The Goldilocks Principle to Healthy Living

Maybe good little Goldilocks had it right. She didn’t want her porridge too hot. Nor too cold. She wanted it just right.

And that’s what you and I should strive for too when it comes to healthy living.

No, you don’t want to be too heavy. Or smoke too much. Or drink too much alcohol or coffee. Or eat too much salt or fat. But that doesn’t mean the government’s abolitionist, prohibitionist stance–against any-and-all smoking, alcohol, coffee, salt, and fat–are scientifically correct.

Let’s start with the overweight issue. I’ve reported recently about the benefits of carrying a little extra weight. You don’t want to be too heavy. Or too lean. But just right.

Plus, the science backs up my “Goldilocks Principle.”

As you’ll recall from a recent Daily Dispatch, a new large-scale analysis linked being moderately overweight with lower disease and death rates. Yes, moderately overweight men and women lived longer than their “normal” lower weight peers!

Researchers uncovered this trend by analyzing data for nearly 3 million people among nearly 100 different countries around the world. They found that frank obesity does increase the risk of dying. And it certainly shortens longevity. But being slightly overweight may actually help. It increases longevity!

Published in January in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), these findings are still shaking the medical world–but they shouldn’t, really. 

Sometimes, I run across a study like this whose authors do not seem to understand human biology. They simply report their findings as some kind of statistical anomaly–which then makes “news.” But you cannot discount the straight-forward statistical analysis in the JAMA study.

Further, this overweight paradox turned up in several other recent studies. In addition, physicians report similar findings in their clinical practices. Many primary care doctors see that their slightly overweight patients live longer with fewer diseases.

Not so long ago, it was just common sense and conventional wisdom you wanted to have some “meat on your bones” as a sign of good health. It was widely considered healthy and desirable for thousands of years. In women, it was prized for bearing healthy children.

On the flip side, if you were underweight you were “sickly.” This common sense approach lasted for centuries. And indeed, the research began to bear this out decades ago. In fact, studies show that being underweight is associated with higher disease and death rates–versus the happy middle.

I believe the evolution of social concerns about body image drastically altered perceptions of what is considered a “normal” or desirable body weight, statistical analyses aside.

Time and time again, common sense tells us that moderation in all things is a key to health–and happiness. Moderation is generally a better way to live than are prohibitionist extremes. And as we saw with the recent weight study, even the science bears out the benefits of moderation!

We can apply this Goldilocks Principle to many things beyond weight…

As I said earlier, the science shows that a little alcohol, a little salt, a little fat, and even a little smoking won’t kill you. On the contrary, each of these–in moderation–may increase your lifespan or reduce your risk of chronic diseases.

Take alcohol, as an example…

A reader of the Daily Dispatch recently attempted to deny to me the now proven benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. She said the French Paradox has been disproved. She even accused me personally of perhaps overindulging to explain my reporting of the scientific facts!

Of course, I’m not talking about excessive alcohol consumption. That is typically associated with malnutrition and being underweight.

But remember the Goldilocks Principle…

I’m talking about enjoying just the right amount of alcohol. A glass or two of red wine with dinner, perhaps, as the French typically do.

And, by the way, the only thing about the French Paradox that has been disproved is this: that the benefits of moderate wine consumption are limited to the French. Study after study worldwide demonstrates the benefits of moderate wine consumption. The French themselves still have the third lowest chronic disease rates in the world, by the way!

Perhaps, in a society absolutely free of any stress, wine consumption might not show benefits. But stress is the great modern killer. And drinking wine certainly counters stress. The same may hold true for other stress-reducers.

I suppose some would like to rekindle the Temperance Movement on some kind of moral or political grounds and bring back the Prohibition Era. But they will have to find another argument. They certainly can’t claim to have science on their side. And the same now applies for the new “diet-salt-alcohol-and-smoking police.”

Here’s what we have learned from the science…

A little smoking, a little wine, a little salt, a little fatty food, and now a little extra weight are all okay. There is simply no evidence…no scientific facts…no proof…to any reasonable standard of evidence…that they are harmful in moderation for the vast majority of people.

Therefore, extreme positions and policies are not about science. Rather, they are about political correctness, self-righteousness, power, and control. It’s still alright, together with these other factors, to use a little common sense…and a little moderation goes a long way.