Dietary gurus and Stupid Comparisons

Dietary gurus and Stupid Comparisons

In the never-ending peeing contest between training and dietary ideologies, one trend that makes me shake my head is the “extreme comparison” arguments. They look something like this;

Person A: A guru or promoter/competitor following dietary/training program “x”: This person is seen as weak, frail-looking, pale and generally unhealthy.

Vs.

Person B: A guru/promoter/competitor following dietary/training program “y”:  This person looks like the epitome of health – vibrant, muscular and well-postured.

The poster usually ends with some snarky or otherwise over-used quip like “Just sayin’”

Diet gurus

Ok.. so what you’re “just sayin’” is that you are basing the validity of your chosen health path by using 1 cherry-picked example of how one single guru looks much better than another single guru?

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that you can make an argument any which way it suits you by hand-picking extremes. With Sisson vs. Ornish – one could easily use Gary Taubes, Mike Eades or William Davis as the paleo/extreme low carb examples and they would actually look worse than Ornish.

Another example of this has been around a few years now: The “sprinter vs the distance runner”. With the provocative quote “Who would you rather look like”? or “which body is best for performance”? The implication being that you should train like a sprinter to look like one and whatever you do – don’t run long distances as you’ll look pasty, frail and go bald prematurely.

Sprinter vs. distance runner

To shine a light of clarity – these athletes are genetically pre-disposed to these particular body types.  The man on the left could NEVER look like the man on the right and vice versa based on training methodology. This comes down to an appeal to aesthetics more than anything – speculating on which one is “healthier” is an exercise in absurdity.  They are both high-end athletes who compete in sports with vastly different demands. Besides, having competed in distance running I am willing to bet the distance runner could whip you over 100 meters as well as over 42k.

The take-home message is 2-fold:

1. There are a variety of body types when it comes to both athletes and the general population that can fall into the range of "healthy".

2. There are different paths to any given health/fat loss goal. Low carb, moderate carb, paleo, vegetarian etc can all be healthy and promote fat loss.

Bottom line, a cherry-picked picture of 2 individuals does not a valid argument make.

Eat in a way that is healthy, sustainable and that works for you.

Side note: Evidence-based blogger Carbsane penned a similar blog entry not too long ago with more detail and pictures that focused on Gillian McKeith and Nigella Lawson. It's a very worthwhile read.