Monday, November 12, 2012

A Wee Bit of Advice

I HATE advice. Especially unsolicited advice. I really try not to give advice unless asked.

Another thing I hate is our culture's obsession with health and wellness and weight. Taking it into consideration is a good thing. Hanging all of life, liberty and happiness on it is not.

Yet ANOTHER thing I hate is how this world has become even more divided into camps, so that the advice coming from one side cancels out the advice coming from the other and you can find yourself in an absolute schizophrenic frenzy whether you want to survive under the grasp of the evil "change of life," shed a few pounds, or even just grocery shop for your ravenous family.

The advice tends to come from two sides: the Experts and the experts. The Experts are those actually trained in the subjects of medicine, pharmacology, health, and nutrition. They have degrees from credentialed institutions of higher learning. The experts are everybody else. For some reason the experts seem to have the upper hand these days. The rebellion against the medical establishment is large and loud.

On the one side I see the problem. The overprescription of drugs. The overuse of pesticides. The lack of emphasis on "healthy" living (healthy being a rather elusive target).

On the other side I see a problem, too. The assumption that the that a "natural" supplement is always better than a manmade medication (note that I said always) and that the "healthy" living (i.e. the right diet) will cure all ills.

Now the right diet itself is up for such debate it makes your head spin: vegetarian, vegan, raw foods, whole foods (not the store), organic, gluten free, low fat, low carb, paleo, macrobiotic. Eat this. Don't eat that. And by all means, flee the high fructose corn syrup. It is mind boggling and maddening and if you listened to everybody you would be stuck living off of nothing but organic raw broccoli FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Barf.

So, I'm sick of it all. I'm sick of this bizarre obsession with weight and health and doing it all "right." I'm sick of people telling me to entrust my body (and its raging and/or absent hormones) to a fellow in the back of Green Life instead of the doctor who has treated me for years and knows my rather complicated medical and (full disclosure here) mental health history.

So now it is MY turn to give advice. Hah! By the way, I'm one of the Experts. (B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Tennessee, 1986) I haven't worked in the field in over two decades but I have tried to keep up with the comings and goings of trends and information. Much of what I am saying I said back then. Now I only say it with even more emphasis and perspective.

  • There is no magic bullet. There is no supplement, substance or food that will cure you of everything. Only death will do that.
  • Never trust health or nutrition advice from a company or website that has something to sell. There is an inherent conflict of interest. If it looks like good information, then find that confirmed somewhere else, preferably a scientific study done by an independent party, and not just from testimonials.
  • Unless you have a specific medical issue (kidney failure, diabetes, food allergies, phenylketonuria, etc.) there really isn't a food that is going to hurt you as long as you consume it in moderation. Categorizing foods into "good" and "bad" categories sets you up for an unhealthy way to relate to food.
  • If you are in pursuit of weight loss, make it a pursuit of healthier living. Make small, incremental changes that you can live with for the rest of your life. (I may do an entire blog post on what evil "diets" do to our physical and mental health.)
  • Put relationships ahead of the pursuit of your ideal. They really are more important, after all. If you cannot accept a dinner invitation because your host may not cook the "right" foods for you, there's a problem. You can be organic or paleo or whatever you jolly well please at home, but if you can't enjoy the company of others around the table or your kid can't eat a pizza at the school party because of your nutritional ideals, you're too obsessed. 
  • Be careful with the indignation with which you express your views. You may be speaking to someone who does not or cannot share your lifestyle or convictions. Somebody may actually NEED medication, no matter how healthy of a life they lead.
  • Remember that you are going to die. Some day. A healthy lifestyle can go a decent way in preventing certain types of diseases, but it can only do so much. One day SOMETHING will lay you low, whether the source is lifestyle, genetics, accidents or just old age. Don't be shocked. You will not live forever. (When Jackie Kennedy Onassis was diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 64 she told her kids in "mock indignation" that she was "proud at being so fit. I swim and I jog...and walk around the reservoir -- and now this suddenly happens...Why in the world did I do all those push-ups?")
  • And above all, don't make this your god. There is only one God. He made you for so much more than pursuing health and evading death. Yes, we are to be stewards of the bodies he gave us but we are also to enjoy life and the world he has made.

Carry on.


  1. I think we should write a book together on weight loss. It will be 12 pages long. Okay. 13. One more for a title page.

    "A New Little Habit Every Month"

    Instructions: Only read one page per month. No cheating.

    Page One: Month #1 - pour yourself a big thing of water every morning. Drink it all before supper.

    Page Two: Month #2 - pick a time in the day, before 4 pm, to walk for 1/2 hour. When you get home, eat one cookie/dip of ice cream/insert favorite thing here. Don't stop the habit you gained in Month #1.

    Page Three: Month #3 - Eat 2 servings of fruit every day, before 2pm. (This is a good month to make a list of every single fruit and vegetable that you love and/or like. Include a list of raw ones and cooked ones and ones you use as flavoring. This is your very own favorite list you take to the store.) Continue habits 1 & 2.

    Page Four: Month #4 - don't eat anything really stupid and/or huge. Continue habits 1 - 3.

    Page Five: Month #5 - Eat 2 servings of green vegetables every day, any time. Pick ones from your favorites list. Continue habits 1 - 4.

    Page Six: Month #6 - Don't eat or drink after 6pm. Do something else fun like write a letter on paper or spend time on facebook or watch tv while you make or repair something with your hands. Continue 1 - 5

    Page Seven: Month #7 - Try something you've never tried before this month. A new creative skill (carpentry, fiction writing, knitting, piano lessons, souffle' perfecting, etc.) Continue 1 - 6

    Page Eight: Month #8 - Appreciate different healthy kinds of sensual joy: Sit down, close your eyes, and listen to a beautiful musical work (symphony, opera, musical) at least once a week. Go to an art museum, just look and when something catches your eye, sit in front of it and drink it in. Go outside to your favorite kind of nature - water? woods? fields? climbing wall? Go to a wine tasting. Wrap up in fuzzy fleece to watch TV on a cold day. Continue 1 - 7

    Page Nine: Month #9 - Try some exercises with weights or one of those stretchy bands or a big ball your children and grandchildren will have fun with, too! Do not join a gym yet. You're still kind of fat so you'll feel defeated amongst all the OCD self-worshiping anorexics. In fact, never join a gym. You are becoming a healthy person, not a gerbil. Only join a gym when someone somewhere finally figures out that fun, healthy, ADD adults can lose more weight if they're playing than if they're on gerbil machines; and they design a playground for big people that has slides, swings, teeter totters, and jungle gyms that freakin' fit us. OR go to the playground with your kids/grandkids and try to swing or slide something tiny. Continue 1 - 8

    Page Ten: Month #10 - Finish your big glass of water by 2pm, pour another one and finish it before supper. Notice that if you drink two big glasses of water and eat 4 fruits and vegetables every day, there's not a whole lot of even TIME to fit in a bunch of cookies and ice cream. Continue 1 - 9

    Page Eleven: Month #11 - Add one more serving of vegetables into your day. Continue 1 - 10

    Page Twelve: Increase your daily walk to 45 minutes Continue 1 - 11

    Now enjoy your good habits and stop thinking about yourself so much. The End.

  2. WONDERFUL. #9 is my favorite. I want a playground for grownups. (I almost said big people. Teehee.)

    This is exactly what I used to teach. Small, incremental changes. Moderation. More fruits and veggies. You can still have the goodies, just not all the time and not so much. And DON'T DIET.

    Yes, let's write a book.

  3. Ginny, I agree. I am guilty of promoting a plant based diet. Even our new doctor at Asheville Integrative Family Medicine advocates occasional meat and long as it was raised eating what they would eat in nature.

    I have been reading about a New Start program that focuses on Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest and Trust. These will probably mean different things to each individual, but is a simple way to identify areas in our own life that could use tweaking.

    My new neighbors are mostly Seventh Day Adventists. I have started taking a few cooking classes at the local church. They pretty much live by the above doctrine.

    It is interesting to note there are three groups at the top of the world's groups for longevity. Seven Day Adventists, Okinawans and Sardinians. Seventh Day Adventists remain the same where Okinawans and Sardinians are loosing grounds as the traditional Western lifestyle encroaches in their society.

    My new physician is trained in Eastern and Western medicine. He recently introduced me to the term "Compression of Morbidity." We are all going to die. His focus is on living as full and healthy of a life as possible, for as long as possible. With being proactive in the areas of sensible diet, active lifestyle, positive relationships and plenty of sunshine will go a long way to prevent an end of life of prolonged morbidity.