Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss?

post by CheerfulWarrior · 2020-10-14T19:04:09.749Z · score: 2 (7 votes) · LW · GW · 9 comments

This is a question post.

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  Answers
    11 CheerfulWarrior
    7 waveman
    4 Jonathan_Graehl
    3 arxhy
None
9 comments

I mean statement like:

If he did, has he ever published a post-mortem about it?

 

A recent post [LW · GW] by Jacobian linked Eliezer's post about the Shangri-La diet [LW · GW]. While I was trying to DuckDuckGo for some updates, I only found more statements in the same spirit. If there is a post-mortem somewhere, it would be a useful case-study for me on changing one's mind. If there is not, that information would be useful for me to update how much I trust Eliezer's factual statements.

Answers

answer by CheerfulWarrior · 2020-10-14T21:44:58.568Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

He still seems to believe that:

In response to:

"The same goes for obesity. The right message is not: 'They are simply unable to lose weight.' The right message is: 'The obese are totally able to be thin. They are making bad choices. They should make better choices.'"

he posted:

Oh, bloody nonsense. I lost 70 pounds... by choosing to spend 7 months of my productivity on protein-sparing modified fasting, consuming 800 calories per day to lose 2 pounds per week. I was not able to be productive at the same time. Plenty of people can't afford such things.

(Source)

Thanks to interstice [LW · GW] who suggested I check Eliezer's twitter.

comment by rockthecasbah · 2020-10-22T13:20:02.353Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think EY was right to post that. I do not see why he should apologize. If you listen to Stephen Guyenet on ratspeak discussing the neuroscience of weight, Yud’s comments are consistent with our current knowledge. Caplan’s were more inconsistent because he modeled eating behavior as a pure function of conscientiousness, ignoring the lipostat hormone function.

As regards the shangri la diet, I can’t speak. Stephen Guyenets comments suggest that reducing food reward is important to changing the lipostat, and that is my weight management strategy (I eat high protein and unrewarding food like soylent only).

Guyenet’s episode http://rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/show/rs-189-stephan-guyenet-on-what-causes-obesity.html

answer by waveman · 2020-10-15T01:27:01.740Z · score: 7 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is quite a frustrating process to watch. 

He has asked for help numerous times but without giving much detail on what he has tried. For example, he said he had tried "paleo". But paleo is a very vague term. People suggest things and he advises that he already tried them without giving details on exactly what he did.

He has not published blood tests or other diagnostics etc as far as I can tell, so it is very difficult to know what the problem which he calls "metabolic disprivilege" is. Do his close relatives have particular weight problems? What are the genetic tests showing in terms of genes known to inhibit fat mobilization? Does blood sugar go down when dieting? We do not know this. I would expect rationality would dictate a rapid exploration of this problem but I do not see it. 

As many (like me) who have lost a lot of weight will have experienced, the scope for self deception and for the lower brain to hoodwink you is huge. People typically believe that while dieting they are less productive. I also believed this but by chance it turned out I have been collecting metrics on my productivity for another reason, and was able to find out that my productivity (on mentally hard things) went up substantially. But we don't know how he measured his productivity, if at all, and whether his claimed reduction while on the diet is real or not. 

We also don't know whether his expectations about how much productive hard mental work you can actually do are realistic. I get the impression that he feels that if he cannot concentrate really hard on difficult things for 12+ hours per day, something is wrong. But very few, if any, people can do this. (not doing routine things, but e.g. learning new difficult things or trying to prove hard theorems etc). 

I agree that some people find it easier than others to lose weight. And there are some rare people who have extreme difficulty or who are exceptionally prone to obesity. This has been mentioned as far back as Dr Atkins' original book. People who have more difficulty than most - like me* - in losing weight constitute about 20% of the community. The hard cases are quite rare. So some good quality evidence is needed to conclude that a given person is one such. 

*My weight problems are IMHO partly a result of high (measured) endogenous levels of the hormone cortisol - 60% above the top of the normal range - possibly a result of some things that happened when I was very young, which increases appetite,  increases insulin levels  thereby inhibiting fat mobilization, and increases fat storage and makes it harder to maintain lean body mass on a diet. So I am not unsympathetic to those who struggle.  Nonetheless, whatever challenges you have, a rational approach to a solution is best.
 

comment by jimrandomh · 2020-10-21T19:55:42.455Z · score: 14 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

He has asked for help numerous times but without giving much detail on what he has tried. For example, he said he had tried "paleo". But paleo is a very vague term. People suggest things and he advises that he already tried them without giving details on exactly what he did.

He has not published blood tests or other diagnostics etc as far as I can tell, so it is very difficult to know what the problem which he calls "metabolic disprivilege" is. Do his close relatives have particular weight problems? What are the genetic tests showing in terms of genes known to inhibit fat mobilization? Does blood sugar go down when dieting? We do not know this. I would expect rationality would dictate a rapid exploration of this problem but I do not see it.

Lots of things like this were explored, just not in public, for the usual medical-privacy reasons. During the period in which he was posting bounties on Facebook for things like blood tests to try, he was also working with a smaller group of doctors and community members (including myself) with greater information access. There are interesting takeaways about metabolism and diet from that project, which could be written up some day, but I'm not aware of anything which would warrant a retraction.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2020-10-15T02:35:14.115Z · score: 12 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This sounds like you aren't aware that Eliezer has successfully lost basically all of his excess weight, at least as of January this year? 

comment by waveman · 2020-10-15T23:09:56.751Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes.

I am also aware that he stated that during the period of weight loss his productivity plummeted. That is, the weight loss was at an unacceptable cost. 

See my post from yesterday where I describe how he lost the weight. 

answer by Jonathan_Graehl · 2020-10-14T19:43:36.890Z · score: 4 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's hard to say he's wrong. In any case why should you assign general 'trust' values to people?

comment by PatrickDFarley · 2020-10-14T21:56:31.549Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you serious about the second part? Estimating the credibility of people you read?

comment by Kenny · 2020-10-15T00:31:25.796Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's a subtle point in the second part that is very plausible.

comment by PatrickDFarley · 2020-10-15T02:16:23.097Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm afraid I still don't follow. But I like the blog.

comment by Kenny · 2020-10-15T21:29:26.057Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some very trustworthy people are only trustworthy in a specific and relatively narrow domain.

Consider the news and journalism and popular media more generally. Have you encountered wildly inaccurate claims or descriptions about something you already knew a lot about? That's a very common experience for all kinds of experts!

But almost all experts are only experts – 'trustworthy' – in a specific and relatively narrow domain. But where do they get most of their beliefs about everything else? The same not-that-accurate sources that everyone else uses.

Gell-Mann Amnesia is forgetting how inaccurately those same sources handle the subjects on which you are an expert and failing to generalize that those same sources are probably about as accurate for everything else too.

Physicists are 'notorious' for acting as-if they had resolved all of the important unsolved issues in other sciences. One lesson is that expertise is very much bounded, limited, and generally not particularly 'global'.

In other words, don't (bother) assigning "general 'trust' values to people".

comment by PatrickDFarley · 2020-10-16T06:26:29.087Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Actual bounded experts who are ignorant on other subjects
  • Wholly ignorant people who purport to be experts on subjects you're ignorant of

These are two different things. Gell-Mann amnesia seems to address the latter. You're referring to the former when you warn against assigning general trust values. Assigning general trust values would actual prevent Gell-Mann amnesia. Correct?

comment by Kenny · 2020-10-16T21:15:09.905Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If we there was a practical and efficient way to assign general trust values (and regularly re-computer them too!), and we used them, then yes, that might prevent Gell-Mann amnesia.

I'm not against general trust values – maybe it could be practical and useful. But I don't think there's any current way to do this that's accurate enough to be worth doing.

It seems reasonable to be skeptical about general trust values because it seems strictly better to instead trust individuals on specific topics.

I don't feel like a general trust value is a useful way to think of anyone, even total strangers. I might have something like a general distribution of trust over some set of topics (for arbitrary people), or maybe a few different distributions for different groups, and definitely distributions for specific people. I guess you could consider a distribution to also be a 'value'. I was implicitly considering 'a value' to be more like a single (real) number.

I admit that I'm not sure how true it is that anyone does already use general trust values in some sense.

answer by arxhy · 2020-10-14T20:34:27.580Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

People do have different metabolism, though. And they do to such an extent that some struggle to maintain an ideal weight more than others. Do you disagree?

comment by Richard_Kennaway · 2020-10-14T20:54:35.565Z · score: 17 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As a data point in the opposite direction from the stereotype than Eliezer (the stereotype being that everyone tends to put on weight unless they strive not to), I have never needed, nor tried, to "lose weight". My weight stays at 120 to 125 pounds (giving a BMI of about 20) without my doing anything to make it so, any more than I do anything to regulate my body temperature. It has done so for my entire adult life of more than 40 years, during which I have never been short of the means to eat whatever I want. My body obviously does regulate my weight and temperature, but by mechanisms I know nothing about. Any explanation of why people put on weight must also account for the people who do not.

In fact, surely people only speak of "losing weight" who are failing to do so. If they ever reached their target weight they would be talking about maintaining it, but I only see that mentioned as something you will have to do once you have "lost weight" in a tomorrow that is presumed never to arrive. The entire discourse is predicated on the assumption of failure.

comment by Robert Miles (robert-miles) · 2020-10-22T10:32:43.442Z · score: 16 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, my weight is uncannily stable as well. I don't think I've been more than 400g away from 60.0kg in the past like 8 years, during which time I have made no effort to regulate my diet or exercise whatsoever. I've been a PhD student cooking for myself extremely poorly and also a tech employee getting unlimited free nutella crumpets at work. I've been a person who never exercises, to running twice a week, to a pandemic shut-in, to experimenting with strength training. I went vegan during that time. Nothing has moved my weight more than half a kilo, and not in a predictable direction.
If my body decided, by whatever mechanism this is, that it was going to weigh 120kg, I doubt there's anything I could practically do about it.

comment by waveman · 2020-10-15T23:12:44.646Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Note to people that this can change dramatically with age. Many people have no trouble with their weight until some time in the 30s or early 40s. 

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2020-10-15T08:16:41.266Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm similar. There have been one or two occasions in my life when I did feel like I was starting to put on a weight in a way that felt uncomfortable. But then I just stopped doing the thing that was causing it, and apart from that I've never needed to think about losing weight. 

comment by arxhy · 2020-10-14T20:57:19.987Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Same here.

comment by TAG · 2020-10-16T14:48:40.052Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've heard of a couple of possible mechanisms for metabolic privilege -- brown fat and resting activity (the latter is basically fidgeting). I'm also someone who can maintain weight fairly easily.

9 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Richard_Kennaway · 2020-10-14T20:30:29.164Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Is there some reason he should?

comment by CheerfulWarrior · 2020-10-14T21:10:47.485Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

While it might seem otherwise, my purpose here is not to start a discussion on the merits of those statements or other theories regarding weight loss and obesity. I merely wanted to find out what is his most recent stance.

I have not received an answer but the comments from three different people suggest that there have been no significant changes. Thank you. That's all I wanted to know.

comment by interstice · 2020-10-14T21:22:48.390Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

He recently did lose a lot of weight using some form of keto diet, although I think he still maintains it was much harder for him than others. Check his twitter account.

comment by waveman · 2020-10-15T01:01:05.713Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

using some form of keto diet 


(damn the built-in editor on lesswrong to hell by the way)

He described it as a protein sparing modified fast.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2020-10-15T01:52:09.357Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Unrelated, and don't want to derail the discussion, but what problem did you run into with the editor?)

comment by waveman · 2020-10-15T23:17:42.162Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I try and post something starting with a copypasted quote. How do I get out of quote mode? I try one thing after another and invariably end up somehow accidentally submitting the incomplete post. Also this keeps changing - previously I could hit control-enter a few times but this no longer reliably works. 

I want to split a paragraph. How? No idea. Nothing seems to work. 

The main problem seems to be that the thing is totally trigger happy about deciding that you submitted the post. 

There does not seem to be any help on the editor. You have to experiment and fail to find out, laboriously. Some people enjoy this. I find it infuriating. 

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2020-10-16T00:03:08.117Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh, never experienced anything like this. CMD+Enter (on Mac) or CTRL+Enter (on Windows) has always submitted a comment (and does so on basically any web-platform that I know of)

I try and post something starting with a copypasted quote. How do I get out of quote mode?

You get out of quote mode by pressing enter twice. Which I think is standard in most text-editors. Alternatively you can also select any paragraph in the blockquote and press the blockquote button.

I want to split a paragraph. How? No idea. Nothing seems to work. 

You can split a paragraph by pressing enter with your cursor at the place you want to split it, which really seems like the obvious thing. What happens when you press enter? 

Is there any chance your CMD/CTRL key is broken? The only way I can think of to explain what's happening here is to hypothesize that you must be pressing CMD+Enter or CTRL+Enter a lot, even though there should basically never be a reason to use those combinations (Shift+Enter allows you to insert a manual line-break without a paragraph break, which is something that some other platforms do with CTRL+Enter, at least on Mac, so maybe that's what's confusing you?)

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2020-10-15T23:52:09.925Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're in quote text, hit enter twice to leave quote text.

If you highlight text, you'll see the menu with all the options, including the option to toggle whether the highlighted text is in quotes.

The only way the editor submits a comment is if you hit cmd-enter or ctrl-enter, for which the sole function is to submit a comment (don't try pressing it for anything else).

comment by CheerfulWarrior · 2020-10-14T21:45:29.777Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, you are right. I have posted an answer with direct quote