So you want to live a long life, lose fat, and eat healthy…but man, even I get confused some times by all the propaganda out there from “paleo diet experts”, “vegans”, and yes, sadly, even “supplement companies”.

What’s the truth and who can you trust?

Well, the good news is that nutrition is a lot simpler than you think…or at least that’s what my friend Brad Pilon argues in this interview.

What started out as one simple email question from me turned into this extensive Q’n’A of how we can live longer and eat healthy.

CB: Hey Brad, I was reading an article about extreme calorie restriction in humans, and I started thinking,”Is there anything we can really do to live longer? Can we really extend our lifespan through nutrition?” Or is it that we can only shorten our lifespan through bad choices?

BP:
The research on life extension is “iffy” at best.

We know there is a theoretical possibility that by eating very small amounts and maintaining a very low weight for our entire lives we might be able to slightly increase the length of our lives.

However, we know for sure that by overeating (overeating any type of food), and carrying too much weight we can drastically shorten our lives.

We can do lots to improve the quality of our lives, doing our best to make sure every single year is a good year, and we can do lots to shorten our lives, and make every day a tired miserable mess.

Aim for quality, enjoy your foods, but don’t overdo it.

Eat for variety and eat for taste. I would never trade living to 94 for living to 104 if it meant never eating birthday cake, or ice-cream with my daughter.

CB: Well put. So simplify things for us…what are the worst foods we can eat that will shorten our life span?

BP:
Alcohol. In terms of its addictive qualities, toxicity, and availability.

I have no problems with the occasional drink, and the odd social hour, but when you put it all into perspective, it is a diluted poison that we are drinking. Small doses may have health benefits, but large doses can kill you.

Also, Trans-Fats and Sugar – I would say the greater the abuse, the greater the decrease in life (but it’s not like either of them is the equivalent of a cocaine habit or anything).

In the end it always ends up being overeating that is the issue.

Eat less, stress less; move more lift more. For physical health that’s pretty much as good as it gets.

CB: I can do that. I think. Alright, here’s another question I’ve always wondered about…Can a formerly obese person with terrible eating habits completely reverse all of the past damage by losing weight and eating a healthy diet?

BP:
I’m not sure.

Reason being we don’t know conclusively what is and isn’t damage, and really we don’t have a true definition of ‘health’ to work with.

That being said, even if you can never return to “perfect” it’s still worthwhile to attempt to improve your health and your quality of life.

CB: Okay, rapid fire question-and-answer time. I’m going to ask you about controversial nutrition hot topics and you have to tell us the unbiased truth about them…Let’s start with microwave ovens…are they really “bad”?

BP:
It’s dialectic heating it’s not nearly as complicated as people make it out to be. I know ‘radiation’ is a scary word but I’m sure the vast majority of us still listen to the radio when we’re in our car.

Furthermore, to answer this question properly we’d have to define what ‘bad’ really means.

There are many incidences where cooking in a microwave can actually be a healthier option (reduced nitrosamines).

Your food is exposed to heat for shorter periods of time, maintains a higher water activity and develop an even heat.

Any alterations in the nutrients in your food are trivial.  In my mind it doesn’t replace the oven, but I wouldn’t think twice about warming up a cup of Tea in the microwave.

CB: Fish oil supplements.

BP:
In my opinion, fish oil has borderline pharmalogical type activity… while I really like this stuff, I’ve come to believe that no-one should me mega dosing without medical supervision..

There are effects that are large enough that in certain populations their could be negative repercussions.

So try to get more (most of us get less then the institute of medicine recommend), but DO NOT mega dose…

CB: Should we be worried about genetically modified foods?

BP:
Yes. From an Economics point of view.

If GMO’s flood  the market, they could make traditional fruits and vegetables “premium” products and we could actually end up paying fair market value for them.

Fair market value for seasonal produce is not something that many of us can actually afford.

CB: Is organic meat better than regular meat you get at the grocery store?

BP:
I’ve looked all over and talked to dozens of people in the industry and with this one, I still have no clue.

Things to know…

1) The definition of “organic” is very broad and is constantly changing

2) Different countries have very different regulations on the amount of pesticides allowed to be used on farmland.

3) Organic meat regulations in the U.S. are so difficult to comply with that most meat producers can’t manage to get the designation anyway.

Lots of scaremongering on this topic, but it may all be a moot point anyways. For instance if you are BBQ’ing meat, does the organic meat develop less Heterocyclic Amines than the non-organic?

My personal preference is to buy meat locally from farmers I’ve  developed a personal relationship with. If you can find grass fed meats you’re doing great.

If you can actually find real designated organic meat and can afford it by all means go for it. At least you know it has been held to a higher standard of production quality.

CB: What effect will chemicals like Teflon, aspartame, and other environmental exposures have on health and lifespan?

BP:
To be honest, that’s the kind of stuff that scares the s*** out of me, because we have almost zero control

We have to breathe…and we can’t really control what we are breathing…same goes for electrical currents in your home etc….we just can’t control that, so we really can’t worry.

Teflon…my thought is there are other cooking options that are just as good, why not avoid it.

And aspartame?

Well, the idea that it CAUSES weight gain is ridiculous.

That would be very easy to prove in a dose response study… the people saying it causes weight gain are out to lunch.

CB: I agree. Makes no sense.

BP:
It could be correlated with obesity…but so are weight loss pills…as obese people are more likely to drink diet sodas or take diet pills than non-obese people.

As for health and cancer risk…no clue what effect aspartame has…

With cancer, I wish it as as easy as saying “oh it’s aspartame that causes cancer” but that is just foolish and irresponsible.

I try to keep Brier (my daughter) from having artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners, but that’s because she’s still growing and developing.

I make sure I don’t overdo it myself…I’ll have a diet pop or two on the days I’m fasting, so maybe 2-4 per week.

But if I remember correctly there is about 50-100 mg of aspartame in a
diet coke, whereas I think there was 500 mg in the old Myoplex formula, and I used to have 3 of those a day.

The easiest way too look at this is people who almost have to take
artificial sweeteners.

I wonder if the progression of cancer in Diabetics has increased in a manner correlated to their increased use of artificial sweeteners.

Bottom line is your not missing out on anything by avoiding aspartame, so when possible and within reason make non artificial sweetened choices.

CB: Thanks Brad. Last line there pretty much sums up everything…when possible and within reason, make the best choice possible.

The bottom line?

In the end, just remember Brad’s earlier advice:

Eat less, stress less; move more, lift more. For physical health, that’s pretty much as good as it gets.

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men’s Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he’ll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com