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Diet, Gain Weight, Diet, Gain Weight

My Mother taught gourmet cooking, haute cuisine, for three decades in the local adult schools, first just to women and later with courses just for men as they too wanted to learn how to make succulent dishes, delicious sauces, and to bake as well. She also wrote a cookbook, “Cooking with Wine and High Spirits”, as well as one filled with dishes that the colonial Americans enjoyed.

Meanwhile, at home, my Father and I dined daily like royalty and neither of us got fat. Why? Because eating well means listening to your body when it is hungry and not eating when it’s not. What we are never told amidst the hourly deluge of print and broadcast advertising and reports is that we are each quite individual in terms of inherited genetic traits and that our bodies have different needs as we age,

Instead we are told over and over again that we must be “thin” and that our bodies are not what the culture says is “beautiful.” Try watching television for an hour without getting this message. It starts early and, currently, the First Lady is dictating what school children should or should not eat. It’s none of her business, but it is most certainly big business when you calculate the billions earned by physicians giving nutrition advice, pharmaceutical companies, diet companies offering pre-prepared dinners, others saying their foods are healthier, and all the others that have climbed on the multi-billion dollar gravy train.

An excellent book by Harriet Brown, “Body of Truth”, ($25.99, Da Capo Press) should be must-reading for everyone who has spent their life obsessing about every bite of food they eat. Based on extensive research, over twenty pages of notes citing her sources, she says what virtually any physician, nutritionist, or diet-peddler already knows. “Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that dieting makes people neither thinner, nor healthier. Quite the opposite, actually nearly everyone who diets winds up heavier in the long run, and many people’s health suffers rather than improves, especially over time.”

“Each of us thinks our obsession with weight and body image is ours alone,” says Brown. “We blame ourselves for not being thin enough, sexy enough, shaped just the right way. We believe we’re supposed to fit the standards of the day” and it starts very early in life; by as early as three to five years old.

“This is not a personal issue,” says Brown. “This is not about your weakness or my laziness or her lack of self-discipline. This obsession is bigger than all of us. It’s become epidemic, endemic, and pandemic.”

“Weight-loss treatments are cash cows,” says Brown, “in part because they don’t work; there’s always a built-in base of repeat customers.”

In page after page Brown cites facts that too often do not make it into the pages of the newspapers and magazines we read, or on the radio and television we listen to and watch. For example, “The average American is in fact heavier (by about twenty pounds) and taller (by about an inch) than we were in 1960. And dire predictions notwithstanding, the rates of overweight and obesity leveled off around 2000. We’re not actually getting heavier and heavier; our collective weight has pretty much plateaued.”

Moreover, all those psychotropic medications we’re being prescribed to treat anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, psychoses, and other mental health conditions “are known to cause weight gain, especially when taken over a period of time.”

We are constantly told that being overweight or even obese takes years off one’s life, but Brown’s research found that neither condition increased a person’s risk of dying prematurely and being mildly obese increases it only slightly. As you might already suspect, it is the lack of physical activity that poses a great health risk.

Brown cites studies that found that being physically unfit was as much or more of a risk factor for heart disease and death as diabetes, obesity, and other weight-based risk factors. Researchers argue that “it’s better to be fit and fat than unfit and thin.

If any of this hits home with you, if you find yourself criticizing a child for their size and weight, looking in the mirror and being displeased with your own, obsessing over everything you eat or serve, then Brown’s words should be embraced when she says “We’d do better for ourselves and our children if, instead of pushing diets and surgeries and medications, we look at real-world strategies for eating more fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, dancing, playing sports, and other joyful physical activities.”

“Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should.”

“Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat something because you are happy, sad, or bored, or just because it feels good.”

Listen to what your body is telling you. The message has been passed down from generation to generation of your ancestors through your genetic code. Eat what you want. Stop dieting. Stay active and fit.

There’s countless, endless messages about your weight and how your body looks. When you decide to feel good about yourself, you will be free to ignore them.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of Career Girl Network.

Big Fat Lies About Fat

Americans are obsessed with fat; either with eating it or being it. We’ve been told that we’re too fat and we’re told that eating fat is bad for you.

Being fat is your own business. You’ll feel better if you lose a few pounds, but you will enjoy your next meal if it has a fat content rather than being a bland cereal…which explains why so many cereals today have some surgery covering or content.

The fact is you can eat almost anything you like and remain a healthy weight if you just don’t eat too much of it. It’s not rocket science.

For politicians, however, controlling what we eat has become an obsession. A demented Democratic Representative, Rosa DeLauro, from Connecticut, has proposed a bill—the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act—SWEET for short, that would penalize people one-cent for every teaspoon of sugar used in their drink of choice. It’s none of her business, let along the government’s, what you want to drink.

AA - New Food Plan to Fight ObesityThis obsession with what we eat has been personified by First Lady Michelle Obama who championed the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kinds Act that overhauled nutrition standards affecting more than thirty million children in schools around the nation.

It authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set standards for all food and beverages sold during the school day. The law includes vending machines, snack cards, and daytime fundraisers. That now means that campus bake sales, the most popular fundraiser, now has to pay heed to a federal law that forbids selling cakes, cupcakes, or cookies.

Laws like this are a perfect example of how intrusive into the ordinary lives of Americans of all ages are laws that are slowly killing the concept of personal choice and personal freedom. They also demonstrate how wrong such laws are when they are written and passed by people who are clueless about nutrition.

A recent Gallup poll on “consumption habits” revealed that “Nearly twice as many Americans say they are actively trying to avoid fat in their diet (56%) as say they are actively avoiding carbohydrates (29%). However, fewer Americans are avoiding fat now more than a decade ago.”

Over the years as a book reviewer and avid reader, I have read “You Must Eat Meat” by Max Ernest Jutte, MD and Frank Murray, and “The Cholesterol Delusion” by Ernest N. Curtis, MD. Both books authoritatively debunk what Americans have repeatedly been told about meat and cholesterol, but my earliest advisor on these and other food related topics was Rebecca Caruba, my Mother, who taught gourmet cooking for three decades in local adult schools and who authored two cookbooks. She was a keen student of nutrition and early on warned students against margarine, telling them to use real butter and to enjoy all manner of meats, cheeses, and other foods we are constantly told are not good for us.

Cover - Big Fact SurpriseAt this point I want to add Nina Teicholz to the list of heroes like my Mother and the authors of the two books mentioned above. A skilled journalist, she has written a 479-page book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet”. The fact that it includes nearly 140 pages of tiny, single-spaced notes regarding every detail in the book tells you why it took some nine years to write it.

Simply stated, everything Americans think they know about our diets is wrong, the result of a deliberate campaign to convince us that eating fat is bad for us when, in fact, creamy cheeses and sizzling steaks are the key to reversing the obesity, diabetes, and heart disease that affect too many Americans.

As William Davis, M.D., author of “Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health” said, “A page-turner story of science gone wrong…Misstep by misstep, blunder by blunder by blunder, Teicholz recounts the statistical cherry-picking, political finagling, and pseudo-scientific bully that brought us to yet another of the biggest mistakes in health and nutrition, the low-fat and low-saturated fat myth for heart health.”

The myth began in the 1950s with Ancel Benjamin Keys, a biologist and pathologist at the University of Minnesota. He was searching for the causes of heart disease. The nation was extremely fearful about it and the heart attack that President Eisenhower had while in office only added to their fears. Keys concluded that cholesterol was a major factor, but as Teicholz points out “It is a vital component of every cell membrane, controlling what goes in and out of the cell. It is responsible for the metabolism of sex hormones and is found at its highest concentration in the brain.”

Keys and other researchers, however, noting that cholesterol was the primary component of atherosclerotic plaques, assumed it to be “one of the main culprits in the development of coronary disease…This vivid and seemingly intuitive idea,” says Teicholz, “has stayed with us, even as the science has shown this characterization to be a highly simplistic and even inaccurate picture of the problem.” Keys would devote his life to advocating his misinterpretation of cholesterol and fat.

The problem with the word “fat” is that it has two very different meanings. One is the fat we eat and the other is the fat on our bodies. A book worth reading is “Fat: It’s Not What You Think” by Connie Leas, published in 2008 by Prometheus Books. As Ms. Teicholz notes, “A large number of experiments have since confirmed that restricting fat does nothing to slim people down (quite the reverse, actually), yet even so, the idea that there could be such a thing as ‘slimming fat’ will probably always seem to us like an oxymoron.”

I know that few will read Ms. Teicholz book, but you will surely welcome knowing that “saturated fat has not been demonstrated to lead to an increased risk of heart attacks for the great majority of people, and even the narrowing of the arteries has not been shown to predict a heart attack.”

The problem for all of us is that the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health both adopted the incorrect analysis of Keys et all, institutionalizing the diet-heart hypothesis and thus are setting the nutrition agenda.

My Mother cooked the most wonderful meals every day and more so on Sundays. She lived to 98 and my Father to 93, eating all manner of meat dishes along with fish and other choices. We all ate cheeses with gusto. And, yes, we loved pasta and Mother’s fabulous home baked breads and desserts. I am coming up soon on age 77 and my diet reflects what kept them alive and disease-free for all of their years.

If you or someone you know is seriously obsessed with their weight and health, recommend “The Big Fat Surprise” to them. I recommend it to you!

© Alan Caruba, 2014

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of WallpapersPlanet.com.

Life Without the McDouble:McDonald’s is just one example of how enterprise makes our lives less nasty, brutish, and short by Jeffrey A. Tucker

It thrills me when McDonald’s burgers get the attention they deserve. This happened last year when Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, made the provocative statement that the McDouble is the cheapest and most nutritious food in human history.

That we dare to recoil at such a claim indicates how spoiled we truly are. In a state of nature, getting food is the single greatest challenge. You can find shelter and it endures for a time. Clothing made of animal skins can be scarce, but once acquired, it lasts too.

The thing about food is that you have to get it every day. And without tools, you can only eat things that are stationary or very slow-moving. Once you learn to kill, preserving the meat is not easy, which is why salt has been one of the most valuable commodities in the history of humanity.

That most everyone has access to food now is one of the great triumphs of history. As Dubner points out, the McDouble provides 390 calories and 23 grams of protein divided between meat and cheese. All told, one hamburger provides a half day of all the stuff we need to sustain human life, and all for a bit more than a buck.

That McDonald’s can do this as at a profit is wonderful. Its profit margins are variously reported to be around 6% percent—this is an extremely hard business, as any franchise owner can tell you—but many of its most popular products earn no money whatsoever.

The masses of McDouble buyers are being subsidized by customers who buy higher-end products like the Bacon Clubhouse and the super-sized value meals. The best deals are designed to get you in the door in the hope that you will, every so often, splurge just a bit.

Dubner’s thesis got renewed attention in the week following my own renewed love affair with McDonald’s while in Las Vegas this summer. This is a place that picks your pocket at every turn. Okay, granted, every dime spent in Vegas—apart from high taxes and ridiculous union wages—is coughed up by willing buyers. Still, there is an air of voraciousness about the place that seems inescapable.

After days of feeling fleeced for food and drink, I finally found a McDonald’s. The prices were not Vegas prices. The dollar meal was still there. The coffee was delicious and cheap, which is an incredible relief in a city where every cup otherwise runs $5. The breakfasts are wonderful and satisfying. If “healthy food” is your thing, go for the salad, which can’t be beat for the price.

In one food court I entered, there were a dozen establishments, but McDonald’s had the longest line, and consistently so. This makes complete sense to me. Reflect on the ingredients of the Big Mac or the Clubhouse and it just blows your mind. The meat alone is a miracle. Meat wasn’t available for the masses of humanity until canned meat was invented in the the middle of the twentieth century; preserving and transporting it was an extreme challenge.

There is a reason that your knees don’t fit under the desk you found at the antique store, and it’s because of the meat-driven growth in human height we’ve all experienced since World War II.

There is a reason that knight armor at the museum looks like it belongs to a member of the Lollypop Guild—again, it’s because we have access to meat, and those tough guys in the Middle Ages had to live off whatever grew around them.

There is a reason that the average Japanese person is 3.5 inches taller now than 50 years ago, and it comes down to a gigantic dietary change due to the availability of meat and cheese.

In addition, there is bread (if you take that for granted, try growing your own wheat), lettuce (again, only refrigeration made this available for most people), cheese (cows are incredibly expensive to raise), bacon (food of the gods, courtesy of the pig), pickles (the time structure of production here is lengthy), and various sauces that originate in seeds from all over the world.

Somehow they manage to get all of this to you in a small package that costs you a dollar.

But let’s focus for just one moment on the least-appreciated ingredient in ketchup and on the burger itself: the tomato. Surely it has always been with us, right? Anyone can grow tomatoes in a pot on the back porch. That wasn’t true until the sixteenth century, when Europeans had their first wide exposure to the tomato. Spanish explorers brought the fruit back from Latin America. Before then, there was no such thing as the tomato in the Italian diet.

It was trade that brought the tomato to the whole world for the first time in the Renaissance period. Without trade, without travel made possible by technology and capital investment, we’d never know how one tasted.

This reality never occurred to me until I read A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World, by William Bernstein (2008). It turns out that staples such as coffee, beef, and the potato, and the existence of practically everything in your refrigerator, is owed to trade, technology, and therefore to the existence of free enterprise.

I was once lecturing to a group of students about the problems that come with the state of nature, of just trying to survive based entirely on the resources around you, while fighting off nature’s penchant for exterminating human beings that don’t fight back. I asked the group what people invented some 150,000 years ago in order to survive in the face of massive privation and the growing scarcity of food.

The answer I was looking for was this: They invented private property to allow them to domesticate animals and enclose spaces for agriculture. But the first answer that was offered from the audience was: Create a government. My mouth fell open in amazement. But after just a few moments, the student starting laughing and then everyone joined in.

Why laugh? Because creating a government—assigning a small group to control a geographic space with a monopoly on weapons and allowing them to pillage and kill as they see fit—does absolutely nothing to solve the core problem that humanity faces. Just stating the answer this way illustrates the absurdity. Our problems as a species are solved when we figure out how to get more of what we need and want. Governments, on the other hand, only redistribute what already exists.

Governments come and go, but the achievements of trade and private enterprise last generations and then even become permanent features of the world. Once a good is transported, once a technology is invented, it becomes part of the capital stock of civilization to be enjoyed by every generation thereafter.

That we were born now and live now to enjoy the massive beneficence of the struggle of thousands of years to bring us things like the tomato, beef, cheese, bread, and to wrap it all up in a tiny package and make that available to us for a dollar in nearly every city in the world, that this comes to us with no work on our part, is a gigantic privilege afforded us by virtue of accident or providence (depending on your religious views). To whatever force you attribute your good fortune, we should recognize it as such.

The McDouble does not appear in nature. That we can laugh at it, put it down, sneer at it, and even denounce the company that brings it to us is a wonderful privilege of the ungrateful. Those who know and understand don’t have to eat at McDonald’s, of course. But everyone should at least recognize its restaurants as symbols of what humankind can achieve when we are given time and freedom to make great things happen–and to overcome the grueling state of nature that has pervaded all but a small fraction of the history of humanity.

I’m only asking that we think about that seriously before we sneer.

20121129_JeffreyTuckeravatarABOUT JEFFREY A. TUCKER

Jeffrey Tucker is a distinguished fellow at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and publisher at Laissez Faire Books. He will be speaking at the FEE summer seminar “Making Innovation Possible: The Role of Economics in Scientific Progress.”

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.