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Comment author: Brillyant 15 May 2017 05:06:07PM *  7 points [-]

Some random barely-edited thoughts on my experience with weight loss:

In the midst of a diet where I will lose 15 lbs (15.9lb, from 185.8 lb to 169.9, to be exact) in 40 days.

I have 95% certainty I will reach this goal in the appointed time. Even if I don't reach exactly 169.9lb, I'll be close, so whether or not I hit the exact number is arbitrary for my purposes. (I'm losing some weight to see if it helps a lingering back injury.)

I'm just eating a disciplined diet and working out according to a consistent schedule.

My diet is simple and not starvation-y at all. Most people wouldn't do it because it's repetitive (I literally eat the same thing nearly everyday so I can know my calorie intake without any counting.)

My workout isn't hard but most people wouldn't do it because...I don't know why, it's just my experience that people won't. It's 4-5 days per week of 30-60 minutes cardio and 30-60 minutes of weight training. I have a back injury that's limiting me, so it's nothing terribly rigorous.


In my years at health clubs, talking to health-club-going people, I've seen all the evidence I'll ever need to believe, basically, the Calories In / Calories Out model of weight loss is correct.

My opinion of the rationality community's view of weight loss is that it's bad. In fact, it is what I would consider anti-advice—the sort of thing you would introduce someone to if you wanted them to fail at weight loss. (Like in Mean Girls when Lindsey Lohan gives Rachel McAdams Swedish weight-gaining bars and tells her they are for weight loss.)


Some of my rough and random thoughts on managing weight:

  • Lean muscle mass is responsible for ~65% of individual differences in BMR.
  • People have significant differences in metabolism that are probably genetic predispositions. These differences can mean people who behave identically (same diet and exercise routine) will end up with very different weights.
  • No one should be shamed for their weight anymore than someone should be shamed for their height. (This is obvious, but needs to be said 'cuz "fat shaming" is an applause light used by the crowd who thinks anything resembling a simple CICO model for weight loss is bad and cruel.)
  • You shouldn't necessarily care about weight loss and our culture is fucked up for making people feel bad about their weight.
  • Losing weight can be really hard.
  • Diet is a central component to our lives, and changes in diet make people emotional, tired, etc.
  • Weight is a very personal issue and body image's importance in our culture, for better or worse, can not be overstated.
  • Exercising is a hard habit to adopt.
  • People lie. Self-reporting of diet and exercise is full of inaccuracies.
  • Changing your diet and exercise routine is akin to changing other habits and is subject to the same sorts of difficulties and failure modes.
  • The first 2-5 weeks of big diet changes are fucking hard, but it gets easier like any habit change.
  • Atkins, and other low carb diets, work because 'Murican diets are high calorie AND carb-centric. Cutting all carbs for a while means also cutting your total calories significantly. The published woo reasons why they work are mostly bullshit. It's just calorie cutting while giving you a shot at forming different long-term diet habits.
  • There may be some foods that speed metabolism, some foods that are good to eat at certain times during the day, some food that satiate more than others for any given person, etc...
  • But the Eat Less/Exercise More model is tried and true.
Comment author: HungryHippo 15 May 2017 11:24:06PM 0 points [-]

Good luck on your weight loss! :-)

Comment author: Sandi 10 May 2017 08:46:23PM 0 points [-]

What does TapLog lack, besides a reminder feature? It seems pretty nifty from the few screenshots I just saw.

Comment author: HungryHippo 10 May 2017 11:52:17PM 0 points [-]

TapLog is very nifty, it's simply that it would be even better with a somewhat extended feature set.

Here's one use case: I want to log my skin picking and skin care routine (morning/evening).

The first is easy. I just add a button to my home screen that increments by one every time I click it (which is every time I touch my face with my fingers). After a while I can plot number of picks each day, or month, or cumulative, etc. It's very nice.

Logging my skin care routine is more difficult, since TapLog does not support lists. (Only quantity, and/or text-input [with an optional prompt], and/or gps position, for a single entry)

What I would like is for TapLog to let me predefine a list of items (shave, cleanse, moisturizer) then give me a push notification in the morning and/or evening requesting me to check off each item.

(If you use something like Wunderlist with a daily repeat of the list, it is very fragile. If you miss a couple of days you have to reset the date for the reminder, because there's no way for unfinished lists to simply disappear unless you actually check them off. And in Wunderlist there's no way to analyze your list data to see how well you did last month, etc.)

Comment author: Sandi 08 May 2017 07:44:50PM 5 points [-]

I have a neat idea for a smartphone app, but I would like to know if something similar exists before trying to create it.

It would be used to measure various things in one's life without having to fiddle with spreadsheets. You could create documents of different types, each type measuring something different. Data would be added via simple interfaces that fill in most of the necessary information. Reminders based on time, location and other factors could be set up to prompt for data entry. The gathered data would then be displayed using various graphs and could be exported.

The cool thing is that it would be super simple to reliably measure most things on a phone in a way that's much simpler than keeping a spreadsheet. For example: you want to measure how often you see a seagull. You'd create a frequency-measuring document, entitle it "Seagull sightings", and each time you open it, there'd be a big button for you to press indicating that you just saw a seagull. Pressing the button would automatically record the time and date, perhaps the location, when this happened. Additional fields could be added, like the size of the seagull, which would be prompted and logged with each press. With a spreadsheet, you'd have to enter the date yourself, and the interface isn't nearly as convenient.

Another example: you're curious as to how long you sleep and how you feel in the morning. You'd set up an interval-measuring document with a 1-10 integer field for sleep quality and reminders tied into your alarm app or the time you usually wake up. Each morning you'd enter hours slept and rate how good you feel. After a while you could look at pretty graphs and mine for correlations.

A third example: you can emulate the experience sampling method for yourself. You would have your phone remind you to take the survey at specific times in the day, whereupon you'd be presented with sliders, checkboxes, text fields and other fields of your choosing.

This could be taken further in a useful way by adding a crowd sourcing aspect. Document-templates could be shared in a sort of template marketplace. The data of everyone using a certain template would accumulate in one place, making for a much larger sample size.

Comment author: HungryHippo 10 May 2017 12:30:34AM 0 points [-]

Your post reads as if you read my mind. :)

I currently use a mix between TapLog (for Android) and google forms (with an icon on my home screen so that it mimics a locally installed app).

Neither feels as if they really solve my needs, though. E.g. both lack a reminder feature.

Comment author: HungryHippo 01 April 2017 01:27:35PM *  5 points [-]

[the egg rolled passed Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico]

Skipper: Hey, anybody see that? That's an egg! Is somebody gonna go get it?

Penguin #5: We can't do that.

Skipper: Why not?

Penguin #6: Well, it's a dangerous world out there and we're just penguins. You know, nothing but cute and cuddly.

Penguin #7: Yeah. Why do you think there are always documentary crews filming us? [camera zooms out to see two men with a camera and a microphone for filming]

Penguin #8: Well, sorry, kid. You know, we lose a few eggs every year. It's just nature.

Skipper: Oh, right, nature. I guess that makes sense. But... But something... something deep down in my gut tells me that it just doesn't make any sense at all. You know what? I reject nature! [the other penguins gasp] Who's with me? [with a shout, Skipper goes after the egg, much to Kowalski's and Rico's confusion]

Penguins of Madagascar, 2014

Comment author: HungryHippo 16 March 2017 01:50:47PM 3 points [-]

They tried to show, they got a different answer, they showed it anyway.

This is very admirable! Especially on such a politically charged topic.

Comment author: ingive 03 March 2017 11:36:31AM 0 points [-]

Yes, you are right. I'm sorry. The weight loss per day slows down over time. I wish I knew math so I could say what that curve is.

Comment author: HungryHippo 03 March 2017 09:22:20PM *  1 point [-]

Under the assumption that your daily energy expenditure is a constant proportional to your bodyweight, the resulting curve is similar to exponential decay, ~exp(-c*t).

Think radioactive material, except that instead of decaying all the way towards zero atoms, one's weightloss would stop at a bodyweight consistent with an energy expenditure equal to the energy input from the diet.

Note that this is a pretty bold assumption with many caveats.

Comment author: chaosmage 22 February 2017 11:56:52AM 5 points [-]

Here's a nifty little trick Sam Harris shared in his recent AMA.

When someone says they don't believe something that you believe and consider to be obvious...

(Examples: "I don't think Trump is a pathological liar" - "I don't think ISIS is motivated by Islam")

...ask them for the counterfactual that would convince them the proposition was true.

(Examples: "What would Trump have to do that would make you think he is a pathological liar?" - "What would ISIS have to do to convince you they are motivated by Islam?")

Comment author: HungryHippo 23 February 2017 02:04:15PM *  0 points [-]

When I listend to his AMA, I noticed this line as well. It's a really clever "tool for thinking" that deserves to be noticed.

There's an interview with Dawkins somewhere where he mentions an anecdote about Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein is supposed to have said "Why did people ever believe that the sun revolves around the earth?", and his interlocutor supposedly answered: "Well, obviously it's because it looks like the sun is revolving around the earth." Then Wittgenstein whips out the counterfactual: "Well, what would it have looked like if it looked like the earth revolves around the sun?".

And the answer is obviously: exactly the same, lol!

Comment author: username2 13 February 2017 04:22:46PM 2 points [-]

Are there interesting youtubers lesswrong is subscribed to ? I never really used youtube and after watching history of japan I get the feeling I'm missing out on some stuff.

Comment author: HungryHippo 15 February 2017 04:54:09PM 1 point [-]

The "Web of Stories" channel has interviews with notable scientists (Freeman Dyson, Marvin Minsky, John Maynard Smith, etc.).

Comment author: HungryHippo 21 December 2016 04:32:32PM 1 point [-]

Thank you for this reference!

Sharpening Your Forecasting Skills, Link

Are there any case histories of how superforcaster work, where they "show their work" as it were?

Comment author: HungryHippo 20 December 2016 05:55:18PM *  4 points [-]

Very interesting article!

I'm incidentally re-reading "Feeling Good" and parts of it deal with situations exactly like the ones Oshun-Kid is in.

From Chapter 6 ("Verbal Judo: How to talk back when you're under the fire of criticism"), I quote:

Here’s how it works. When another person criticizes you, certain negative thoughts are automatically triggered in your head. Your emotional reaction will be created by these thoughts and not by what the other person says. The thoughts which upset you will invariably contain the same types of mental errors described in Chapter 3: overgeneralization, all-or-nothing thinking, the mental filter, labeling, etc. For example, let’s take a look at Art’s thoughts. His panic was the result of his catastrophic interpretation: “This criticism shows how worthless I am.” What mental errors is he making? In the first place, Art is jumping to conclusions when he arbitrarily concludes the patient’s criticism is valid and reasonable. This may or may not be the case. Furthermore, he is exaggerating the importance of whatever he actually said to the patient that may have been undiplomatic (magnification), and he is assuming he could do nothing to correct any errors in his behavior (the fortune teller error). He unrealistically predicted he would be rejected and ruined professionally because he would repeat endlessly whatever error he made with this one patient (overgeneralization). He focused exclusively on his error (the mental filter) and over-looked his numerous other therapeutic successes (disqualifying or overlooking the positive). He identified with his erroneous behavior and concluded he was a “worthless and insensitive human being” (labeling). The first step in overcoming your fear of criticism concerns your own mental processes: Learn to identify the negative thoughts you have when you are being criticized. It will be most helpful to write them down using the double-column technique described in the two previous chapters. This will enable you to analyze your thoughts and recognize where your thinking is illogical or wrong. Finally, write down rational responses that are more reasonable and less upsetting.

And quoting your article:

(You might take a moment, right now, to name the cognitive ritual the kid in the story should do (if only she knew the ritual). Or to name what you think you'd do if you found yourself in the kid's situation -- and how you would notice that you were at risk of a "buckets error".)

I would encourage Oshun-Kid to cultivate the following habit:

  1. Notice when you feel certain (negative) emotions. (E.g. anxiety, sadness, fear, frustration, boredom, stressed, depressed, self-critical, etc.) Recognizing these (sometimes fleeting) moments is a skill that you get better at as you practice.
  2. Try putting down in words (write it down!) why you feel that emotion in this situation. This too, you will get better at as you practice. These are your Automatic Thoughts. E.g. "I'm always late!".
  3. Identify the cognitive distortions present in your automatic thought. E.g. Overgeneralization, all-or-nothing thinking, catastrophizing, etc.
  4. Write down a Rational Response that is absolutely true (don't try to deceive yourself --- it doesn't work!) and also less upsetting. E.g.: I'm not literally always late! I'm sometimes late and sometimes on time. If I'm going to beat myself up for the times I'm late, I might as well feel good about myself for the times I'm on time. Etc.

Write steps 2., 3., and 4., in three columns, where you add a new row each time you notice a negative emotion.

I'm actually surprised that Cognitive Biases are focused on to a greater degree than Cognitive Distortions are in the rational community (based on google-phrase search on site:lesswrong.com), especially when Kahneman writes more or less in Thinking: Fast and Slow that being aware of cognitive biases has not made him that much better at countering them (IIRC) while CBT techniques are regularly used in therapy sessions to alleviate depression, anxiety, etc. Sometimes as effectively as in a single session.

I also have some objections as to how the teacher behaves. I think the teacher would be more effective if he said stuff like: "Wow! I really like the story! You must have worked really hard to make it! Tell me how you worked at it: did you think up the story first and then write it down, or did you think it up as you were writing it, or did you do it a different way? Do you think there are authors who do it a different way from you or in a similar way to you? Do you think it's possible to become a better writer, just like a runner becomes a faster runner or like a basketball player becomes better at basketball? How would you go about doing that to become a better author? If a basketball player makes a mistake in a game, does it always make him a bad basketball player? Do the best players always do everything perfectly, or do they sometimes make mistakes? Should you expect of yourself to always be a perfect author, or is it okay for you to sometimes make mistakes? What can you do if you discover a mistake in your writing? Is it useful to sometimes search through your writings to find mistakes you can fix? Etc."

Edit: I personally find that when tutoring someone and you notice in real time that they are making a mistake or are just about to make a mistake, it's more effective to correct them in the form of a question rather than outright saying "that's wrong" or "that's incorrect" or similar.


Pupil, saying: "... and then I multiply nine by eight and get fifty-four ..." Here, I wouldn't say: "that's a mistake." I would rather say, "hmm... is that the case?" or "is that so?" or "wait a second, what did you say that was again?" or "hold on, can you repeat that for me?". It's a bit difficult for me to translate my question-phrases from Norwegian to English, because a lot of the effect in the tone of voice. My theory for why this works is that when you say "that's wrong" or similar, you are more likely to express the emotion of disapproval at the student's actions or the student herself (and the student is more likely to read that emotion into you whether or not you express it). Whereas when you put it in the form of a question, the emotions you express are more of the form: mild surprise, puzzlement, uncertainty, curiosity, interest, etc. which are not directly rejecting or disapproving emotions on your part and therefore don't make the student feel bad.

After you do this a couple of times, the student becomes aware that every time you put a question to them, they are expected to double check that something is correct and to justify their conclusion.

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