One Mom in the Middle…
of parenting… of her career… of life…

Diets are not religions and other tidbits

Published 3.6.2017
Mondays are the day when I offer up recent or interesting links and tidbits I've found while searching the web.

Stephan Guyenet wrote a book, The Hungry Brain, and is making the interview rounds to publicize it. Guyenet notes that absolute grams or calories of fat intake didn’t fall, the percentage of fat fell because the absolute grams and calories of carbs increased. Essentially, Americans never ate less fat, but started eating more carbs. And most of those carbs came wrapped in fat (and salt). That’s the big lie that low carb shills keep repeating, that Americans all went on a low fat diet and got fat. Nope. We simply added more carbs to our diet, and patter ourselves on the back when the percentage of fat in our diets “declined.”

Here's the crux of the issue:

“The main problem isn't the information,” Guyenet says. “It's the assumption that the information will change behavior. We don't drink soda, eat pizza, or eat ice cream because we think they're healthy and slimming. We eat those things because we like them, despite the fact we know they're fattening. That's not the guidelines’ fault. It's simply human nature.”

But there’s an even bigger problem, one that Guyenet tackles in his soon-to-be-published book. “Our brains contain circuits that are playing by the rules of a survival game that no longer exists,” he says, “and those circuits tell us to crave fattening foods.”

The first step to breaking those circuits is to acknowledge they exist, and to recognize when they’re pulling us toward a bad decision, one that we’ll soon regret. The second step, Guyenet says, is to re-engineer our home and work environments to help us avoid those temptations in the first place.

Diets are not religions

Diet culture exists because people want to avoid death? Uh… okay, I guess. Being or becoming healthy tends (but does not guarantee) to extend life. But frankly it’s a labored argument. Humans can survive on just about anything because the body can compensate until it cannot. At that point health suffers. The idea of trying to minimize the body’s compensation needs to increase health and the life enjoyment isn’t something to be derided in my view.

I can agree that too much of the diet wars are “religious” in nature, but I took that as being more economic in nature. If you’ve staked your business on one type of eating being the best, then you can’t admit when contrary evidence is produced disproving your position. Your livelihood depends on you being right.

I don’t make diet recommendations here, except to note (endlessly it sometimes seems, even to me) that any diet (way of eating) you adopt has be to be one that you can do for the rest of your life.

Speaking of treating diet choices as religion… I don’t think this low carber makes the point he intends here. Diets shouldn’t be religions, and low carb isn’t the only diet that can control type two diabetes (T2D). Any diet that restricts calories can do that. What a low carb high fat (LCHF) does not do is reverse T2D. Reversal means that a random oral glucose tolerance (OGTT) test can be passed— LCHF specifically precludes this possibility, as evidenced by the need to “refeed” carbs for several days before an OGTT.

An eating disorder is not the same as eating healthier. To be plain, I don't and never did eat “clean.” I eat what I want, just in sufficient quantities to keep me (close to) the size human I wish to be at my current age.

Ah, but then they have to go after gluten free eating. Sorry folks, the problem isn’t cutting out gluten. There are plenty of foods remaining that don’t have an iota of gluten (for the record, I still minimize gluten in my own diet— please note the verb— but have relaxed a bit in recent years as my gut is happier. Continuing to eat gluten minimized for me mean s eating more legumes. And I’d put legumes up against gluten grains all day every day as to their relative healthiness.

I know, I know, most people who up and decide to go gluten free don’t think about legumes, especially if they are following the Paleo™ fad diet. That fact doesn’t mean that avoiding gluten mean a priori that the resulting diet is less healthy. It does mean you won’t be eating a lot of processed or fast foods, which tend to be based around gluten and dairy. It’s a pet peeve of mine, and it’s not getting better with time.

In the end it’s a commercial for HAES*. As I’ve noted previously, the general framework of HAES is similar to what I do— except I don’t pretend that calorie quantity doesn’t matter, or that excess weigh ton my frame has no health effect.

Speaking of HAES… Eleven types of cancer are strongly associated with obesity. Correlation is not causation and all that jazz… but seriously folks, forcing the body to carry excess weight puts stress on the system. A human body is miraculous and can compensate for an incredible amount of abuse… until it cannot. Then the wheels come off and the same complex system struggles to establish a new equilibrium, and sometimes never can again.

This development was inevitable. Body positivity means all bodies, not just fat ones. Fatties started the movement and are now annoyed that it’s been subsumed into a more mainstream idea. And they aren’t happy that clothes sizes in most stores end at 20/22. Actually, they are frustrated that fashion has become the focus.

Wellness programs come in for a lot of grief amongst HAES proponents but maybe wellness programs can be beneficial? However, they couldn’t tell what made a good program vs a bad one.

A non-vegan arguing that vitamin B12 is a lame argument against veganism… say what? To my mind it comes down to whether or not you accept that a diet that requires supplementation is by definition unhealthy. Vegans who eat oysters are omnivores, Nori does not have B12 unless microscopic crustaceans are included amongst the kelp, and the mushroom B12 thing is unknown to me, and likely comes down to how much dirt (read manure) is still on the mushrooms when eaten. But if mushrooms had any significant a amount of B12, vegan doctors would be shouting it from the rooftops, and they do not. Because it’s not true. Want to be vegan? Take a damn B12 supplement and go on with life.

And finally, I've mentioned Penn Jillette and his weight loss here previously. Here is a detailed look at the Penn Jillette’s diet experience by someone who read his book. Jillette’s method of losing weight was extreme, but he’s an all or nothing kind of guy. And he was in a health state where extreme made sense to avoid bariatric surgery.

Before I go any further, let me say that Jillette joked to his podcast colleagues about lying to the media during interviews, so keep that in mind when evaluating the morphing details of his diet. And writer Calvin Trillin, after extensive contact with Jillette for a 1989 New Yorker profile, commented that “Penn is not exactly a liar, but he is not absolutely wed to the facts of a story if they interfere with the general theme.” Of course the media also makes mistakes and misquotes people all the time.

This does explain a few things, such as why the account of how Jillette lost his weight have varied from telling to telling.

*Health at every size

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