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Broscience, Diets, and Real Science.

July 8, 2019

 

Earlier this year, CNBC published a story on the top "biohacks" of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Along with things like cold-showers, infrared light, and 7-minute high-intensity interval workouts on the list was that Dorsey only eats one meal a day—consisting of a lean protein and vegetables—between 6:30 pm and 9:00 pm and sometimes fasts for the entire weekend.

There was a huge storm on the internet, mostly on Twitter (which, of course, is ironic) attacking Dorsey. I don't want to contribute to that attack because I don't know Dorsey and quite frankly I don't care what he does about his health and fitness. He's not a friend, family member, elite athlete, centenarian, or an expert on the topic. He's one helluva a coder with a brilliant mind for the internet. So my problem isn't at all with Dorsey but with why an outlet like CNBC would publish this story and even more so why so many people—mostly young males—celebrate this kind of stuff. Just because you are a rock-star in A does not make you one in Z. And when it comes to health and wellbeing, there is a lot of crap on the internet. Perhaps no place more so than in the realm of diet.

Since this is the reality, let's leave Dorsey out of it and look a bit deeper into why CNBC's coverage is so dangerous and why the reaction so strong.

I don't know how many calories Dorsey is eating in that 6:30-9:00 pm window but unless it's 2500 (he also walks 5 miles a day) or he has a medical reason to be on such a restrictive diet (e.g., thyroid issues) what is being celebrated is an eating disorder. Eating disorders are deadly. Males may be less likely to get help than females, though one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is a man. So, for starters, celebrating this kind of habit as a " wellness biohack" is dangerous. I myself tweeted at CNBC to change this headline. They haven't yet.

Second, there's some serious gender bias going on here. Just imagine if a woman CEO of a mega-company made public the same kind of eating behavior? She would be committed, and perhaps rightfully so, to a treatment center. So the fact that it's celebrated in men but shunned in women is another sad reality in and of itself. I'm not sure who it's sadder for, actually, because at least the women who need the help are more likely to be called out and get it. But yeah, it's messed up all around.

Third, it's especially wild that so much of this broscience comes from San Francisco, which I fear is becoming a bit of a parody. You've got uber-wealthy people who work in tech making apps focused on very questionable means to self-actualization (one of which is literally a nicotine delivery device) who spend their free-time kite-surfing and apparently starving themselves while thousands of people are on the streets experiencing homelessness; measles cases are skyrocketing; and public school teachers can't afford to live in the city. As I've written about in The Passion Paradox, one of the ways passion can go awry is when you get so caught up in the inertia of what you’re doing and the validation it brings that you lose the ability to see outside of it—you lose perspective. It seems this is happening in at least parts of Silicon Valley.

All I can say from where I sit and have some authority is this: The kind of broscience peddled in Silicon Valley is not real science. Nearly all "dieting" products and services are bullshit.

 

  • There is no solid evidence that eating only between 6:30-9:00 pm does anything other than restrict the calories you are eating to a very small window (and probably make you quite hungry).

  • There is no solid evidence that a ketogenic diet prevents or reverses cancer, as some in the broscience space have alluded to.

  • Putting butter in your coffee does not slow aging or encourage weight loss (or weight gain, for that matter) any more than putting butter on your toast.

 

Most of this stuff is still pretty fringe. But it's becoming more of a regular job to keep it that way.

Stop dieting. None of them work. Ever. If they did, there wouldn't be a billion dollar diet industry. Carbs are not evil. Fats are not evil. Proteins are not evil. Rigid rules totally zap you and make you grumpy.

 

Eat whole foods. Cut out crap. Move your body every day.
 

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