Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Planet Fitness, judgement-free or lacking judgement?

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A new gym just opened in town and I was considering joining after not having a gym membership for years. I was attracted by the $10 monthly membership fee (that’s less than one visit to Goodlife!) and I thought that it might be nice to augment my running and home workouts with access to more equipment. Even if I only went once or twice a month I figured I’d be getting my money’s worth.

I hadn’t done anything more than toy with the idea though and yesterday my friend texted me suggesting that I write a blog post about them because “they truly don’t have your health at the centre of their business plan”.

Apparently when you enter their facilities you’re met with literal buckets of tootsie rolls at the counter. Their website proudly proclaims “Welcome to Planet Fitness. Home of the Judgement Free Zone®”. Yes, their judgement-free zone is trademarked. No one else can have judgement-free zones. Anyway… I’m passing judgement right here because presenting people who are (presumably) going to the gym to be fit and healthy with buckets of tootsie rolls is certainly devoid of good judgement.

Wait. It gets even better. In addition to the copious quantities of free tootsie rolls, “black card” members are also entitled to such perks as half-price gatorade after a workout. No matter that gatorade is really only worthwhile for endurance athletes and of no benefit to most gym-goers. In addition to the unnecessary gatorade, Planet Fitness also offers weekly “reward” free bagel and free pizza days.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with bagels, pizza (especially not pizza), and tootsie rolls as part of a balanced diet. My issue here is with the clear cognitive dissonance. How does a company that’s supposedly in the business of encouraging people to be healthy and active not realize that promoting the consumption of candy, and using food as a reward, is actually detrimental to the health of their members?

On top of all of the disappointing food promotion, Planet Fitness also offers unlimited tanning for an extra $9.99 a month. This despite the indisputable fact that tanning beds increase your risk for melanoma and the World Health Organization has classified tanning beds as a known carcinogen. They also offer this bizarre “total body enhancement” which is some sort of therapy involving red light that ostensibly results in “fat loss”. Which I can tell you is complete and utter bullshit. For a company that is so proud of being A Judgement Free Zone® that they’ve trademarked it, they sure do push a lot of treatments to transform our “unruly” bodies.

Planet Fitness says in their mission statement that they are, “A diverse, Judgement Free Zone® where a lasting, active lifestyle can be built”. It’s a shame that they don’t take the entire lifestyle into consideration, only the active piece.

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How not to be the next Tom Brady

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So you want to be the next Tom Brady. Sorry to burst your bubble but buying his latest book on nutrition and training (out this September) is not going to help you.

I haven’t read his book. Can you believe his publisher didn’t send me a a free copy for review?? As such, it’s really not fair for me to comment on its content but given his notoriously wacky nutrition beliefs, imma go right ahead and tell you that it’s going to be a whole lot of nonsense.

As ridiculous as I think Brady’s nutrition regimen is, as long as he’s happy and healthy adhering to it, I say “power to him”. What I take exception to is promoting this as The Way to eat healthy and be a star athlete. As if what works for Tom Brady will work for everyone. The same for the fitness training component of his book. This book is purported to be an “‘athlete’s bible’ that reveals Brady’s revolutionary approach to sustained peak performance for athletes of all kinds and of all ages.” How many Ironman competitions has Brady completed? Is he a star tennis player? Curler? Gymnast? What does Brady know about female athlete triad? The needs of children and seniors? People from different ethnicities? I mean, come on now. What works for Tom Brady when it comes to fitness and nutrition is not going to work for everyone. There is no way that this book can address the wide-ranging needs of athletes (and aspiring athletes) of all ages and sexes and from all sports. Even for male football players the content of this book may not apply.

Tom Brady writing a book for all athletes is like the person who’s lost a bunch of weight counselling people on weight loss. Just because he’s had success does not make him an expert. What works for one person, even Tom Brady, is not going to work for everyone. Save your money, Tom Brady doesn’t need it.


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Buzz off with having a personal trainer “debunk” nutrition myths buzzfeed

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What the hell, buzzfeed??? Why would you choose a personal trainer to debunk “diet and nutrition myths”? Sure, not everything he said was inaccurate but his training does not lend itself to providing evidence-informed nutrition information. As a celebrity trainer, it’s his job to help people lose weight and get buff. The advice given to people in that circumstance is likely quite different from the nutrition advice given to people with other health and nutrition concerns. Diets are not one-size-fits-all. What works (i.e. a way of eating that they are happy and healthy consuming for life) for one person will not work for another. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a quick look at some of the “myths” that this trainer “debunked”.

1. Full cream milk is actually a better choice over its skim and low-fat counterparts.

This is dangerous advice, in my opinion. When I used to work at a coffee shop I had one customer who would regularly order 20-oz lattes made from heavy cream. That’s just shy of 1600 calories and 88 grams of fat (135% of the maximum recommended daily intake for fat). While the research on milk products and nutrition is mixed, there is little doubt that full-fat dairy products contribute more calories to a person’s diet than reduced-fat products. While a glass of whole milk may be perfectly healthy for many people, a glass of 1% may be a better choice for others. A little cream in one coffee a day is unlikely to have a negative impact on anyone’s health. However, there are very very few people for whom a glass of heavy cream would be a good choice.

2. And be wary of products labelled “low-fat”.

Ostensibly because these products are often higher in sugar. This may be true in some cases. I certainly think that we went overboard with the fear of fat in the ’80s. However, best to read the label before judging a product based on any front-of-package nutrition claims.

3. No, coconut oil isn’t THAT bad for you.

“The recent stuff around coconut oil is categorically wrong. It’s a natural fat, and fat doesn’t make you fat. It will be disproven in the near future, I promise you!”

Well, my thoughts on fats and oils are that we shouldn’t but all of our eggs in one basket. It’s best to use a variety and use them all sparingly. Of course, people with specific health concerns may have different needs and should work with a registered dietitian to determine the best choices for them.

4. Skipping breakfast may not completely “ruin” your metabolism, but it will make you prone to eating worse for the rest of the day.

Getting that first meal in does kickstart your metabolism, and the benefits of eating breakfast definitely outweigh not eating it.

I have mixed feeling about this one. I’m personally a big fan of breakfast, and it can be difficult to meet your nutrient needs if you skip it, but evidence has shown that it doesn’t actually impact your metabolism (whether you eat it or not) and you’re not necessarily going to make poor food choices throughout the day if you’re not a breakfast person.

5. And you definitely are damaging your metabolism with fad diets and juice cleanses.

I’m glad to see he’s opposed to fad diets and juice cleanses. I’m not sure that damaged metabolism is the best of reasons to oppose them but there are plenty of other good reasons.

6. Buying organic is technically better for you – but as long as you’re eating non-processed foods, you’re on the right track.

Yes, organic products are more often than not slightly better for us. There’s less human interference, less chemicals, and less pesticides. But as long as you’re eating ‘real’ food and not processed food, that’s the most important thing. The kind of rules you should go by are if you’re in a supermarket and a product has more than five ingredients, then be wary.

Actually, there’s no evidence to show that eating organic is any healthier than conventional. There are pesticides used on organic crops and plenty of chemicals on (and in) both. There may be other reasons to choose organic (environmental and biodiversity, for example) but health and nutrition is not one of them.

Processing can actually enhance the nutrients in some foods (e.g. tomato sauce) and make other foods edible (e.g. legumes). It’s ultra-processed ready-to-eat foods that we need to reduce our consumption of.

That five ingredients rule is ridiculous. Plain potato chips only have 3 ingredients.

7. Many store-bought protein drinks aren’t actually that great for you.

I’d go a step further and say that most people don’t need any protein supplementation.

8. And be wary of the protein bars too.

True, many of these are like candy bars. And again, most of us don’t need protein supplements.

9. Some superfoods aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

“Tumeric is a really good ‘superfood’ because it has anti-inflammatory qualities, and is great for bloating and if you don’t sleep well. I think kale is a bit overrated! I don’t think it’s that much difference to just having spinach, you know? I think the key message there is just because a food is ‘in vogue’ doesn’t necessarily make it any better or more magical than similar foods in the same family.”

There is no such thing as a “superfood”. Actually, it’s turmeric and research has shown that it does not live up to the hype. It’s still great in curries and lovely with ginger in a tea. Kale is great. Spinach is great. Don’t buy the hype is a good message about any food. No one food is going to make or break your diet.

10. You can actually train your body to need less food.

That is, if you’re currently consuming more calories than you need. Most of us are definitely out of touch with our innate hunger and satiety cues and could benefit from following some mindful eating principles.

11. Eating pasta for dinner (occasionally) won’t necessarily set you back.

If you have pasta for dinner, and that’s in balance with a high-protein and low-carb breakfast and lunch, then it’s probably going to be fine.

Yes, pasta is fine and delicious. Yes, it’s all about balance (and portion sizes). I don’t think you need to go so far as to go low-carb at lunch if you’re having pasta for supper though. Just make sure you’re plate is half veg and you’ve got some protein there too and you’ll survive regular pasta meals.

12. Don’t believe any myths about eggs being bad for you.

Yep, eggs are good. On this we can agree.

13. There’s no real thing as a “calorie negative” food.

Man, two in a row!

14. It’s not a choice between choosing a healthy diet, or choosing to workout – the most effective way to lose weight or stay healthy is by doing BOTH.

Again, true. Although what you eat is more likely to affect a person’s weight than their level of activity. Both are important for health and weight is not necessarily a good measure of health.

15. And it can be good for your mental health to have a piece or two of chocolate!

Again, agreed. Deprivation is probably the top reason why people don’t maintain healthy dietary habits.

I’m glad we could end on a positive note but I’d like to reiterate that personal trainers are not nutrition experts. If you want accurate evidence-informed nutrition information, trust a dietitian. If you want a new workout routine, visit a personal trainer.

 

 

 

 


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You won’t need a meal plan in the nanny state

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You know what I find ironic? And not Alanis ironic, which is really just crap luck, but genuinely ironic. How vehemently opposed to government “interference” in their lives many people are and how many people ask me to give them meal plans. I’ve had people say to me “just tell me what to eat” (if you’d like to know why I don’t do that, check out this old post). Which is voluntarily completely relinquishing control of what they put in their mouths and people are willing to pay for this service. Yet, people rail on and on about the “nanny state” and how the government should stay out of our kitchens when all public health wants to do is help make it easier for you to make healthier choices.

No one in government wants to tell you exactly what to eat at every meal. Through legislation public health dietitians would like to make nutritionally void foods (like pop and candy) less accessible. We would like to ensure that fast food joints can’t open across the street from schools so that your children aren’t eating shakes and fries every day. We would like to make sure that local food systems are strengthened so that farmers are making living wages and produce is affordable and accessible.

Unlike what people want from a meal plan, we want to make it easy for people to make healthy choices. We don’t want to forbid you from buying pop or chips, we just want to make it easier for you to buy carrots or to fill-up your water bottle.

Why is it that people are so ready to relinquish all control over their diets to a dietitian or nutritionist but when it comes to creating an environment in which making healthy choices would be easier suddenly everyone’s all up in arms?


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Follow Friday: Fermentation Festival

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I know I swore off food festivals after the disappointment that was Cheesefest this year and Taste the County last year but I’m pretty confident that the Fermentation Festival will be different. For one thing, it’s a steal at only $8 admission. There’s not much you can do for $8 these days. Even if it ends up being a bust (which I’m pretty sure it won’t) at least you’re only out less than 10 bucks. For another thing, fermented foods are awesome and there’s so much innovation happening in that area these days. Probably the highlight of Cheesefest for me was the fermented cashew spread (think a sort of thick tangy hummus that take avocado toast to the next level). I can’t wait to see what other new products are on the market, or in development, and where better to find out than an entire festival devoted to said products?

In addition to loads of samples, there are lots of fun activities planned for all ages throughout the day. Think you make the best home ferments? Enter the amateur ferment competition. Want to learn more about fermented foods, the importance of microbes for our health, or how to make your own fermented foods? Attend one of the many workshops going on throughout the day. Kids in tow? Take them to the interactive activities where they can learn, make crafts, and colour. No kids in tow? Check out the beer and wine garden; classic fermented beverages!

The Fermentation Festival is taking place on Saturday, August 19th at the Crystal Palace in Picton. For more information, check out the link above or visit the facebook page where updates are being posted regularly. Hope to see you there!