MSN offers up a “10 things” list – they erroneously tagged a “10 Commandments” list on the link I found it at – on “how to lose weight.”

It’s an interesting collection of “conventional wisdom”, some of which are correct and some of which aren’t.

  • 1. Eat your meals on a regular schedule.
    This is a pretty good one – people are creatures of habit, after all. Get used to eating at certain times, and it’s easier to pace yourself.

  • 2. Choose low-fat foods.
    Contrary to popular belief, the “low fat/high fat” bit doesn’t help much. Many, many so-called “low-fat” foods are pumped incredibly full of sugar (or eviler, nastier substances) and have higher caloric content than the standard versions. In fact, I regularly see boxed candy (literally raw sugar with a small amount of flavorings) advertise itself as either “low-fat” or “no-fat.”

  • 3. Wear a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps a day.
    Not a bad thought. A pedometer may look a bit dorky, but it’ll give you a good idea of what you’re doing. More important, however, is figuring out ways to fix your daily routine to work in motion and get up off your butt. Office jobs are a real killer on the metabolism; I’d love to see more workplaces offer the option to create stand-up offices (kind of like this idea), and next time my workplace does a re-furniture, it’ll be something I bring up. For those with leg problems that require some support under them, I’d suggest higher chairs (say, like this or this); the added bonus is better posture and less back pain problems, since it gets you closer to proper spinal alignment. The extra-extra bonus is that a nearer-standing posture also keeps your heart rate up and makes you more alert at your job.

  • 4. Pack healthy snacks.
    Always a good one. Try to go for hand fruits if you can. “Healthy” granola bars and things like that are fine, too, but a lot of the prepackaged stuff is (again) stuffed extra-full of needless sugars.

  • 5. Check the fat and sugar content on food labels.
    Rationing is fine, if you can manage it. Unfortunately, most people see things in “units” different from what’s listed. A standard package of Ramen Noodles, for example, is actually two “servings” while I’ve never known anyone to manage to eat only half the package. Likewise for canned soups and most other things – even those “healthy” snack bars (see above) sometimes list one bar as two servings.

    If you really want to change? Buy smaller glasses, smaller plates, and smaller bowls to retrain your eye on what a “serving” really means.

  • 6. Portion wisely and skip seconds (except vegetables).
    Again, you’re going to need to invest in a number of tupperware containers to really follow this one. The secondary problem is in training yourself to get the veggies to be primary in the meal; multi-course meals (eat the veggies, THEN a serving of meat) can help this more than “abolishing seconds.” The other trick within this is to make sure your veggies are actually healthy; the most common ingredient of most salads (iceberg lettuce) has next-to-no vitamin content and has about the same impact on your digestive system as drinking a glass of water. Try to go for healthier veggies and you’ll be better off.

  • 7. Stand for 10 minutes every hour.
    They’re underdoing it. The real goal should be “stand as much as possible.”

  • 8.
      Avoid sugary drinks.

    This is a huge one – probably the best of all the advice they’ve given. It’s no secret that you can chart the expanding waistline of America by the impact of two major changes; the rise in consumption of soft drinks (coke, pepsi, etc) and the rise of high-fructose corn syrup’s replacement of cane sugar as the primary sweetener. Why is this? Because HFCS is just plain nasty stuff. To create the same level of sweetness, more HFCS must be used than cane sugar; HFCS also carries a certain amount of (non-sweet) starch that the body ALSO uses for calories. And to top it off, the “average” size of a soft drink is up from the original 6-oz portion to vending machines now pushing (primarily) a 20-oz size and fast-food places pushing 32-oz or bigger “cups” (jugs, really) as a “serving” with a meal. Enough is enough.

  • 9. Turn off the television while you eat.
    If you’re having dinner with your family, that’s a good thought. If you’re not, I’m not sure what they are basing this on.

  • 10. Eat at least five servings of fruits and veggies daily.
    See above re: figuring out what a “serving” means. Seriously, guys.

    Ah, for the days when Home Economics (and Civics) were required courses before we let people out of high school… a simple understanding of basic cooking principles would save so much desperation on our parts trying to get kids (and later adults) eating in a healthier manner. Heck, showing them raw HFCS pouring onto something would probably be enough to get them questioning whether they really wanted to put it in their bodies.

  • Category: Elsewhere, Kitchen

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    9 Responses to The Conventional Weightsdom

    1. Peter says:

      I practically gag at those TV commercials touting HFCS as a perfectly healthy item (“it’s made from corn”). On the other hand, the fact that the corn refiners association is paying big money to run them – national TV advertising is exhorbitantly expensive – may be a good thing, as it presumably means they’re feeling some pressure.

    2. trumwill says:

      Contrary to popular belief, the “low fat/high fat” bit doesn’t help much.

      Depends on the food, I think. A lot of consumer products do as you suggest, which is to swap one bad thing for another. But there are some that don’t. Some low-sugar items use sugar alcohol, which is helpful both because it doesn’t absorb like regular sugar and you can’t eat too much of it (except that they do sometimes do a “bad-swap” with fat, though). There aren’t any obvious bad-swaps with things like reduced fat cheese or milk. I agree, though, that you should look more closely rather than assuming something is inherently healthier because it has less fat or sugar. Even milk will sometimes add a little bit of sugar in their skim product, but a lot don’t. As you say, look at the labels.

      Wear a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps a day.
      Stand for 10 minutes every hour.

      The trick here is not to let it increase your caloric intake. I’ve found that standing doesn’t do me a whole lot of good. I’ve had jobs where I’ve spent a lot of time standing and moving around and I think the result is that I ate more. Likewise, some people will indulge themselves with desert with the idea that they’ll “walk it off” afterwards. It requires a pretty long walk to compensate for dessert calories.

      Check the fat and sugar content on food labels.

      This is extremely helpful as long as you look at the servings and can do basic arithmetic. Most canned foods are 2 servings (except beans, which are 3.5), but even so it’s a helpful guide to which soup to get as long as you take servings into account.

      On the candy bar front, I actually did a presentation on comparing Mars vs Nestle products. I can’t remember the specifics except how they had different serving sizes and while one (I think Mars) ostensibly looked healthier than the other, it was the reverse when you accounted for that. I had great fun in my presentation pointing that out and driving home the point about serving sizes.

      If you’re having dinner with your family, that’s a good thought. If you’re not, I’m not sure what they are basing this on.

      Studies have shown that people that eat while focusing on other things tend to end up eating more than those that sit down at a table. Mostly I think this is because we’re less inclined to listen to our bodies when we’re listening to the TV set. The same could be true with dinner-table conversation, though that might be mitigated by the portion control of implicit peer pressure.

      I think I’ve also seen some studies that suggest that our metabolism doesn’t process food as quickly when we’re watching television, but that is less studied, I think, so I don’t know how much validity there is to it.

      My personal experience does lend validity to the first argument, though. A lot of diets start off with five simple steps or something like that and it usually includes not eating while watching TV (also putting down the fork/food in between bites, not eating after three hours to bedtime, and things like that).

    3. trumwill says:


      I’ve never seen those ads before. What dreck. Given the whole push towards organic and natural things, it’s a surprise that HFCS-vs-Sugar hasn’t gotten more attention. It’s surprising to me how you can get multiple kinds of diet coke of each brand with different sweeteners but drinks with actual sugar are a specialty product. I realize that sugar costs more, but you figure that they might make slightly smaller bottles to keep the price the same. In Estacado there was frequently Mexican Coca-Cola available at a price-premium that had real sugar and in Estacado and in some markets you can get real sugar Dr Pepper, but that’s about it. The brands love to make as many variations as they can of their product so that they get more shelf space, but not that.

    4. Peter says:

      So far I’ve seen two HFCS ads. One ad has two teenage brothers, with one brother explaining HFCS’s harmlessness to his skeptical sibling. In the other ad, featuring a young-ish couple on a picnic, the woman touts HFCS to the similarly skeptical man. The latter ad is especially frustrating because in addition to shilling for HFCS, it following the lead of countless other ads and sitcoms by showing the man as a clueless doofus while the woman is smart and quick-witted.

    5. Clancy says:

      The idea of the “turn off the television set” thing is more “mindful” eating — that is, when you’re eating, you’re only eating, and paying more attention to what you’re eating, enjoying it more, and being more aware of your body’s signals for satiety. The same goes for not reading books while you’re eating. With regards to eating with family, I know that when I’m eating with other people, I’m usually having a conversation of some sort, and that, in turn, slows down how fast I’m eating. Maybe the idea in general is just to slow down the rate at which we eat?

    6. Bobvis says:

      The idea of the “turn off the television set” thing is more “mindful” eating

      Blast! That was what I was going to say.

      Incidentally, I am writing this comment as I eat dinner.

    7. Brandon Berg says:

      To create the same level of sweetness, more HFCS must be used than cane sugar.

      What are you basing this on? Comparing the nutritional information for matched flavors of Jones (cane sugar) and Pepsi (HFCS) sodas, I see roughly equal concentrations of sugar. Any starch in HFCS must be either negligible in quantity or offset by greater sweetness of the sugars.

      The article you link to essentially boils down to “Technology! Bad!” plus one valid but minor criticism: HFCS-55 (the kind generally used in soda) has about 10% more fructose than sucrose does, and fructose seems to be the most harmful type of sugar. Fair enough, but it’s just 10%. Most people ought to cut their fructose consumption by far more than 10%

      I think that HFCS paranoia is driven mostly by a desire for easy answers. Most people find the idea that all their problems are caused by greedy corporations adulterating their foods to be far more comfortable than the idea that they’re responsible for their own health.

    8. Webmaster says:


      The problem is, the “sugar” listed for the sodas doesn’t tell you the whole story.

      What you get along with the sugar, that you don’t necessarily taste (but what is contributing to that “I need to brush my teeth this stuff is clinging to them” aftertaste) is this, which tags along with the sucrose and fructose in the HFCS. That, despite not being listed as “sugar” content in the label, also does break down to more sugars in your body.

      Even without the starches, though, HFCS consumption also has links to increased cholesterol levels and triglyceride fats (in turn major contributing factors in heart disease). It also stimulates insulin production, which further throws your body out of whack since it messes with your blood sugar levels even more.

    9. Brandon Berg says:

      But if you look at the nutritional information for Pepsi, it says 28g of carbohydrates and 27g of sugar, which means that the amount of starch present is on the order of one gram—nutritionally negligible relative to the large quantities of sugar.

      Even without the starches, though, HFCS consumption also [slowly kills you].

      Sure, but so does sucrose. I agree that HFCS is unhealthful, but I’ve never seen any evidence, or even any theoretical reason to believe, that it’s significantly more harmful than sucrose.

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