Did that title catch your attention? Do you think I would advocate for eating poor foods? No way. But others keep saying it is ok if you do it in moderation.

Before it was replaced with a new ad, I wish I had taken a photo of this billboard for a fitness club in our city that left me half laughing, half aghast. No doubt they are doing a good job helping people get fit, but I was saddened at the way they tried to appeal to the common but erroneous wishes of people in our society.

Picture a fit, attractive gal in the middle of a squat. Above her is the quote, “I want to be hot, and eat my tacos and pizza too.”

I think this business was saying what they knew people want to hear in the hope of drawing them into the gym where there may be chance of changing their view on exercise and nutrition. But it is sad because this belief is perpetuated everywhere in media: enough exercise will cover a multitude of lifestyle sins.

Nope. It won’t.

 

Plant-Based Athletics

Probably not many of you are aware that I turned into a (mostly) herbivore almost two years ago. After nearly 30 years of athletic training and dabbling with a random assortment of ideas to compose my own motley nutrition approach, several things finally converged to urge me over the edge into a well-reasoned, well-supported strategy. Thanks to the poor example of loved ones with crumbling health, the good example of others achieving better things on a clean diet, and a few inspiring resources I begin a serious study of this complex and intimidating topic of nutrition – and particularly, whole-food-plant-based nutrition.

I have kept fairly quiet about it so far because there is so much yet to learn and test out. I feel I have only  scratched the surface and net yet sure how to organize and simplify it all for your benefit. But I can say that I feel wonderful – light and clean – even after moving back to the very junky American food scene. I say ‘mostly’ plant-based because I do maintain some flexibility to choose the best options available to me at any given moment, when my options are less than ideal. And fasting remains one of those options when the others are bleak.

I love the way my body feels so I am highly motivated to protect it. The system feels clean enough at this point that if I ‘splurge’ I soon feel the unpleasant effects of less-ideal foods that I wouldn’t have noticed when those were more regular part of my diet – my nervous system is more clear and sensitive now. Purity has that effect.

I am feeling strong and am training (swimming and running) at a higher level than I have in years. I slimmed down even more yet compensated with more lean muscle mass. My immune system is robust. I avoid processed sugar and I very rarely drink caffeine – yet I have consistent energy and alertness through my day. I see many ways I could improve my nutrition further – I anticipate this with eagerness rather than with reluctance. Though it was initially a bit complicated to set up a new eating lifestyle against the flow of our culture, I really appreciate the simplicity in mind that my decisiveness about plant-based nutrition has brought. And, I’ve found a growing tribe of plant-based people to be encouraged by.

I need to point out that there is more to the essential health equation – like sleeping patterns and breathing habits, for example – but I understand nutrition to be a massive player in this. It’s the one area that we make choices about several times a day and so easy to make small but powerful improvements in… if we would only slow down enough to be aware of what our patterns really are, then get guidance and accountability for making better choices.

 

The Myth Of Moderation

What troubled me about that billboard is that is has become so glaringly bright and crystal clear from a wide range of authorities on nutrition and healing: no, we cannot exercise enough to compensate for a crappy nutrition. And splurge days only serve to support the addictions. We cannot workout harder to earn freedom from consequence to splurge on junk food occasionally. If we eat foods that cause more metabolic stress, we will pay the price for it somewhere, somehow. In this modern world with deeply compromised and dirty food supplies, that drag on the metabolism, organs and immune systems adds up. They all seem to work fine until one day we wake up and they don’t. It all gets accounted for one day when the body starts failing well before it should have, and it’s quite difficult to make up for lost time then.

A few months ago my friend and colleague-in-health-promotion was giving a presentation on better nutrition. I was there to support him and sat with some other fitness trainers in the audience. After all he said on the consequences of eating poor foods, one trainer gave the classic defense of her questionable habits: “Well, it’s all about moderation, isn’t it?”

No, it’s not. Moderation is a wicked policy when the baseline we measure against is already a disaster. The policy of moderation in America is killing us sooner than we should die, but slow enough that we don’t notice until its too late. The evidence of this fiction is all around us.

 

Stack The Deck

However, health is a statistical game – there are several things I can’t control and can’t foresee that may sink my boat, but there are a ton of things I can do to stack my deck in favor of longevity. Eating tacos and pizza is not one of them.

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