Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One more time: "Healthy" vs "Low Calorie"

I know I've mentioned this in passing before, but for some reason lately I've been exposed to a slightly higher level of weight loss-related bullshit. So I'd like to invite you to ponder a few things with me real quick, and then we can all get back to work:
  1. When we discuss food in our culture, "healthy" is thought to be a synonym for "low calorie" or "low fat."
  2. If "healthy" and "low calorie" or "low fat" were really synonyms, then famine and drought would be awesome. People would fucking thrive under famine conditions.
  3. When we discuss weight, we tend to equate being thin with being healthy, even though there isn't a scrap of scientific evidence supporting this link.
  4. If being thin, in and of itself, was healthy, then all this talk about diet and exercise doesn't make much sense. Why would you mess around with such a slow method of weight loss if being thin = being healthy? Wouldn't you want to "get there" as fast as possible?
  5. If you want to get thin fast - really fast - I can tell you what to do. Get your hands on some crack. Or if meth is the drug of choice in your neighborhood, go with it. Whatever. The object is to smoke it consistently, several times a day. You'll lose the weight, and fast. Faster than you've ever lost weight before. Will you be healthy? Fuck no, but you'll be thin.
So maybe it seems like I'm the one engaging in crazy talk, recommending that people go out and turn themselves into addicts. But a cultural framework which equates astonishingly unhealthy practices with health is just about as irrational as it gets. Somehow starving yourself or severely limiting your diet or obsessively Avocados and nuts. Healthy? Yes! Low fat or low-cal? Noengaging in repetitive exercises that strain joints and ligaments or eating nothing but grapefruit or eating bars made of what appears to be pressed sawdust three times a day ..... has become "healthy" now. Our bodies didn't evolve under these conditions, yet we expect them to function well under conditions they're not adapted to. In fact we practically have a moral obligation to starve and discipline our bodies in this totally counterproductive way (that just happens to be super profitable for the diet-fitness industrial complex) or we're not being responsible citizens.


So, what physical conditions did we evolve under?
  • Constant, moderate, varied physical activity
  • No processed foods, chemically altered oils, or chemical food preservatives
  • No refined sugars or artificial colors
  • No synthetic hormones in food sources
  • No petroleum-based pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers in food sources
  • A wide range of seeds and nuts and seasonal fruits and veggies with occasional lean meat
Now that's healthy.


  1. Anonymous4/13/2011

    There is evidence that thin people are healthier.

  2. succinct! linked, love it, thanks.

  3. Thanks raven!

    Anonymous, cite your sources, please.

  4. Shanigan4/14/2011

    OK, it's probably not politically correct, but I love, love, LOVE the crack/meth example. We like to pretend that being healthy is the goal, but we all know that the real goal is just thinness. And since that's the case, crack or meth really is the most efficient method. Perfect.

  5. AssMan4/14/2011

    But when your talking about addicts, its the effects of the drug that makes them unhealthy not that their so thin.

  6. OK, but if the thin=healthy equation holds up, then a thin meth addict would be healthier than a chubby marathon runner on a healthy diet. And in fact, when most people see that chubby marathon runner, they think of him/her as unfit, while the thin addict is judged as healthier based on his/her thinness.

  7. You're so right about this. And I think the smart approach is to put the burden of proof on the ones making all the claims about weight and health. Make them prove that, all other things being equal, a thin person is healthier than a fat one. Because that is the thing that has yet to be proven.

  8. The "addict" thing is throwing people off, I think. Just compare a thin but out of shape person with a chubby but fit person. Then the health issues associated with addiction won't confuse people.

  9. When I was a trainer we referred to the thin but out of shape clients as "skinny-flabby," and they were the hardest to work with.

  10. Cinnamon4/14/2011

    I'm naturally really thin but totally not athletic. My sister is chunkier and was a rugby player and a fantastic all-around athlete when we were in school. So she's in much better shape than I am, but people always assume the opposite.
    Also, you just called me skinny-flabby! My feelings are hurt! :-)

  11. Anonymous24/14/2011

    Awesome post!

  12. If "healthy" and "low calorie" or "low fat" were really synonyms, then famine and drought would be awesome. People would fucking thrive under famine conditions.

    So true. LOL!