When Bad Things Happen to Good Runners: Oscar in Trouble
Everyone’s heard the expression, “You are what you consume.” Oscar Pistorius and his hero’s reputation are in trouble. It turns out this world champion runner and celebrated good guy is suspected of being a consumer of testosterone, a hormone that feeds aggressive behavior.
The police say they found needles and testosterone when they searched his house; his defense attorney says Pistorious was taking an herbal formula and denies all illegal drug-taking activity.
The case is unfolding, but here’s what we do know: Oscar is charged with premeditated murder, a top-line crime on the aggressive behavior scale. He shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend. He fired his gun through a closed bathroom door. She was hit by three of his bullets — one in the face, one in the elbow, one in the hip — and died before she reached the hospital.
Oscar — a gun enthusiast — was sobbing in the courtroom. He didn’t know she was in the bathroom, he says. He thought she was still in bed. Oscar says he believed there might be an intruder in the house. He went on full alert. He had to protect himself and went after this dangerous threat with guns blazing.
This is what testosterone is good for. It makes you jump the gun, go from zero to 60 without reason or judgment interfering. It’s got its good side, too —who doesn’t? — but the reason I am including this headline-grabbing murder case in a column about healthy lifestyle is to remind us that we really are what we consume.
Hormones aren’t harmless. Chemicals have consequences. So do all the herbal supplements, caffeine and cola drinks, and high sugar, fat and sodium products churned out by many food, beverage and drug manufacturers.
These companies exist to make money. Your existence depends on your willingness to read labels and understand what you’re consuming. Then you can decide if you want to add toxic transfats, artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners and chemical additives into your body. It’s your choice.
Just as it’s Oscar Pistorius’ choice to consume testosterone — if, in fact, he did. We will see how the case unfolds, and if the Testosterone Defense — a high T variation on the Twinkie defense during the Harvey Milk trial — is part of it.
Meanwhile, do your part, dear Readers. If you studied the ingredient lists of the foods and drinks you buy with the same intensity you studied postings on Facebook, or the dresses on the Red Carpet, our country would go from zero to 60 when it comes to controlling health costs.
The Oscar Pistorius story is a tragedy from every perspective. And so is our continuing national numbness to the food and drink we consume. We are feeding ourselves sick. It doesn’t have to be this way. Sometimes I get so stressed thinking about it, I go through an entire bag of Doritos.
So let me conclude with some encouraging news. There is a shift coming, and the Big Food industry titans are feeling it. Little by little, pound by pound, there is a change in the air … and in the ingredient lists. It’s too little, too late, many would say, but it’s what progress looks like, if we keep up the pressure.
“The growing attention Americans are paying to what they put in their mouths has touched off a new scramble by the processed food companies to address health concerns. Kraft, Nestle, Pepsi, Campbell and General Mills, among others, have begun to trim the loads of salt, sugar and fat in many products,” Pulitzer Prize winning ace investigative journalist Michael Moss reported in The New York Times Magazine last week.
His article is an astonishing expose of the processed-food industry, adapted from his upcoming new book, “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.” It’s already stirring an obese amount of outrage and controversy, as you’ll see if you follow the uber-long line of comments it inspired on the New York Times site.
“It’s the Tobacco Wars all over again,” comments GF online. “Big, bad executives with no conscience systematically pump addictive products through the veins of America.”
The game is closer to over. People are smokin’ mad.