In college, I ate Reduced Fat Peanut Butter. I had quit the swim team and thought I’d be more mindful about what I ate to reduce calories that I wasn’t burning from hours of training.
As I was grocery shopping one day, it hit me that I never looked at the nutrition labels. When I compared Reduced Fat version to the Regular version, I found the calorie difference to be: 10 calories.
What?! It had less fat, so shouldn’t the calorie count should be lower….?
Of course next is a glance at the ingredients list: peanuts and sugar.
Oh yeah, fat provides the flavor for food. Take that away and no one will buy it. What else tastes good? Sugar.
I really should have known better.
My first college level Nutrition class was while I was in High School. (Thanks to the Mass Dual Enrollment program.) I had even taken other nutrition courses at Ithaca College, as I was interested and they counted toward my major.
I knew to look at the labels, yet, I still fell prey to the low fat craze of the 90s where fat was replaced by sugar in pretty much everything. (Thank you marketing!)
Ever since, my peanut butter only has peanuts as an ingredient and I always double check.
(BTW- I wonder why Justin’s is so popular, it is peanut butter with more oil added, so you don’t have to stir it. I stir mine, and it helps burn off a few calories. A win-win in my book.)
I recalled this experience, while listening to The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz, which discusses the detrimental affects of the low fat craze and how it set us back in terms of health.
Really, I felt pissed off.
As I enjoy learning and reading different perspectives, I’ve read a lot of books over the years: The China Study, Wheat Belly, The Omnivore’s Dilemna, The Atkins Diet, The Blue Zones, and so more. They are all persuasive and convincing with scientific evidence to back them up.
Yet, they disagree so completely.
And The Big Fat Surprise seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for me in just accepting more experts. Now this has nothing to do with the book itself, just how we’ve been manipulated for years by marketing and science that has been ignored. You can go to Google Scholar and find a study for almost anything. (It doesn’t prove that it’s good science or a well done study.)
I’m tired of having experts tell me that only their program has the key to long-lasting health. I’m tired of being told one thing is good and another thing is bad. I hate the way that I’m told that I should feel guilty for enjoying a bit of chocolate. I’m tired of experts who have less nutritional education than myself making millions by peddling bad advice. I’m tired of having people with weird breath tell me that their manufactured shake will cure me of every problem I ever had.
Fuck Nutrition Advice
Our brains use sugar as fuel. Our bodies use fat, carbohydrates, and protein to run. We need all three macronutrients to function, plus micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
Yet, I bet when you see Carbohydrates, you start to feel your pulse race. Those make you fat. Right?
Food science is young in comparison to others.
The ability to preserve life was the beginning of nutrition science. It would be save to assume that the banning of pork from Judaism was to protect us from Trichinosis, a parasite. We ended up with cheese and developed in the 1800s canning as ways to preserve foods. In 1827 we learned about the macronutrients, fat, carbohydrates, and protein. The first vitamin was discovered in 1913. The Recommended Daily Allowances of nutrients was created in 1941 as part of food rationing.
This gives us only about 100 years of modern nutrition science. Yet, it has it limitations.
The complex aspect of food science though is that in ways, it’s hard to distinguish and study one nutrient away from another. All foods have a mix of protein, fats, carbohydrates, and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals).
How can we say which is more important, when they all work together?
And we are just starting to touch upon genetics and what we eat now. More info will be coming out in the next few years.
Our Food System
The United States is a hodgepodge of food cultures, creating something truly unique. This has given us access to a wide variety of ingredients. Yet, only 3 crops dominate the industry: wheat, corn, and soy.
With the goal of increasing crop yields, our farms use a plethora of chemicals (many that have been banned in the European Union). These fertilizers may play a significant part in our declining health.
Processing has removed the protein and fiber from wheat leaving us with a perfectly white powder that has to have vitamins added to be more than calories.
Our commercialized system is full of ‘convenient’ foods full of sugar, fat, and salt. Leaving our taste receptors happy and eager for more.
Ultimately, we don’t fully know the entire impact of our food system on our health and the environment.
It’s a chicken versus egg question with high stress levels, processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, genetics, and other environmental factors (pollution and chemicals) all potentially affecting our health. It’s easy to point to one over the other.
In looking at my family tree, many have lived long lives. They didn’t follow a diet, they ate what they had around them. They ate local, because that was the only option. If it wasn’t preserved or fresh, they didn’t eat it.
I doubt a single one of them heard of acai. They may have enjoyed a touch of coconut, but certainly didn’t have pancakes using coconut flour. They used wheat and I assume corn, as part of my family has been in the US since the 1600s. Being of Irish ancestry, potatoes most likely kept my Celtic roots alive. Many raised and ate animals all the way up to my paternal grandparents. Even though my grandfather worked as an engineer, they had a massive garden that I would roam as a child to pick fresh green beans.
My maternal grandmother was always confused by what I ate. Veggies she never had heard of or eaten, alfredo sauce made from cashews, and Indian food too spicy for her taste buds. She was a meat and potato lover, who was impacted by a childhood during the Great Depression. She would hoard canned items and no matter how often we would clean her cupboards, we would still find salad dressing from the 90s.
For her, food was a source of nourishment. She would get so giddy by a BLT and would relish every bite.
Yet, we live in a culture with more people who will criticize that sandwich for the fatty meat, the gluten, the dairy, or god knows what. Why?
My Mom is celiac, so for her a touch of wheat will keep her home sick for weeks. I don’t eat dairy or meat and now it no longer agrees with my body. I had something with meat or fish sauce in Indonesia and spent the rest of the day ill.
The Inuit eat primarily organ meats, but we copy their diet with filet mingon. We criticize grains, but have been eating breads for thousands of years. Not all cultures use dairy, but cheese is a long-lasting source of calories and perfectly fine for many to consume.
We take the advice that is given with whatever fad diet is big at the moments, and adapt our food culture around it, partly because our food choices are emotionally charged.
A paleo diet encourages foods that I know my ancestors did not have access to. (Northern Europeans did not have coconuts.) You can buy a paleo cookie, which demonstrates for me our desire to take our comfort foods and adapt them into whatever nutritional rules we are following, ultimately defeating the purpose.
My knowledge of ketones has to do with Diabetes, where ketones give an alcoholic smell to the breath and mean they need insulin or could go into diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be life threatening. And people are actually trying to go into a ketonic state. (Yes, I know my knowledge on the keto diet is limited.)
What if we actually paid attention to what our body wants as food? Ate until we feel satisfied? Paid attention to how body feels after we eat and minimized foods that don’t make us feel good? Ate little to no food out of boxes? Valued the farmers who took grew our ingredients? Ignored all advice and let ourselves become the experts of our body? Allowed ourselves to enjoy treats without guilt?
What if we said Fuck Nutrition Advice and just ate real food?
I don’t say this because I am anti-nutrition. I believe food is a significant part of healing and ideal functioning.
I know people who have used raw food, juices, and/or green smoothies to aid in multiple of issues, including cancer. I saw someone who went off medication for Rheumatoid Arthritis by removing dairy from their life. My Mom’s body was helped significantly by cutting out gluten. Food can be magical.
I think an elimination diet can be eye opening in discovering what works for an individual and has helped many identify food issues. (Having a Registered Dietician guide you through the process is best.)
But I have also seen women (primarily) obsessed by food. Yes, there were the borderline anorexics and bulimics (and parent encouragers and enablers), but most were already doing better than 90% of Americans. They wanted to be even better. They talked about drinking vodka over wine, because it had a few less calories, even though they hated vodka. Denying a vegetable, because it wasn’t organic. Refusing to eat a piece of their child’s birthday cake.
What is the purpose of life if we deny ourselves joy?
I’m anti-quick nutrition certifications that allow people to call themselves “nutritionists” with no training. I can call myself a nutritionist in my state, but I don’t think that I have enough knowledge to do so. I am happy to lead conversations, and answer questions within my scope of knowledge. But if you want advice, a Registered Dietician (RD) is the most qualified source when it comes to nutrition.
Yet, like in every profession, there are some who excel more than others and I’m anti-antiquated nutrition advice. While I do think RDs are the most qualified, I’ve been to lectures recently, where non-fat dairy has been touted as ideal by a RD. Keeping them in the 90s low fat craze.
There can be a balance between enjoying food with quality of life and a healthy life.
By no mean do I encourage people to eat cake for all three meals. Though if someone really wants to, I want to know how that makes them feel. I’m sure there will be that great sugar rush, but then an immense crash. Ultimately, I doubt their body will be happy.
If we stop looking at food as the enemy, and instead begin to embrace it as the nourishment that it is, we’ll get farther and be happier.
Throw out the concept of good food, bad food. Think of diets like our tastes in clothes: diverse, changing, and a reflection of who we are.
Our styles change, our food habits change. It’s part of life. But they should make us feel good.
Fuck nutrition advice that doesn’t make sense to us. Embrace what foods make us feel revitalized and joyous.
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Food is love and joy. ~ Simran Sethi
Kate Hamm combines her 15+ years of experience in the fitness industry and high-end resort program development into sought after wellness coaching and adventures at AnamBliss. Visit www.anambliss.com for more information on coaching services and future retreat dates and locations.