Eating advice in the United States has taken leave of its senses. It is no wonder that Americans are perpetually on diets.
It is only in the last 20 years that eating, a task we do quite naturally, has become so complex that you apparently need professional spin from nutritionists and dietitians, or worse, from doctors, on how to do it.
Spend a little time on the web (and especially social media) and your head will spin from all the contradictory healthy eating advice: eat organic…no, wait, don’t waste your money; eat less salt…wait, too little salt might be worse for you than too much salt; don’t eat fat…oh, sorry, eating too little fat will actually make you fat because you’ll eat too many poor quality carbs; eat foods that have a low glycemic index…wait, we meant a low glycemic load, er, well maybe eat foods that are both; eat breakfast every day because it will help you control your body weight except when it doesn’t.
We have the most productive food industry and the safest food supply in the world. Without us, the world’s food supply collapses and lots of people starve. Food is cheaper now as a proportion of income than it was 100 years ago. Only in America could we look at our easy and cheap access to food and conclude that we have done something wrong.
Where we have gone wrong is in our belief that there are no normative standards for what it means to be a competent American adult. Don’t want to exercise? It’s ok, it’s your choice. Don’t want to trade the $6 extra large bag of chips in your cart for a bag of apples and a bunch of bananas? It’s ok, it’s your choice. Can’t tear yourself away from the soda fountain long enough to consider drinking a bottle of water? Hey, it’s okay, it’s all about you.
If you use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, which replaced food stamps), you can fill your cart with poor quality calories because, well, it’s only taxpayer money, which you should be able to waste as you see fit.
The modern nutritional mewling that Americans have eating disorders, and they’ve all been duped by the food industry, is the witless maundering of an industry looking to make work for itself and get paid for spouting platitudes. The obesity problem is not only not a disease, it’s not an epidemic. An epidemic is both prevalent and virulent; two-thirds of American adults are not obese, its prevalence varies widely, and you cannot catch it the way you catch a cold.
I learned every useful fundamental thing I ever needed to know about nutrition from my mother, an immigrant with little advanced education: eat a little of a lot of different foods, soda and snacks are bad for you, fruit is always good, and going outside to play is better than watching TV.
I have maintained a healthy body weight for my entire adult life, eating just what’s accessible, sensible, affordable, and tasty. I can walk into any grocery store in America, including the store all the nutritionistas love to hate, Walmart, and walk out with bags of perfectly healthy food.
Our national weight obsession has everything to do with a glaring lack of self-respect and ignorance of basic algebra.
The formula for successful body weight management is unchanged through the millennia: you must balance energy consumed with energy expended.
In fact, here is the world’s simplest eating advice: Eat less. Eat less crap.
Oh, and exercise A LOT more. After a year of doing that 24/7, come back and see me. Until then, closing your mouth will serve multiple useful purposes.
Vik Khanna’s new e-book Your Personal Affordable Care Act: How To Avoid Obamacare, is available now in the Amazon.com Kindle Marketplace and at Smashwords.com. Vik is THCB’s Editor-At-Large for Wellness.
Vik: your assertion (not fact) I addressed is that long term weight management is simple math. I think it is regulated by the body, and works very well for all creatures (including us) in the wild eating their natural diets, about which we seem to be in agreement.
For some reason, certain humans (and lately some of their pets) have overridden or broken their natural fat regulation. This could be caused by metabolic dysregulation (due to diet / genetics / environment?) as I believe, or it could be due to gluttony and sloth, as you seem to believe.
This discussion has motivated me to write a new blog post on regulated systems (stuff I learned in an undergraduate engineering course over thirty years ago, called Feedback and Control Systems). It’s become obvious to me that the energy-balance believers don’t understand how regulated systems behave.
Geekay: actually, I think animals have it down just fine. They eat when they ae hungry, and when there is food available. Many animals gorge themselves because they don’t know when food will come again, and they expend a lot of their time and energy in search of, or in the case of creatures such as raptors, just hanging out waiting for food to show up. As far as I know, animals don’t farm and don’t make choices in a marketplace. But, when you put companion animals in the presence of humans who must make choices for them, things go awry.
Like many commentators on this blog, you don’t actually address the facts presented to you. You just keep pouring the same whine.
“…easy and cheap access to…” basically crap. If you consider wheat, corn, soy, seed oils and sugar to be “food”, that’s a problem, because it’s the bulk of production.
“Eat less, move more” has never been shown to work long term, and the dogmatic hold on this idea is prolonging the health crisis.
Utterly ridiculous. Long-term weight management is algebra. Go back to math class and nutrition and biology 101.
Ah, I see, so I guess that’s how all the other living species on the planet manage their weight (and they only need to do arithmetic, not algebra).
Actually, other species manage their weight just fine until they decide to associate closely with us. The case in point is dogs: there is a growing obesity problem amongst Americans’ dogs. This is ironic, of course, because dog ownership is also associated with adults having a healthier bodyweight because they walk more than non-dog owners. However, a lot of overweight and obese people who don’t walk much have dogs, too, and they have started to feed their dogs as they feed themselves. The dogs get table scraps, all manner of treats, foods that are richer in calories than they need, and food bowls that are always full, which is a terrible way to feed a dog.
There are, of course, plenty of exceptions. Let’s start with my 2 German Shepherds. Three to five mile walk every day. A specific amount of food daily and no table scraps. Even though one is nearly 11 and the other about 8, they are both perfect body weight. As they have gotten older we have switched to foods with more fiber and protein to promote satiety without excess calories.
Have you ever seen a fat military working dog or police K9? I haven’t. Why not? They work/train extensively and are fed in specific amounts so they remain fit enough to do their jobs. In your apologist schema, the average American has no job other than to lament his enslavement by big food.
As for the claim that healthy food is too expensive, here is nearly $50 worth of food, priced at a St Louis County Walmart on Sunday, 11/9 (all figures in dollars):
1 large cylinder rolled oats: 3.18
1 3lb bunch bananas: 1.65
1 3lb bag apples: 3.47
1 bag carrots: 0.82
118oz peanut butter, with no added sugar or oils: 1.98
1 loaf 100% whole wheat bread: 2.65
1 gal organic whole milk: 6.50
1 4lb pkg chicken breasts: 9.85
1 dozen eggs: 1.68
1 bag frozen brocolli: 1.50
1 bag frozen peas 1.00
2 cans light tuna: 2.30
1 bag ground coffee: 5.00
1 box of 24 tea bags: 2.14
1 pkg dark chocolate bars: 3.55
A very little added oils and sugar only in the bread. No HFCS. And, absolutely NO truth to the claim that the choices made are anything other than that. While doing the price research, I did not see a single person whose family was being held hostage by executives from Coke, Pepsi, or Kraft.
“Actually, other species manage their weight just fine…”
Yeah I know, you explained it to me before, they do algebra. Probably they look up calorie counts too, and weight themselves regularly just to monitor things, since they don’t have waistbands that get tight over the holidays — hey Wally Whale, push away from the plankton already, don’t you know when you’ve had enough?
Bloom County said it best 30 years ago when Milo counseled Opus for weight loss: Eat Less and Exercise More (http://home.comcast.net/~k.e.miller/Eating%20less%20and%20exercise.html) .
As to the government, let’s just say that when its the same government that spends millions telling you to avoid fatty foods including cheese then spends 10-100x that amount promoting the use of cheese in all sorts of foods, I don’t think they are the solution quite yet.
FYI: We, as a nation, just spent around $2 billion on Halloween candy, and $350 million on costumes for our pets. You draw your own conclusions.
Obese is extremely overweight
I would assume 60-70 percent of adults are overweight
Am I the only one but it seems like the vast majority of women I see at the gym are way overweight
The men seem to be as lot better
National Prosperity Life and Health
The EHR is responsible. I spend extra time sitting and no longer walk to radiology to see radiographs! In many cases, I do not have to walk to see the patient. I cut and paste progressnotes, copy forward and change the date, and order new labs. Jees, I could do that from my hotel room in Vegas, w room service.
“Until then, closing your mouth will serve multiple useful purposes.”
The problem with your prescription Vik, is that there is a good chance it will work.
V-I-K’s solution to poverty would be – earn more money.
The only solution to relative poverty is abolition of viviparity and institution of Bokanovskification.
That and spend less.
Also have fewer children
“everyone in the world is like you – or at least should be like you.”
I am perplexed as to how that is or would be undesirable.
Saurabh: I am just trying to keep hope alive. Keep hope alive.
” The obesity problem is not only not a disease, it’s not an epidemic. An epidemic is both prevalent and virulent; two-thirds of American adults are not obese, its prevalence varies widely, and you cannot catch it the way you catch a cold.”
I guess then that Ebola is even less of an epidemic to be concerned with, since also, “you cannot catch it the way you catch a cold”.
Would 30% of a population with any affliction then not be cause for action? Is type 2 diabetes a disease, an epidemic, or too minor a % (yet) to address?
As usual V-i-k you oversimplify the problem and the solution by assuming everyone in the world is like you – or at least should be like you.
If government could mind its own business it would not engage in reckless and pointless spending on something over which it has no control (except not pouring money into food stamps for crap).
People look exactly like they want to look.
If you want a different look, then make different choices.
Man, they should really hire you to head a psych department. Who knew behavior change was so easy?
Let me guess, your advice for students is RTFB?
No, my solution is, when in doubt, apply the priniciple of Occam’s Razor.
Complexity where there doesn’t need be any is just a way of duping people into believing that they are not capable of helping themselves. It breeds dependence and typically ends up rewarding the people or organizations who generate the complexity. True in healthcare, true in workplace wellness, true in personal health and fitness. Simplicity should be everyone’s first choice in all those arenas because, for most people most of the time, simplicity will offer the most elegant and least perplexing path.
Love the title! ; )
It should be obvious, but apparently it isn’t.