No birthday cake is not "suffering too great"

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I’ve been following Dr. Yoni Freedhoff on Twitter for some time, and appreciate his espousal — from inside the medicine tent — of many of the same principles for health vis a vis obesity that I hold. Recently, I added an RSS feed of his blog to my reader, and I’ve been working through the backlog.

It’s unfortunate that my first impulse to share his ideas  is over what I regard as a clunker.

In this post, he expresses “worry about the 17 year old girl [on “The Biggest Loser”] who's been taught to think that birthday cakes are tangerines with candles in them.” She had blogged as much in a post for Seventeen magazine. His point is that everyone celebrates birthdays with cake, and the show’s guidance that “no amount of suffering too great to get to some artificial number on a scale” is wayward and counterproductive.

Before I take up that point, I’ll add my voice to his that “The Biggest Loser” is no prize. Not only am I not a defender, I’m not even a viewer, unwilling to subject myself to it even for anthropological study.

But in my view, the outlook that not having cake on one’s birthday is “suffering too great” is completely absurd. Remove the echo chamber of society and there is nothing intrinsic between cakes and birthdays, even if the connection goes back to Roman times, a new-to-me datum that Freedhoff passes on from Wikipedia.

As many readers know, I have chosen not to eat flour and refined sugar for upwards of 15 years, and I regard it as freedom, not suffering. I could add a lot more to that thought, but that’s another whole blog post. The point I want to make here, not original by any means, is that we manufacture a lot of own suffering, to no good end.

I celebrate my birthdays, in part, by *not* having cake, and I am joyous anyway. Flour and refined sugar were negative influences in my life, without doubt, even if I also concede that I have tasted cake — never one of my favorite binge foods — that was delicious.

I have expressed the opinion many times that if any large population would agree to give up all flour and refined sugar for, say, a month, to truly get clean from it, a sizable portion would choose not to return to it, not out of rectitude but out of pure self interest. We are so completely soaked in such substances that most people have no idea what life could be like without them, but when I tried this experiment, I did indeed choose not to go back. I feel happy, and lucky, to have had the willingness to explore it, after years of white-knuckled petulance that “you can’t make me do that.”

It is a form of snow-blindness to think that birthdays can’t be happy without cake, or without any particular food. If that’s a message that “The Biggest Loser” is giving out, even by implication, I have to give it a point or two for that.

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