Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The latest post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy

Radley Balko hits it on the nose as to why a study thinks there's some correlation between diet soda and heart problems, the same study admits it can't find the link, and the news nonetheless reports it as if there were a link: "It doesn't mean diet soda causes heart disease, that it leads to heart disease, or even that it leads to other habits that lead to heart disease. It means many people who will eventually develop heart disease probably hit the 7-11 for a bag of Doritos, some Ben & Jerry's, and....a Diet Coke."

He's right: unlike reporters who sensationalize a study's inconclusive conclusions, Radley sees that the diet soda isn't a cause. It's a symptom of unhealthy eating habits that already exist.

One thing I've learned during my weight loss soujourn is that it's fat people who tend to consume diet soda, not healthy people. Healthy people tend to be conscious enough that they prefer plain water, seltzer, lightly sweetened coffee or tea, or real fruit juice (whose calories they later burn off with exercise). Because they are healthy, they simply don't have a need to reduce their caloric intake via diet soda; when they need to reduce calories, they do it by proper eating. By contrast, fat people who drink diet soda often delude themselves that shaving off a few calories that way can balance out the rest of their bad habits. How often did the old Perry go to a fast food joint for a double cheeseburger, the largest size fries, and a diet soda? The old me constantly fooled himself into thinking I could sustain that unhealthy eating just by cutting out a few hundred calories via the drink.

Each day, I still drink several cans of aspartame-laden Fresca and use several packets of Splenda with my tea. I'm not worried, because it was never the artificial sweeteners that threatened me. My slow death sentence was inevitable heart trouble from all the body fat I had, which itself was purely the result of consuming an excess of calories. I've dropped 37 pounds in the last 20 weeks, and it's because I eat right 99% of the time, and I exercise regularly. I've resumed serious weightlifting for the first time in 10 years, and I go out running/walking a few times a week. I should do more cardio, but still, my heart has never been healthier in my entire life. Besides being able to run farther before tiring, a noticeable benefit is that my normal resting pulse has gone from 70-80 beats per minute to 60. In September I'll get my cholesterol checked. It was 170 two years ago, not bad, but I think it'll be even better. I've gone from eating huge portions of red meat 10 times a week to eating red meat just twice a month -- and one of those is a bison burger, so low fat and low cholesterol.



Blogger Dan from Madison said...

Well said Perry. I just got back from the doctor for my yearly physical and my resting pulse was 46! Unbelievable for me, who was on the road to ruin just five years ago. But, like you, I understood that it is all about portion control, and what is in those portions. I am beginning to believe that exercise is even more important than I thought before. I run, bike and practice Muay Thai kickboxing. I feel more alert and my senses seem more acute. I asked the doctor about this and there are apparently some studies coming out that show that people who are operating at high levels of physical fitness seem to have some sort of cloud lifted from their senses. Hard for me to get a grip on, but the last few years I feel as though I am constantly on a runners high.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 8:46:00 AM  

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