I have had much success failing at moderation. You know you can have/eat/do anything you want, IN MODERATION. No. Not really. 

Until the summer I turned 30 I never thought about weight loss infomercials. Well, I had one thought and it was: if this really worked, everyone would do it. Therefore none of these things must really work. After all, the fine print always said one or all of the following:

Individual results vary

Along with a sensible diet and exercise plan

Models are paid actors

Pretty fishy, right? But how about this noggin-scrambling truth: It all works, and probably well, if you do it/eat it/follow it exactly right.

Eat 3 cookies a day plus one meal? Works.


Jenny Craig. Works.

Shake Weight. Well, jury’s out. But it is a rudimentarily pulsating free weight with a shamelessly juvenile Saturday Night Live fake commercial. (Sorry, you’ll have to Hulu, YouTube, or NBC.com that one yourself)

THEY ALL WORK. If you happen to comply. Compliance is the issue. Buying it does not carve off 5% of your body weight. Total compliance with the program may have that effect.

Infomercials are simultaneously the most honest and the absolutely most pants-on-fire lying-est pieces of work out there. Only the smallest percentage of buyers stick with those extreme and untenable plans, and then they have to contend with the next backbreaking truths: our current food environment renders moderation intensely challenging and foods that radiate healthfulness often cannot be trusted to be healthy.

The 2013 time-capsule equivalent of the ever-present infomercial is the boutique food trend; I am pseudo-coining this term as I am pretty sure there is a real name for the wave of things that cost a lot of money and are very popular and eventually end up in bastardized neither better nor worse versions on grocery store and convenience store shelves everywhere.

To quote Theoden: So it begins. 

You know what pressed juice is? 

An amazing way to spend money.

How about vegan gluten-free doughnuts? 

Still doughnuts.

How about a bacon cheeseburger with grass-fed burger and heritage bacon, on paleo bread?

Still a block of fat, and a pricey one.

As if the giant piece of wool pulled over our consumer eyes was too floppy, but we still don’t want to see, we now have sleek, chic wool sunglasses for which we can pay immense amounts of money. I am sorry to be cynical, but in this case those glasses were designed to extract from you only your disposable income, not your best healthy self. Those glasses’ manufacturers may help in small ways (hey! Less squinting!), but they’re still in it for business, and not to save the world.

Those foods and food creations are marketed as if deeply healthful, as if consuming them makes you healthier, and you should make sure that either you ignore all the stuff now marked bad, or consume it IN MODERATION.

Uh-oh. This is a dilemma. A paradox. A problem. Those calories are still calories, sugars still sugars, fats still fats, salt still salt, and outrageous amounts of them are just that, whether they come with out without gluten, an organic label, or contain no high fructose corn syrup.

You may even take in more of something presumed to be healthy, which if you are trying to expend more than you take in, is a problem.

It is also a problem if you have the kind of relationship to calorically dense foods that I have, say, to ice cream. 

I never buy ice cream and bring it home. Because I will inhale it. In a totally immoderate, absolutely un-Gwyneth and frankly, bear-like way. I may smugly enjoy it more if it is local, organic, from ecstatic cows, and has a smartly adorable label, but it is still a pint of butterfat  and it is no more healthful than a container of pink stuff from Baskin-Robbins. It is likely a more ethical, more economically sound (not for your economy, but for the region), more environmentally conscious decision, but it ain’t making you less sick.

That’s right. I said it. There are myriad ways to improve your health, and countless ways to sabotage it, but elevating one variety of indulgence as if it were really that much less destructive than another is a silly way to keep score. 

Alas I have focused so intently on frozen things that I forgot about juices and burgers. Let me clarify, I was (was?) a hippie kid whose parents totally did the Master Cleanse all the dang time before any of my peers or I knew what it was or were even born, whose kitchens always had a juicer, whose lunches were on two-inch thick slices of buckwheat bread and spread with crushed sunflower seeds and alfalfa. I am not exaggerating. Just in case you think I am exaggerating. Nope. I am not.

Juices are tasty. But let’s be serious. They are tasty fruit and vegetable colored water and sugar removed from the perfect matrices of fibrous cells in which they were originally intended to be consumed. Juice cleanses don’t cleanse you- they simply give you a break from whatever you were eating or drinking that was problematic. 

And burgers. Ah burgers. If only we still consumed meat like in the supposed olden days, where it was an every-once-in-a-while indulgence and it was expensive because of the insane amount of resources funneled in to producing it. Instead it is cheap when it is produced under generally awful and unsafe conditions and profanely expensive when it is passed off as really great for you. It is neither totally horrible nor completely amazing. It is itself a moderate food group. If you are going to grill up a delicious burger every once in a while, choose the fancy stuff because it has slightly less environmental impact, not because it raises your blood lipids any less.

As per the gluten-free vegan donuts, it is obvious that celiac and wheat allergic plant-based  folks deserve to eat donuts too. But those bad little sugar bugs are not better for you. They have different ingredients, not smarter ingredients.

In middle school I used to crave Hostess Cupcakes. Oh you know which ones I am talking about. The chocolate (if it even contained any chocolate) frosting with the white squiggle? The thought of that package now makes me nostalgic and a little nauseous. I counted the ingredients once and kept losing count around 30. Not so far from some dear friends in Brooklyn there is a bakery that makes a cake that looks like that, from scratch, and it is divine. It is 100% not even remotely any better for you than tearing open that plastic, but is tasty.

And I will have it.

In moderation.