Have you checked?

“Have you checked your weight today?”

When you walk in the east entrance of Calhoun Square, you’re immediately confronted with two great promises. On the left, you have Famous Dave’s, which promises to show you what world-famous bbq is really all about (and the smells wafting outside almost make you want to give them that chance). And, on the right, you have GNC, promising you a perfect body and with it, everything you’ve ever wanted. The irony of the all-you-can-eat-buffet signs juxtaposed with supplements promising to make you lose a pound (or more!) a week is not lost on me.

“Have you checked your weight today?”

If the GNC signs of sculpted human specimens, diet supplements, and juice machines aren’t enough, there is a scale next to the store front. With its magical scale powers, it knows every time a person (or maybe just me?) walks by, and through its anthropomorphic skill says, “have you checked your weight today?”

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I know, it sounds as though this could be a metaphor for the way scales call out to us – “weigh in, weigh in!” But this situation holds no such poetry. This scale really talks.

BUT WHY?!

Is the scale genuinely curious if passersby checked their weight that day, a different version of asking “how was your morning?” Does the scale think this question will reveal something important and insightful about the life of a stranger, perhaps sparking a meaningful relationship? I think not. Quite simply, the scale serves as one small cog in the $61 billion weight loss industry in the U.S. (no, that number is not made up. yes, that number is per year).

GNC doesn’t care about making you healthier, they care about getting money from consumers, and they clearly think a talking scale is one effective way to so. If GNC did, in fact, care about the health of its customers (or people in general), I cannot imagine any reason why they would put a talking scale outside their storefront. Implicit within the question of, “have you checked the weight today,” is the suggestion that if you have not, you should. And if you have, maybe you should do it again for good measure. What is the point of weighing yourself? I’m pretty sure it’s not so you can decide you need another cheeseburger. It’s so that number (number: an arithmetic value expressed by a word, symbol, or figure) can somehow reflect your self-worth (self-worth: confidence in one’s own worth or abilities). It’s an inverse the relationship, or so the story goes. Number goes up, self-worth goes down. Lower the number (GNC supplement packs, anyone?), you’re queen of the world.

Problem is, the inverse relationship is one big lie. As you struggle on the treadmill and dutifully turn down birthday-party brownies and opt for salad at dinner (no olives, hold the cheese, dressing on the side), that number might drop, but what are you giving up?
Things that are not worth giving up for the weight of an eighth grader:

  • evenings with friends
  • unique food
  • sharing in celebration
  • enjoying the most basic of human pleasures: eating

The message that dropping the number on the scale will somehow lead to a happier, richer, or more fulfilling life is a lie. A very sad lie that does NOT make people healthier (in fact, it often leads to the opposite) and results in $61 billion in the pockets of weight loss companies each year. So the next time the scale – or anything else for that matter – gives you grief for weighing or not weighing, walk away. The time it takes to weigh yourself could be better spent eating a cheeseburger enjoying your life. 

Stir Fry – Is Gluten-Free Good?

I had dinner with a couple friends this past week. One of them has gone gluten free, so when we planned the menu, we decided on stir fry as an easy g-free option. Stirfry is fast, easy, delicious, and healthy – a perfect weeknight meal!

Add a little bit of oil to a wok, and add broccoli (and any other slower-cooking vegetables you are using):

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Sidenote: Check out that wok! I want to get something like this for my own kitchen. Whenever I make stirfry I just use a regular skillet, but this really seems superior – plenty of space for stirring and tossing.

Chop up the other vegetables and add to the pan:

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Once the vegetables have cooked for a few minutes, add in tofu (or other protein of choice), and stir to combine:

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Serve over rice, topped with soy sauce or other seasoning:

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And now a question about gluten…I’m assuming I’m not the only one who has recently had a slew of friends jump on the gluten-free train. I know a couple of people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, but the majority of people I know who are keeping a gluten-free diet are doing so without having been given the diagnosis (in fact, most have been tested, come back negative, and still chosen to go g-free). Nonetheless, everyone I know who’s gone g-free (celiac or not) swears to feeling more energized, having better bowel functioning, and a greater sense of overall health.

Which brings me to the main question…is it really healthier?

In favor of gluten free, Dr. William Davis – the author of Wheat Belly, a bestselling diet book of 2012 – outlines a biological argument against wheat. In short, Davis says that the modern wheat we eat today has essentially ‘evolved’ through human plant breeding and modification. Our human bodies have not been able to adapt at a fast enough pace to match the changes in the food, so we are not really able to digest wheat (at least not modern-day wheat) properly. As a result, Davis argues, wheat leads to constipation, weight gain, and a whole range of other health issues. This applies to everyone – not just those with celiac – simply because we, as a species, are intolerant to the food.

*sidenote: Although the scientific side of his argument is compelling, Davis then goes on to suggest a diet that cuts out almost all carbs (even grains that are gluten free) as well as fruit for its high sugar content. This type of diet seems a bit extreme, not to mention that the dangers of a low-carb diet have been generally agreed upon by health professionals.

On the flip side, as someone with a history of an eating disorder, I see a lot of potential danger coming from removing entire categories of food from your diet when there is no true medical reason to do so. This seems an especially important consideration in the case of gluten given that most wheat and/or gluten-free plans, proponents, and books emphasize weight loss as one of g-free’s greatest benefits. The full title of Davis’ book, in fact, is Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Way Back to Health.

Overall, I would say that gluten-free is, obviously, a good idea for those who are suffering from celiac or a serious intolerance, but for others, this seems suspiciously like just another fad diet with potential physical and/or psychological dangers. What do you think? If you have an opinion on g-free, I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments section.