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Too good to be true.

2004-03-16 - 11:00 a.m.

Finally, the voice of reason. I know I am not the only person to think, upon hearing about the Atkins diet, surely that canít be good for you, and Robin articulated my suspicions perfectly.

I think itís hard for some people to wrap their head around the fact that some things arenít healthy that seem like they should be. We are always told that itís healthier to be skinnier, ergo anything that helps us lose weight must make us healthier, right? But thatís obviously not a universal truth. Being ill often leads to losing weight but that doesnít mean we should seek out the flu bug when we feel we need to shed a few pounds. I can hear some of you saying, but Atkins is a diet, and yes, being an ďofficialĒ diet does give it the patina of respectability. After all, it has difficult rules to follow and requires depriving ourselves of something we like, therefore losing weight is the reward for our self-denial. However, itís an extreme sort of diet and not one suited to many people, yet people everywhere are hopping onboard without even consulting their doctors.

Tanning beds are something I put in the same mental category as the Atkins diet. People who tan at my gym (well, the ones that donít overdo it to the point of turning a suspicious orange colour) look healthier than I do. If you could place a tanned-but-otherwise identical version of me beside my winter, fish-belly-white self, you would pick the tanned one as the healthier one. At this point in history we associate being tanned with being active and outdoors, as well as having the money for leisure activities; activities which are costly in the winter as you only really get tanned if youíre skiing a lot or if you go south. There is an undeniable appeal to tanning. In addition to the luxuriousness of lying in something hot and smelling like summer from the cocoa-butter-based tanning lotion you slather yourself in, tanning can help alleviate the symptoms of season affective disorder and boost your production of Vitamin D. And yet, almost no doctor would recommend artificial tanning to the average person. In fact, most doctors would have you avoid the sun like the plague and not only use sunscreen for exposed areas but cover yourself as much as possible to limit those exposed areas. Tanning, you see, causes skin cancer. Of more immediate concern to some women (to whom the idea of cancer seems remote) is the fact it causes wrinkles and sunspots. In other words, something that instinctively seems like it should be healthy, and even feels healthy at the time, can have serious repercussions in the long term.

Unfortunately, in a society where patience is becoming increasingly in short supply when we are waiting for gratification, self-indulgence is increasingly accepted as motivation for doing things, and questioning information seems to be becoming rarer and rarer (witness the number of people who take email hoaxes at their word and gullibly forward them on), itís not surprising that people seize on things that seem too good to be true. The unfortunate thing is, they are.

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