10 Unrealistic Health & Nutritional Goals Bound To Fail

Although there is no question that we should all set goals meant to improve our health, such goals, though, need to be realistic, measurable and achievable.  Oftentimes, however, people set goals that will likely end in failure--sometimes, it may not even be humanly possible, given the circumstances, to complete them.

Having said that, "unrealistic" is NOT (at least in this article) synonymous with "impossible."  "Unrealistic" herein simply means that something is unlikely, very difficult to achieve, or not feasible in most cases. 

How Important Are Nutritional Goals?

Goals may be important in other areas of one's life but, when it comes to health, goals can often be life-saving; they can also make life easier, less painful and more likely to lead to personal dreams and aspirations.  Take, for example, the very real danger of developing cancer for every human being on this planet, especially for those of us stuck in overly-populated, highly polluted and stress-filled urban environments. 

Many experts believe that cancer is the result of toxic/carcinogenic substances in our food, air, water, etc.  A mutation-of-cells disease, cancer isn't inescapable, in spite of all the bad news circulating--in fact, our best weapon against cancer is still prevention, notwithstanding genetic predisposition to the disease. 

Considering that what we eat can greatly affect our immune system (by either enhancing or harming it), setting the right kinds of nutritional goals, therefore, may be one of our greatest weapons against cancer.  We know for a fact that our bodies possess tumor-suppression capacity; in theory,  this mechanism should be able to shut down out-of-control-dividing cells before they become malignant (essentially what we mean by "cancer").  For some reason, however, proper apoptosis (programmed cell death) fails to take place, potentially leading to tumors.

Cancer is only one of many areas that we can greatly affect simply by making (or failing to make) the right nutritional choices.  This includes avoiding known carcinogens, many of which are readily found in processed and fast foods. 

The same may be said in regards to cardiovascular disease.  How many premature deaths might we prevent simply by getting more people to greatly reduce their fat/sugar intake on yearly basis?  As in the case of cancer, too many foods and unhealthy ingredients in most western diets greatly contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Are There Limits, Though, As to What Can Be Accomplished Nutritionally?

Many people in their zeal to protect their health--or at the very least avoid unnecessary problems--establish goals that simply don't make any sense, especially in the long run.  This is not to say that people who give health advice consciously set out to give people false hopes but, let's face it, those who give health advice are usually going for  "ideal" situations, not necessarily the most "realistic." 

Some people do in fact have the discipline and commitment to do whatever they have to in regards to staying in the best possible physical/medical shape.  For the majority of people, though, it's not that easy--in fact, it's rather hard.  There is no better way to illustrate this than with the following 10 examples of impractical health goals:

1.  Cutting out completely anything from your diet.  We've all listened to relatives tell us how they were told to cut out salt (or some other ingredient) from their diets.  Actually, what they were probably told was to greatly reduce their use of  salt since, if they cut salt from their diet, it would be a recipe for suicide.  For the record, it's usually not feasible or healthy to completely eliminate most food ingredients/substances, especially for things we need to survive (e.g., fat, protein, cholesterol, etc.). 

Even things we know are toxic--e.g., monosodium glutamate, saccharin (Sweet'N Low), etc.--are difficult (if at all possible) to avoid completely, especially if you ever eat processed or fast foods and if someone else makes your meals.  We may have the best of intentions but circumstances often beyond our control may dictate otherwise. 

For all these reasons, a better, more practical goal is to strive to reduce amounts of or avoid the ingredient/item, when humanly possible; be prepared, however, to periodically ingest things you would prefer to avoid.

2.  Give up processed foods altogether.  For sure, this is a wonderful goal to set for yourself but, for most people, it's a very unrealistic expectation.  For one thing, avoiding all processed foods will greatly increase your food bill--assuming that you can come up with a complete alternative.  Let's think about this for a minute.  You would have to grow your vegetables, nuts and fruits--for, if you buy them from someone else, you won't know how much they were "processed." 

People sometimes think that "processed" only means foods in boxes, plastic and cans but, in reality, most fruits, vegetables and nuts today have been processed in some way.  Even the soil in many areas of the world has been subjected to the chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, etc.) we associate with "processing." Yes, there are some people in very remote areas of the world who have enjoyed this privilege but, unless you move to such a place, it's unlikely you will completely avoid processed foods.

3.  Permanently forego fast foods.  People who travel a lot know how difficult it is to get fed while on the road.  In order to avoid having to stop at these ubiquitous fast food places, some people make sandwiches or bring nutritious snacks for the journey.  There are times, however, when unforeseen accidents foil people's plans. 

For one such conscientious traveler, for example, a freezable cold pack started leaking into the cooler as it thawed out, unleashing a chemical which ended up soaking everything (approximately 3 days of supplies) in the cooler.  The person had not allocated any extra time for shopping, nor felt comfortable preparing food in the car (even if healthy food items were available in the area, as well as the containers and tools necessary to re-package said snacks/meals).  

As a general rule, when you stop after driving for a while, you usually don't have time to eat at a so-called "sit-down" restaurant; there is also the issue of cost.  What's left?  Fast food restaurants!  A more realistic goal, therefore, is to be ready to eat at these places when absolutely necessary; when forced to do so, however, order only the least toxic/unhealthy things on the menu.

4.  Completely shy away from pesticides.  Many health articles will encourage you to stay away from pesticides, although, again, the emphasis may be on the "ideal" rather than the "practical."  For the record, you should avoid foods that have been subjected to pesticides, and you should avoid using them whenever possible if you grow your own food. 

Having said that, pesticides are used so much by so many food growers that we can no longer tell where they can be found anymore; pesticides are ending up in our food, in fact, even when they were not meant to be there--i.e., through unknowingly-contaminated water and soil, etc.  A better goal is to encourage the disuse of pesticides whenever possible and to start using natural ones; you can also strive to stay informed on what the worst pesticides and herbicides are--avoiding them when possible.

5.  Never, ever eat GMOs.  It would be a wonderful thing if any of us could actually stick to this wonderful-sounding goal.  Genetically modified foods, to put it simply, have not been adequately tested; moreover, they have not been around enough for any of us to say with complete certainty that they will harm us.  Then again, there are many scientific reasons for fearing what they may do to us, especially in the long run.  The worst part of this problem, though, is that these things are already an integral part of our foods, especially processed foods. 

Even if you move to a country where these things are not openly espoused, you will still run into imported products (sadly, many of them from the US) that will contain them, sometimes without your knowledge.  Since reporting of GMOs is mostly voluntary, how can you possibly know where it is--more importantly, how to avoid it?  A better goal is to avoid products suspected of containing them, in those rare cases where that information is made accessible and clear to you.

6.  Abandon use of all dairy products.  Actually, we now know that dairy products may be a lot less nutritionally beneficial than we previously thought; to put it more bluntly, dairy products are responsible for a truckload of medical problems (nasty allergies, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, etc.)--which is why they need to be consumed, at best, in great moderation. 

Setting a goal to completely avoid dairy products, though, will be much more difficult that most people can possibly realize.  For one thing, many processed foods contain dairy product derivatives--some of them not so easy to connect to cows; in some cases, the ingredients may not be listed or be there because of unforeseen contamination.  Many people, for example, were surprised to find that there was a dairy ingredient in McDonald's fries--who would have "thunk" it? 

How many other popular foods out there that you have been consuming for a long time actually contain dairy ingredients you were not informed about?  You might be surprised at what you would find out!  In fact, some people who claim to have completely given up dairy products haven't done so.

7.  Skip all irradiated foods.  Although you should indeed avoid irradiated foods, it's ludicrous to set this as a goal since, to put it bluntly, it just won't be possible.  First of all, you are often not told (if at all) when a certain food has been irradiated.  How would you be able to tell anyway?  It's not after all as if you can tell when food has been exposed to ionic radiation

In order to be able to tell, in fact, you'd have to carry a Geiger counter or dosimeter (devices for detecting radioactive sources) with you whenever you got curious--after all, you can't see, smell or hear irradiated things--unless, of course, the food has been exposed to extreme levels of radiation for extended periods of time. 

Another issue is how the food got "irradiated."  There has been a move to irradiate foods as a means of preserving such, supposedly by using low-level radiation.  In spite of strong opposition against this mostly unnecessary impetus, this technique is still being used, many times without your knowledge.  Beyond this, food can end up radioactive for other reasons.  Fish and other so-called "seafood" (including fresh water varieties) sometimes show traces of radioactivity, after perhaps being in waters where radioactive materials have been dumped. 

The bottom line is that, right now, you may be exposed to more irradiated foods than y0u realize.  If a label merely hints that a certain food has been irradiated, by all means avoid it like the plague--just don't wear yourself out by conceiving a grand scheme to completely avoid this stuff, unless you're prepared to do some onerous things.

8.  Never eat animal foods fed antibiotics and growth hormones.  Of course, if you decide to become a vegetarian or a vegan (not the same thing!), you may more easily actually abide by such a goal, although even then you may run into unexpected difficulties.  Unless you won't eat any meats (including seafood, since these are sometimes also fed these things when grown in farms or when they come in contact with contaminated water) at all--including all the animal derived by-products often hidden in processed foods--you will be hard-pressed to abide by this goal.

If you have no intention to give up all meats and their known/hidden by-products, good luck on avoiding growth hormone and antibiotic exposed (or, should we say, "over-exposed") meats.  Many times you will not be able to tell what meats were grown in factory farms (the main culprits in this flagrant abuse/misuse of these chemicals)--in fact, some meats labelled as "organic" may be as tainted as those not labelled so.  Why is this?  Other than the blatant dishonesty of Big Meat, there is the issue of how and when words like "organic" may be used.  The FDA and USDA are supposed to keep an eye on such terms but, surprise, surprise, they really don't, probably because of their too-cozy relationships with Big Food and Big Meat.

Unless you grow these animals yourself or deal with a local farm that you know for a fact isn't playing childish games with the public, you simply won't be able to avoid these items.  You can, however, reduce your intake of these poisons by eating less meat in general, switching to organically-grown meat (when you can find it), watching out for meat by-products/ingredients in processed foods, and increasing the amounts of fruits, veggies and nuts you eat (to make up for the nutrients you previously got from meats).

9.  Eat only organic products.  The reports are that Big Meat and Big Food are now getting into the "organic" game--actually, to most of us it may not be a "game" but it certainly is to them.  To us, it's a matter of eating healthier and protecting ourselves and our loved ones.  To them, it's a question of "profits"--the heck with anything else, including ethics, morality and even the law (since the enforcement thereof is so lax these days).

Although you should consume mostly (if not exclusively) organic foods (when you can find them), be careful about setting yourself up for failure by pretending that every time you see the word "organic" it actually means what it says.  Some people out there, realizing that the organic-preference market is growing by leaps and bounds, have learned that they continue to market their toxic wares simply by now irresponsibly adding the word "organic."  To make a long story short, don't always believe what you read. 

By all means, buy organic.  Find and research companies and farms that have been in the organic business since its inception.  Beware of newcomers, though--especially if they have any ties to Monsanto or any other Big Food conglomerate.  These people, if anything, have been derisive of anything organic, for some reason putting all their chips into the "artificial"--why they're doing this is fodder for another article. 

You can find genuinely organic foods but be prepared to once in a while ingest toxic foods from the food conglomerates.  Their stuff, we must sadly report, is simply too ubiquitous to completely avoid these days . . . unless, of course, you live in a remote part of the world, isolated from all the toxicity.

10.  Avoid all known toxic chemicals in foods.  Folks, there are simply too many dangerous chemicals in the foods we consume every day.  A more realistic goal is to identify the most dangerous culprits (monosodium glutamate, aspartame, etc.) and then to set up a comprehensive plan to systematically avoid them. 

Because avoiding these chemicals can be so expensive (both in terms of money and time), if you set out to avoid all of them, you will either go mad, go into bankruptcy or end up losing out on needed nutrients that are often found (especially in processed foods) next to these nasty things. 


Again, the word "unrealistic" in this article does not mean "impossible."  Can you successfully implement any of the goals in this list?  Yes, it would be possible, especially if you live in some remote area of the world, without access to the toxicity most of us have to endure on a daily basis. 

Then again, people who live in these areas have to forego many of the benefits we have all come to depend on and appreciate.  Also, even these areas will not be able to avoid indefinitely the toxicity in question.  The world's water tables, for instance, are intimately connected below the ground, as well as through the winds and clouds which shuffle things around on this planet. 

As we more and more pollute the oceans, furthermore, such pollution is bound to reach people in these remote areas; the same effects may be produced by storms, rain, the wind, and even birds that may become exposed to toxins, only to later deliver traces of them to these remote "paradises."

Look, when it comes to nutritional goals, by all means set objectives that will both in the short and long run pay off.  Don't be like those people who just throw their hands up in the air because of all the things standing in our way.  Such defeatist attitude is not the way to go.  Instead, strive to reduce the amount of toxicity you are exposed to on a daily basis. 

Having said that, you don't have to avoid all toxicity--fortunately, our bodies can take a beating but still continue to function relatively well.  With that in mind, set goals you can actually see to fruition and avoid those too ambitious, unrealistic or impractical.  A few prayers might also help, especially against those things too big for us to challenge, fight against or overcome. 

Copyright, 2015.  Fred Fletcher.  All rights reserved.

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6/5/2015 7:00:00 AM
Fred Fletcher
Written by Fred Fletcher
Fred Fletcher is a hard working Consumer Advocacy Health Reporter. Education: HT-CNA; DT-ATA; MS/PhD Post-Graduate Certificates/Certifications: • Project Management • Food Safety • HIPAA Compliance • Bio-statistical Analysis & Reporting • Regulatory Medical Writing • Life Science Programs Theses & Dis...
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Organic? Waste of money. Chemicals? I used them on my farm for 48 years. Probably swallowed a gallon or two in the process. I'm almost 70 and healthy as a horse. Pesticides? You rather have poor quality produce with holes in it? You want lower nutrition because the good stuff got sucked out by insects? Pesticides...I LOVE them! Irradiated food? No.I prefer germs, bacteria, and fecal decay. Truth is, the food in this country, will all the inspections, regulations, and oversight...would be very difficult to improve on. Nutritionally, taste wise, or safety wise. Pass me another apple.
Posted by Randy
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