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Forks vs Feet: A Debate Worth Watching


Posted on June 6th, 2011 by Jeff Thiboutot M.S.

Recently I came across a video over at the Obesity Panacea blog called Forks vs Feet. This is a debate between Dr. Yoni Freedhoff and Dr. Bod Ross on whether the obesity problem is caused and remedied by a change in eating or activity levels. Both researchers presented some good information. If you have read our book SPEED then you know what we think it is the fork and not the feet that is most important for changing your body weight (of those two variables, meaning there are other aspects, such as the psychology part that is also very important). Due to our current inclination on the topic, I would say that we would side more with what Dr. Freedhoff had to say.

A couple of brief comments about the “debate”. This was set-up to be a debate, but there was really not much debating going on. I would have liked to see the two presenters have some more back and forth on the research, particularly on the research regarding activity levels and the prevelance of weight problems.

Dr. Ross took the stance that exercise is the key to the obesity problem. There are 3 thoughts I had about his presentation;

First, Dr. Ross repeatedly mentioned that exercise would help preserve lean tissue or maybe even increase it during a weight loss program. He does not mention what type of exercise he was referring to.

Second, the evidence that aerobic type activities would help preserve lean tissue is mixed and the ability for it to INCREASE lean tissue is lacking.

Third, improvements in comorbidities, such as lipid profiles and insulin sensitivity is likely to occur without a change in weight. That is great. He feels that this will out weigh the very small changes in weight that often occurs with exercise only interventions even with an HOUR of exercise EVERYDAY. Dr. Freedhoff does a good job of highlighting the miniscul changes that often occur with exercise only interventions. My question to Dr. Ross would be about the musculoskeletal problems (problems with the hips, knees, ankles, and feet) connected to that amount of activity if a person is carrying around 30, 40, 50 or more pounds. It seems that there is a need to reduce the amount of load on these joints to reduce the real possibility of injury with its associated pain and monetary costs.

Finally, the overall debate, with the focus on ONLY exercise and diet, missed the many other variables, particularly the psychological and social aspects, that are important for adherence and long-term results.

What do you think?

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3 Responses to “Forks vs Feet: A Debate Worth Watching”

  1. Matt Schoeneberger M.S. says:

    How about a little of both?

  2. Fred Hahn says:

    Exercise is not the key to reducing the obesity “epidemic.” How anyone in the field can suggest this is mind boggling. If exercise had anything to do with weight loss how then would you get an obese quadriplegic lean? And aren’t there lean people who never exercise and aren’t there obese people who exercise a lot? Of course there are.

    And if you look at the research you’ll see that exercise does next to nothing to aid fat loss. Without a diet intervention, little if any excess body fat will be lost. Exercise is grossly overrated for weight loss.

  3. Matt Schoeneberger says:

    Hi Fred!

    I’m merely playing Devil’s Advocate here. I agree with you that for someone who is overweight, exercise does little to aid in weight loss. I think the Shaw paper from the Cochrane database shows this the best (2008, I think). But what if exercise, or at least activity, could play a part in keeping people from getting over-weight or obese, especially if it takes many years to happen?

    From the Cochrane paper, we saw that exercise only contributed an additional 1.1kg of weight loss over 3-12 months, about 2.5 lbs. Over 10 years, that 2.5 lbs turns into 25. Of course, for someone looking to lose weight, 10 years in one hell of a long-term goal, haha, so it’s obviously not effective enough. But, could this same amount of activity prevent that 25 lbs from coming on over 10 years? Why not, since the math is the same just in reverse. Know what I mean?

    http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab003817.html

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