So I was in a meeting today with a bunch of public health professionals when the conversation turned towards what new diets my co-workers are in. Admittedly, as a veteran of diet fads, the conversation piqued my interest. Ten years ago, despite having a healthy weight and an active lifestyle, I said goodbye to carbohydrates and said hello piles of meat for breakfast, meat for lunch, and meat with a side of blanched spinach for good measure at dinner time. I ate as if I own a butcher shop, or a rabbit farm, or maybe one of those industrial slaughterhouses. I followed the trend, lost 20 pounds and made myself look like a character in a zombie movie—without the per diem or the buffet for extras. The downside was that I had to buy new clothes. The upside was that I only had to turn sideways to disappear from student loan collectors or bad conversations on blind dates that my friends set me up with. I am back to healthy weight now but all joking aside, I find it truly sad when I hear folks talk about a new pill, or a new diet, or new X that would somehow solve Y.
Is sorghum really the new quinoa? I don’t really care about the answer to this question, to be honest. I could write about how sorghum packs a really healthy punch of slow digesting carbohydrates or that quinoa is a complete protein. At the same time, I think as a society, we might be missing the point here. Maybe it’s not necessarily the diet? Of course, some folks do need to lose weight or eat a particular diet to prevent allergies or seizures. But as I listen to my friends or colleagues or the folks who ask me about diets when they hear that I work for the nutrition and physical activity unit, they are actually talking about their failure at eating healthy consistently. Don’t get me wrong, I still love bacon, the occasional cake and a grande-size full-fat latte from Biggby. Maybe it’s time to skip the trend and focus on what’s realistic to follow on a more consistent basis? Maybe it’s okay to splurge on calories once in a while?
Mann et al. (2007) look at the landscape of obesity treatments a decade ago and found that studies tend to show bias towards successful weight loss; and that there is no consistent evidence that dieting leads to significant health improvements. The present landscape is a bit different from 2007, the study by Yu et al. (2017), found that lifestyle change programs can work to reduce body weight and glucose related outcomes. None of these studies talked about kale grown by your local hipsters or quinoa harvested by bearded and tattooed Brooklynites who moved to Michigan recently. Maybe it’s about consistency and not about fad diets? The study by Vainik et al. (2015) points to a positive direction. The results of the study indicated eating consistency is predicted by trait self-control (Vainik et al., 2015). Maybe it’s the food environment too?
Look, the conversation about diets and eating consistently will persist for a long while. In the meantime, perhaps the CDC was right. Maybe it’s all about approaching healthy eating in an easy way. Here’s what our CDC colleagues said:
- Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
- Is low in saturated fats, transfats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
- Stays within your daily calorie needs (CDC, 2016) https://goo.gl/4j1S6o
What do you think? What has worked for you when it comes to eating healthy?
CDC. (2016). Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight | Healthy Weight | CDC. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/
Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A.-M., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007). Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: Diets are not the answer. American Psychologist, 62(3), 220–233. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220
Sun, Y., You, W., Almeida, F., Estabrooks, P., & Davy, B. (2017). The Effectiveness and Cost of Lifestyle Interventions Including Nutrition Education for Diabetes Prevention: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 117(3), 404–421.e36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.11.016
Vainik, U., Dubé, L., Lu, J., & Fellows, L. K. (2015). Personality and Situation Predictors of Consistent Eating Patterns. PloS One, 10(12), e0144134. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0144134