The Before and After principle is great for marketing in the health and fitness industry, but for attaining optimal wellness?

I think NOT!

CNN just recently came out with an article that supposedly gives us hope concerning our struggle with our weight and our health. The article focuses on a young man who got his life back by predominately embarking on a calorie cutting diet and increasing his exercising routine from three to six days a week. And hey, it worked, because CNN has the pictures to prove it (wink, wink).

Honestly, how in the world could we ever doubt a before and after picture? Even if the marketers are not deceiving you with photo-shop or some bodybuilder or fitness model getting into shape for a contest, does someone losing weight and looking better for a picture define real health?

Be vary wary of the before and after principle when it deals with your health!

The point of the article (to my dismay) was to show us that we can get our health under control if we get our weight under control (like this is the only correlation for your concern).

We are led to believe, predominately from before and after pictures, that life will improve if we can just consume fewer calories and burn more calories for a long enough period of time; because our weight will come off because it supposedly has no other choice (Law of Thermodynamics). I am not sure how many times we have to see the same story of the before and after principle packaged in different manners. But I do want to make an example of the errors in this type of thinking.

Here is the young man’s story.

The Low Calorie Day (Male):

Morning: glass of low-fat milk with Nestle Quik (150 calories).

My take: Wow, we are supposed to look at this breakfast and believe that this is healthy, just because it is one of low calories (not sure who actually believes this garbage these days). This example actually makes my point for me; this meal is low calorie but is also completely nutrient deficient and loaded with sugar.

You wouldn’t be doing much worse if you would just drink a small glass of sugar water followed with a bite of your favorite candy bar.

We used to drink raw milk from animals that were healthy because they were fed diets that were loaded with nutrients; these nutrients were passed on to the consumers of the product. Low-fat chocolate milk has been changed to be lower in fat than what the cow or goat originally produced, pasteurized and homogenized, and then supplemented with sugar/high fructose corn syrup, so that the final product is something that our bodies have a difficult time even recognizing as a food.

Exercise: I am happy about the development of an exercise program, but do yourself a favor and hydrate with filtered water. Lemonade and Gatorade afterward (50 calories) See my “sugar water” comment above. Unfortunately, this is the kind of mind set you get when you focus on the quantity of calories versus the quality of the whole food. Hey, how much damage can only 50 calories cause, right?

Late morning: Snack of a piece of fruit (75 calories) Well, I hate to beat a dead horse, but is this fruit genetically modified? Has it been farmed with pesticides? Did the fruit come from fertile soils? Was the fruit picked from a local farm or did it come from half way around the world?

This is the 21st century, we need to start asking these questions (they are important, and will only become more so). If not, you might as well fill up your favorite colored balloon with sugar water, because you will be receiving about the same amount of vitality from it. Plus, fructose is a simple sugar, so people should know that not everyone is going to do well consuming a piece of fruit by itself (biochemical individuality).

Lunch: Lean piece of chicken with two vegetables and rice (500 calories) I was wondering how long it would take to get the “tried and true” bodybuilding meal in as part of the program (I guess oatmeal is too difficult a meal to prepare for breakfast).

Well, here it is, and the biggest challenge is the quality of the food. To be fair, this is the first meal that is balanced (to a point), as it does have a lean protein, a starch and a fibrous vegetable. But, as expected, this meal plan is low in essential fats, as most plans that have you counting calories are completely “fat-phobic”, and this one is no different.

Now days, you need to know the history of the chicken, how the rice was grown and where and how the vegetables were farmed. The quality of foods available today as compared to fifty years ago is pretty embarrassing, if not down right sickening. You can find the more nutritious foods, but you will need to make an effort.

Late-afternoon: Snack of Healthy Choice fudge bars (90 calories). I have come to the realization that the majority of healthy bars out on the market are in the same league as your favorite candy bar.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the ingredients in your favorite health bar. Isn’t it odd that we are discussing this gentleman’s health and he hasn’t even eaten dinner yet but he has consumed chocolate and fudge already today? But, hey, low-cal, can’t be bad right?

Dinner: Spaghetti with a meatball or two (500 calories). I realize that this meal is relatively small (and not balanced), but it still ends up being top heavy concerning the number of calories you would be consuming late in the day. Not only will the size of this meal be a concern, but it is loaded with sugar from the pasta.

Night: Bowl of cereal like Froot Loops (150 to 200 calories). Is anybody other than me getting mad right now?

I am not sure how any expert on nutrition would find it feasible to put their stamp of approval on this late night snack. (But we are focused on the before and after picture here, not eating properly. Obviously.)

Couple questions: why would you want to sugar load your system right before hitting the hay? Do people actually know what ingredients make up their favorite boxed cereal? But once again, does it really matter what you eat, as long as it’s low in calories? OBVIOUSLY NOT!!!

TOTAL: 1,515 to 1,565 calories Conventional wisdom, which these days isn’t much wisdom at all, would tell us that a male should consume no less than 1500 calories a day and a female no less than 1200 calories to be healthy.

With articles like this supporting the before and after principle, with all of these wonderful pictures to back it up (of course), we are led to believe that our health has nothing to do with the quality of food we are consuming, only the quantity. But honestly, with this type of diet loaded with sugar and void of essential fats, is this gentleman really going to be healthy in a few years? Let alone, will he be able to stay on this extremely nutrient deficient nutritional program?

I realize that the health and fitness industry, and other industries as well, use the before and after pictures to motivate and sell you their programs, supplements and equipment.

But in most cases you are being sold a shaky bill of goods, at best!

The goods either don’t deliver what’s been promised or there is much more involved to get you to that level of health and fitness that you desire (you know, “read the fine print”). The before and after picture is more of a marketing ploy, it has more to do with the “sizzle”, and very little to do with substance (the "steak").

Is there real substance in your nutritional program or is it one that is loaded with fluff and sizzle; like the one based on the before and after principle?

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