Cracked's Eatin' Weird - 4 Ways Food And Fitness Culture Overcomplicate Things

As fitness science improves, so does its love of snake oil.
Cracked's Eatin' Weird - 4 Ways Food And Fitness Culture Overcomplicate Things

Overcomplicating things is the biggest threat to people looking to get generally healthier, shed a few pounds, or adopt positive habits. No, Men’s Health, Mads Mikkelsen’s jumping jack routine won’t make me buff without access to high-quality pig testosterone, three nutritionists, and a Soviet powerlifting coach. Accordingly, the following examples exemplify food and fitness pop media running out of ideas and needlessly overcomplicating things to your detriment. 

Some of the following have favorable comments but don't be fooled. It's easy to come up with nice things to say about Muscly Hot Bodz’s latest think-piece while holding a note that reads, "wE HaVe yOur DoG, 5 staRs or ElsE" in fitness-rag typefaces. 

So when Health Mag 3659836 tries to serve you repackaged waste, tell them firmly, “No, thank you; it is not Wednesday today.”

Nitpicking At Things That Work: The "Problem" With The Mediterranean Diet

By nitpicking at proven concepts, people only discourage others from dipping their toes into what could be a life-changing wellness initiative. The Mediterranean diet is the chill capybara meme of eating plans, vibing with the myriad manner of humans. But not so fast! It isn't as perfect as it appears on the surface, according to people that have nothing vital to worry about because their exes already won custody.

Prepare yourselves for a Who Shot Mr. Burns? bombshell of a revelation: the Mediterranean diet is racist.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Spoiler alert: it was Maggie. 

Well, that fixes it; these Costco olives and packs of white fish are going straight to the trash. It's back to Doritos-jelly-bean salads with rock-sugar croutons and salted caramel dressing for me, thank you very much. 

The argument is that many years ago, a bunch of white guys traveled to the Mediterranean to study eating habits but predominantly recorded the white ones. This may be true; old-timey people as well as current-timey people are pretty dang racist. As such, other Mediterranean-adjacent countries get neglected. Including North Africa and the Middle East, which includes some of the most obese regions in the world. But okay, let's all have zalabia for breakfast. 

However, could a major reason for the Eurocentricity of the Med diet be simplicity? Diet adherence wanes with the complexity of said diet, and it's super easy for people to adopt current Mediterranean food choices: eat some fish, a smidge of meat, some olives, lentils, beans, veggies, fruits, eggs, and every once in a while, devote a hecatomb to Poseidon so your first-born doesn’t die at sea. 

There's also the danger of people thinking their "particular heritage is incorrect because it's not celebrated in mainstream media." But if you think any less of your heritage because Ted Lasso doesn't eat kebabs, then your problems transcend the dietary.

So try all you want to popularize the other Mediterranean-adjacent countries; I support you. But honestly, nobody is making cinnamon-pigeon-pie a staple of their diet anytime soon. 

Kylie Nicholson/Shutterstock

Though, minus the flying rat birds, it does look pretty good.

The article itself inadvertently proves this by offering a simple, accessible recipe, the delicious Israeli burnt eggplant. But even this simplest of recipes involves at least 3 things that most would-be dieters have never heard of. Nor are these things cheap or widely available. Now look, I've eaten many of these foods. A lot. They're amazing, no lie. Really amazing. I'm mentally tasting some of them right now. But they take way more effort to source, prepare, and cook than your basic Medit fare, unless you live within five minutes of a spice bazaar and goat butchery.

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"CICO" Is Bad For You

Even the most inexorable principle is prone to picking. Let's start with some sensationalism: "This diet is blowing up on Reddit—but here's why nutritionists would NEVER recommend it."

Boom! You know that Vince-McMahon-in-ecstasy meme? Those are the faces boomers make while progressing through the headline. This is "Shockwave Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction" for people that read 33% of a social media health article then shoot you a sideways "told you so," before nodding to themselves and following the type with their index finger.

One dietitian and author of a book about cruelty-free kale or something says that sure, calories control weight loss, but "in the most crude, raw possible way." Imagine the gall of these kids, eating less to lose weight? *exasperated sigh* That's not how it's done! Buy my book to learn how to build an organic rabbit hutch out of dumpster-diving materials. It continues, and we're still not even 5% in at this point: "Take a deep-dive into the weight-loss forums on Reddit and you're bound to come across the CICO diet." Now I'm intrigued; what kind of esoteric knowledge, arcana even, has Reddit uncovered?

CICO is just "calories in, calories out." Eat less than you use to lose weight. Congratulations, you've discovered the foundational thermodynamic principle of not only weight loss, but cosmic energy balance in general. It's not even a diet; it's the definition of diet. Sure, the optimally healthful approach is to consume the correct amount of nutritious foods. Eating only foods with the prefix "fudge-covered" and suffix "-inkies", even while losing weight, isn't ideal. No argument there. But people are already eating crappy, so why not at least lose weight? 

P Maxwell Photography/Shutterstock

At last, a diet that doesn’t get all high and mighty about our traditional 3 am Cap’n Crunch binge.

Another dietician adds, "It's not as simple as a math equation," which is a disservice to everyone but hardened dieters. This vilification, though not particularly vituperative, is detrimental to those looking to begin a healthier lifestyle or trying to ease into it. 

Many health transformations fail because people try to do too much too soon. They’ll jump headfirst into a restrictive diet on Monday and be burned out by Wednesday. Especially if they also begin gymming, which isn’t a necessity in the early stages of a diet or, well, ever. The way many people work out is more akin to occupying space, and may not even burn 100 calories. Yes, fitness has other benefits, but not if it burns you out and you quit. Especially for those already burdened with screaming children, inflexible bosses, and cats that vomit a soupy kibble bolus onto absorbent surfaces at 3 am. 

But rhetoric of the type exampled here only serves to complicate things. It asks for dietary perfection, something that literally nobody adheres to, other than a small subset of obsessed weirdos whose ab veins are their sole source of income and sole source of identity.

No particular offense to the weirdos; I dig the discipline and the pushing-biological-envelopes aspect. But it's important to encourage health hopefuls to begin by making small, non-crazy changes to their daily routines. Don't worry about how to cook fractal cabbage or the caloric content of a Zyrtec. 

Lionizing “Added Sugar Avoidance”

You'll never guess what happened to the man that didn't eat sugar for a month, teases Men's Health. Seriously, guys, guess what happened to the man that didn't eat sugar for a month, Men's Health tugs at your sleeve inquisitively with eager, upturned eyes. I will give you a second to guess what happened to the man that didn’t eat sugar for a month. 

If you guessed literally any one thing or any multiple things, then you are wrong. Because literally, nothing happened to the man that didn't eat sugar for a month. There are numerous articles, videos, treatises, tractates, and interpretive dances about people quitting sugar for some short time period. And all are equally pointless.

Case in point(lessness), this article about a guy who actually seems totally chill and doesn't villainize sugar—at least not in the 45 seconds of his video that I bothered watching. Anywho, things were rough until they "really start to look up."

What caused such a monumental shift in wellbeing? Was this the toppling of the sugar hump, a la runner's high? Does the third eye unfurl within a week-and-a-bit-ish of dismantling the household Little Debbie shrine?


Bless-ed be we, under Her sugary auspices, in this Great Kingdom of Sweets and Small Cakes.

Nope, the turn-around point of the no-sugar-for-the-month diet came with the addition of snacks like fruits. What made the non-sugar diet truly successful was the addition of sugar. But the secret was replacing the 10 added grams of sugar from a typical snack food with the 28 non-added grams of sugar from a banana.

And that's the gist of all these sugar-abstinence articles: "You'll never guess how good I felt once I ceased my urethral glucose injections and began eating dates." But sugar isn't evil, and the body generally doesn't care where it comes from. One decade-long, 350,000-person study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found added-sugar intake wasn't related to death. It's likelier that overweight-ivity in general, not specifically sugar consumption, is the deadly thing.

Staunch added-sugar avoidance is like trying to prevent excessive brain damage by guzzling only low-octane gasoline. It exhibits the energy of those who happily give up steak for Lent while wiping fried fish fat from their lips with a tartar-sauce-stained bib and lifting a tankard of heavy ale. 

Unfortunately, we see sugar as evil due to millennia of indoctrination by religion and, more recently, sports teams and politics. These things have introduced a good-bad divide to everything. In other words, to distract your dog from eating feces, you may buy them a nice squeaky toy. And religion offered itself as humanity's squeaky toy to replace all the things that, like the turd-eating dogs that we are, truly enjoy. And that's a wrap on this entry…

No, hold on, this was about sugar, not religion. Um, uh, don't beat yourself up for having the occasional treat, I guess. Enjoy a Moon Pie.

"Personalized" Nutrition

Personalized nutrition is the future. But currently, it's mostly a gimmick and a rhetoric-delivery vehicle for gadgets and meal plans that are as useful to your health efforts as Krispy Kreme's Dollar Dozen deal.

Most futuristic-seeming concepts rely more on their copywriters than scientists. They attack your center of cognition with buzz phrases proven to work on lesser apes. Consider the Lumen device, which promises to "hack your metabolism."


Metaphorically, that is.  Not, like, with an ax or anything.

This means nothing. It doesn't hack your metabolism any more than a tape measure "hacks your penis." Less so, in fact. All Lumen does is analyze your breath for CO2 to tell you if you're burning fat or carbs. That's all. But guess what, it doesn't matter. This promise of "metabolic flexibility" is only practical for diabetics, whose coursing blood sugars are akin to circulatory shuriken shredding their tiny vessels and other essential bodily tissues.

But Lumen gives you meal ideas! So do your hairstylist and mechanic. A suggested breakfast may include "scrambled tofu, black beans, and a green salad." This is a meal that inspires domestic violence and lunchtime office shootings. Yet this is advice that you have to pay for, in the form of a multi-hundred dollar subscription that must be purchased to use the device.

It also advises avoiding food after 8 pm for proper digestion. Another selling point is that it suggests exercises that target fat. This is, at best, a lie. Here’s why: as exercise intensity increases, the body relies more and more on carbs for energy, which is biologically non-negotiable. 

Therefore, here's a comprehensive list of the most fat-burning exercises possible, in ascending order of percentage of calories burned from fat:

1) Walking
2) Sitting
3) Sleeping

That's about it, as anything even remotely intense begins metabolizing carbs. Standing outside your office and smoking a cigarette burns a higher percentage of fat-calories than doing a back-flip or a burpee. 

Jupiter Health

Fitness experts say: lie down while smoking to enjoy a fat-burning boost that’ll get you ripped in no time! 

Not that it matters, though. As long as you're within your daily calories, the body makes up the difference and you’ll slim down. Accordingly, people have complained about not losing weight with these proffered nutritional plans. Because the device can't tell you the only important thing: how many calories you actually expend. Ironically, the aforementioned tape measure would be much more useful for that, and incurs no subscription fees. 

Regardless, after consistent Lumen use you receive a "flex score" of 0-21. A score of 0-10 signifies that you've been ripped off, while a score of 11-21 signifies that you've been ripped off.

Considering you blow into this thing with a specific amount of force for a particular amount of time, and users report multiple attempts before it even works, I presume this is a big ruse. It’s how the virtual reality industry gets unassuming people to provide free wireless input for the many VR-anime-suction-devices proliferating across Japan and neckbeard havens worldwide.

Top image: SB Arts Media


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