Home > Daily life > One of the big lies

One of the big lies

Gobble, gobble, gobble. This close to Thanksgiving, we could do worse than ponder our frightening propensity to swallow the most outlandish promises and accept anything anyone tells us at face value. “Anyone” meaning strangers on various print and electronic media—the very same who used to stand on the steps of the wagon marked “snake oil” that regularly rumbled into town—who tell us that they can transform us and our life if only we would let them.

Like who? How about diet gurus? The shelves at my local bookstores (there are still a few) groan with blueprints to our better life and taut physique. But from quacks to serious physicians, none can make us keep off the pounds we struggle mightily to lose under their expert guidance. There is a big “because” to the “why” we’re entitled to ask. Because, whereas some of the sound advice or the faddish one may help us in the beginning, it won’t go on doing so as it’s always built on the following lies: The diet is easy, you can keep the pounds off forever once you lose them, you’ll never go hungry, it will be fun, you can eat as much as you want of your favorite foods, etc.

Let’s take a closer look: no diet is easy. In fact, seriously dieting is probably the single most difficult thing you can do. (The CEO of a major US corporation was lamenting the fact that although he ran a tight ship in his organization, he was powerless regarding his expanding girth). And no way can you keep the lost weight off forever. Once you start piling on the pounds, losing them and keeping them off is a lifetime effort. Lucky souls train themselves to know what to avoid, others struggle and generally lose—not pounds but the battle.

You do go hungry and you do have cravings. The absolutely idiotic advice from these gurus is to reach out for a celery stick or an apple (or, my favorite, a glass of water) when that happens. Look at you! Gobble, gobble, gobble. You believe, actually believe, that you won’t even want to go near the all-you-can-eat buffet or tear the wrapping off a candy bar, that a glass of water will do the trick.

What about the other promises. Fun? Not really. A little girl, interviewed the other day about training for a swimming competition, described getting up at five every morning in the dark to get to the school in time for that training. “How do you feel about that?” was the journalist’s time-honored question. “Do you like it?” The answer was yes. But to the follow-up question, “is it fun?” the answer was a blunt “no, it isn’t fun, it’s hard.” That ten-year old naturally understood what most adults don’t. Working hard toward a goal is not fun, nor is it supposed to be. In fact, serious endeavors are not fun. (Despite your boss who, at the last staff meeting, asked the staff to work even harder and longer hours at the latest project and cheerfully added that not only would you meet objectives but “have fun” doing it. Why should work be fun? Work needs to be done well and with commitment but it’s not supposed to be fun. Expecting it to be so sets us up for a lot of frustration).

Most of what we do in life is not fun but we can still like doing it, or force ourselves to do it, as that little swimmer did, because we’re working toward a goal. Diet-wise, the beginning of wisdom is knowing that it’s not fun, that we will go hungry–sometimes very hungry–between meals, that missing our favorite foods is the trade off for health and a lean body, that drinking a glass of water when we crave much tastier stuff is the price to pay. Then we can start applying what we’ve learned to other areas, stop heeding lies or needing gurus.

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  1. November 13, 2011 at 3:28 am

    I have a few thoughts on this post.

    I think people want life to be easy, so the self-help authors fill their demand. Most of the self-help books I’ve read leave out one salient fact: Life is hard. I’ve learned that everything of value takes time, effort, and commitment, from work to relationships to exercise to dieting. This is not bad; it’s just the way it is.

    Life also requires choices. Embracing one thing requires eschewing another. Gluttony has its rewards, but you can’t be a glutton and physically fit simultaneously.

    I think that “fun” and “satisfying” are not the same, much as “pleasure” and “happiness” are not the same. I don’t mind working hard at what I love because it’s satisfying. That doesn’t mean I don’t dislike some of the work. It just means it’s worth it.

    The popular media simplify things too much. They don’t acknowledge that life takes commitment and results in little steps forward. I think that’s because many people want their anxiety eased and their fix of dopamine more than they want to face the responsibility that comes with freedom. Life takes work. In part, that’s exactly why it’s satisfying.


  2. November 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Well put.


    • Maryam yekta Steininger
      November 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm

      I understand that much that big companies and corporations are always trying to brain washing of people by their advertisements! Silly ads and sometime cute and sexy ones to fool people all over the world. We understand that we have a capitalist system of government and we have to accept instead of modifying it.
      Yes, we can lose weight if we stop the last spoon of a tasty food and having a glass of water with lemon juice instead of second glass of wine. The main problem is the media , TV, newspaper ,journals and ads on those buses running and the on walls of streets, never stopping these ads! I think these ads all over the world should be changed with healthy advertisements.


  3. November 13, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    agree. thanks so much for bringing us back to reality again. sometimes it’s hard to find.


  4. November 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I saw you listed your blog on a Linked In post. As someone who is on the third day of a ten day fast, I enjoyed your post immensely. The fast isn’t easy and it isn’t for weight loss, although I won’t miss a few of the pounds I’ll lose. I’m following your blog now, Mine is http://www.michaelselmer.wordpress.com/blog It is new and I would love to have you following mine.


  5. MB
    November 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Well said. There’s much truth in what you say. Thanks for the reminder.


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