Kurt Harris, the messiah, the hype and the throwing of scales

I think Kurt Harris is a smart man and makes some very good points now and then, not to mention his reading list resembles my own. But reading his blog recently I keep thinking of Monty Pythons Life of Brian. For those less versed in the film (shame on you!), Brian is mistaken for the messiah and tries his best to convince a rapidly growing crowd that he’s not. But whatever he does, it is taken as a sign and further confirmation that he is the messiah and he can do nothing wrong.

Dr. Harris stopped blogging for a while, which somehow seemed to increase his blogging status. He disabled his comments section and I bet that also increased his standing. In a recent post he talks about the important fact that people are focusing too much on stupid details and forgetting about true science, the bigger picture and how to relax and enjoy life. According to Harris in the “do no harm” post: “I’ve had more laudatory emails and fresh donations (Thank you all!) as a result of this post than any I’ve written in a long time.

Kurt is the new Brian. “Therapy versus Life,” has an important message and despite how obvious it is, it needs to be repeated. Worrying about the lectins in the beans you just ate or whether or not you should add an extra t-spoon of coconut oil to your daily diet will only take down a road you really don’t want to go. It will not make you live longer or happier!

Sure, a good diet can make life better, you might lose weight and be more toned. But life’s there to be lived. I advocate a diet mostly free of modern foods and I am really interested in finding answers about what foods affect the body in what way and what exercise is the most effective and so on. But I’m constantly working hard not to lose my head (and perhaps overcompensating a bit) and under no circumstance am I willing to give up beans with my bacon, beer or ice-cream or sugar (yeah that’s right, glucose AND fructose) in my daily cup of earl gray tea. Oh, and I’ve been exercising regularly once a week for about the last six months. Why? Because it doesn’t matter.

I’m not saying it’s easy to be happy. I’m saying we will definitely not get any happier by focusing on minor and insignificant details relating to diet or exercise.

Paleo is fad (fad = a temporary fashion; a craze, interest or activity that (some) people follow enthusiastically, but lasts for a short period of time). Sure it’s a good idea to not eat modern foods, but we must not start suggesting that a food is bad because it is modern. And we must not forget that a paleo diet is not actually a defined diet, but rather a some general guidelines based on not so strong evidence about what our ancestors ate.

Paleo is likely a fad because humans are crazy about inventing new words, labeling everything and grouping things together. The world is to complex not to make subgroups of everything and we’re so bloody good at it. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the word paleo, but I bet a new craze will take over; the paleo group feel will dilute and hopefully integrate more into standard dietary advice.

But what about the throwing of scales? Talking to more and more people trying to lose weight just further convinces me that weighing is an obstacle for success. The first thing you should do if you want to lose weight is to chuck the old measuring tool in the trash. As I said, humans get to caught up in details and especially numbers on a scale. Have patience, in time you’ll know if you are losing fat. You were clothes, don’t you? Your clothes are the only reference you need. If you can’t get in or out of them, you’ve gained weight. Oh, and perhaps some getting to know your body and how you actually feel might help to.

And as for me? I feel an overpowering urge to tackle the “set-point” hypothesis issue. Something smells fishy about the standard theory which Harris and Guyenet, amongst others, find the most fitting.