Supplements are akin to training wheels on a bicycle. They might provide the illusion of mastery, but the confidence is of the phony variety. From slate.com:
It’s an iconic scene: The child is nervous on his shiny new Schwinn, but he trusts his father—and his training wheels. On the sun-dappled day they are finally removed, the child is confident that his training wheels have prepared him to ride a bike—that they have trained him. His father runs beside the bicycle, holding onto the seat, and then lets go. The child triumphantly sails forth—face down, into the pavement.
Like those training wheels, supplements don’t train us to ride the bike. They don’t teach us balance or to be in tune with our body. They’re dangerous, because they’re highly processed and poorly regulated. Our bodies struggle to recognize them, because they’re isolated and altered from the natural state. We’re still learning that nutrients and vitamins work in concert with others, not in a singular state.
The only way to truly gain a sense of confidence is to remove those training wheels. Replace the bottles of pills with bowls of vibrant food, locally sourced eggs, organic black coffee, grass fed beef, sustainably sourced fish – you get the idea.
Supplements can have their place. Plenty of studies done on populations of prisoners indicate that they are healthier and less prone to repeat crimes if their foods are supplemented with the vitamins and minerals they lack. Individuals in jail are truly unable to seek out sources of whole foods. For everyone else, it’s just an excuse.
I hear it all the time from athletes. They take fish oil, because they won’t go out and eat whole fish. They won’t crush spinach or a ripe, juicy orange, so they need a bottle of vitamin C. They won’t go outside and allow the sun to grace their skin, so they down vitamin D pills. Protein powders, green food pills, enzymes, anti-oxidants – the list goes on. At best, you’re burning your cash. At worst, you’re harming your health.
Back to the training wheels example. Is a young boy or girl more susceptible to tipping over without their training wheels? The answer is indisputably yes. So why wouldn’t we keep the training wheels on forever? We want that moppet to learn balance, the laws of motion and, most importantly, self-esteem. Nothing compares to the genuineness of the smile of a kid riding a bike for the very first time.
Learning to get the fuel your body needs through real, whole foods empowers you to exhibit control. Instead of being beholden to whatever the manufacturer dumps into your pills, you will feel confident in what you’re putting you’re your body. Next time you’re sick, skip the immune booster and eat whole foods with superior profiles. You’ll feel better, and, more importantly, your approach will be more effective. Like the operator of a bicycle, our bodies thrive on balance. From health.harvard.edu:
The idea of boosting your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for several reasons. The immune system is precisely that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There is still much that researchers don’t know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response.
Learning to achieve that balance and interconnectedness is a gift in perpetuity. Artificially induced sleep, nutrition and hydration all set the bar extremely low and stunt our human growth. Remove the supplements, release the seat and raise the bar. As a society, we can and will meet the challenge.