Doing the Same Thing, Expecting Different Results

Can you place this quote?

Just about everyone can list ways to fight childhood obesity: schools should alter lunch menus, teach nutrition and hold more physical education classes. At home, parents should be more diligent and the Xbox less available.

Here’s the problem: as logical as these suggestions might sound, when many of them have been subjected to the cold light of rigorous scientific study, they have fallen short. If nothing else, when it comes to fighting obesity, science teaches humility.

A major study published last week, for example, gave some researchers pause. Nearly 49,000 women were randomly assigned to follow a low fat diet or their regular diet for eight years while researchers kept track of their rates of breast cancer, colon cancer and heart disease. Not only did the diets have no effect on these diseases, they also had no effect on the women’s weights.

[…] In the 1990’s, the National Institutes of Health sponsored two large, rigorous studies asking whether weight gain in children could be prevented by doing everything that obesity fighters say should be done in schools — greatly expand physical education, make cafeteria meals more nutritious and less fattening, teach students about proper nutrition and the need to exercise, and involve the parents. One study, an eight-year, $20 million project sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, followed 1,704 third graders in 41 elementary schools in the Southwest, where students were mostly Native Americans, a group that is at high risk for obesity. The schools were randomly divided into two groups, one subject to intensive intervention, the other left alone. Researchers determined, beginning at grade five, if the children in the intervention schools were thinner than those in the schools that served as a control group.

They were not. The students could, however, recite chapter and verse on the importance of activity and proper nutrition. They also ate less fat, going from 34 percent to 27 percent fat in their total diet.

This is from a 2006 New York Times article about a plan to ban whole milk from schools, called “Thinning the milk does not mean thinning the child“.  But the above quote could also be printed now, about the US government’s “Let’s Move” campaign.  But, unfortunately, facts don’t always change minds, so the same things that didn’t work before will be tried again.  And especially don’t try the division of responsibility with kids, because OMG what if the kid wants to eat more or less than is “officially accepted”, or worse, vary their food intake from day to day based on their own internal cues?  That could lead to rain of toads, dogs and cats, living together…mass hysteria!

8 thoughts on “Doing the Same Thing, Expecting Different Results

  1. But, unfortunately, facts don’t always change minds, so the same things that didn’t work before will be tried again.

    Indeed, that is belief, as long as you believe you will repeat. I repeated the experiement myself until it exhausted me, I had to be stopped physically as much as mentally.

    It seems to me the only way that can come close to being replicated in general terms is if increasing amounts of people either refuse to diet and/or refuse to pretend that it works and state it, a lot.

  2. “If we’re right, Lenny, you will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters.”

    But… but… but… we KNOW it HAS to work, therefore it DOES!!!!!

    Yeah. Sure.

    And then I look at the photo of my great-great grandmother on my wall. She spent most of her life in mining camps in a time when flush toilets and running water were either non-existent or rare in big cities. She had to use a well to get water, raise many of her own vegetables in a time when grocery stores and commercial preservation didn’t exist. She bore and raised eight children (six girls, two boys), sewing all their clothes, sitting by every sick bed, cooking every meal from scratch. She moved constantly, ate fresh foods, never saw a film, let alone a television show, never played a video game or surfed the web.

    And yet, in that photograph (the only one she ever sat for in her life), heavily corseted, she is fatter than I am now.

    If fresh food, exercise, and a lack of internet access was enough to make people thin, she’d have looked like Calista Flockhart.

  3. Doing the Same Thing, Expecting Different Results

    Um . . .”What is insanity?”

    And I’m with Twistie—the women in my mother’s mother’s family are not small and never have been. I am as I was meant to be.

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