The quickest way to lose weight is to get sick.
The easiest way to keep it off is to die.
Sadly, when I heard this, I was near the beginning of my academic career and didnâ€™t know enough to record who it was that said it. It was by somebody importantâ€¦I think. Regardless, it is true. The coupling of obesityâ€™s significant health issues and increasing national rates with modernityâ€™s laziness is a disaster in consumerism. In this post I will discuss some diet and food related issues that are current in our popular and Mormon discourse.
First, the idea that Mormons are grossly more obese than the rest of the nation is a canard. The national data show that Utah, while more obese than it should be, is consistently less obese than the majority of the nation (if you have never seen it, go to the CDC website and checkout their PowerPoint obesity progression map). That said, the Church News recently reported that Utahâ€™s Mormon population is more obese than itâ€™s non-Mormon population, though by how much is not discussed (1).
People in general want quick fixes to this problemâ€¦and it is a problem; the US government even gives tax breaks for obesity treatment. The data are, moreover, conclusive â€“ diets simply donâ€™t work. Lifestyle changes do. No one can live eating a bizarre list of offerings for their entire life. Simply put, the best way to have a healthy body image is to control oneâ€™s portions and exercise. There are complications, of course; for example, some people are addicted to food. The vast majority of the population, however, is able to maintain an healthy lifestyle given the volition.
While carbohydrates are the center of several popular diets, most people do not understand the â€œwhatâ€? or â€œwhyâ€? of them. Carbohydrates are the only food component defined by what they are not. Carbohydrates are neither, water, protein, fat nor minerals. While no one can maintain a low carbohydrate diet for too long, understanding carbohydrates is a significant part of maintaining a healthful lifestyle.
The truth is that the same calories of high-glycemic carbohydrates and low-glycemic carbohydrates are metabolized differently. A high glycemic load diet leads to obesity. Glycemic load is an effective way of describing the effect a food has on your blood glucose levels. Sugars and refined starches have high glycemic loads. Whole grains and foods with fiber and protein have lower glycemic loads. Proccessed foods are typically highly glycemic
Caveman did not eat wonder bread and we are consequently not built to eat only such things. He also did not sit on his fanny all day in front of a TV. If you want to eat steak all day, go hunt it with a spear. For those interested in a scientific description of glycemic load and obesity go here and here. If you are at a University and have access to the JAMA, here is a great paper on why high glycemic load foods do what they do to our bodies.
The Word of Wisdom
Mormons take their word of wisdom seriously. I still thank the Lord that President McKay had the Widstoes back off the caffeine inquisition. What would life be like without chocolate? For those interested in some facts on caffeine, try here. Some things that Mormons should know:
- Caffeine is not bad for you.
- Coffee is probably good for you. Please donâ€™t ever say anything about tannins or tannic acid in Sunday School â€“ it is just plain goofy.
- Green tea is one of the most healthful beverages imaginable.
- Alcohol in moderation is good for you (not just red wine).
There really isnâ€™t anything we could have in our diet that is bad in every case, except for trans fat. They are bad. Moreover, when consumed with high glycemic carbohydrates (e.g., frosting, doughnuts, etc.), they are really, really bad. This year, food companies are required to include trans fats on their labels.
Trans fats result from the partial hydrogenation oils. The hydrogenation process transforms the oils into forms not found in nature. Short story: we donâ€™t know what to do with them.
In summary, obesity is a serious problem. Mormons should be cognisant that eating Krispy Kremes is far worse for them than a hot cup of joe and consequently meter our rhetoric accordingly. While diets can help you lose weight, they donâ€™t work well at maintaining healthy weights. We should all strive for a lifestyle that controls portion size and includes exercise.
(1) Changing behaviors, Church News Saturday, January 7, 2006