I am officially done with my slavish monitoring of the diet and healthcare pendulum. In the space of a week, I’ve learned that drinking too much water can kill me and that I’ll live longer if I stop waging war on my love handles and embrace those proverbial “last ten pounds.” As I sat contemplating whether I should cut back on the Evian and start considering Ding Dongs to be a primary food group, I received two e-mails from well meaning friends on the subject of folate. Being that this vitamin is part of the B-complex formula that I take daily, I was interested in hearing the latest findings. But my curiosity rapidly turned to confusion when I learned that apparently this innocent little substance could either a) help me prevent hypertension, heart disease and stroke, or b) cause a rapid decline in my mental capacity once I reached retirement age. Great. I can keep my heart pumping healthfully into my golden years, only to forget what I’m doing when I get there.
I am not trying to be flip about the importance of self care. Common sense dictates that bodies are made for movement more strenuous than captaining the remote control, and patterning your eating habits after “Super Size Me” is probably not a bright idea. But neither is living in a constant state of freaking out over every bite you put in your mouth. And the anxiety induced by trying to keep up with the constant flip flop of health information is often times worse than just uttering a defiant expletive and diving face first into a vat of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy ice cream.
Having lived long enough to see nearly every popular food regimen go in and out of fashion at least twice, I have come to the conclusion that the only thing that the warring factions of the Great Diet Empire agree on is that fruits and vegetables are good for you. Everything else is up for some all-too-heated debate: Red meat will kill you. Red meat is an important source of iron. Bread is the carbohydrate Antichrist. Bread is good, as long as it’s whole grain. Drink wine. Don’t drink wine…and on and on. About the sanest “diet” advice I’ve ever read is from Krisha Young, a self-described “perfectly imperfect nutritionist.”
And what might her sage wisdom be?
My sincere apologies if the language offends you. But whether or not you approve of periodic usage of the f-bomb, I think the sentiment is worth exploring.
Think of Kirstie Alley and Valerie Bertinelli jumping on the Jenny Craig bandwagon a few years back. Both of them starved down to bikinis: Val on the cover of People and Kirstie prancing around on some talk show. And as of this writing, they’re both back where they were pre-diet. I’m not making fun of them. My heart actually aches for them (and others in their same boat), because they will never get where they want to be by staying on the crazy train of calorie restriction, counting “points” or eating pre-packaged, overpriced diet meals. And living in a constant state of self-deprivation sucks, period.
But it’s easy to see why the weight loss gurus aren’t in any hurry to encourage their devoted flocks of diet lemmings to think for themselves when it comes to health and nutrition. Americans spend billions of dollars every year trying to get thin and stay that way. So, there is virtually zero chance that the reigning diet czars are going to step down from their incredibly well financed thrones.
But imagine the societal impact of everyone getting out of the Zone, sailing away from South Beach and just eating whatever they like, in quantities that aren’t measured in metric tons. No new diet book hitting the stands every month. No more pseudo-miraculous “fat burning” pills that incinerate dollars faster than they do adipose tissue. No more condescending infomercials hosted by Z-list soap stars insisting that you desperately need all of the aforementioned items if you ever hope to see your abdominal muscles again.
Our entire economy would probably collapse in about fifteen minutes should the diet industry ever shut down completely. But nationwide financial ruin just might be worth it if I never have to hear another vegan vs. paleo debate ever again.