October 31, 2014

flying cadeuciiEating advice in the United States has taken leave of its senses. It is no wonder that Americans are perpetually on diets.

It is only in the last 20 years that eating, a task we do quite naturally, has become so complex that you apparently need professional spin from nutritionists and dietitians, or worse, from doctors, on how to do it.

Spend a little time on the web (and especially social media) and your head will spin from all the contradictory healthy eating advice: eat organic…no, wait, don’t waste your money; eat less salt…wait, too little salt might be worse for you than too much salt; don’t eat fat…oh, sorry, eating too little fat will actually make you fat because you’ll eat too many poor quality carbs; eat foods that have a low glycemic index…wait, we meant a low glycemic load, er, well maybe eat foods that are both; eat breakfast every day because it will help you control your body weight except when it doesn’t.

We have the most productive food industry and the safest food supply in the world. Without us, the world’s food supply collapses and lots of people starve.  Food is cheaper now as a proportion of income than it was 100 years ago. Only in America could we look at our easy and cheap access to food and conclude that we have done something wrong.

Where we have gone wrong is in our belief that there are no normative standards for what it means to be a competent American adult. Don’t want to exercise? It’s ok, it’s your choice. Don’t want to trade the $6 extra large bag of chips in your cart for a bag of apples and a bunch of bananas? It’s ok, it’s your choice. Can’t tear yourself away from the soda fountain long enough to consider drinking a bottle of water? Hey, it’s okay, it’s all about you.

If you use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, which replaced food stamps), you can fill your cart with poor quality calories because, well, it’s only taxpayer money, which you should be able to waste as you see fit.

The modern nutritional mewling that Americans have eating disorders, and they’ve all been duped by the food industry, is the witless maundering of an industry looking to make work for itself and get paid for spouting platitudes. The obesity problem is not only not a disease, it’s not an epidemic. An epidemic is both prevalent and virulent; two-thirds of American adults are not obese, its prevalence varies widely, and you cannot catch it the way you catch a cold.

I learned every useful fundamental thing I ever needed to know about nutrition from my mother, an immigrant with little advanced education: eat a little of a lot of different foods, soda and snacks are bad for you, fruit is always good, and going outside to play is better than watching TV.

I have maintained a healthy body weight for my entire adult life, eating just what’s accessible, sensible, affordable, and tasty. I can walk into any grocery store in America, including the store all the nutritionistas love to hate, Walmart, and walk out with bags of perfectly healthy food.

Our national weight obsession has everything to do with a glaring lack of self-respect and ignorance of basic algebra.

The formula for successful body weight management is unchanged through the millennia: you must balance energy consumed with energy expended.

In fact, here is the world’s simplest eating advice: Eat less. Eat less crap.

Oh, and exercise A LOT more. After a year of doing that 24/7, come back and see me. Until then, closing your mouth will serve multiple useful purposes.

Vik Khanna’s new e-book Your Personal Affordable Care Act: How To Avoid Obamacare, is available now in the Kindle Marketplace and at Vik is THCB’s Editor-At-Large for Wellness.



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