Dumbed Down, Weight Up?

"The Mental Strain of Making Due With Less." Sounds like something about hard times, right? Maybe something about how the inability to pay your bills adds stress to your life? Or maybe it's an article about how people from the Depression Era suffered from the "make due and mend" rule.

But...no. It's an article in the New York Times that informs us that watching what you eat and counting calories makes you dumber due to the brain strain:

"Many diets also require constant calculations to determine calorie counts. All this clogs up the brain. Psychologists measure the impact of this clogging on various tasks: logical and spatial reasoning, self-control, problem solving, and absorption and retention of new information. Together these tasks measure “bandwidth,” the resource that underlies all higher-order mental activity. Inevitably, dieters do worse than nondieters on all these tasks; they have less bandwidth."

Oh, please! "Constant calculations" of calorie counting isn't constant at all unless you are constantly eating. Using fitday or any number of free apps, keeping track of what you eat is a matter of entering some data and then it actually thinks for you by keeping track and making pretty charts of your nutrition and progress (or lack of)! Either way, we always make what we eat count.

Adding further to the mental strain, they claim:

"Nondieters ate and moved on, but dieters started wondering how to make up for the calories they had just ingested or, even more fundamentally, pondered, 'Why did I eat the bar?'" 

Yes, seeking personal insight or planning a balanced diet is now going to make you inept overall because you are overwhelmed with having to think. The article then warns about the impact of "bandwidth scarcity," stating it "has far-reaching consequences, whether we are talking about poor farmers or affluent dieters." 

The conclusion is that you choose a diet that requires little thought, and it's that kind of "thinking" fits right in with 2013. Let someone (or something, like industrial machinery) do the meal planning and cooking for you! Don't hurt yourself by trying to gain personal insight because you'll suffer.

If you're feeling naughty and rebellious against 2013, you can read my book and blog so you can think and eat like it's the 1950s! To those who already have and continue to, I salute you. : )


  1. Hi Averyl, So true--"Constant calculations" of calorie counting isn't constant at all unless you are constantly eating." The thing I really grasped when I started to seriously food journal is: Don't eat so often so you don't have to food journal so much. So, due to my unmotivated nature, I decided I'd rather skip nibbling than to bother myself to write it all down. Such a simple decision probably lost me 25 pounds. :D

    1. Very true! *Plus* when you cook and clean for yourself (in my case I AM the dish washer) it makes me THINK even more before I eat. My husband used to do the dishes until I told him I wanted to take over.

      Congrats on the 25 pounds!

  2. Ok this is really flawed thinking! If you use your brain it's stronger. As a mom I know all about "mommy brain"- the feeling of loss of brain power due to not thinking in an intellectual way- not reading, doing math, writing, etc. The only way to get it back is to do it! So calculating calories should actually help those who don't use math in every day life.

    The same thing happens to me with memory. I used to be a whiz at remembering phone numbers. But with caller ID I don't have to. Guess what? Now I can't remember a number unless I make a point to do it. Those neurons in my brain are out of practice!

    I understand how counting calories can feel overwhelming but there are ways around it. Like Marion said eat less. Or rotate the same meals and stick to them, counting the calories only once. I can't believe this article was in the NY times!

    Thanks for sharing, Averyl.

    1. You're absolutely right-- your brain is like a muscle that needs exercise to stay sharp, and it needs good nutrition, too.

      As for this being from the NYT, I have seen a steady drumbeat of both disinformation and discouragement coming from there and other "respectable" media sources regarding losing weight. For many it's gospel. We HAVE to think about what we read.

      And my pleasure, thanks for commenting.

  3. Sometimes I feel that this type of research is really just looking for ways to justify poor health behaviors by addicted scientists!

    I use portion control and common sense.

    1. The less we learn to be self-reliant and think for ourselves, the more reliant we are on pills and promises of effortless weight loss that can't deliver. Good money in that.


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