Be a Skeptic

Too many people don't think for themselves

November 28, 2023

The other day I found myself reading an article by Michael Easter titled Can You Out-Exercise a Bad Diet. It is a good article and I don’t plan on spoiling it for you so you can go read it after this. Easter doesn’t expressly state this but his article debunks a popular myth that shouldn’t have needed debunking in the first place.

The myth that he debunks is that exercise is worthless for weight loss. I’ve heard it countless times and I’m sure you’ve heard it as well. The myth probably isn’t worded that harshly but ultimately that is the message that people will get out of a study whose conclusion opens with the line, “The evidence that exercise contributes significantly to weight loss and weight maintenance is not firmly established.” For years people have been looking at studies like these (emphasis on the term looking at) and using them to promote ideas which are obviously ridiculous.

Easter actually read that study critically and realized that when the author of it was talking about “exercise” she usually meant the government recommended 20 minutes of daily moderate exercise like a brisk walk through a suburban neighborhood. She was not talking about things like mountain biking, distance running, rucking up a hill, lifting weights or other activities that would work up quite the sweat that normal people like you and I would picture alongside the word “exercise.”

Easter read some other studies which proved that people who exercised an hour a day without changing their diet lost weight at the same rate as people who simply dieted. Another one proved that more exercise lead to more weight loss. These ideas should be common sense, you shouldn’t need some PhD in a lab coat to tell you these things. Too many people these days have outsourced their thinking to people whose experience and motives they don’t understand.

And that’s really what I wanted to talk about here, we need to be more skeptical especially when it comes to scientists or the media making claims that go against our common sense. Scientific research and media narratives are proven wrong as time goes by quite often these days.

Years ago there was a study that lots of people reported on and remembered claiming that drinking a glass or two of wine every day prolonged lifespan. I always thought that study was BS and the other day I was talking to a friend who saw that some researchers looked back into that flawed epidemiological study with a skeptical eye and realized that the people in that study who were drinking one or two glasses of wine every day were higher income folk who typically live longer for other reasons.

A few years ago it was reported that Kyle Rittenhouse crossed state lines to hunt black people and killed a few of them with a deadly assault rifle when in reality he shot three white guys in self defense while he was trying to help his community.

All too often these days, whether it be due to ignorance, malice, or plain bad luck, things that are false are reported as fact. It is ultimately our job to determine what is true and what isn’t.

And in our quest to decipher fact from fiction the only real source we have to rely on is our gut. Remember Google is a confirmation bias generator. For every study or news report that claims one thing there will be another source that claims the opposite. The study that Michael Easter found claiming more exercise leads to more weight loss could have been funded by a company looking to sell more gym memberships, who knows? Is that going to stop you from believing it? What if you scroll down further on your Google search and find a paper that debunks Easter’s cherry-picked study? Which scientist are you going to believe? You can’t surrender your beliefs to a phrase like “trust the science” or “just Google it” if science and Google give you conflicting data. You are the one who has to think critically and make the decision on what to believe.

Again, too many people these days have outsourced their thinking to others. Don’t be one of those people, be a skeptic. If something people are saying sounds like BS look into it and report on your findings so that you can help others be more skeptical and find the truth.