Exercise, body fat and sugar

I’m required by my job to maintain a certain level of physical fitness. Yearly, my fitness is assessed utilizing three fitness type components (a timed run plus two events that measure strength) in addition to a measurement of my abdominal circumference. For most of my life I have been active. I played sports in my youth, helped out with farm chores and as an adult love gardening and hiking. There have been times in my life when I was very active (such as training for a race) and times when I was not as active (hello grad school and concurrent internship). In reflecting on this I can tell you I don’t believe I ever exercised for the way it made my body look. No, I think it has almost always been for the way it made me feel; strong, empowered, energized or relaxed (depending on the type of exercise.) Now approaching middle age (shhh!) post two knee surgeries and with chronic IT band inflammation I find myself enjoying running less and less. At this point in my life I exercise primarily for the mental health benefits. It relieves my stress and gives me clarity of thought.
Contrast this with my husband, 9 years my senior (firmly in middle age) who has been a serious runner since his mid-teens. Now, I was not a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist when I met my husband and I distinctly remember him telling me (early in our relationship) he ran so he could eat whatever he wanted. Having been raised in a very health conscious home I was not a big believer in this method. He has nearly never asked for nutrition advice from me though I know some has soaked in over the years. I can say his nutritional habits have caused me some concern, primarily in the form of sugar consumption. I am not in the “sugar is toxic” camp but I do believe the pervasiveness of sugar in our diets (in the USA) is problematic. This guy wouldn’t touch a diet drink with a ten foot pole. And, bless his heart, I don’t think he can go to sleep without his milk and cookies (almost) each night.
Last week I said I had not run at all since my most recent Fitness Assessment but had been diligent with my time on the elliptical. This is primarily due to two reasons; 1. My dog died in May and I don’t like to go alone. 2. I can catch up on the miniscule amount of TV I do watch when I’m on the elliptical. To this second point my husband (who is not a kinesiologist or exercise physiologist) told me I am not really working out. I was a little taken aback by his accusation. I check my heart rate several times and I am always within my target heart rate zone. But more importantly, I feel better after I do it.
Contrast this with the recent body fat analysis of my husband. This was performed using a bod pod and measured him much higher than he thought (he is well within his “ideal” body weight). I knew he was having the test performed but did not ask the results. He revealed the results when I told him I was going to make homemade ice cream which he politely requested I not do. I gently brought up his sugar consumption; beverages and desserts. This was advice he had recently decided to heed. I guess he was listening after all.
Lesson here: Just about everyone has advice to give. It is generally well intentioned but think about the source of this advice. Here’s an analogy one of my Dietetics Professors used to give. When a bridge is being built, do you want a civil engineer heading the construction or a guy that read a book about bridges? Or a guy than drove over a bridge once?
Likewise for the advice givers. I know the intention is good but a person has to be in the right place to hear it and it has to be helpful and most importantly evidence based.

4 Good Reasons to Ban Superfoods

1. Superfoods perpetuate the good/bad paradigm that is pervasive and harmful in our culture. Superfoods won’t make you live forever any more than ramen will kill you dead.

2. It exploits the Natural Resources of other countries (Social Justice).
Food is about pleasure and culture at least as much as it is about health. No matter how mainstream quinoa becomes it will never have the cultural significance it does to the people for whom it is a staple food. The “science” that catapults these foods into national prominence as a “super food” are often small “studies” are small, retrospective, epidemiological, etc. This is not “science” enough to become “law” (correlational).

3. Ignores the fact that our diets aren’t made or broken on one food, one meal or even one day.

4. Ignores the other aspects of health like movement, rest, spirituality and however else health is defined by you.
Life is a balance. If you’re tipping the scale too far in favor of “superfoods” what are you missing?

There is no magic bullet. Eat what you love. Leave the hype behind.