The problem (as I see it) with nutrition advice

Food, Advice, Nutrition, Everyday, Diet

Food, the final frontier? It is all about how you think about it.

This is going to be a short post.

Primarily, because it doesn’t take long to express what, to my mind, is the problem with nutrition advice.

But also because I would like this to be the starting point for a conversation. (I know, I tend to go on and on when I write, and that can give the impression that I don’t listen to what others have to say. But I promise it is not the case. So there.)

Here we go:

The problem with nutrition advice, and it permeates pretty much all advice on nutrition that I’ve come across, is the idea that good nutrition will make you healthy.

How often have you heard or read that a specific diet will make you healthy? That a supplement ensures health? That this food (or that food, the very next week), will prevent disease?

The truth is the reverse: Bad nutrition makes your body more susceptible to diseases.

In part, this is because it does not have what it needs to function optimally. For instance, to fight off infections; but one often reads that better nutrition will enhance your immune system, whereas the problem is that bad nutrition impedes the immune system from functioning optimally.

The other part is because, over time, bad (or simply excessive) nutrition leads to weight gain in the form of fatty deposits, primarily in the abdomen region, which is proven to lead to chronic diseases like diabetes and nasty stuff like cancers (to name only those main life shorteners).

In my estimation, the way nutrition advice is given, implying that eating right will make you healthy, leads perniciously to all sorts of damaging beliefs about nutrition and health. It points towards a constant search for a special diet, super food, secret ingredient, or other magic pill, to keep disease at bay.

But the truth is otherwise: Given what it needs, which is a lot of movement and good nutrition, the body is, naturally, healthy. The body does not become healthy by having plenty of exercise and good food; removing those things from your body, however, can (and often does) lead to chronic disease and problems coming from sub-optimal functioning.

You might be tempted to say that the difference is only semantics. My contention is that the difference has a big influence on how we think about food and nutrition. The way the advice usually goes (eat well to be healthy) leads to thinking some additional, external, and effortless solution can be applied. The advice focusing on the way the body works (eat well to allow your body to be healthy) hints, on the contrary, at changing habits, removing bad nutrition, and letting nature take its course.

Let’s use an example, albeit an extreme one, to illustrate the logic.

Does not smoking make you healthy? Can we say “if you don’t smoke, you will become healthy”? No, of course not. That would seem absurd. Smoking can, and does, cause you to be at risk for a whole lot of nasty things. Absence of smoking is how things should be for optimal health, but not smoking is not the cause of good health.

This is analogous to what I was saying earlier: If you stop eating bad food, you will not become healthy. The absence of bad food, or the presence of good food, is not the cause of health. The presence of bad food on a daily basis is an impediment to your body’s optimal functioning (a.k.a. health).

So eating “right” will help the body restore itself, and will reduce the likelihood of chronic diseases and the incidence of other problems. But it won’t make you healthy. Your body will do that all by itself, given half a chance.

And to give it more than half a chance, to give it a full chance (and a chance-and-a-half), it is not just a matter of eating right. In fact, a larger proportion of the solution resides in moving more.

But that will be a subject to be covered (again) in another post.

Picture from Pixabay.

Do this to be healthier and save money

Supplements, Diet, Everyday, Health

That’s what Echinacea looks like. Pretty. But you don’t need to eat any.

Have I got a good and easy deal for you today! Guaranteed results! Free of charge, too!

A simple action you can set in motion today, and easily maintain for the rest of your life. One that will pay handsome dividends both in terms of your health, and in your wallet.

What is it? Here it is:

Never buy dietary supplements ever again.

Simple enough, right?

I know, I know, you want to tell me that you already don’t use that stuff, so this advice does not apply to you.

Well, the statistics are pretty clear on the subject: About 20% of us regularly buy some sort of supplement, be it protein or herbal “stuff” with wildly exaggerated properties, none of which have been scientifically demonstrated. The industry of supplements is estimated to be raking in some $5 billions annually. Taken together, those numbers mean that if none of you admit to taking some, some of you are lying.

By the way, I’m not talking about pills of vitamins or minerals. To be fair, unless you have a medically diagnosed condition that requires you to supplement your nutrition with vitamins or minerals, they are also a waste of money. Were I to include them, the proportion of those who take some sort of supplement on a regular basis would go above 50%. And the value of the industry would go to some $30 billions, most of which wasted by consumers because they simply don’t need any supplements.

No, I’m talking about the large number of products, supposedly based on plants, which are touted as cures or insurance for a wide range of diseases or problems. And for which there is no credible scientific support.

Worse than that, however, is the fact, well demonstrated scientifically in this case, that the supplements often don’t even contain what they claim to contain.

So, to put a big nail in the coffin: Even if you insist on believing that Echinacea, for instance, has some near-miraculous effect on your health, taking a pill that does not even contain Echinacea will definitely not do anything for you. But it will still cost you a pretty penny.

How can I make such a bold claim as “it is good for your health” to not take any supplements, you ask? It follows logically:

If makers of those supplements can make outlandish claims about their properties without having to demonstrate them, and they still don’t get sued out of business, then it must be because the supplements don’t really do anything. Therefore, not using them must be as good for you as using them.

Except when the supplements actually do hurt people, because the stuff they contain is sometimes dangerous. In which case, not taking supplements is much more healthy than taking some. (Just have a look at this Consumer Report, or do a search on the Web for “dietary supplements pulled from shelves”…)

At best, supplements don’t do anything; at worst, they might have seriously bad consequences. Ergo, not taking supplements is healthier, on average, than taking some. And it does not cost a thing, so start thinking about what you could do instead with the money you will save. As my wife would put it: QED.

If you ever feel the urge to pop a pill made of lord knows what, do this instead: Have a tall glass of water, but without the pill.

Think of it as the ultimate dosage of homeopathic medicine against dietary supplements. (I hope most of you get that. It is quite funny, if I do say so myself.)

So, maximize your health, and that of your wallet, by not buying supplements. If you really must take minerals or vitamins because of a medical condition, of course, do so; otherwise, don’t bother.

And move, everyday.

You’re welcome.

Picture from Pixabay

By the way, this report from 2013 that started the ball rolling for the New York State Attorney General’s office to ban some supplements is worth watching as well.

A bit of advice (about health and fitness advice) for the New Year

New Year, Resolution, Fitness, Health

It’s that time of the year again. Might as well make a good resolution.

New Year, New You, right?

This is the arbitrary time of the year when most of us will make resolutions of one kind or another. Even if we don’t say it out loud.

This is the time of the year that is like manna from Heaven for gyms and fitness clubs.

True, it is often the best of times to sign up, and you can get all sorts of great deals. But it is also the worst of times to sign up, because in all likelihood it will be a wishful waste of money.

By the way, there are other moments of the year when you can get equal, if not better, deals. Low times for gym attendance, like the summer months. But that’s not the point of this post.

My point, and it is a short one, is to suggest a different kind of resolution for the new year. One that is easy to keep, and doesn’t cost you anything. In fact, it may save you a whole lot of money.

The idea is simple: Apply a systematic filter to the advice you hear or read about fitness and health in 2015.

Let’s face it, we all want to be fit and have health for a long, active life. So we are prone to believe those who tell us we can get it, provided we eat this food, or take that supplement, or join this or adopt that. Especially if it means almost not effort on our part.

When it comes to health, we are gullible. And it pays off for many unscrupulous people. Entire business plans are built on that kind of gullibility.

To help you fight that, I’m proposing a kind of checklist that you should use to evaluate the advice you are being given. It is not meant to replace your instinctual willingness to believe, but rather as a sobering second thought. You’ll still need to do the rest of the considering on your own.

So, here are the verifications to make before accepting advice on health and fitness (and, truth be told, anything, really):

1) Is the person providing the advice profiting financially from the advice?

2) In particular, is that profiting financially revolving around the sale of products such as supplements or special items, as opposed to straight out guidance and support?

3) Does the advice include claims that are extraordinary?

4) Is the advice claimed to be something very few people know, or that some conspiracy would normally preclude from being widely known?

Most health-related advice on the web and in magazines these days get a check mark on all four. Steer clear!

Claims of requiring no effort, of guaranteed results, and such, qualify as extraordinary, by the way. For things like that, you need proof, and not just some “before and after” photos which are so easy to fake.

Getting two or more check marks, especially towards the bottom of the list, must trigger an alarm bell in your head. Yes, there are some evil folks on this planet, but there is no great conspiracy of the medical establishment against effective remedies. Otherwise my wife is still waiting for her membership card.

Getting only the first one checked may not be so bad, since there are legitimate service providers (like personal coaches) that are well-meaning. But beware especially of those that cause you to check #2 as well.

Remember that fitness comes from being more active, first and foremost, not from buying products. That’s my advice, and it’s a no-brainer.

For this advice, and any other you are bound to hear in 2015, use the checklist above.

Your wallet will thank you.

New Year, Fitness, Health

Time to celebrate!

Pictures from Pixabay.

What’s NBF all about – a refresher

Fitness, Exercise, Sport, Triathlon

What’s NBF all about? More than this picture, that’s for sure…

To celebrate the 40th post of No-brainer Fitness, I thought it worthwhile to offer a brief recap.

Basically, in case you are still wondering, or if you are fairly new to No-brainer Fitness, here’s what it’s all about, in the form of an interview, but definitely in No-brainer Fitness style:

What does NBF stand for?

NBF is my acronym for No-brainer Fitness.

Ok, smart ass, but what is it all about, really?

No-brainer Fitness is about getting fit so as to be, and remain, as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

Why the “No-brainer” part?

Because it is my contention that, in order to get and remain fit, you don’t need to do anything very complicated. Also, the benefits of being fit are so good and numerous, that you should not have to think twice about it.

Don’t you have some secret agenda?

You mean other than helping others reap the benefits of fitness?

Yes.

No.

C’mon, admit it! You are trying to create a cult to fitness, or at least get rich from this, aren’t you?

Well, it would be nice to make a living helping others, but I still do it for free.

So, no cult?

No cult. Quite the contrary, I promise.

Ok, prove it: How does one get fit?

You need to move more. A lot more. On a daily basis. Not just 30 minutes of intense exercise every other day, and then sitting on your chair or sofa the rest of the time. Instead of seeking ways to save your energy, you need to get into the habit of using more energy. Walking more, taking stairs instead of escalators or elevators, doing some light strength exercises, not sitting so much at work, picking up a fun sport again, etc.

That sounds like hard work: I’m getting tired just reading about it. How does one get there?

A big part of it is changing your mindset so that you no longer think about moving as hard, but as something that your body craves, much like you crave food. Our bodies really do crave movement, and as you get moving, you start to feel it more keenly.

Talking about craving, what about eating super foods and taking supplements that will make me fit and healthy and help me lose weight? Isn’t that a lot easier?

There is no such thing as “super foods”, and if you eat well, you don’t need supplements. Losing weight comes naturally from moving more and eating a good diet, not from dieting. But the key is moving more. First and foremost, that’s what you have to focus on. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something (like supplements).

Unlike you?

Unlike me.

But if we wanted to buy something from you, we could. Right?

Well, if you are interested in picking up running or triathlon as a sport, because those are great ways of getting and remaining fit, I could help with that, too. And for that, yes, I do get paid, because it demands much more attention to make sure it is done right, and you reach your personal objectives.

What else do you provide? Surely it can’t be that simple…

It is. Really. But I try to make it enjoyable to do the right thing, and I provide advice to help steer through the wild west of products and tips out there. Because being fit is both simple and fun.

Hmmm… What else?

Well, it doesn’t hurt to stay away from things that are clearly bad for you, what I call NOT FOOD. But the key, I insist, is in moving a lot more.

Ok, I think that’s enough for now. I almost believe you.

Feel free to ask me other questions. Or read some of my 39 previous posts; you are sure to find more about what NBF stands for, and how to be more fit.

Move on!

Health, Fitness, Exercise

Working on some visuals for No-brainer Fitness… Feedback welcome.

 

Things we don’t like to hear

We don't want to hear

We don’t want to hear

It has been a while.

Perhaps you thought I had gone away.

But that’s not the case; it is simply a matter of having recently started a new job, running a trial program of No-brainer Fitness: E, and getting caught in doing research for a post on dieting.

All of that busyness got me thinking about some of the things we don’t like to hear. So I decided to write this short post before finishing the more serious one.

In part preparation for the dieting post, and in part as a reaction to having to face the fact that there are simply not enough hours in any given day, here are some of the things we don’t like to hear. But must come to accept if we are to succeed in being fit and healthy for the long-term.

There are no such things as Super Foods

Most claims on Web sites are about a single item, more often than not a vegetable, sometimes a fruit, and on occasions red wine. It changes depending on the site you browse to on any given day. The fact is that any one food will not make you healthy. And in large enough quantity, any one thing is toxic. Yes, even kale.

The flip side: I once saw a list of so-called “super foods” that consisted of 63 or so items. That’s longer than my typical grocery list, despite the fact that I get kudos from the health-conscious store clerks where I usually buy groceries.

If you have to buy and eat so many different food, then clearly no single food is that super.

As is generally the case, with a balanced and diversified diet of mostly plants, you don’t need anything to be super. The overall diet is what is super. Because it is real food.

Food supplements simply don’t work

In the sense that they will not make you healthy. Especially those that claim to do precisely just that.

In situations where someone is truly lacking some essential vitamins or minerals, or to ensure that you have plenty (as for pregnant women), there may be benefits in taking some, if only to have complete peace of mind.

But claims of miracle dietary supplements to make you lose weight or cure you of whatever you are lead to believe (typically from the same ads) you suffer from, are hogwash.

But at some point, we have to grow up

But at some point, we have to grow up

It requires (some) effort on your part

This could also be called “there are no free lunches.” (Or, at least, no healthy free lunches.)

Basically, to be fit, you have to put in some sweat capital. Fitness does not come from a pill; you can’t get fit by hooking yourself up to a machine and letting it do the work for you. You have to do the work.

The trick is to find the kind of working out that is pleasant for you, and the purpose to commit and maintain good habits. But you have to move, lots, and regularly.

Coffee, wine, chocolate, and a few other things we like are NOT FOOD

Sorry. That’s just the way it is. Enjoy in moderation.

Dieting doesn’t make you lose weight in the long run

That’s the intro to my next post. You have to take my word for it. For now. But the evidence is pretty damning…

*****

Since first writing this post, a few interesting (and timely) tidbits came my way, so I’m adding links to other readings you might consider after being done here:

Diet Lures and Diet Lies is an interesting piece along the lines of the above discussion of super foods and supplements.

Why I don’t do CrossFit is all about the importance of not training too hard. Better yet, if you read the text carefully, you’ll notice mention of how Olympians train, and that is what I am driving at with the notion of being an everyday athlete…

Photos by Pixabay