Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Weight Watchers, SNAP, Ultra-processed food, and Front-of package labels: a few short rants

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I have a few things I want to rant about that aren’t really sufficient for full blog posts on their own so I thought I’d do a few mini-posts today.

Weight Watchers

As you’ve probably heard, Weight Watchers announced that they’ll offer free services for teens a few weeks ago. The backlash in the RD community was pretty powerful (check out #wakeupweightwatchers on Twitter). Despite that, I did see a few RDs defending the organization with the argument that overweight and obesity is a health concern for teens and that Weight Watchers has been proven to be effective. While obesity can certainly be a risk factor for a number of chronic diseases, I still don’t think that Weight Watchers is appropriate for teens. While it has been shown to be effective for some adults, there is no evidence to support its efficacy or safety for teens and weight is not the only measure of health (and is not in any manner a measure of worth). I don’t think that it teaches a healthy relationship with food to be considering it in terms of points and weight and I worry that the impact of enrolling a teen in Weight Watchers may be more harmful psychologically and physiologically than beneficial.

SNAP

Apparently the GOP wants to replace some food stamps with a “Harvest Box” that will force “nutritious” foods on recipients. There are soooo many things wrong with this idea. 1. it does not increase food security as providing pre-selected foods to those in need is not allowing them to access food with dignity; 2. dietary needs and preferences vary widely. Will the foods in these boxes be appropriate for men and women and children of all ages and walks of life? Will there be sufficient calories for all ages and lifestyles? What about people who need to consume special diets due to certain conditions (e.g. celiac disease), allergies or intolerances? What about various cultural preferences, religious preferences, or personal preferences? People always complain about “liberals” creating a nanny state but this, this is a true nanny state telling people they are not capable of making their own food choices; 3. This is supposed to save the government money. But when you will now have to source food, package it, and distribute it, as opposed to reloading a debit card I’m really not sure how that will result in any cost savings; 4. What kind of quality will the food be if the point is to save money? I suspect it will not end-up being an improvement over choices people make on their own and there will likely be more food waste due to delivery of unsuitable foods; 5. While assuming the government knows best regarding what people living on limited incomes need the government is perhaps forgetting that people relying on assistance may not have access to all of the kitchen equipment and tools necessary to cook foods provided in these boxes. Not everyone has a full kitchen, power, gas, pots pans, knives, can openers, etc. Time is also often a barrier for people on limited incomes making foods that require lengthy preparation impractical; 6. Has the government consulted with those using SNAP if they would like to receive boxes of preselected food or how they think the system could be improved? A significant issue with many government programs (and many things in general) is that the end user is not consulted making for ineffective and poorly designed services.

Ultra-processed Food

Everyone’s all mad that the classification system for what makes a food ultra-processed isn’t perfect. Yet, we can’t call food “junk food” anymore because that’s offensive even though I don’t think anyone really takes offence to the term and everyone knows what it means. We need some sort of way to categorize food to be able to have meaningful research and discussion. We also need to realise that nothing is perfect and maybe just settle the fuck down and say, “yes, this method has flaws but it’s better than nothing and we will acknowledge that it’s not perfect and deal with it until we have a better way to do things”. Or should we just say eff-it, let the people eat snack cakes?

New Front-of-Package Labels in Canada

Health Canada is currently in the second phase of FOP consultation and you should go have your say. It will only take a few minutes. While they caved to industry and lost the stop sign option, there’s still an opportunity to add your thoughts at the end so, if you want, you can tell them they should make the image more powerful.

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Will avocado toast truly be society’s downfall?

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A couple of news items last week got me wondering when it became elitist to eat healthfully. The first was an article about Trump’s dietary predilections. The article talked about how his fast food requests were catered to and mentioned Obama’s “seven lightly salted almonds” and how he was “very disciplined with food”. The subtext here being that Trump is more akin to the “average Joe, salt of the earth American” while Obama fancies himself better than the rest of us. I don’t actually think that this was the intended message of the article, but I think that it helps to demonstrate the strange socially fraught world of food we’ve created for ourselves. A world in which healthy eating is considered a luxury that only the “elites” can afford.

The second item that tied in nicely with this was the outrage generated by a billionaire telling Millennials that the reason they can’t afford houses is their avocado toast habit. As if eating toast with mashed avocado is a huge money sucking vice that all Millennials are guilty of. Full disclosure: I am not a Millennial, nor am I a home owner, and I do enjoy the occasional serving of avocado toast. Anyway, of all the things to get hung-up on, this guy chooses avocado freaking toast?? If a slice of bread with a bit of fruit (yes, avocado is a fruit) on it is the common vice of Millennials than I’d say they’re doing pretty damn good compared to previous generations with their cigarettes and alcohol. We’re really going to highlight a relatively benign, fairly healthy breakfast food as the downfall of a generation? What would you have them eat? Dry cornflakes? There’s a lot more ranting I could get into about the fallacies of the argument but I’d be digressing and I’m fairly certain others have already voiced them all in rebuttals and on social media. More to the point, yet again, we’re seeing healthy eating being framed as elitist, something that needs to be earned, rather than the human right that it is.

As with placing moral value on food, we should not begrudge anyone a nutritious diet. Healthy food is not synonymous with elitism. Nor is it something to be earned with age or money.¬†Everyone¬†of all ages, financial circumstances, and walks of life, has a right to healthy food. And just to be clear, that doesn’t mean everyone has to, or should, eat avocado toast.