Get the Ball Re-Rolling With An Easy One

Most people don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. They imitate others, go with the flow, and follow paths without making their own.

–Derek Sivers

Today, I have in my home five workmen drilling holes through various walls in an attempt to rig a fix to an enormous plumbing leak. The apartment I rent here in Asia was built along the usual model, which was obviously inspired by Ed Wynn’s part in Babes in Toyland:

The buildings here are lucky to last ten years without enormous, expensive problems. Partly this is because companies skimp on all the cheapest materials they can get (often used) and then run away with their money after selling off the apartments. The water pipes are a particular issue.

The water has been off for some days and now they’re here drilling holes through various walls to run pipes in different directions. They have the World’s Largest Drill, which about ten minutes in blew the fuse to the kitchen and bathroom. When it did, they reasoned the thing to do was to flip the breaker and do it again. And then again. And then, the next time, it blew that fuse and the one for the whole apartment.

That’s when I started yelling.

I turned my back for a moment after yelling, and the guy tried it again. In the end, I had to physically prevent them from plugging it in again and then throw them out of the house till they replaced the fuse on their drill.

You’re probably scratching your heads. You may even doubt my story (though my readers who have lived in this part of Asia are chuckling to themselves knowingly at this point). What’s the matter with these people?

The matter is that they have no idea how to reason. Not because they are stupid, but because they were raised and educated in a system that actively beat all independent thought and reasoning curiosity out of them from a young age.

But sadly, they’re not the only ones.

Back in August, a “dietician” wrote this article about her attempt to go without sugar for thirty days. It is a beautiful example of bad thinking, wild assumptions about health and diet, and parroting of ideas she clearly has been taught but does not fully understand. Let’s have a look at her opening line:

As a dietitian, I’ve heard of every crazy diet. No dairy, no carbs, no sugar, no tomatoes, no gluten, no fat—you name it, I’ve heard of it (and have probably rolled my eyes at it).

Often we have to read a bit to get to the insane stuff, but she helpfully lets the crazy right out in the first lines.

I wasn’t aware that sugar was an essential food group. Perhaps I could get concerned if someone is eliminating a whole food group from their diet unnecessarily; but how is sugar one of those? We think that sugar was first used by the Polynesians, who took it to India, where the Persians found it in 510BC and started growing it for profit. Prior to 510BC, nearly every human on the planet was eating a sugar-free diet, as our dietician defines it. Western Europeans didn’t get sugar till after 1000. It would be hundreds of years more before it entered the regular diet of average people worldwide.

The problem with these restrictive diets is they aren’t sustainable and often cause you to crave whatever you gave up.

This is the biggest cop-out objection to eating well that you’ll ever hear. It’s like telling a smoker not to bother trying to give up the cigarettes, because he’ll just crave them. He won’t be able to not smoke because everyone smokes, and also he’ll want to smoke real bad.

Our intrepid dietician decided to try giving up sugar for thirty days, primarily so she could blog about it for cash.

I honestly thought omitting added sugar for 30 days wouldn’t be all that difficult. First, added sugar refers to sugar that is added to a food, not sugar naturally found in fruits, vegetables, grains, or dairy.

Here we get her definition of sugar-free. It’s slightly concerning. Added sugar is usually glucose or fructose or some combination(is she aware of this?), which are all found in fruit and vegetables, yes. But is she aware that grains have no sugar; or at least not enough to matter? Does she realize that the sugar in dairy is different from table sugar and requires a different digestion process? I’m not confident. More importantly, since she says fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy all have sugar: how on earth is cutting out added sugar only to be understood as a crazy, restrictive diet that eliminates whole food groups (as she will clearly state later).

Regardless of my lack of desire for sugar, I still add a bit of brown sugar to my oatmeal, enjoy a pre-workout granola bar, and top my spoonful of peanut butter with mini chocolate chips. But that’s the extent of my sugar habit, so I figured I would be fine. Reality hurts.

Ah yes, these are the habits of someone who doesn’t crave sugar.

I’m curious whether she realizes peanut butter has sugar. And in a few minutes (SPOILER ALERT) she’s going to admit to drinking sports drinks and eating Shot Bloks. Possibly she’s underestimating her regular sugar intake? Not counting, of course, fruit and vegetables and grain and dairy.

Day 1

While eating whole-wheat crackers with my super-healthy salad (feeling great about my food choices), I check out the crackers’ ingredients label. WTF? Cane sugar! Day 1=fail.

This woman’s supposed profession is telling people how to eat, and she didn’t know the basic ingredients in whole wheat crackers?

Day 2

My oatmeal definitely tastes a little bland without a scoop of brown sugar, so I head to the store and pick up some naturally sweet foods, such as dates, bananas, red grapes, and papaya. Problem solved.

Or so I thought… until lunchtime, when I add Sriracha to my rainbow grain bowl. Surprise—Sriracha has sugar. I guess I need to read EVERY single food label.

Yes, Natalie darling: you do. Again, do you seriously want us to believe you are a professional dietician, and yet you’ve never advised your clients to be careful of food labels? Clearly, yes, you clearly have no craving for sugar. Couldn’t get through oatmeal without some extra fruit.

May I point out that you are on your second day, and you still haven’t managed to not eat added sugar?

Then the poor thing went to run a marathon. Hopefully she’s in training for running from the zombie horde, because there’s nothing else good to be derived from endless running. We’ve mentioned it before, but the “marathon” derives its name from the Greek city of Marathon, which a man named Pheidippides is said to have run to from Athens–twenty-five miles–in order to announce an important Greek battle victory.

Then he keeled over and croaked.

So naturally, we celebrate his death all over the world with various running events of twenty six miles. Marathoners are seven times more likely to have sudden cardiac death while running than during normal life. They also get scarring on the heart. Most fun of all, when recent Hartford Marathon participants were tested, turned out 82% of them presented with Stage 1 Acute Kidney Injury. And that’s not to mention the joint issues, replacement knees, and even the getting hit by cars!


Anyway, our friend Natalie couldn’t eat tons of added sugar to go running, as she usually does, so she had to resort to other sugar. But even then, she gave up and drank an enormous amount of sugar anyway.

In other words, my usual fueling plan is loaded with sugar because sugar (a.k.a. glucose) powers muscles during endurance activity. Luckily, another dietitian (and marathoner) told me to try dates, stuffed with peanut butter and sprinkled with sea salt, for the right mix of sugar and sodium. Although I don’t like to try anything new on race day, I make an exception and opt for the dates instead of the Shot Bloks. They worked pretty well. The only problem was I got an annoying cramp around mile seven that wouldn’t go away, so I gave in and reached for a sports drink.

Dear Natalie,

  1. Sugar is not glucose. Sugar is half glucose and half fructose. Glucose can power muscles, but it doesn’t have to. (See: me, twice a week at the gym, pressing 55 kilos or rowing 70. Also see: Me or The Roommate on all-day mountain climbs with friends. Before neither of these activities do we take an ounce of sugar. Nor during. Nor after.)
  2. Are you sure you’re a dietician?
  3. So you failed to keep to the diet today, too?

I feel for Natalie. We’ll return to her story tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have to go keep an eye on the drilling.



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