So, since I didn't read (and have no plans to read) Diet Myths That Keep Us Fat: And the 101 Truths That Will Save Your Waistline--and Maybe Even Your Life, I'll just make pot shot comments on Nancy Snyderman's Today Show appearance (where no one was there to take an opposing viewpoint to her. How convenient.) Let's begin, shall we?
Now, just an observational bit I've noticed: On the whole, doctors really just do not have a whole lot of nutritional training. It's just not on their radar. If they can't cut it out or give you a pill for it, then it isn't medicine. And nutritional "science" ... doesn't have a whole lot of science at all going on. Historically, they've made a whole bunch of conclusions mostly based on correlations. And while correlations are interesting... they just don't prove causation. I'll make those same mistakes here, but I'm just an irritating guy poking fun. I don't even own a lab coat.
Nancy actually sort of agrees with the whole "doctors don't have much nutritional training" bit but explains that she knows what she is talking about because she has been fat before. Hmmm. I'm not so sure that's a qualification. If I've had a heart attack before that doesn't make me a heart specialist. In fact, her argument is sort of counter intuitive. I personally have never had a real weight issue. Shouldn't that make me more qualified in nutrition? It should.
Now, I have to admit that in this particular interview, she didn't go all postal and blather about eating low fat.... but she's done that before, so I'll hold her to it here. How did she say she gained weight? She "lived on vanilla wafers and saltines." Hmmmm. Sounds high carb to me (and low nutrition.) Coincidence?
How did we American's start getting fat? Well, according to Nancy it's because in "post World War II we learned how to preserve food so crackers replaced fresh bread...." [In her defense, she does mention other causes... but I got a saltine stuck in my throat with this one.] We learned how to preserve food post WWII? Honey, crackers date back to at least the Old Testament. Jews still eat unleavened bread at passover. That's a frickin cracker, okay? Canning was invented in response to a war, but just not the one you mention. It was the Napoleonic wars (late 1700's, early 1800's). Dried meats and veggies go back to pre-history. Sausage goes back to at least 589 BC. They've been pickling stuff in China since the dawn of time. What the hell are you talking about?
Some things that did happen in food history since WWII are:
- invention (and later subsidy) of high fructose corn syrup (1957).
- invention of hydrogenated oils in the 1890s led to use of "healthier" margarine in 1937 (actually due to scarcity, but later promoted for "health")
- USDA recommended dietary allowances (1941) and its food pyramid (1988).
- USDA manipulation of food economics by subsidy and restriction (1933 to the present).
Now, correlation isn't causation... and I have presented no hard evidence based on these things. But at least I presented correlation. At least I am not pulling stuff out of my ass and presenting it as fact.
Nancy also mentions she doesn't believe in denying certain foods (even though she has historically been a fat phobe and a "oh my god eat low fat or die" idiot) and says it's okay to go ahead and have dessert for dinner every now and then. (Emphasis mine. She is seriously talking about replacing real food with dessert.) And I am sort of on board here. I mean: self denial creates some sort of silly self defeating ritual, where you deny, deny, deny, GORGE. But there's always room for dessert. The sugar/fat combo, while delicious, is a sure short circuit of the body/brain mechanism. And eating them alone with little to slow down their absorption is a sure road to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a whole host of other maladies. Just eat real food with enough protein/fat to fill you up. Then, occasionally allow dessert -- you'll find room for it.
So what's her diet advice? "No food restrictions. Eat 1200-1500 calories a day to maintain your weight." What you talkin bout Willis? First off, it is ridiculous to talk about calorie intake without talking about calorie burning. They're related. If you exercise more, you have to eat more. If you don't... not only are you doomed to failure, but eventually you're going to shut down and go into starvation mode. But what's seriously idiotic here is the recommendation of 1200 to 1500 calories for maintenance. You're a loony. 1200 calories might be a maintenance diet for a 50 year old woman that weighs 100 pounds, but otherwise it's insane unless you are one of those low metabolism starvation diet folks. (Okay, I exaggerate a little. It's what I do.) The basal metabolism (i.e. just sitting, breathing and pumping blood) for a normal person is more than that assuming no exercise whatsoever. If you don't believe me, calculate yours yourself.
Look, this is sort of a religious war (and by that I mean, the low fat side is worshiping something they can't prove and can't see). But if you really want to lose weight or control disease, stop demonizing fat and start looking into insulin response.