Thursday, December 29, 2005

vanity, with a smidge of skepticism

I received a copy of the CSIRO total wellbeing diet for Christmas, which went well with my plan to lose weight and get fit. I’m not obese, just slightly overweight and profoundly vain. I’ve been keeping tabs on my weight, quite obsessively in fact, since the beginning of spring, and averaging it over each month. I’ve managed to lose weight each month since September, but only by a small amount. I’ve always felt my diet was quite good enough, so I’ve not tried any new diets, though I’ve often cooked from Sarah’s weight-watchers cookbook, and I’ve cut down sharply on bread, and cut out butter. I’ve tried to avoid eating after 8pm, but I haven’t been particularly strict with myself.

A few weeks ago, after yet again being horrified at what I saw in the mirror, I was finally forced to admit something. Even if I kept losing weight until I got to the proper weight for height or body mass index figure, I wouldn’t be happy with myself. What was really driving me was vanity. My primary aim was not to lose weight but to look good.

So I’ve enrolled in a gym (which I can't afford). After a couple of work-outs I feel great, and will continue, hopefully about three times a week. And now I'm ready too for a proper diet, such as my new gift provides. Catherine tells me her friend Stephen has lost eight kilos in a few months on the CSIRO diet, and like me he's never been horribly overweight or anything. I’m ready to be disciplined for the sake of vanity.

Which brings me to some of the criticisms of the CSIRO book, which is a runaway best-seller, indeed the runaway bestseller of the moment. Rosemary Stanton, on Radio National this morning, argued that the book was successful because of its low-fat, low-joule approach rather than because of the prominence it gives to red meat, which says more about sponsorship deals than anything else. Dr Tim Crowe, a spokesman for Nutrition Australia, has criticised the small size of the study upon which the diet is based:

"It did show that after about a year the weight loss wasn't as great as any other sort of diet," he said.

"So even though the theory behind it is quite sound as far as scientific principles go, the end result of people losing weight on it doesn't seem to stack up as well as what we thought it would."

Much of this attention stems from some harsh criticism of the diet has come from the magazine Nature, but you need to be a subscriber to access the offending article. No doubt it will also focus on the size of the study, the sponsors, and the lack of follow-ups and longitudinal approaches.

My own approach is naturally to be sceptical about the detail, but I suspect that the high-protein approach has more going for it than traditionalists are yet prepared to admit. The CSIRO study is indeed small, and more research needs to be and is being done, but the findings reported on p198 of the book and elsewhere are interesting enough, even if they only pertain to women. I mean, are women that physiologically different from men? Details, details.

If you're worried about your triglyceride levels, diabetes and LDL and HDL cholesterol, this is the diet for you (along with most other diets), but it's particularly good for your vitamin B12 levels and your haemoglobin. These, though, were only studied over a 12 week period, for 100 women. Maybe they all died straight afterwards.

Anyway, I'm going for it, though maybe not too strictly as far as the red meat's concerned. The key's in the lean (and if it's red it''ll be kanga, it's heaps cheaper).


At 5:42 pm , Blogger Genevere said...

I recall reading about low fat diets being deletarious to blood lipids (HDL and triglicerides) and did a quick net search and came up with this - it seems that the jury is still out. You might be interested in the last paragraph.

I understand that the Nature article predominately takes the CSIRO to task about the lack of data to support their claims.

I'm impressed by how frequently you are blogging! Have enjoyed reading your articles.


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