I’ve just finished my annual game of Bullsh*t Bingo: New Year Newspaper Health Story special edition and I’ve completed it in record time.
I can’t take all the credit. A special mention has to go to the hacks who cobbled the stories together.
Anyway, here’s what I had to find for a full house:
- A story about how you should do less exercise if you want to get in shape
- Two stories saying contradictory things in the same paper
- A list of exercises that burn belly fat that don’t burn belly fat
- A list of foods that are healthy in 2024 (let’s not worry about what they were last year)
- A ‘survey’ that skews numbers to make foods that are fine look unhealthy
Exercise in futility
First up we’ve got The Sun, with the headline “Here’s how doing LESS exercise is better for you”.
This is classic newspaper health story territory. Get fit without any effort. And The Sun have my sympathy here. They’re not exactly writing for a bunch of fitness fanatics so the reader needs to be coaxed into caring. I get that. They need the carrot, not the stick. Not that they’re into carrots.
Anyway, the story kicks off with “Many of us are trapped in the mindset of ‘more equals better’ when it comes to exercise.” I mean, that’s not really true, but we’ll crack on.
“Whether that be a gruelling 5km run or a booty-building home workout video – we seem to think proper exercise requires hard work and lots of sweating. This all-or-nothing attitude can make it very tempting to give up on exercise altogether.” That’s an impressive leap there. And ‘all or nothing’? Come on. We’re talking about a jog and a C-list celeb home workout DVD here. It not exactly Dave Goggins territory.
The intros for these stories are always a bit forced so let’s see if the Sun’s fitness expert can give us something more sensible. “Working out lots can sometimes result in over-training, which can be a detriment to your progress and your health,” she says.
So the ‘less exercise is better’ thing is about the negative effects of over-training. Now, I don’t mean to be unkind but I’m guessing that over-training isn’t the biggest exercise challenge the average person who gets their health advice from a red-top is facing.
Maybe the broadsheets will set a higher standard, although the Telegraph Health homepage doesn’t cover itself in glory.
“How going vegan for a month could help your heart health” says one story. “Don’t give up meat, it’s better for your health than you think” says another, just below it. Go ahead folks, click on whatever you want to believe.
Little fat lies
Next up it’s the Express, with the headline “Four exercises to get rid of belly fat – ‘noticeable results’ in a few weeks”.
Noticeable results, you say? Count me in. So, what are these fat-burning super-moves (ignoring the fact that classifying exercises in that way is meaningless)? Presumably a list of multi-joint exercises that recruit lots of muscle groups and use lots of energy.
It’s what? Four abs moves. You’ve got to be kidding me. Performing a quick circuit of abdominal exercises will do nothing to shrink your waistline. I don’t want to patronise you by saying this but to lose fat you’re going to need look past some combination of tightening up your diet and expending more energy through exercise. Performing a plank is a valid part of a training plan but, on it’s own, will have no impact on body composition.
Maybe the nutrition stories will be better. The Times. There’s a reputable paper. What are they saying? “The top 10 healthiest foods to try in 2024” doesn’t sound great, to be honest. What does the year have to do anything? Were they not healthy in 2023? Let’s dive in and find out.
Ah, ok, so they’ve split them up into food types. They’ve picked the best meat, the best vegetable and the best bread. That’s easy to take in. And it’s pointless. Utterly, utterly pointless.
Here’s why, starting with the ‘meat and poultry’ section. They’ve gone for turkey, with lamb getting an honourable mention. Turkey is fine. But is it ‘healthier’ than chicken? Better than beef? I can’t answer that because it isn’t a sensible or useful question. It means nothing. And do I just eat turkey? Every meal? For the rest of time? How much turkey do I have to eat every meal for the rest of time? They don’t go into that.
The ‘best’ vegetable you can eat is broccoli, apparently. As for nuts, that’s Brazils. Which is interesting because the same paper last year under the headline “The 12 foods to eat more of in 2023” said you should eat almonds. So, to re-cap, 2023 was the year of the almond. In 2024, the Brazil nut is king. Hold tight, pecans. Your time will come.
If The Times is letting me down, I feel a bit uneasy about turning to The Daily Mail, but here we go.
Ten times! That’s massive. And I’m quite into the booze-free beers these days so maybe this is going to be genuinely useful.
The worst “offender” as they put it in their typically restrained prose turns out to be Speckled Hen beer. The alcoholic option contains 0.2g of sugar and the low alcohol one has 2.0g.
That is indeed 10 times as much. And it’s the equivalent of a whopping, er, one-third of a square of chocolate. Hang on. That can’t be right. They can’t be getting worked up over one-third of a square of chocolate. There’s no way The Mail would take a number and use it out of context to create a sense of fear and anxiety. Eh? Oh.