Everything in moderation. Simple advice we’ve all heard before.
Yet we crave structure; we need absolutes. We need someone to tell us what to do – what’s right and what’s wrong.
Popular diets dictate what’s holy and taboo. Don’t eat meat, don’t eat grains, don’t eat fat. Eat kale.
The media only highlights the 10% bad in everything and ignores the 90% good.
On top of that, new research is always unraveling the old and finding how yet another food we all love causes cancer.
It’s hard to know what information is accurate and what is just a rumor, misinterpretation of data, or a generalization based on shaky research.
Despite all the hype, most things aren’t as good/bad as we think:
Saturated fat: the original research (c. 1950s) saying saturated fat causes obesity is founded on flawed or unscrupulous science. More modern studies have failed to link saturated fat to obesity.
Alcohol: (in moderation: ~1-3 drinks/day, depending on who you ask) has been shown to help prevent dementia, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Wine can actually lower risk for prostate cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Tequila can help us lose weight and fight diabetes. Whiskey can kill rogue cells (cancer prevention). Beer is high in silicon (strengthens bones), vitamin B, and fiber, and may lower risk for kidney stones.
Low-fat products: zero fat, 99% sugar. Surprise: too much sugar makes you fat. Sneaky marketers.
Sodium: a low-sodium diet may cause a mere 1% drop in blood pressure, in exchange for a greatly increased risk of having a heart attack.
Sleep: most people are 1 – 1.5 hours sleep-deprived. We can be deprived without even knowing it. Sleep-deprivation (even mild) slows reaction times, metabolism, cognition, and can kill brain cells, causing permanent damage to the brain. Get your nightly 8 hours.
Diets: are basically the same. Most diets are more about a sense of belonging (and structure) than about losing weight. Results are typically short-term.
Nutrition is always evolving; new research is always disproving the old. Maybe this information will one day be seen as obsolete and unscrupulous.
But despite the inevitable changes in the details, there are some greater lessons we can apply to diet, fitness, and other areas of life:
- Don’t make broad conclusions based on small details, individual “facts”, or a single occurrence. Correlation is not causation. Beware of certainty – most problems have more than one solution.
- Avoid extremes. Just because one extreme is wrong doesn’t make the other extreme right. There are trade-offs for everything – nothing is purely good or bad for you (except maybe crystal meth, which, in case you’re wondering, is bad). There is no miracle food (sorry, kale); there is no single best diet (sorry, Paleo); there is no divine workout program (sorry, CrossFit).
- Don’t try to take shortcuts. Results that come quickly go the same way. Great, lasting results take time, patience, and persistence.
One last thing that would be good for you: following this blog. It’s been proven to slow aging, increase your salary, and make you more desirable in 7 days or less.
Can video games make you smarter? Can yoga actually be bad for you? Do we really need to brush our teeth after eating? To find out, check out The Good News About What’s Bad for You…the Bad News About What’s Good for You, by Jeff Wilser.