Thursday, June 25, 2015

"moderation in everything"

Occasionally, I like to take time out from our more specialized approach to health and weight control, to write something a little more basic to share with friends who would LOVE to improve both, but who don't have my opportunities to really immerse themselves.  Such people tend to be targeted by all those businesses who KNOW they're interested in health but have very little technical knowledge of it.

Advertising is an insidious process.  When print media bolster television commercial messages, it gives consumers the impression that all of them are telling you the same truths ... which couldn't be FURTHER from what actually IS true. 

The same people who are trying to sell you their processed foods are financing the diet-advice industry (dieticians and nutritionists) AND all those "health charities" which I rant against.  It is in their best interests (NOT YOURS) to convince you that moderation is the cornerstone of good nutrition, and that if you fail using their faulty paradigm, it's YOUR fault, not theirs.

It's what mainstream America believes in, but every woman over the age of 35 (and men over about 50) should have realized by now that it's just plain LIES.  Who benefits when you eat moderate quantities of three kinds of junk food?  Certainly not you.

The trick is, you KNOW that Doritos and ice cream and pizza are junk foods, but what they're trying to hide from you is that these foodstuffs are, too:
  • breakfast cereals;
  • most yogurt;
  • breads and crackers (yes, even the whole-grain kind);
  • low-fat dairy products;
  • pasta;
  • juices, both fruit and vegetables such as carrot;
  • mashed potatoes and other flavored potato preparations;
  • modern fruits, especially "tropical" ones;
  • coffee and tea drinks which are essentially milkshakes;
  • "vegetable oils" and everything cooked or served with them;
  • ...and many more items which won't occur to me till after I hit the "publish" button.
How can this be?  I'm sure, having read my list, you'll be inclined to write me off as an extremist, but I entreat you to read to the end. 

The study of nutrition has used a lot of very unscientific methods, to begin with.  Do you know why "everybody" says that fiber is good for you?  Because fiber makes big poops, and a medical-missionary in Africa HAD A NOTION that big poops protect against the "diseases of civilization."  THAT'S ALL.  Further studies that looked at "people who eat a lot of fiber" and decided that they were healthier than people who don't, were considered proof of this.  The problem is that people who eat a lot of vegetables are careful about their health in other ways as well.  When scientists finally tested that hypothesis properly, by taking two "identical" groups of people and telling one to go on eating the way they usually do, and telling the other group to eat X-number of vegetables per day, that "healthy-user bias" disappeared. 

More fiber did NOT protect against breast cancer in a series of prospective studies (the kind I described above), but you'll STILL find "responsible" medical authorities claiming it does.  It's a LIE.

More fiber did NOT protect against cancer of the "eliminative organs" ... in fact, it INCREASED IT by a small amount.  You'll still find people who claim that fiber is protective.  That's ANOTHER LIE.

Why do doctors tell patients lies like these?  Why do the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics LIE about this stuff???

Unless a physician has special interest in the science of nutrition, s/he knows nothing more than you do, from reading magazines and watching television.  They get virtually no education on nutrition in medical school -- as a matter of fact they are explicitly TAUGHT that WHAT you eat doesn't affect your health, merely how much.  In the real world, we ALL know that THAT is just another lie.

Who promulgates ideas like these?  As with everything else in modern society, all you have to do to find out is "follow the money."

When you've been convinced that moderation is all that's necessary, the people who benefit are those who are selling you moderate quantities of junk foods.  When moderate quantities of junk foods make you moderately overweight, WeightWatchers, Nutrasystems, JennyCraig and the fitness industry start getting their cut.  Moderate quantities of gym memberships encourage IMmoderate quantities of exercise because "everyone knows" that exercise will burn those calories right off ... except that it doesn't.* 

When the moderation of unhealthy foodstuffs AND exercise has left you with damaged knees and plantar fasciitis and moderate obesity and diabetes, the medical and pharmaceutical industries step in for their piece of the pie. 

See, when people are convinced they can be moderate when they SHOULD be abstemious with their treats, everybody wins ... except YOU.  Our society has been telling us for a very long time that we can have it all, but we can't.  We've been brainwashed to think that medicine can cure almost everything, but IT can't.  Experience shows that when we over-do anything there is a price to be paid.  And we need to remember, that nobody cares about our quality of life, except our own selves. 

WE have to take care of ourselves -- no one else can or will.  WE need to do the prudent thing.  It's like when our childhood rivals used to dare us to do stupid things, and call us cowards if we used our brains and refused.  "C'mon, it's only a cookie!" is our adult version of this phenomenon.  Of course, the cookie was on top of the sugary cocktail to start, and the huge plate-full which made up the main course, etc.

The only thing to moderate is moderation itself, if I may paraphrase FDR. 

Industrial farming has changed everything we eat, so that the nutrients which used to be in foods aren't there anymore, but our fruits and vegetables DO have significantly more sugar bred into them than they used to.  Take onions as a prime example -- remember when we used to have to carefully choose them so as to get milder rather than "hotter" specimens?  Nowadays it's not easy to find one that isn't sweet, like the Vidalias and 1015s.  When was the last time your eyes stung when you diced one?

You have to remember that when you eat any carbohydrate food, even those "healthy fruits and vegetables," any starch in them is broken down to sugar by the digestive processes.  What we were told decades ago about "complex carbohydrates" was very inaccurate -- sure, the cellulose in them slows down the conversion of starch-to-sugar, but with little exception every single molecule of sugar WILL be processed by your body in the end.  And the more ground-up they are, the more easily the last little morsel of yumminess adds to our waistlines....

If you care about your health, you HAVE to draw a line in the sand.  You CAN'T have it all, unless "all" includes heart disease, diabetes and cancer, in your definition.  You may have to be very hard-line if your well-being has fallen a long way already, to get back up to a place where you can indulge a little bit.  Because most of what you've learned about what's healthy, through newspaper, magazine, television, and even modern book-publishing, isn't presented as a public service, to help you feel better.  It's designed to make somebody money.

By telling everyone they can have everything in moderation, they're giving people permission to indulge themselves.  They're telling people what they want to hear.  Do YOU want to hear that you'll have to control your diet for the rest of your life, in order to maintain a safe weight and stave off cancer and dementia? 

No, I didn't think you did.  But it's IMPORTANT.  I sure as hell don't want to end my life in a diaper, doped to the eyebrows with psych drugs, and weighing 300 pounds.  Nor do I want to die a pathetic skeleton on a hospice bed.  If i'm lucky, i'll go like that 90-something-year-old, who took a spill while surfing, got cracked on the head by his board, and drowned -- in an accident while enjoying an adventure!
*  Exercise has benefits, but is inadequate for regaining your figure.  More on that later.


  1. Don't forget the milkshakes that pass for coffee these days. Ninety-five percent of the time, I don't eat or drink that or any of the other junk food you list. Most yogurts are sugar bombs, grains have nutrient blockers, and fruit juice is just sugar. I'm 46, take no medications, have no tooth decay, I feel good, and I'm close to my high school weight.

    This post reminds me of a movie that's out: That Sugar Film. The guy eats so-called "healthy foods" that contain quite a bit of sugar and actually gets liver problems.

    1. :-) such a good suggestion, i just added those "drinks".... thanks!

      you're a great "poster child" for good nutrition, Lori! live long and prosper ... and don't stop blogging, please!

  2. Ugh!!! Moderation. The idea that is talked about in WW rooms and other places is that if you don't moderate cookies and cup cakes- you'll deprive yourself and you'll binge. I'm sure that's true for one sub-set of people.

    For me, eating a bite of those foods would trigger binges for days, weeks, months. It's so backwards. Thank goodness people in noteable positions (Dr. Barbara Berkeley, Vera Tarman, MD, etc) are speaking up about not moderating junk or diet foods as part of weight management.

    With the rate of liver disease from Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the very young, it's my hope that more docs will be speaking out about the sugary drinks. I believe, in most people, this is a preventable disease.

    1. i so agree! but until it becomes thoroughly accepted that sugar CAN be PHYSICALLY addictive, i don't see much hope for losing the moderation-message. :-( it will remain "a matter of willpower/character" ... alas!

  3. Awesome, awesome, AWESOME ---> "When moderate quantities of junk foods make you moderately overweight, WeightWatchers, Nutrasystems, JennyCraig and the fitness industry start getting their cut. Moderate quantities of gym memberships encourage IMmoderate quantities of exercise because "everyone knows" that exercise will burn those calories right off ... except that it doesn't.*"

    1. :-) thank you, thank you, thank you! I plan a companion-piece to this one, in which I explain to my "civilian" friends why exercise for weight-loss is as big a "fail" as moderation. Thanks to our community, the data isn't hard to find.

  4. Some people actually consider not practicing a moderation to be an eating disorder, unless you are a vegetarian.

    1. Part of the insidious work of the nutrition industry, in my opinion! Since when is doing ONLY what's good for ourselves something we should try to avoid??? ...When Nabisco and Coca-Cola pay a tame nutritionist to tell us otherwise, because we're not a source of profit to them.

  5. Yup, yup and yes indeedy.

    To put it simply, the more fibre and bulky foods you eat, the more bloated you get. I can't find my favourite website about fibre vs intestinal health - the author is a Russian I think and he is spot on, but here's another little pearl of wisdom:

    Plus, as a t2d, I just cannot eat even the tiniest bit of sugar or potatoes or flour or beans in any form at all without getting completely out of whack, and I greatly regret that I ever believed it was good to eat those things. For a long time, we couldn't believe what we heard when folk were discussing the American food chain but it seems that Au. is now following right along behind.


    1. You're thinking of Konstantin Monastyrsky (hope I spelled that right). Although he didn't properly understand low-carbing when he wrote Fiber Menace and Gut Sense, his writings were eye-opening to me. He certainly has the professional experience to document the harm that a high-fiber diet can do.

      Reducing the amount and type of roughage that lands in my colon makes me a MUCH more comfortable person! :-) All of the family members who have to spend extended time sitting in the "little room" before something happens would benefit tremendously by being a little more discriminating themselves ... but I don't think they will.

  6. From my experience I can tell that the importance of fermented foods is overblown out of proportion as well. I love the taste, but without eating it I feel even better. It does contribute to bloating and water retention. I am sure I will never abandon sauerkraut and other fermented goodies, but what is the point of kidding myself and declare it to be the important foundation of human health? I am not against eating all that, but for being realistic.

    1. Your comment reminds me of something Chris Masterjohn said a few years ago, when the fermented-food-frenzy hit the paleosphere: he pointed out that for quite some time it was with vinegar that most vegetables were preserved with for winter. Now, Wooo is a huge proponent of vinegar for small-bowel issues and weight-management. It's good for the stomach, and it acts as a disinfectant for SIBO.

      Could it be that the acetic-acid and not the lactic-acid components of preserved foods are what actual help us? I'm certainly willing to consider that....

      One thing I DO know is, when we ferment goitrogenic foods like cabbage, the goitrogenic properties aren't disabled, but actually amplified. Much as I enjoy a bit of sauerkraut, I know better than to "enjoy" more than a half-cup-worth at any one time -- it definitely slows my thyroid.

  7. I just don't observe any benefits when I eat more fermented vegetables, only more bloating and a water retention, but I love such food. I also love salads with vinegary dressings too (it is not a bloat-promoting food), but I feel my best on small portions of calories-dense food.
    People always tried to preserve food any way they could. In cold regions they mostly used salt and drying, vinegar was not a native product for many places. From my own hot climate experience I can tell that fermenting food is a cool time of the year activity. I always wait for a cool January/February weather to ferment my cabbage which I keep in a refrigerator afterwards.

    1. Good point -- hot and humid climates require special food-preparation AND storage procedures, or we end up with a lot of moldy waste! :-P Nasty! Although I like the flavor of lactic-acid pickles better than vinegary ones, the latter seem to agree with me better.

  8. Agreed, everything in moderation...arsenic, lead and mercury...they are all natural, too! Great post I hear this stuff all the time...and when people ask me about what they should eat to be healthier or weigh less...they don't want to hear my answer.

    1. :-) Yes, Wooo might say that if you want to weigh less by consuming something natural, opium might be your product ... though she WOULD be speaking tongue-in-cheek and not prescriptively.

      Thank you! ... If I needed to give dietary advice to patients who like to cook, I might be tempted to recommend a really good (enlightened) cookbook for diabetics -- something that advocates lots of low-carb, nutrient-dense foods. If they still snack on "moderate" amounts of nut-based baked goods, they're at least ahead of where they are now....

  9. The internet has expanded my whole take on nutrition and health, thank heavens for all the bloggers who have enlightened and changed my life for the better. Sadly we are still a minority, I see this everyday around me as you all probably do. I am seen as a health freak with an eating disorder because I refuse to eat a sliver or bite of crap "oh go on, a little piece won't hurt"...yes it will. No-one urges a little piece of meat to a vegetarian eh. My other peeve is trying to explain what I believe to a Dr and being dismissed with a patronizing "don't believe what you read on the internet". Sometimes I feel a mischievous urge to elaborate that I believe more in what a certain vet, nurse, biochemist etc thinks more than them. Pretty sure he would write nutcase on my file.

    1. I'd be tempted to go ahead and make the replies you're already THINKING.... ;-) Ask the carb-pushers if they force meat on vegetarians. Tell the doctor (with a superior smirk and wink) that he shouldn't believe every diet tip he hears on Oprah. THAT should rattle their cages!

      As some bloggers suggest, a lot of people WOULD obviously rather die than cut out junk-food ... cuz they DO eat that garbage despite knowing that it's not doing their health any good. Sad. Twinkies just don't taste that good.