bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Does eating breakfast make you racist?

Image by alsis35 on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Image by alsis35 on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Man, Mother Jones sure does love the ire-inducing click-bait headlines. The latest: Why you should stop eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner: Dogmatic adherence to mealtimes is anti-science, racist, and might actually be making you sick. Melodramatic much?

Why anti-science you might ask? Well, fasted mice apparently have more “robust” brain cells, live longer, and are skinnier than non-fasted mice. Reminder: mice are not humans and what applies to rodents may not (and often doesn’t) apply to humans. The other science was a tiny study (16 participants, 8 in each treatment group) that found no significant differences between those who ate three meals a day and those who ate three meals and snacks (both groups consumed the same number of calories). And a study of 24 women who ate either two or five meals a day (again, the same number of calories). The researchers found that both groups burned the same number of calories. Does this mean that we should all start intermittent fasting? I’m going with no.

While some people can be content following an intermittent fasting diet, not everyone will be happy going for long periods without food. Firstly, these studies didn’t show that there was a benefit to eating more meals every day, but they also didn’t show a benefit to eating fewer meals. Secondly, these studies didn’t address the qualitative aspects associated with meal frequency. To me, this suggests that if you’re happy and healthy eating three square a day, or more, or less, then that’s what you should do.

Why racist? Well, apparently the Europeans scorned Native Americans for not eating three square meals a day. Obviously not cool. However, it’s a little absurd to suggest that eating breakfast makes you a racist.

Why making you sick? So far as I can tell, the only reference to this in the article is regarding people eating too many calories for their sedentary lifestyles, particularly “large country breakfasts” which anecdotally lead to increased reports of indigestion.

After all of this incendiary information, the article concludes with some reasonable advice:

Instead of obsessing about meal size and frequency, Ochner recommends something simpler: Don’t eat when it’s time for a meal; eat when you feel hungry. That, he says, is a lost art.

While I agree that we shouldn’t obsess too much about meal size and frequency I don’t think that the majority of us are ready for eating only when we’re hungry. For most of us that leads to overeating. Preventative eating, and front-loading the day can be key for people struggling with weight management issues and mindless eating in the evening. For many of us, eating on a schedule works great. The key is to figuring out what works best for you rather than adhering to patterns of eating recommended in a magazine article. There are no hard and fast rules.


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Why obesity prevention is not the answer

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One of my twitter friends recently shared a link to this article: How Early Should Obesity Prevention Start? My immediate reaction was that they’re asking the wrong question. They should be asking how early health promotion should start.

While I think that the authors make some good points about obesity influences beginning in the womb, I stand by my initial reaction. No one likes to hear the term obesity. No one wants to be told that they’re obese or that their weight may cause their children to become obese. Is an obesity intervention really going to make much of a difference? I’m doubtful. Framing such an intervention as health promotion, and not only targeting overweight and obese women might be slightly more effective. However, these interventions are still putting the onus on the individual. Interventions targeting individuals and groups serve a purpose in the battle against obesity in the same manner that food banks serve a purpose in the battle against food insecurity and poverty. They are bandaid solutions for gaping wounds.

As I’ve said many times before: we need systemic change. The only way that we’re going to truly see a decrease in obesity rates is if we, as a society, change. We need to put more emphasis on food preparation and incorporating physical activity and exercise into our daily routines. We need to stop wearing long workdays and sleep deprivation as badges of honour. The best way to address the obesity problem is to not talk about obesity.

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The other side of weight discrimination

20130609-133533.jpgSomething that’s been percolating in my mind over the last little while is the concept of weight discrimination.

There were two things that got me to thinking about this topic. The first was a survey I completed for the Yale Rudd Centre. They were looking for people’s opinions and experiences pertaining to weight and discrimination. There was a question about whether or not you’d experienced bullying (or something to that effect) as a result of your weight as a child. I said yes. The survey implicitly assumed that it was due to my being overweight. There was no opportunity to clarify that I was sometimes picked-on because I was underweight.

The second thing that got me thinking about the subject was the cartoon shown above. Someone had posted it on Facebook. I found it offensive. I would never post anything (cartoon or otherwise) that stated being thin was superior to being large. I’m sure that many people would be outraged. So, why on earth do some people think that it’s okay to insult people for being skinny??

We all have naturally different body shapes and sizes. Please consider the impact of your words and actions on others. Weight discrimination can go both ways. Whether you’re fat or thin it can still hurt.


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Don’t judge a dietitian by her or his cover

On a number of occasions I’ve had people remark to me “Oh, I’d actually take advice from you!” upon learning that I’m a dietitian. Apparently this is because I’m a fairly small, fit individual. Even though this comment is always intended to be a compliment, and I appreciate it. However, at the same time, it always irks me a little. My size and fitness level have no bearing on my nutrition knowledge or my ability to provide nutrition counselling. Sure, it might seem that I practice what I preach (and I certainly try to!) but a person can be a healthy weight, and even physically fit, without eating a nutritious diet. Conversely, I know many people who eat healthily but are not physically fit. Oftentimes our own healthy habits fall to the wayside when we’re busy, this is independent of profession. I know that judging a book by its cover is difficult to avoid, but please try to remember that dietitians are people too and as such we come in all different shapes and sizes.