Yes. It’s true. In the meantime, I’d also like to live. Except, nobody wants to let me live--they all want to remind me of how I’m going to die, or how I’m going to cause my children to die.
I was packing my kid’s lunch the other day, and tossed in a Twinkie with a smile and stroke of endearment, when I happened to glance at my kid's class newsletter on the table. It informed me that if I feed my child Twinkies, I might as well be feeding him rocket fuel. Rocket fuel, sheet rock, and Twinkies are made out of the same things. If you consume rocket fuel, you are sheet rock and if you are sheet rock, you will die. I am killing my child.
I thought of replacing his Twinkie with an apple. But I didn't have organic apples, and hence, they have no nutrition. Rather, they are miniature toxin and pesticide-infected death bombs. In buying non-organic apples I am also killing the earth by causing soil erosion. Good thing my son doesn't like apples. But, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Except, apples will also kill him.
I came home from a refreshing morning run a couple weeks ago and was stretching when my husband informed me of the latest research on running. If I run too much, it is worse than not moving at all. Ever. If you never move, you may as well be dead, and running too much is worse than that. So running is worse than being dead.
I was at a wellness check a couple weeks ago for my baby and told my pediatrician that my infant was exclusively breastfed and loving life. She looked me square in the eye and asked if I’d heard about the latest study? Apparently we can’t love life yet, because my breast milk doesn't have enough Vitamin D. She anxiously gave me a free sample of the life-saving drops to add to my breast milk. So now my baby will grow stronger bones than my other children, which means he won’t have a hunchback when he’s 74. But, no worries, neither will the other kids--they’ll all be dead, because they were breastfed without Vitamin D drops.
A few months ago, I was sitting on the couch enjoying some cookies and cream ice-cream when I saw an article that said a new study shows that to rats, Oreos are more addictive than cocaine. So, Oreos will kill me, because I am just like a rat. And of course cocaine is equal to Oreo fluff, and cocaine kills rats. So, Oreos kill people.
I was at a play group last summer spraying my children with sunscreen when I overheard some moms talking about the latest study on sunscreen--apparently, I was endangering my children. We're supposed to use sunscreen because if we don’t, we’ll die of skin cancer. But we shouldn't use spray-on sunscreen because if we do and then we breathe, we’ll contract asthma, which restricts breathing, which can kill us. But at least it won't be death by skin cancer.
I was happily eating eggs, toast and bacon the other day, when I saw a viral article containing the 10 foods Americans love that no other country will touch with a 10-foot pole. What?! I'm eating ractopamine disguised as a pig, which causes chromosomal abnormalities and erratic behavior changes? I'm eating potassium bromate disguised as white bread, which is linked to kidney and nervous system disorders? But won't whole wheat bread mutate my genes? And I am eating arsenic disguised as an egg, which is a notorious poison? How did my grandpa, who gambled with life every day during breakfast on the family farm, avoid spontaneous mutation and a slow and painful death? Must have just been luck. Because the ractopamine and arsenic with a side of kidney-hating grains that he ate every morning are now my executioners.
I was munching on some impressively organic carrots the other day and about to choose a dip from my selection of fat-free salad dressing that I had purchased because the ones with fat were going to kill me. But then I remembered that the war against fat is over. So, in the trash they go, because low-fat diets are contributing to our obesity epidemic and obesity will kill me.
Okay. So, I get it. And I'm with you. I too would love for me, my children, and my children's children to die peacefully in our sleep at the age of 99, after having eaten a totally organic breakfast followed by a juice cleanse, topped off with a vigorous session of Zumba and a successfully completed, expert-level crossword puzzle. But here's the thing: in our obsessive quest to ensure an ideal, high-quality death in the future, we are hijacking our shot at a joyful and high-quality life in the present.
I've known families living in debt because they will only eat, clean with, and bathe in things organic; I've known parents who can't hold down jobs because they practically live in the ER and prescription drive-thru, running in over every single sniffle. I've known children who suffer from anxiety at school because their teachers practically pat them down every day to make sure they're not concealing peanut-infested food--because if they are, they would then cause the death of Jimmy, five doors down, who has peanut allergies. And I've known married couples who can't go out to eat on dates because no restaurant will cater to their special dietary whims.
Who wants to live this way?! I understand that there are some legitimate scenarios where diets and lifestyles really do need to be adjusted. But for the most part, all of this, which began as an innocent attempt to be wise, cautious, and healthy, is now getting completely out of hand. Even worse, we're running on information that is often false. If it were true, if I really believed this stuff had a significant chance of altering my life, or death, for the better, you may have me halfway on board. But the thing is, most of it is not true, or only partially true. And what is considered "true" today may be false tomorrow.
Take, for example, this article, where the author tries to convince us that choosing to hold your child on your lap on an airplane is akin to climbing “the side of a sheer mountain with your baby in one arm and a pickaxe in the other." Yes. Exactly the same thing. Except that in one instance the chance of death is about 95%, and in the other, the chance of death equals about .00002%.
And this was published on USA Today in all of its sophisticated glory. Real adult human beings on planet earth are falling for the blatant, fear-mongering tactics of those driven by profit, power, or even misinformation that they themselves are fed--all vying for our dedicated readership. And it's controlling our lives.
What we see in these articles is almost always consistent across the board. The news, the studies, and the quotations tend to either leave out numbers or masterfully disguise the real numbers to be something far beyond what they are. We're told things like, "You're 10 times more likely to die if..." While this may be true, when you dig a little deeper and do the real math, ten times a minuscule number still equals a minuscule number. The differences in health, safety, disease-prevention, and life-preservation almost always end up being nearly negligible.
As just one example of the formulaic click-baiting and bad reporting I am talking about, I can't tell you how many times I've seen articles shouting that drinking diet soda will cause cancer. But when I actually did the research using primary sources--and by research, I don't mean reading anecdotal evidence, websites that have a clear agenda either way, secondary sources, people's opinions, or any of the other easily-accessible but so often non-factual junk you can find on the internet--I found that most of the claims were just outright absurd, and for "diet soda causes cancer" to be even remotely true, I would have to be a rat who was injected with obscene and impossible amounts of artificial sweetener--every day throughout my life--and then just maybe I could get cancer. But, the headlines and 500 internet commenters tell me it will happen, hence, it must be true, right?
So, for the extremely remote possibility that drinking soda might actually cause cancer, one will avoid soda like the plague for the rest of their life and preach these gruesome, half-truth, cancer-filled details to their soda-loving friends and family at the risk of annoying or offending to the point of self-alienation. Never mind the newest study saying that cancer is usually the result of just plain old bad luck (and yes, don't take that at face value either).
Are you following me? Please say you are. Because it needs to stop. The latest mind-boggling, manipulative, irrational-fear-inducing articles, offering gross misinterpretations of vague numerical summaries--these aren't going to stop. But we can stop. We can stop falling for the scare-tactics and use a little critical thinking. It's not that hard to do the research, to find the primary sources, to do the math--and as a result, to be able to quiet the fear and look at things with a bit more perspective.
I am still running outside, sometimes without sunblock on. The same son that ate his Twinkies also licked sheet rock last summer, no joke. And last night, in a fit of rebellion, I threw out the Vitamin D drops, and made Oreo milkshakes while snacking on a genetically engineered apple. To top it all off, I still occasionally fly on an airplane, with a child in my lap, while enjoying some carbonated poison. Not only are we all miraculously alive, but we’re generally in good health and loving life, despite our risky lifestyle.
Don’t get me wrong, we try to eat nutritious meals at our family dinners, we all buckle up in the car, and we canceled our family vacation to an Ebola-infested portion of West Africa. It's called using good judgment, moderation in all things…LIVING. Even so, we're all still gonna die. But for the love of all things that are beautiful and amazing in life, please, let us live!