When something’s wrong with the car, most people will look for a qualified mechanic – someone who has an education and preferably several years of experience working with cars. When people need a legal document, they’ll pay a good lawyer – preferably someone who has a good reputation. And when people need medication, they head to a doctor’s office – most likely someone who has a license to practice and good references.
Yet, when it’s time to get the body on the right track for health and fitness, losing weight and eating right, most people aren’t as particular about whom they take advice from. Not to mention, when it comes to these two topics, everyone and anyone will give you advice about them – licensed or not, educated or not.
I was inspired to write this post in response to an article published in the NY Times last week by Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, who offered a substantial amount of diet and exercise advice. I don’t intend to talk badly about Mr. Adams. He’s a master of turning human behavior at the workplace into something to laugh about. In this way he already makes a valuable contribution to the health of our population.
Mr Adams’ article was “Read this if you want to be happy in 2014”. Having been a student of human psychology in the workplace for many years, I’ll bet he has valuable insight on how to be happy when it comes to work. I wish I could’ve garnered some of his wisdom from the article.
But, interestingly, the bulk of his material was of the health and fitness nature. He responsibly advised us to take his information with a grain of salt because he’s not an expert in the area, but he still offered a lot of information on the subject. And, many people will take his advice to heart, most of them unknowingly so.
I’m happy to say that Mr. Adams’ diet advice is reasonable in many ways. But, I also need to say that he’s no more qualified to give advice to the masses about diet and exercise then say, my grandfather, who died at the age of 92.
My grandfather had a long life in which he no doubt learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to the human body. Like Mr. Adams, my grandfather was also a very intelligent man. When it comes to health, my grandpa would probably tell you: If you’re going to smoke roll your own cigarettes; an apple makes every recipe taste better (even chicken soup); and don’t be afraid of eating a little dirt once in a while. But, the New York Times would probably not post my grandfather’s health advice in a column for the entire country to read.
We’re lucky Mr. Adams hit the nail on the head with many of his statements. At the same time he perpetuated 2 big myths that should be addressed. I’m well aware that my post won’t make it to all the eyes that read his article in the Times on January 2, 2014, but I’ll write for whomever I can.
The first myth: If you had to choose between pasta or a baked potato – you should choose the pasta. Adams reason is because the potato has a higher Glycemic Index score.
I’m giving Mr. Adams a double buzzer on that one because
1 – The Glycemic Index (GI) is a complex subject. Most people who haven’t studied nutrition don’t know the complexities of the GI, and when it’s simplified it can be greatly misunderstood. For example, when we combine foods with different GIs the rating of the meal changes. Unless we eat a potato or pasta all by itself, we can’t judge food by its GI.
As another example, when you cook a potato and then let it cool, the starches change shape and the GI becomes lower. And, the more athletic you are the more your body can tolerate high GI foods. In fact, athletes actually need to eat high GI foods at specific times.
Instead of trying to understand the complexities of GI (unless you’re working closely with an RD), choose whole, fresh fruits and vegetables with little to no added cheese or butter (or sugar), and eat them regularly with every meal. This will get you far in your healthy eating endeavor, and help keep your blood sugar in the healthy zone.
2 – White potatoes are not a “bad food”. They’re frequently vilified and they don’t deserve it. A medium baked potato, including the skin, has only 150 cal and you’ll get about 70% of your daily requirements for vitamin C. You’ll also get 4 grams of fiber, 2 milligrams of iron and 926 grams of potassium. That’s pretty good.
Adams mentions we should stay away from French fries, and it’s true, they are the worst form of potatoes we can eat. Once they absorb all that who-knows-what kind of oil a restaurant is using, the health rating of that potato falls pretty quickly. Sadly, the french fry is the most commonly eaten form of the potato in this country.
The Second Myth: Exercise has very little impact on your weight, says Adams. This is another pretty big misconception these days. Exercise has complex and compound effects on the body which enables the body to become better at fat oxidation and calorie burn. Exercise, in fact, can even reverse the effects of aging in many ways: Our body will perform and metabolize as though we are younger when we’re exercising regularly. We’ve even got proof that the DNA in people who exercise regularly looks and act as if it were younger.
These amazing changes don’t happen in one day or one week, they occur over time, and when they do occur they have a HUGE impact on body weight, body fat percentage, and metabolism.
So, don’t let anyone discourage you from exercise.
Much of Mr. Adams’ advice rings true with the kinds of tips I give my clients. I write this post with complete respect for him and I hope he takes no offense. I mention this article as an opportunity to debunk two, pervasive myths. It also inspired me to bring up two important questions for everyone to contemplate:
When it comes to diet and exercise, who influences your decisions?
Are you taking care of your body as well as you take care of your car?
I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.