Sitting makes us fat?

I just stumbled upon a particularly stupid “info graphic” I had saved some time ago. The claim is that sitting causes obesity. Have a look:

It is simply mind-boggling. Let’s assume it is a fact that between 1980 and 2000 exercise rate indeed stayed the same, sitting time increased by 8 %, and obesity doubled, just like it is claimed on that infographic. Does something strike you as odd? Does it, perhaps, remind you of “research” in bullshit subjects where people routinely mistake correlations for causation?

If so, then I don’t need to point out to you that there is a much better explanation why people got fatter: they eat a lot more. If exercise is constant but your energy intake doubles, you’ll balloon. Just look at Western women who get married — they fatten up faster than you can say “I should have married Asian”.

It’s easy to look at an abomination like that spurious correlation and laugh. Yet, there is a bit more to it. There are two plausible scenarios: First, the author is a fucking moron who knows nothing about statistics. He isn’t aware that he is making a fool of himself. Second, the author knows about statistics but is convinced that his audience consists of morons. It reminds you of the PUA industry, doesn’t it?

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, but keep the comment policy in mind.
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5 thoughts on “Sitting makes us fat?

  1. One thing people don’t get about being weight gain though is how little it takes to get fat. When you see a 65kg dude and a 100 kg dude… The latter looks really fat, so you assume the 100kg dude “must eat twice as much during his meals”.

    In reality 65kg dude is at 2000* calories, and the 100kg dude is at 3000* calories (so that’s 50% more calories, not double).

    That’s if their exercise/expenditure is identical. And the only difference is “calories per meal”.

    But here are some other factors that flip the entire thing on it’s head

    – but if their NEAT is smaller (400 calories less spent)
    – and they snack between meals (600 calories extra eaten)
    – that’s 1000 calories of disadvantage coming from things other than meals

    The 100kg dude might eat the EXACT same meals as the 65kg dude… Have the exact same amount of exercise. Yet he “looks as though he would eat twice as much”.

    This is why if people just cut out snacks, cut out sodas, and add more neat, they can lose a ton of weight without even changing their meals.

    Most excess calories come from snacking and drinks, not meals. It’s only the morbidly obese where you get into the territory of eating lots more food. (snacks/sodas easily add hundreds of calories a day without much in terms of visual quantity)

    What’s “NEAT”? It’s an actual real thing that makes a big difference. Too bad the idiot making this infographic completely misunderstood it.

    There is convincing research that skinnier people have more “NEAT’. This is “non-exercise activity threshold”. This means they spend more energy fidgeting/moving around for no reason/sit less, etc.

  2. There is a lot of these kind of research out there about obesity. Not surprinsingly they find that everything that make you not expend energy is correlated with higher obesity. Also every food that is calorie dense is correlated with obesity and everything that make you less hungry make you thin.

  3. In general, most people do not understand a lot about statistics, and a lot of people also do not understand that correlation and causality are two different things.

    I am not sure if people eat more, but we do eat a lot of things we did not use to. We eat mostly processed food, and we went on a 30-year experiment where we reduced fat and increased our sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption. Personally, I think this has more to do with it.

    We may have also been sitting down more, but if you are carrying more weight than you should, the odds are good you might be inclined to sit down more.

  4. Wow, 8% more sitting time made us double in fat? So this genius thinks for every extra 1% of average sitting time equates to us being 25% fatter. Better think twice before you take that seat!

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