Getting fit? Food studies and the media aren’t helping.

Is it just me or does it seem like every year, we hear of some kind of food study that “proves” the opposite of what we thought to be true. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

Fat is bad for you. Did I say fat? I mean carbohydrates are bad. Actually, carbohydrates aren’t the enemy after all.

Caffeine is bad. Caffeine is good. Caffeine is both good and bad at the same time while being neither, simultaneously.

Alcohol is unhealthy. No, wait, a drink a day is good. Scratch that, alcohol is bad for you again.

Raw veggies are always best… unless by raw we mean sometimes frozen.

Don’t microwave your vegetables, steam them. Actually, do the opposite of what I just said.

Since fat is bad, chocolate is bad. But chocolate is now good… in fact, it’s as good as exercise!

You see according to the media, everything is good for you and everything is bad for you. Why? Because it gets attention. It’s newsworthy, which means it is ad-worthy, which means it will make somebody somewhere some money.

The media makes it hard to know how best to get fitThis chocolate and fitness article does a great job of scrutinizing such claims. It points out some facts that get overlooked by the implications of the headline: the tiny sample size (just 25), the sample was mice NOT humans, and summarizes the findings by saying,  “This study does not show that chocolate consumption is beneficial, or that it is a substitute for exercise in humans.” Yet the headline, “How dark chocolate ‘boosts fitness in the same way as jogging’” sensationalizes the findings, misleading people with a (eh-hem) bite-size piece of information to (so sorry) chew on. And then people will use the info as an excuse to eat more chocolate.

So where does this leave us?

It leaves us at the intersection of balance and common sense.

Take the popular documentary Super Size Me from director Morgan Spurlock. Morgan eats only McDonalds for every meal for a month. And you’ll never guess what happens to him? Shockingly, he gains 24 pounds, his cholesterol shoots up, and he experiences mood swings and heart palpitations (among other things). Hard to believe that someone who eats 5,000 calories of the same food every day for 30 days would have any ill-effects whatsoever, right? Rarely is excess a good thing. Unfortunately, there’s no competing documentary that I’m aware of that profiles someone eating only apples for every meal of every day for 30 days. My guess is it would be equally interesting, funny, and dismissible.

You see, Super Size Me wants you to think you should NEVER eat at McDonalds. But when a guy eats McDonalds and loses weight, it doesn’t get near the coverage (there is more than one such story by the way). Or if it does, it might give you the impression that it is okay to eat at McDonalds every day (well, it wouldn’t give you that impression because you’re smarter than that). Either way, it’s not good because limited information is not good. Hyped headlines are not good. Eating only one type of food for an extended period of time, not good.

There is a thing called balance (which can easily be practiced using the nutrition tithe) and a thing called common sense that should act, in part, as your road map to fitness success. If you hear something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And if you hear that something is so bad that you will die from even thinking about eating it, you probably won’t.

I don’t like McDonalds because I think it tastes gross. But when I do go there on occasion, I look into what I’m going to eat. I check the nutritional content and make a decision for myself. I’m not going to get spooked by the media or some food study funded by a competing product. I will use some common sense and will have balance, plain and simple.

So the next time you hear about how great ginkgo biloba is for your memory (which it’s not), or read about coffee being terrible for you (which it’s not), get the best facts you can find before you believe it. Watch out for the ‘nevers’ and ‘always’, examine the intent of the one delivering the message, and don’t freak out about it… though there’s probably a study out there somewhere that claims freaking out is good for you… and the study is probably funded by Red Bull.

Be intentional. Make it happen. You’ve been challenged… now GO!

 

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