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Eat a Handful of Nuts! And Other Asinine Dieting Advice

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Earlier this week, Runner’s World published an article promoting a handful of almonds as a healthy snack. The article was based on a scientific study about almonds as a healthy snack, which makes me wonder, where were these scientists when all those other studies on the Virtue of Almonds were being published?

Haven’t we had enough with the almonds?

As a regular reader of running and fitness publications, I’ve long suffered the onslaught of almond-related diet tips. For an afternoon pick-me-up, try a handful of almonds! A dozen almonds can be a great morning snack! Don’t panic about the calories in eight almonds, because they pack a punch!

What I want to know is, who are these people, confidently counting out eight to twelve almonds during their morning snack, or throwing a dozen almonds into a plastic bag before heading out on a day’s journey? Who has such precision, such foresight? Who has such self-control?

Obviously, these scientific studies are written by folks who remain unmoved by the big basket of candy sitting in their reception room, or by the huge vending machine of Saturated Fat calling to them from the hallway. Because, if I have to decide between the baggie of almonds stored in my desk, or the mini-sized Snickers bar within easy reach, I’ll choose the latter. Every. Single. Time.

To be honest, I’m always a little perplexed by the nutrition advice I read, and the disconnect between those giving the advice — and, I don’t know, the rest of humanity. Once, in Runner’s World — the world’s largest advocate for almond handfuls — a reader wondered if she could have some grapes as a bedtime snack, and the response was a resounding Yes! Half a dozen grapes would be a filling, and fulfilling, snack before bedtime.

Half a dozen? I eat that many bedtime grapes between the time I get out a bowl and when I scoop out my late night ice cream.

My sister reminds me that, with the holidays upon us, the other important dietary advice will soon be circulating: before going to a holiday function, we are supposed to eat a handful of almonds (of course!) or a few baby carrots to keep us from chowing on the buffet line.

As if gnawing on carrots (or almonds!) will somehow convince me that I don’t like the steamy artichoke dip and barbequed little smokies gracing some holiday buffet tables. Fat chance: I don’t know about you, but the last time I tried this trick, I suffered through the baby carrots, then helped myself to several Christmas cookies anyway.

I know, I know: the almond-handful advice is meant to contend with obesity epidemics and unhealthy eating and all other kinds of social ills.

But, like the California mom who recently posted a picture of her hot body and three kids, asking everyone else what their fat-assed problem is — why they can’t be as ripped as she is — the handful-o-nuts advice seems entirely tone deaf. Do they really think someone struggling to lose weight will find the panacea in a couple of nuts?

Instead of funding studies about why almonds are the best, most healthful snack (nutritious and delicious! Packed with good fat! Filling!), why not fund a bunch of other nutritional studies. Like:

Why does a college professor eat the candy corn sitting in a bowl on her administrative assistance’s desk, even though, A. a bunch of other folks have already rummaged in said bowl with their own hands, and B. she doesn’t even like candy corn that much, especially at 8:40 in the morning?

Why do folks eat all the donuts out of a box left in the office kitchen, but then not throw away the box, thereby making other people think there are still donuts there?

Why are people so judgmental about those who drink Diet Coke instead of water? Doesn’t Diet Coke have water in it?

I doubt such studies will ever get funded—or, at least not reported in the likes of Runner’s World. Instead, I’ll probably read that candy corn isn’t really a vegetable, despite having corn syrup in it; and that donuts aren’t healthy for folks anyway; and that Diet Coke is somehow bad for me, even though at least one study, somewhere, said I could drink as much as I want.

Or, at least, how about some nutritional advice that us mere mortals, weary of gnawing on carrots and almonds, might actually find doable? Because, perhaps, it’s the lack of achievable nutrition advice that really is our fat-assed problem.

Melanie Mock is a Professor of English at George Fox University, Newberg, Oregon. Her most recent book is Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World, published in 2011. She blogs about (and deconstructs) images of women embedded in evangelical popular culture at Ain’t I a Woman?, and blogs at Writing From the Middle of Things as part of a features writing course I teach. She lives in Dundee, Ore., with her husband and two eleven-year-old sons: Benjamin Quan, adopted from Vietnam at seven months; and Samuel Saraubh, adopted from India at three years.

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