Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


3 Comments

Boycott Fit To Fat To Fit

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 8.39.35 AM

When I heard about the new TV show Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit I thought “that sounds a lot like that moronic trainer I wrote about years ago.” A little digging through my archives, and it looks like I was right.

For anyone who hasn’t heard about this new show, the premise is a group of personal trainers intentionally gain a bunch of weight (ostensibly so that they “know” what it’s like to be fat) and then they lose the weight again, along with their chosen client.

What I wrote about the original Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit trainer remains true over five years later, and applies to the trainers in the series. Unfortunately, by the sheer existence of a TV series it would seem that his stunt paid off, and then some.

There are so many things wrong with a series like this. Starting with the fact that these trainers are potentially putting their health at risk by gorging themselves to gain weight. And then by losing the weight, presumably through gruelling workouts and restrictive diets. And for what? Money? Fame? Even if they truly believe that “putting themselves in their clients shoes” is helping them to know what it’s like to be overweight, that’s not what this is really about and it’s not providing them with the true experience. They may gain a greater appreciation for how people fat-shame those who are overweight but they haven’t taken the same journey as their clients.

Most people aren’t overweight because they intentionally ate super-sized McDonald’s meals every day. They become overweight for myriad reasons and it happens over extended periods of time, not usually the six months allotted for the TV show. Our environment, our income, our upbringing, our genetics, our friends, our mental health, our gut microbes, our jobs, and on and on, are all factors in determining what we weigh. The trainers involved in the series aren’t experiencing weight gain in the same way that most people do. It’s simplifying a complex issue into calories in, calories out.

In addition to the detriment potentially caused to the trainers themselves there’s the harm potentially caused to their clients (and to the public watching at home). The clients are being taught that they are to blame for their weight gain. They’re also being taught that exercise is the way to lose weight. Have we learned nothing from the Biggest Loser? I guess we have. We’ve learned how to get some great TV ratings. We know that the Biggest Loser can wreak metabolic havoc, not to mention emotional havoc, on the contestants. This is the same thing. Let’s push people to their breaking points so they lose weight we get more viewers. Who cares what happens to them afterwards.

And the harm to people at home? The message the show sends it that it’s your fault that you’re fat and you can lose the weight if you just work hard enough. Even if everyone wanted to destroy their metabolisms at home, most people don’t have the time or money to undertake a punishing daily workout regimen with personal trainers. Nor is there the pressure to make the cut for a TV program looming over our heads. Who has the “luxury” of making weight loss their full-time job? Not to mention the fact that the majority of weight loss is a result of what we eat, not exercise.

Finally, programs like this are teaching us that there is only one way to be beautiful, healthy, loved, and worthy and that’s by being skinny. We all naturally have different body types and what healthy looks like on me may be very different from what healthy looks like on you. Suggesting that everyone needs to have the same abdominal definition to be fit and healthy is the same as suggesting that some of us need to grow a few more inches in height (or become shorter). It’s a ridiculous and impossible ideal.

Please don’t watch this show. By watching, you are only helping to support dangerous attitudes to weight and perpetuating false ideals and helping A&E make money from the suffering of others.


2 Comments

Another example of why nutrition advice should come from nutrition professionals

photo (1)

photo (2)

A friend, and fellow dietitian, sent me the above screenshots. They were posted by a personal trainer. Of course it’s great to get people eating more vegetables and by no means do I want to discourage that. However, this is yet another example of why nutrition advice is best left to nutrition professionals.

Let’s start with the onions. High in fibre? It’s true, sort-of. Once cup of chopped onion contains a respectable 3 grams of fibre. Not exactly “high” but a “good source”. But… Who among us eats an entire cup of onion in a sitting? Certainly not I. At most, I would say I would have a couple of tablespoons. That brings the total fibre down to a whopping 0 grams. Oops. As for the other claims… Anyone telling you something is “great for fat loss” is probably full of it. No one food promotes fat loss. Following a healthy, adequate calorie diet, and healthy active lifestyle will promote fat loss (should you need to lose fat). Glutathione to reduce stress? Not according to WebMD. And just to be annoying, how on earth could eating onions reduce stress??? Will they ensure you don’t lose loved ones, keep your job, prevent moving? I think he must mean that they reduce the effect of stress on your body. Regardless, I’m pretty sure he’s mistaken. EWG did find pesticide residue on onions, however, they were ranked 50th (out of 51) so I’ll let him have that one; they are low in pesticides. Finally, onions do contain the prebiotic inulin. But, the onions aren’t what provide the benefits listed, the probiotics that use the prebiotics to grow are what provide the benefits. Both pre- and pro-biotics are needed to maintain a healthy digestive system.

As for the claim that grains don’t contain as much fibre as “you think” and therefore, you should consume the vegetables listed to obtain your fibre. Let’s compare: asparagus, cooked 1/2 cup = 2 grams of fibre, 1 cup of raw green pepper = 3 g fibre, 1 cup of raw broccoli = 2 g fibre, 1 cup of raw green cabbage = 2 g fibre, 1 cup of raw cauliflower = 3 g fibre, 1 cup of cucumber (with peel) raw = 0 grams of fibre, 1 cup of romaine lettuce = 0 g of fibre, 1 cup of raw mushrooms = 1 g fibre, 1 cup of raw spinach = 1 g fibre, 1 cup of raw zucchini = 0 grams of fibre. Now for the grains: 1 cup of steel-cut oats = 5 grams of fibre, one slice of multigrain bread = 2 g fibre, 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa = 2.5 g fibre, 1/2 cup of brown rice cooked = 2 g fibre, 3/4 cup of bran flakes = 5 g fibre…. I’d also like to mention that 1/2 cup of black beans contains 7.5 grams of fibre! As you can see, yes some of these vegetables contain fibre. However, grains also contain fibre, generally more than the vegetables. The moral here: include a variety of foods, including grains and vegetables, in your diet to meet all of your nutrient needs. Oh, and don’t take nutrition advice from those without a nutrition education.


4 Comments

An open letter to personal trainers

url

Dear personal trainers,

I am begging you to please stop giving your clients nutrition advice and meal plans. Unless you also have a degree in nutrition you are often causing more harm than good.

As a dietitian, I know my scope of practice. I have never provided clients with exercise advice or training routines. This, despite the fact that I feel like I know a fair bit about exercise and fitness. I realise that there are others, such as yourselves, who are far more qualified to provide that expertise.

It’s hard enough to combat the nutrition misinformation provided by the media, celebrities, and the general populace, without having to deal with misinformation provided by other healthcare professionals.

Please stop telling your clients that sweet potatoes are a “super food” and “regular” potatoes are nutritional no-noes. Please stop telling your clients that carbs are the food of the devil and that protein shakes are suitable for everyone. The diet you follow for a fitness competition is not actually healthy and is not advisable for the general population. Please stop telling your clients to eat tuna at every meal as part of a detox diet. Besides the fact that there is no such thing as a detox diet, tuna, with its mercury content is not going to do anything to aid in detoxification. Just stop.

Sincerely,

Diana Chard, RD


Leave a comment

Should Personal Trainers be Doling Out Nutrition Advice?

A recent article in the Huffington Post revealed that many personal trainers are being called on for nutrition advice by their clients. The article suggests that personal trainers should be provided with more opportunities to learn about nutrition and healthy eating. I have mixed emotions about this. Having worked in a gym in a past life I am all too aware that personal trainers sometimes (in the gym I was at it was more often than not) have very unhealthy eating habits themselves. I do think that accurate nutrition education would be useful for personal trainers (and any fitness instructors) if only for their personal benefit. However, I’m not sure that it makes sense for them to be dispensing nutrition information to their clients. On one hand I think “if they’re going to do it anyway they should at least be provided with the proper knowledge to do so”. On the other hand I think “dietitians spend years (4-5 for an undergraduate degree and internship experience to be precise) obtaining specialized education to be able to provide accurate nutrition information to their clients. Is it really realistic to expect trainers to be able to dispense this information to their clients?” Perhaps a better solution would be some combination of the two. Trainers could be provided with basic healthy eating education (for average individuals not just body builders) but they could also be provided with better connections to local dietitians. If a client is interested in nutrition then a trainer should be able to recognise when questions go beyond their level of expertise and refer their clients to a dietitian. Dietitians in turn, should be aware of physical activity options and be able to make appropriate suggestions to clients wishing to improve their physical fitness.