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How to Avoid Extremes and Sensationalism in the Worlds of Diet and Fitness

avoiding extremes in diet and fitness

Photo credit goes to Cathy Stanley-Erickson.

Obsession is now the norm, excessive restriction is now considered necessary, and orthorexia is at its peak.

It’s really too bad, considering the longest lived societies on earth don’t care so much about the composition and arrangement of their diet. They’re focused on their family, their community, their social lives, and their work. They’re not obsessed with whether or not they should eat grains, if high fructose corn syrup is bad for them, or if sugar is toxic. They cook together, eat together, laugh together.

The truth is that people around the world eat many different types of diets. We, in the United States, seem to be the only ones who actually argue about what the ‘perfect human diet’ is made up of.

But guess what? There is no ‘perfect human diet’. Everyone is different, everyone thrives on a different diet.

Americans, in general, seem to be a large part of the few who take diet and fitness to their extremes.

We go to extremes because we’re results-oriented. We want progress and we want it quickly. Not only does this lead to disordered eating habits and an unhealthy relationship with food, it leads to an unnecessary and damaging obsession.

Our focus needs to shift back to the aspects of our life that matter, like relationships, work, and actually living. We shouldn’t be worried about accounting for every ounce of food that passes our lips.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t want to be healthy? Of course not. I’m saying that you need to avoid the extremes, avoid the alarmism spread about by zealous gurus, and learn to enjoy life again.

This post is going to show you how to identify and avoid the extreme ends of the nutrition and fitness worlds.

Be Wary of Those Who Use  Provocative Language

No, I’m not talking about F-bombs and other four letter words.

I’m talking about  provocative, negative, and emotion-invoking words such as ‘evil’, ‘toxic’, ‘poison’, and ‘devil’. There’s a serious issue when these words and descriptions are applied to food. The latest fad promoted by Dr. Robert Lustig is the idea that fructose is ‘toxic’ and it’s “ethanol without the buzz”. Seriously, what a joke.

Not only has this theory been destroyed over and over and over again, it is completely ridiculous to call any food toxic without considering the dosage or the context.

Look around: ‘experts’ are using these words to get an emotional response, and it’s working. It causes people to become even more fearful about their food, and the message begins spreading like wildfire.

The problem is that people are susceptible to this type of language, and in a scientifically illiterate society, no one cares to look at the evidence in support of these silly claims.

Recommendations are seemingly becoming more and more fear-based. Eat sugar and you’ll get diabetes, eat carbs and you’ll become obese.

Please don’t fall for this nonsense. These people are simply trying to develop a following by promoting ludicrous ideals. Don’t listen to them.

Please.

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Photo credit goes to QuickMeme.com.

Be Wary of Those Who Promote a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

It’s really easy to blame one factor for all of our problems.

Oh, the cause of obesity? It’s fat. Or it’s sugar. Or it’s carbs. Or it’s insulin.

Bullshit.

There’s no one size fits all solution. The scam artists would like you to believe that if you just do this one thing, all of your wildest dreams will come true. The problem is that more people are following these scams than ever, yet obesity remains rampant.

Issues such as obesity and diabetes are much more complicated than just “cut out the sugar” or “cut out the carbs” or “do ‘X’ workout program’. It’s overly simplistic to point the finger at one factor without looking at the big picture.

If you’ll notice, coincidentally, the majority of individuals promoting the idea of a cookie-cutter solution are trying to sell you their diet or nutrition book or coaching. Now, I have no problem with selling, but I do have a problem with scams and fads that are damaging to the minds of the general population.

Stay away from the people who propose these simple, effortless solutions. Most of the time they’re full of themselves and will lead you down the wrong path. Look at the big picture, look at your individual situation, and then decide the best plan of action that will lead to improvements over the long term.

You cannot think in absolutes.

Trust No One, Challenge Everything

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Photo credit goes to MemeGenerator.net.

We all have our go-to sources of information. People who we trust.

Problems arise when people blindly follow these individuals, put them on a  pedestal, and take everything they say as fact. While it’s important to surround yourself with experts who are knowledgeable and trustworthy, it’s dangerous to blindly follow anyone’s ideas or principles.

Heck, the trustworthy figures in this particular field will tell you the same thing: “don’t take my word for it, look at the research and decide for yourself.”

Question everything you hear, see, and read. Some will call you negative, some will think you’re mean or that you’re an asshole for challenging their precious leader’s ideals, but who cares? People are being misled every day because they follow someone’s beliefs without question and they develop an emotional attachment to their ideas.

This section was inspired by an idea that Antonio and Scott talked about on their podcast “Evil Sugar Radio“. They talked about how people become so attached to their guru’s recommendations and they don’t hold them accountable, even if they’re spreading misinformation.

Don’t let that be you. Question everything. Be a skeptic. It will make you a better thinker and it will improve your quality of life immensely.

Check the References

As somewhat of an add-on to that last point, this one is crucial. If you’re going to believe what someone says about a scientifically controversial topic in an article or a blog post, be sure to check their references.

I certainly don’t compile references for every post simply because a lot of my posts are me rambling and telling a side of the story rather than making a scientific argument.

But there are some individuals out there who try to trick people into taking what they say as fact because they have a massive list of references at the bottom of the page. Now, knowing that most of their readers aren’t going to take the time to check all of the references, this might seem like a great way to scam someone…until someone actually takes the time to look through the research.

The most recent and notable instance where this was a problem (that I know of) was in an article titled “Why Women Should Not Run” by DH Kiefer. I’m not going to link the article because, quite frankly, it’s not worth reading (if you want to read it, Google it :D ).

I will, however, link you to an excellent rebuttal article written by Sol Orwell from Examine.com (here’s the article).

Sol proceeds to go through and meticulously point out all of the references that had no relevance to the article whatsoever. This was simply a case of an author thinking that no one would take the time to sift through the references, so he cited crap to make his post look more credible.

I know that many of you don’t have the time to look through all of the references, so use your B.S. detector. If something looks like B.S., sounds like B.S., and smells like shit, it’s probably B.S.

Use common sense and hold people accountable. It’s the only way to learn.

Eat the Food

If you’re unaware of the Facebook group called “Eating the Food” (seriously, wake up!) it’s time that you become aware. In my past few posts (and in this post) I’ve been scattering around recommendations to listen to Evil Sugar Radio, and you definitely should because they produce excellent content on a weekly basis.

To top that off, you really need to join the Facebook page “Eating the Food” that was started by Amber from GoKaleo.com. Antonio and Scott from Evil Sugar Radio are also very active in the group, and it’s a great place to get support and to relieve your mind of all the dogma and crazy restriction in the world of dieting.

So, definitely check it out, they always answer questions and all of the members there are respectful and have been there, done that as far as dieting and fitness are concerned. If you’re confused or are just looking for people you can relate to, it’s the place to be. No extremes, no restriction, no alarmism, just real information.

The purpose of the group is to be a support outlet, but it’s also to promote the idea of enjoying food. It’s almost a common belief nowadays that you cannot enjoy your food, eat food that you love, and be healthy at the same time. This is not true, and I would argue that the pleasure of eating food that you enjoy with the people that you love is healthier than worrying about gluten intolerance and high fructose corn syrup.

Eat the food, enjoy life. Don’t go to extremes, and don’t fear your diet.

Wrap Up

So hopefully this post gives you an idea of the schemes that gurus try to pull in order to get you to believe their ridiculous claims. Use your head and think for yourself. Don’t blindly follow anyone, and question everything.

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