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Book Review: The Information Diet

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Books 102

stoolpigeon writes "It is a well known fact that the United States has an obesity problem. There are numerous causes that ultimately lead to an imbalance in the ratio between the number of calories taken in to the number of calories burned. The size of the American diet industry is another good indicator of how widespread the problem has become. Clay Johnson believes that the issues the U.S. has with food have become mirrored in how we consume information." Read below for the rest of stoolpigeon's review.Understanding, and buying into, this metaphor of information obesity is key to The Information Diet. Johnson is aware of this and the text never wanders far from the comparisons. He begins with an extensive telling of the physical obesity issue that plagues the United States and then always frames the rest of his work in nutritional/fitness terms. A few chapters are "Welcome to Information Obesity", "The Symptoms of Information Obesity", "Attentions Fitness" and "How to Consume." Readers who don't buy into the parallels are going to have a really hard time with the book. The comparison and prescriptions for behavior never wander far from the picture and so it's not something one can brush off early on and then ignore for the rest of the book. I think that Johnson is right, so I dug into the book, eager to see what he recommended.

I don't think that anyone would argue about the physical obesity problem. I think what readers may be skeptical about is this idea of information obesity. The premise that Johnson puts forward is that we have access to more information than ever before, much in the same way that developed nations have more food available than ever before. (I will let the reader continue to draw the parallels — this example should be enough to figure it out.) While we have more information than ever before, not all information is equal. Some information is good for us and some is not. Another problem is that we tend to seek certain kinds of information that can give us a skewed and inaccurate view of the world we live in. People have access to more information yet they become more ignorant.

Johnson is an activist. Much of his life has been about affecting change. He is very upfront about this and the book contains a large amount of biographical information. Of course this is because he must. Johnson is laying out an argument for digging past the fluff, the bias and finding ways to be informed by facts. But he has his own built in bias and internal spin that he must counter even as he encourages the reader to do the same. I think that for the most part he has managed to do this well, not necessarily by being completely objective but by being transparent. Some of his examples felt a little weak to me, but this is because I had such a different approach to the event, topic or people that he chose as examples. I think his underlying observations were correct, and his sharing freely about his background and default positions helped me to reconcile his main point with my reservations about the specific examples.

The first six chapters are part of the introduction section and lay out Johnson's case for the information obesity problem. The next four chapters are the actual "Information Diet". Here Johnson moves from describing the problem to full on advocacy. Always striving for objectivity Johnson is always quick to describe what science is out there to give light to his position. The problem is that there just isn't much of it out there. This means that the diet itself is a mix of what has seemed to work well for Johnson himself and some broad recommendations. This may be frustrating to anyone who is looking for hard and fast direction. It's not that Johnson doesn't give concrete suggestions, it's just that he can't claim any assurance that they will work for anyone but himself. That said, I think there is a good chance that many of his ideas about how we spend our time taking in information, how we find sources and tools as well as attitudes that may help seem to be good. I think that anyone who moves from being unaware of the issue to being intentional in how they take in information is better off by that change alone.

Working through this process of finding the "diet" that works for someone is something they may want to do with others. With this in mind, and I think reflecting Johnson's bent as an activist, there is an Information Diet web site with a blog, resources and information on things like events. It is tied into some social tools and so one is able to interact with other information dieters.

Unfortunately this site is at once a marketing tool for the book (hoped 'movement' I guess) and this reflects the constant tension that exists in the fact that Johnson is at once pushing for social change and seeking to profit at the same time. He is constantly in danger, while writing and in the external resources for the book, of violating the principles he is endorsing. A friend recently told me, "David Benatar, author of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence, which argues against procreation, dedicates this book to his parents." It's that appearance of contradiction that pops up here as well. I'm told to filter out more noise, seek out better information and twitter and if I like the idea here are the buttons to let the world know on Facebook, Twitter, g+ or email. It's not that this can't all be reconciled, it is just jarring. This is something that will drive skeptics nuts and I dinged my rating of the book for it, though I think the good outweighs the bad in this regard. Just because the site exists, I don't think that invalidates the thought and I don't have to go there. I feel I've benefited from the book alone.

The book is squarely aimed at an American audience. That's pretty clear from the get-go. Much of Johnson's life has been involved in American politics, the obesity metaphor works well for an American audience and so it makes sense that this would be the scope of the work. I think that is unfortunate because I believe there is a broader application for his ideas with regard to how information is processed and the explosion in the amount of information available. A person who is not an American could read the book and I am sure find some good things to take away but understanding many of the stories and examples would be difficult without some knowledge and understanding of American culture and recent history.

The third section of the book, "Social Obesity", Johnson returns to his enumeration of the ills caused by information obesity. The people who lose out due to poor information habits are not just the individuals but the society as a whole. Johnson invites readers to become a part of a "Vast Rational Conspiracy." I believe he is genuine in this call to action and that is what allows me to forgive some of the efforts around the book that look more self-serving. I believe he is truly trying to fuel a fundamental shift in discourse and knowledge in the United States. This also causes me to be more sympathetic about the geographical focus, though I think it is only fair that readers from other countries be warned. Johnson has created a call to action and he's starting with his home. I am sure he would love to see it spread and move beyond the borders of his native country. The skeptic would again see this happiness as a function of increased personal gain. I'm a little more optimistic, or maybe just a sucker.

This last section is the shortest. It includes a note to programmers that ought to at least be a bit of an ego boost, as they learn they are the new "scribes" of our age. Or having, as Johnson puts it, "...a better ability to figure out the world than anybody else." The appendix with further reading has some great pointers to good reading on-line and in books.

I've rated The Information Diet 8 of 10 because I think Johnson at moments loses the battle to not engage in the kind of objectivity that he advocates and because the book has such a regionally focused audience. That said, it has changed my behavior and I think that it has a positive place. In fact I've become an advocate for many of the ideas, even when I don't recommend the book itself. I recently ran into a barrage of emails from various co-workers advocating that we "turn off technology" because it is too distracting from real life. I found this to be rather annoying because there are always distractions and tech is also important and a force for better lives. The ideas in The Information Diet have given me options to offer people that let them gain control of the information sources in their life rather than giving up and just shutting them all off.

Will the The Information Diet have a great impact over time? I am really not sure. I think that it is definitely a precursor of things to come. Just by being published it will encourage others to copy it and I think we will see the parallel to physical diet and eating continue. But will Johnson finally achieve his goal of making the world a better place? Only time will tell, but I think it is a noble effort.

You can purchase The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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the frosty piss diet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649319)

drink up!

Consuming information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649367)

So being obese is like bittorrenting 50 gigs of music that you know you'll never listen to?

Re:Consuming information (3, Interesting)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649409)

Probably not - but listening to 50 gigs of Justin Bieber probably would.

Though it's an interesting thought, not activities your machine carries out that don't involve you but how listening to music fits into information consumption.

Re:Consuming information (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649481)

I think they're not talking about bittorrenting, it's more like "don't get processed information" which sums up as: don't watch news on TV, don't listen to any faux news/abc/nbc/ news site that basically has their information "processed" in the same concept as food.

Go to the sources. When a site says:

link blah blah
linked from: etc etc.

Go to that source and read there instead, is what they're saying. Because the rest is interpretations which are useless.

Re:Consuming information (2)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649677)

Go to that source and read there instead, is what they're saying. Because the rest is interpretations which are useless.

A good interpreter and filter of information is worth 1000 raw sources.

Re:Consuming information (3, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649867)

A good interpreter and filter of information is worth 1000 raw sources.

And a bad interpreter is worse than having no raw sources at all. (A fact backed up by a recent study that showed that people who watched Fox News were less informed about current events than people who didn't regularly watch/read any news source.)

Re:Consuming information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649963)

And what study was this? Where are your facts?

Re:Consuming information (2)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650417)

It was based on a poll. [huffingtonpost.com] Therefore it wasn't exactly scientific.

Re:Consuming information (1)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650357)

...and 90% of all statistics are pulled out of thin air.

Re:Consuming information (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39665391)

It is for this reason I read slashdot's moderated comments, groklaw, techdirt, anandtech, fark, al jazeera etc. Need some sites that can make sense of things for me. Fortunately, there are plenty of sites with good information. Volokh might be a little bit too "Raw" for most people, however.

examples of bad filtering:

any news website that is also affiliated with a channel (including CNN)
most news websites that have a convoluted registration process to be able to post - if it's more than email/username/password, it's not worth your time.
all social networks
most people you know

highlights of good filtering:
anonymous accounts are supported
information is information without a clear bias and doesn't tug emotionally.

Re:Consuming information (1)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649767)

So he's taking a good, simple idea, and wrapping it in several chapters of self-important buzzword twattery?

To his credit, that will make it feel more relevant to most American readers, I suppose. If you want Americans to consider a diet, write the instructions on a waffle.

Re:Consuming information (2)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649865)

I think there is more to it than one simple good idea. It's a number of good simple ideas plus education on how the way many of our information sources act to help in teaching how to be a more conscious consumer. So it's not some earth-shattering, amazing, never before thought of idea - no. But I do think it rises above twattery.

Re:Consuming information (1)

ghostdoc (1235612) | more than 2 years ago | (#39661239)

Yeah, I think we need this. How to be an information connoisseur, to only graze on the finest primary sources and most reliable interpretations, and how to discern between frank exchanges of well-informed opinion and political posturing.

However, it doesn't fit with activism. Data is neutral. A lot of the data is going to disagree with any given political position, and having the guts to hold true to the empirical data and not the model is something that we're having a problem with as a science culture.

It might have actually come to the point where you can't be an activist and hold a data-neutral position. Activism always exaggerates the threat, never plays it straight, whichever side it's on.

 

Re:Consuming information (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39670233)

You are right that activism leads to a lean - and that shows up in the book, though the author fights hard to avoid it. He does a pretty good job I think and is incredibly transparent. I appreciate that approach because I don't expect people to become passive, impartial observers - I want people to be able to engage if that is their desire, but in a more sane process than what seems to be the dominant mode in use today.

Re:Consuming information (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649845)

Downloading 50 gigs and never listening to it might be better than downloading 50 gigs, listening to it cursorily, and failing to form any sort of relationship with any of it.

Re:Consuming information (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650313)

Uhm... actually I was seeing it the other way. There's so much information... and most of it unbalanced. The same way some people gets obese not only by eating much, but also by eating unbalanced.

So if instead learning history, or reading wikipedia or news or what not, you read entertaiment and facebook updates and certain celebrity twitter pages, certainly the information you're getting is not nutritive enough but it makes you feel like you're full of information.

So no... it's not about hoarding data. It's about filling your brain with lots of [useless] information.

When food makes you fat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649375)

Don't go on a diet! Make the food take those calories back! Make the food RUE THE DAY IT THOUGHT IT COULD MAKE CLAY JOHNSON FAT!

not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649453)

There are numerous causes that ultimately lead to an imbalance in the ratio between the number of calories taken in to the number of calories burned.

Get it right! Calories is the wrong metric. The proper metric is the ratio between mass out and mass in.

Re:not the calories! (2)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649513)

Let me guess, your book is called Poop your Way Thin!.

Re:not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649665)

Funny, but not quite. There are other factors involved as well... piss your way thin, breath your way thin (exhaling waste, inhaling oxygen, etc.), sweat your way thin, etc.

Re:not the calories! (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649887)

Sweat too much and you'll just die of fluid loss and electrolyte imbalance.

Re:not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649921)

drink too much water and you'll die.

Re:not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39650077)

Interesting how one item was singled out. Any partial reason?

Re:not the calories! (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39651139)

Yeah, he said "ass" twice:

The proper metric is the ratio between mass out and mass in

Re:not the calories! (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649517)

No - I don't think so. I'll stick with what I said.

Re:not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649673)

Plastic has quite a few calories, but I suspect if I eat nothing but plastic I'd get pretty thin no matter how many calories I burn.

Re:not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649739)

That's too bad. You had a chance to be right.

Re:not the calories! (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650137)

wouldn't be the first time and I'm sure it wont be the last either.

Re:not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39650493)

(insert comedic drum roll here)

Where are attached sound effects when you need them?

Re:not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649581)

energy, mass, same thing.

Re:not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649821)

I hear water has zero calories.

Re:not the calories! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649943)

Yeah, they are constantly lying on food. For example, on some food you'll find values like "100 g have 1000 kJ", while simply inserting in E=mc^2 teaches you that every food has about 9 EJ per 100 g.

Re:not the calories! (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650443)

Yeah, they are constantly lying on food. For example, on some food you'll find values like "100 g have 1000 kJ", while simply inserting in E=mc^2 teaches you that every food has about 9 EJ per 100 g.

It's been a long day and I can't tell for sure whether you're trying to be funny or what, so just in case somebody takes you too seriously, I'll just point out that digestion of food is considerably less than efficient than total conversion of mass to energy. :)

Re:not the calories! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39650073)

energy, mass, same thing.

I lost three grams and turned half a city to ash!

Re:not the calories! (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39654107)

I can almost guarantee that a person living a sedentary lifestyle will gain weight eating a pound of sugar vs. a pound of pure fiber.

Mass is meaningless. It's what your body does with that mass that matters. If it's energy, it will either use or store it as fat for later use. If it's nothing important, it just passes on through. Quite literally.

I read it too and found it lacking (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649477)

My primary criticism of this book is that it was written 10 minutes at a time. The author even admits to this.

This creates "chapters" which rarely are more than a page, I think there was even 2 "chapters" on a single page at one point (Dan Brown eat your heart out).

He simply wrote the book in a blog format then tried collecting all of his "posts" into a single coherent book experience. He failed miserably in my opinion.

The ideas were brief and failed any follow through. I kept reading waiting for him to actually give me "the diet". All I got out of it was I needed to reduce my consumption of bad information.

Well no duh, that's why I stole the book in the first place, TELL ME HOW.

In fact, while I was reading the book I kept saying to myself that I should self-publish my own ideas about information consumption and could make some money since clearly the available writing talent and content on the subject is thin.

Re:I read it too and found it lacking (2)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649555)

That's interesting - I didn't really notice because I read it on my kindle. (The review copy I got came as a pdf and I used calibre to convert it and put it on my device.) I felt like it all flowed pretty well though. There can't be a literal diet because what will work for one person wont work for another at all. I think that the principles he describes help one to become more conscious in the decisions made about where information is found and how it is consumed. To me that had some value.

I think your last sentence will be thought and acted upon by a lot of people. So you'd better be quick.

Re:I read it too and found it lacking (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649965)

Well no duh, that's why I stole the book in the first place, TELL ME HOW.

Well, for example by not reading his book. ;-)

Americans expect to be overfed (3, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649493)

You go to most restaurants in the US and the server up way more food than you would/should want to consume. Portion sizes are horrendously huge .. but that is the expectation - just look at what has happened to the "standard" soda size. Back 40 years, 12oz used to be King Sized, now days that is less than a small size.

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649603)

Go shopping more. Inflation is shrinking package sizes. My standard "half pound" can of snack almonds is now only 7 oz. Same 1/2 pound price, of course. Ice cream containers are shrinking at an almost visible velocity. What we used to call "two pound frozen dinners" are down to darn near 1.5 pounds now. Also see mini-cans of soda. I'm expecting to see cartons of eggs that only hold 10 eggs instead of a dozen pretty soon.

Its becoming a problem for cooking. So the recipe suggests a 16 oz can of tomatoes but the largest can I can now buy is 14 ounces. Hmm. Add about two shots of H2O to the recipe or what?

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649903)

Hint: restaurants != grocery stores

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (1)

doston (2372830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650035)

Go shopping more. Inflation is shrinking package sizes. My standard "half pound" can of snack almonds is now only 7 oz. Same 1/2 pound price, of course. Ice cream containers are shrinking at an almost visible velocity. What we used to call "two pound frozen dinners" are down to darn near 1.5 pounds now. Also see mini-cans of soda. I'm expecting to see cartons of eggs that only hold 10 eggs instead of a dozen pretty soon.

Its becoming a problem for cooking. So the recipe suggests a 16 oz can of tomatoes but the largest can I can now buy is 14 ounces. Hmm. Add about two shots of H2O to the recipe or what?

Yeah noticed the same thing. Coffee beans used to come in 16 oz bags, now 12 oz...for the same price or more.

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650067)

I'm expecting to see cartons of eggs that only hold 10 eggs instead of a dozen pretty soon.

Grocery near my house sells eggs in six-packs. Which I find remarkably useful, because I don't use eggs enough to need 12 before they go south on me.

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39654491)

[...] I don't use eggs enough to need 12 before they go south on me.

Well, the key is to use them well before they hatch. *ducks*

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39658481)

Well, the key is to use them well before they hatch. *ducks*

Personally, I prefer chicken eggs!

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39658687)

They have half-dozen cartons where I live, too. But I usually get the 18 egg cartons, eggs last a long time in the fridge.

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649627)

tl; dr

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (2)

John Bokma (834313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649661)

Maybe I watch the wrong kind of TV series, but the impression I often get:

  • USA TV series: people eat at least once and episode, and it's not unusual if it's 3 times
  • British TV series: people drink, often, and a lot.

I do notice that seeing people eat makes me hungry.

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649749)

It sucks that it's hard to buy smaller portions out, too. Where's the option for two chicken strips and half the fries, rather than the insane four strips and a giant pile of fries? Assuming you can get a half order or share a single order, you'll likely pay extra, which sucks.

Relatedly: pushing people toward the largest size with prices, on items with very large margins. Example: movie theater soda. Small? $5.00. Large, with twice the volume and unlimited refills? $5.25. It's bullshit.

Portion size is only part of the problem (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650011)

Nobody became obese or developed diabetes or heart disease from eating too much lettuce (there are other consequences, to be sure). Any number of "chicken" strips is too many, and any amount of movie theatre soda is too much. Sure, technically, you could eat these in sufficiently moderate quantities to avoid their inherently toxic effects, but few do. Moreover, they are engineered to induce you to consume the maximum amount you can stomach/afford.

Just opt out of the typical American garbage diet altogether and eat real food. Bonus -- you can eat until you are sated, not just until you feel too guilty to continue.

Re:Portion size is only part of the problem (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650171)

You're right. Instead of the upsized all-you-can-choke-down soda and the swimming-in-trans-fat popcorn, I'll just step up to the salad bar at the movie theater.

Wait. What?

OTOH, you might appreciate the opportunity to segue into a screed about junk movies as well as junk food. You're welcome.

Re:Portion size is only part of the problem (3, Interesting)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650269)

You're right. Instead of the upsized all-you-can-choke-down soda and the swimming-in-trans-fat popcorn, I'll just step up to the salad bar at the movie theater.

Wait. What?

The theater I patronize has a full menu (including salads). It also serves beer and tickets are cheaper than at the megaplex. But even if you have no such option, can you really not go 2 hours without eating?

Re:Portion size is only part of the problem (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39667689)

Home DVD with 5.1 sound, I take it?

Re:Portion size is only part of the problem (1)

barc0001 (173002) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650935)

Or... you could take 6 months of weekly movie ticket money and just buy a projector and decent screen for your home instead. Then you can have whatever the heck you want for snacks as well as other perks like no annoying audience members texting or talking, no sticky floors, nobody's head in the way, and you can pause the movie while you take a bathroom or snack refill break. And after the initial investment it won't cost $30-$40 for 2 people to "go" to the movies any more.

Re:Portion size is only part of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39650237)

Sure. I'll just gorge on whole grain pasta swimming in extra virgin olive oil and laugh at the McDonald's idiots while I effortlessly shed the pounds. That'll be the day....

If you think the American diet is bad for you, you should see what the proles eat in Southeast Asia and South America. Hint: it's not all exotic herbs and "homemade" goodness.

This obsession with the American diet is just another manifestation of American's thinking that they're exceptional (or non-American's thinking that Americans are exceptional). The _only_ real difference between the working-class American diet and elsewhere is that our food is insanely cheap. You don't need hamburgers and hotdogs to get fat. You can see obese immigrants just off the ship waddling through Costco buying their calorific favorites, too.

Re:Portion size is only part of the problem (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39650707)

(My anecdote's a lot better than yours. Morever, it's true, whereas I'm pretty sure you're pulling yours from your arse.)

Tell that to my girlfriend, who made her first visit to the US last autumn. I took her to a shopping mall and after a while, when nobody was close enough to hear, she turned to me and asked, "I can't believe this! Are there really THAT many fat people in America? Almost everyone here is huge!" She was honestly shocked. I must admit I was also a bit surprised. I saw more disgustingly obese people in that one afternoon than I normally have seen in a week in any other country I've lived in.

I hate to break this to you, but it's true: Americans DO on average eat heaps more red meat, fat, salt, sugar, processed crap, and preservatives than people in most other countries, and lots fewer fruits and vegetables. I think most Americans don't know what real food is anymore.

And where the fuck do you get the idea that American food is *cough* exceptionally *cough* cheap?

And I've actually lived in Southeast Asia, BTW, and the 'proles' there eat lots of noodles, rice, fruits, vegetables, and a little bit of meat, which is mostly fish and some seafood and chicken. Lived on it myself for quite awhile and grew to prefer it, and that's mostly what I eat now (minus the seafood, most of which I can't eat).

So basically you're just making shit up. And your final sentence is just trolling.

Re:Portion size is only part of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39653927)

All those noodles and vegetables are swimming in palm oil (which is worse than butter) in South East Asia, though fortunately for them on a PPP basis the food is still much more expensive than here in the United States. That latter part is an indisputable fact, while I'll admit the former is merely based on my travels through the region.

And I never said those other places had lots of fat people, I merely implied that they would have more fat people if the price of their food was as cheap as it is here. Again, why do you think they eat less meat than here? Answer: $$$$. If they had the money, they'd eat more meat. To think otherwise is to buy into the racist Victorian myth that the "natives" are somehow more in-tune with nature (i.e. more predisposed to treat their bodies better), whereas in truth it would hardly take a generation for their eating habits to degrade to our own level.

Re:Portion size is only part of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39655489)

"And I've actually lived in Southeast Asia, "

Yes, you *little* people think that all people are big and your culture is the same one that tries to cram their women into tiny shoes and conformist submission, so pardon me if I roll my round eyes at you.

Re:Portion size is only part of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39650399)

Nobody became obese or developed diabetes or heart disease from eating too much lettuce

Ironically, this is because there is less nutrition in a piece of lettuce than in a processed piece of 'pink slime' chicken. You can live a lot longer on chicken alone than on lettuce alone, because the chicken has more of the nutrients we need to survive.

The reason we focus so much on eating more vegetables in society is because we tend to not get enough of the nutrients found in vegetables, and too much of the ones found in chicken. So it's a balance issue, not an 'absolute nutritional value' issue.

Also, lettuce isn't even that great as a vegetable. Better off eating broccoli or spinach.

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39667673)

Doggy bags, dude. They're not just for dogs, anymore (ignoring that they never were).

I regularly buy MORE Chinese food for "dinner" so that I have a full lunch for the next day, rather than just enough to act as an appetizer for the full-sized lunch that I would otherwise then eat (who makes *half* a ham on rye sandwich?).

BTW, buying movie theater soda -- you're too late to be worrying about portion size, you will go broke, first. And you will miss too much of the movie when you run to the restrooms, mid-movie.

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649949)

Umm...the book is about information overload and not food overload.

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (1)

bdclary (663568) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650081)

I think this is due to the customer's perceived value of the meal and economies of scale (the incremental cost of putting more food on the plate diminishes as more is put on). People may be more likely to eat at your restaurant if they perceive you offer a better value than competitors (assuming that quality of food is the same). Example of the economies of scale can be found in the Cheeburger Cheeburger menu (Sanibel Island, FL location): http://cheeburger.snappyorder.com/order/menu.asp?restaurant=146&categoryid=847 [snappyorder.com] The one pound burger is $12.49 ($0.78 per oz), while the half-pound burger is $8.19 ($1.02 per oz). Assuming these are menu options from two different restaurants (Restaurant A serves the one pounder, while Restaurant B servers the half-pounder), which do you think will be perceived as the better value? Some customers would take advantage of this by splitting the one pounder at Restaurant A instead of ordering two half-pounders from Restaurant B. And some restaurants counteract this by charging to share plates.

Re:Americans expect to be overfed (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39658089)

You go to most restaurants in the US and they serve up way more food than you would/should want to consume.

Two words: "doggie bag." I almost never leave a restaraunt empty handed, always leave with a go-box with enough leftovers for another full meal.

just look at what has happened to the "standard" soda size

Yeah, they used to have large, medium, and small. Now they have large, medium, and humungous. When I was a kid a small coke at McDonalds was 8 oz, medium 12 oz, large 16 oz. Now the "small" is 16 oz. They used to have 9 oz cokes in machines, now the smallest is 12 oz and the norm is a litre (that's tiny bit more than a quart).

So when I go to a restaraunt, I don't even buy soda, the 12 oz beer bottle is still standard.

Considering the size... (3, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649523)

Considering the size of the American diet industry, (and the size of Americans) one would have to conclude one or more of the following:
  1. Diets promote weight gain
  2. Nobody who needs to go on a diet actually does
  3. The diet industry is run by a bunch of con artists
  4. The diet industry is in cahoots with the food industry to produce an ever hungry, yet ever overweight cash cow
  5. Nobody in the industry understands what a diet really is

Re:Considering the size... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649641)

There are some other options, one of them being that diets fail to address the real problems that lead to weight gain.

However, it seems this book is not about actual dieting, but about information processing.

Re:Considering the size... (4, Funny)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649655)

"No matter how little I eat, I just don't lose weight!"

Oh, yeah, I've heard of that. You've got one of those thyroid problems. You know, where it causes you to metabolize zero-point energy.

Re:Considering the size... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649735)

You assume the diet industry is a monolithic organization. It's not. Your conclusions should be closer to the following:

1. Diets don't actually work
2. Diet plans sell an image

Re:Considering the size... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649947)

Money corrupts. A sick patient is a permanent profit center. A problem solved is not. It's far better from an American business perspective to keep on selling you a defective product.

Also, Americans like easy answers even if they're bogus. So a product or method that is actually effective won't get anywhere. A company that sells such a thing won't get anywhere until they stop trying to be so helpful and just sell flimflam like everyone else.

Re:Considering the size... (1)

judoguy (534886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649801)

Considering the size of the American diet industry, (and the size of Americans) one would have to conclude one or more of the following:

  1. Diets promote weight gain - So true!
  2. Nobody who needs to go on a diet actually does - Disagree. Zillions of people are desperately trying to lose weight all the time. Many, many miserable people out there.
  3. The diet industry is run by a bunch of con artists - Or at least ignorant people
  4. The diet industry is in cahoots with the food industry to produce an ever hungry, yet ever overweight cash cow - Maybe
  5. Nobody in the industry understands what a diet really is - The sad part is that they probably do understand or at least have access to the science and they ignore it. It ain't a secret.

Re:Considering the size... (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649957)

Most diets emphasize exercise, and studies now show exercise stimulates hunger. Thus people stay fat. Or they quit exercise but don't downsize their food intake (thus regaining what they lost).

For me the most effective diet was simply continuing my normal lifestyle but eating half as much. (But you can't sell a book with just one sentence.)

Re:Considering the size... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650605)

I'm re-reading The Hacker's Diet [fourmilab.ch] in another tab. Excellent article. Exercise is basically pointless when it comes to weight loss; twelve hours of bicycling full out to burn off one measly pound of fat. Who has the time for that? It's far easier to just not eat that extra pound in the first place.

Re:Considering the size... (1)

dinfinity (2300094) | more than 2 years ago | (#39651839)

Cardio is basically pointless when it comes to weight loss (but still extremely beneficial to your general health!). 'Exercise' is a far too general term here. The way in which exercise can induce weight loss is by increasing your non-fatty tissue and subsequently your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). A couple of weeks of strength training can achieve that: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/2001/04000/Effect_of_strength_training_on_resting_metabolic.5.aspx [lww.com] .

This graph [sciencelearn.org.nz] or Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] shows why increasing your RMR can be effective in aiding in losing weight.

Additionally, high spikes in blood sugar levels (insert carbohydrates/HFCS-rant here) and the associated insulin spikes are very suspect when it comes to losing fatty tissue (and generally: weight), see: http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/pancreas/insulin_phys.html [colostate.edu] (CTRL+F: lipid metabolism).

I will agree with you that the total amount of energy intake is also important. Not eating that extra pound is not a bad idea at all. But it is misleading to imply that merely eating less is the way to go. In fact, if not combined with daily activity (I'm avoiding the word exercise here), it can leave you as unhealthy as your visibly obese neighbour. See, f.i.: http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/Abdominal-fat-and-what-to-do-about-it.shtml [harvard.edu] (btw, 'visceral fat' is the more correct term as it doesn't conjure up associations with 'love handles' and such). Or Google 'dr jimmy bell fat' for some popular media coverage on the subject.

Re:Considering the size... (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39652209)

Higher metabolism == shorter lifespan.

Re:Considering the size... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39660903)

There may be some logic to that hypothesis, but I doubt that it's true. Can you point to a study?

Re:Considering the size... (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650987)

YMMV. My anecdotal evidence is that exercise is the only thing that helps me reduce weight, and acts as an appetite suppressant for at least 3 hours afterward. So, in my case, daily moderately-strenuous aerobic exercise (45-60 continuous minutes in aerobic pulse rate) is the easiest way for me to lose weight, whereas calorie reduction seems to drive my body into anti-starvation survival mode and makes my metabolism more efficient and less likely to convert body mass to energy.

Re:Considering the size... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39652741)

Any of these conclusions are sweeping generalizations.

1) "Diets promote weight gain" -- Yes, there are diets that promote weight gain. There are diets that promote weight loss. There are diets which decrease fat percentage. There are other diets as well. People choose what they want to do.

2) "Nobody who needs to go on a diet actually does" -- Utterly ridiculous. There are plenty of people who need to go on a diet, and they DO go on a diet with tremendous success. You're not looking at them.

3) "The diet industry is run by a bunch of con artists" -- I don't know what this 'diet industry' is, but yes, there are plenty of con artists in the diet industry. There are plenty of knowledgeable people as well. It's no different from any other industry, really.

4) "The diet industry is in cahoots with the food industry to produce an ever hungry, yet ever overweight cash cow" -- Possibly. Any particular scenarios?

5) "Nobody in the industry understands what a diet really is" -- There are many people who do understand what a diet is and how to make it effective.

peopleofwalmart.com (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649527)

Clay Johnson believes that the issues the U.S. has with food, have become mirrored in how we consume information.

So the theory is walmart shoppers read too much... and thats a problem... show me a link on peopleofwalmart of someone with an excessive quantity of books and I'll believe it...

Did he write about fluff vs real literature? I believe the PC rallying cry in years past was against the western literature canon or some phrase like that, basically all the stuff I self educated myself with by reading and enjoying.

Does his book encourage zen meditation practice? Maybe something along the lines of all the benefits of meditation without the pesky religious connotations?

BTW thanks for publishing a review to a book not published by Packt.

Re:peopleofwalmart.com (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649667)

I don't think that having an excessive quantity of books would really fit into the problem he describes. The people of walmart folks probably may not read a lot of books (though they may - especially if you count Harlequin Romances or the Twilight series as books) but I bet they have a constant flow of information coming in via TV, Radio, email and the web. It's the electronic media that gets the most attention and so I don't think fluff vs real literature was a topic that was discussed so much.

I don't remember anything about meditation, zen or otherwise.

I've reviewed at least one Packt book in the past for slashdot. I review whatever I'm interested in, I don't really worry so much about who publishes it. I'm not sure why it bothers people so much. They publish some decent books, and feed some of the proceeds back into open source projects. Seems o.k. to me.

Show em how it's done! (1)

miltonw (892065) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649567)

1. Make up some silly theory about some problem without any research or proof.
2. Say it has something to do with the Intertubes!
3. Write a book
4. ...
5. Profit!!!1!

Rating inflation (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649575)

Ambiguous non-recommendation gets an 8. I guess the scale is some sorta inverse logarithmic?

Re:Rating inflation (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649787)

The scale is in the guidelines for submitting reviews [slashdot.org] . 8 is "Very Good". Usually what I do is start mentally with a 10 and as I see issues I'll knock down the score. I can't remember if I've ever rated a book I've reviewed a 10. I'd have to go back and look and I'm too tired to do that now. I know I've read some 9s.

I didn't mean to be ambiguous. Sorry about that. I think that it's a good book with potential to have an impact. But the issues I mentioned do exist and so I wouldn't feel right if I didn't mention them. For future reviews I'll try to be more clear in how I feel about the book and if I recommend it.

Though as a rule of thumb if I really don't like a book I don't finish it and I don't review it. Though there was an exception a while back - a sci-fi novel, Space Vulture [geekbook.org] (The same review ran here at slashdot - but it's easier to find at my own site where I keep all my reviews - though I haven't kept it up to date.) That was a stinker but I finished it, but now I feel bad for having reviewed it with a low score. Just my personality. I'd rather focus on promoting what I think is good rather than bashing what I think is bad.

author looks rather fat himself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649599)

author looks rather fat himself
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_Johnson_%28technologist%29

The Diet (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649607)

Seems pretty obvious to me -- don't waste your time consuming junk like FB/twitter posts. I usually do it once a day and focus the rest of my day more important stuff.

Quoting another review: "He proposes conscious consumption of information which is not about consuming less, but developing a balanced and healthy habit just like when you go on diet..... The method describe there is very similar to the Pomodoro techinque, and there are plenty of great books on how to manage your tasks and stay focused (GTD, Personal Kanban)."

Another negative review:

"the first irony is that the book is fat. Everything interesting here could be said in a magazine article. Too many empty calories, alas.

"The second problem, and one I would hope most readers would care about, though I have my doubts, is the painfully obvious bias the author exhibits when he divides up information into "health food" and "junk food." Kudos to the author for at least acknowledging that he's a liberal who has worked in Democratic politics for years, but that still doesn't excuse the exquisitely obvious way that he divides up the landscape. For pages, I literally dreaded his first mention of Fox News (a station, I must note, that I never watch), for I knew it was coming, and I knew exactly what he would say about it. I won't bore the reader with the details--if you're honest, you know exactly what the most predictable leftist take on conservative media would be. Yet when you have high hopes for a book, to cringe, literally, as it becomes obvious what kind of flatulent, flat-footed bias will be passed off as objectivity... well, it was disheartening.

"I could add that, while I don't like any television news stations, what made the predictable Fox-bashing seem more horrible was the way it was couched in a defense of CNN as "the facts." For you see, Fox (and later MSNBC, cynically following Roger Ailes' model) is serving up the "cheese fries in gravy" equivalent of information sustenance, whereas CNN is just "the truth" and "the facts"-- a well-balanced, healthy diet of Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper..... Maybe if CNN confirms YOUR bias, it can seem to you like just the "truth" and the "facts." But the idea that it is merely objective is, to put it mildly, absurd."

"There are lots of other silly things wrong with this book, such as when the author claims that the printing press ushered in the renaissance (a neat trick for Gutenberg to bring about Petrarch and Pico della Mirandola)..... Maybe it gets better after the first third. That's how much I could take before I decided to cut my losses and read something more nutritious."

Re:The Diet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39649729)

There is no -1 "I disagee" moderation option. That's what reply is for.

I agree. Which is why it really hurts any time I see a post of yours that I must mod down. Most of the time, I agree with the message, but the delivery is undeniably flamebait/troll.

Re:The Diet (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650007)

In your OPINION I am a "troll", but you shouldn't be moderating based upon opinion or personal dislike.
BTW I don't watch FOX 'cause I don't have cable. I watch the freebie channels like RT, France24, NHK.

Re:The Diet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39650185)

but you shouldn't be moderating based upon opinion or personal dislike

So because I agree with the message you are conveying, I am down-modding you because I disagree with the message? You're going to have to explain the logic you used to arrive at that conclusion, because I'm not seeing it.

Re:The Diet (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650221)

They aren't moderating if they comment. Though I am unaware of a way to mod that isn't based on opinion as the categories are all highly subjective.

I wouldn't call your response trolling. I'm just not sure why you felt the need to pad your opinion with cut and pastes of reviews from Amazon. It doesn't really support your case. You don't indicate who the reviewers are or where to find the reviews - that would be helpful, if nothing else to see if what you've posted actually matches what was said.

Re:The Diet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39650801)

To be fair, I do agree that there is nothing immediately visible to me to justify the down-mod that this post of theirs got.

I agree with the premise (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649719)

This reminds me of my philosophy of science class. A scientific hypothesis must:
-be concise
-make *single* predictions given one set of inputs

For instance, consider a hypothesis of how gravity works as "any object that is thrown up into the air will either: fly up continuously, fall down eventually, fly to the left, or fly to the right" This isn't a scientific hypothesis since (almost) every possible outcome from "throwing an object in the air" is predicted. There's no way for that hypothesis to be proven wrong.

The internet acts, in a more general way, similarly to the above example. It's possible to find some website on the internet backing just about any claim, and every side of an issue. Don't think global warming is possible? There's a website out there that agrees with you and says you're right in thinking global warming is "wrong". Think global warming might/is caused by human activity? There's a website out there for *that*, too.

My solution has been to create a personal "white list" of sources that I trust. Math topics are generally covered well by mathworld.wolfram.com or reputable .edu sites, for instance. I'm skeptical about any math related mumbo jumbo outside of mathworld or a reputable .edu site. I've also got a math background and all of my course textbooks to cross reference.

Mught really be an analog to food (1)

judoguy (534886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649723)

The real issue really might be the type of info not the quantity. For diet, it's the type of calories that matter. I've started consuming lots of fat and reducing starch and other sugars without regard to total calorie count and my weight has dropped substantially and my health has improved as measured by lipid panels and my own athletic performance. Gotta be a an information analog. Plenty of junk out there on the intertubes along with good stuff.

Profitering is making us fat (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649775)

If you can make people unable to stop consuming your product then you have a goldmine.

Cigarette makers have officially nicotine to do that (they have more addictives but the law doesn't give a fsck)

and food makers have sugar. Not cane sugar but fructose/sucrose, corn syrup/sugar and HFCS. And it's everywhere! (even in table salt!)

Sugar The Bitter Truth
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM [youtube.com]

Bleh... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39649989)

It seems that most of the information out there now tastes like despair.

Re:Bleh... (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650055)

nah- there's lots of positive and exciting stuff going on - you just need to find out about it. I read about 2 or 3 cool things a week that get me excited about the future. Lately a lot of it has to do with the advances in e-learning and how mobile phones are improving lives in developing countries.

But what does Cave Johnson think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39650037)

But what does Cave Johnson think? About the lemons?

Consolidation (1)

AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650079)

There's a lot to be said for the "personalization" trend of places like Google and Facebook, where they shape all of your results according to what their algorithms think is most important to you. Can readers weigh in on how the consolidation of the internet has affected their own use of it?

I've found that rather than randomly browsing the web at large to find any particularly interesting page, my needs are primarily met by Wikipedia, Google's suite of apps, Facebook, Slashdot, and YouTube. Between the five of those, I've got almost all the bases covered, and my habits have *shaped* to not really imagine needing anything outside of those things. Other websites have become the outliers instead of the norm, and so I would say my "diet" has shifted because it's got a more consistent stream of media from these sites, but it's also being tailored to fit what I've become accustomed to. and I can actually mentally perceive my perception of the internet changing to accommodate it. It's erroneous I know, but I occasionally feel like the internet equivalent of a couch potato because the whole of the web is at my fingers, and I don't really browse to any of the other sites without a more specific need to. Things like Stumble are used by a lot of my friends, but most of the main information comes from those big five. I'm curious to hear the thoughts below.

Useful metaphor... (1)

gtm256 (848258) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650303)

...for some I'm sure, but the idea that you are what you read is faulty. An intelligent person can tell if what their reading is complete BS or not. As Americans we've come to distrust our own eyes in favor of a benevolent authority to tell us what to believe. We want our information catered to our world views so we're all nice and cozy. But a true intellectual reads everything and makes all their decisions on their own without any help from anyone. The author has basically taken the fad diet and applied it to mental health. I do think our collective ADD is related to our obesity, but it has more to do with our malnourishment than our obesity. Most people don't realize that you can be fat and malnourished. But our food has no nutrients at all, it's just empty calories. (Even the stuff that's marketed as healthy like yogurt.) I think it's the hidden root of a lot of our problems. And I don't see how you can build a great society on sugar and wonder bread.

The "Pig" principle (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39650601)

Theory is that if something is good, more is better. Food and information alike

There you go, I've said it in one line.

Irony (1)

slasho81 (455509) | more than 2 years ago | (#39651227)

Ironically, this book is about 140 to 150 pages too long.

Also, if this review was shorter, there might have been a chance that I would have read it.

flawed premise, no obesity problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39651343)

Americans may be the most overweight, but there is no obesity epidemic, obesity is not the biggest killer, and one third of us are not obese.

The entire obesity epidemic was based on the bmi, which does not apply to how fat you are. It simply measures your height vs your weight. It's a gimmick used by the diet industries and politicians. Any one who had done any weight training throws the scale completely out of whack.

If your arnt convinced, just look around, statistically, according to the bmi, one on the purple you see should be very fat. I'm sick of hearing about this obesity bull shit.

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