These are dark days for supplements. Although they are a $30-plus billion market in the United States alone, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, beta-carotene, glucosamine, chondroitin, and fish oil have now flopped in study after study.
In other words, said so-called friendly folks being most anyone with a profit to make off our willingness to believe that what Nature grows, provides and challenges us with just isn’t enough? As in, we really do need to be outside and in the sun a whole lot more?
Bear with me here. Before you pummel me with stories about skin cancer in your family (my entire family got it, we were Floridians, and we were stupid), please show me how Fish Oil IS THE NEW MIRACLE CURE (please kindly do your research, not only is it not a cure but the harvesting of too much of is it is killing off wildlife). By the way, here are some of the charming side effects: Fish oil supplements may cause nausea, diarrhea, loose stools, decreased appetite, constipation, vomiting and fat in the stool.-https://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/the-truth-about-fish-oil.
Or kale is the new miracle food. Or coconut oil cures cancer. Or. Or. Or. Or. And frankly, dangerous celebrity doctors (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/01/can_you_trust_dr_oz_his_medical_advice_often_conflicts_with_the_best_science.html) peddling monumental bullshit behind the legitimacy of a white coat. The man should be have his credentials stripped. He is the reincarnation of PT Barnum for our age.
There are folks in white coats in Mexican basements and garages — and nice offices — injecting motor oil in women’s breasts, too. (https://www.theguardian.com/g2/story/0,3604,856700,00.html). You’re not that stupid? Really? But you believe Dr. Oz?
I beg to differ.
I could build a huge case around the same lemming-like behavior concerning every fitness craze, MAGIC WEIGHT LOSS PILL, and snake oil concoction that we are willing to buy to get rid of the pizza, the beer, the tacos, the pies, cookies, cakes, donuts, candies. Holy shit did I buy my share.
This isn’t a condemnation or criticism of you or me. Not at all.
I AM calling out our collective propensity for inane, fantasy thinking that some pop product, some industry-paid-off-scientist whose bank account in the Cayman Islands is blanketed with bribery funds to pen an article extolling sugar’s nutritional value, is telling us the truth. Is going to make us smarter (remember playing Mozart for the infant? Said infant was still born with a double-digit IQ, but now she hates classical music to boot?). Is going to cure cancer, MS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, hangnails, nose hairs and by the way, your body odor? No. It’s not.
Yet still we hope. Believe. And empty our bank accounts.
Don’t think so? Are you one of those folks who shells out $2200 for a tiny container of La Mer skin cream? Are you? You wanna show me the face that cream was supposed to turn into a vision of perfection? Huh? NO. Didn’t think so. Sleight of hand, and WHAM, your bank account just got hijacked for hope.
We want so badly to believe that we’re a modern society. Truth is that we’re deeply superstitious, prone to suggestion, easily misled and horrifyingly easy to fool. The 2016 election aside here, I am talking about our bodies, our health, our selves. We want a shaman, a magical genie, and we’ll take him in a white coat any day. Still doesn’t change the fact that he’s a sideshow barker with television giving him a voice to fleece millions of their savings, their health and their hope.
Stem cells are among the latest miracle cures that don’t work for every single thing that ails us. While there is some promising evidence (I looked into the injections for a bum hip) scared folks with disorders and damage and challenged children are flocking to fleecing operations all over the world. Oh, did I say it wasn’t cheap? The hospital in Panama peddles their hip treatments for $25,000. Oh, wait, that doesn’t cover your airfare, hotel, meals…….The success rate? Well, nobody at that hospital is going to publish their spectacular failures. Stem cells show promise for some things. Maybe. It depends. Meanwhile I do PT, because it’s simple, and costs, well, nothing.
We really are that stupid, folks. We truly are. So am I. Plenty of times. Hey just sign up for the trial offer and it’s only $99.99 a month, GET YOURS TODAY. Uh-huh. The shame in it is that as banker David Hannum said, There’s a sucker born every minute. Huh? Right. We got suckered into thinking P.T. Barnum said it — but it was actually said about one of his many circus hoaxes. See how truth gets twisted in the telling over time? https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/P._T._Barnum.
Just like telling us that immigrants take away thousands of high-paying, executive American jobs…like picking grapes, lettuce, potatoes. But I digress.
We all get suckered. That’s how we learn.
No magical thinking, for example, is going to make those of us who are obese feel better about our weight by requiring that we retool our attitudes about our fat. Please. Having been here for years, and not now, there is no substitute for finding the proper set point for your bones, height, age activity level. And no SPECIAL MAGICAL PILL, body wrap, fat burning supplement or any other damned food stupid thing is going to replace the achingly long, patient, frustrating journey to a healthy weight. It’s work. There is nothing easy about it. And NO you cannot be obese, especially morbidly so, and healthy. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24297192). There is no way around this. Just through it. Ask any of us who have done the work, and now the endless, lifelong day-to-day management of said set point.
While I have intense empathy for those dealing with this battle, neither shaming nor renaming our condition will change the condition. My 54″ hips didn’t suddenly diminish because I called them “curves.” It was wicked-ass hard work to reduce, and continues to be wicked-ass hard work to keep it off thirty plus years later. But the way I do it is simple:
- Smart food
- Move a lot
- Love both.
I really like this brave woman’s intelligent and thoughtful take on the topic: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/05/truth-obesity-five-fat-myths-debunked. In this article, the author points out a simply awful fact (she’s looking at Brits, but we’re just as bad here):
…most people don’t know what overweight looks like. In one British study, obese people were asked to assess themselves, and only 11% of women and 7% of men with a BMI of over 30 were aware they were obese. In a 2015 study, parents were asked about the weight of their children: 80% of parents of overweight children rated them as being of normal weight.
With hugely popular comedies normalizing morbid obesity, why not?
As for aforementioned supplements, while I take my share, I am increasingly ceasing them. I eat veggies, fruit, eggs, yogurt, chicken, that kind of thing(with the exception of that big container of chocolate almonds, thankyouverymuch). For the most part, get most of what I need. Most folks- and that means most Americans, eat crap because it tastes good. It’s easy to grab and go. Cheap, effortless, and uniquely dangerous for both reasons.
Then you have the other end of the spectrum eating crap(py tasting) food because it’s good for you, or some wag told you so. My local Natural Grocers is chock full of magical thinking books about The Latest Craze. Know what? My best friend Jill loses ten pounds every single year when she goes on the nearly-defunct Atkins diet. Then she reverts to her regular diet and voila, back come the pounds. What she will not do is exercise more. Simply mind how much butter on the bread. One less teaspoon of oil. She eats good, simple, well-prepared food. Just a bit too much of it for her age (70) and activity level.
And NO I am not arguing that a calorie is a calorie. This is eating very good food -with lots of natural fiber (https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46827426)/ This is about learning what simple, healthy foods you love and will eat, every day, to fuel your body. This is about learning what simple, regular exercise you will do every day because you enjoy it, you feel good and it improves your life. This is backing off portions, especially as we age. If you supersize your portions, baby, you will supersize your ass. I have a photo that I keep handy of what my double-wide looked like at full weight. It’s sobering. It’s enough for me to put about half of what I just served myself back in the fridge. That’s easy.
The operative word here is simple.
Now look, this is a serious disclaimer. This bullshit about simple is coming from someone whose choice in sports requires enormously complex gear (scuba, paragliding, skydiving, blah blah). I’m talking about our bodies. Our health. Our quality of life.
To wit: these so-called celebrities who are pushing paleo/keto at you? Puh-leeze. You really think they do all their shopping, prepping, meal-making? They have staffs. For the most part you and I don’t. People look up folks like Mark Sisson (https://www.marksdailyapple.com/) and want his body. Will you get a grip, kindly, the man’s been a professional athlete for years. Of COURSE he rocks that body at 64. His body is his whole life, and with all due respect for what he’s done with it, it’s his moneymaker. He’d damned well better look like that. Sisson is selling his body as what you and I can look like if only we buy his shit.
That’s a crock of shit (otherwise known as keto food) right there. Unless you put in that kind of work, commit hours and weeks and years and decades into building your body, you will not look like Mark Sisson- if for no other reason that he has his genetic predisposition and you and I have ours. Weight, age, height, body type and a million other factors go into it. You and I ain’t Mark Sisson. It’s like Gigi Hadid’s promising you that you’ll get her body, just eat her granola bars.
Are we really that stupid? Yes we are.
For all we know, after a lotta hard work we’ll look better than Sisson does. But looking like that isn’t the issue. Being healthy, happy and leading an un-obsessed life are.
Don’t take it from me. For a take on the keto diet, what does and doesn’t work, and what you might want to take into consideration please see https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089.
I just have one other issue about paleo-keto. It’s breathtakingly expensive. If you’re on a celebrity salary, be my guest. The rest of us sort carrots and cauliflower out of the bins like everyday people, shop with coupons and try hard to avoid the bulk food aisle where the chocolate almonds are on sale. (Okay that last one was mine.) For my part, this is a fad. Only time will tell if sticking to a keto diet to lose weight is going to end up with kidney failure for a bunch of folks.
The argument for good, simple food, easy simple exercises that we love and that work for us, is about quality of life. Quality of time. Quality of experience. Giving ourselves permission to be the happiest, healthiest version of ourselves. Which of course, doesn’t sell books, products, potions, lotions, supplements, gym memberships, exercise gear and a great many other empty promises.
You and I are our best shamans.
Given the enormous amount of readily available information right at our fingertips, we can, in a more sober moment (please not after you just compared your belly with Mark Sisson’s) work out what works for us. What simple, easy-to-prepare foods we love that love us back, but not to the point of setting up pup tents on our hips. What simple, easy-to-do movements we will do because they’re fun, they feel good, and they pay off over time.
Boiled down, it’s just this: what does your body tell you? What do you intuitively know works for you? So many of us are so busy chasing the next Stupid Diet Trick and next Stupid Supplement Lie that we don’t study ourselves. At least, with the exception of the critical study of the sudden appearance of a muffin top, we don’t.
The most important thing we need to do is listen to the conversation the body has with us. As in, hangover. As in, the fat hanging over our belts. As in, well…you get the message.
Simply put, good health really is very simple. The more complex, the harder a habit is to sustain for most of us. It’s a lot easier to toss aside a New Year’s Resolution that’s just too hard to maintain than it is to settle into simple habits that give us pleasure, pay off in results, and wow…make us feel good all in one.
Now that really is a good start on a new year.