cannot possibly convince me that that benefit outweighs the health risks of a drug, to say nothing of the financial burden. But the drug companies know that even if that 5-pound number is out there in bold print for everyone to see, “HELPS YOU LOSE WEIGHT” will be the only verbiage consumers need to forget all about the paltry average and start daydreaming about how they’ll be thin for bikini season or finally fit back in their high school jeans or some such shit. Even if the study results totally fail to support the idea that this has a snowball’s chance in hell of happening. Hey, the drug company or your doctor can always blame the lazy greedy fat person for supposedly ignoring the “combine with a calorie-restricted diet and exercise” small print when the drug does basically nothing… exactly as the study results indicate it will.

  19. For me the most heartening part of the study was the fact that only the non-reading group gained weight. Clearly reading is the new fast track to weight loss and I should lose fifty pounds in the next six months. (end sarcasm)

    Seriously? They weighed pubescent/prepubescent children twice, six months apart and expected that ANY single behavior was responsible for weight change? I stopped growing (taller) at thirteen. At twelve I didn’t know where my limbs ended from one day to the next.

  20. I think people have already covered the bunk statistics part, so I’m just going to say two things

    1- SIX MONTHS? Not only does that give lots of time for things like, you know, puberty to have an effect, but how long was that book supposed to be? I mean, supposedly I was an advanced kid, and I did more reading than most, but what 10-year-old remembers which book they read six months ago? I don’t even remember which books I was reading six months ago, and I don’t devote nearly as much time to reading as I did when I was 9-13. I was reading a book or three a week at that point. The only ones I remembered were the ones I though were really good, and something tells me, what with the propaganda-ness and all, that this book wasn’t any good at all.

    That’s more of a personal point than a larger point, and not really very important, but it was one of my first thoughts.

    2- Who the HELL thinks it’s a good idea to encourage weight loss among PRETEENS???????? I like to give them a great big Go Fuck Yourself Over A Cliff. I’m pretty darn sure that that is a period when you should be gaining weight, due to that whole, you know, growing thing. I mean, your BMI should almost always go up around that time, what with all the added fat you get, from like, growing boobs and hips and shit. One of the only times your BMI should go down is if you have the sort of growth spurt where you grow up before growing out, and you get that lanky puberty look going on (a look my brother carried for years, especially the summer where he grew six inches in three months – he was scary skeletal, and didn’t do anything but eat and sleep, and then he was 14 and 6’4″, but that’s another story)

    Anyway, point is, encouraging “weight loss” among girls that age is the exact same thing as encouraging eating disorders and body dysmorphia. The only thing you should be telling girls that age is to make sure to eat healthy (meaing HAES healthy, not Feel Bad For Craving Shit When You’re Going Through Puberty healthy) and that they’re okay and they’re changing bodies are beautiful.

    Because it’s not like kids at that age aren’t fucked up enough.


  21. If the results are statistically significant, that means it’s already incorporated the fact that 9-13 year old girls naturally get taller and heavier. (That’s why there’s two control groups.) ‘Maybe they forgot about puberty’, in other words, probably isn’t a valid criticism. (It could be, but I’d be surprised.) Small sample size, the fact that it’s one study, the fact that 2-3lbs gain is likely a poor predictor of adult obesity rates, etc.

  22. I see a market niche! Tween titles for 2009:

    No One Loves a Fatty, Not Even God

    Carrots Have Calories, Lardass

    Never Good Enough: Goal Setting for Kids

  23. I just want to bring up a technical point here just because I think it’s important for understanding how human subjects studies work in general.

    Kate and others have mentioned confounding factors like puberty and other changes that occur with time. Those factors could distort the measured effect of reading on weight loss, but only if a different proportion of girls with the confounding factor (i.e. puberty) wound up in each study group–the groups assigned to read the book, read a different book or read nothing. Since this study hasn’t actually been published yet I can’t confirm this, but it sounds like the girls in this study were assigned randomly to each group. If that is true, then I wouldn’t assume that any of these potential confounders are distorting the comparisons between the groups, because they would be expected to cancel out. That is, the effect of (for instance) puberty would probably be about the same in each of the three groups, so that when you compare them to each other the only systematic difference between them would be the book issue. Or at least they might if the sample size were larger and if they are definitely assigned to these groups at random.

    None of this is to say that the study isn’t probably rubbish for other reasons Kate mentioned, including small sample size and differences in outcome that probably have no value. Just want to be specific about why it’s rubbish.

  24. Did they take into account anything else those girls read over that six month period? ‘Cause I just read a cookbook, and now I’m scared that my pants won’t fit come April.

    Also, I wanted to make an Atlas Shrugged joke, but couldn’t think of a good one. Wanted to put that out there, in case anyone else wants to play with it?

  25. 1: Washington Post said the study was up to six months but Los Angeles times said it was between one to three months. Who are right? Did they monitor all the groups for the same time, or what?

    2: WP said there where a group of 31 girls who read the weight loss book, 33 girls who read another book in the same series and 17 girls who did not read any book. Making a total of 81 girls. LAT said there where 64 obese girls.

    3: WP said the the weight loss book group went from the 98th to the 97th percentile for they agegroup. But LAT gave percentile of lost BMI.

    Conclusion: I have no idea what the study found out but I’m sure my old statistic professor would laugh at it .

  26. Or at least they might if the sample size were larger and if they are definitely assigned to these groups at random.

    Absolutely. My point in bringing up lots of questions — some of which could certainly be answered definitively if we had a published copy of the study — is to highlight the problem with reporting from the press release, as much as anything else. It’s entirely possible this study was well-designed, for what it was. (Though I really wonder about the sample size.) I’m mostly just pissed at reporters who hear “statistically significant weight loss” and write about it without asking any of those questions.

  27. I can’t read this with any clarity because it makes me too fucking angry.

    My FOUR YEAR OLD who doesn’t even go to nursery let alone school yesterday told me that FAT IS BAD FOR YOU (I said no, little girls need fat to grow their brains, and even grownups need to eat some fat, too).

    It makes me cry.

  28. I am far (oh, so far) from a mathematician, but (or perhaps therefore…) I’m confused how you can figure out how many pounds (or kg) were lost, since the stats referred only to BMI percentages. I’m missing the link that shows me how to translate .71% decrease in BMI to x lbs or kg.

    Because bottom line, I really want to find out if it’s worth my while to read this book, which apparently has magical powers of weight loss!!! And are there any OTHER books that I can read to make me drop a few???


  29. If the results are statistically significant, that means it’s already incorporated the fact that 9-13 year old girls naturally get taller and heavier. (That’s why there’s two control groups.) ‘Maybe they forgot about puberty’, in other words, probably isn’t a valid criticism. (It could be, but I’d be surprised.)

    Just saw this, after I already responded to epiphenomena. I take your point, and I’ll concede that it’s likely an unfair criticism. (Though I maintain that the journalists should have at least asked about that, so they could explain it to the rest of us.) However, the data they’re reporting are about straight-up gains and losses of BMI scores — which would involve both height and weight, but don’t necessarily factor in expected height and weight gain for a girl of X age. So what we know is that girls in group A and B either lost weight or grew taller without gaining enough to maintain their earlier proportions, while girls in group C gained a little weight (or wore thinner socks). And I still don’t see how that accounts for a girl who might gain a little prior to a post-study growth spurt, or one who grows two inches prior to a post-study weight gain.

  30. The WP article said that the study was presented at a conference, which suggests that the findings haven’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal. I hate when the media latches on to studies like this. Often the criteria for publication in a journal is much higher than for inclusion in a conference. Who knows if other scientists will find the data credible? Also, since the study hasn’t been published, we can’t even look at their data and decide for ourselves if we buy it.

  31. It’s entirely possible this study was well-designed, for what it was.

    Definitely don’t mean to come across as defending the study or its design, which I wholeheartedly agree seems dumb, even if there is no confounding–at least from what can be gleaned from this reporting.

    And I still don’t see how that accounts for a girl who might gain a little prior to a post-study growth spurt, or one who grows two inches prior to a post-study weight gain.

    I think what Dana means is that there’s nothing in the study design that makes girls in the book-reading group more likely to have a growth spurt because of being assigned to read the group. So that kind of systematic difference probably doesn’t explain the difference in groups. Technically, that’s not a matter of statistical significance, though.

    Small sample size will, of course, make it more likely that one group had a higher proportion of girls with growth spurts (or whatever) than another simply due to chance. I think that’s what Kate is saying.

    Please correct my paraphrasing.

  32. The thing is, what if the book did make the girls lose weight? Why was that? Probably because it made them even more frigging paranoid about their bodies until they started starving themselves. Why, in God’s name, do we hear “pre-teen” girls and “weight loss” and assume they’ve adopted healthy lifestyle changes that are a model for all girls everywhere? Is that what young girls are really known for in the weight loss sphere?

  33. What could possibly be the point of this study?

    It sounds like a prelude to “fat people must read diet books” rule to be enforced in schools, thereby creating another generation of fat-obsessed self-haters. What a stunningly bad idea.

  34. or wearing socks that are 0.4mm thinner than at the last measurement

    LOL! That illustrates quite nicely just how “significant” those differences were.

  35. J-

    You have to assume a height and starting BMI I used 30 since they said the girls were trying to lose weight anyway… I think. BMI is weight * 703 / height ^2 (??)

    BUT the difference in pounds lost doesn’t change drastically between varying heights, my example was 5′ 5″ with a weight loss of 1.5 lbs but when I changed the height to 5′ 1″ it was 1.25 lbs, so unless these 9-12 year olds are very short or very tall (possible) a .71% change in BMI would be between 1 and 2 lbs.

  36. I’m envisioning a world where books are pulled off shelves in order to be revised so that they send a more “healthy” message to today’s exploding youth.

    Like hell Charlie’s visiting a chocolate factory. And Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar is now only Slightly Peckish and watching his carb intake.

  37. What LilahMorgan said.

    You know, I remember about ten years ago some study came out showing that a significant percentage of girls went on their first diet at age 9 and most people were freaking out about how terribly unhealthy that was.

  38. Sniper, I almost choked on my tongue laughing at your titles.

    No One Loves a Fatty, Not Even God.

    I want to put that on the front of a shirt, perhaps with “surprise me cunt” on the back.

  39. I wish I could find the article I read — the most vomit-inducing line in it was that the girls had managed to keep their weight the same or even lose weight as they were growing. Written like it was a good thing!

    In any case, the whole study fails because they went to press before it was subjected to peer review. If they had real results, they wouldn’t have needed to call the reporters. My prediction: no one will ever be able to replicate their results, and the Washington Post will be the only citation they ever get.

  40. And I still don’t see how that accounts for a girl who might gain a little prior to a post-study growth spurt, or one who grows two inches prior to a post-study weight gain.

    I say this without having read the study; but here would be the claim I would expect. They have a group that isn’t reading any books, and a group that isn’t reading any books with anti-fat messages, and then the test group. The kids are otherwise the same, besides the books, same ages, etc. So whatever differences in growth-spurt related changes, etc., are unlikely to affect one group more than another. (And we have lots of data, presumably, about what typical weight gain patterns during puberty are.) From there, it’s just statistics.

    Or, basically, what epiphenomena said. It’s not that there aren’t valid criticisms of the study: a statistically significant pound is still just a goram pound, and I’m curious to see what explanation explains why the kids that didn’t read anything gained more weight, whether BMI is a good measure of anything in adolescents, etc. And it’s important that it hasn’t been published yet, or replicated in several studies.

  41. I love it when studies that have statistically insignificant results are used to prove anything.

  42. I agree, the problem totally is sample size. Puberty is such an unpredictable creature that you really would need way more participants to even begin to account for, say, the sudden appearance of several racks o’ doom in one group and fewer in the others. Seriously, the results could be accounted for by coincidental distribution of boobage. (Or growth, or whatever.)

  43. They have a group that isn’t reading any books,

    I know we’re all just speculating here, but good god, I hope they DON’T have a group of 9-13 year-olds reading no books for six months, control group or no!

  44. I would have curled up into fetal position and died if I hadn’t been allowed to read at that age.

    (At any age really, but especially then.)

  45. “Although the numbers aren’t huge, a lot of overweight girls in that age group tend to gain more and more weight as they age,” Russell says.

    Really?!?!?!?!? GROWING GIRLS GAIN WEIGHT?!?!?!?! OMG what a revelation! Even underweight girls gain weight when they’re, you know, STARTING PUBERTY. *TRIPLE HEADDESK*

    And seriously, 9-13 year old girls should NOT be dieting. I remember being told at that age that I should diet until I was done with my growth spurt, because I could stunt my growth. It seems like most girls that age are either super-skinny or at least a little chubby; could it because because *gasp* their bodies are changing? And dude, my BMI changes 0.71% over the course of a month because I retain water more at certain times during my cycle. To consider this a change for girls going through puberty over 6 months is ABSURD.

    How about we just encourage kids to read because it’s good for their minds, and encourage them to a diverse diet and move their bodies because it’s good for their bodies, NOT because either activity will help them lose weight. This obsession is sad, sad, sad.

  46. …..I should diet until I was done with my growth spurt….

    should read

    …..I should not diet until I was done with my growth spurt. That’ll teach me to not proofread.

  47. um, did anyone else go to look at the “Healthy Lifestyles” program at Duke? (That’s where the sample of 64 girls came from).

    Because, this really freaks me out: it’s “…a multidisciplinary referral clinic for the management of childhood obesity in children and teenagers ages 0-22”.

    0. Zero. As in a fucking infant? The site says that if you are less than 2 and above the 95th percentile, you qualify to participate. yippee.

    I don’t know how to do that embedding thingy, but here is the website.

  48. When I was a preteen, my mom gave me Jelly Belly. One scene has stuck in my head for life. Ned is talking to a doctor about weight loss. The doctor tells him that the less he eats, the more weight he’ll lose.

    “What if I don’t eat anything at all?” asks Ned.

    “Then you will lose weight very quickly,” says the doctor.

    W. T. F.

    Its only saving grace is that it doesn’t have a female protagonist. Because then I would have to stab things.

  49. If the results are statistically significant, that means it’s already incorporated the fact that 9-13 year old girls naturally get taller and heavier.

    Um, does it? As far as I know, it just says that p <0.05 considering the variance of weights and the sample size.
    It doesn’t say anything about how (or if) the groups were randomized, or if the results were corrected for certain factors.

    Yeah, but that’s besides the point. Even if it was the most methodically sound study in the history of research… what’s the point? I’ve read so many studies lately about new ways to make people lose 2 pounds over the course of 6 months. Is there seriously money being spent on this ‘research’? I lose and gain two pounds once a month! I could probably lose four pounds by a cheap, easy to administer food poisoning! Let’s go publish!

    But what’s to be gained, what’s the benefit?? I’m working in obesity related research right now and the way obesity research works hurts my head!!

    Usually medical studies go “ok this is the problem, this is the med we gave them, people on that med lived 3 days longer and were 2% happier on the so-and-so-happiness-evaluation scale, compare to people on placebo.”
    Obesity studies just go “Ok we know obesity is BAD right? Just think of the children! And on Diet A people lost 1.14 pounds more than on Diet B. Yay!”

    So, were the girls who read the book… healthier? Will they live longer? Were they happier? Better in school? How did it influence their self-esteem and self-image? Their quality of life?

  50. “I’m curious to see what explanation explains why the kids that didn’t read anything gained more weight”

    Sorry, can’t figure out the italics! I might have read it wrong, but the studies didn’t say the non-reading group gained weight, but BMI. BMI does not measure height and weight proportionally, which might be a factor.

    Additionally, my figures were taken from charts showing children’s average weight/heights. The 144cm, 36kg child I mentioned has a BMI of 17.4, and was slap bang in the middle of the 11-year-old line of the chart. I don’t think BMI works AT ALL for children.

    I think sample size is the main hang-up for me, as well. I mean, considering the small size, it only takes one group to have one child that develops “unusually” to throw out the results by possibly more than the whopping 0.71% BMI change measured. I recall growing from a no-cup to almost a C cup during my first year of puberty, so if I’d been one of the kids in that study I would have almost certainly thrown the whole thing off.

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