Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Universal nutrition documentary review

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Do you care about food and nutrition? Do you want to learn more about what you’re putting in your body? Where you food comes from? How it’s killing us all and destroying the planet? Then this is the film for you.

I really enjoyed the way that the film makers turned their opinions into facts by interviewing “experts” for their documentary. It was refreshing to see that no experts were brought in to provide an alternate viewpoint as they were presenting only indisputable facts. Seeing these effusive self-styled experts with no credentials to speak of, or expertise in a vaguely related field left me feeling empowered to start my own wellness guru enterprise.

After eating gluten/wheat/grains/sugar/dairy/food for all of my life I found it incredibly eye opening to learn that I may as well have been mainlining heroin or injecting fat directly into my organs and veins. Why is big dietetics/pharma/food trying to hide this from us? The people have a right to know that they’re feeding their children toxins hidden in the guise of sandwiches.

The manipulative use of innocent children along with the soundtrack and cinematography really drove home the horror of the food we eat every day. It’s always nice to see film makers preying on our fears and manipulating our emotions to sell their agendas.

Without having seen this film I would have foolishly continued to eat gluten/wheat/grains/sugar/dairy/food and lived my life never having known that I was regularly ingesting deadly substances. Thank goodness it came up in my Netflix recommendations. Now I can be sure to preach the follies of eating gluten/wheat/grains/sugar/dairy/food to anyone who makes the mistake of speaking to me in the lunch room, on social media, or who stands nearby me in the grocery store. So many lives to save.

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Licence to Farm Review (Rant)

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Photo credit: Randall Andrews

As a “consumer” this short documentary wasn’t made for me. It was made for farmers. Maybe that means that my opinions don’t matter. The beauty of having my own blog is that I can opine about anything I desire.

I had many thoughts as I watched the film. I’m very in support of farmers speaking out and as a non-farmer I often look to them for expert opinions. That being said, while this film purported to be about empowering farmers to speak out to me (and your opinion may differ) it felt like a thinly veiled piece of pro-GM (genetic modification) propaganda.

The bulk of the film was about how large-scale farms, GM crops, and pesticides are not bad things. The film urged farmers to speak out in the face of ignorant consumer demands. They also said that we (the unwashed consumer masses) need to hear about the benefits of GMOs and pesticides from the farmers, not from the companies making them. Personally, as a consumer I’d like to hear from both sources but even more so, from independent scientists who don’t have skin in the game. Sorry, I loathe that saying.

It bothered me that the implication was that consumers are too dumb to formulate our own opinions. Yes, I know, people are often irrational and misinformed. However, everyone is a consumer in some regard. Farmers don’t usually grow every single product they consume. You would think that there would be a recognition that a canola farmer (for example) while very knowledgable in that area is not an expert in all things farm. We are not mutually exclusive populations. We are all people. You don’t need to speak to us like “consumers”. Speak to us like human beings. Okay, despite how it sounds, that only bothered me a little bit. The thing that bothered me the most was the one-sidedness of the film.

Why does it seem like every documentary that comes out these days is wholly biased? I suppose it’s the funders, the sensationalism, or the certainty of the filmmakers that they’re in the right. Whatever the reason, it makes it me get my back-up, regardless of the message, even if I was on your side before I watched I’m less likely to be there after. If you’re only going to show me people who are completely biased then I’m going to be much less likely to buy what you’re saying. Don’t diss organic farmers and try to tell everyone that they eschew modern technology. Don’t try to tell me that only large-scale mono-cropping is a viable method of farming. Try to at least respect the choices of others; both within your field (haha) and outside it.


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Fed Up – Movie review

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I went to see the movie Fed Up last week. I think that the overall message was a good one: cook more, avoid highly processed packaged foods. Because of this, I feel a little bit torn about being critical of it. However, I feel that it’s going to be “preaching to the choir” anyhow so bringing up my issues is probably unlikely to do much to impact ticket sales. And even with my issues, it’s worth a watch.

First issue: why did they have to include so many people with quackerific tendencies (such as Mark Hyman and Robert Lustig)? Fortunately, there were some credible people with backgrounds in nutrition (such as Marion Nestle). Why were there no dietitians? I’m seeing the examples of what the obese children were eating and proclaiming as “healthy” (low-fat cereal, Special K chips, NUTELLA DIPPERS) and I’m thinking that maybe the problem here is lack of education and understanding of what “healthy” is. One of the mums was saying that they had the tools, and knew what to do, so they were going to do it on their own as her daughter was too young for Weight Watchers. Well, if those are the choices that you think are healthy, then you clearly don’t have the tools. Any dietitian could have set things straight. But no, Fed Up had to go and conflate the issue of obesity with the issue of excess sugar.

I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again no one nutrient is to blame in the obesity epidemic. Yes, indeed, too much of anything is bad for us but sugar alone is not what’s making everyone fat. The movie even talked about the true cause: the proliferation of inexpensive calorie-dense, nutrient lacking food everywhere we go. Our food system and environment. Why on earth they had to go and lose credibility by demonizing sugar is beyond me. Suggesting that sugar is the problem only provides the food industry with the ability to provide the “solution” by creating low-sugar and sugar-free foods. I can tell you right now that, that solution is going to work just as well as the low-fat, fat-free solution did. When you visit the home page for Fed Up the first thing you see is an option to sign-up for the challenge “sugar free for 10 days”. Not, cook supper and eat as a family for 10 days. Sigh.

Even though it was only a brief moment in the film, there was mention of how chefs like Jamie Oliver are going into schools and trying to help children to get excited about preparing and eating nutritious food. Yes, this is a good thing but I question how much more Jamie Oliver is a part of the solution than he is a part of the problem. Putting aside his lack of knowledge of nutrition, and his terrible lesson of teaching children to choose oranges over chocolate bars by forcing them to run around a track to burn-off the calories from their snack of choice, have you seen how many packaged foods he has in grocery stores? If the problem is unhealthy processed foods then a chef who is profiting from sales of said foods should not be too loudly lauded for his efforts to teach children and families about cooking on tv (which he is also profiting from). I’m not sure how much this differs from the much reviled McDonald’s selling crappy food but running a lovely charity like the Ronald McDonald House.

And why, oh why, did they feel the need to say “cook real food”. This is redundant. Who is cooking fake food? Just cook.

They also brought up the “calorie is not a calorie” argument. This makes me want to tear my hair out!!! A calorie is a unit of measure. Arguing that a calorie is not a calorie is like arguing that an inch is not an inch or a kilogram is not a kilogram. Yes, you should consume foods that contain vitamins and minerals alongside the calories but that does not negate the value of a calorie.

Okay… I’m almost done… The other issue I took exception to was the evidence presented that healthy eating is less expensive than unhealthy eating. They showed the cost for a fast food meal in comparison to the cost of a home made meal consisting of a whole chicken, rice, and veg. There are a couple of problems with this. One, the cost of the meal was based on what was used to make the meal, not what all of the ingredients would actually cost. You can’t just buy the exact amount of oil, rice, spices, etc to make one meal, you would spend considerably more to buy the full containers. Someone living in poverty might not have that money. And where the heck are they getting a whole chicken for only $5 and change!? Two, it presupposes that people have the skills, time, and facilities necessary to prepare a roast chicken dinner. Sadly, many people living with food insecurity (and obesity) lack these conveniences.

Did I learn anything while watching the film? No. Did I agree with everything in the film? No. Do I think it’s a worthwhile watch? Yes. Despite all of my issues with specific content, I’m still a supporter of the overall message to cook more food at home.

After writing this post a colleague on twitter (David Despain @daviddespain) shared a link to an excellent article critiquing the science in the movie.

…After publishing this post, a colleague informed me that the authors of the article (linked above) are actually a front group for the food industry. I still think that they made some valid points in their critique of Fed Up but this is a good lesson that we should question everything.