“This show is stupid.”
Dan and I were sitting on his couch, exhausted after several hours shooting BB guns at targets (read: everything) while riding a motorized scooter. Normal 10-year old stuff.
We were watching his favorite show, South Park, and I hated it. I thought it was disgusting, immature, and crude.
If you haven’t heard of it, South Park is an animated cartoon show created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker that makes fun of politics, religion, social issues, pop culture, environmental concerns, and everything else.
While much of their material is excessively vulgar, you can glean some important life lessons from South Park. As you can guess, I love it now.
Here are the top 5 most important rules for getting lean from several of my favorite episodes.
1. Eating “Bad” Foods in Moderation is Harder, and Healthier, than Making them Off Limits
*Excessive dietary restrictions are not necessary or productive. “Now please get me another gluten free beer, as I can’t have wheat in moderation.”*
“No Stan, you don’t understand, I have a disease…. I have to admit that I’m powerless.”
Randy Marsh drank too much and got a pulled over by the cops. He’s forced to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where he’s told that he has a disease, and that he has no self control.
After adopting his new identity as “an alcoholic,” Randy becomes a chronic binge drinker. Then he has to explain to his son, Stan, that it’s okay for him to keep drinking because it’s out of his control.
At one point Randy is able to go five days without drinking, and proves to himself that he can stop. Shifting to the opposite extreme, he declares, “Maybe I can force myself to never drink again.”
Stan wisely counters with one of the best pieces of advice you’ll ever hear about diet:
“If you devote your whole life to completely avoiding something you like, then that thing still controls your life, and you never learn any discipline at all.”
“But maybe I’m the kind of person who just needs to have it all or nothing?,” Randy replies, which is something you’ve probably told yourself before, too.
“Nah, all or nothing is easy, but learning to drink a little bit — responsibly — that’s discipline.”
The same thing is true for brownies, pizza, and everything else you’ve been told is “bad” for you.
If you tell yourself that you can never have something, you’ll think about it ten times more. Learning to have your favorite foods in moderation is the only way you’ll be able to make sure they don’t become a problem.
This is only possible, however, if you don’t fall into the next trap.
2. Don’t Create “ManBearPigs” aka Demonize Certain Foods Based on Little or No Evidence
*“I was super cereal when I told you that sugar was bad for you. It’s just as dangerous as manbearpig.”*
In order to poke fun at Al Gore’s campaign against global warming, the creators of South Park depict him as a cape wearing fear monger, roaming the earth and warning people about the dangers of “manbearpig.”
“Manbearpig,” is a fictitious creature designed to spark fear and controversy, so Gore can feel important.
Despite widespread skepticism, Al Gore is insistent.
“Some people say that Manbearpig isn’t real. Well, I’m here to tell you now, Manbearpig is very real, and he most certainly exists… Manbearpig simply wants to get you!”
Replace Gore with nutrition “experts,” and you’ll see they’re doing the same thing.
When you’re confused about what’s healthy and what’s not, you look for opportunities to avoid certain foods based on little or no evidence.
Most of our fears about nutrition are either completely baseless or blown out of proportion. When you sensationalize the dangers of a food by saying things like “sugar is toxic,” it’s easier to avoid it.
While this can work in the short-term, acting out of fear and/or ignorance is not a sustainable or healthy way to live.
Sugar is the new manbearpig. You heard it here first.
One of the reasons we do this, is because we get our information from the wrong sources.
3. Ignore Sensational Media Reports About Food
*“You just used ManBearPig as a way to get attention for yourself …”*
That’s exactly how most blogs, T.V. stations, and news organizations make their money.
They intentionally pick the most outrageous, inaccurate, and alarmist stories, even if they know they’re wrong.(1)
The more attention they get, the more people visit their sites, the more people click on their ads, and the more money they make. They aren’t reporting on “the top 5 foods to melt belly fat” because they think it’s true. They’re reporting on it because they get paid to steal your attention.
This is why you see reports everywhere that saturated fat causes heart disease, red meat causes cancer, and sugar gives you diabetes. When you see this nonsense enough times, you start to believe it.
You go out and buy gluten free bread, pounds of Stevia, and swear off bacon for life. At least that’s what I did.
Almost everything you hear in the news about nutrition is B.S.
The solution is to rely on a few trusted sources, and ignore everyone else.
That helps you accomplish the next lesson.
4. Ignore People Who Try to Scare You Into Eating a Certain Way
*Avoid nutrition Nazi’s whenever possible.*
“Their Science is flawed! Their answer to the Great Question is different from ours. Their answer to the great question is illogical!”
The otters were ready for war.
In this future world, there was no religion. Everyone was an atheist. Despite sharing the same general philosophies and world views, they were trying to kill each other over one small question:
“What we should call ourselves.”
The world was split into three groups:
The United Atheist Alliance
The United Atheist League
The Allied Atheist Alliance (who also happened to be otters)
Basically, they were doing exactly what many people do with nutrition. They look for small, almost meaningless differences with others, and turn those differences into a cult of their own.
As the leader of the United Atheist Alliance put it, “… using logic and reason isn’t enough. You have to be a dick to everyone who doesn’t think like you.”
Sound familiar? Tired of getting told that you’re killing yourself slowly because you eat a piece of bread or a bowl of ice cream?
These people are everywhere, and it’s your job to ignore them.
At one point, “The Wise One” among the otters suggests that they put aside their petty differences and learn to coexist.
The otters contemplate his statement for a moment, and then scream “Kill the wise one!,” and proceed to spear him to death.
Alan was actually the person who first convinced me that “paleo” was silly, and that we’re basically arguing over what we should call a “healthy diet.”
Luckily, Alan’s still alive, and no one’s speared him yet. (Though that would be very paleo).
You can safely ignore these fanatics and move on with your life.
5. Focus on Daily Habits, Not the End Goal
The kids of South Park were divided.
Black Friday was looming, and there were huge discounts ripe for the taking.
Half of them wanted the X-Box 360, and the other half wanted the Play Station 4. If they didn’t get the same gaming console, they wouldn’t be able to all play on the same network.
That meant war.
They prepared to fight to get into the mall first on Black Friday and seize their video game consoles before the other clan.
The spent hours training outside with fake swords, rehearsing for battle, and plotting and spying on one another. They formed powerful alliances, even getting Bill Gates and the President of Sony to support them.
However, the other children weren’t their only enemy. The rest of South Park was also eager for Black Friday, going so far as to literally murder each other and rampage through the entire mall to get better discounts.
After the carnage, the boys quietly walked over dead bodies through the mall, in a scene that looked straight out of Braveheart.
When they return home, they play video games for about ten minutes. Looking bored, Cartman turns to the others and says “You guys wanna play outside or something?”
They had enjoyed the process of preparing for the big day far more than the actual goal.
That’s how you need to look at your diet.
If you hate your diet because it forces you to avoid your favorite foods, only eat at certain times, or isolates you from your friends, the end goal isn’t worth it.
This is one of the reasons bodybuilders and figure competitors often binge after a show. They make themselves miserable to get there, and they have no idea how to maintain it.
You should set challenging goals for yourself, but most of the time, you need to focus on the daily habits that get you there — not the goal itself.
You need to put your diet on autopilot so getting lean becomes enjoyable.
It’s more important to enjoy your journey than it is to reach your destination.
South Park is Outrageous and Weird, But It’s Full Useful Advice
Here are some of the important lessons you can learn if you’re willing to look past the obscenity:
1. Dividing foods into “good” or “bad” is never a sustainable or healthy solution, even if it gives you a temporary sense of accomplishment or purpose.
2. Moderation is harder than extremism, but the rewards are greater. Restrictive diets can work in the short-term, but they also steal your freedom to try new foods, spend dinners with friends, travel, and do other fulfilling activities.
3. Almost everything you see and read in the media about nutrition is overblown and/or useless. Listen to people who’ve earned your trust, and ignore everything else.
4. Getting ripped, losing weight, and being healthy are simple. Don’t get sucked into pointless arguments about you call your diet. Most people in the health and fitness industry agree on far more than they disagree, we just tend to focus on the latter.
5. Enjoying and perfecting your daily routines is more important than reaching your ultimate goal, though the former usually causes the latter.
This is true in every part of your life. The most successful people — whether in regards to health and fitness or business — get there by creating effective, sustainable, mostly enjoyable daily habits.
This last point is so important that I recorded an interview about how to create effective, sustainable habits with my friend and behavior modification expert, James Clear.
Later this week, James will come on the podcast to teach you how to adopt good habits into your life, using the best available scientific research. Enter your email address in the form below to be notified the second that podcast is ready.
Happy April Fool’s Day. 🙂
> Did you enjoy this article? [Click here to check out my book, *Flexible Dieting](https://evidencemag.com/flexible-dieting-book)*. Want an even more in-depth education on how to lose weight, build muscle, and get stronger and healthier? [Join Evidence Mag Elite](https://evidencemag.com/elite) and get member’s-only reports and interviews.
1. Holiday R. Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Portfolio Trade; 2013.