Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Making people feel like shit about what they eat isn’t an effective tactic to get them to change

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At some point someone came up with the brilliant idea to use scare tactics, guilt, and shame to convince people to do (or stop doing) certain behaviours. I think it may have originated with smoking cessation where people thought that showing people videos of people smoking through holes in their throats and with horrible mouth cancers would convince people to quit. And then people thought, “hey, it worked for tobacco, let’s try it with food”.

Unfortunately, while these tactics may work in some situations, and with some individuals, as a general rule, making people feel like shit about their choices isn’t a terribly effective strategy to convince them to change.

I see so many (possibly well-meaning) people sharing shaming messages in an effort to get people to follow their dietary regimes that essentially every food is now laden with guilt and dolloped with fear.

There are popular memes trying to make people feel guilty for not being vegan or to make people feel guilty for being vegan.

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There are headlines like “There is no conspiracy: Gluten really is evil”, “7 reasons why you should stop eating meat immediately”, “Eating bananas at breakfast is bad for you”. Books like: 141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health  and The Hidden Dangers of Soy. Not to mention all of the vloggers, bloggers, and Instagram nutritionistas pushing their agendas. Seriously, go to google and type in “why you should never eat ____” and insert pretty much any food in there. You’re pretty much guaranteed to get at least one hit telling you why practically every food is going to kill you.

This isn’t healthy. We should not be afraid of something that is essential to life. Something that should be pleasurable. We shouldn’t be loading every food up with fear.

For those using these fear-based messages to try to convince people to join your diet, you’re probably not having the effect you intended. Rather than convincing people to change you’re quite likely just making them feel like what they’re doing is shameful. Maybe they’ll secretly try to change because they’re embarrassed about their shameful food choices and then just feel even worse if they fail. Maybe they’ll just ingest a little bit more guilt every time they eat something they’ve been told is evil.

The nutrition world has become like some sort of twisted religious cult where once you’ve been “saved” you need to spread the gospel and indoctrinate as many heathen eaters as possible. Instead, how about we stop trying to push our person beliefs onto everyone else? How about accepting that there is no one and only diet? That what works for you and is enjoyable for you might not work for everyone else. Let everyone else enjoy their food in peace unless they ask for your opinion.

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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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A recommended detox for @bonappetit

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I think that Bon Appetit is trolling me now. Why else would they come out with another article about detoxing?? This one about “How Chefs Diet When They Need to Hit the Reset Button” with the subheading: “If you’re going to detox, might as well do it like a chef”. No no no. Would you please cut it out with all the detox bullshit Bon Appetit. I read you for recipes, not for terrible health and nutrition advice. If I wanted that, I would be reading Goop.

What’s my issue here? Well, one: detoxes are a misguided waste of effort (and often money). You are not going to remove toxins from your system by drinking green juice. Your body is equipped to regularly remove toxins from your body through a finely tuned system involving your kidneys and liver. Any toxins remaining in your body are not going to be removed through fasting, juice, laxatives, etc.

Two: why would a chef be uniquely qualified to provide advice on “detoxing”? What training do chefs have on human physiology? Perhaps this lack of knowledge is precisely why some of them are needlessly detoxing and willing to contribute to a ridiculous piece, rife with misinformation, on how chefs detox.

What these chefs are doing is not detoxing, it’s crash dieting. I can understand why the notion that we can put unhealthy foods in our bodies most of the time and then remedy that through a day or week of dietary penance would be appealing. Most people would probably like to eat whatever they wanted most of the time and forsake vegetables for bacon. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the human body works. You can’t just fill yourself with nutrient void foods most of the time, starve yourself, and expect that to balance everything out. Fortunately, nutritious foods can be delicious. You don’t have to choose between flavour and health. You can follow a balanced diet all of the time and skip the unnecessary detoxes.

Bon Appetit, I know that you’re a food magazine so perhaps you’re not aware that detoxing is bullshit and that you’re sharing terrible advice. The trouble is, you have a huge readership who look to you for foodspiration and by publishing drivel like this you’re potentially doing them harm. In the future, I request that you kindly detox yourselves from writing about detoxing.