As with an a early post to any new blog, it is fitting that I lay out who I am and why you should care about anything I have to say. First, I’ll say what I am not. I’m not a doctor or a personal trainer. While I have stayed in plenty of Holiday Inn Express hotels, scoured WebMD and online medical journal sites countless hours through the years and had a keen interest in human physiology I can make no claim of being a licensed expert in these fields. I’m not here to claim to be a health guru either. I don’t have some new magical elixir to sell you that will magically make you healthy, feel twenty years younger or be able to live into your 100’s. I’m not an adherent to any particular diet principle, tried and true or relatively newly discovered. I’m not a film maker working on yet another recast of a Morgan Spurlock adventure. So who am I?
Who I am is your average health conscious guy that is tired of reading about all of these latest diets, their contradictory information and “proofs” and being totally confused about what to do. Wander over to a vegan documentary or website and you hear about how meat, dairy and consumption of animal products is destroying your body, all while hearing about the wonders of beans, legumes and vegetables. Wander over to the corresponding paleo equivalents and you hear about the wonders of meat and animal products while beans and legumes are killing you. The low-carb people say that high fat, low protein diets are cure-alls, while the low-fat people claim the exact same thing. The “a calorie is a calorie” people can convince you that eating nothing but Cabbage Soup or Twinkies is a fine way to manage weight problems. Each of these have their corresponding claims of massively improved health, longevity and fitness. Are they all living in their own delusional world or can all of these mostly exclusive diets really be on to the one true great thing?
The reality across all of this is obviously somewhere in between. While hyperbole certainly helps to sell books and documentaries, and can even scare people into joining a movement, the reality is often quite far from the truth. Like the movie The Day After Tomorrow, I suppose it’s good that such hyperbole gets people going. Unfortunately once people get a chance to see through the rhetoric they can quickly become disillusioned and revert back to their old ways. Really the thing that all of the above are really saying, with the exception of the Cabbage Soup or Twinkie Diet, is that the modern Standard American Diet is fundamentally broken and the cause of many of our health problems. What we are all looking for, and what is driving this multi-billion dollar market is that quest to live healthy but still enjoy life. While we may enjoy eating fast food, it’s engineered to optimize our enjoyment after all, we don’t enjoy bypass surgery or living on maintenance medications for most of our lives. What then ultimately is the answer?
That gets back to who I am. Along with being your average health conscious guy, I’m also one of those guys that studies these diets because I, probably like you, want to do what’s best for my body. Sure, it doesn’t look like that’s the case if you catch me at Cheesecake Factory inhaling a thick slice of their Dulce De Leche Cheesecake (mmmm…cheesecake!), or when I’m at the McDonald’s drive through the morning after having a few glasses of wine and beer and looking for something to ease my stomach and head. I’m not some mythical Jack Lalane emulating creature that actually lives a supposedly perfect lifestyle of fitness. However I want to, on the balance, do what’s best for my body. As a secondary effect I’d like to know that the food I’m buying isn’t causing endless devastation to regions, peoples or creatures; in other words. I do care about the impact of where my food is grown and developed. With all of this contradictory information however it’s hard to tell which end is up.
As a person with a technical background, I’m quite used to breaking down large problems into their smaller and more manageable pieces to allow for it to be studied and addressed. I’m also a big fan of trending metrics looking for correlation and, potentially, causation. I literally do this every day in my work as a software developer as well as in my personal life. By applying these principles to this expedition I hope to answer the final question about whether these diets really deliver the bang for the buck against all the other diets, or if in fact it’s simply a matter of these diets really just being equals among alternatives to the dysfunctional Standard American Diet.