Publisher and fitness and nutrition guru Robert Kennedy died last week of cancer at age 73. Among his many magazines is Clean Eating, which runs parallel to his wife’s, Tosca Reno, successful line of books based on her Eat Clean diet. A brief couple of lines in the description of the diet rings a particularly discordant note today: “Never worry about counting calories again. You will never have to diet. Eating Clean will keep you lean and healthy for the rest of your long life“.

I suppose one could quibble about what a long life is, but whatever it is, age 73 falls far short of any definition, including the average life span of a North American male (app. 81).  Just like when Jim Fixx (the man generally credited with creating the running revolution in the 1970’s) died at age 52, or when Michel Montignac (Montignac Diet) died at age 66 two years ago of prostate cancer, or when perhaps the world’s most celebrated nutritionist, Adelle Davis, died of cancer at age 70 in 1974, these deaths raise questions about the theories and lifestyles that each has proposed. When asked how she felt about being diagnosed with cancer, Davis reputedly rationalized it by saying that she had to believe that if she hadn’t followed her “healthy” lifestyle, she would have died much earlier.

The Adelle Davis Foundation web site says the following: “Adelle Davis, one of the country’s best known nutritionists, was born in 1904, and lived an active 70 years”. Yes, but considering she was quoted as saying she had never seen anyone who drank a quart of milk a day as she did, die of cancer, the point is that she DIED way prematurely of precisely that!

One may well dismiss each of these examples as statistically irrelevant. It may well be that followers of Kennedy, Fixx, Montignac, and Davis do live longer and healthier lives, in general. But human beings don’t relate well to statistics; we do relate well to what individuals on our “radar” go through. It’s a bit like saying that 98% of priests aren’t pedophiles; It doesn’t much matter if you’ve been diddled by one of the remaining 2%!

After all, fitness gurus don’t write statistical treatises; they speak directly to individuals through their writings. They usually don’t say, “Follow my method and you’ll decrease your chances of dying prematurely by 23%”. They do say things like: “Never worry about counting calories again. You will never have to diet. Eating Clean will keep you lean and healthy for the rest of your long life”.

Maybe the statistical view if the scientifically correct one, but the personal view is more likely the psychologically correct one!

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