Workout of the Day

Evidence Weighs in on What the Health

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As a rule of thumb, if a claim makes you scratch your head and think, “woah, that’s unbelievable/goes against everything I’ve heard,” it might be so for a reason. This isn’t to say that humans can’t hold common beliefs that are downright erroneous -- human history shows that we are rather good at being confident in our own fictions -- but that sensational claims ought to hold up against some fact checking rather than being taken at face value.

The recent film “What the Health” has been garnering quite a buzz for exactly this reason: it’s claims are downright sensational. And while films making outrageous (and often egregious) claims about diet and health are not new or uncommon, the most disturbing part is that people will indiscriminately listen and follow.

“What the Health” is among a handful of “documentary health films” that takes a cherry-picked selection of research, a slew of misrepresented and misconstrued data, grandiose appeals to authority, and some outright false claims and sensational conclusions, and combines them into a 90-minute agenda-driven film. Unsurprisingly, the film has garnered a number of thorough critical reviews that dig into the evidence and expose the rampant misrepresentation and false claims in the film. (See two well-constructed and detailed criticisms HERE and HERE). While it is evident that I disagree with many of the film’s claims and take issue with its manipulative approach, I encourage you to both watch the film (it can be found on Netflix) and read the critical analyses. Blindly accepting the film as farcical because I or someone else on the internet said so is as irresponsible as blindly accepting the message of the film.

Scathing reviews aside, this film and others like it exemplify the critical errors our population makes in how they engage with evidence and personal education. Blindly following the claims of any single study, film, or piece of advice is trusting in the brick over the edifice. Where each study is an individual brick in the wall, the wall is the accumulation and synthesis of all of these studies -- the collective ideas garnered from a massive body of research. And while each brick is important, no brick defines the edifice. When the morning news loudly proclaims that “a new study shows eggs are linked to cancer,” they are taking the brick for the edifice (and grossly misinterpreting it on top of that). Clearly media has failed us in its ability to accurately represent evidence in the world of health and fitness, and so we need to take personal responsibility. Are you up for it?

- PS


7/14/17

  • Overhead squat - work up to 1rm

  • 4 rds

  • 90s AMRAP

    • 10 DBL KB DL (70/52)

    • 10 DBL KB swing

    • AMRAP KB shoulder to overhead

  • 2 min rest