The latest news is all about the new food guide that went from a classic pyramid shape to a more symbolic plate shape.
Personally, I think it’s a good move. I’m one of those people who need to see things in a graphic representation. I don’t think in numbers, to this day I don’t even know how much I used to bench press. All I know is that it was 2 big plates and one little plate on each side.
What’s got me all riled up is some of the negative feedback to the new recommendations.
I’m not sure why, but for some reason people getting angry because they think the government is trying to shove an unhealthy diet down out throat is really pissing me off.
It’s still the same old song and dance. The vegetarians say the government is shoving meat down our throat. The paleo folks say it’s about forcing people to eat grain. Some folks say the government is forcing us to eat a ton of fruit and others say we are being told to consume too much dairy.
They all say it’s because there are all sorts of lobbyists involved and that the food guide is not aimed at helping people eat well, but rather to make money for those who produce such foods.
I’m sorry, but for some reason this sort of thinking makes me want to bash my head in with a hammer. I don’t care if subsidies or lobbyists are really behind the new food regulations, but one thing I do believe is that all of the bickering and taking sides makes about as much sense as staring at the sun and trying not to squint.
First off, there is the claim that the new regulations are all about a nutritional emphasis that’s about making money for companies rather than helping us eat healthy.
So far as I can tell, this is a guide that’s about as moderate and balanced nutrition as I’ve ever seen. There doesn’t seem to be that much of an overwhelming emphasis on any side be it meat, fruit, grain, dairy or even veggie. So far as I can see it’s a guide that is against emphasis.
And then there is the idea that recommendations are all about making money over healthy eating. Sure we can say that the government recommending meat will help the beef industry. Someone has to make the food right? Unless we forage for all of our own food in the wild, someone is going to make money from any kind of food recommendations. All of those paleo, raw, vegan, vegetarian, anti-dairy, anti-fruit, anti-corn diet plans are going to make people money too. Every dietary recommendation has some sort of financial incentive behind it, even it’s just to sell some diet books or get some new listeners into a podcast.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. If there is some sort of change or lifestyle habits that’s good then by golly it’s fantastic that someone can make some dough from it. Being able to make some green doesn’t make any sort of dietary recommendation evil. So who cares if the government says to drink more milk? I know my good friend the dairy farmer would be happy for the business. And I’m sure someone recommending organic vegetables will make their friends at the local farmers market happy too.
We have to also acknowledge the whole aspect of contradictory dietary advice. There are so many diets out there that it’s impossible to claim there is one right way to eat. One person’s super food is another’s poison. My friend believes eating red meat is going to kill me and suck my quality of life down to that of a slug. I on the other hand believe my teriyaki steak is going to help me kick butt in tomorrow’s bike race.
Both of our beliefs are grounded on rock hard science, loads of experts, decades of research and the simple fact that the other persons view appears to be absolutely crazy.
So given this point of view how can we justifiably say one is right and the other is wrong? How can we, as a nation, possibly consider the idea that diary is a universal plague upon our diet when there is just as much reason to believe its nutritional gold?
This is largely why I distance myself from as many strict dietary beliefs as possible. They just tend to muddy up what otherwise is a pretty simple, easy and pleasant part of daily life. I just take all of the this-type-of-food-is-poison reasoning and toss it out with the rest of the trash.
Any food can be poison given the quantity consumed. Anything can also be healthy if we can utilize it for a constructive purpose. Yes that can include so-called junk food to some degree as well.
The last thing that burns my bacon about the argument over the new guidelines is that I really don’t think they are really that influential.
Some people are treating the government recommendations as if Hitler himself created them and they will bring on the rise of a terrible nutritional holocaust.
I really don’t think these recommendations have ever had that much influence on the food choices of the average American. In the 10 years I’ve been talking to people about weight loss, eating healthy and good nutrition. I have yet to meet anyone who pays attention to the USGA recommendations. Most people I speak with don’t even know what the recommendations are.
Most of the time people are trying to follow some sort of diet that a celebrity was on, or they read their latest edition of the diet of the month and are looking for ways to stick to it. Sometimes they are following whatever diet recommendations their friends or family came up with. If they are seeing a professional the professional usually gives them some sort of advice that’s different from the government recommendations so they have something unique to market or sell. It’s a good strategy. In the world of nutrition it’s tough to get someone to pay money to be told the same dietary lessons they learned about in school or while watching Sesame St. It’s much easier to sell something that’s complicated and exotic, like telling someone not to eat grapefruit in the summer or eating protein along with carbs.
I think its funny how those in the diet industry claim that the government is controlling our eating. Isn’t that what the diet gurus are trying to do? And then they heckle the government about making money from the recommendations. Does that mean no one ever made any money by selling diet advice or products? In my experience, someone with a best selling diet book will have far more influence and make much more money than a high school gym teacher telling her students about the food guide. So while the diet gurus are saying they are David and the government is Goliath I really do believe it’s the other way around.
But all of that may be a moot point when we consider where our real food influences come from. As Mohamed Ali once said:
“It’s not the mountains in the distance; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
While the “big bad government” or even the diet gurus may seem like the biggest forces that influence our diet, I believe there are much more subtle forces at work.
Take for example that my good friend just walked in with a box of mini cupcakes. She tells me that she thought I would enjoy one in particular because of my love of peanut butter. I just ate the cupcake and she was right, the peanut butter one was great.
So who’s the big influence here? Is it the diet book I read 8 months ago saying sugar is a plague upon mankind? Is it the government telling me where that cupcake would fit on a graphic representation of a plate?
I doubt it. I’m probably eating this treat because my good friend brought them as a gift and the fact that I’m super stressed about an overdue project. Those probably have a lot more to do with the lemon frosting no my lips than a diet poster at the local gym.
Other influences are my mother saying I look skinny and should have more beef stew, my sister offering me some homemade pizza and the long bike ride that ends at a hole-in-the-wall diner.
So while they may pick on the government, and I may pick on fad diets, we must stop and recognize that the strongest influences may be just under our radar. While we are spending our time and energy shouting at the grizzly bear in the distance we get stung by the bee we just stepped on.
Finally we have to consider the world’s strongest influence of all; our own experience.
You can read all of the science, attend all of the lectures and study nutrition in an unhealthy obsessive fashion but you’re food choices are largely going to come down to how you experience the food itself. Hell, I even know some people who have degrees in nutrition yet they toss most of it aside based on a few weekend experiences.
In my own example, I spent 15 years following one diet or another and during that time I was largely tired, sick, inured and stressed out. Now that I don’t follow any particular diet strategy my health and quality of life are far better in every way possible. I literally have zero negative side effects.
You can lecture me all you like and present me with all sorts of science but those arguments can’t hold a candle to my own experience.
Also take for example that last weekend I went out for a burger and fries. It wasn’t even a brewpub style meal it was a cheap fast food dinner that would have most diet advocates quivering in their boots.
I know the science behind what I was eating, I know that it’s supposed to put me in an early grave and I know I’m probably decimating the poor, mowing down acres of the rainforest and probably practicing some version of a satanic ritual. But ya know what? My experience with the food was fantastic! It tasted so good! I felt my dark mood lift with each bite and my energy level was soaring when I left the restaurant. What’s more, my energy level and mood remained sky high for the rest of the day giving me the motivation for a terrific workout and I plowed through some work projects like an animal. What’s more I never crashed, I never felt bloated, I didn’t gain weight and I did not feel guilty or anxious to undo the “damage.”
So what do you think is going to have the most sway over my choice to eat there again; a health food website telling me processed foods are poison or the fact that I was dancing on cloud nine for 7 strait hours?
It’s hard to fight our own experience but I see people try all of the time. A client of mine once gave up bread for the summer. She had constant cravings and mood swings that were related to her consumption of bread.
I finally asked her what the negative physical aspects of eating even a small amount of bread was and she didn’t have an answer! She didn’t gain weight, her energy didn’t nose dive and if anything she felt fine and relieved to silence the bread cravings for a bit.
So her overall experience from eating a sandwich was positive, but the thoughts in her head were negative simply because of some diet advice she believed she had to stick to.
She was fighting between what she believed and what was actually happening.
There are enough battlefields in our lives. The dinner plate shouldn’t be one of them. If anything it should be a place of solace and comfort, where we can feel like we are taking care of ourselves and satisfying our desires. I figure anything that fails to live up to those functions is an inadequate diet regardless of what the science or the government says.
In conclusion: so what if the government came out with some new recommendations, it’s probably going to do just as much good as the last time they put this stuff out. Who cares if there is some new diet sweeping the nation? It’ll have about the same track record and be just as necessary as all of the other diet ideas.
And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m going to continue to improve my skills at healthy eating. I’m going to seek more pleasure and satisfaction from the foods I eat. I’m going to continue to listen to my body and mind to when things go wrong and if food is the issue then I will take steps to correct. Chances are pretty good that my healthy eating style isn’t going to fit any cookie-cutter plan and it’s a good chance yours won’t either. That’s actually a great thing because it will give you the ability to constantly adapt and change your diet to suit your needs best as the river of life continues to flow.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some left over cupcakes to put away. 🙂