“I’m having chocolates for breakfast.”
The phone rings.
I recognize the name.
I pick it up and announce:
“I’m having chocolates for breakfast.”
“And so you should!” is the ecstatic response.
I’m on the phone with James McCormack. James knows a thing or two about nutrition but James isn’t a nutritionist or a dietician. James is a pharmacist by training and a professor in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia. And as much as he teaches pharma, he’s all about the vast field of evidence-based medicine. He cares deeply about what we actually know and what we pretend to know; what is demonstrable and what is supposition. He also has a nose for what passes for healthcare but is actually just commerce. James has spent the last 30 years helping healthcare professionals (and even the odd veterinarian) navigate the best available medical evidence for hundreds of different medical conditions and thousands of different medications. He’s now a confirmed skeptic.
Relax and have a donut.
James thinks we’ve been sold a bill of goods when it comes to nutrition. So many of us slavishly adhere to strict regimens with the fervent hope that it will enhance performance, improve appearance, and extend life and vitality. Apparently, we’re over-thinking all of this and relying on questionable evidence. Relax, says James. Relax and have a donut. Not two donuts, but go enjoy that one heavenly, perfect donut.
In McCormack’s new book, The Nutrition Proposition, James takes the stuffing out of a batch of edicts that he says are, if not baseless, then ill-informed. He posits that there’s little incontrovertible evidence that drinking eight glasses of water a day is necessary; that cutting out salt does much to reduce your risk or heart attacks and strokes; that heaping your plate with greens or fruit, or ancient grains results in a measurable improvement in health or appearance. In fact, James McCormack says that your health isn’t impacted all that much – in a measurable way – by what you eat, provided you’re not being an idiot about it. If 50 percent of what you eat is ultra-processed foods, there’s a good chance there would be a deleterious effect on your health, but if only 10 to 20 percent of your diet is junk food? No harm, no foul.
There are, however, some absolutes. Thing One is: don’t smoke. Thing Two is: get regular physical activity. Thing Three? Eat whole foods with recognizable ingredients. Thing Four: Don’t over-indulge. In anything. Mod-er-a-tion! The overriding objective is to enjoy sensible meals devoid of quackery.
Food, glorious food! Celebrate it!
The reason there are so many diets – keto, paleo, Nordic, DASH, Volumetric – purporting to be the one true path to health and an ideal weight is that all of the supporting evidence is controversial. There’s no widely held agreement. The only way to tease out causation is through nutrition studies that are randomized controlled trials. What the public gets, instead, is cohort studies which can only allude to health associations. James describes it like this: People who get lung cancer tend to have ashtrays in their houses. Can we, therefore, deduce that ashtrays cause lung cancer?
The walk itself will do you more good than whatever pill you were planning on swallowing.
In The Nutrition Proposition, McCormack revisits some of the great food debates. In the chapter on eggs, we’re reminded that eggs have been referred to as an ideal food and then, conversely, as being ‘almost as bad as cigarettes.’ When the subject of supplements is raised, McCormack says the best way to deal with supplements is to leave your vitamin pills at a friend’s house. When it’s time to take that supplement, walk to that friend’s house, either take the pill or don’t, and then walk home. The walk itself will do you more good than whatever pill you were planning on swallowing. According to McCormack, it’s difficult for adults to be truly nutrition-impaired in the modern, western world.
Anything to do with people tends to be hard to measure. We’re a squirmy, self-deceiving lot with a tendency toward narcissism. We’d also like to believe that there are magic bullets out there; cruciferous magic bullets, like broccoli, silken bullets like tofu, hollow bullets like gluten-free foods. According to McCormack we should all relax and stop depending on kale and coconut water to save our lives. You’ve heard it before and here it is again: Moderation is the key. Moderation and an after dinner walk around the block with a friend.
Oh, and maybe you and that friend should go for an ice cream cone once in a while.
If you’d like a copy of James McCormack’s book, The Nutrition Proposition, you can order it on Amazon, or I’ve got a couple of copies to give away! Register for my newsletter to be entered into the draw! By the way, when you sign up, you’ll also receive an invite to my Timex Watch contest!!
Sign up for the Newsletter for more details.
This week’s question for readers:
WHAT DO YOU EAT AND NOT EAT, AND WHY? DO YOU THINK YOUR DIET IS HELPING OR HARMING YOU?
Submissions to last week’s question:
What’s on your wrist? Maybe you’re a watch collector? Have you ever received a watch as a special gift?
Thank you so much for your interesting and informative article on watches and timekeeping in general. I have been a clock and watch collector for the past forty years and enjoy contact with other collectors and timekeeping enthusiasts. As such, I belong to the Clock and Watch Association of British Columbia, a group of approximately thirty five members who meet on a regular basis to enjoy our hobby and learn from others with a variety of horological interests. If any of your readers are interested in joining our Association, or require further information, they can contact me at email@example.com and I will be pleased to answer any questions.John Connolly
When I lived in Norway a few years ago, I was invited to lunch at a friends house. During lunch she happened to mention that her husband’s Grandmother was coming to visit from the Bahamas in a private jet! Oh my, who owns a private jet! She explained that her husband’s late grandfather founded a company which had since been sold. ‘Perhaps you may have heard of it’ she said. ‘It was called TIMEX’. I figured that grandfather was Norwegian Thomas Olson, who bought Waterbury Clock Company in 1941 and renamed it TIMEX.Janet Bowyer
Glad to see someone covering the wonderful world of watches. I own 189 of them. Some vintage, some not. I’ve been collecting for years. What was I wearing the day I read your fine column? I was wearing a Franck Muller Conquistador Sport GPG ‘Master of Complications’ in 18kt rose gold, with black ceramic bezel, on a brown crocodile skin strap. One of my favorites!Alex G. Tsakumis
It was my fourteenth birthday, and my parents had just presented me with my first watch. Expansion bracelet, no less! Ecstatic and proud, I installed it on my left wrist, like I’d seen everyone else do. Later my brothers and I went walking down an old gravel road. We decided to throw rocks at a stop sign. I grabbed a good sized stone and fired a ripping fastball. BANG! BANG! Right on target. The first bang was the sign, the second was the watch. Nobody had bothered to tell me that a left-hander wears a watch on the right wrist. The watch did not survive, and my parents were devastated.Leonard F. Tenisci
I treasured my first Timex, with Twist-o-Flex band. My 30th birthday brought a silver Seiko. The clasp band became my favourite. Flash forward to my 30th anniversary, and I was presented with a beautiful Movado. I adore the slimline design, weightless feel, and complete dependability. A shared passion with my dearest friends led to a treasure hunt. I’ve added an Omega Constellation (my first automatic) to my collection, and a Momentum Mini ( fantastic local company). My dream watch, a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Duetto, recently came home. Manually wound, it requires my daily attention. Time is beautiful.Pamela Cohen
My first watch was indeed a Timex. I remember the Marlin ads and received one when I was about seven. It made me feel grown up. The first watch I remember buying came from Sears in Kelowna in the early 70s. It was a quartz model and served me well through a year of diving and sailing in Grenada before it lost itself. Then there’s the 1981 Seiko from a jeweller in Prince George. Though I rarely wear it now, it’s still in great shape and deadly accurate. And I have a Gucci picked up in Vegas maybe six years later. Slender and discreet unlike the bling things they flog now, it’s my special occasion piece. But above all, I treasure my grandfather’s mid 1950s automatic Omega Seamaster awarded to him at an International Harvester convention in Chicago. Serviced by Omega, it works like a charm. Full circle, my everyday since 2014, has been a Timex Indiglo that takes a constant beating in my reno business. Sixty bucks and still ticking!Tim Gleason
Last year my brother passed away in Scotland and it was left to my relatives to clear out his house ready for sale. We were not able to travel back to Scotland to help with this task, due to COVID and were surprised when they informed us that they had discovered a total of 67 watches stashed away in various rooms, some of them never worn and still in the original boxes. We all knew he had a fondness for watches and on-line shopping and often teased him about it but had no idea just exactly how fond he was of these timepieces. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a Rolex in this collection!Leonora Russell
I’m a big watch fan! But the best watch may not be the most prestigious but rather the most useful! Here is my tip in 80 words:
“You Light Up My Life – when a watch transcends time. I’m a big Timex Indiglo fan. This feature saved me several times. Once I was startled awake in inky pitch-black darkness. As I emerged from the fog of sleep, I recalled I was backpacking in an isolated village in Vietnam. I remained disorientated until I activated the watch glow to light up the room. Eureka! Subsequently I have built up a collection of Indiglo watches for my global travels.”Sam Louie
There is a saying: “Punctuality is the courtesy of kings”. The Fitbit timepiece on my wrist keeps me as close to being royal, as I ever will be. It also tells me all kinds of data, I do or don’t want to know. When I immigrated to Canada, I was introduced to an antiquated time system – am, pm – unfortunately the zero hour was missing, but there was noon and midnight. All the digital clocks in my home are set to the 24 hour system, as is my Fitbit, sometimes a bit confusing for visitors. This might be a topic for future columns.
Carpe diem!H. J. Ruger
My watch is a 17 jewel Swiss male watch. My father got it for free in England in the sixties with cigarette coupons. It is a beauty and much admired by collectors and strangers. I wear it constantly and love it dearly. It was on his wrist when he died in 1988 in Vancouver Hospital, ironically from lung disease. My mother said if he had to smoke then smoke the ones that gave free gifts, which he dutifully did!Val Barrett
When my father turned 21, his father gave him a pocket watch with a customized dial. Instead of numbers his name and initials were used: CHASGSTEWART for Charles Gordon Stewart. He gave my brother and I wristwatches with our names when we turned 21, mine reads DOUGGSTEWART for Douglas Gordon. I wore mine for many years but got tired of replacing the crystal every time I scratched it, now I wear a less expensive one that I just replace every so often.Doug Stewart
During high school and university, my primary part time job(s) were teaching swimming and lifeguarding. During a training session I casually put my watch on the bench, as I had forgotten to leave it at home. It was stolen. I was really annoyed, as this was a private session. A few months later my dad returned from one of his many business trips to Asia, and handed me a new watch. He chose one I could wear in the water, thus never lose it.It was a Rolex. At the time I did not really appreciate its value .From that point on, for years to come I never took it off. Literally. This includes both child births. I was not parting with my precious watch. Recently, I received a gift of an Apple Watch. Well, this was quite a dilemma for me. I have now parked my Rolex , and am wearing the Apple. We all know the attributes of these watches. Even my kids were a bit shocked when they saw the Rolex missing from my wrist.I am considering bringing it back , so to speak.C. Louie