Crunching down on a big cruncher

This song is called ‘rules made up by that guy right there’

Everyone has a diet - it’s the stuff you’re eating. You’ve got a diet, sorry! But, some people don’t just have diets, they have diets - which is to say they have a more explicitly though out collection of things they are eating and they are not just eating whatever they are eating like the people who have diets but not diets. You can go even further and find some people who not only have diets for their diet, but they have fad diets for their diet diet.

One of the most memorable fad diet crazes in recent memory came in the aftermath of olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and his record smashing performance at the 2008 games in Beijing. You see, at the elite athletics level the competitors are often training so much that if they just subsist on a normal diet with normal caloric intake they will lose weight, slowly wear away, and undermine the training they are doing for their event. If you are burning 10,000 calories in workouts every day, you can’t exist on just 2,000 calorie diets like a normal does.

Now, because he’s in a swimming pool or weight room like 16 hours a day, Michael Phelps had exactly this problem, and for some reason NBC decided to do a little mini story about his olympics training diet during their coverage. You can look it up online, but it’s pretty crazy in terms of the sheer volume of daily food and carbs and calories. He’s eating like a dozen eggs, a bunch of pancakes, chocolate chips, an entire pizza, massive pastas, a bucket of monster energy drinks, etc - and that’s every day for months on end during the peak of training.

So when NBC aired this segment during the olympics, millions of American men were watching — and these same men had just seen clips of the frankly CHISELED athletic body of a barely clothed Michael Phelps jumping in and out of the pool; and they looked at what was happening and they thought to themselves “well fuck, if that’s all it takes to look that, I’m about to change my diet”.

What happened next is a public health catastrophe that had not been seen since the fall of Sparta, which is that these millions of men embraced the Phelps diet in full, but the vast vast majority of them utterly failed to also adopt the part where you spend like 90% of your waking hours swimming frenetically up and down a swimming pool! The outcome was obvious to anyone who had ever taken a thermodynamics class, and honestly a good chunk of our national population of military-age males has been unfit to serve in any health-requiring capacity ever since. An entire generation lost to one dumb segment on and NBC olympics broadcast.

Similarly, sometime in the late 80s there was a television cartoon series which aired called “The Bionic Six”. I believe this was some sort of sequel or prequel to “The Six Million Dollar Man”, or at least the premise was basically the same. There was a family of people who had been augmented with technology (“bionics”) and they had special abilities which could be activated via this augmentation. They’d get involved in capers and fight crime and battle the bad guys, and so on.

The cool thing was that the way they activated their bionics was that they’d have this little mini computer attached to their wrist, which was like a glorified watch basically, and they’d like kneel down, and dramatically announce “BIONICS ON” and smush their non-computer’d hand into their computer’d wrist, and then their powers would activate and they’d go and leap off or like friggin laser someone else or whatever. Maybe you’d have an x-ray vision?

So with knowledge of this technology I crafted my own wrist computer probably out of cardboard or something, and I went into my backyard and found a tree to battle and I knelt down and I announced “bionics on”. You can guess the outcome here — literally nothing happened. The reason nothing happened is that unlike the characters in the show, I had not been turned into some sort of cyborg with bionic augmentation. I was just a normal 8 year old boy with some cardboard on his wrist, so nothing came out of it.

Now that I am on the other side of the canyon, as it were, and instead of being an 8 year old boy with a fake wrist computer, I have an 8 year old daughter who regularly manufactures pretend cardboard devices to enable her various capers around the house, I guess I’m a little more empathetic towards the millions of Americans who fell for the Phelps diet thing. I’m not ready to forgive Bob Costas for his role in the entire thing, but I guess I understand it better is all.