Most will know prolific nutrition and fitness writer, Matt Fitzgerald, from his books on achieving the ideal racing weight. In "Diet Cults," however, he targets the barrage of diets that promise the "One True Way" to eat healthily. As implied, he attempts to debunk the major fads: Paleo, vegan, low carb, low fat, raw etc. but his self-contradition and the obvious paucity of research in his work ensure that devoted adherents to these popular diets won't change their ways after reading his book.
Fitzgerald begins with some evolutionary and sociological musing on why humans feel inclined to choose a dietary tribe in the first place. Thankfully he keeps the intro short as the bored tone of his opening thoughts does not inspire further reading! He does correctly point out, though, that so many diet crazes can coexist because none can really prove itself as superior: "science has established quite definitively that humans are able to thrive equally well on a variety of diets. Adaptability is the hallmark of man as eater. For us, many diets are good while none is perfect."
"Diet Cults," then, endorses "agnostic healthy eating," which basically amounts to the (obvious) recognition that some foods have more health benefits than others. He cites professional endurance athletes as models for this type of eating: "they simply eat as the dietary guidelines based on mainstream nutrition science would have them eat, which is to say they eat everything, but they eat a lot more of the healthiest foods...than they do of the least healthy foods."
Fair enough. Except, in advocating for the Standard American Diet (SAD) based on said recommendations, he neglects to mention that 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese. If having these guidelines in place actually proved effectiveness, the population would enjoy much better health. So how to enforce beneficial dietary guidelines? Fitzgerald introduces a non-scientific but sensical ranking and a points system as a guide to healthy agnostic eating. The key lies in recognizing where a food falls in the hierarchy, eating more of what's above it and less of what's below. First on the hierarchy comes vegetables, then fruit, nuts/seeds/healthy oil, high-quality meat and seafood, whole grains, dairy, refined grains, low -quality meat and seafood, sweets and, finally, fried foods.
One could certainly quibble about the details: Is sugar really better than trans fat? Should meat and seafood have separate categories? Are almonds really a superior choice to low-fat yogurt? But generally, the ladder promotes healthy eating and nicely sums up an "agnostic" diet.
Not really that much of a switch for the singer, given that much of her earlier work mixes well into the country side of things to begin with. This album goes squarely in that direction, and while personally speaking, one of the songs didn't work for me, the album as a whole does work well.
This is touted as a major change in direction for Sheryl Crow - her first country album! Woah! But this album doesn't really sound that radically different from her other work. Sheryl Crow has always been very influenced by country, and she sounds right at home making it. This is a generally fun album full of catchy tunes, the occasional melodramatic clunker notwithstanding.
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