Looking back, while I didn’t think anything of it then, as early as I can remember, I have been living in a world of nutrition fads. As a child, at friend’s houses and family parties I would see the reduced-fat and fat free processed foods along with diet sodas. Then in high school my dad and other family members stopped caring about the fat and started going low carb (at least it was with real whole foods, not the Atkins shakes of today). Then working in a health food store and reading health magazines I noticed the supplement fixations and the stimulant trends. Commercials for Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and other delivery options all promised results. Then more recently, the juice cleanses, restrictive paleo, advocare, shakeology, etc etc etc. It’s always been obvious that these things don’t work – if they did, why would they fade out and new trends pop up? When thinking about fad diets and plans I will forever remember the student who told me “but weight watchers always works for me when I go on it”. If you need to keep “going on it” it clearly does not work at all! When educating, I always say, if you don’t think you could stay on the diet forever, it isn’t worth your time and energy. And I like to stress that everyone is different and there is no one diet for everyone.
What I don’t remember seeing throughout my life as a consumer or as a Dietitian is so many specific processed foods and supplements being marketed as healthy and “clean”… and people actually spending their money on them and believing it. Sure the slim fast shakes were a huge sell, as were Atkins bars, but most people used them to try to get skinnier, not because they were truly thinking they were being healthy (that is how I perceived it anyway).
Here we are in 2014. I have to try everyday not to let the supplement companies, advertisements and Dr. Oz claims that are brainwashing our nation drive me crazy. Watching college football last night, the FSU / OK State game was at AT&T stadium. Just as large as AT&T stadium on that field read “Advocare”, and they had plenty of commercials as well. The quest bars, shakeology, advocare, verve etc are some how persuading people to think “this is nutritious!” and “I am so much healthier now!”. Sure there are people using the products simply to try and lose weight quickly (and not to be healthy) but many really think they are doing good things for their body in the mean time. I know that Americans are smarter than this. I regularly hear clients, students and even family members complain about how expensive it is to eat healthy. But come on people, how expensive are the supplements, energy drinks, meal replacement shakes, and other “nutrition” gimmicks? Even if math wasn’t your strong subject back in school, if you can count points like weight watchers wants you to and count calories in your health app, you can count up all the money you’re wasting and could be putting towards real food and an actual lifestyle change.
At Bucks, I teach from The Science of Nutrition by Thompson, Manore, and Vaughn. This text defines food perfectly: “the plants and animals we eat”. Period. That’s it. Not the food component that was processed with chemicals in a lab and shoved in a chemical filled plastic bottle or aluminum container that people are consuming as actual meals. How can we post a picture of the Quest bar or meal replacement shake that was made in a factory God knows how long ago, was shipped to you or on a store shelf for months, that we took out of a plastic package, could never make in our own kitchen, and add “#cleaneating #nutrition #healthylifestyle” etc? I would rather someone eat fast food consciously knowing it is horrible for them than to consume this garbage thinking it’s healthy for them.
Trust me, I understand that it’s not super easy to prepare every single meal from scratch all day long. But that’s why we food prep (see my posts and The Lean Green Bean‘s) and choose convenience foods with real ingredients and a list that’s not a paragraph long (like Clif KITS). Making a healthy lifestyle easier is honestly all about habits. As Americans, we collectively have a lot of bad habits and quite frankly are just afraid to make an effort to change them. Stop being comfortable making excuses and evaluate what really needs to change in your current lifestyle. I just posted a newsletter about this last week but, how can you slowly and gradually alter your normal routine so that you instinctively just have healthy habits?
There is a reason most of you have health insurance and that the companies cover you seeing a Registered Dietitian (aka a real “nutritionist”). Because if they invest in your health now, they won’t have to help you treat a chronic, life-threatening disease later. What you put in your body today has an effect on you tomorrow and 5, 10, 50 years down the road. Health is not about looking for a quick fix to get skinny. There are plenty of skinny people that are so far from healthy. Instead of going on a 3 day processed shake cleanse to get rid of bloat that will just come back, meet with a Registered Dietitian. To attain their credential, an RD has gone through extensive education, supervised clinical and counseling hours, has passed an exam, and maintains their credentials with continuing education. They didn’t just sign on as an advocare rep to have an easy side job and make money off of you. Instead of a blanket program or plan for everyone, a RD helps each individual person they meet with make lasting changes for their personal health that also happens to result in weight loss if it is needed.
The RD you choose should specialize in whatever health issues or goals you may have. If they claim they know everything, find someone else! For example, I specialize in sports nutrition, weight management, plant based nutrition, and food allergies & intolerances. If someone came to me with kidney disease or cancer, I would refer them to an RD with that specialty. Talk to a couple of RD’s before meeting so you know you picked someone who will look at you as an individual and help you set attainable, personalized goals for life long health. I am available in Bucks and surrounding counties in PA (or even skype), but you can find an RD near you via the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website: eatright.org .
Before I am done, in true Professor fashion, it is quiz time.
Which of the following pictures is a nutritious meal?
lots of processed ingredients stuffed into a bar
Food components converted to powder in a bag
If you answered C, congratulations! 🙂