diet lures and diet lies

I think we can all relate to the desire for taking the path of least resistance when on a mission to lose weight and if it comes in the form of a pill, why not??! But…I’m not sure this is possible nor do I truly believe it’s safe. Having suffered painful kidney stones last year that warranted surgery to remove one that was blocked, in addition to having a stent for 14 days, and blasting the other kidney stone in the other kidney into little pieces to get them out of me, I will never again mess with any questionable substance that could be harmful to my kidneys, even if it promises immediate and permanent weight loss!

Every pill you take, drink you imbibe, and food you ingest become nutrients or toxins that pass through your kidneys before you eliminate them. Be kind to your organs, especially as you age, so unless something is prescribed specifically for you by a professional, be wary of most labels that declare a product is safe and/or natural. I believe my daily intake of over-the-counter protein drinks in the form of some chocolatey or vanilla powder is what caused my kidneys to produce the stones that plagued me for weeks. But I digress.

From The Opinion Pages of the NY Times/ 26 May, 2014

By Frank Bruni

My home is like any other, chockablock with stuff that I wouldn’t want the world to see: trashy books, cheesy clothes, a cache of scented candles so enormous you might think I’m prepping for some epically smelly apocalypse.

But the most embarrassing thing by far is in a kitchen cupboard, near the Tabasco. It’s a green and white bottle of pills — supplements, to use the proper marketing lingo — that are supposed to make me effortlessly slim.

I know better. We all do.

Garcinia Cambogia is what the label says, and the pills contain the powdered extract of an exotic fruit for which quasi-mystical claims are made. It blocks fat absorption, or at least it might. It suppresses appetite, or so a few people have reported. It regulates emotional eating, in unproven theory.

I stumbled across a mention of it on the Internet perhaps 18 months ago, and the mention was coupled with an endorsement of sorts by Dr. Mehmet Oz. And I thought: Who knows? What could it hurt? Minutes later I was typing in my credit-card number, hitting “send” and joining — or, rather, rejoining — the millions of Americans duped annually into this manner of ridiculousness.

We talk a whole lot these days about the perfidies of the fast-food industry, the snack-food industry, the soft-drink industry. There are books aplenty, documentaries galore. And that’s terrific. That’s progress.

But we should take care that our intensifying alarm over all of the aggressively marketed junk that makes us fatter doesn’t crowd out a measure of sustained pique at all of the aggressively marketed pills, products and plans that fail to make us any thinner, despite their lavish promises and the money we plunk down. We should save some room for them.

They show no signs of going away anytime soon. Worse yet, they belong to, and are complemented by, a brimming culture of micro theories and boutique science that seeks explanations for excess pounds in equations well beyond the sturdy maxim of calories in, calories out.

Yes, that maxim oversimplifies. Yes, we learn more all the time about the asterisks to it and about which kinds of calories set you up to be hungrier (and to continue eating) or not.

But consult the most respected physicians in the field of weight loss and they’ll tell you that the maxim remains as relevant as ever. And the vogue for painstakingly tailored eating regimens and dieting techniques is to some extent a distraction from that, a dangerous one, because it promotes the idea that basic nature and fundamental biology can somehow be gamed, cheated, transcended.

“In terms of diet, the general laws of thermodynamics hold,” Rudolph Leibel, an obesity expert at the Columbia University Medical Center, told me. “The issue of — ‘If I eat a diet of all watermelons as opposed to a diet of hamburgers with the same number of calories, will I be able to lose more weight on the watermelons?’ — that’s a specious argument. We’re dealing with chemistry and physics, not imagination.”

But how imaginative we get! How creatively we edit the smorgasbord of possibility, intent on a formula superior to all others. This person forswears gluten. That person exiles starch. There are plutocrats who are eating like cavemen. There are disciples of the lifestyle guru Timothy Ferriss who are weighing their poop.

Cue Oz. A distinguished cardiothoracic surgeon, he has traded time in the hospital for time on TV, where he revisits no topic more incessantly than (supposedly) ingenious ways to slim down. With a shameless vocabulary of “magic,” “miracle” and “revolutionary,” he has showcased or outright validated HCG hormone shots, green coffee bean supplements, raspberry ketone supplements and more. He told viewers: “I’m going to show you how you can get fat to eat itself right out of your body.”

The sum of these exhortations “just violates science,” said Leibel. “It’d be like if we went to NASA and they were using astrological charts to try to figure out how to get a rocket to Europa. It’s at that level.”

On Oz’s website, under the “Weight Loss Directory,” there are subcategories including “Rapid Belly Melt” and “Mega Metabolism Boosters.” Garcinia Cambogia is celebrated ad nauseam.

And a person can start to wonder. A person can cave. I did, even though the “starch blocker” tablets that I took in college did nothing and decades of trendy diets have confirmed one and only one magic bullet: a mix of restrained eating and regular exercise.

The Garcinia Cambogia is still in the cupboard because it’s half full. I wised up after a futile week of two pills daily. If I wise up all the way, I’ll throw the bottle out.

6 thoughts on “diet lures and diet lies

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