The American Addiction to Miraculous Curative Food/Diet/Exercise Programs

My friend Ellen has an interesting post up on the limits of sheer effort and the beauty and value of the sort of effort and perseverance that don’t make for viral videos like the Arthur Boorman one that’s making the rounds:

I really like what Ellen has to say on this, because I think that very often we (Americans especially? I’m not sure) laud outlier stories like Arthur’s–the person who lost 100 pounds in 6 months and became drastically healthier after a regimen of yoga, the person who was able to throw away their dozens of meds after going vegan, the person who goes from welfare mom to world-famous writer, or from living in a car to hit musician, and so on. Rapid and dramatic changes make good stories and good news precisely because they are exceptional.

It’s attractive to think we could change our lives if we apply enough effort plus purchase whatever plan/supplements/program is being sold to us. But it’s also not terribly realistic, and, anyway, misses the beauty of small and consistent, efforts: a page written, a walk taken, a flower planted, a small gain in health or strength or optimism made.

Ellen writes:

But I also know that no amount of yoga or swimming or weight training or walking will allow me to learn to run, or even to walk without some amount of pain. And I am all too familiar with our cultural tendency to insist that optimal health is only a yoga practice or nutritional supplement or strict diet away, and thus to ignore the reality that some people’s bodies are impaired in ways that cannot be fixed. Anyone living with some type of chronic condition has had the experience of well-meaning friends (or even strangers) offering advice that so completely denies the reality of our condition it is laughable. For those of us who have OI (my bone disorder), this advice often takes the form of, “Have you tried taking calcium supplements or drinking more milk?” The food-as-medicine fix is a popular one these days, as this or that superfood or supplement or something-free diet is touted as having miraculous curative qualities for whatever ails you.

used under CC via Wikipedia
used under CC via Wikipedia

 

Read all of Ellen’s post here.

I used to think that if I dieted enough, subsisted on dry toast and fat-free cottage cheese, I’d somehow transform into Audrey Hepburn. Now I realize that only the Willy Wonka stretching machine (in the book, not, I think, in the movies) can do that.

What ‘miracle’ transformations/cures have had a draw on you?

9 thoughts on “The American Addiction to Miraculous Curative Food/Diet/Exercise Programs

  1. I learned years ago to not mention my celiac disease in certain circles. I’d run into too many dietary zealots who, with the scary intensity of the true (and unbalanced) believer, would subject me to free unsolicited lessons on how this or that regime would cure me.

    That my particular problem involves the digestive process makes this all the worse, of course, as it only confirms them in their belief that the right miracle diet would fix everything. Minor details like genetic coding and the auto-immune system are not allowed to complicate things.

    In the early days I found myself wanting to suggest to them that they try pouring their wonder juice on an amputee to see if it would grow a limb, and, if it did, to get back to me. But I always managed to resist that impluse…

    1. This diet and exercise miracle cure business tends to be of a piece with the whole “name it and claim it” business, and in both cases I use the word business literally.

      “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

  2. “It’s attractive to think we could change our lives if we apply enough effort plus purchase whatever plan/supplements/program is being sold to us. But it’s also not terribly realistic, and, anyway, misses the beauty of small and consistent, efforts: a page written, a walk taken, a flower planted, a small gain in health or strength or optimism made.”

    amen!

  3. Thank you for these beautiful words, Rachel. Truly words to live by in any season, and in the Advent season:

    “…the beauty of small and consistent, efforts: a page written, a walk taken, a flower planted, a small gain in health or strength or optimism made.”

    Yes, I was just looking at my magical Blood Type diet book today. Despite taking it with a grain of salt (oh dear, am I permitted to eat salt?) I am thrilled to have relocated it. My daughter has celiac disease, accompanied by dairy sensitivity. Dairy sensitivity is common to those with celiac and with type O blood. It is nice to be able to stick up for all her “weird eating habits” with “scientific evidence”🙂

    Furthermore, I am thrilled to now be able to *show* people that my type O body’s aversion to beans and lentils is not some fear-of-gas fabrication, but quite real.

    This summer when I gave blood, I did some research: there are actually 38 or so blood types, so, like any of these miraculous regimens or supplements, this book can hardly be the last word.

    Back to my own writing, one page at a time, or, as Annie Dillard so famously put it, *Bird by Bird.*

  4. I remember once being told that, according to my blood type and some other criterion I cannot now remember, the ideal diet for me should consist of pasta, red wine, and chocolate.

    Make that pasta gluten-free and you’d have a fad diet I’d take a chance with!

  5. Love your views on how rapid and dramatic changes make for news. It’s the way of most fairy tales we tell kids. How long did Snow White live with those dwarves before Prince Charming showed up in the Disney version? Less than a week, I think.

    It happens with grown-up movies, too. Rose and Jack knew each other for three days on that ship, had sex, then one died. This is a love for the ages? How would they know? What if Jack turned out to be a horrible husband, or Rose a terrible wife?

    I know, this is somewhat off-topic from your and Ellen’s posts (loved hers too, by the way). Still, it’s all part of the get-fixed, -rich, -healthy-quick schemes that you touch on and your Dad mentioned in his comments here too. Nice job, Rachel.

    Tim

  6. I just thought of another absurd quick-fix that’s going around. Have any of you seen those ads (for Pimsleur, I believe) that promise that you can learn a language in 10 days?

    Talk about inconceivable!

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