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Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's The Season of Losing

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January 1st is America's unofficial kick in the ass to get healthy. This time of year, you can't walk into a store without dodging weightloss system displays and precarious towers of health supplement bottles. Gyms are offering discounts on registration fees and clothing stores are pushing their workout gear. If you're a coupon cutter like I am, you noticed Sunday's circulars were all "healthy" food related. In Costco today, there were 9 pallets - each stacked 5 feet high with vitamins - when you walked in the door. NINE. PALLETS. Good lord.

I guess it seems natural for our country's "Get in Shape" quasi-holiday to hit this time of year. The new year is about a fresh start. Many just spent the last month indulging in everything from sweets to shopping and the decadence and exorbitance of the holidays needs to be shed. Plus, it's 5 short months until bathing suit season...yikes. But whatever it is, the "Season of Giving" is quickly followed by the "Season of Losing"....weight that is.

It occurred to me that during the holidays, you hear the chime, "Don't forget the reason for the season!" implying that the hype and commercialism we are bombarded with during Christmas overshadows the religious and spiritual roots of holidays. It's true. It does.

Well I think the same thing happens in the Season of Losing - hype and commercialism distracting us from true health. Perhaps it also deserves it's own clever little slap-of-reality saying about the time of year we celebrate getting healthy: BACK AWAY FROM THE WEIGHTLOSS SYSTEMS AND PREPACKAGED CRAP. IT WON'T WORK. JUST EAT CLEAN FOOD.

Of course I wish it rhymed a little better.

Now I don't want to sound like a cranky, Paleo diehard. That's not me. Plus, I don't think the web could handle another one. But I can't help but be fearful for folks out there feeling vulnerable about their health, guilty for decisions they've made in the past, and anxious to make a change in their lives. The Season of Losing is fraught with gimmicks and false promises...not to mention chemicals, artificial crap, and just plain nonsense. What shocks me are the blind drones of overweight, unhappy people who buy into and buy the actual crud dished out at them. Then they inevitably fail, become more unhealthy, feel depressed, and are loaded with guilt that they couldn't hack XYZ diet. Shame on American marketing. And shame on shoddy American media.

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT = MASSIVE FAIL

Did you read that Jenny Craig was voted the 2nd "easiest" diet by US News and World Report? I almost fell on the floor after reading that. Even my 4 year-old would be able to tell you it's pre-packaged, additive laden, highly processed, sugar filled, hydrogenated oil laced, ARTIFICAL ingredient crap with a shiny slogan ("This is my Jenny"....wth does that even mean?) Weight watchers, Nutrisystem, etc. etc. - they're all the same. Why don't people see that they are being sold stuff that is harming their health under the guise of helping their health? And they're paying massive amounts of money for it.

Then there's the mega hype over the DASH diet. Have you read the splash about dash? I'll sum it up for you: DASH diet equals eat the USDA's food pyramid/plate. Supposedly the one influenced the other. But now there are shiny new DASH books to buy, halfway read, and decorate the diet book shelf. While DASH is better than any weight loss "system" for sure, because you are supposed to eat, you know, actual food, it still will end up a failure. Why? Because the USDA has always recommended we eat low-fat, grain-based diets and we're fatter and unhealthier than ever. And we're medicating and dying from totally preventable diseases and record pace. This isn't rhetoric. It's fact.

The diet that made the bottom of the list? Paleo. Not a shocker. It did last year as well. But if US News & World is going to give Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, etc. an A++, I'll gladly accept an F from them on my lifestyle of choice. In fact, if they gave it a higher grade, I would consider it a warning to reconsider Paleo.

There are the five reasons I think Paleo got a poor grade:

1. It is sorely misunderstood. I'm the pickiest, slowest-to-make-a-decision person out there. (Remember my admission that I didn't buy an ipod for 9 years because I wasn't sure they were here to stay?) So for me to have chosen a way of nourishing myself and my family and so fully embraced it, you can be assured I've evaluated the hell out of it. The problem is that most people don't. The main tenant of Paleo - no grains - is initially so absolutely shocking to most people (including myself), their objectivity to understand why we should forego the foods we grew up on and are told everyday is healthy is tainted.

2. It doesn't conform to current recommended dietary guidelines because of the no grain thing. Thank goodness. As is clearly evident by the state of our nation's health, the government's dietary guidelines (you know, the ones that say pizza is a vegetable) suck. If conforming to outdated, incorrect dietary rules influenced by Corn Kings and Monsanto is a requirement for ranking, Paleo is screwed. Oh well.

3. The panelists clearly are still under the well disproved notion that fat and meat consumption increases the risk of pulmonary diseases and ailments. Never mind that before processed grains, such diseases were rare indeed. I won't even get started on this one.

4. These panelists are only aware of half truths. They say we miss nutrients by not eating whole grains. Well it is true - whole grains do have nutrients. But what they fail to mention is that humans cannot absorb them because the proteins in grains bind the nutrients and we don't digest them. So while whole grains may have nutrients while sitting on your plate, they don't end up enhancing your health because they pass right through....I'll let you figure out where.

5. Paleo is not slacker friendly. Paleo is simple - couldn't be simpler actually: veggies, fruits, meats, and healthy fats. But it lacks the ease of picking up a cereal bar or a can of bright pink, milky, fake strawberry flavored stuff and calling it a "meal." And as we are a nation of cutting corners, US News essentially placed convenience above legitimate nutrition to determine its rankings.  Makes sense.

6. You can't really make a lot of money off of it. You can buy Paleo cookbooks. You can take Paleo seminars. But as far as money makers go, that's about it. Paleo is about eating fresh, real food all the time. Because there is no artificial, mass produced foods associated with this diet, there is no way of creating a cheap product and selling it for a mint. Lots of advertising revenue for would be lost if the world ate Paleo. And what would Mariah Carey do for endorsement money? But you know who would benefit if we all ate Paleo? Local farmers and mother Earth. Eat Paleo and discover phenomenol health, bolster your local economy, and create sustainable agriculture for a healthy environment. Win, win, win.

The report did document that:
  • People felt fuller and consumed fewer calories than the Mediterranean diet. (Though you need not fear calorie count on Paleo. It's the kind of calorie, not the quantity of calorie that brings health!)
  • It inadvertently admitted that you DON'T NEED GRAINS FOR ADEQUATE FIBER - one of the first objections people have to Paleo ("No grains? GASP! How do you get your fiber?") The report confirms that with the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed on Paleo, you'll more than exceed your fiber requirements. What it doesn't say, but should, is that the type of fiber you'll consume on Paleo is actually what our bodies were designed to digest - not the knick your intestines on the way down whole grain stuff.  The report should have mentioned that every grain-based diet it ranked risks Leaky Gut Syndrome - the root of all evils. Fix your gut. Get off the meds. Voila!
  • It also admitted that some Paleo studies have proven to lower blood pressure, LDLs, and triglycerides, but then quickly took back that recognition with their oh so vague line, "And all that fat would worry experts," which is linked to another US News generic page on health conditions. No experts. No reference to studies or anything specific. True, my journalism degree is a bit dusty, but even I recognized that's just crappy writing and reporting.  If you're going to make a claim about worried experts and deflate a phenomenal diet's rating because of it, ya better back it up.
Unfortunately, I think there will be lots of losing in this Season of Losing weight: many committed people losing out on truth and the opportunity for real health. And that just burns me. Forget accurate, this report is not fair to Americans - Americans who for too long have been told and sold lies when it comes to their health and food they think is healthy. I wish luck to the many people eager to improve their health, get off their medications, prevent diseases, and add years to their lives. I hope somehow, Paleo ends up on their radar in a positive light.