Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Diet Myths and How to Profit from them

First off, a confession: This review is totally biased, petty and unfair. I am reviewing a book I haven't read based on comments the author has said. And I am doing it in a way that she doesn't really get a good rebuttal. That's wrong, wrong, wrong. And it's just the sort of thing she would do if this was a study on the success of low carb diets or the failure of low fat diets. It would be better to give it a fair read and a fair review, but that's just not my style. If only there was a foodie zealot that could take this on... but I digress.

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.


Og Make Blog said...

Two words: discount rate.

Whilst that explains a lot, there is also the fact that the food companies have gone public in the last 15-17 years, and actually 'push' calories to maintain or increase profit... they are cheap and plentiful, and marketing just sells more, more, more. Look at the caloric content of the fast foods and processed offerings all around you... there is no way you can pack that many calories into something at home with real food.

A number that sticks with me from many moons ago in undergrad physiology.... 500 cal. (kcal) ... whether you ate 0 or 500 it made no difference ... basically still starvation mode.

Yes, cortisol and insulin... bad, bad, bad. For those with high serum cholesterol, it is probably saving your life... until the buildup causes secondary problems... all due to fighting the inflammation response... aka cortisol. Fight the cause, not the effect. Ecraze l'infame.

Spork In the Eye said...

There is really only one reason fast food is so cheap and that is government subsidies. It's all corn. It's fried in corn oil. It's breaded in corn. Or it's fed corn.

And like you say, it's extremely calorie dense and really "half digested" in it's extreme processivity. No calorie burn in the digestion, just store the calories and ... damn, you're hungry again an hour later.

There's lots of badness with low fat besides the fact that it doesn't work long term for weight loss: immune system issues, probable brain issues, heart issues, ....

Enos Straitt said...

Oh, this is funny...my Captcha word was "sushi".

I have never struggled with my weight but I did get to over 200 lbs (at 5' 10", early 40's) because my exercise had dropped off to next to nothing and I was having way too much ice cream each week and 1-2 beers each night with dinner. Once I started "counting calories", (2200 a day) I dropped down to my current weight of 175.

Of course eating better helped. We keep more fresh fruits and veggies handy and I eat a lot less ice cream each week and my beer consumption has dropped off to next to nil (GASP!). I have picked up my exercising (50+ push ups each day and 50+ sit ups to go along with them) and of course, I had to increase the calories a tad to keep from losing any more weight.

When I became serious about losing weight, work gave me free access to a health coach. What scared me was that she was on a 1200 diet...not healthy at all.

Spork In the Eye said...

No, 1200 is not a healthy amount... and remember... that was a MAINTENANCE number, not a weight loss number. And the number is given up in the air with no reference to calorie burn. If you exercise, you have to eat more. Period.

The thing is: she is so anti fat and anti low carb diets -- and one of the benefits of those diets (other than they're actually healthier) is that you can stick to them because you are not hungry. On a 1200 calorie diet, you are doomed to fail. Or eat your left arm.

Oh, I saw an online interview with her. She again goes off and says we just learned how to preserve food and just recently invented crackers. I figured she just misspoke on Todday... but she MEANT to say that. That just makes her sound stupid.

LogoGirl said...

Since we are being petty about Ms Snyderman - can we mention the facelift?
Girlfriend can hardly blink and her eyebrows have receded into her hairline. We were watching her tell us this morning how we should all be getting three flu shots this fall ( AS IF) and just couldn't get over her face.

Spork In the Eye said...

Facelift? Really? I thought someone just surprised her all the time.

Oh, and before you just run out and get those extry swine flu shots, read about the last time this happened.... and people were encouraged to get that extry shot. Can you remember Guillian Barre? [yes, the G-B numbers were small, but they were forever associated with the rush quick to the market swine flu vaccine.]

Kari said...

Hmmm, I hadn't noticed the facelift, but I generally tune her out because she annoys me. Now I'll have to pay attention.

LogoGirl said...

When even phillip is going "what the heck did she do to her face" - then you know its obvious. :)

Spork In the Eye said...

Oh Logo, don't even get me started on plastic surgery. I have a long standing personal distaste for it.

What in the hell name is wrong with an attractive 50-something chick that looks like an attractive 50-something chick instead of Act 1 of a plastic surgery monster show? [Act 1, because it never stops with one. Never.] You ain't foolin' no one with that stuff. You still look your age... you just look your age with a little less sense.

Oh, I could do a whole 3 page rant on plastic surgery. I really could.

Og Make Blog said...

Then why don't 'ya? Really, though, some folks really need it.

Beauty may be skin deep, but ugly goes plumb to the bone.

Spork In the Eye said...

Weekend Today Update:
a) "high protein diets are hard." Oh, except for the fact that you are not hungry. Oh come on. This means you've never tried one.
b) she's actually DROPPED the maintenance calories in this interview to "1000 to 1200 to 1400." FOR MAINTENANCE! She says less if you want to lose weight. She's a loony.