A person gets the impression from quack health advertising that millions among us believe not only in the tooth fairy but also in hunger-free diets.
You know the ads I’m talking about – the ones that say, “I lost 25 pounds of jiggly fat in five days and I wasn’t even a little bit hungry.”
Actually, losing 25 pounds in five days is possible if you are talking about a diet that involves the amputation of an arm or a leg.
Similarly, you see ads that say, “I get plenty of exercise without leaving the couch,” which may be true if you have a 35-pound television remote control.
This is an advertising realm that preys on our naive tendency to believe in painless remedies for life’s difficult physical challenges. That stems in part from a mixed blessing. On the one hand, most of the world’s inhabitants avoid famine. But we are a kind of creature that was originally built to run on empty for long periods of time.
We and nearly all the other animals on Earth were created to exist on periodic rations and to gorge at every opportunity, storing fat to tide us over during periods of hunger.
However, the modern miracle of constant bounty is also harmful to our kind. If you live in the midst of unlimited food and your body is designed to binge on food whenever it is available, then you abide by your natural impulse to eat as much as you can whenever you can.
We are cousins to bears and to pythons who react to periodic plenty by eating everything in sight. But a python with a tasty calf inside its stomach (pythons love veal) can live off that massive meal for weeks without so much as a side order of fries.
Similarly, bears pack away the salmon, the berries and the hikers and then settle down with their stored body fat for a long winter’s nap.
That works better for pythons and for bears than for humans. We ache from hunger when it happens. But a python isn’t famished with half a calf left in its belly. And a bear crawls into a cave and sleeps off any hunger pangs.
Over the years, we have pandered to our voracious appetite by perfecting our methods of hunting, gathering and, best of all, storing food in sacks, containers and supermarkets for the lean times. That has been our undoing as a species. We have buried ourselves in food and enlarged our girth to deadly dimensions at the same time.
And so now we struggle to cope with the price of success – the vicious irony of too much to eat. Formerly, a little chubbiness at the end of summer was no problem. It had a purpose. We would be on short rations through the winter and the fat would fade away by spring.
But now we must use our better brains and try to develop ways to cope with an astonishing problem of too much access to too much nourishment.
The wicked advertisers who promise that you can peel off the pounds in mere days with no sense of privation are liars. It’s just a matter of time before we must gather our strength and put on the brakes while rolling in food. And it doesn’t help that the hucksters divert us from that hard truth.
Consequently, it’s a miracle that we don’t turn on those quacks who feed us the false notion that dieting is easy.
So let them be warned: There are days when the purveyors of painless diets start to look delicious to pythons, bears and apes like us.Bill Hall can be contacted at email@example.com or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501