Put Your Head Down in the Checkout Aisle

When you’re dialing in your nutrition, it’s important not to make impulse purchases that might make an unwanted deposit in your fat accounts. It’s equally as important to make sure that you’re only making quality deposits into your knowledge bank. The checkout aisle at your local Walmart, Kroger, or Publix is a wealth of pseudo-science and “knowledge”, and that’s just what you find on the magazine covers.

I’m going a little nerdy, but the checkout aisle is like the cave on Dagobah: it’s powerful with the dark side. Those strong with the force can survive its horrors, but those who give into uncertainty will fall prey to it’s allure.

Daytime TV “doctors” featured on these magazine covers have a wide following. While they were undoubtedly qualified at some point, their celebrity and the massive endorsement checks have clearly clouded their judgement. Fortunately, people are starting to catch on. In fact, Dr. Oz himself has recently been under Congressional investigation for the claims he has made about products he supports. Conveniently for Oz and his daytime mouthpiece colleagues, the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements of any time. Here are a few of my favorite seductions from Dr. Oz and the rest of the entertainment healers.

  1. Liberal application of the words “magic”, “miracle”, etc.

    Unless, you’re brewing a concoction in Prof. Snape’s Potions class, there is no such thing as magic. Let me be clear, there is no such thing as magic. Your body operates through a series of chemical reactions designed to maintain homeostasis through any stimulus. If magic actually were introduced to this finely-tuned machine, rest-assured, something in your body would shut down. Adding the word magic in front of a food or supplement only means that Oz doesn’t feel any pressing need to explain the process through real science or actual facts. For example, he usually claims that the acai berry is a magic superfood, whose antioxidants works miracles as an anti-inflammatory agent and weight loss supplement. News flash, any colorful fruit or vegetable is going to be rich in antioxidants. Oz is just making sure his check clears with some flamboyant marketing.
  2. Condemnation of sugar, particularly high fructose corn syrup.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to guzzle soda. There are plenty of reasons that soda and other sugary beverages should be ingested with moderation but high fructose corn syrup is not one of them. Yes, high quantities of it can lead to insulin insensitivity and thereby lead to fat storage and obesity. Guess what, the same goes for “natural” sugar. Chemically, they are both equal parts fructose and glucose. Seriously. High fructose corn syrup is merely cheaper to produce, making it more readily available and in higher quantities. At worst the difference is a negligible swing in favor of fructose… an insignificant discrepancy that your body will never notice… a borderline rounding error. There’s nothing inherently more dangerous in it than old-fashioned cane sugar. If I’m going to enjoy an occasional treat, I’m not going to pay out the ass for it–especially if reason is that one of the loudest megaphones doesn’t understand basic chemistry.
  3. One word… “Detox.”

    Really? As I alluded to in #1, your body works tirelessly to maintain homeostasis… successfully I might add. It’s constantly in a state of toxicity prevention so that on the off-chance that you do ingest something irresponsible, it has a head start. Unless your breakfast was heroin washed down with grain alcohol, you’re going to be fine. Most, if not all, detoxes revolve around depriving the body of any substance that could be poisonous to it aka “toxins”. What actually happens, is that you deprive the body of substances that are good for it. Ask anyone who has ever done a real detox from substances that are actually poisonous. By all accounts you wish you were dead while you go through withdrawals. Having too many martinis on Saturday doesn’t mean you need a detox; it just means you need to rethink your choices moving forward.
  4. Cleanses.

    Ditto. Your body constantly cleanses itself, provided that your diet is anything remotely resembling healthy. Anything that isn’t supposed to be there gets jettisoned with the rest of the waste… directly into the toilet bowl. All you’re doing is setting yourself back nutritionally because you’re teeing yourself up for a huge backslide of gorging on burgers and fries the second you’re off the hook from calorie-counting. Besides, your body needs energy to function at 100% and maintain homeostasis. Deprivation of key calories will limit its effectiveness and you might wind up needing a detox from your cleanse.
  5. Misuse of the word “Diet.”

    If I wanted to be reeeeeaaaallly concise, I could have lumped #s 3, 4, and 5 together. As it stands, I deemed them unique enough to get their own space. I don’t like the word, diet. Never have. It implies a beginning and end. You should really be working on lifelong nutritional adjustments that will be sustainable. Most of the famous diets out there are not only unsustainable, they’re also dangerous. There are cases where a steep dietary change is warranted such as sporting events determined by weight classes. Unless you are an elite athlete required to weigh in under 200 pounds by July, you don’t need a diet. You need to make changes.
  6. Avoidance of chemicals.

    As I stated before, chemical reactions make the body move. Chemicals are the foundational building blocks of the universe as we know it. Your body literally is made up of nothing but chemicals. The reason that processed foods get such a bad rap is that we can literally see the list of chemicals on the nutrition facts chart. I promise you that if broccoli had a nutrition facts chart, it would look pretty scary too.
  7. Sugar alternatives are poison.

    They’re not poisonous; they’re indigestible. The evidence against these sweeteners is so alarmingly small and flawed you’d wonder why such a big deal is being made. Fact check: sugar alternatives reduce the amount of raw sugar intake thereby eliminating sugar as a threat to fat gain. While we still don’t totally understand the effect these sweeteners have on insulin sensitivity, the overwhelming majority of the evidence supports the safety of these substances. Correlation does not equal causality. Just because someone running a flawed study finds that there is an incredibly loose link between variables, doesn’t mean there aren’t other variables at play. In other words, if you enjoy diet sodas in moderation, you’re fine. If you don’t, please stop raining on everyone else’s parade. We get it. You enjoy the view from your high horse.

It’s incredible how often the daytime doctors are taken at their word. All we have to do is take a quick look back at Dr. Phil (who is an unlicensed therapist) to remember that these people are in the entertainment industry. There are plenty of quality resources to sponge accurate information from. Professor Snape Dr. Oz isn’t one of them. For that matter, why do we listen to any celebrity or entertainer that is vastly unqualified to be delivering this kind of information? Ugh. That’s a can of worms for another day.

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