No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success


Posted by Ben on Monday, June 16, 2008

*pulls out the dead horse beating stick*

In last time‘s one-liner summary of dietary issues, I linked a post by Mark Sisson that basically said there’s no need to force-feed water to ourselves. Sure, water is a healthy alternative to sodas and most fruit juices, but like today’s post from Ross Enamait says, moderation is the key. Additionally, as Mike Robertson points out, moderation is an individual parameter. As an example, a co-worker of mine runs 15-20 miles per week. With few exceptions, he’s done this routinely for almost 18 years. I did that for about a year or so not too long ago, but while his body is built for endurance work, mine isn’t (as a laundry list of chronic injuries can attest). However, I spend a lot more time in the gym compared to him; compared to others, my time is relatively minimal (though I do time my workouts instead of spending ten minutes between sets getting water, watching TV, reading the paper, talking on the phone, etc, etc, etc, but that’s another issue for another day).

Moderation, however, is just not an American concept. We’re always trying to be the biggest, fastest, strongest, most this and most that, which is translated into being the best. Oddly, there’s practically no push to be the smallest, cheapest, or most efficient, at least not inherently. Take the oil situation, for example: is there more public policy emphasis being placed on reducing our oil dependency or on pushing oil-producing entities to pump more oil (hint: which would be easier on us right now?). Sometimes, it takes bribery or coercion to achieve moderation, but that still goes back to Robertson‘s point: in these situations, who decides what is “normal”?

Let’s say someone decides to embark on a wholesale lifestyle change centered on moderation. My initial reaction is a sincere hope that this person puts in a LOT of homework time rather than jumping straight into the first flashy advertisement’s promises. Less than thirty years ago, the dietary rage was high-carb, low-fat diets. Despite a recent backlash toward low-carb, high-fat diets (which can similarly be taken to the extreme), you can still find an obscene number of products proclaiming their minimal fat content. While each product by itself is relatively benign, a huge shift in groupthink concluded that unlimited carbs were okay as long as dietary fat was minimized. Do you know what happens when you carb binge? Probably. Our bodies have a way of handling and mitigating extreme conditions, including what we ingest, but only for so long. Given the proliferation of high-carb, low-fat foods, it’s just become so darned easy to eat them, and if it’s so easy for us, just think of how much easier it is for parents to chuck some dry Cheerios at their kids rather than prepare some raw veggies and dip. At least it seems that some parents are coming around to realizing that they’ve essentially been poisoning their children—why do you think all those sugary snacks are fruit-flavored? Um, maybe because kids like the taste of fruit? Hmmm…

You’ve probably heard of detoxing or colon cleansing, an extreme measure to supposedly counteract an extreme lifestyle, albeit temporarily. Another extreme dietary practice making the rounds is intermittent fasting, but as Alan Aragon notes in a recent forum post in response to this practice:

“I see no physiological benefit in fasting periodically versus eating normally. In fact it carries a certain set of risks, given the person & the situation. The only real benefit of fasting in its various forms is convenience. Those who mention this benefit or that crack me up, seeing that they cite research minus a control group. Not yet getting where you want is NOT the result of not being on a liquid fad diet. I don’t believe in crash dieting unless you’re all set to enjoy some temporary results. I mainly believe in training & eating with consistency and purpose, toughing out the long haul, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Forge your physique one workout at a time, and grind your way through the weeks and months with progress being the priority — forget about perfection for now. All the extreme stuff tends to yield extremely fleeting results, something that dieters have come to accept as a part of the deal, sadly enough.”

(In the interest of full disclosure, Alan has on several occasions shown his propensity for scrutinizing scientific studies for their validity, so I tend to take his nutritional comments at face value. Alan, you’re now on notice to not screw up. Ever.)

Regarding the ease of consumption, is there anything more American than fast food? Yet even if you do your research and check various restaurants’ websites for nutritional information (if any is to be found in the first place), apparently you can’t exactly trust those numbers, either, in which case some industry oversight is warranted. And what about wholesale clubs? I mean, how much easier can it get to acquire mass quantities of, well, anything? More than you’d think given the current economic situation—in efforts to trim costs, bulk buying is on the rise, and so likely is the bulk to go along with it. You could always just DIY and save the gas altogether (here, here, and here).

In some non-food instances of a need for moderation, legal drugs appear to be more lethal than illegal drugs (read: overmedicated society), virginity is regainable (read: over-restrictive social arrangement, and don’t think that Islam is alone in this regard), smoking in movies is still a mortal danger to children (read: oversensitive, underinvolved parents), and in the most shocking news of today, the North Carolina lottery—and lotteries in general—are just plain unfair (read: WAAAAH!).

Be smart, be diligent, be resolved, change one thing at a time if a full-on lifestyle change seems a bit daunting, and take it slow and easy, just not so easy that, say, holiday feasting starts before the equinox (autumnal or vernal, take your pick).


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