Nutrition basics: Don't be a moron

This article was written by Michael Blevins and originally appeared on

The most important factor in describing “health” as it pertains to diet is in fact the amount. Not one person on this earth can prove differently, as we are a species with so many variations in adaptation that there is not “one true way” of eating.

I hate talking about diet; the subject usually hits on the same frequency, and sensitivity of politics or religion, as they are inherently linked, but like the cause of most small talk, when someone figures out what I do for a living the questions start to spew out.

It most likely happens in social gatherings and starts with: “how could you transform a body like this?” which is asked while they twirl themselves around along with a glass of wine, directly after I witness them stuff their face from a cheese and cracker platter. They follow it up by what they read or watched on whatever daytime news filler broadcast said about the importance of green tea or some other erroneous Amazonian fruit. At this point I want to throw out some made-up opinion on Palestine, or population control and watch the conversation melt out of their mouth.

But at this point I’m aghast with the lack of basic knowledge people have about nutrition, especially when almost everyone has access to the Internet in the palm of their hand, which I suppose is the same reason why the general population has such a distorted view to begin with, as the influx of information will for the most part be through the bias of the author. This genuine need for information has me hooked, and my conversational partner will soon regret their decision to talk to me.

If only it was that easy, to just formally correct each and every individual on his or her delusional outlook on nutrition. But for every one person I speak to there is a misinformed, biased article appearing on Huffington Post reaching thousands, or some guru teaching a seminar on the “magic” of chemical free diets, touting the removal of BPA to reduce body fat, (this is a real claim) ridding your home of harmful cleaning agents so that you can finally fit into that swim suit for summer!

Too many will take the advice of some celebrity on TMZ, doubling down on the kale shakes and concentrated broccoli extract, because they know how to “detox” their body better than their liver and kidneys can. They some how attribute fat loss with the relationship of loose stool, seeking out large doses of “colon cleanse” on advisement from an expert hipster at Whole Foods, as if an ironic tattoo is qualification of anything other than having poor decision making skills. Very few will come to discover that the majority of fat that leaves your body is through your breath.

If this wasn’t enough, we are then fed the socio-economic superiority about the most important factor in diet being food quality. The localvores abound and inquire about the relationships, and family life of their chicken that they hope to consume, as joked about on Portlandia, concerning ethical meat consumption. We are told that we should buy organic, yet this increases the odds that we are exposed to e.coli, according to many studies empirically proving the conventional purchase is just as nutritious.

If you ever happen to be in the frequent predicament of defending GMOs, simply plant your palm to your face as you realize that whoever is in fact defending their exclusion has no idea that bananas are in fact man-made, that artificial selection is indeed genetic alteration, and that without GMO interference the banana will surely die from Fusarium. (A close relative to the plague) If this wasn’t enough, consider that not one person likes watermelon and grapes with fucking seeds in them.

Logical mistakes from antiquity, or those based on a naturalistic fallacy have made us a society of idiots.

Proof in point: simply list an unhealthy food, go ahead I’ll wait… Someone inevitably will list Cheetos or a Snickers bar, as our society has fattened itself on the excess of these. But to an individual dying of starvation, both of these items will grant the gift of life, which is certainly more “healthy” than death.

In a not so dramatic correlation, imagine a high level athlete that adheres to a strict dietary choice, perhaps based off of reducing inflammation, which seems to be common. Post training this athlete decides that the selections of food available don’t match his neurosis-driven mania, his caloric deficiency does not allow for proper recover, thus affecting future training. When this happens frequently enough we find the most evangelical of dieters not sustaining levels required for competition, and quickly getting passed. Catabolism then, in context of performance is not healthy, as is caused by a caloric deficit and improper re-feeding.

This does not become an excuse to eat out of a vending machine, although you could and would probably live just fine. This is a plea to do away with nonsense, to stop the intensified descriptions of where and what your food is. It isn’t that these other factors are benign, the hormonal value of nutrient timing, the fiber quality and quantity certainly affect you, but not in considerable relationship until the amount is controlled and adhered to.

Caloric intake and expenditure are not 100% accurate, as we cannot account for individual entropy. But anyone who has tracked his or her intake as accurately as possible, will tell you that the amount of food is the constant that dictates gain or loss. There are anomalies for sure, some bad responses to certain foods, some metabolic disruption that slow the process of losing or gaining weight, but there are zero human beings that can survive the plight of “zero food”.

Keep this in mind as you consider a gluten-free diet, thousands a day die of starvation (21,000 a day to be precise) that “metabolic damage” that you read about on Facebook, does not overwrite the fact that you have no idea how much you consume on a daily basis, and is not the reason you can’t control your body composition. Just extrapolate the ludicrous idea of BPA being the cause of obesity, if it were true then I guess we just solved world hunger, just start shipping those old sun bleached water bottles over to Africa, I’m sure the idea that you could get fat from drinking water would make them ecstatic.

This is what many who give nutritional advice, myself included will tell you: That once an individual starts tracking the total intake their behavior changes radically. Imagine how different the consumption of the office snack room would be if Betsy from Human Resources had to write the amount of brownies she consumed on a chalkboard for others to see. Suddenly the extra effort to purchase organic, paleo, and gluten-free brownies seems ridiculous, as no matter the quality of them, Betsy has a problem with how many brownies enter her stomach.

No one is denying the negative and eventually neurotic effect counting calories can have if taken to the extreme, or the amount of eating disorders it causes without being educated on other important factors. (Which will be covered in part 2 and 3) But taking 6 months to figure out what allows one to gain, lose and maintain his or her current weight will set someone up for a lifetime of relief, and freedom from the media promoting the next exclusionary diet fad.