Why the Media Won’t Make You Thin

by Michael on August 11, 2009 · 2 comments

Even this guy admits he didn't live by Subway alone.

Even this guy admits he didn't live by Subway alone.

The latest issue of Time magazine features the cover story, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin. While this is technically true (I’ll get to that), the problem is how this widely read US magazine demonstrates the way the mass media muddies the waters and prevents you from looking and feeling healthier.

The crux of the Time article is the incredible finding that — hold on to your hat — exercise makes you more hungry! And apparently it took scientists from LSU, Columbia, and Harvard to figure that out for us. On the story goes, for three whole (internet) pages, debunking the “myth” that exercise helps people lose weight. One thing I didn’t see was an explanation of why Michael Phelps must consume 12,000 calories a day so that he doesn’t lose mass while training.

Then the author (not the scientists, but the author) starts drawing the conclusion that it’s “not clear that vigorous exercise like running carries more benefits than a moderately strenuous activity like walking while carrying groceries,” a conclusion that study after study have in fact made more clear. And how do you define “walking while carrying groceries”? Two large bags, a mile and a half, with a hill or two? Just to the car? It’s fine and dandy to suggest that we should all just do a few more physical things like climb a couple of flights of stairs, but we no longer live in a world where most of us walk to work or school and back, or split kindling, or have physically engaging jobs. The article concludes, “You should exercise to improve your health, but be warned: fiery spurts of vigorous exercise could lead to weight gain.” Borderline irresponsible, but it’s exactly the kind of “Man Bites Dog” story the news industry loves.

Basically, the article assumes the worst in the American people: we’re all hypocrites who give lip service to exercise while chowing down on Big Macs — and because we worked out today, we’ll add a Quarter Pounder! But because they need to sell magazines, they don’t say it like that: they say “you poor dears, no need to knock yourself out! Just eat a few egg whites instead of the Mac, and feel free to couch surf the rest of the day!”

Well, I’m not here to coddle anyone, and it’s clear that many of us men are, if not rationalizing those Whoppers and KFC buckets (they make grilled chicken now! Try it!), perhaps not taking their training seriously.

Why You Don’t Get Thin When You Exercise

  • You don’t work out with enough intensity. You go do 10 reps of dumbell curls, then talk to that hot chick in the red leotard or read Time magazine for 5 minutes, then do 10 more curls.
  • You don’t work out often enough. Your commitment wavers and you make excuses for not getting it done. Something is always better than nothing, but you get out what you put in.
  • You don’t pay enough attention to your nutrition. Probably the most important, but it doesn’t make for a very sexy headline, does it?

The real finding in the Time story is that the average American still doesn’t eat healthy foods often enough to make a difference. Let’s make no mistake: you absolutely need to cut the crap in your diet to be healthy.

But again, we’re not helped much by the media, who don’t want to piss off their advertisers by shouting loudly that all those “low-fat” prepackaged desserts make up for their low-fattiness by adding huge gobs of sweeteners. Did you know that a serving of Yoplait yogurt has more sugar than an 8 oz. serving of Coca-Cola? Or that you need adequate fats in your diet — but they should be good fats, like nuts and olive oil?

Or that most men shouldn’t concentrate on weight loss at all? (It’s about lean body mass.)

Exercise alone won’t make you thin, but neither will an article that works hard to convince you not to work out.

Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin [Time]

2 comments… read them below or add one

EricT August 11, 2009 at 6:15 am

Bravo! well put, after I read the Time article I was trying to find the time to write an adequate rebuttal, but since yours is so well written, I think I will just post a short snippet of yours on my blog with links back to this page.

“Exercise alone won’t make you thin, but neither will an article that works hard to convince you not to work out.”

I love it, very timely, very concise.

Eric – http://www.kastawayblog.com


Michael August 11, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Thanks Eric!

Great info on your post regarding the American College of Sports Medicine’s response. Keep up the good work.

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