Poll: Do You Like Your Info Sugar-Coated or Plain?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I collect news items and research reports on fitness, weight management, and motivation as part of my job. Sometimes, I find interesting facts or ideas, and report them to you here in my blog, or use them to write articles for SparkPeople.

But sometimes, I have to wonder whether you really want to know. For example:

Here’s one study that says 65% of us are meeting the national guidelines for exercise.

Here’s another one that says that 67% of us are overweight or obese, and that the obesity epidemic is getting steadily worse.

Is it just me, or do you see a problem here, too?

Of course, it’s possible that those exercise guidelines are just fine. 150 minutes of moderate cardo exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous cardio exercise per week probably is enough to maintain decent cardiovascular health–if you’re not overweight and don’t have other weight-related risk factors for heart disease. Maybe the reason more and more of us become overweight or obese every year is that we manage to eat more than we should even though we’re doing “enough” exercise.

But I have to wonder how helpful those guidelines are for people who are overweight, or for those of us who have trouble maintaining our weight loss because we have a tendency to gain weight easily. And if that’s 67% of us, what sense does it make to promote those government guidelines at all?

There’s yet another study which says that it may take as much as 3 to 4 hours of physical activity per day to maintain a normal weight. Not all of it has to be “exercise,” but it does have to be more demanding than sitting in a chair and poking at a keyboard.

I wonder how many people look at all this confusing and seemingly contradictory information, and just give up on trying to figure out how to lose weight. Or end up picking one of the dozens of fad diets or gimmicks that come out every year, because they really don’t know what else to do?

Sometimes, too much information can be worse than not enough, leading to what’s been called the “paralysis of analysis.” You spend so much time trying to figure out what to do, you end up not doing much at all.

As a health educator, I also wonder a lot what really works best. Are people more likely to be successful in the long run if they know from the very beginning what they may really have to do to accomplish their goals, or will that just scare them off? Is it better to “sugar-coat” things a little bit so that people will at least get started? Many people will get significant health and fitness benefits if they only lose 10% of their weight, and never make it to the goal weight they’d really like to achieve. Maybe they’ll be happy with that, and maybe they won’t.

So, you can see the dilemma. Do I tell you that the government recommends 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise, 5 days per week, or that it might take as much as 3-4 hours of additional physical activity per day for you to lose the weight you want and keep it off? Or do I tell you both and hope it doesn't leave you scratching your head or make you so frustrated that you don't do anything?

How do you handle conflicting and confusing information like this? Do you:
  • spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best approach;
  • just jump in and experiment yourself until you find something that works for you;
  • get frustrated and try some fad diet or pill that promises results?
  • ignore it and keep doing what you've been doing?

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    I always look at the source that I am getting my information from because a lot of times it isn't always the truth and then you end up with that information in your head wondering after all these years do I change my way of thinking now? I think the proof is in our results that we get when we step on the scale or when we do our measurements. If it's working for you, then why worry about all the statistics?
    Now I'm not saying I don't think that eating and physical exercise go hand and hand, but I don't believe you need an additional 3-4 hours of activity on top of the 30 minutes a day 5-6 x's a week. I work out 6x's a week for a little over 30 minutes each day and I have seen tremendous results. However, what works for one person, may not work for another.
    I say give me the cold hard facts and then let me experiment and see if it works for me. Obviously I believe all the hype about certain foods we should not eat because I have seen first hand what it does to people, but then again what about those people like my grandparents who ate eggs every day and their cholesterol didn't go through the roof? Report
    I think it's best to have the truth. Sugar coating ends up being misleading in the long run. If I know that I should aim for 3-4 hours of activity to really make a difference in my weight loss plans than I rather know that. You end up thinking hey I just did 30mins a day and I don't see results whats up? It's best to know the cold truth. Report
    I want the cold hard truth. You wont lose weight unless you eat right and/or exercise. There is no special pill. If you want to lose you need to get up off of you butt and do something about it. Cold hard truth for some of us. Report
    The biggest problem with diet and fitness research is that it is sugar coated. To lose weight you have to work your you know what off and eat less. Honestly, fitting in ten minutes here and there isn't going to accomplish much. If you are winded and 10 minutes is all you can do, you might get a benefit from it. For the rest of us, not so much. Also, if you are over 50 pounds overweight, a little bit of exercise isn't going to do anything. So I think that the way most of this news is presented does a disservice to those of us who are trying. Report
    Just give me the facts as they relate to Miss Average and I'll use that info to observe and move my body till I get results. Everyone needs a point from which to begin. Seriously, the government spent money ... lots of money on the facts and they are not accurate? Shocking. Report
    There is too much conflicting info re: diet & exercise. I go with what seems the most reasonable/logical and what seems to work for me. I'm also of the mindset that a little is better than none, even if it's not really enough. Report
    I experiment and go with what works. There is way too much confusing and conflicting info out there for me-I would place my energy and time elsewhere. Report
    I don't think it is a matter of being sugar coated or straight; I think it is a capability and willingness to read critically and think individually and track scientifically for the self. Keeping it simple AND consistent, helps one to see the effect of a specific change over time as it relates to their own activity.
    Of course all this is worthless if one is not honest...and honesty is a function of self-conscienceness.
    :) Report
    just said it in plain simple terms. i tend to ignore statistics because i always say there are always exceptions. i feel that i'm an exception. i just jump in and experiment until i find what works for me. don't like the fad stuff because it is usually a gimmick to get my money (which i don't have much of). typically gimmicks are not good for you and you wind up with additional problems and still being overweight. Report
    I like things straight up. Just the facts and options please. Report
    I like the cold hard facts. Yeah so give me the facts . This blog was interesting and actually made a lot of sense. Everyone is different so that also factors in to the numbers. I know from prior ups and downs if i don't exercise , cardio exercise for at LEAST 1 hour a day i will gain weight, and that doesn't include normal activities, it means at leats 1 hour straight hard cardio. When i slack off the weight comes right back on, even if i eat lighter calorie load so go figure on that one. Nice blog , i appreciated the info. Thanks Report
    It is not right for those that are not doing their best to lose weight to claim that most weight lose nutrients and exerises are sugar-coated and that it is all a fade. WELL, WELL, WELL!! What do you know more stuff that doesn't make sense. I wish people would mind their own business and let the rest of us do what we have to do, to feel better, look better and to LIVE LONGER!! Sorry, but what I have to do to look and stay well includes alot of exerising and low-calorie and whole grain fiber foods, then I will. SUGAR COATED or not I have to try myself. Thanks for the info. Report
    No sugar coating! One Spark member asked in the Cafe if it was enough that she walks all over campus and takes the stairs. She said Jillian Michaels said it doesn't count while all the people that commented on the topic told the member that it was better to do something than nothing or yes she was doing something. I told her about the findings you cited and that while being active is good you have to do cardio at least 5 times a week in order to lose weight. This info is sugar coated because the truth might turn some people off for good. So the experts give the minimum hoping that people will do something. I also think saying "eat in moderation" is sugar coating. Fact is there are some foods that I cannot eat in moderation and instead of wasting brain energy trying to fight it off, I keep that item out of my house and buy in single servings if a craving hits - it will not make it into my cupboard. Besides, what is moderation anyway? If someone drinks a 6 pack of soda every day, is moderation only 3 sodas a day? But, according to experts we are not supposed to have any or 1 per month. I think we need to do away with that word when it comes to food. Report
    My husband sent me the link to an article in Consumer Reports.org recently. I think the article was trying to tell me that the percentage of people who have successfully lost weight and do healthy things such as exercise, eat fruits & vegs, strength train, eat whole grains, etc. is about equal to the percentage of naturally slim people who do those things. The rates ended up to be no more than about 60% in any category. So the other 40% of the naturally thin people don't do those things and stay thin anyway. HA! I'd rather they didn't even tell me. Report
    The plain truth, no sugar-coating, works for me!

    That said: I'll do what's right and/or necessary for ME regardless of what any survey says about percentages because only my health and my issues affect my needs. If I had the room for a treamill I'd consider it because I'm more comfortable exercising in privacy than in front of others. Report
    Give me the info straight! I got into this mess from getting sugar-coated info, like when people say "Don't say you're fat - you look great". Or "you're just big boned". At 286 I was fat. morbidly obese. beautiful and intelligent, yes, but FAT and out of shape. I had no idea it was that bad. I was banking on someone, other than me, to tell me it had gotten out of control. I don't go around telling people they are fat or skinny, but if someone asks me point blank, I tell my true opinion. They might be waiting for someone to do it like I was. So, if I seek info... I want it pure, honest, straight. Report
    I definitely want the truth with no sugar-coating. For years I thought that 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week was enough to maintain weight, and that 30 minutes of cardio 5 times a week was enough to lose weight. I'm sure that some people can lose weight on 150 minutes of cardio a week, but that never worked for me. I am still experimenting to find out what works with my metabolism and my body. We're all so different that it's hard to say. Report
    A fast overview of the comments here shows me that most everyone, myself included, like their infomation (all information, not just diet information please) strait, no sugar added, which might mean that 1) we are all telling fibs, 2) those who don't give us straight information don't look at these polls, 3) we are all clueless in general. Option 1 isn't likely - what good would it do to tell fibs here in this anonymous forum? Option 2 is very likely - much more "fun" and profitable to spin information (remember Mark Twain's summary of the 3 ways to tell untruths: lies, d****d lies, and statistics!) Option 3, unfortunately, is much closer to the mark. As an educator in contact with adult minds (university/grad school/adult ed.), I have noticed over the years that we are ever more willing to suspend critical judgement: "I read it in the newspaper!" "I saw it on the TV!" "It must be true; the journalist said so!" There are still people who don't believe that men actually walked upon the surface of the moon, but why on earth do people believe as absolute truth what they hear and read without giving it a second thought. I am sure that most of the info we read and hear is acurate, but that does not mean we shouldn't consider that information (dieting, news, politics, whatever information) carefully. We run the risk of turning information into mere gossip - The journalist said it, and I like his tie, or I like her hair cut, so I'll believe it... Report
    I like my news straight up.... no sugar coating. Just lay it on the line. I do think there is a lot of conflicting messages in the media and by the gov about weight loss. But, the facts NEVER change, you have to use more calories than you take in. That is the bottom line. So, if I want to fool myself or make excuses for myself I can blame the news or the government for sugar coating things or I can do what has worked for me many times before and keep experimenting along the way to make it stick in my head this time. Report
    I definitely like my truth plain, not sugar-coated. I need a definitive plan to work towards. I like the comments here! I agree that I need to find an exercise and a LEVEL of exercise and an AMOUNT of exercise that fits into my weight loss plan. Like Towhee, I also had to find that "sweet spot" of how long I had to exercise, doing a particular exercise, and at what level. I chose the elliptical, because after losing 100 pounds, walking didn't get my heart rate up high enough. (I think this is a GOOD thing! I feel that my health has improved immensely.) So switching to elliptical, I started on Level 1, doing 10 minutes. The weight continued to come off (another 100 pounds!), and over time, when I reached plateaus, I had to increase the Level of intensity; I now work out at Level 7. The minutes also increased. I can fit 30 minutes into my life 3x a week, and that works for me. When I began to plateau even after adding minutes and intensity, my nutritionist advised me to add another exercise - strength-training. So now I also strength-train 2x a week, for about 45-60 minutes per session. I've slowly added this to my schedule. I also should add in the beginning, when I first used the elliptical, I used it 5 days a week. When I added the strength-training 2x a week, I was in the "fatigue zone," too, just like Towhee. So I pulled out two days of elliptical (on the days that I planned to go to the gym to strength-train), and suddenly, the fatigue disappeared, and the weight started to come off again! These little adjustments can make all the difference. So no government (or other) survey can say exactly what works for each person. Uncle Sam can only give guidelines, and we have to fiddle with the reception until we get the channel that works for us. I say that my exercise program is ALWAYS a work in progress, because it changes all the time. In the winter, I love to x-country ski, and this year I plan to try snow-shoeing for the first time; in the summer I am hiking, biking, swimming, and kayaking. Changing up the program keeps my body more fit than doing any one single exercise. Even running up and down the stairs at home now is something I couldn't do just a few months ago. Voila! Another way to burn calories! Every little bit counts. Great article, Dean! Report
    I like the truth with a little Splenda.

    I know working out 5 days a week, 30 minutes a day is unattainable on a consistent basis at this time. But I do run an average of 3 days a week (30 mins) and I have to accept that as good for me. Better than nothing!

    I remember when I joined a fitness club over 20 years ago. I would go in and do just 20 mins. of the hour long class and then go sit in the hot tub. I know there were some that just shook their head but since I didn't over do it, I learned to enjoy the workouts, extended my workout times and eventually became a certified aerobic instructor for years. It was worth doing it my way! Report
    You don't give me any "poll" information as that's not about Me! I explore and see what works for me and my lifestyle. If I need 3 hours of exercise a day, I'm gonna die soon :-) because I'm not going in that direction. I'm looking for a lifestyle that works for me and spending time exercising is not something I wish to do as I get older. I understand I can no longer spend whole days, every day at my keyboard but that doesn't mean I'm going to the opposite extreme either? Report
    I agree that activities beyond the 30 minutes a day count. There is chart I viewed recently that reveals the difference it makes in calories burned to be active, semi active and very active. Therefore if I am on the computer all day, I may be only using 1200-1400 calories a day (depending on other activity), so on those days (since I am in school) I cannot eat over 1400 on those days. Being realistic far outweighs sugar coating for me. I want to know the facts because I am in enough denial at times. LOL. I enjoy keeping up with new studies. Thanks Coach! Report
    I tend to take ALOT of things with a grain of salt, especially "studies" done by parties with vested interests. If something doesn't make sense, I use the sense God gave me! I refuse to get hung up by attempting to find a consensus among "experts" because it may be impossible! If something (like Sparkpeople) helps me stay motivated and on track and gives me the tools to make it easier, great! (I hang out here alot since I've found it!) If some information seems confusing or slated to derail me, I dodge! I don't need it, I will make plenty of progress without sweating confusing details. This is important because I have a very detail oriented nature and could easily lose myself in an overabundance of details! I go back to the big focus and maintain a course in the general direction I want to go. As always, I can listen to advice from doctors, books, and a thousand experts, but the decisions - and my health - is my responsibility, and mine alone! Report
    Considering I had a friend that rapidly lost weight only walking a mile a day, and I would walk three while watching what I ate, and barely maintained...I've come to just accept what I have to do based on what gives me results. Report
    I try different approaches and see what works for me. When I stop getting results I strat change things around until I see some results again. I believe each person is different and each person needs to see what work for them. Report
    I say yes to all of the above at one time or another. I do a heck of a lot of research, only to confuse myself and my brain gets tired of trying to figure out the right thing to do. So, I put it all aside for another time when I can think better. Report
    Hi Dean! I'm gonna' say... BOTH because I've got to start with 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise, 5 days per week and build up to the 3-4 hours of additional physical activity. News has always been BOTH conflicting and confusing information, so I think we're all pretty much used to it. I think I'm doing a little jumping in and experimenting but not with pills or fad diets and not by just doing nothing either. I think SPARKPEOPLE is the BEST, sooo with a little 'sugar-coating and a lotta' plain, we should all be 'good to go' or... that could just be the Gemini (twins of the zodiac) blah, blah, blahing!! LOL!! Take Care, Annie Report
    After reading your article, I understand your frustration. The biggest dilemma confronting my quest for health and weight loss has been conflicting information. I believe that we must be proactive in our approach to health and learn to cling to the infomation that is personally helpful. I am a strong believer in the statement, "The truth shall set you free." Therefore, there is no substitution for truth, just make it plain please! Report
    OK, I'm one of the 67% that are overweight/obese and I'm also one of the 65% that are meeting the national exercise goals. I became obese because I ate more than burned. I'm also one of the "lucky" people that can follow an eating plan and not loose weight unless I exercise an hour a day. So how do I cope?
    Well, first off, I consider the source. Who is making the statement? What is their agenda? How will they benefit if I follow their advice?
    Second, I'm sorry, but I have a life other than exercising. If I got paid to workout for 4 or 5 hours a day, I might consider it, but right now I'd rather workout for an hour, do some reading, clean the house (OK, I wouldn't rather do this, but I don't see any volunteers), do some crafts, be active in the community, and visit friends.
    Third, I listen to my body. I tried getting away with 30 minutes. My body said "nice try, but it's not enough". I went to 45 minutes and my body said "ahhh, I think you've found the sweet spot". I added another 10 minutes and my weight started drop (not rapidly, just a half pound or so per week). Adding another 10 minutes caused problems with fatigue (I had a lot) and sleep (I wouldn't sleep through the night). So my body and my mind decided that 55 minutes or so was the ideal for me. Now I realize that this number will have to change eventually (probably at the first of the year, I'll try an additional 5 to 10 minutes to see what happens).
    So, don't sugar coat the information, but do tell me the source.
    I like to be told straight up the truth. Report
    I'm a "give it to me straight" kinda gal.......I'm smart enough to see the contradictions and take it all for what it's worth, then experiment until I find the right combination of exercise and activity that works for me........because, after all, what works for ONE doesn't mean it will work for ALL. There are many factors that play into weight loss just as there are for everything else, people just need to remember that, utilize the information given and understand guidelines are merely that, guidelines.....not written in stone "rules" on how to do things to accomplish ones goals. Report
    There is so much info out there and it seems that for every "expert" statement telling you something is good for you, there is one telling you the opposite. I prefer to go with the voice of experience - I take my cues from the success stories of those that have been there. Report
    Personally, I spend some time doing research to figure out the best approach, get together a game plan, and then jump in and start experimenting with what works for me, making adjustments based on experience and any new additional information I find along the way.

    I don't like my info sugar-coated. I do like it when people link to their sources (like you did in this article). Based on that, I clicked on your sources and found that the article claiming that 65% of people meet the government's minimum guidelines for exercise was based on a telephone survey in which respondents self-reported their amount of exercise (not the most reliable data collection method), and that there was no attempt to correlate the figures on exercise with any figures on nutrition. Which means that it's quite possible that most of the 67% of us who are obese at least THINK we're getting enough exercise (whether or not we actually ARE is a matter for a different study), but could also be eating unhealthfully, leading to weight gain despite the physical activity.

    In other words, when I dig deeper into a matter (which is only possible when it's not sugar-coated), sometimes what initially seemed to be conflicting information starts to make sense when it's put into context. Report
    The Bible tells me the Truth shall set me free. I think that also applies here. Report
    I love to read about health, diet, exercise, but I have now come very picky about what I will actually try, and believe in. I am currently reading a sport nutrition book. How on earth can I ever even begin to eat like the writer suggest. I will never remember how many mg of what I need. I also feel that if I eat all that is suggest it's gonna take about 15,000 calories a day...and then how long will I have to exercise to burn that. All the information out there can be helpful and is interesting to read, but for the most part we only need to eat less and exercise more. Report
    Information is my business - I am a librarian. I am also a truth addict and absolutely hate to be lied to (though innocent fibbing is okay). However, I have learned that many times the accurate info is only that for a percentage of people. Also, remember the saying: what's true today is not necessarily true tomorrow. So, I usually take any info with a grain of salt and try to find and do what works best for me. Report
    I am a self admitted info junkie. Yes, it is true that a sometimes side effect of being an info junkie is analysis paralysis. I rarely have a problem with conflicting information. Any study is nothing more the conclusions of the researchers based on the study results. That hardly makes it a universal truth, just the results within the limits of that particular study. No conflict there. As for guidelines, they are also what the are, nothing more and nothing left. They can be a useful baseline or starting point. I think the frustration may come from misinformation about what study results and guidelines are. Presenting or accepting them as universal facts is the problem, not the information itself. If we recognize that they are extrapolated statistical averages, not head, measured, invariable facts, they are useful and serve their intended purpose. If we shut out any information is anything other than long standing laws of physics, none of us would even have a clue about much of anything.

    The benefit of information is not the rote memorization of absolute truths, but rather a wide range of input that allows us to make intelligent decisions and observations about what information is applicable to each of us.

    So keep it coming. I prefer mine black (san sugar). Report
    I would like the truth, but will keep doing what I'm doing and continue to strive for more! Report
    I want the truth, figuring out what IS the truth is a huge issue. There's a study for everything and the conclusion generally is whatever the organization funding the study wants it to be. I believe we have to learn to listen to our own bodies. As every study is different, so is every person different. The diet that I thrive on, someone else would not. The exercise that keeps my body humming might wear someone else out. SO, if something sounds true, try it. And your body will let you know if it is true for YOU. Report
    Jack LaLanne, the Godfather of Fitness is 94 and in wonderful health and he works out two hours every single morning of his life. I listen to what JACK says, as he is THE expert. He says he is his own experiment. Report
    Well, I've been sugar coating things all my life. That's how I got into this predicament! At this late date I'd rather have the facts. Sure it's discouraging to think that I may need to put more effort into being active, but I do need that information. I've notice that I tend to lose weight when I have to walk someplace rather than take a bus or sit on duff in a car. Go figure. Maybe I am an experimenter too. I know that more than 30 minutes a day is what I need. Report
    Research is subjective to who is asking the question. Unless Sparkpeople does it's own research, any facts quoted are just speculation.

    Don't sugar coat anything for me. I'm a big girl (excuse the pun), I can handle it. Report
    I am the type of person that usually does not believe the hype,so I want the plain truth and nuthin but the truth and not a bunch of make believe fairy tales. Report
    I want the plain truth. I'm not a believer in one size fits all. I'll usually test things for myself to see what works for me. Report
    I don't buy into research too much. I've studied it and know that the premise is weak so any results are questionable. We can make research say what we want it to say (for example the 8 glasses of water a day myth--that research was funded by companies who sell water), so I go with what works for me through trial & error. Report
    The person I am today, wants information that is honest and correct. I know, now, when things are not accurate, because I've learned what it takes to get healthy and fit over the past 3 years, and 143 lost pounds. That, however, is the new, reinvented me, the one who loves to exercise and enjoys eating healthy food. Prior to Jan 2, 2006, however, I like everyone else, could never visualize myself doing the things I do today. Honestly when I first began, I thought I would only walk, since I never liked exercise enough to try anything else and think I could sustain it for a lifetime. So, I believe it's best to just get people moving, no matter how little, and change their diets a little at a time, because doing something is better than nothing, and success is like dominoes, in that with every pound lost, you fall further into the process and build more success. Report
    I love this blog!

    "Every athlete is an experiment of one" Running coach Jack Daniels

    For the most part I don't buy too much into what research shows when it comes to weight loss and exercise. When there are too many rules people take the all-or-nothing approach therefore they don't or won't begin or stick with it.

    What works for me may or may not work for you...I say keeping trying until you find what is best for you and then stick with it. When it is no longer working then find another approach. Report
    When I find conflicting reports, I research it more. I like my truth plain please. No sugar-coating for me. Sugar is bad for you anyway!! Report
    I think the 30 minutes of exercise/day works for MOST people IF they regulate their eating as well. Unfortunately, all that fast-food supersizing (or cheesecake enjoyment) requires a lot of exercise to compensate.

    How I want my info: Give it to ME and let ME sort it out. Just don't judge me by my waistline while you're doing it, that's all I ask. Report
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