I had an interesting discussion with one of my clients yesterday. We were discussing symptom-based medicine and how much of what goes for healthcare today is really reactionary. I was explaining how separation from our true nature was at the … Continue reading
It has been in effect for almost half a year and many Californians still don’t know what to make of the calorie labeling law. It seems that more people were up in arms when municipal officials in New York City and San Francisco passed more surgical laws aimed at sugar sweetened beverages and kids meals respectively. There was a lot of debate going around about personal liberties and other TEA Party ideals, and all that was at stake was the prospect of switching to diet soda and swapping apple sticks for your french fries.
It seems this grand-scale food labeling law was passed and implemented with nothing more than a collective, “hummmmm” as we let these ubiquitous nutritional qualifiers rain all over our lunch-time parades. I find myself balking at the 4-digit figures on the rare occasions the forces of nature drive me to such an establishment.
Lawmakers and Public Health officials hope that they can lead us to make better choices about our food through, quite literally, “in-your-face” caloric content labeling. I hope they can, however, even before the latest behavioral studies started trickling in, I had my doubts about the success of this tactic. Ok, I can’t lead you to believe my doubts were purely intuition and professional prowess. The sad fact is that New York City has already had a similar law in effect for nearly two years. So why would CA attempt to pass it across the State after sad reviews from New York City? Four silly little words that has the power to concentrate more hubris then you’ll find in a back alley pissing contest behind some Texas roadhouse:
More Research is necessary…
Gee, wouldn’t it have been nice to do the research, then pass the laws? I can tell you right now that even after we spend millions of tax dollars on self-evident research, I will still not incorporate this public calorie count tactic in to the Movement for Wellness. Food is a very personal thing and needs to be addressed in a highly specific manner. I applaud those government officials responsible for this law for being progressively minded in that they are looking for ways to improve our overall health using the means available to them. My regret is that this broad-brush health promotion directs the conversation to a place where we find ourselves stumbling over decisions that in the (rear) end, are of little consequence.
Knowledge ≠ Behavior
I can remember in school, just as we were awakening from the overly romanticized dream of getting an education and being promised the world at our fingertips, our professors would periodically try to pump us up with a little study-related pep-talk. Being an Exercise Science major, I often heard such studies cited that correlated level of education with longevity and quality of life. I remember thinking, “If knowledge equates to better health, why are we not doing a better job at spreading the word as a society?”.
The truth is that leading a person to approach their everyday health decisions armed only with a slew of numerical goals and limits reduces the human being to a Newtonian closed-system machine subject only to the ancient physics of yesteryear. Our relationship with food is one of both emotion, quantum mechanics and finally caloric consumption.
Few scientists have explained this truth better than Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. In his very long and comprehensive lecture titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, he explains how we obsess over our intake and expenditure of energy when it comes to our diets. As a specialist of the hormones, Dr. Lustig asserts that when it comes to our food having an impact on our body shape, it’s not the amount of calories that we should worry about; however we should worry about how our body responds on a hormonal level to the type of food we ingest. The new fixation on calories takes us even further than we already are from the true focus according to so many ant-obesity researchers such as Dr. Lustig.
It goes without saying that with new legislation comes new possibility to cheat the system. When the public is lulled in to a false sense of security and they abdicate all of their food consumer responsibility to the suits in the FDA, USDA, NHS, et al., it creates open season on the public for the wiley marketing teams and media manipulators in the food industry. This has been at work for quite a long time. How else did we get to a point where we down Anti-oxidant soda, and stuff ourselves with sugary “low-fat” treats in the name of making healthier choices.
Keep in mind that adults are not the only ones exposed to these new social eating norms. Children learn what is valued in their society by their keen sense of observation. As they see adults torture themselves over indulging in a calorie-dense meal, they’ll learn to largely base their food choices on caloric values. Children should be taught to maintain their innate sense of intuitive eating. Sure we need to limit their affinity to the sugary and salty but they certainly do not need to inherit our obsession with calorie content over quality of food and eating that truly matter; food, farm and family.
Jamie Oliver is on the right track when he partnered up with a Los Angeles fast food restaurant in his latest season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. One of the first questions he asks the owner of the restaurant is, “do you know where your food comes from?”. It’s sad to hear that the well-meaning guy only stumbles as a response and mentions a guy…in a warehouse…downtown somewhere. These are the questions we should demand get answered by those who feed us; not the caloric value rather the integrity of the product itself. Get back to basics and as my good friend Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness says, JERF!…….Just Eat Real Food!
- Calorie Labeling and Mandated Food Choices: Can Such Strategies Work? (diabetesdialectics.wordpress.com)
- You: Calorie-Counting Rule to Leave Out Movie Theaters (nytimes.com)
- Dieting Becomes a Federal Affair (online.wsj.com)
We as rational beings must construct instruments through which metaphysical truths can be viewed. There is much in the universe that we can not explain through objective measures. Some mysteries have been solved by our advancement in technology but there still remains many uncertainties about our lives here on Earth and beyond. Wherever exists a lacuna in the science of the day, you will find a theory, religion, dogma, prescription drug, weight-loss method, diet and exercise plan or snake-oil on the market. We must realize that all of these methods are but lenses of varying clarity to absolute truth.
Just as there is no flawless lens, there is no flawless method of achieving fitness and health. The health industry is saturated with those who are more interested in profit rather than health. I am not just talking about commercials you see on late-night TV. The entire health industry from the FDA, AMA, HMO to thigh-master, ab-circle, George Foreman grill, etc. are corrupted with those who purposefully direct science and ignore inconvenient outcomes so that they can go to the public with a claim that will make them money. Just think of all the prescription medication that makes it to the market and then is re-called because it actually does more harm than good. The reason modern medicine is constantly changing is two-fold. First of all, the subjects in the experiment (we the people) are not a true control group. Our food sources and environment has changed more in the last 50 years than it has in the last 10,000. The second reason is that our current system of research is so tainted, either by private money or governmental grants, that laboratory results simply do not pan out in real life.
For these reasons, I approach everything I encounter in health and wellness with a grain of salt. (of the Celtic Sea variety that is) We can not become fanatics about anything. My experience thus far in the health industry has been in the western medicine setting. I have had conversations with doctors and pharmacists who are convinced that there simply is no other way to be healthy than to take pills and cut fat from your diet. When I try to present a different point of view, their defenses go up not because what i say makes no sense; it’s because what I am saying threatens everything they have spent unimaginable hours studying for. I don’t charge them with malicious ignorance. I just think that it is easy for us to get so entrenched in our life’s work that we stop learning once we’ve been convinced to follow one methodology or another. The same goes for academics. So much of a persons worth and legacy goes in to the research they will conduct and the studies they will produce. The pursuit of novelty can be very dangerous because then you are not so much concerned with whether you produce truth that will work in the real world. The main concern is if it has been done before. Of course ingenuity has saved many lives but as we continue to try to outsmart God and nature, we can become drunk with notoriety and sacrifice the cosmic intelligence inborn in our food, ourselves and our planet.
Our physical bodies are the housing of our mind and soul. It is the outward expression of every emotion we feel, every disease we encounter and every triumphant victory we accomplish. Doctors, healers, shaman, and therapists are all specialists who have studied the subtle communication between our mind and bodies. When we get sick, it’s our body telling us that there is a bacterial growth, viral attach, nerve impingement, chemical imbalance, or synthetic toxin somewhere in our tissues. Most of us have abdicated our responsibility to listen to our bodies when they speak to us. Many of us know we feel unwell but have no diagnosable pathology. We may not express any detectable symptoms but we know we are not at optimal health. It’s sad to realize once you have attained true health for the first time in your life, that for all the years that were, you were not living to the fullest. I was lucky enough to experience this vitality in my early 20′s. Now, anytime I feel myself slipping, I know exactly what to do for the remedy. Everybody is as different on the inside as they are on the outside. We know that we all require different ratios of macro nutrients in our diets. Exercise is no different however, it is not as varied from person to person as diet may be. We all need to move. That is what Moving For Wellness is about. You can be a hiker, biker, swimmer or climber but you need to move your body doing what you enjoy. The only time exercise becomes exercise is when it is so structured that it becomes “work”. Our jobs give us enough stress; we don’t need our work-outs to give us more. If you have trouble sticking to an exercise routine, it is probably because you are not moving how your body wants you to. Too much in the fitness industry is centered around rep counts, time intervals, rest periods and weights that we figure that if are not doing exactly the right thing, we shouldn’t even bother at all. All the science you hear from fitness professionals is mostly for athletes. The only scientific conclusion you should concern yourself with is that 2.5 hours/week of moderate exercise is related to increased measures of health in humans. If you find yourself unmotivated to exercise, I would say quit asking others (fitness authorities) for an exercise plan. Get outside and try different things. Take some time to get to know your body and how it likes to move. You have to be honest with yourself and not just try to avoid hard work. Once you have an idea, then go consult with a trainer or coach to learn how not to injure yourself. There are but a few simple rules of bio-mechanics that our bodies sometimes ignore to take the path of least resistance. The ultimate truth however is that nobody knows your body better than you can. Feel it and experience it’s greatness through exercise and you may be able to attain vitality and absolute health.
“Lose 10 lbs with zero exercise!” That sounds like the typical weight-loss quackery that you may see on an infomercial somewhere. One of the major causes of non-adherence to a weight-loss program is loss of motivation. Exercise is hard work and takes a toll on the body. Just saying the word exercise makes most of us cringe. What habitual movers come to realize is that despite our natural affinity towards the path of least resistance, there is a point after adopting a more active lifestyle (usually after the initial soreness and shock go away) that we start to have a better subjective exercise experience. It may catalyzed by visible fat loss, reduction in blood pressure pills, or even a 24/7 Zen-like consciousness. The side effects of exercise are uncertain and infinate.
The unfortunate reality is that most people seldom make it past the first phase. Whenever anybody who has been inactive for a long period of time approaches me about starting an exercise program I often shock them with my recommendation. I tell them that they should not do any exercise for at least the first month. It seems stupid for a personal trainer to recommend this. They see it as if their mechanic told them not to drive their car as much so that it lasts longer. In an attempt to recover my recently lost credibility, I further explain that exercise is defined as planned and structured activity that is done to maintain or improve physical fitness.
Exercise is only a subclass of physical activity. Physical activity (PA) is anything that uses energy through bodily movement. Of course there are varying degrees of energy expenditure. The proper amount of caloric expenditure needed to result in a loss of body fat depends on how much you take in. I am the last person to say that a proper diet is just a calorie counting scorecard (watch for my upcoming nutrition post) however, in it’s simplistic form, weight-loss only happens when we take in less calories than we use. (Proper nutrition addresses the “take-in” side of the equation while endocrine adaptation to exercise and said nutrition addresses the “usage” side of the equation.)
So what do I recommend as the proper way to start a weight-loss endeavor? Become a mover. Don’t wait until you have all the designer workout clothes and fancy equipment. Just move!
Our entire metabolism is designed to store enough energy to carry out our vital biological functions while setting aside enough to allow us to move from place to place. If our total caloric expenditure was the size of a medium 8 slice pizza, our energy expenditure for physical activity would only be one slice. Although its a small slice, its the only one we have any control over. All our metabolic functions, from digestion to regeneration of your finger nails, account for the rest of the pizza pie. The safe way to increase caloric expenditure (now that Hydroxycut is off the market once and for all) is to move more. It doesn’t matter how you move. You don’t have to become a runner, cyclist, rock-climber, or a Yogi. The body will initially benefit from any increase in physical activity. Moving is what your body is designed to do. Although it helps, you can’t just park your car further away from the entrance and expect to lose weight. To be a mover is to make Mother Earth aware of your presence. While you are walking from your parking spot next to the street, look for the most challenging route to take. For me this means jumping out of my Jeep for bone density, walking the line between the parking spaces for balance, doing a pull up on a low hanging branch and climbing up on to the utility box for strength, all while walking at a brisk pace for cardio. Of course you may elicit a few stares but hey, you are getting healthy. Being a mover is a bit of a regression to our childhood. It will make you feel better spiritually and physically while providing a good platform from which to launch your voyage to wellness.
Disclaimer: You should consult your physician before starting any significant change in physical activity. Start slow and don’t break your neck hopping over fire-hydrants.
- Boost Weight Loss by Knowing Your BMR (everydayhealth.com)
- Weight loss after pregnancy: Tips from a specialist (mayoclinic.com)
- Healthy Weight Loss – Toss The Tiny Plates (clawhawk.wordpress.com)
- Sardines and Weight Loss (itisallhere.wordpress.com)