Posted June 18, 2014

We’re All Missing The Boat

I tend to get pulled into interesting and sometimes banal conversations while waiting for a drink from my local Starbucks. The fact that it’s just downstairs from me in the mall makes it really convenient to pop out during a break, grab a coffee, and get back to work in about 5-10 minutes. This let’s me see whether it’s sunny outside or raining or worse, snowing, and occasionally there’s something interesting going on in the mall.

The other day a guy was walking ahead of me and whipping plastic casino chips off the floor in all directions in a very non-chalant manner. He continued to do this for about 15 minutes or so, littering the place with small chips of no monetary value. I don’t know what the symbolism of this is all about and I didn’t want to sit down and talk about feelings with this guy to find out either.


So as I was waiting for my drink to be masterfully prepared, a couple of women were discussing a friend of theirs, maybe one’s husband, I don’t know as I wasn’t listening too intently, and his intake of eggs. One thought it was excessive, the other, presumably his wife, thought it was normal.

The wife turned to me and seeing that I was wearing my gym uniform, piped up.

“You look like you work out. How many eggs would you say you eat in a given week?”

I thanked her for the compliment and said I eat probably about a dozen eggs a week, and my wife does the same. They’re a cheap meal and have some great protein that can be cooked easily and mixed with almost anything. And yes, we eat the entire egg, not just the white.

At this point, the other woman who was disagreeing with her said “oh my gosh, that’s a whole lot of cholesterol. Hopefully your heart is okay in another 20 or 30 years.” Did I mention she was clutching a large creamy blended drink coated with whipped cream and caramel drizzle, appeared to be about 60 pounds overweight and probably only sweated when in an environment that was warmer than room temperature or when the escalators in the mall didn’t work and she had to walk up them?

I’m not saying this to decry her at all, because everyone is entitled to live their life the way they see fit and eat what they want without judgement.

The main reason I mentioned what she was holding in her hands is that there are a lot of people out there who would say your 1,000 calorie daily sugar and cream bomb is more harmful to your hear than a dozen eggs each week.

Consider that 2 average sized egg is 155 calories, and contains 11 grams of fat, 13 grams of protein and about 1 gram of carbohydrates. a dozen of them would contain 930 calories, and that’s if you were to eat a dozen in one sitting. I usually do 3 or 4, so that’s topping out at 300 calories, with 22 grams of fat and 26 grams of protein.  Compare that to a grande vanilla frappuccino with whip (I’m guessing this was what she was drinking), which contains 430 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 72 grams of carbs. That’s info straight off the Starbucks website, so it’s not hard to find. Hopefully they also sell them with a vial of insulin to ward off the diabetes.



What’s most perplexing about this is that they have similar number of calories per serving (comparing 3 eggs to one frappuccino), but the eggs have a lot more protein, more fat and miniscule carbs, whereas the calories in the frap come in the form of fat and sugar. Imagine having one of these a day for every working day, and totalling 350 grams of sugar, a whopping 1400 calories, just from the sugar in one weeks worth of treat beverages.

That’s all well and good, but what’s the point of all of this?

There’s so much misinformation out there about food that it can be hard to figure out what to do and what to avoid. This woman was willing to say me eating eggs would lead to a heart attack at an early age (even though all of my recent blood work for a life insurance policy update came back sparkling) but wouldn’t realize her regular sugar-loaded beverage would be a better option and wouldn’t have negative health consequences. Maybe she did know but just wanted to voice an opinion as to what she thought, which was what she had learned over the time she had been paying attention to nutrition.

I doubt that given the choice between eating eggs versus consuming a higher sugar content that the person who ate eggs would have more health concerns.

This to me represented a failure of the fitness industry. We’ve been so concerned with cranking out the latest and greatest diet and workout plans that the people who need them the most, the ones who are struggling to stay healthy and active, are falling by the wayside. I don’t care if you want to debate the merits of intermittent fasting over going paleo, but if you’re someone who is diabetic and pushing 400 pounds, you need to do something to get started. Most of the time there will be fear of trying a diet that won’t work, which could leave someone with a lot of questions about what to do lost in a sea of information and mis-information.

Consider that just yesterday Dr. Oz was brought before a committee of senators to answer for the dubious claims he has made regarding different weight loss pills and supplements, especially when there is almost zero scientific evidence that any of them do anything at all. One of the most popular television shows on the network and the number one involved in health and wellness, and the host is known to promote misinformation and probably lead more than a few people to purchase these products, clinging to hope that they would help them lose weight and get healthy.

Weight loss is a multi-trillion dollar industry per year. That’s TRILLION, enough to help get nations out of debt and fix health care systems, yet much of it is wasted on nonsensical supplements, get fit quick schemes, and easy ways out. Even with all of this, there’s a increasing level of obesity in the developed world. If these pills and solutions worked, they would actually help reduce obesity.

A recent article on CBC stated that long term weight loss was impossible, based entirely on a single study that looked at was recently published to say that most people in weight loss programs would fail. Is this because people aren’t trying or because the system is stacked against them? The only viable option the article gave was bariatric surgery. If all people needing weight loss were to qualify for this surgery, the waitlist time would be in the centuries.


What is the key to weight loss?

There isn’t a “one miracle cure.” The best combination comes from dietary modification to include fewer calories from more natural sources, exercise more to burn off more stored energy, and include lifestyle modifications to help recover and produce better changes to help facilitate the process. There’s a lot of wiggle room in each of the specifics of that outline, but it seems to be the major starting point that everyone can agree on. Will it make a size 20 a size 4? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Everyone is individual and sometimes genetics don’t work that way. For instance, I won’t match Tim Duncan in a battle for all time great Centers of basketball, primarily because he’s 7 feet tall and I maxed out at 6’2″. No matter how hard I work and how good I keep my diet, I’m not going to grow another 10 inches.

So instead of trying to convolute our messages with the next miracle cure, the best workout for a thigh gap, or the supplement you trainer doesn’t want you to know about, how about we all be honest with ourselves and say that change takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance. The results will be found where they lay, and let that be the end of it. Be willing to stay consistent and courageous enough to work hard in the face of plateaus.

Real weight loss can happen. Routinely, it isn’t sexy or make for good television. No one cries, falls off treadmills, or loses 50 pounds in a week. As a result, people see it as viable as watching the grass grow. If it’s not magical, immediate and magnificent, it doesn’t count. If someone loses half a pound a month, they lose 6 pounds in a year. If they continue to do this for 5 years, they will have lost 30 pounds. It may not be as dramatic as  losing that much in 2 weeks, it’s much more sustainable, healthier and easy to accomplish, but much less sexy.

For someone looking to lose weight, 2 weeks versus 5 years is no comparison as to what you would prefer. That said, 2 weeks isn’t going to produce much in the way of health benefits compared to 5 years of consistent exercise and food dietary practices.

There are many different ways to get to Oz, but the best path is long and winding. You can cut weight like a mixed martial arts competitor looking to make their weight class. You can lose 10 pounds in a matter of a day or two. Making long-term health improvements takes time and can’t be wrapped in a fancy packaging, sold to the highest bidder, or be lost in the fear of cholesterol in a dozen eggs. Honesty and simplicity has to win out over convolution and marketing. Sadly, it probably never will.

That doesn’t mean I won’t still have to discuss why eggs are better than frappuccinos, why steady state cardio won’t kill you, and any number of other sensationalistic claims. But I will do so gladly if it means people have a fighting chance of making it through the din and finding their way to better health, even if it doesn’t quite fit their macros.