Article Thumbnail

Five Lies You’ve Been Told About Dieting

Is weight loss really as simple as eating less and exercising more? Do you actually feel better the more you toot? Let’s find out the truth.

The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Dieting! Just how diet-friendly is diet soda? And is a vampire’s diet the reason they’re so hot?

Lie #1: This Latest Diet Will Totally Work!

Every few years, along comes the Hot New Diet that will Absolutely Sort You Out. Millions of books are sold, millions of meals are rethought, a few people shit themselves while commuting as their bodies struggle to adjust to their new diets, some new research comes out that shows it doesn’t work and then another Hot New Diet comes along and it all starts again.

Fad diets are nothing new. In the 1820s, Lord Byron became convinced a mostly vinegar diet would keep the pounds off, while in Victorian times, women who wanted to be skinny both experimented with arsenic and deliberately gave themselves tapeworms (by the way, if anyone’s ever wondered if there’s a 19th-century Japanese woodcut on Wikimedia Commons of a tapeworm being removed from a man while a lady points up his ass, wonder no longer). 

Horace “The Great Masticator” Fletcher popularized the idea that chewing your food hundreds of times and only shitting fortnightly was the way forward. The 1920s brought Lucky Strike’s “cigarette diet”; the 1930s were all about eating loads of grapefruit; the 1940s saw amphetamines soar in popularity as a diet aid; and the 1950s brought the cabbage soup diet and millions of acrid farts (see below). Slim-Fast, the Atkins diet, the sedative diet, the South Beach diet, keto, paleo, the werewolf diet… And yet, somehow obesity rates are dramatically higher than they’ve ever been. 

The weight-loss industry is projected to be worth over a quarter of a trillion dollars by 2023. If it was as straightforward as “grapefruits are magic,” we’d just all eat a lot of grapefruits, you know?

Lie #2: It’s Fucking Simple: Eat Less And Exercise More

Every comedian who’s toyed with the title Triggered for a special or taken promo photos with tape over their mouths, has a routine about how fat people just need to get it into their jam-smeared heads and pull their chunky fingers out of their wobbly asses. 

In a world where everything was incredibly simple, they’d be right: A balanced, nutritious diet, combined with an appropriate amount of exercise, is the only medically sound, scientifically guaranteed way to lose weight. However, what “balanced” and “appropriate” mean is a lot more complicated than yelling, “Just put the donut down, you fat bitch!” and shaking your head while drinking an edgy beer during the ensuing applause from the scum of the earth.

If all calories were created equal (they aren’t — different calories from different sources require varying amounts of energy to burn off), and if everyone’s metabolic rates were the same (they aren’t — in fact, extreme weight loss leads to a slowed metabolic rate and makes weight gain more likely), then yeah, it would be really simple. But it’s hella complicated on both an individual and collective level, and loads of people are working on it — in 2016 alone, the National Institutes of Health put almost a billion dollars into obesity research. Sure, some people make repeated poor decisions and should consider lowering the occasional donut. But there’s a lot more going on.

Lie #3: Diet Soda? That’ll Help!

The whole selling point of diet soda is right there in the name: drink this and lose weight, tons-o’-fun! But study after study after study shows a diet soda habit is much more likely to be associated with weight gain. Tasting sweet but containing no actual sugar confuses the body — it produces insulin to deal with the sugar it is anticipating, so when no sugar appears, that insulin has nothing to do, which can lead to metabolic syndrome and the bonkers-sounding “metabolic derangement.” Metabolic syndrome leads to, heyoooo, weight gain. A 2019 study from George Washington University found teenagers who drank diet soda actually consumed the same amount of calories as those who drank regular soda — an average of 200 more calories overall per day than those who drank water.

Artificial sweeteners (many of which are literally toxic and triple your risk of stroke) are also sweeter than actual sugar, meaning a diet soda habit conditions you to crave extraordinary sweetness, which can easily manifest itself as eating half a vending machine every lunchtime. (A lot of companies that sell fattening products also sell diet products, an absolute win-win scenario for them. If you cheat on your SlimFast with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, you’re paying Unilever twice.)

Lie #4: Beans, Beans, The Musical Fruit, The More You Eat The More You Toot, The More You Toot The Better You Feel, So Let’s Eat Beans For Every Meal

There are a few statements in here so, as the stomach said about the all-bean meal, let’s break it all down.

Beans, Beans, The Musical Fruit: Beans are legumes, which means referring to them as a fruit is fine. People often cite seeds as what makes a fruit a fruit, but a stricter definition is that a fruit grows on a plant, while a vegetable is the plant itself. Beans grow in a pod on a plant, so if you want to be an a-hole, the pod itself is a fruit and the beans are merely the fruit’s seeds, but come on.

The More You Eat The More You Toot: This is also true. Beans contain large amounts of certain sugars, including raffinose and stachyose, that the human body generally lacks the correct enzymes to digest. Therefore, instead of being broken down in the digestive tract, these sugars (also known as oligosaccharides) end up being bacterially digested in the large intestine and colon, resulting in large amounts of gases being released, which get farted out of the silly hole in your butt.

The More You Toot The Better You Feel: Also true. Not only is farting the best way of expelling these gases (the retention of which can lead to bloating, bad breath and even ruptures), it can actually enhance life. It’s a good indicator of general gut health — if you don’t fart at all, you’re either dead or dying — and can reportedly enhance relationships. There are occasional scientific claims that smelling them might even be healthy. Also, have you ever heard a fart? Those things sure do make funny noises as they shove themselves out of anuses, and laughter has loads of health benefits. Great work, assholes!

So Let’s Eat Beans For Every Meal: Finally, a lie! While your beloved beans might bring you the butt-joy you crave, the World Health Organization says that a varied diet is key to a healthy existence, and eating beans for every meal is anything but varied. There are other foods that also make you fart and that can bring you all the funny noises you enjoy so much with beans, so mix up things with a big load of cabbage or a piled-up plate of onions. Or eat a bunch of undercooked chicken to give yourself food poisoning and fart yourself inside out. Up to you.

Lie #5: Hot Vampires Survive On Blood

Vampires are fairly universally acknowledged as the sexiest of all the monsters — way hotter than gross, hairy werewolves or unattractively decomposing zombies. But how sexy is someone on an all-blood diet really likely to be? 

At about 700 calories per liter, three liters of blood per day would provide enough calories to get by, but only a third of the necessary vitamin C to stave off scurvy. Scurvy is a particularly unsexy illness that used to kill sailors (and it’s a particularly shitty disease for a vampire to get, as it causes teeth to fall out). Nine liters of blood a day would take care of that, but having thrice the recommended caloric intake isn’t healthy — they’d be struggling to squeeze themselves into their coffins every morning, the stout-ass hemovores. 

People on all-liquid diets also have a tendency to flip-flop between constipation and diarrhea, so life as a bloodsucker would likely involve a lot of Transylvanian-accented grunting and the occasional plop-smeared cape. They’d also 100 percent have kidney disease from the high salt content of blood — all in all, not really boner material.