Ugh… more ‘Fat Shaming’

‘Fat Shaming’ hit the news again this week.  For those of you who may have missed it, a YouTube comedian named Nicole Arbour put up a video entitled “Dear Fat People”, where among other things she argues that fat shaming is not a “real thing”, makes numerous derogatory assumptions about people who are obese and tells a story of her encounter with a “fat family” at the airport, all while claiming she is only saying all this out of a desire to help.

I’m loathe to give her anymore publicity, but I think it’s worth being able to see exactly what we’re talking about here:

Apparently at some point YouTube decided to take the video down before it was eventually re-posted (although some suggest it was Arbour who did so herself so that she could drum up additional controversy).

Understandably the video garnered a lot of backlash.  Here are just a few of the more popular responses uploaded within days of her posting.

In interviews and social media since the video came out Arbour has claimed the whole thing was intended as satire.  I don’t know.  She’s clearly trying to be funny throughout the video, but the tone, at least to me, comes off as being mean-spirited more than anything else.  The fact that she has since appeared completely unfazed by the negative reaction is what I find really unsettling.

And honestly, regardless of whether her video was intended as satire or not, the underlying messages are still there.  It’s pretty clear that Arbour subscribes to the notions that “You’re fat because you’re lazy.” “Fat people eat whatever they want.” and “People who are overweight have no idea that their excess weight is impacting their health”.  Not only does this demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the determinants of obesity, it’s just a jerk thing to do. This is also saying nothing of the fact that shaming about their weight actually drives people away from pursuing behaviors that may improve their health.

It’s encouraging to see so many people speaking out against this video, but as a quick scroll through the comments section of any article covering this story will show you, we still have a ways to go.

In the meantime, I implore you to simply have empathy for others.  You don’t know their history or their struggles.  Don’t judge someone without ever having lived a day in their shoes.

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The Science of Sports Drinks

In honour of Oasis’ upcoming fitness-themed October issue, I wrote a short piece on the Science of Sports Drinks.  Enjoy…

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pete-carroll-gatorade

I grew up in the old days where you were lucky if you could even find a sports drink in the local convenience store.  The only choice you had to make was which flavor you wanted, and even at that you could only choose from a few options.  Today, it’s a much different story.  Even in Egypt there are now dozens of flavors and variations that include low calorie, “recovery” formulas and those containing added vitamins or other supposed performance enhancing elements.

With all the options available it can be difficult to know what to choose and whether or not all these advances are actually beneficial or more just a product of savvy marketing.

Here’s what you need to know about sports drinks:

History

The story of sports drinks begins in the 1960’s at the University of Florida.  It was here that researchers identified that the school’s football team, often forced to play in conditions of extreme heat and humidity, seemed to significantly improve their performance after consuming a mixture of water, carbohydrate (sugar) and electrolytes (salt).

Word soon got out and colleges across the country began promoting the use of these beverages to their players to offset the effects of dehydration.  Sports drinks eventually made their way into the professional ranks where it has become a tradition to dump a cooler of Gatorade on a winning coach’s head.  Today, the drinks are so ubiquitous it’s difficult to find a single field, pitch or arena at any level, where sports drinks aren’t present in at least some capacity.

The Science

Not only has the sports drink landscape evolved tremendously over the years, so too has the science of hydration.  The original recipe was created to combat three things: 1) prevent dehydration (water), 2) provide energy and spare the body’s limited stores of carbohydrates and 3) replenish the salt lost via sweat (electrolytes).  More recent formulations also claim to aid in muscle recovery (with the addition of protein) or improve athletic performance by other mechanisms.

Despite what you hear from beverage producers, the science on sports drinks is actually incredibly mixed.  As reported in a 2012 systematic review in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal)¹, most studies demonstrating benefits of sports drinks were either poorly designed or financially supported by corporate interests indicating a high risk of bias of the results.

It is likely that the performance benefit from using sports drinks above that of water is modest at best and only apparent in a specific subset of people, namely high-performance endurance athletes doing exercise in the extreme heat and/or for an extended period of time (> 2hrs).  And there is no evidence that protein or vitamins in sports drinks do anything to improve exercise performance over what could be obtained through one’s diet.

Sports Drinks & You

Sports drinks may be beneficial for athletes engaging in activities in the heat when food consumption isn’t practical and they are truly taxing their body’s stores of carbohydrates (ie. exercising > 2hrs).  If that’s you, then go for it and choose the standard formula sports drink.  If it’s not, it’s probably better to skip it and stick with water. The same advice goes for your child during their athletic endeavors.  The extra calories just aren’t worth it.

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References

Heneghan C, Howick J, O’Neill B, et al. The evidence underpinning sports performance products: a systematic assessment. BMJ Open 2012;2:e001702. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001702