Find your dream girl, live the best life, muscle up in three weeks, look better than ever, enjoy fantastic sex–that’s what’s promised to readers of Men’s Health, the glossy, ad-packed magazine published by Rodale, the same folks that bring you the health magazine Prevention.
Based on the articles contained in the June 2004 issue, Men’s Health readers are concerned about building muscle, shrinking their guts, maintaining virility, staying healthy while growing old, relationships, money and success, enhancing the mind and building moral character, in that order, brought to you by ads for expensive toys (cars, boats, motorcycles, cameras, electronic goods, watches), for improved appearance (clothes, shoes, fragrances, dandruff shampoo, teeth whitening products), food (lean beef, tabasco sauce and high-fiber candy bars), body-building products (protein powders with names like Ripped Fuel Extreme, Hydroxycut and Nitro-Tech) and pharmaceuticals to treat erectile dysfunction.
J.I. Rodale was a self-made publishing genius and a pioneer in the alternative health field. He promoted organic gardening and farming long before organic had become a household word. His most famous publication, Prevention, brought the search for health into the mainstream, and carried much good advice in its early years.
Unfortunately, in his later years, Rodale fell for the lowfat propaganda and declared, during a public television appearance, that he no longer put butter on his organic vegetables. Just after the show, he dropped dead of a heart attack–a message from the universe that no one heeded. After Rodale’s death, the magazine fell into the hands of individuals who had ties with the margarine industry. Prevention became just another flak for the food processing industry, promoting conventional dogma on nutrition and health under the guise of alternative wisdom.
Men’s Health is equally mainstream. In the June 2004 issue you will learn that men should get boosters for a whole slew of mercury-laden vaccinations–MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), pneumococcal (meningitis or pneumonia), TD (tetanus and diphtheria), Varicella (chicken pox) and hepatitis B; that Viagra “is safe for men who suffer from moderate congestive heart failure but aren’t taking nitrates” (based on a six-week study); that radiation therapy can destroy recurrent prostate cancer; that men should have their LDL-cholesterol levels monitored; that excessive iron from red meat may double your risk of developing type-2 diabetes; that it’s OK to take antidepressants like Paxil (but they will be more effective if you also take vitamin B12); and that it’s fine to microwave your food.
Readers will find plenty of advice for the lovelorn, the addicted and the insecure. Question: “The woman of my dreams was taken–until yesterday. How long to I wait before asking her out?” The puzzling answer: Three months. Question: My Ambien [for “short-term management of insomnia”] prescription was supposed to be for a few days, but I’ve taken it for years. Am I rotting my brain? Answer: No, but if you suddenly stop taking it, you might suffer withdrawal symptoms like panic and vomiting. Question: “Is it okay to leave my shirt untucked for Sunday brunch?” Answer: Fine if the shirttails don’t hang below mid-thigh.
In earlier days, Rodale publications put a lot of emphasis on detoxification, fasting and colon cleansing. So it’s not surprising to find an article titled “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Colon” in the June 2004 issue. What’s surprising is the fact that this article contains nothing about colon cleansing. No, it’s a paean to advances in colonoscopy, describing how your colon can be examined with tubes, chemicals, miniature video cameras and CT scans. For the CT scan, the colon is inflated with gas (“to pull tight any folds and creases in its wall”) and then dosed with 1000 millirems of radiation–a hundred times more that you get from a chest x-ray. The discomfort–as the colon is filled with gas, and after, when the gas is released–is extreme. “They don’t do a very good job of preparing patients for the discomfort,” admits the doctor who administers the test to the brave Men’s Health journalist. The benefits of the new, high-tech CT scan method? Only a 55 percent success rate in spotting suspicious polyps compared to standard colonoscopy.
The Deadly Diet
But we digress. The magazine’s number one message, its main function, its raison d’etre, is promotion of a low-carb, lowfat (especially low-saturated fat), high-protein diet. Rodale Publications was the publisher of the bestselling South Beach Diet, wherein the virtues of lean meat, lowfat dairy and canola oil found their way into the public consciousness, rushing in to shore up sales of processed foods after the collapse of the high-carb dieting dogma. Turn to page 42 and you will learn that “Research in the Journal of Nutrition says a diet that combines low-carb and lowfat approaches may be better for your health than either diet alone. Reason number one: It works. In a study of 20 adults, those on a low-carb/lowfat diet and those on a traditional lowfat diet each lost 6 percent of their body weight in 6 weeks. Reason two: Several of the traditional lowfat dieters dropped out due to ‘unendurable hunger,’ while the low-carb/lowfat dieters were able to stick to their protein-heavy plan. ‘Protein is considered the most satiating nutrient,’ says lead researcher Carol Johnston, PhD. Reason three: Neither group saw a spike in cholesterol levels, a common side effect of many popular low-carb diets (which often come with a high saturated-fat and cholesterol price tag).” Just below, on the same page, we learn about the “flaquita,” a tortilla “that’s made entirely of proteins extracted from chicken parts in a centrifuge.” On the opposite page is an ad for the toughest looking piece of lean meat we’ve seen in a long time. So the publishers of Men’s Health are not kidding when they say they want you to get your carbs and fat as low as possible while you max out on protein. After all, that’s how Clinton lost his 40 pounds, and look what happened to him.
How do the Men’s Health guidelines translate into a practical diet? Turn to page 158 to learn about the “125 Best Foods for Men.” If you think that would-be he-men get to eat oysters and steak tartare, think again. The 125 best foods for men are all processed foods containing “good fats, protein and complex carbohydrates”–granola bars, turkey jerky, lowfat Kettle Krisps, Kraft Cheese Nips (Reduced Fat Cheddar), Clif Bar Chocolate Almond Fudge (“None of the HFCS [high-fructose corn syrup], trans fats, or heart-stopping palm-kernel oil that clog up other energy bars”), Progresso Beef and Barley soup, Eden Organic Refried Kidney beans (“without the lard that weighs down other varieties”), Stauffer’s Lean Cuisine Chicken a l’Orange TV dinner, Gatorade X-Factor, Boca Burger Original Vegan burger, Edy’s Grand Light ice cream, Organic Valley lowfat milk, Silk plain soy milk, Redi-Whip original topping, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter fat-free spread, Heinz One-Carb Reduced-Sugar ketchup, Hidden Valley Light Ranch dressing and lots and lots of lean cold cuts and prepared foods that rely on artificial flavors and MSG to add some taste to otherwise tasteless lowfat products.
It would be a good idea at this point to review the lessons that primitive peoples can teach us about lowfat, high-protein diets. From Australian Aborigines to Alaskan Inuits, the tradition was the same: they never ate lean meat. Stefansson, an anthropologist who lived many years among the natives of northern Canada, tells us why: “The groups that depend on the blubber animals are the most fortunate in the hunting way of life, for they never suffer from fat-hunger. This trouble is worst, so far as North America is concerned, among those forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation. Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source–beaver, moose, fish–will develop diarrhoea in about a week, with headache, lassitude and vague discomfort. If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied. Some think a man will die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been gathered in the North. Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any possible preventive steps are naturally taken.”
Removing carbs from a lowfat diet is like removing another source of fat, because although the body derives no fat-soluble vitamins from carbohydrate foods, at least it can turn the carbs into much-needed saturated fat.
Thus, since a lowfat, low-carb, high-protein diet is the quickest way to death, the subtitle of “125 Best Foods for Men” carries a certain irony: “Ask not for whom the dinner bell tolls. It tolls for thee,” dear Men’s Health reader.
Blaming Animal Fats
Speaking of deadly diets, the June 2004 issue also carries an article by Morgan Spurlock, producer of the movie Super Size Me, in which he chronicles his decline during a month of eating McDonald’s food. Spurlock is actually a strapping, good-looking kind of guy, 6 feet 2 inches tall, 185 pounds. The camera captures him against a background of lemons and tomatoes with the caption: “No bull: He turned his back on fruits and vegetables for a month.” But Morgan’s description of his normal diet does not include fruits and vegetables. “I love burgers. I love steaks. I love pig flesh in its multitudinous prepared forms.” Spurlock grew up on a diet of real food. “My mother said fast food wasn’t real food.”
Morgan’s reaction to the McDonald’s diet began on the second day when “I puked my guts out.” He says this was the result of “a fat overload as I tried to eat my first Super Size Meal.” The meal contained lots of fat, all right–some animal fat in the burger, lots of trans fats in the fries and vegetable oils in the processed cheese –but also 42 ounces of Coke. But since he’s writing for Men’s Health, Spurlock blames it on the fat.
Morgan gained 15 ponds in a month and his liver enzyme count soured. He ate through the menu: “The hamburger, the cheeseburger, the Big Mac and the Big N’ Tasty, the Quarter Pounder and the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, the Filet-O Fish, the McChicken, the Crispy Chicken, the Chicken McNuggets, the Chicken McGrill, the McRibs and the McGriddles. . . every flavor of soda and shake, plus salads, apple pies and strawberry sundaes. And yes, I had fries with all of that.”
The commentators have blamed the fats for Morgan’s decline (with an emphasis on the one natural fat in these meals, the fat in the hamburger) but if we read between the lines, we can discern another factor contributing to his weight gain and rapidly encroaching mental disability. “I was getting headaches,” he says, “that were alleviated only when I ate more. I felt depressed and exhausted most of the time. I was depressed, that is, except when I was eating. You heard correctly –the minute I started eating, my mood lifted, and I would remain elated for about 45 minutes. Then I would crash again, as depressed as before, only now with an anchor of sugar-covered fat in my stomach. . . I constantly wanted to nap. I felt unfocused, getting dumber by the day. I forgot things that were just told to me and I couldn’t remember things I’d known for years.”
Sudden letdown and depression don’t happen when we eat fat–fat is satisfying. Yes, fat makes you feel better and it makes you feel better for a long time, not 45 minutes. No, it seems as though something addictive lurks in the McDonald’s meals, something that temporarily lifts our mood and then leaves us more downcast and foggy than before.
Here’s another clue: “It’s weird–ever since I did this, my body seems to put on weight more readily than it ever has.” What is the substance that makes you put on weight more easily? That researchers give to laboratory rats to render them obese? That then keeps the rats fat even when they are put on restricted diets? The substance is MSG. The foods you buy at McDonalds–and the kind of foods recommended by Men’s Health–are just loaded with it.
The moral: Eat the Men’s Health way and you will soon turn into the confused, socially inept weakling–desperate for some product to boost his sexual performance and overcome with angst about how to wear his shirttails–to whom Men’s Health offers products and advice.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2004.