Are you scared of eating junk food or at the very least somewhat concerned but you do it anyway…seem odd? With the proliferation of Internet interconnectedness we are swamped with information. A massive trend is dissecting what we eat and what is deemed good sometimes even ‘super’ good and what is revealed to be bad with killers lurking in regular everyday items. Organic is shooting up in popularity and the conversation about eating Paleo (as in so called ‘real’ food like our ancestors had) is popping up everywhere.
In a sense this is nothing new, becoming a vegetarian had its day in the sun, as did the admonishment of fat in ones diet. The concern from our perspective is that now the sheer volume of opinions can be more than influential, it can and does foster confusion. Influence is one thing especially if the information is incorrect or worse partially incorrect thus misleading. Confusion is even worse in that it destroys real discoveries and progress as well as promoting a non scientific all or nothing attitude.
By this we mean when overwhelmed with choices we tend, when a choice has to be made, to either attach to a loud obvious point of view or just give up, ignore and act spur of the moment. We just plain disagree with promoting an all or nothing ideology. With eating this always leads to denial, head games and/or self-loathing for ones choice to slip up and eat ‘bad’ stuff. As Fitness Clinicians™ when clients talk to us about healthy choices they have made there is a whole thought process they describe. When the same people admit to unhealthy/off plan choices one thing always stands out painfully clear – there is only circumstantial half hearted excuses or a almost total lack of thought involved. We know our clients want to reach their goals and that they are always thinking about it, the fact is where excuses and lack of thought appears it is basically a giving in to pressure and just willfully turning off their better judgement. Contrary to popular belief it isn’t lack of willpower which affects us most with diet and weight loss, it is a blunting of our better senses because we just don’t want to fight at that moment. The fact is it doesn’t have to be a fight ‘against’ junk food and against temptation…
Setting the record straight
All the media noise has unfortunately started to completely camouflage an actually somewhat scary truth. While we are dissecting what someone else is selling or promoting and putting a magnifying glass on its shortcomings the real issue(s) is gaining momentum. Silly revelations like you might find with a media savvy ‘Food Babe or Doc Oz’, are ignoring what could become an unstoppable problem in favor of sound bites.
I mean come on people, are you really shocked to find out what is in your chain-store coffee shops Latte’s, popular canned soups or heavily industrialized farmed food stuffs? Didn’t most of us always kind of wonder what the heck was in soda pop and chewing gum?! In an quiet moment of personal honesty didn’t you always know that junk food wasn’t that good for your body? Isn’t it truer to say we ignored the obvious at least a little bit in favor of enjoyment and entertainment consumption?
Once again we repeat the first fact that matters in health – you need to address your individual traits…first. Medicine and science have made countless life-saving breakthroughs, be clear on that. Health scares in the past weren’t just about you might get this or that but truly scary immediate life or death concerns. What we face now are health problems which crop up over time, the spooky part is they are on the rise. The more we apply the judgemental microscope figuratively and literally to the problem the more unusable facts we uncover. In the western world we have all but solved the looming horror of starvation but it appears that supposedly even food itself is looking to knock us off.
The problem is we are sorting through the tree’s trying to find the healthy ones and cutting down the bad ones and getting lost in the old proverbial forest on the way. Our answers won’t come from looking out anymore, we already have almost too much analysis to sort through. The answer will come from looking in, looking at how each individual reacts and interacts with their environment.
Demonizing makes money but not change
Here are the raw facts about food – all food, man-made or found in nature, has varied effects on the body. There are countless natural elements which can immediately or in time kill the consumer. This is especially and issue where personal sensitivities and allergies are part of the mix. We are all a combination of genetics and lifestyle and this has direct effect on how our bodies react to our diet. Man made chemical processes may help one person get what they need while slowly destroying another. This is why special acute conditions require specific combinations and eliminations of certain nutritional elements.
It is misleading to say that man use to eat a certain way and thus we should mimic this for proper nutrition. Of course if you are eating too much of things that could hurt you like refined sugar and chemically rich but nutritionally devoid processed prepackaged foods you will feel better by dropping them. It isn’t so much the shift to meat and veggies or the addition of vitamin rich fruits, seeds and nuts which makes you feel better. It is the unburdening of your immune system from having to fight to clear the effects of high levels of unwanted elements from the body. Re read that last sentence and let it sink in; it may save your life.
You see it simply isn’t technically let alone financially feasible to determine the exact effect of any and all man made or naturally occurring chemicals in foods. The wrong mushroom can kill you on the spot but worse a naturally occurring food which an animal you eat – eats all the time…in time could do the same. What anthropologists have been able to determine is that man’s only traceable trait was diversity. It is our ability to breakdown and process an incredibly wide variety of eatables which is our greatest over arching characteristic. This is what has made us robust and able to survive in the face of sometimes harsh nature. In fact a little considered fact is the closer you become to starvation the better you process any consumables. That’s right, if you eating only once or twice a week your body will process junk food far better, there will be much less inflammatory reaction and little toxic build up…this is only a short term effect of course.
We are adaptable and resourceful but as a result we are really quite unique. What one deer eats tends to be reasonable for every deer but when it is in short supply the herd shrinks and dwindles fast. Humans think and adjust and mix things together and eventually we learned to create our own food sources to avoid sickness and starvation.
What this means is we have evolved to have diverse diets yet…and here is the kicker, we all have personal unique reactions to what we eat and drink. Part of that of course is natural selection where those best suited for given conditions survive. The great thing is it also spurred forward the development of the unique ability to control our conditions and not remain at the mercy of random ‘naturally’ occurring disasters.
What this adds up to is painfully clear – if you don’t know what is best for you no amount of outward classifying of good or bad food will really help long term. You could go to great lengths to eat well and actually be your own cause for illness in time. This because the choices viewed statically and in a generalized manner were good choices but your personal genetics and lifestyle did not combine properly with said choices. This is similar to all the nutrient deficiencies which cropped up in people when they made the grand change to veganism. Some did very well and some…not well at all.
What is scary to us is in all this demonizing of various farming practices and corporate controlled processed food a much more important fact is being buried. The way your body works is it can take in a wide variety of things then it processes what it can make use of and gets rid of the rest. It eliminates and detoxifies itself and the digestive track and immune system is primary to maintaining health. You can try everything in moderation but even slow poisoning is poisoning. You can avoid the obvious culprits but just look into the most recent research on saturated fats, what was once an obvious suspect turned out to be entirely innocent.
In fact what is actually scary isn’t whether a food contains harmful elements because even those that do, the obvious ones, only hide very small amounts. The thing to fear is we are one of the first generations to have lifetime access to such junk food. Media focus should be on how letting yourself get out of shape combined with decades of slow poisoning conspire to hurt you. For your immune system to work effectively you need to stay in good fitness condition and limit unnecessary stressors like processing preservatives, excess refined sugar, trans fatty acids etc. When your immune system is sub par and overloaded this is when the system breaks down and things like cancer get a chance to take hold. In other words, if you don’t have a strong fit body then food choices matter very little over the long run! We simply cannot turn back the clock and undo the slow underlying effects of poor food choices, we can however build and maintain a body which works to rejuvenate itself and halt the flow of man made physical erosion .
How it actually works
If you have read our posts before you may have a sense of what we will say here, the answer to nutrition choices lays as much in physical action and physical make up as dietary choices. You see it is just as important to exercise and be physically active as it is to eat right…right? If you are strong and active you can and need to process more food – not only that but just how strong you are and what body type you express determines what you should be eating. Those built more for endurance than strength or vice versa should adjust diet accordingly. This similar to how a stalky strong person who is female and in their fifties won’t eat the same combination of things as a naturally thin naturally high endurance/lower speed, lower strength male will eat in his thirties.
It is no different than how your sport often determines your diet where you feed the needs as it were. What is a bit more complicated but just as important is the issue of developing improved fitness then trying to maintain it as you age. You need to eat in a certain matter to build strength but if you have hit your peak then your diet needs to adjust, excess calories of a certain ratio may be needed to build strength but will build fat once you plateau. If you are dieting as in restricting calories and do so too much as you exercise to get fit you won’t reach your goals. You will actually derail yourself and work hard for next to nothing. Not feeding your physical actions will naturally cause your body chemistry to react and protect you from starvation rather than favoring building a more fit body.
Additionally, it is the act of being physically active which helps you determine what food your body reacts best to. Your energy levels, digestion characteristics, body composition/body fat percentage and recovery rate (how fast you recover and replenish after activity) all provide tell tale signs of diet effects. We can’t remove the food choices from the context of ‘for whom’, ‘for when’ and ‘for what’?
In one of our earlier posts we talked about Al Rocker the newsman and his plight to get and stay thin. We mentioned, somewhat controversially, that he may actually need the very thing he was avoiding, that being sugar. Sounds crazy for an overweight person but it’s just basic chemistry. Some folks after dieting i.e. starving themselves too much lose too much muscle. Mixed with their age and body type they end up with such a naturally weak body they just can’t process calories at a reasonable level. They would need to eat a starvation (from a micro nutrient perspective) diet for the rest of their life just to stay fat but not become obese again. Strange as it may sound proper small feeds after intense muscle work can over time encourage an anabolic reaction which promotes lean mass gains. Lean mass gains which an individuals body may be otherwise incapable of kicking into gear because it is trying so hard just not to starve.
Now don’t go run out and start glutting on sugar just yet, this is a person specific case by case situation but it illustrates just how individual things can be. A parallel can be drawn with the oft demonized salt minerals. In very high levels salts can destroy health but they are so important to body processes that in low levels and improper balances (potassium to sodium) they can also damage. Unfortunately the addition of salt and sugar combined in food can fool you into over eating as well as getting the mistaken impression that you truly like the flavor. Should salts and sugar be demonized and eliminated…no…should they be respected and understood…yes.
‘Some’ people need extra salts and extra sugars at certain times and cutting them altogether is a naïve mistake, throwing out the baby with the bath water so to speak.
Labeling things as simply bad or good only promotes a lack of self-understanding and circumvents personal responsibility for what you eat and drink. Besides blaming someone who is selling something for your buying it is ridiculous at heart. Remember the sensationalized ‘Super Size Me’ movie? It was aimed at supposedly proving how unhealthy McDonalds food is! As if anyone really though fast food was ok and just as good as homemade! Well to juxtapose that and make our point painfully obvious how about the teacher who proved he could actually get lean eating only McDonalds food?! ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2533353/Forget-Super-Size-Me-Man-loses-37lbs-lowers-cholesterol-eating-McDonalds-three-months.html )
The bottom line here is not for us to recommend or cut down fast foods sources. The point is you need to know how things work for you and whether, if ever, such foods are ok for you. Sure you can make the choice to eat supposedly 100% clean and supposedly avoid anything harmful but be honest…will you really stick with it? Fact is there are countless cases of so called super fit people who die early because they hadn’t uncovered a personal weak link or sensitivity. There are too many stories to ignore (not to mention cardiologist recommendations) of how endurance activity like running can actually damage a persons health. This doesn’t mean running is bad but that certain amounts for certain people can work in opposition to fitness.
In the end it is much like alcohol where prohibition and demonizing was not an answer. Some people just can’t handle booze period and others are ok…up until a point. The similarity is you don’t need to eat junk food and you don’t need to drink spirits. You do need to eat though and your focus should be on what works for you and taking control of your own situation rather than pointing fingers. Your body type, your hormones can trick you into becoming fat far more than evil addictive food chemistry ever could. Take an integrated ‘eyes wide open’ tact to diet choices and make sure to weigh in with all aspects of your fitness namely exercise, activity and proper rest.