New Year, New (Media) Diet

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A friend reports on Facebook that he has had an extraordinary year in weight loss. Troubled by high cholesterol, pre-diabetic blood sugar levels, and elevated blood pressure, he embarked on a year-long quest to lose weight.

It’s an inspiring story, and an instructive one, since it features precisely no magic and zero shortcuts.

Daily hour-long aerobic workouts with thrice-a-week weightlifting sessions helped a lot. But the main change in his life was in, you guessed it, his diet.

Here is just a part of what he detailed in listing the food choices that have helped him lose 146 pounds (66 kg):

“I consume zero refined sugars, zero artificial sweeteners (which are terrible for gut flora and hormone balance), and extremely little white flour. Nearly all of my protein is very lean, nearly all of my carbohydrates are complex, and nearly all of my fat intake is from ‘healthy fat’ sources like fatty fish, walnuts, brazil nuts, and avocado.

“My wife and I have weighed and measured every single bite of food I have consumed for the last 9 months, and I have recorded everything in the “S Health” app on my phone….

“I eat at least 6-8 servings daily of non-starchy vegetables (mostly in large salads) and 2-4 servings daily of low-glycemic fruit (usually closer to 2, and never more than 4).

“I eat 3 servings daily of probiotic foods, including nonfat plain kefir and yoghurt, fermented vegetables, etc.”

His diet is so different from mine I can hardly even recognize much of what he eats. And I have the waistline, alas, to prove it.

You probably know the saying, “Great abs are made…in the kitchen.”

I was thinking about my friend’s remarkable commitment to better health as the end-of-year news summaries flooded in through my laptop screen. The Big Story, of course, is the election of the new US president.

But one of the major side stories was this: So many American voters, on both sides, believe things that patently aren’t true. So says the Washington Post. And why do they think what isn’t so? Surely it’s because of the media they have chosen to consume.

A complex world feels easier to negotiate if it can be made more simple. It feels more comfortable still if it conforms with my preferred view of things.

Yet, as Einstein is said to have warned us, we should simplify as far as possible—but nor farther. And as Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has warned us more recently, we all prefer to think the way we already think, even in the teeth of powerful information to the contrary.

This coming year, then, I resolve to improve my media diet. I am going to continue to partake of some media that I enjoy, yes, because they’re simply good fun. But I need to strictly control my intake of such intellectual sugar.

Meanwhile, I need to up my consumption of news and views from serious sources, sources that require some time to chew on and digest properly.

I need to combine those sources well to produce a properly balanced diet, rather than just ingest the same stuff all the time, however much it seems to agree with me.

And I need to deliberately shop for and regularly take in media that I frankly don’t like very much, but I know I need.

Otherwise, I will become mentally fat and flaccid, heavily stupid in my easy chair as I snack again on my favourite junk food, and helpless to defend myself against intellectual sluggishness, poison, or cancer.

I hope you’ll keep the various media of “Context” on your list of staples, and we’ll do our best to make it solidly worth your while to do so.

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