Saturday, March 30, 2013

Is dieting sacred?

Continuing on with Pesach...

Matzoh brei with mushrooms, onions, mustard greens, habanero and tuna. 
Turning tradition on it's tasty head!

I know I will be disappointing my legions of fans, but I'm not terribly observant of dietary restrictions for holidays, especially if I feel it's going to lead to unhealthy eating. And lots of carbs, sugary confections and dense creations tend to come along this time of year, both from my own background and the pastel foods of Easter. Just as I don't think that fasting when you're sick shows your piety above others, I do not believe that just sticking to ancient dietary tenets are more important than, you know, the OTHER stuff in religion about neighborliness and helping others.  I'd rather be a healthy, good person than just strictly scriptural. 

And yet, there was a recent op-ed piece about how if we follow what was written in the Talmud and in Ancient Greece, we would all be healthier. Many philosophers, educators and physicians of olden times talked about not eating til one was full, but rather letting that space be left in ourselves. Whatever the reasoning behind that, it does show that portion control is not a new idea. 

The article also states that it was felt that "excessive consumption would disrupt the four humors constituting the human body." But I think we just have to look at Roman orgies with their vomitoriums and the excessive banquets of Byzantium to see that ignoring portion control is also not a new idea. 

What I find funny, or sad (or both) is that this still is treated like some sort of new, amazing answer to our growing obesity problem. And the reactions I get from folks when I say that portion control is part of my regimen is almost akin to saying you can only eat beets for a year. 

I'd like to say it's not that hard. But it is. One of those words is "control" and that is never easy. The mere fact it's mentioned in early religious and medical texts means there was a call to remind people to do it. 

And yet it is easier than trying to "diet." Every time a friend or acquaintance or online buddy tells me that they're about to go on a new restrictive, odd-timing food plan, I can only shake my head. Why go into a system where you're given no control and therefore more apt to continue?

There are also so many contradictions in going the extreme route. For example, here's a recent article that studied the different types of gut bacteria and their role in weight loss of people with bariatric surgery. Neat, huh?

And then here's another one that shows an increase in weight based on gut bacteria. Oops!

Whether you are religious, a classicist, or just a tattooed librarian who'd rather not go back to their "big boy" pants, let's break this millenia-old chain of choosing to not control what we eat. To err in our eating habits is human, to be able to walk away from that is ...well, I won't say "divine" but it does make you feel a lot better!  


Crane, Jonathan K. “The Talmud and Other Diet Books.” The New York Times, March 26, 2013, sec. Opinion.

Liou, Alice P., Melissa Paziuk, Jesus-Mario Luevano, Sriram Machineni, Peter J. Turnbaugh, and Lee M. Kaplan. “Conserved Shifts in the Gut Microbiota Due to Gastric Bypass Reduce Host Weight and Adiposity.” Science Translational Medicine 5, no. 178 (March 27, 2013): 178ra41–178ra41. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3005687.

Mathur, R., M. Amichai, K. S. Chua, J. Mirocha, G. M. Barlow, and M. Pimentel. “Methane and Hydrogen Positivity on Breath Test Is Associated With Greater Body Mass Index and Body Fat.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (March 26, 2013). doi:10.1210/jc.2012-3144.

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