The headline grabbed my attention; a “new study” featured in the New York Times shows living at higher altitudes helps you lose weight.  Well, Sisyphus, don’t pack your bags for Colorado just yet.  Soon enough another ‘study’ will send that weight loss plan rolling back down the hill to failure.

There are so many ‘studies’ out there when it comes to our health, it does feel like we’re eternally pushing a boulder uphill, never reaching the top.  That’s because too many ‘weight loss’ plans aren’t sustainable for the way we live today.  Even worse, we tend to believe the most ridiculous health claims (hello, Jenny McCarthy?) simply because the messenger looks good, is influential, or is a celebrity.  We listen when these ‘quasi-experts’ claim that juice cleanses, avoiding meat, avoiding carbs, fat, dairy or diet soda, etc. is the answer.

The latest to enter the fray is a former Australian TV star, now an author and a self-appointed health advocate, Sarah Wilson.  “I quit sugar for life and you can too!” says Wilson, who recently appeared on the Today Show to prove her point while making a sugar-free dessert.

Wilson says by ridding her diet of all sugar (high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, beet sugar and processed foods that have sugar) she not only lost weight, but her wrinkles, insomnia, muscle and joint stiffness, acid reflux and acne disappeared.  I’m certainly not advocating for sugar, but she lost me with this claim: “One hundred years ago we ate eggs for breakfast, meat at lunch, vegetables prepared simply, fruit as a treat and drank our milk whole. One hundred years ago type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cholesterol issues were a much less significant problem.”

Sarah, you just pulled a ‘Jenny’ (McCarthy).  Doctors, historians and anyone who had a loved one who lived ‘back in the day’ knows that’s wrong.  The average lifespan 100 years ago was just 52 years for men and 56 for women.  Most died from influenza, gastrointestinal infections, and ‘yes’ heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases.  Don’t forget polio!  Today, the average lifespan is 79.

Food preparation and farming was a hardship 100 years ago, too.  Choices were few and the labor of putting a meal on the table was no ‘picnic.’  My late grandmother talked about spending all day in a sweltering farmhouse kitchen making bread from scratch, plucking chickens, pickling vegetables, canning fruit, pulling weeds in the garden, hanging laundry, raising children, doing dishes, sewing and starting all over again at dawn.  It was tiresome, unheralded, but expected work for life on the farm in the ‘good ole days.’ Our Grandmothers and great-grandmothers didn’t complain.  Or blog about it.  That’s just the way it was.

When nostalgia honors our ancestors and traditions, it’s one thing.  But to counsel others to shun innovation, progress and science of today’s farming, that’s just plain ignorant.  Innovations are good; they brought sanitizing-cycle dishwashers, modern vaccinations and cell phones.  Innovation brought us renewable energy, GPS planters and improved conservation on today’s farms.  I wish the Sarah Wilson’s of the world could see the wisdom of innovation and how the lifestyle they advocate only takes away choices, while adding guilt. Who needs that?  Besides, didn’t you read the latest study?  Guilt causes slumped shoulders.

By Laurie Johns. Laurie is the public relations manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.