Why You Shouldn’t Always Believe Weight Loss Success Stories
Don’t take weight loss success stories at face value. I’m not talking about those “I lost 54 pounds with this magic thing!” This is clearly crap. I say that “I tried for years, but finally realized that I just need to work hard and it paid off!” The idea of hard work sounds very nice, but let’s not forget the little thing like the survival bias.
The survival bias is essentially focused on the winners and the successful. It might make sense to copy what they do to be successful on their own, but therein lies the salty plum: you don’t see or hear about most that crashed and burned out. This is important because it creates false expectations, distorts the so-called recipe for success, and makes you believe that success is more common than it actually is.
This post was inspired by the latest article by Saul Orwell, co-founder of the independent nutrition research site Examine.com . While he talks about the successes and promises of gurus like Tony Robbins in his article, the survival bias can be extrapolated to the fitness world. Heaven knows that we see many “successful” weight loss stories.
When you read weight loss success stories, many of them are designed to satisfy what many marketers call your pain points, which prompt you to lean in closer and think: what’s their secret? They are of course telling you: they followed this diet, followed this training program, and waited for the stars to align perfectly. In the end, it becomes clear: aha , you say, this is what I need in life, and at this moment all these gurus are like cha-ching ! (It’s worth noting, though, that there are tons of good guys out there as well.)
You don’t need me to tell you that what works for someone else may not necessarily work for you, but I did anyway. Sure, these stories are inspiring, contain a lot of platitudes, and can be especially exciting if you are struggling with the same problem and the successful person seems like you (another tactic); but consider this: there are many details that you are not aware of.
Maybe they worked three to five hours a day, or their genetics predispose them to certain results. It is also likely that they were not exactly sure that what they had done before would work, and it was only in hindsight that they realized that what they doubted was actually correct and amazing. The You Are Not So Smart blog has a few more general features:
Keep in mind that those who fail are rarely paid for advice on how not to fail, which is too bad because, however it sounds, success comes down to consistently avoiding catastrophic failures while regularly absorbing managed damage.
The next time someone tells you that they have lost a lot of weight on some kind of addictive regimen, you should immediately answer these two questions:
- How long have you been losing weight? As we noted earlier, exercise alone is the lesser mark on the radar of your weight loss efforts. In fact, people tend to put on weight (and then gain weight ). Before summarizing a person’s recommendation or story, learn more about how they feel after .
- Are you still on schedule? Because, as you know, no one adheres to unreal diets for a couple of months, if that.
The author of You Are Not So Smart adds:
When looking for advice, you should look for what not to do, what is missing, as Phil Plate suggested, but don’t expect to find it among quotes and biographies of people whose signals were above the noise.
Because if you only focus on success stories, you will have a very incomplete picture of the whole picture.