About the “Deep Fat”, That Is
Hardly a week goes by any more, it seems, without another story debunking recent dietary theories about what is healthy, and what is not. This time, it’s low-fat and non-fat milk: Nonfat milk linked to prostate cancer.
First we scare people into thinking normal food is going to kill them. Then we convince them to buy “improved” versions of it that have been manipulated by the food industry in various ways. Then years go by, and our health gets generally worse, especially our sheer poundage (is anybody going to deny that we are a much fatter nation than in the 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s?). Finally some studies are done to compare the true health effects — not the imagined or theoretical ones.
And lo and behold, some bad sh*t has happened, Maynard.
Holy Unintended Consequences, Batman!
Let’s take a little pause here, and ask some questions. Three things have become evident to me over the years about food:
- There is way too much fear-mongering about food. We all need to eat, and if we just eat sensibly, we can attain our ideal weight. Don’t believe me? Go to Europe and note how well they eat, and how light they eat, and how much they enjoy it, and how little they obsess over food like we do. They understand that food is to be enjoyed, not feared.
- Manipulating food to make it low-fat or “lite” isn’t working. In fact, we are not only fatter, but our health is probably being worsened by this manipulation, due to extra additives. Take a look at that lowfat cream cheese ingredient list sometime. Are we really better off with guar gum in our food? Especially when we think “it’s healthier so I’ll eat more of it”? Try eating real cream cheese, enjoy it, and eat less than you would like. It’s called discipline.
- The type of food is not that important when compared to the sheer volume of it that we consume in the West. Frankly, we are rich, and our main problem is being too fat. In this arena, calories matter more than the type of calories we’re eating (protein, carb, fat). Basically, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and too many of them will make you fat. Guaranteed. People who want to lose weight would be better served by focusing on their calorie intake vs. expenditure via exercise. Of course, the composition of the calories can indeed affect your weight somewhat due to blood sugar/insulin reactions, but this is more a general health question, because that cycle is bad for your health even if you aren’t overweight, and can bring on diabetes as you age. And nobody wants that.
Over the last 30 years or more, we’ve seen countless examples of fear-mongering about food.
The list of “Foods We Thought Were Terribly Unhealthy, But As It Turns Out? Eh, Not So Much” is long and getting longer.
- Eggs and red meat – turns out, cholesterol consumed in the diet doesn’t just pass through unchanged and become cholesterol in one’s blood (bonus points if you wondered why anybody would assume that they did). Protein is good for you, in the proper dosage, and helps regulate blood sugar and stimulate brain activity.
- Fats of nearly all kinds – guess what, salads with lowfat or nonfat dressings actually inhibit the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins and minerals in the salad. Extra virgin olive oil is health food.
- Butter – in the 70s, butter was evil, and soft margarine was marketed as a healthy alternative. Fast forward 25 years, and they find that soft margarine has nasty unhealthy fats that are worse for you than the butter. I gave up on the soft margarine crap years ago – because it tastes like sh*t compared to butter. Use butter, enjoy it, and eat it sparingly.
- Alcohol – teetotalers less healthy than moderate drinkers – who knew? Wine is health food.
- And so on.
Similarly, the list of “Foods We Thought Were OK to Eat in Unlimited Amounts, But As It Turns Out? Eh, Not So Much” gets bigger all the time too.
- Sugar – cocaine in food form. Bad bad bad. Not necessary to eliminate it, and not really feasible either (I’ve tried, and I wanted to off myself within 14 hours). Just restrict the consumption, and try to get most of the sugar via fruit or fruit juice.
- Bread and other starches – empty calories, and can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Also not necessary to eliminate and not feasible, but should be restricted. Make the calories count, by eating only one or two pieces of your favorite kind of bread per day so you can at least enjoy it (I love sourdough and crusty European-style breads, and I eat them with olive oil when I can).
- Diet pop – people who drink it are fatter than those who don’t. Plus, diet soda pop is laden with chemistry experiments that we call “artificial sweeteners”. If somebody mixed something up in a lab and handed it to you in a beaker, and said “here, try this, it’s sweet”, instead of packaging it in pretty pink or blue packets with fancy writing on them, would you still drink it? Really?
I’ve pretty much concluded that nobody really knows what the hell is going on with food and how it interacts with our bodies. Or to be more accurate, nobody knows the finer intricacies of how food interacts with our bodies and produces the health effects (both good and bad) that it does.
But due to all the fear-mongering, entire industries and markets have sprung up around this mania with manipulating the content of food with gross and potentially dangerous additives, instead of just using common sense, and eating less of food you like.
A revolutionary concept: Food you like. Just maybe a little less of it.
Who you gonna trust? The food industry, which views food as product to be marketed to consumers? The FDA, which when it isn’t being lobbied by that same food industry, is being run by lawyers and bureaucrats? Or mother nature, producing food the old fashioned way that has nourished man through thousands and thousands of years?
This whole discussion really reduces down to something as simple as trusting nature to provide for us.
And let’s be honest here. Who really likes skim milk? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?
Nobody really likes skim milk. It’s watered down crap, frankly. Life is too short to eat and drink things we hate in exchange for supposed health claims made by people who are shown to be wrong so often. And on top of that, it might increase your risk of malignancy re: prostate cancer. Why drink it?
It’s sad and amazing that we have to even mention this, but … food is supposed to be good. Food should nourish your soul, not just your stomach.
And as a practical matter, food has to taste good, or we’ll just keep on eating until we do find something that tastes good. And then we gain weight. Exhibit A: the American people over the last 25 years.
I’m not much for getting up on soapboxes and trying to convince folks on the right way to live. But this whole eating thing just floors me, and people are not only not losing weight, they are gaining it, and screwing up their health in the process. Life is just too short to eat nasty, tasteless, un-fulfilling food.
My advice is to eat it, enjoy it, and learn to limit yourself. It’s what I do, and I used to be fat, as a kid, so I’ve been there, done that. It basically works, though I’d love to lose about 10 more pounds. Who wouldn’t? If I really wanted it bad enough, I’d get more aerobic exercise and watch the ice cream and wine a little more closely, and it would happen.
I’ll be 49 years old in a few weeks, but I’m in pretty good shape, even though I refuse to obsess over what I eat.
The KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid) works again!