Where Are the Grown-Ups? (Or: Get Your Unicorn!)

Eat more fat if you want. Or, eat less fat. Either way, if you miss the big picture, it is unlikely to make you less fat.
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When Donald Trump is President, he will give each of us our very own speckled unicorn.

Actually, I may have made that up, but he might as well have promised it. It would fit right in.

No, I'm not a fan. I'm not into isolationist, racist, misogynistic, bombastic propaganda. But that's not the point. The point is that the only thing Mr. Trump doesn't lie about as a matter of routine is the fact that he lies about everything as a matter of routine. He is called out for lying all the time, and in response, changes the subject and lies louder. But not about lying. There is something refreshingly honest about that.

No, not really. Let's move on.

This isn't about him. It's about us.

You know what W said, or tried to: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. We are way past that. We've been fooled so many times we seem to have run out of shame. In fact, if you aren't in line to be fooled again today, you are on the wrong side of the bedazzled wall we will be building on the border.

Never mind politics; let's talk about plates.

The New York Times just ran a piece devoted to the proposition that we should eat more fat to be thin (and, we may hope, healthy, too), and frankly, I don't get it. For one thing, there is nothing remotely new about that proposition. Even the staid Dietary Guidelines for Americans have moved beyond advising any particular limit on dietary fat intake.

For another, a focus on a macronutrient -- any macronutrient -- rather than foods is a tired out notion that was dubious at the outset. It was yesterday's news yesterday, and has never done anything other than lead us astray. Fooled us more than once, in other words.

But most importantly, the contention is a gimmick. It resurrects the inevitably best-selling idea that effortless weight loss, beauty, agelessness, or excreting rainbows is just one scapegoat or silver bullet away.

The reality? Sure, you can eat a high-fat diet and be thin and healthy. They've been doing it in, for instance, Ikaria, Greece and Sardinia, Italy for generations. But provided your overall diet is made up of actually wholesome foods in some genuinely sensible combination, you can be just as thin and healthy on a diet very low in fat. They have been doing that for generations in Loma Linda, California, and Okinawa, Japan, among other places.

Of course, the populations that achieve enviable health, vitality, longevity and weight control don't just eat well, whether high fat or low. They are also physically active, don't tend to smoke, get enough sleep, avoid stressing out, and value their connections to other people and the community more than bedazzled walls. Alas, that formula works a bit less well in a headline than: eat more fat. Or, for that matter: get your unicorn.

Eat more fat if you want. Or, eat less fat. Either way, if you miss the big picture, it is unlikely to make you less fat.

You know that.

Unfortunately, some of this stuff actually matters. Some of this stuff is serious. Stuff like: our health and that of our children; basic human decency; the fate of the planet.

Serious issues are generally best addressed by serious people. Or at least, grown-ups.

Where are they? Unabashed gimmickry, and unashamed propaganda about politics, presidents, our plates, and the planet seem to muster very few. That's a shame. Our ancestors can't be too proud, and our progeny will wind up paying for it all. Oh, well. At least we have our unicorns.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Fool us perennially? We'll vote for you, and buy your book.


Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center; Griffin Hospital

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