Keeping Welsh (and Bees) Alive.

Note: This article was originally published at FT.com (Financial Times). It is copyright. They have indicated that these articles can be shared with their “sharing tools,” and added, “Please don’t cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.”

That would be fine, if they didn’t use that accursed “complete a survey to read this full article” ploy. Or make you register (i.e. give them your information) to read “3 free articles per month.” Both of these are scummy tactics which serve no purpose other than to drive people away from a website; to Pluto with that. So, FT, get rid of the surveys and the paywall and I’ll be happy to link people directly to your site. Until then, hard lines.


Wil Griffiths set up an organisation that aims to save the bees and his native tongue

Welsh beekeeper Wil Griffith

©Gareth Phillips

Wil Griffith: ‘When we started, other beekeepers thought we were racist’

Welsh has always lent itself to prose and poetry, to music and singing. But it has never been associated with scientific matters, and beekeeping is a science. If the language is to survive, it needs to expand into all aspects of everyday life.

I run the only Welsh-language beekeeping association in Wales. I set up Cymdeithas Gwenynwyr Cymraeg Ceredigion (the Ceredigion Welsh Beekeeping Association) at the end of the 1960s with two aims: survival of the bee and survival of the language.

Our Welsh beekeeping terms are not a pure translation of English terms because word-for-word translation is meaningless. For example, in a beehive, honey is stored in the very top of the hive, in the top box. The term in English is “super” — as in “superintendent”. It means “above”. But “above” would not be used that way in Welsh. The more usual Welsh word is “lloft” — meaning “upstairs”. So, in determining new terminology, we use everyday words that make sense to a Welsh ear. I wrote a book, Dyn Y Mel (The Honeyman) in which our Welsh terms are listed. In English, the term is “beekeeper” but, again, in Welsh, “dyn y mel” is more common.

I’m well over 80 now but I started beekeeping 60 years ago. At about that time modern hives were introduced. Before then, beekeepers had used closed straw skeps — but suddenly, for the first time, they were able to see what was taking place within the hive.

Modern terms were coined to reflect these changes, which flustered the older beekeepers. Very experienced beekeepers, who were first-language Welsh, were at a loss. The terminology involved was beyond them, particularly if it was in English.

Today our association has about 30 members and we even put on an annual show in a pub for our honey and mead. Finding enough bilingual judges is always a problem. As they are tasting, the judges must comment out loud in Welsh.

Beekeeping can be hazardous. A friend went to shift a hive late one evening and didn’t bother with protective clothing; a bee crawled into his ear. We tried to get it out but couldn’t. The only way was to drown it, and the only liquid we had to hand was a bottle of brown ale. So that was poured in and the bee floated out. But there’s no special term — in Welsh or English — for these beekeeping mishaps.

Our members do not have to speak Welsh — but we are true to our founding principles. At meetings, English speakers sit next to someone bilingual — most of us are — who will quietly translate for them. After a season or so, they have a good smattering of the language.

When we started other beekeepers thought we were racist. But what is wrong with studying in our native tongue? People would not be surprised if beekeeping associations in France or Germany discussed beekeeping in French or German. Why be surprised about Welsh?

The best way to keep a language alive is to place it at the centre of everyday life. In my county, Ceredigion, Welsh is a minority language. There has been a big fall in the number of native speakers in the past 30 years, and people are realising that we are in danger of losing one of the oldest languages in Europe.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015

Don’t Click That Ad

rule

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, clickbait ads are everywhere. They are the spam of the World Wide Web, unwanted intrusions into your browsing experience, and like spam, the vast majority of these ads are deceptive and lead to spurious or borderline criminal offers.

What’s that “New Rule?”

If  you click that ad, you are taken to http://www.easy-autoquotes.com/, which looks like a respectable financial advice website:

insider

And what’s that “one rule?”

“Don’t even think about getting insurance without first comparing discounted quotes from an unbiased source.”

The “unbiased source” they want you to visit is the Easy Auto Quotes™ official site, which deceptively redirects you to

"http://provide-savings.com,"

which turns out to be a scummy outfit which, like LowerMyBills will gather your information including sensitive personal data and sell it to anyone who waves money in their faces. You won’t get a quote from them, but you will be inundated by calls and emails not only from competing auto insurance agencies, and countless other disreputable marketers hawking everything under the sun. The only way you’ll be able to stem the tide is move, cancel your credit cards, change your email address, get a new phone number, and walk widdershins around a rotting stump at midnight while looking at the new moon over your left shoulder.

Have a look at the disclaimer at the very bottom of their page, which most people will never see, and which is hard to read even if you get there:

disclaimer

Here it is in plain text:

Disclaimer and Consumer Information.

THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, BLOG, OR CONSUMER PROTECTION UPDATE
THIS SITE GETS PAID FOR CLICKS OR SALES PRODUCED FROM CONTENT FOUND ON THIS SITE
*We are dedicated to bringing readers valuable information which can help them accomplish their financial and lifestyle goals. Our disclaimer is that this site does receive compensation for product reviews and referrals or purchases made through our links. This page is an advertisement/advertorial. The story depicted here is for demonstration purposes only and everyone’s results may vary. We hope you find our online resource informative and helpful.

This site is in no way affiliated with any news source.

Important information regarding the truthfulness of this article (For our site visitors and the FTC): There have been issues in the online marketing industry with fake advertorials to pitch certain products within the affiliate marketing industry. This site and the owners of this site have never participated in these false advertising practices. Here are a few clarifications points regarding this article: First, as stated at the top of this site, [NOTE: No, it only says “Advertisement’] this is an Advertisment/Advertorial. This site receives compensation for purchases made through our links.

*Clarification of the advertising headline “New Policy in your State”: Some of our website visitors may have visited our site after seeing an ad regarding “New Policy in your State.” This ad then clarifies that certain individuals may receive discounts of up to 50% off car insurance. The newest United States information and insurance tips for lowering your car insurance cost can be found at usa.gov (recently updated October of 2011). The United States federal governments and state governments are constantly looking out for consumers and have published new information on helping consumers lower their car insurance bills. Here’s a specific link regarding the newest usa.gov advice, tips in order to receive lower car insurance rates: http://www.usa.gov/topics/travel/cars/insurance.shtml. In addition to this information, each state and their respective state insurance commissions may have additional recent policy changes which may affect the insurance rates in your area. The specific new discount car insurance policies in your state which are currently helping individuals save up to 50% on car insurance is information that can be found through the insurance comparison site Provide InsuranceTM mentioned in this article. Upon visiting this site you will see the claim that individuals can save up to 50% in their respective states. This is information that we have found to be true. From the article mentioned from usa.gov, we see that the federal government has also given the advice and made the claims that “To get the best coverage at the best price, get several quotes from insurance companies. It may save you hundreds of dollars a year… You may be eligible for a discount based on the number of miles you drive; your age (turning 25 or 50); your good grades if you are a student, your driving record (no moving vehicle violations or accidents in three years); or if you’ve taken a safe-driving course. You might also be able to get discounts if you insure more than one vehicle, insure your vehicle and your home with the same company, have anti-theft devices or have safety features such as air bags or anti-lock brake system.”

*Clarification of the advertising headline “New Rule in (Your State)”. – Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “rule” as “a piece of advice about the best way to do something” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rule). This article aims to advise the public that comparing rates is one of the best ways that you can save money on car insurance. No matter what city, state or zip code you live in you can compare rates and get free quotes. If you truly want to find the best rate and save on car insurance then follow our advice or “rule” to compare rates. Here are links to two surveys which demonstrate the importance of comparing rates and how applying this “rule” in any state, city or zip code may help drivers save 32%. A new survey found that the #1 reason people switch is because they found a cheaper rate. Click Here for Survey. A second survey which analyzed car insurance quotes for 1,000 zip codes across the U.S. found that within a given zip code, rates vary by 154% on average, allowing drivers to find an average of 32% in savings. Click Here For Survey.

This site is committed to protecting the privacy of our online visitors. If you join our mailing list, your information will not be shared with others. Anyone who wishes can choose to be removed from our mailing list at any time.

This site is in no way affiliated with any news source. As mentioned at the top of this web page, it is an advertisement.

This site contains affiliate and partner links, and as mentioned previously, this site is only an advertisement. The owners of this site receive compensation when sales are made.

This website and the company that owns it is not responsible for any typographical or photographic errors. If you do not agree to our terms and warnings, then leave this site immediately.

Product is not affiliated in any way with ABC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, Consumer Reports, CBS, Wink News or USA Today. All trademarks, logos, and service marks (collectively the “Trademarks”) displayed are registered and/or unregistered Trademarks of their respective owners. Contents of this website are copyrighted property of the reviewer and/or this website.

Note that this disclaimer consists largely of weasel words which attempt to justify the deceptive nature of the advertisement; the worst example of this kind of humbuggery I have already shared over at the “Hall of Shame.”

It gets worse. When you visit Provide-Savings, they begin a process which will gather all sorts of PII (Personally-identifying information) which they claim they need to provide you with your requested quote. Take a gander at a selected portion of their “privacy policy.”

In order to provide you with insurance quotes, we collect your personal contact information including name, telephone number, mailing address, email address, gender, birthday and marital status. For home insurance quotes, we also collect details about your home and personal property. For auto insurance quotes, we collect information about your vehicles and drivers and may also collect information about your credit and your existing insurance coverage.

By submitting your e-mail address and/or phone number (as the case may be) via this Site, you authorize us to use that e-mail address and phone number to contact you periodically, via e-mail and manually-dialed and/or auto-dialed telephone calls, concerning (i) your quote requests, (ii) any administrative issue regarding the Site or our services and/or (iii) information or offers that we feel may be of interest to you. We may also send e-mails to you periodically regarding updated quotes. You may opt out of receiving e-mails from us at any time by unsubscribing as set forth in the applicable e-mail.

Additionally, by filling out information on this Site as part of your request for information about insurance policies and quotations, you authorize us to provide that information to various insurance companies, insurance agents and other related third parties that participate in our insurance quote network (collectively “Insurance Providers”). The Insurance Providers may provide your personal information to their insurance carriers, suppliers and other related vendors in order to generate price quotations and information relevant to insurance policies that you have requested

We may share your information with third parties with whom we have promotional or advertising relationships (provided that we are not otherwise restricted from this sharing of information). If you do not want us to share your personal information with these companies, contact us at compliance@adharmonics.com.
We may provide your PII to, or permit access to it by, our subsidiaries, affiliated companies, vendors and/or service providers, such as our ISP or infrastructure hosting companies, for the purpose of processing such information and/or contacting you on our behalf, or where such access is incidental to their providing assistance to us. In such cases, we expect these parties to process such information based on our instructions and in compliance with this privacy policy.

At some point, we may establish subsidiaries or other related companies, or merge with or be acquired by another company. Should that happen, then we may disclose your information to them, in which case we will request that they abide by this Policy. We may also disclose some information to a potential acquirer, although such disclosure would be subject to normal and customary requirements.
We reserve the right to disclose your PII as required by law or when we believe that disclosure is necessary to protect our rights and/or comply with a court order, legal process or judicial proceeding served on us.
We may work with third party data providers to obtain additional information about you, other drivers on your policy or in your household, and information about your car. By using these data providers, we are able to prefill your questionnaire and save you time. You will still be able to review and edit this information before you submit it.

The TL;DR¹ here is that they have essentially reserved the right to sell your personal information with anyone under the sun.

Ultimately, to be perfectly honest , the advert on the original referring page should look like this:

ad2

It goes without saying that you should not even be seeing ads like this. The easiest way to cut down on such things is to install a simple extension, Ad-Block Plus, which quietly and unobtrusively blocks ads like this from ever appearing on your page. It works with Chrome, Mozilla, IE, Opera, and many other browsers.

Be careful out there, and don’t give your information to scumbags.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ Too long; didn’t read

Acc

1898: A Free Pound of Coffee with Every Pair of Shoes

coffee

This interesting receipt showed up in some Georgia probate files. Prices back then were insane, compared to today’s – but one must also factor in wages and overall cost of living.

According to various inflation calculators, a dollar in 1898 was worth $27.08 in 2013, making a pair of shoes for ten bits the equivalent of $33.85. And that pound of coffee? 18¢, or about $4.87 in 2013 dollars.

Not a bad Dreingabe¹; today’s coffee runs about $12 to $15 per pound, unless you want kopi luwak, which you can score for $350.00 online if you happen to like coffee beans that have been shat out by a civet.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ German: bonus or give-away

Time Magazine Covers: America vs. the World

I found this interesting, but didn’t want to spread a content aggregator¹ article all over the internet – it’s infected enough. Hey, they scrape content all the time, so I figured turnabout is fair play.

Just have a look at this collection of Time magazine covers from around the world between 2007 and 2013. Consider what Americans think is important, or what will encourage them to plunk down their cash.

enhanced-buzz-wide-23236-1382035163-18 enhanced-buzz-wide-23314-1382036290-13 enhanced-buzz-wide-32597-1382035245-12 enhanced-buzz-wide-23241-1382035664-30 enhanced-buzz-wide-23276-1382036378-28 enhanced-buzz-wide-32699-1382035936-65 enhanced-buzz-wide-32601-1382034766-7 enhanced-buzz-wide-32641-1382034940-21[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-32639-1382036420-38[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-32602-1382034833-12[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-32596-1382034872-8[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-23294-1382034732-25[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-23293-1382036180-34[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-23292-1382035124-9[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-23276-1382035627-9[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-23265-1382036142-21[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-23231-1382036328-22[1] enhanced-buzz-wide-23225-1382036007-23[1]

enhanced-buzz-wide-32617-1382034674-8

Not really much more to say.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹Scraped from Buzzfeed, if you happen to care.

Getting it All Together (Vocabulary Suicide)

Getting It All Together

 Everyone knows that a shirt has sleeves, pocket, tail, cuffs and collar. Fewer people recognize that an airplane has a fin, rudder, trim tab, and aileron. In each group of items below, choose from among the ones on the right and match them with their components. (In most cases, the things listed on the left represent only part of the components which make up the corresponding item.) Answers and rating after the quiz.

Here’s a freebie:

barrel_diagram

_____ 1. Penumbra, umbra
_____ 2. Hammer, anvil, stirrup
_____ 3. Choroid, sclera, conjunctiva
_____ 4. Pedicel, calyx, stigma
_____ 5. Terret, martingale, Crupper
_____ 6. Vena cava, myocardium
_____ 7. Coronet, pastern, fetlock
_____ 8. Visceral & parietal pleura, upper lobe
_____ 9. Spanker, fore-royal, main royal
_____ 10. Patella, humerus, tibia
_____ 11. Sphenoid, occipital, zygomatic
_____ 12. Scroll, neck, waist, tailpiece
_____ 13. Ileum, jejunum, duodenum
_____ 14. Spiracles, tympanum, cereus
_____ 15. Casemate, bailey, barbican
_____ 16. Newel skirt, comb, balustrade
_____ 17. Voussoir, spandrel, impost, skewback
_____ 18. Pedipalpi, pedicel, scopula
_____ 19. Flews, dewlap, withers
_____ 20. Jump line, weather ear, dingbat
_____ 21. Crossknot, wings
_____ 22. Welt, vamp, tongue
_____ 23. Stretcher, gore, ferrule, bullet
_____ 24. Staves, chime, hoop
_____ 25. Pommel, bell, button
_____ 26. Longeon, spar, bridle leg
_____ 27. Cantle, swell, gullet
_____ 28. La Hire, Judith, Charlemagne
_____ 29. Chanter, bass drone, mounts
_____ 30. Lams, heddles, whip roll
_____ 31. Gnomon, diagram, plate
_____ 32. Capillary tube, constriction, lens
_____ 33. Shackle, case, plug
_____ 34. Pintle, knuckles, leaf
_____ 35. Beaver, gorget, tace, tasset
_____ 36. Jacket, crimp, rim, primer
_____ 37. Dalmatic, chasuble, alb
_____ 38. Bridge, fishtail, drop, overlay
_____ 39. Straws, gour darn, flowstone
_____ 40. Scend, spindrift, curl
  1. Arch
  2. Bagpipe
  3. Barrel/cask
  4. Bow tie
  5. Cardinal’s vestments
  6. Cartridge (bullet)
  7. Casket/coffin
  8. Castle
  9. Dog
  10. Door hinge
  11. Escalator
  12. Flower
  13. Foil (fencing)
  14. Hand loom
  15. Harness (horse)
  16. Horse’s leg
  17. Human ear
  18. Human eye
  19. Human heart
  20. Human lungs
  21. Human skeleton
  22. Human skull
  23. Insect
  24. Intestines
  25. Kite
  26. Limestone cavern
  27. Man’s shoe
  28. Newspaper
  29. Ocean wave
  30. Padlock
  31. Playing cards
  32. Saddle
  33. Sailing ship
  34. Solar eclipse
  35. Spider
  36. Suit of armor
  37. Sundial
  38. Thermometer
  39. Umbrella
  40. Violin

Answers:

l = ah       6 = s     11 = v    16 = k       21 = d      26 = y     31 = ak     36 = f

2 = q        7 = p     12 = an  17 = a      22 = aa    27 = af     32 = al      37 = e

3 = r         8 = t      13 = x    18 = ai     23 = am    28 = ae   33 = ad     38 = g

4 = l         9 = ag    14 = w   19 = i       24 = c       29 = b     34 = j        39 = z

5 = o        10 = u    15 = h    20 = ab   25 = m      30 = n     35 = aj      40 = ac

Your Rating:

35-40 correct:              You’ve got it all together. You have a high vocabulary, are well educated, a neat dresser, and like your caviar imported.

26-34 correct:              Not bad. You are well read and move in active social circles. You pay attention to detail and remember things you hear.

19-25 correct:              You are certainly above average intelligence and possess notable common sense. Your friends come to you for advice. You are as handy with facts as a handyman is with a hammer.

13-18 Correct:             You played around in schoo1, but still came out well because of natural ability. You love to read the back of cereal boxes. You are good at remembering most facts, but sometimes miss an important one (which ends up costing you). You’re admired and liked by those who are less with it than you are.

8-11 correct:                You know what it takes to get around socially, and enjoy talking. What other people think you know is important to you. You once finished reading a book in the same month you started it. You have a hard time remembering things you’ve seen or heard unless they are in color and you are eating popcorn. In the long run, you will probably outshine those who seem to have the edge.

4-7 correct:                  You sometimes bore your friends by telling them facts you don’t possess. You may have been sued for advice malpractice. You have a keen sense of humor, but your jokes are mostly borrowed. You like comic books, bubblegum wrapper ads, and recipes. A half hour of reading cage signs at the zoo tires you mentally.

1-3 correct:                  You sneaked across the boarder and have just arrived in this country. You do not speak English, except to make your basic needs known. Your goal is to be a brain surgeon or a millionaire, whichever comes first. You will soon learn to spell your name correctly.

0 correct:                     Sorry. Vegetables were not supposed to be allowed to take this test.

Every day is April Fool’s in nutrition.

“People who are desperate for reliable information face a bewildering array of diet guidance—salt is bad, salt is good, protein is good, protein is bad, fat is bad, fat is good—that changes like the weather. But science will figure it out, right? Now that we’re calling obesity an epidemic, funding will flow to the best scientists and all of this noise will die down, leaving us with clear answers to the causes and treatments.

Or maybe not.”

From a recent article at io9 by John Bohannon:

I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How.

chocolate

With a poorly-crafted study that used a small sample and ignored how big the measured results actually were, a team of journalists managed to punk the nutrition-news circuit into publishing their study.

“A team of German researchers had found that people on a low-carb diet lost weight 10 percent faster if they ate a chocolate bar every day. It made the front page of Bild, Europe’s largest daily newspaper, just beneath their update about the Germanwings crash. From there, it ricocheted around the internet and beyond, making news in more than 20 countries and half a dozen languages. It was discussed on television news shows. It appeared in glossy print, most recently in the June issue of Shape magazine.”

But it was all a crock of dung. And sadly, I can guarantee that many people will continue to believe the lie, simply because it appeared in journals as “prestigious” as Prevention, regardless of this exposé or any further evidence to the contrary. Like the entire anti-Vax movement, nothing can kill a good excuse for mouth-foaming outrage, not even repeatedly-confirmed facts.

Read the article. It’s worth your time, if you’re interested in having accurate information on which to base your decisions.

A big part of the problem with modern “scientific” studies is the concept of “p-value.” It’s more complex than most people care about, but William Rozeboom wrote, “The use of P values and null hypothesis testing is ‘surely the most bone-headedly misguided procedure ever institutionalized in the rote training of science students.’ “

P value calculations tell you only the probability of seeing a result at least as big as what you saw if there is no real effect. (In other words, the P value calculation assumes the null hypothesis is true.) A small P value — low probability of the data you measured — might mean the null hypothesis is wrong, or it might mean that you just saw some unusual data. You don’t know which. And if there is a real effect, your calculation of a P value is rendered meaningless, because that calculation assumed that there wasn’t a real effect.

(ScienceNews – “P value ban: small step for a journal, giant leap for science”)

vsqweempzkjlcamyod3c

And if Randall Munroe pillories something, you have a pretty good idea that there are legitimate questions about its validity.

significant

The takeaway: don’t be excited just because one study says something, and I’ve written about this elsewhere. Look at the study, determine the size of the sample used, and see if you can ferret out how big the measured differences were. There’s a lot more digging you could do, but this is a good place to start.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Some thoughts on weight loss from a redditor

Every now and then I stumble across something on reddit that I think deserves a wider audience; there are a lot of folks out there who don’t have any idea what reddit is, or what to do with it.

In the CMV (Change My View) subreddit, people post viewpoints and ask others to convince them that they’re right or not. A recent position: “Any fat person can lose weight by simply adjusting their diet and exercise.”

I’ve posted about releasing weight before, usually in the context of the scammy nostrums people sell to take advantage of those who want to give up pounds but can’t seem to. Redditor /u/eavc posted the following response, which is cogent and relevant. I share it here for your consideration.

It is true that any person will lose weight if diet and exercise are properly adjusted. The important part of your question is whether any person can actually make the adjustments to diet and exercise to produce (and sustain) weight loss.

People are not robots. We are subject to forces of emotion, motivation, willpower, bias, and so on.

That which seems objectively simple to accomplish in isolation can be exceedingly difficult in practice. I believe that everyone can directly observe this to be true with a moment’s reflection on their own shortcomings and struggles.

  • “I’m not going to procrastinate anymore.”
  • “I won’t yell at him anymore.”
  • “I’m going to go running every day.”
  • “I’ll never again drink until I throw up.”
  • “I’m going to stop spending so much money.”
  • “I won’t let sports make me this angry again.”
  • “It’s irrational for me to be so jealous.”
  • “Why should I care if I’m not invited to some party?”

Pain, sadness, boredom, loneliness, routine, socially embedded temptation, fatigue, stress, cognitive biases, competing demands, family crisis, fear, money issues, disease, social learning, etc. — all of these are capable of derailing sincere efforts at personal change.

If there anything in your life you have decided to change and yet have not been able to change, then this argument should ring true.

A person has become fat because they are not good at regulating diet and exercise for whatever reason (biological, psychological, social-cultural, environmental/circumstantial, etc.). Almost by definition, these are people who struggle to adjust diet and exercise. It is therefore like saying “Any depressed person can be happier by simply adjusting their thoughts and feelings” or “Any anxious person … by caring less about the future” or “Sex addict … by choosing not to engage in sexual acts” or “debtor … by earning more and spending less” or “smoker .. by not smoking.” These are true but useless statements, because the person in question practically lacks the abilities required given their current set of circumstances. Advice for all of these kinds of problems centers on how to change psychology or circumstances rather than on the simple idea of the end goal (eat less, smoke less, yell less).

That is why there are books and communities and medicines and science and billions of dollars centered on these kinds of personal change efforts. What’s required is a change in the environment/circumstances or in the psychology – and that’s not easy to do at all.

Let me flip this around. Can you imagine a scenario where a person cannot successfully accomplish the needed adjustment to diet and exercise?

Go over to a place like /r/progresspics[1] and read comments on how people were able to accomplish their transformation. Generally, you’ll hear about some fairly specific set of factors that helped them start and then persist in their journey. New ideas, supportive friends, emotional growth, frightening experiences, a definite system, a change in life situation, regular efforts to stay motivated, and so on.

Now while reading something like that, start mentally deleting the factors that they are crediting. “I couldn’t have done it without the help of my wife” – take away the wife. “I found boxing and that was what clicked after years of nothing clicking” – boxing was never a sport. “I finally decided to prioritize my self and take care of myself” – they were struggling to make it day to day due to environmental stressors (small kids, money problems, work stress, emotionally abusive person in life) and couldn’t focus on personal growth. “The doctor said I would die before I was 50” – the complications of overweight not being as present for them and the doc never delivering that warning.

Then, there’s the reality that most of us are flawed or face challenge in many ways at once. It’s not just being overweight – it’s being overweight and poor. It’s not just being fat – it’s being fat and depressed. Fat and short-tempered. Fat and failing some classes. Fat and an emotionally absent father. Fat and financially irresponsible. Overweight and socially anxious. And generally the list is much longer than just two problems. Many people who want to be better people are pouring a lot of energy into working on something other than being overweight, and it leaves little for the other problem. Conversely, many who successfully lose a lot of weight do so by streamlining and focusing their attention on that specific problem at the expense of other things they could have focused on instead.

All this to say, personal change requires work, and some forms of personal change require so much work as to be practically impossible given the resources and energy available to accomplish that work. That’s why successful weight loss often requires much much more than just the idea of eating less and exercising more. And until the person finds that other thing that is required for their situational factors to shift enough to change the behavior, they are unlikely to be successful in adjusting diet and exercise over the long run.

EDIT: I want to add something to speak to the other side of the coin because some comments have rightly pointed out that this may come across as fatalistic. I’m a big proponent of personal responsibility and personal growth.

If you have something in your life causing problems or holding you back, I would encourage you to look for solutions and – if it’s important enough of a thing – to not give up. I have worked with a lot of people with mental health issues, for example, who say, “I can’t” to things that they absolutely are capable of doing and do go on to do. An attitude of pessimism is often a self-fulfilling prophecy and certainly limits the chances we have to get lucky with the solution to the puzzle or simply to break through due to persistence. The synthesis of my views would be this: we are shaped by many forces but are also capable of ingenuity, resiliency, and change. If you attempt something critically important and fail, either try again, try a new approach, or try something else.

Change is not as simple as ‘eat less’ because behavior is largely the product of a network of causal factors. And for the exact same reason, change is also rarely impossible – there are many factors that can be tweaked up and down the causal chain, though it can take A LOT of effort and probably resources and external support as well. The right small shift can alter the overall set of circumstances and tip the outcome in another direction. And sometimes, it’s something as simple as time or trying again.