Thursday, May 23, 2013

Golden Mean

There's this juice-cleanse fast trend that I don't quite get. Apparently, those who need to revamp their eating lifestyle from junked processed fare find that the only way to do it is to slurp meals from a straw, slapping the body around until it cries uncle

Um, did you try just roasting some vegetables?

What is it with the extremes? 
Moderation. Remember that? It was once held up as an indisputable virtue, virtually synonymous with prudence. Don’t get too carried away with any one thing. Don’t become too set in your ways. That was the message from parents and teachers. That was the cue the culture gave.
But America these days is an immoderate land of fixed opinions and outsize fixations. More and more we wallow: in our established political philosophy; in our preferred interest group; in our pastime of choice; in whichever health routine we’ve turned into a health religion. 
America is "The Land of the Binge," according to Frank Bruni (and no matter how we think otherwise, us frummies get sucked into the lifestyles of the land around us). 
“It’s all or nothing,” she wrote, flagging a dichotomy: cooking in trendy restaurants has never been fattier, while the trend of “cleansing” with a severe regimen of liquefied fruits, vegetables and nuts has never been hotter. Feast or famine. Binge or beet juice.
I turned from her lament to the front page of The Times. It reported the accidental death of someone participating in the X Games, a magnet for “extreme athletes,” as the article called them. The word “extreme” stuck with me and struck a chord. We compete extremely (look at Lance). Work out extremely (look all around you). Eat extremely. Watch extreme amounts of whatever we’ve decided we love, which we love in extremis. Even our weather is extreme: superstorms, Frankenstorms, snowmageddons.
Frum bloggers will rhapsodize about a new hip restaurant, hailing their shmaltzy potatoes, the next month reviewing a juice plan.

We become extreme with our religion, constantly trying to outdo the other. Pesach sedarim must last until 2 a.m, as participants wheeze after consuming freshly-grated horseradish. Oh, and the cleaning? No, disinfecting the house never was necessary. Purim must be "celebrated" by drinking excessively. One Rosh HaShana one can't move for the simanim, as goat heads rival with celery for room on an overburdened table.
We’re immoderate not just in our affiliations, but also in our impulses. “Work Out So Hard You Vomit” proclaimed a headline on not so long ago; the story with it presented a tour through the long, grueling trials to which the fitness-intent subject themselves.
Never mind studies that suggest that moderate exertion — less than 20 miles of running a week, not more, and at a stately pace — bodes best for well-being.
When did self-flagellation, in the name of overdosing or self-denial, become so pervasive
And actual diets, by which I mean those aimed at superfluous chins, are flamboyantly ascetic, with solid food exiting the equation for three days, for five days, even for 10. The BluePrintCleanse, the Cooler Cleanse and other retail juice fasts have surged in popularity over recent years. Sales of juice extractors are also on the upswing. Even our self-punishment is indulgent. We binge on deprivation.  
I have one task at work that I hate with every fiber of my being: filing. The dim, claustrophobic room, struggling to shove space on the shelves for the bursting redwells, the fear that I may be squashed by a coworker as he mindlessly twirls the handcrank—shiver. I usually tackled the chore in a recognizable pattern; spending an hour filing, then avoiding the mounting pile for months on end. 

One day I realized this could not go on. I told myself that I would spend ten minutes daily, at least, in there. One day I would hurriedly flee as soon as the ten minutes were up; another day I would get caught up and maybe spend as much as twenty. But I was doing it every day, simply by applying the golden mean. Maimonedes came up with this concept quite a long time ago.
Not eating right? Cutting out processed foods alone will be a major adjustment. Take a stroll in a fruit store. Become acquainted with the abundant greenery available. Then, after a healthful meal, one can even have a little ice cream.     


Laura said...

I've been curious about the juice cleanse fast and I'm a big believer in moderation--instead of extreme diets and extreme exercise and extreme indulgence I try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, I take a long walk everyday (mostly), I try to avoid processed food, I try to limit fat, salt and sugar intake and I eat whole grains.
But, here is the thing: after a certain age, it becomes harder for a woman to lose weight (I'm certainly finding it hard, and yes, I roast vegetables all the time). And in general people find it hard to stick with moderation. So, I can see the appeal of a "quick fix," a "jump start," something that will give fast, dramatic results.
People also feel driven to get and be "the best." So, that means the best restaurant, the best diet, the best body . . . I think it is a reluctance to accept our limitations and accept being so-so.
But, in a way, isn't that a good Jewish thing? Not accepting so-so and striving to be more? The question, I think, is whether you are striving to be more out of ego or something more spiritual.

Princess Lea said...

One thing that is very Jewish is the knowledge that there is no such thing as a "quick fix." Rather, we understand the power of small movements; change something little, and one grows by leaps and bounds.

There cannot be dramatic results without dramatic effort. There are no shortcuts.

Not all people want to be the best. I'm too darn lazy. I focus only on the best for me.

Unless someone is morbidly obese and in danger of a heart attack, juicing will probably just allow one to quickly drop five pounds, only to have it come back. Especially with weight loss, quick fixes just don't work - the human body gets nervous when it loses drastic amounts of weight too quickly, and tries its best to get it back.

I would suggest instead to take a week or so and make the main food group vegetables. When I first heard the idea from Dr. Fuhrman that veggies should be the main food group, I was all "But I totally eat vegetables! Wait a sec, I don't."

Keep sugar and other indulges to Shabbos only. I mean no chocolate, no cake, no cookies, only on Shabbos. My cousin (who's near 60) lost 30 pounds by having no mezonos or hamotzi on the weekdays.

Laura said...

Funny you should mention Fuhrman. I actually have Dr. Fuhrman's book and have been using it. I eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables and I do limits sweets. I don't need to lose all that much weight, my BMI is a healthy 23, but it used to be 20, and I would like to go back to that. My BMI was 20 until about when I hit my forties. Trust me, middle age does make it harder to keep you weight down.

My point wasn't what I could do to lose weight or eat more healthfully. My point was that maybe people deserve the benefit of the doubt (dan l'kaf zchus) if they juice cleanse. Maybe they think as you said that "There cannot be dramatic results without dramatic effort," and this juice cleanse is their dramatic effort. Maybe they don't see it as a quick fix, but as a way to break the cycle of unhealthy eating and purge themselves to break their addiction. I don't know that I would do it, but I am curious about it and prefer to reserve judgment about people who try it.

Princess Lea said...

I did not think my point was being judgemental. My point was echoing Frank Bruni's observation that in many areas, not just dieting, Americans only know extremes, all or nothing.

I have watched "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," and while I applaud Joe Cross's success (I have a post written about that already, going up eventually), do to the extreme deprivation necessary, I don't think it can be maintained unless one has a camera trained on them.

I was not casting aspersions upon your weight; I figured you were in the same boat as me, post-Pesach and Shavuos, with simply some excess jiggle that has to be taken care of. I was suggesting a plan that is currently working for me (no sugar during the week).

There are people out there who are juicing simply because it is a trend, not because it is best for them or even necessary. That is my point: all, or nothing.