Exercising Common Sense

People do the following things, often at the recommendation of their doctors,  to be “more healthy”

  • Completely cut entire food groups from their diet.
  • Eat highly processed soy-based food 5 times a day and then one  meal of protein and vegetables only.  Avoid activity.
  • Eat only bananas one day a week.
  • Eat only processed foods that come out of a plastic bag and that they cook in the microwave.
  • Eat candy bars and milkshakes as long as they stay below a certain number of calories per day.
  • Eat little enough that they are hungry all the time.  Ignore their body’s signal that it needs nourishment and instead go workout when hunger strikes.
  • Take a pill every day whose side effects include: “You may feel an urgent need to go to the bathroom.  Until you have a sense of any treatment effects, it’s probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work.”  I am not in any way making this up – this actually appears on the documentation.
  • Eat extremely strictly Monday through Saturday.  Binge eat on Sunday.
  • Eat food which has replaced natural ingredients with heavily engineered artificial versions of those ingredients, which are shown to cause cancer in animals. (edited because the original was poorly worded and punctuated, making me sound like an idiot.)
  • Eat chips whose label indicates that they “may cause anal leakage”. Oh yes, you read the right.  Anal leakage.
  • Replace two meals a day with a thin chocolate beverage that acts as a laxative.

To be clear, people are allowed to do all of those things and more, as they are the boss of their underpants.  I think it’s important that people have access to true information.  Like, for example that nobody has been able to prove that anything works for long-term weight loss for the vast majority of people, but doctors prescribe things as if they work and then blame the patient if they don’t, and diet companies claim responsibility for the short term weight loss that almost anyone can achieve, and then blames their clients for the long term weight regain that almost everyone experiences.

BMI was created by an epidemiologist in the 1800’s to be used as a statistical tool to evaluate sizes of large populations, and yet we continue to use it as a tool to measure health in individuals.  As I once heard the very wise Jon Robison say – it’s not that BMI is a poor indicator of health, it’s that BMI is NOT an  indicator of health.

Babies come in a multitude of sizes and shapes.  People come with wildly varying shoe and hand sizes, but people still claim that our bodies should all fit the same narrow ratio.

A great many of the studies from which we derive our information about the effects of being “overweight” and “obese” are funded by diet industry giants like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.

Weight Watchers defines “success” as maintaining a 5% weight loss. So if you were 5’4 and started out at 210, lost 90 pounds to reach your “goal weight” of 120, then gained back 80lbs and ended with a weight of 200,  you would have started and ended in the “obese” BMI category, but Weight Watchers would count you as a success for their efficacy studies. (While trying to convince you to keep paying them for another round of weight loss and if you weight cycled again then you would still be obese and they would be counting you as a success twice.)

The FDA received 23 reports of serious health problems from a diet pill.  These report included  jaundice, elevated liver enzymes, liver damage requiring liver transplant, seizures; cardiovascular disorders; and rhabdomyolysis, a type of muscle damage that can lead to  kidney failure among other things. Because the diet lobbies have done such a good job of restricting the FDAs authority where weight loss supplements are concerned, these reports weren’t enough to take the pill off the market.  They weren’t able to ban it until somebody died.

Just think about it is all I’m asking – does it make sense that we’ll be healthier if we’re thinner, even if we do extremely unhealthy things to get there?  If that’s the case why not just give all the fatties cocaine.  That ought to make us thin in no time.

Doesn’t it seem more likely that healthy habits will lead to a healthy body, even if they don’t lead to weight loss?  It’s a shame that it’s so difficult to get good information about what healthy choices mean because the diet industry is so busy lobbying to sell pre-packaged foods wrapped up in shame and guilt.  Mmmmm, that sounds super-healthy (hey, look:  sarcasm).

Studies tell us that people are more likely to maintain health improvements over the long term if they make healthy behaviors their goal instead of a specific weight.  There is a mountain of research that shows that regular exercise improves health indicators, even though it doesn’t typically lead to weight loss in people who are obese.  Why is that not the topic of discussion?

Maybe because it’s not as sexy as a “war on obesity”.  Maybe because it would be harder for people to make wild, baseless assumptions about our health if we insisted that people’s health be judged based on their health and that it is their business and nobody else’s how they prioritize their health and how they get there?  Maybe it’s because the diet industry spends plenty of it’s 60 Billion dollar a year profits to lobby our government to wage a war against over 60% of its citizens for how they look?

Who knows?  What I believe is that we have the option to take our health into our own hands and for me the first step was thinking critically about the messages that we are getting, where they come from, and why those sources might say that.  Then the first thing that I exercise is a little common sense.

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9 thoughts on “Exercising Common Sense

  1. Wow. Sad to say, I tried many on that list for years. Swing shift and steroids for my lung packed on 70 pounds I’ve never been able to get rid of doing any of this. I am very active, just bigger. I gave up that stupid fight about 6 yrs ago and went just healthy, eating whole foods etc because I knew none of that was good for me. I’m actually really healthy now and haven;t had any flareups with my lungs in 2 years. Thanks for this, I am printing it out to show my doctor, who is also not a small woman. She’s nearly 6 ft tall and a big boned farm girl like me.

  2. Don’t even get me started on doctors, especially when it comes to doling out nutritional advice. We put so much faith in a doctors’ opinions and they are just as clueless as the rest of us. My first hint was when I was pregnant with my second son and was told by my OB to go on the Atkins diet. This was after I informed him I’d tried the diet before getting pregnant and I’d had a crazy weird reaction to it that nearly landed me in the ER. The doctor told me I needed to “stop stuffing your face with cakes, cookies and cereals” all things I did NOT eat. I’ve got several pregnancy/nutrition stories because i gained exactly 50 pounds with all three sons and the docs all freaked out about it every time. But I have even worse nutrition/doctor stories while dealing with thyroid disease. The advice some of those docs gave….wow…the one that always stands out was the one doc who said, “if you want to weight 180 pounds, eat 1800 calories a day. If you want to weight 150, eat 1500 calories a day. You just take off that extra zero and that is where you will be.” This was at a time that I was counting calories and was eating 1335/day and I wasn’t even close to 130 pounds. But where did he pull that rule from? Is there evidence anywhere that supports that? We all know there isn’t. Or there is the wonderful endocrinologist I used to go to who called me a liar when I told him my eating habits and how much I exercised. Called me a liar right to my face. He said I couldn’t possibly be that active and eating that healthy and still at that weight. Then he went on to say I was just like every other American “you want results with no work”. That was the last time I ever saw him.

  3. I’ve not heard of the cocaine diet, but I have heard of women doing meth to get thin and keep up with the kids and housework – and doing it with their friends, support group style…and of course they think they can manage it and stop taking it when needed…..pshah, right! I swear some of the things people do to themselves in the name of weight loss are no better than the meth diet, they’re just legal.

  4. hey, there

    everything is made of chemical compounds – both bananas and red dye no 5

    i’ve been trying for awhile now to think of more accurate phrasing that stops demonizing science, while adequately expressing valid concern

    perhaps “manufactured chemical compounds”? or even just “unknown chemical compounds”?

    1. This. I had some incredibly stupid conversations in culinary school about this.

      “I don’t like molecular gastronomy! I’m trying to get chemicals OUT of my food!”
      “Um, you do know that food is made of chemicals, right?”

      (The only “chemicals” we used in that class were gelatin, an algae extract, and a vitamin supplement, btw.)

    2. Good point! I think even removing the comma would do it, because the problem is not that they are “chemical compounds” but that they are “chemical compounds shown to cause cancer in lab animals.”

      1. Thank you so much for pointing this out, the original was poorly worded and punctuated and made me sound like an idiot. It now says “Eat food which has replaced natural ingredients with heavily engineered artificial versions of those ingredients, which are shown to cause cancer in animals. (edited because the original was poorly worded and punctuated, making me sound like an idiot.)

        Thanks again 🙂


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