What Happens When Science Is Not Your Guide

Following feelings - or even experience - rather than the findings of the scientific community is not the best path forward under most circumstances. A piece on calorie restriction and anorexia by a recovered anorexic at Slate is very illustrative of this point:

As a former anorexic, I've found it strange to hear scientists hail low metabolism - a central feature of that disease - as a sign of health and potential longevity. When I was being treated, my doctors invoked my low metabolism as a catchall for the physical damage I was doing. My low heart rate, amenorrhea (the loss of my period), and the goose bumps I got in 70-degree weather were all signs of illness. So, how can something that is a symptom of disease in one person be a marker of good health in another?


The same thing happens in people who practice CR seriously. Your body doesn't know whether you're eating only two-thirds of a normal caloric intake in order to lose weight, or to live forever, or because the crops have failed or the antelope died out. And I'd argue that a lot of CRONies are susceptible to the addictive nature of starvation, because they begin CR out of a sense of dissatisfaction with their lives.

How do I know? Because to write about this, I joined the Calorie Restriction Society, browsed the archives of their e-mail list, and interviewed several CRONies. Tomorrow, I'll explain how my interviews led me to conclude that calorie restriction, while not anorexia, constitutes its own new kind of eating disorder.

While I have a certain sympathy towards anorexics - or indeed anyone who suffers though self-destruction - I can't help but feel that the anorexic who describes CR as an eating disorder is much the same as the cutter who views all surgery as nothing more than self-multilation. The lens is firmly in place, coloring the whole world one particular shade of purple.

The article is a good example of a particular type of nonsense propagated about the practice of calorie restriction. CR practitioners are, in general, level-headed folk who have much the same attitude towards diet as good atheletes: optimize, optimize, optimize. Follow the science - you'd have to be someone who cares nothing for your health and longevity to dismiss CR without a second thought.

A good antidote to this sort of hit piece is to get out there and read around the CR blogging community. They're all regular folk who like to be healthy, and have found a very effective means to achieve that end. As April Smith puts it:

No one is trying to get other people to do CR. Can those of you who out there who are on a crusade to stop other people from eating a healthy diet please just leave us in peace? We've done nothing to hurt you, and us giving up our healthy lifestyle won't help you. Unless of course it makes you feel better about your own problems. We're fine. We're healthy, happy people... except when we're being attacked in national magazines.

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The comments in response to the Slate article make it very clear that most people are stupid. I never take advice from stupid people.

Posted by: Kurt9 at April 24th, 2007 1:13 PM
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