Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A Short Rant: Diet Woo

Why is it that diet woos just automatically assume we're in favor of, or in league with the fast food industry?

Oh, wait, that's right: They're too scared and immature to deal with a complex, nuanced, and uncertain world, thus they make up a black-and-white fantasy world where anyone who isn't for them is against them. "Natural" versus "artificial", "poison" versus "panacea", "Mom & Pop (Inc.)" versus "The corporations", "alternative" versus "conventional", "Republicans" versus "Democrats", and so on.

They're so used to living in that false dichotomy fantasy that they can't grasp that there are often more than two sides to anything. They can't grasp the idea that someone could be in favor of broccoli and other healthful foods and NOT support their quack's crazy diet that just coincidentally happens to include broccoli for mystical, magical reasons.

If you reject vitalistic, naturalistic (fallacy), or astrological reasons to eat broccoli, that means you reject broccoli outright. It never occurs to them that there would be scientific reasons for it being healthful, as well as scientific reasons for avoiding an excess of fast food.

Hell, most of the ones I've met treat the act of splurging on one order of batter-fried food as if it would undo a lifetime of healthy living: Black or white, no grays, no colors, no moderation.


Valhar2000 said...

Do they believe that a hamburger has zoomies that will multiply in your bloodstream, so that even one hamburger is one hamburger too many?

Anonymous said...


one image that sums you USELESS ATHEIST SH&THEADS BEST!

Bronze Dog said...

DM, I don't think you even know anything about atheists. You're just railing against a false image you invented to feel better about yourself and minimize the guilt you feel for condoning torture and genocide in the Bible.

Dark Jaguar said...

Where I live I'm surrounded and bombarded by so much "information" about what to eat that I'm starting to think that food is itself a bigger religion with more prohibitions than religion itself, and disagreement is argued more vehemently.

It's so bad I have no idea how to even figure out which food advice is science based and which is just household "knowledge" pretending to be scientifically valid. I'd absolutely LOVE to find a blog from a dietitian on this so I can figure it out. As it stands I have no idea whether canned pasta really is "unhealthy" because it is "processed" or if I'm fine just eating from a giant barrel of skittles for the rest of my life. I assume it's somewhere between those two comical extremes.

Even in the skeptical community, it seems as though dietary information is one of the largest bugaboos still infecting the majority of people. (There's a lot of people going on about the evils of corn syrup, and honestly I've got no idea if there's any scientific basis for that concern.) Heck, I still see John Stewert and Steven Colbert making jokes about this or that "obviously unhealthy" substance with no idea if it actually is.

The only scientific information I have, as I mentioned to ERV when I met her at a local conference (had to drop that in there, that was great), is that I should eat less than I burn if I want to lose weight, and I don't actually need to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Beyond that, I've got no idea what to think, so I tend towards being skeptical of the random friends and family with their "friendly advice" as to just how unhealthy all my processed "junk" is (well okay, I can say this for sure, their claims that the meat in my canned ravioli isn't really meat is almost certainly not true).

Bronze Dog said...

I have to admit, there's a lot more out there about what's not true about allegedly common "knowledge" about food.

The impressions I've gotten for likely to be true stuff:

Calories, are, by in large, calories, when it comes to making a diet and/or exercise plan. It doesn't significantly matter if they're carbs or fat, you've still got to either cut down on intake and/or increase how much you burn if you want to lose weight. Eat less, exercise more.

Stay somewhat in the general vicinity of the RDA, adjusting for weight and build, when it comes to vitamins. It doesn't take much effort for the average person. Vitamin supplements should only be necessary for people with very poor diets. In the US, they're largely unregulated, so you're probably better off without them, anyway.

HFCS is not demon juice. It's just another sugar, and most of the stories demonizing it strike me as an excuse for people to be afraid of one sugar so that they can continue to indulge in all the other sugars while feeling good about "knowing more" than the people who don't buy into conspiracy theories. HFCS just gets used a lot because it's currently cheap, and people just keep demanding sweeter things. People shouldn't be surprised that corporations are supplying unhealthy foods to meet demands for unhealthy foods. Corporations tend to be short-sighted like that.

Low calorie sweeteners are good, but you should probably try getting used to an unsweetened diet, anyway.

Currently, I doubt there's any real meaning to the phrase "processed food." I think it's more anti-corporate sentiment, pining for the days of healthy, organic food, where everyone lived happily to the age of 500. This era occurred approximately never ago.

Now, if they refer to a specific food process that happens in production, I'll be more willing to listen. Otherwise, it's a non-idea to me.

MWchase said...

Isn't pasteurization a kind of processing?

Yeah, get some specifics on that kind of thing, I guess.

Dark Jaguar said...

I'm with you on all of that. I remembered hearing about artificial sweeteners being linked to all sorts of things. Those were my uncritical days, and I forgot when I heard it so I hadn't though to challenge it until you reminded me of it.

"Processed" does seem as much of a buzz word as "organically grown" and "all natural". I'm with you, if they specified a PARTICULAR process, like "arsenic enriched yeast" or something, I'd accept the word better. The other problem is, just about everything we do to food before, and after, putting it in our mouths is a process. Heck, even dreaded "chemicals" alter the food we eat pretty significantly after eating it.

The problem is, figuring out what stuff is good and bad without having those useless buzz words tossed out by everyone I know. Generally, the impression I get from them is laziness. Someone like Dr. Oz finds it a lot easier to just give a general rule of thumb to people than actually getting into the mundane, extremely detailed, really drawn out explanations of the actual facts.

That's why I've been looking for an online dietitian who cares about science to help inform me on these things. It'd be easier if I had a good starting point. It's like how hard it was to find worthwhile psych information and sift it out before I found Neurologica (which reveals a lot of biases in our brains, but none of those "complete theory of mind that's incredibly simple" that I tend to hear from so many "therapists".