Sat, Jun 25, 2016

[Icon][Icon]The perfect compromise

• Post categories: Omni, In The News

So, the biggest vote of a generation has been and gone. It came after a campaign painfully lacking in useful information on either side, and it departs leaving nobody really looking good.

The Prime Minster, David Cameron, whose best answer to the huge responsibility of deciding how to handle an enormously complicated political decision was to say "Fuck it, you decide, I'm not going to", has made it clear he'll be continuing with his abdication of responsibility by handing in his notice rather than deal with the results himself. Everybody is therefore asking "What happens next?" with a certain amount of trepidation.

Well, there's a lot of uncertainty, of course. But I think I have the answer. It's based on something once said by the great philosopher, Calvin:

A good compromise leaves everybody mad

One of the most notable lacks in the Leave campaign was its answer to "What's the plan for after the vote?" which was famously answered with "lol, dunno!" by the head of UKIP. Slightly more useful answers cited examples of other non-EU countries that we could emulate.

My argument is that the proposal of the Norweigian model is not just good, but the best possible answer, and here is why:

The original referendum back in the 70s was to join the common market. A persistent complaint from Leave was that the EU was "not what we voted for" and it's perfectly true. So we could satisfy both referendums by leaving the EU and staying in the single market.

So far so good. But there's more!

The Norway model gives access to the single market via the EEA - the European Economic Area. The UK could continue to trade with the Europe pretty much as it always has. This would settle the markets and ease the fears of the international corporations that are suddenly finding London a less-attractive base of operations.

Even better, as all informed voters will be aware, the House of Commons indicated long before the vote took place that it would use it's (roughly) 3:1 pro-Europe majority to block any attempt to take us out of the EEA. So it would actually be very difficult for our leader (whoever that turns out to be) NOT to go with the Norway model or something very close to it.

But what makes it the ideal solution is this: Membership of the EEA not only gives unrestricted access to the single market. It also requires that members: abide by EU regulations regarding the market; allow free movement of workers; and pay the EU for membership - to the tune of something like £200 million a week.

The Leave campaign never ceased to talk about reclaiming control of our borders; and the (wrong) amount of money we pay into the EU each week was even emblazoned on the side of Boris Johnson's Leave campaign bus.

The Norway model would mean nothing changes on either front. And that's what makes it so perfect!

Everybody who voted Remain - the 48% - gets to feel pissed off because they didn't get what they voted for.

Everybody who voted Leave - the 52% - gets to feel pissed off because they got EXACTLY what they voted for. Just not what they actually wanted.

The entire population thus gets to come together, unhappy but united again in our common hatred of our politicians, who always, ALWAYS get it wrong.

And the politicians? It's ideal for them, too: They get to answer every problem with their tried-and-tested approach of blaming everything on the immigrants they can't stop from coming here; and the lack of cash they have to work with because it all goes to Europe.

Life would quickly settle back to normal. The Europeans already here could stop worrying about being thrown out, the Brits abroad likewise. Trade would continue much as it always did before. The UK stops having to worry about EU policymaking because it no longer has a say in it. The entire population settles down and resigns itself to not having got what it wanted, as usual, and the whole thing is over.


Mon, Dec 14, 2015

[Icon][Icon]Slides for my talk

• Post categories: Omni, FOSS, Technology, My Life, Programming, Helpful

On Saturday, I attended the London Perl Workshop - an annual event that's totally free to attend and has plenty of useful stuff even for people who don't know Perl.

I even did a talk myself - an introduction to Functional Programming for beginners. Nobody fell asleep, so I called it a success. As requested, I'm also making the slides available. I'm using Dropbox because meh, it's convenient.

It's Powerpoint rather than Open/Libre Office because, basically, that's what happens to be installed on my laptop already. If you weren't at the presentation and want to read the slides to get the content, I advise "notes view" because there were a few worthwhile points that didn't get turned into bullet points on the slides.

Download here

If you have any problems getting the file, tweet me or something and I'll see what I can do about it. I'm not turning comments on here because I get spammed to hell if I do that, sadly.


Mon, Aug 10, 2015

[Icon][Icon]Tablet keyboards

• Post categories: Omni, FOSS, Technology, Programming, Helpful

So I got sick of some things on my Android tablet. The crappy privacy settings, the unrelenting stream of adverts in youtube, and so on.

So I figured it was time to try out the alternative: Cyanogenmod, an open-source fork of Android.

A lot went well. Things that were broken by latest Android switching away from the Dalvik runtime sprang back into life with a switch to CM and leaving it set to Dalvik. Such as YouTube AdAway (See previous post for more on that)

Also, CM has privacy settings that let me say "Yes, install the Facebook app, but NO, don't let it know where I am, thankyouverymuch" and profiles so I can have it automatically mute when I'm at work and regain sound when I get home. And I lost far fewer files in the transition than I expected, which was good.

There was just one little niggle. And it's to do with keyboards.

For most tasks, I like to use the standard Android keyboard. It's a pretty good kb. But when I use the ConnectBot ssh client, I *need* a full keyboard, with keys like Ctrl, Alt, and Esc. No problem, Hacker's Keyboard to the rescue!

But when I'm in Firefox, I want the LastPass keyboard so it can enter my username & passwords for me.

So depending on what app I'm using, I might be desiring one of three keyboards. And it's a pain to have to switch them manually.

No problem, because Tasker to the rescue! An app that can watch for context changes, like switching to an app, and automatically apply specified actions. Except that the UI isn't the easiest to get your head around, but eventually I was pretty confident that it wasn't me being an idiot: The option to change keyboard just wasn't there.

But it had to be, because I'd used it before...

A bit of Google-fu, and the answer came to light: Keyboard-switching power isn't exposed in the normal course of things. You can only get at it if you install the Secure Settings app.

Which I did. But that didn't work either. A bit more poking around, and I found that it needed me to install the System+ Module to allow it to expose the functionality I wanted. No problem, it has a button that does exactly that.

But I clicked on "Enable" and it failed to grant the permissions.

I checked the SuperSU logs, and was told that I'd need SuperSU *Pro* to access that feature.


So I threw a few quid their way, and got SuperSU Pro installed & running. (You have no idea how many reboots I'm leaving out of the story here, by the way :(

Tried again, saw a failure in the logs but needed to enable expanded logging for a more useful answer. Enabled it, tried again, finally got a useful error: <stdin>[1]: pm: not found</stdin>

But *why* isn't pm found? It's in the /system/bin/ directory, with correct 755 permissions. Fscking hell. Maybe I'm missing something?

Switch away from my Linux VM and back into OS X because that's where all the Android SDK stuff is installed. Open up an iTerm, and fire up adb. Which fails to find my tablet because (a) it's not plugged in at the moment, and (b) I turned off USB debugging.

Fix those two problems, and *now* I can get a shell. One quick confirm on SuperSU Pro later, and I have a root shell. Can I run the pm binary? Yes.

Okay, clearly there's a problem in the installer preventing it from using the correct $PATH to find the binary that's right where it fucking should be. It *can't* be that many commands to run to install this fecking module, right..? And I already know the first one from the error logs. It's pm grant com.intangibleobject.securesettings.plugin something something something

So, let's dump that command into google and see if anyone has been helpful enough to list the *other* commands that are needed..?


pm grant com.intangibleobject.securesettings.plugin android.permission.WRITE_SECURE_SETTINGS
pm grant com.intangibleobject.securesettings.plugin android.permission.CHANGE_CONFIGURATION

That's all it needs! Just those two commands!

So I run those from adb where pm is actually working, and the module is *still* not enabled. So I reboot just for good measure.


System+ Module is enabled, and Secure Settings is now allowing me to open the System+ Actions in Options and activate the "Input Method" entry.

Finally! I have reached the point where Tasker should be able to change my keyboard settings.

So now it's just the Tasker UI to worry about...

This time, I remember the lessons from last time: Do *not* start with the profile. First define the tasks you want. That means Tasks -> New -> Name it -> Add Action -> Select Plugin -> Secure Settings -> Edit configuration -> System+ Actions -> Input method -> Select desired keyboard from dropdown -> Save -> Leave all other conditions in the Tasker screen alone and hit the top-left button to say "I'm done here"

Repeat this for every keyboard I'll be wanting - in my case, LastPass, Hacker's, and stock.

Now that I *have* the tasks, create a profile to use them. Profiles -> New -> Application -> Select desired app(s) -> Top-left button -> From drop-down select desired keyboard task

Halfway there, I will now get the keyboard I want when I switch to a target app. But it won't go away when I leave. How do I add an "exit" task? I see nothing obvious.

A bit more poking around, and I get it: Long-press the green arrow, and it'll pop up a dropdown that allows you to add an exit task. Select that option, choose the stock keyboard task, and finally, after all that work, you're done.

Yes, I'm aware, it's an insane amount of work to have to go to just to establish a link between apps and keyboards. I only stuck with it so long because at every step of the way, it seemed like I was just *one* step away from success.

If somebody else is stuck with trying to get their CM tablet/phone to change keyboards based on app, I hope something in here helps you to save your sanity. Mine is, clearly, gone already :)


Tue, Dec 09, 2014


• Post categories: Omni, FOSS, Rant, Technology, My Life, Helpful

That old chestnut, internet advertising. Still causing problems after all these years...

The problem is clicks. When advertisers came to the Web, they realized they could make their adverts clickable. Unfortunately, this single fact caused their brains to melt.

You see, no form of advertising ever has relied on "See ad, buy product". That is an approach that has never worked. It's well known that advertising works on a subtle, slow-and-steady approach: The first half-dozen times you see an advert, you don't even register it. Then the next half-dozen, you vaguely remember having seen it before. Then the next few times, you wonder briefly about the product. Then a few more exposures and you start to think about buying the product. A few more, and you resolve that you WILL buy the product. A few more still, and you finally take action and actually buy the product.

And that's the best-case scenario. Sure, sometimes you'll see an ad that reminds you you already meant to buy a product and you might seem to do "See ad, buy" but those are exceptional edge-cases, not brilliant advertising.

So the whole industry was based around ensuring you saw a product advertised many times, because it was repeated exposure that did the magic. And everybody knew that. A never-ending stream of subtle nudges that ultimately resulted in a purchase.

Nobody ever said "We put up a billboard by the road that says 'Buy cola!' and the drivers didn't immediately pull over and dive into a shop for a cola. Clearly, the advert has failed." That would be nonsense. Advertising doesn't work like that.

Internet advertising should have been just another form of exposure: A reminder of a product, which was linked to a site where you could buy it solely to make your life easier if this happened to be that one-in-a-hundred exposure that caused you to buy the product.

Instead, the entire industry threw out everything they knew about how adverts work, and began a years-long scream of "CLICK ON OUR FUCKING ADVERTS YOU BASTARDS!!!"

Simple text ads not getting clicked? Make them brash colours!

Still not enough clicks? Bright, flashing colours!

Still not enough? Animations! Dancing monkeys!

Still not enough? Full-on movies!

Still not enough? Movies with sound!

And so on....

And so adverts became bigger, brighter, louder, and in every way possible harder to ignore. They even over-shadowed the content people were actually trying to view. And so the ad-blocker was born - a desperation move by people who just wanted to read the content they had clicked on without seizure-inducing movies screaming at them from all sides.

I've used Abdblock Plus in my browser for years. For a while, I tried to maintain my own list of sites to be blocked, but it became harder and harder to stay on top, so ultimately I caved and signed up for the auto-updating filters it offers. And it eliminated the vast majority of obnoxious ads for me, and still allowed harmless ads through: the ones that were just simple text, or static banner.

And that was fine, and indeed still is.

But I also started using a tablet. And ads soon made their unwelcome appearance on that, too. Beyond obnoxious: Simply opening a web page sometimes saw me suddenly finding myself in the Play store being asked to okay the installation of an app. WTF?!?

Not just obnoxious, this was becoming a genuine safety hazard. Something had to be done!

And I discovered my old friend, Adblock Plus, had an Android app. Installed on a tablet you have root on (Which I do), it blocks ads not just in Firefox, but across all applications. Win!

For a while, all was well. But then a couple of problems: Firstly, ABP had a tendency to crash and need a manual restart, which was annoying. Secondly, YouTube started using HTTPS.

This is a problem, because ABP works by being a proxy, diverting all network traffic through it. This works beautifully for filtering out known advertising servers, like doubleclick. However, youtube adverts are videos. They come from youtube.com. And HTTPS obscures all details of a request other than the server: All ABP could see was "Youtube, please send me stuff" - it couldn't distinguish "Video I asked for" from "Advert I don't want"

And youtube, like most other advertising, has been getting slowly more and more intrusive. Un-skippable ads before you can watch a movie, ads that pop up in front of the movie you're watching... all the shit that makes US TV so painful to watch, ported into the web. Lovely.

Youtube was getting steadily worse; ABP couldn't help; Youtube can't realistically be boycotted; Google is only just beginning to consider a "Paid membership" option to remove adverts. What to do?

Well, when you have a technical problem, a useful approach is often to bitch about it on an IRC channel. Which I did, and as hoped, got pointed at something useful. AdAway, and YouTube AdAway.

AdAway, instead of being a proxy, simply updates your hosts file to redirect ad requests. Nice and simple. YouTube AdAway was a plugin for the Xposed framework, a handy little framework that can alter the way the system, and any installed apps, work.

So, there was a certain amount of jumping through hoops - install F-Droid to use it to get AdAway, install the Xposed Installer to get the framework to get the YouTube AdAway module...

But I got it all done, and the end result? So far, no ads in YouTube: No pre-video clips, no pop-ups during the vid. YouTube is no longer annoying.

Browsing, I have more ads than I'm used to - I've not yet done anything to customise AdAway - but less ads than I'd get with no block at all. And so far, none of the dangerous "Hey, install this app!" crap.

So I count it as a win.

A couple of other things I've picked up lately that may be of use to desktop users. Firstly, that old favourite, the video player VLC: It can open YouTube vids from the URL. If you just want to watch a movie without any ads, suggested "What to watch next" vids, etc. then this is a quick & simple way to get it.

Secondly, if you use ABP, there's also an extension that will work with it called AdNauseam - ABP simply blocks everything, AN adds a simple addition: It simulates clicking on everything blocked.

This answers two of the common objections to adblockers: "You should support sites you like by clicking on their ads!" and "I don't want my preferences to be tracked" - clicking on everything makes your preferences unknowable, costs advertisers money, and raises funds for your favoured sites.

Lastly, if you worry about how much Google knows about you, this has some links that will allow you to not only see what Google knows, but also to correct and even delete some of it.

Have fun!


Mon, Nov 03, 2014

[Icon][Icon]An experience

• Post categories: Omni, Health, Rant, Exercise, My Life, Helpful, Science:ItWorks

I don't have an addictive personality.

I can't relate to people who talk about it being hard to give things up. I once read an article about the popularity of Thai green curry, and the author (a real fan) stated that if she went too long without eating the stuff she started to get mild anxiety attacks. I can't comprehend the idea of being that attached to a food.

Or smoking: When somebody says they can't stop, I get visions of a cigarette spontaneously igniting itself, leaping into the air and forcibly jamming itself between their protesting lips. This actually makes more sense to me (on a certain level) than the idea that not doing something is somehow difficult. If you want to give up smoking, just don't put a cigarette in your mouth. Simple.

Intellectually, I understand why this isn't the case. I understand that habits are hard to break; I understand that drug addictions are hard to overcome; I understand that psychological attachments to a habit or routine can be hard to suppress. It all makes perfect logical sense. But that's the only level on which it makes sense. I understand, but can't relate.

If you don't appreciate the distinction, try this: I can understand that to a male shark, a female shark is a desirable mate. But I can't actually relate to the concept of wanting to mate with a shark :)

On the few occasions when I've had to give something up for some reason, I've never found it hard: I just stopped. Whether it was a habit like chewing nails; or a food that I had to cut out; or whatever; it just wasn't a problem.

So when I recently found myself facing the prospect of dieting, I was actually quite looking forward to it: Although it's not exactly addictive per se, food is something that it's clearly not easy to go without. And I do have a fondness for sweets and savory snacks. Here, it seemed, was my chance to experience the challenges of going without. At last, I might be able to find a way to relate to the difficulties people report.

My motivations for going on a diet in the first place were a little different than most, I should explain. I was by no means obese: I didn't expect anyone to notice any difference, and sure enough, nobody did. So what was the point? Well, having spent the last year or so working hard on overcoming the damage done by a motorbike accident followed by a car crash, I'd spent a lot of time in the gym. The enforced inactivity for months due to severe whiplash had weakened my back to the point of uselessness: Returning strength and flexibility was a slow process. One piece of advice you'll see on most fitness fora is that an important factor in building strength is fueling it: Eat plenty.

Naturally, if you eat a lot, your body will be prone to putting some of it aside as fat rather than muscle, which leads a lot of people to adopt a "bulk/cut" cycle: Eat a lot to build muscle; then cut back to burn off the fat. It's a chore, sure, but it's easier to over-eat then under-eat than it is to stay at a "sweet spot" where you're doing neither.

I'd done the "eat lots" part, and it certainly helped fuel my time at the gym. But I was starting to have difficulties here and there: A twist hold I do each morning was starting to put pressure on my gut; and I was making next to no progress with pull-ups. Since arms are nowhere near as strong as the legs, being able to use them to lift your entire body weight is quite a challenge. Although I was able to do 18 in a morning workout, I was struggling. And the main advice to make progress with pullups is to ease the burden: Reduce the bodyfat.

I was also curious to see what was involved in cutting back to fat levels that would result in visible abs - something I've never had, but aspire to someday. Probably not realistic to do it all in one go, I figured, but at least finding out what weight loss is like should give me some idea of how big a chore it would be. Starting with a bit of a belly, how far could I get towards that goal?

So I had both practical and cosmetic reasons for wanting to cut down my BF%. And I was also interested in the experience for its own sake: The understanding I hoped it would give me of what it's like to find it hard to give something up.

So I looked at my routine and my eating regime, and came up with a fairly simple plan: A very strict diet during the week, relaxed at the weekend: Since it's the only time I get to spend with my other half, the weekend tends to work out as "date night" and it would have been a major inconvenience to try and stick to a strict eating plan during it, so I didn't try.

Also, building in "cheats" to any eating plan is generally a good idea: It means you don't go through "Oh, I didn't stick to my diet" guilt. Some people might prefer one small cheat per day, but I opted to resolve to stick to a rigid plan during the week and only have the "forbidden fruits" at the weekend.

Partly that was a practical decision - it's easier to manage - and partly it was just to make it a little harder: Five days in every seven, absolutely no snacks or sweets. I'd allow sugar in my first cup of tea, and a couple of biscuits as dessert at the end of the day - that was it as far as sugary things was concerned. Savory snacks were simply not allowed. Ruling out my favorite 'sinful' foods should ensure that I'd feel the temptations that people told me made it so hard to stick to a resolution to go without.

The idea of weekends, I should clarify, was not "Yay! Splurge on everything! Nom nom nom!!!" That would have been rather counter-productive. Rather, it was to be as sensible as possible about intake without there being any rules: If I'd spent the week fancying a donut, at the weekend I could have that donut. But I would have a donut, not scarf a bagful of the things. If we went out for a meal, I'd order the BBQ ribs without a twinge of guilt. But I'd get the half rack rather than the full rack. And so on.

So I began with that plan, and four months later I decided enough was enough: The experiment was over. That was a month ago, and this is the first time I've had to write up my thoughts. First, the good:

I lost weight. Most noticeably, my belt got looser. According to the not-terribly-reliable scales, I went from a little over 100kg to a little under 90kg - I reckon I lost around 13kg all-in.

Muscle definition did indeed improve: If I stand up straight and the lighting's flattering, you can just about make out that I have abs in there somewhere.

Pull-ups got easier/better: I went from maxed-out at six sets of three to being just about able to do three sets of ten. Pushups and single-leg squats also improved noticeably.

The not-so-good:

It was boring. I mean, really boring. I'm one of those people who tends to snack when bored, and losing that option was no fun.

It was frustrating: Walking past a bakery and getting a whiff when you can't eat a damn thing they sell.. no fun!

I was hungry quite often. No surprise there, right? Never painfully "I must feed!!!" hungry, but I was very ready for food when I reached mealtime.

My stamina dropped. Mostly I didn't feel lacking in energy, but cycling up a steep hill killed me in a way it wouldn't usually.

The worst part:

It wasn't hard.

It just wasn't. I successfully lost weight just by dieting for months. Hand on heart, I didn't cheat - not so much as a crumb, not once. (About the closest I got was having to take cold medicine at one point, which technically does contain sugar..) I planned a diet, and I stuck rigidly and absolutely to it. It was no fun at all, it was frustrating and uncomfortable at times.. but it wasn't hard. The worst thing I can say about it was that it was boring. And it *did* give me an unexpected insight: I've never before understood becoming institutionalized. That does now make sense to me - it's proving really hard to get out of the "I know every meal I will eat for the next week" mindset and into "Eat whatever, whenever" mode.

It may seem odd to be disappointed that it was easy to lose weight. But I was genuinely looking forward to a new experience, something that would allow me to relate to people in a way I hadn't been able to before. And that never materialized. The cravings, the temptations, the hunger, all the things that people say make losing weight so hard.. I didn't get them. I still can't relate to the idea that it's difficult to diet off fat.

For a while, this baffled me. It seems like hunger, being a fairly primal thing, should provoke similar reactions in anyone. I'm pretty sure I'm not that much of a freak. Why was my experience so different to other people's?

And then somebody posted a link on Fitocracy which made things suddenly click into place. It was an article titled 10 mistakes women make with diets.

I can't say whether those ten points are valid - I'm not a woman. But they did help me realize that in a few ways, I really am that much of a freak. I don't watch TV: So I don't get bombarded with ads about the latest gimmicks and fads. I have a strong science background: I try to stay current on studies about exercise and nutrition.

So when I came to work out how I would eat to cut down bodyfat, I didn't use a "points" system. I didn't use an "amazing breakthrough" or "one weird trick". I didn't think it was a good idea to cut out major food groups. I didn't go into a massive calorie deficit.

When I factored in how the typical person must go about trying to lose weight, swimming in a sea of misinformation from advertisers and long-discredited yet still-believed studies.. it all came into focus. Dieting is a multi-billion dollar industry, there's no profit in teaching you how to get weight to come off & stay off. The typical dieter is unfortunately a misinformed dieter.

The misinformed dieter has some vague idea that "carbs are bad" so would try to cut out sugar and bread and fruit... which I consumed daily.

The misinformed dieter still believes that saturated fats are bad, which means "no meat or dairy". Which were my main staple foods.

The misinformed dieter thinks that the best exercise when dieting is cardio, so hits the treadmill at the gym. When I'm in the gym, I do no cardio at all: weight training burns more calories and builds more muscle which will burn even more.

For example, here's a breakdown of my last day on a diet:
06:00 Wake up, drink glass of whole milk
06:45 Cycle to work
07:30 Gym: press-ups; horizontal pulls; leg lifts; dips; stretching
09:00 Get to work, tea with two sugars & two slices of buttered white toast
10:00 Tea with no sugar
12:30 Carton of whole milk, lunchtime walk
18:00 Cycle home
19:00 Home-made chilli & couscous with olive oil, glass of whole milk, tea with two sugars, two shortbread fingers
20:00 Holds (crow stand/hollow body) & stretching

That really is everything I ate and the exercise I got. The calorie intake from food was just slightly in excess of my estimated base metabolic rate, i.e. enough to fuel a day when I did no exercise. So the time on the bike & at the gym etc. all went into generating the required calorie deficit for weight loss.

When I look at it and think "What would the misinformed dieter do from that list?" the only thing that comes to mind is "They'd use a cycle machine at the gym" - the carbs and satfats and sugar... no chance.

And yet the misinformed dieter struggles to stay on a diet, and fails to loose weight. I stuck with my diet religiously and the fat just slowly melted off.

And it really wasn't hard.

Not because I'm some superhuman dieting machine. Not because I have amazing reserves of willpower and self-restraint.

No, just because I'm lucky enough to have good sources of information that I pay attention to, instead of the attention-grabbing profit-driven bumf that the misinformed dieter is bombarded with. When I try to work out what you can eat if you believe the typical "these foods are bad" nonsense, about all I can think of is "salad" - which will give you a calorie deficit, sure enough, but it won't supply you with decent nutrition, so it'll cost you muscle mass as well as fat. Which is a Bad Thing.

So having reached the end of my first dieting experience, I can't say it's granted me the insights I was hoping it might; but it does look like I might be able to generate something useful with it even so: I figure the best thing I can do is provide some links to useful sources of information, so that maybe other people who've struggled with losing weight can find something that may help them.

Do bear in mind, I'm neither a dietician nor a qualified fitness professional. My sole claim for credibility is "I succeeded in losing some bodyfat" - Hopefully I can tell you something that will help you do the same. No guarantees, though.

First off: BMI is bullshit. Whilst it may be true that "obesity means high BMI" it's totally wrong that "high BMI means obesity" - in the same way that "tigers are big cats" is accurate but "big cats are tigers" is not. The BMI was meant for measuring populations, it has no place being used on an individual. Do not base your weight loss goal on where it puts your BMI.

Next up: There is no magic bullet or clever eating strategy that will allow you to eat as much as you like and still lose weight. Anything that promises to allow you to do so is bullshit. Eating less calories that you use up is what will work, and it will only work if you do it consistently. Feel free to look for eating plans that will make it easier to do that, by all means, but don't think that cutting out carbs/cutting out fat/eating meat, nuts, and berries/whatever will do the magic on its own. It won't.

Dairy is good for you. Cutting out eggs and butter is not a healthy choice.

Similarly, whole milk is better for losing weight than skimmed - it's a long-discredited notion that switching away from full-fat is good advice for dieters.

Cardio is not the best way to burn calories, weight lifting is. If you do only one exercise in the gym, do barbell squats. Especially if you're a woman. No, weight lifting won't make you bulky: It takes years of dedicated effort to get visibly big muscles. What it will do is strengthen your back (good for your health and helpful if you're chest-heavy); increase bone density (protecting against osteoporosis); and build your thigh and gluteal muscles, countering the long hours of sitting modern life tends to bring. And since it uses all the biggest muscles in the body (the leg and back muscles) it burns calories like crazy. I thoroughly recommend Starting Strength to learn how and why to lift. If you'd prefer a useful free resource, Reddit's Fitness sub has a detailed FAQ. (Kettlebell swings are another good way to burn calories and undo the effects of prolonged sitting, if you really can't face barbells)

Be very skeptical of supplements: Antioxidants have been linked to increased cancer risk; multivitamins give no benefit if you've got a healthy diet; loading up on protein won't build muscle faster; and in quite a few countries, supplements are almost entirely unregulated and can make any promises they like. Absolutely do not rely on "everybody knows" or "I saw on TV" - the amount of bad information out there is staggering.

Because, in the end, there's no money to be made out of healthy people who are happy with their body. The dieting industry wants to make sure you spend your life on a diet that they're selling you. Even the people who run gyms don't believe they're effective. Billions is spent every year on selling you the dream of the body you always wanted whilst making sure you either won't get it, or won't keep it.

Screw that.

The knowledge is out there. Find it, use it. Weight loss isn't complicated. Fitness isn't for an elite few. If you want to change your body, all it takes is persistence.

Good luck!


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