It’s amazing to me how the nutrition of our own bodies, the one thing we have the most direct experience with, remains wrapped in so much falsehood and confusion.
Exhibit A — Fellow Hub blogger Tiara busts some common food myths:
We’re supposed to eat two to three dairy products a day to build up healthy, strong bones, right?
Nope, the high fat levels and concentrated proteins found in many dairy products can increase a person’s osteoporosis level by depleting calcium from the bones.
The food pyramid that teachers have ingrained in our brains since Kindergarten are pure advertisements. No nutritionist or dietician ever developed the food pyramid. Instead, the respective associations of each food group determined through their individual “research” how many servings of their food we should consume.
Tiara also discusses some of the environmental and ethical problems with our factory farm system. For anyone (like myself) who is concerned about the treatment of livestock but finds meat too delicious to give up completely, I recommend the Oklahoma Food Coop. With a $50 lifetime membership, you can buy sustainable, humane meat and vegetables directly from Oklahoma farmers and have them delivered to a pick-up site in Norman or one of many other locations around the state. The coop has been rapidly expanding this year; they recently leased their own warehouse, and it has been a model for similar projects in nearby states.
But back to nutrition myths. Exhibit B — A fascinating article in New York Magazine that asks, “Does Exercise Really Make Us Thinner?” Surprisingly, this is a relatively new belief:
Until the sixties, clinicians who treated obese and overweight patients dismissed the notion as naïve. When Russell Wilder, an obesity and diabetes specialist at the Mayo Clinic, lectured on obesity in 1932, he said his fat patients tended to lose more weight with bed rest, “while unusually strenuous physical exercise slows the rate of loss.”
The idea sounds absurd to modern ears, but it makes more sense when you realize that strenuous exercise also gives you a healthy appetite. Not to mention that after we exercise, we are more psychologically inclined to reward ourselves with delicious brownies. To make matters worse, much of our weight may be determined by where unconcious biological processes decide to send those calories:
Ultimately, the relationship between physical activity and fatness comes down to the question of cause and effect. Is Lance Armstrong excessively lean because he burns off a few thousand calories a day cycling, or is he driven to expend that energy because his body is constitutionally set against storing calories as fat? If his fat tissue is resistant to accumulating calories, his body has little choice but to burn them as quickly as possible: what Rony and his contemporaries called the “activity impulse”—a physiological drive, not a conscious one. His body is telling him to get on his bike and ride, not his mind. Those of us who run to fat would have the opposite problem. Our fat tissue wants to store calories, leaving our muscles with a relative dearth of energy to burn. It’s not willpower we lack, but fuel.
But these brief excerpts can’t do justice to the article. As they say, read the whole thing.