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    Archive for the ‘dieting’ Category

    5 Problems with US News & World Report’s Diet Rankings

    Yesterday marked the release of US World & News Report’s annual “best diets for healthy eating” rankings.

    I am not a fan of diet rankings (our nutritional landscape’s Achilles heel is the obsession with dieting, as opposed to learning and developing healthful habits), but this list particularly disappointed and frustrated me.

    Below, the five main problems I spotted.

    Continue Reading »


    In The News: Nutrition Professor Eats Twinkies, Loses Weight.

    1283457996610Earlier this month, the media feasted on the following news bit:

    “Mark Haub, 40, associate professor in Kansas State University”s Department of Human Nutrition, began a 30-day junk food marathon on Aug. 25. He is living on a diet of high-calorie, high-fat foods, such as snack cakes, powdered doughnuts and sticky buns, to show that foods commonly regarded as junk can actually help people lose weight.”

    Continue Reading »


    Three Things I Want Recalled

    RawPotatoC-listers all over Tinseltown must be insanely jealous of eggs’ press agents.  If you were one of the millions of recalled Salmonella-tainted eggs over the past week and a half, you were everywhere — form the morning talk shows to CNN to thousands of blogs and tweets.

    Alas, all this recall business got me thinking about other things I would like taken back as of yesterday.

    1) Potato hate:

    Apparently, some nutritionists and Registered Dietitians are stuck in the “net carb” days of 2003 and consider potatoes to be a “no no”.  Some go as far as claiming “it doesn’t count as a vegetable.”  Magical realism and denial rolled into one big ball of “huh?”.  Pretending something “doesn’t count” if you don’t like it is the new black!

    Since, these nutritionists reason, most Americans eat potatoes in unhealthy ways, then it only makes sense to make a gross overgeneralization and claim the potato itself is not healthy.  Because, hey, why try to educate people when you can just keep a myth going?

    Truth is, when eaten in a healthy way (think baked, with its skin on, topped with some olive oil, salsa, or guacamole), potatoes provide fiber, vitamin C, and potassium.  This notion that a baked potato and an order of large fries are essentially the same thing is reductionist, simplistic, and absolutely inaccurate.  And, please, spare me the “but potatoes are a white food” speech.  So are bananas.  And cauliflower. And garlic.  And most onions.  And coconut meat.

    2) Food/Supermarket Scoring:

    In theory, it sounds helpful.  “Let’s score supermarket foods so people know what’s healthy and what’s not.”  Well, befriending your old high school friends on Facebook also sounded good in theory.

    Truth is, a lot of these systems either state the obvious (“broccoli is healthy!”) or are mired by huge flaws (“if a product is high in fat, it gets lots of points taken off, even if it’s something as simple and healthful as almond butter.”)

    This is something I have personal experience with.  For several months, I was a consultant on a food-grading system (one that, I must say, successfully escapes the pitfalls others plummet into).  Though I exerted a significant amount of effort helping developers come up with algorithms that would lead to an accurate system, it was impossible to not face limiting restrictions (“yes, take off a lot of points for long ingredient lists… oh, well, but, wait, here is a 100% whole grain sprouted bread with no added sugars made from 16 grains.”).  Still, that said, the developers did as comprehensive a job as possible.

    My main concern is that ttoo many variables that come into play.  For example — what’s “healthier”: a full-fat chocolate ice cream made from local, organic grass-fed milk or a reduced-fat ice cream that is lower in calories (with no artificial sweeteners or fake fats) but made from conventional dairy, possibly from cows injected with Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone?

    Food comparison programs and apps are at least more customizable and can capture more nuances than supermarket scoring systems like NuVal, which despite much hyperbole, have yet to be mplemented in more than a handful of stores.  For example, someone concerned with GMOs or a company’s labor practices can find a particular app for their interests, while a supermarket scoring system may only look at variables that may seem irrelevant to a consumer (for example, I don’t give grams of protein a second of thought when food shopping, whereas some supermarket scoring systems do).

    3) Overcomplicating the Issues:

    Find me one person whose weight did not drop (and health did not improve) by eating fewer calories, eating fewer processed foods, and amping up their physical activity.  Yes, there are a myriad of factors that can affect how well those behaviors play out (i.e.: hormonal changes, genetic makeup, etc.), but I don’t understand the need to reinvent a wheel that works (“eat negative calorie foods”, “drink 9 glasses of green tea every day”, “never EVER mix a carbohydrate with a protein”, “no carbohydrates for dinner”, “dairy products make you fat”, etc.).

    As I always ask the “calories don’t mean squat” groupies, please show me examples of people who gained weight as a result of eating fewer calories or individuals who lost weight by doubling their daily caloric intake (without any change in physical activity).

    Of course, the quality of what is consumed is of the utmost importance.  Whether one wants to gain or lose weight, the idea is to fill up with nutrients and other healthful components from whole foods (not chalky astronaut beverages in a can or an “energy bar” more fitting for a chemistry class experiment than your digestive system).

    Oh, PS: if anyone could offer me a time machine, I want to go back to the early 90s and immediately recall the fat-free era.


    Celebrity Diet Secrets: But You DO Eat Carbs, Drew Carey!

    drew-carey-240Comedian and Price is Right host Drew Carey has shed 80 pounds over the past six months, and the folks at People are on the case.

    In an article titled “How I Lost 80 Lbs.”, Mr. Carey shares his tip for success:

    “No carbs,” Carey says. “I have cheated a couple times, but basically no carbs, not even a cracker. No bread at all. No pizza, nothing. No corn, no beans, no starches of any kind. Egg whites in the morning or like, Greek yogurt, cut some fruit.”

    Alas, Mr. Carey has fallen prey to the same type of erroneous thinking that many other dieters do — the idea that “carbs” and “starch” are the same thing.  They are not.

    Remember, carbohydrates are in every food (except for oils, solid fats, and animal protein).  Yes, everything else — from almonds to yogurt to fruit to sweet potatoes to broccoli — contains carbohydrates.

    The notion that Drew Carey lost weight while “shunning carbohydrates” is wrong since he then states that he would sometimes start his mornings with yogurt and fruit.

    Besides, it is absolutely possible to lose weight while eating carbohydrate-rich foods like oatmeal, quinoa, lentils, and chickpeas.

    I also have no doubt that a quick comparison of Mr. Carey’s caloric consumption before and during this diet would also show a decrease in total calories.  Of course, the key to successful weight loss is to cut calories without sacrificing satiety and nutrient intake.


    The Next Diet Food: Paper!?

    slim-3Icelandic interior designer Hafsteinn Juliusson (pictured, left) has come up with the ultimate zero-calorie snack: edible paper. (FYI: the link takes you to his homepage; click on “Projects” and then “Slim chips”).

    The chips — which will be available from his website for ten times the cost of Pringles this September, per this Sydney Morning Herald news article — are 100 percent organic (phew!) and expected to come in mint, blueberry, cheddar, and wasabi (!) flavors.

    According to Juliusson, the product — which he describes as “sort of like a baked church wafer” — is “an experiment”:

    “The consumption of junk food is very often associated to habits and social rituals that help interrupt the flow of routinary daily activities more than to the hunger impulse.  The basic ingredient here is edible paper, almost nutritionless. Don’t get fat, just eat nothing.  It’s like eating tasty air, available in mint flavour, blueberry, cheddar or wasabi.  This is a paradoxical product that plays with weapons like irony and nonsense thus leaving the interpretation to the bravest consumers.”

    I love this simply for the brilliant social commentary it makes about the diet industry, processed snacks, mindless eating, and our relationship with food.

    Not only do the bags contain a “don’t get fat!” tagline (contained inside the illustration of an overweight man’s body), they also read:

    “Instead of getting fat you can now eat paper with flavor. It’s like eating tasty air.”

    I have no doubt that if this product were available for the same cost as your average potato chip, it would become the official chip of the 2010s.



    Food for Thought: Is Fad Dieting An “American” Thing?

    51nX64UxaNL._Nutritionsandfitnes_This weekend I had brunch with a friend of mine who visited Italy for six weeks as part of an international study program a few years ago.

    At some point, our conversation veered onto fad dieting, and she mentioned that, from her short-term observations (based on advertisements as well as products available in supermarkets and drugstores), fad diets were a lot less prevalent in Italy than in the United States.

    My friend remarked, for example, that while a stroll through a supermarket in the United States reveals the likes of Zone Bars, South Beach Diet frozen entrees, Weight Watchers ice cream sandwiches, and Atkins breakfast cereals, Italian supermarkets simply carried food.

    While I have never been to Italy, my recent trip to Barcelona revealed similar findings.  The only foods I saw marked as “diet foods” were things like whole grain pastas or vegetarian sausages.

    I asked her what her theory behind that was, and her answer made a lot of sense to me.

    Since Italian identity is so entrenched in food, she explained , it is difficult for the general population to follow fad dieting.  The United States, however, does not have a distinct food culture or culinary identity attached to it, so people don’t mind jumping from one dietary bandwagon (“no fruits!”, “no dairy!”, “no potatoes!”) to another.

    International readers (as well as those in the USA who have traveled abroad), please share your insights, theories, observations, and opinions.


    A Very Gimmicky View

    425.the.view.081208The View is no stranger to”did they really just say that?” moments (remember Sherri Shepherd’s claim that not only she did not know whether the Earth was round or flat but had no time to find out because she was too busy raising her  children?).

    This past Friday, what could have been your typical weight-loss-in-the-coming-year segment made my jaw hit the floor and my eyebrows catapult to the ceiling.

    Rather than bring on an expert (imagine that — someone who knows what they’re talking about!) to discuss three or four often-overlooked healthy changes that could make a real difference in people’s lives, producers thought it would be better to instead expose millions of viewers to five gimmicky diet plans that only further confuse the public.

    Oh-so-coincidentally, View co-host Whoopi Goldberg is on one of them right now.

    The first recommended diet?  None other than Dr. Segal’s Cookie Diet, which consists of “eating low-calorie cookies and one healthy meal a day.”

    Really, producers of The View?  That is what you consider groundbreaking and news worthy?  A diet plan that first made the rounds approximately five years ago?

    Despite the frothy advertising, there is no secret here.  This nonsense is nothing else than extreme caloric restriction that fools people into thinking they are being indulgent because they get to munch on a a few cookies a day.

    I’m surprised no one has come up with the “Ben & Jerry’s Diet” yet.  You know — eat nothing but a tablespoon of Ben & Jerry’s every three hours and a sensible dinner, and you’ll be at your goal weight in no time!

    Up next — Melissa Bowman Li’s Physio Cleanse, which Whoopi Goldberg is currently on and raving about.

    I was very surprised to learn Ms. Bowman Li is a Registered Dietitian, because the program relies on distracting gimmicks.

    For example — you start off with a 28 day “cleanse”, in which alcohol, caffeine, sugar, gluten, and dairy are off-limits.

    News flash: it is completely possible to avoid that entire list and still overeat, just like it is possible to eat all those items and lose weight.

    Even more annoyingly, Bowman Li claims this particular diet helps the body “eliminate toxins through the lungs, skin, kidneys, and bowels.”

    Perhaps Ms. Bowman Li has forgotten basic human physiology — the human body does that on its own.  A cup of coffee and a bowl of Greek yogurt are not toxin-releasing roadblocks.

    Once again, the real “secret” here is a meal plan high in whole foods and fiber and low in processed foods.  The removal of caffeine and dairy is irrelevant.

    The Perfect 10 Diet and the 7-Day Energy Surge were also featured, but are so vague and general in their descriptions that they aren’t even worth discussing.  Both employ your usual terminology of “key hormones”, “feel at your peak” and promises of “jumpstarting weight-loss” and “reducing stress” “in minutes.”

    By the way, why do so many diet books contain numbers in their titles?  Is it solely to make you feel like a complete loser if it takes you nine days to get that “energy surge” (oh, how awful!)?

    The absolute worst of this lot, however, is Jorge Cruise’s Belly Fat Diet, which is nothing more than Atkins revisited (again!).

    According to Cruise, his plan allows you to “lose troublesome belly fat without counting calories or going to the gym.”  A couch potato’s dream — and such a hokey late-night infomercial pitch!

    Like Atkins, Gary Taubes, and countless others, Cruise claims “belly fat” is all about “keeping insulin low by limiting carbohydrates and sugar.”

    This, says Cruise, is much more effective than simply eating less and exercising more.  In fact, Cruise considers calories absolutely irrelevant.

    Despite claims that you will not eat less on this plan, this “groundbreaking” diet is also about limiting your calories.

    For example, one popular tactic provided by Cruise is to ditch the hamburger bun and wrap your burger in a lettuce leaf.

    Yes, certainly a lower-carb option, but also one that decreases calorie content by anywhere from 200 to 300 calories!

    Oh, but, no, Cruise says “carbohydrate [content is] the only number you need to know”.

    Of course, there are plenty of head-scratching tips.  While Cruise shuns dairy products and whole fruits because of their naturally-occurring sugars, he finds it perfectly okay for people on his plan to eat French fries and dip them in ketchup.  Huh?

    There’s also a pulled-out-of-who-knows-where concept of “carb servings”.  According to Cruise, a “carb serving” consists of anywhere from 5 to 20 grams of carbohydrates.  THAT is how you determine whether a meal is “belly good” or “belly bad” — by the number of “carb servings”.

    As a result of all this carbphobia, Cruise would much rather you drink a Diet Snapple (artificially-colored water spiked with artificial sweeteners) than an iced low-fat latte.

    It is a true shame that The View decided to devote camera time to these baseless diets that rely on gimmicks and hype, rather than factual information that can actually — gasp — help people lead healthier lives!

    Many thanks to New York City Registered Dietitian Elisa Zied for making me aware of this TV segment via Twitter.


    In The News: How Many Misguided Nutrition Tips Fit In One Article?

    time_magazines_logoBack in August, Time magazine ran a bunch of ridiculous nonsense cover story which made the laughingly feeble case that exercise was not at all helpful for weight loss.

    In what seemed to be an essay right out of a middle schooler’s notebook, the author attempted to convince us of this theory by stating that on days when he exercises, he ends up eating more (and, apparently, he decided his personal anecdote somehow applies to the rest of the world).

    In any case, the folks at Time continue their bastardization of nutrition and health issues with their latest article (thankfully, not a cover one) titled “The Thoughest Diet”.

    In it, author Joel Stein talks to popular chefs who have managed to slim down despite working in kitchens  — and being surrounded by decadent food — all day.

    The article quickly goes South, though, when it turns into nothing more than misguided and inaccurate weight-loss tips from men who clearly have very little knowledge of nutrition.

    As can be expected when dealing with celebrity chefs, there is plenty of egotism, too.  In the second paragraph of the article, Food Network star Alton Brown credits himself and other television chefs for being “partly responsible for the fattening of America.”

    Uh, no.

    You want to talk about factors behind rising obesity rates?  Think crop subsidies, expanding portion sizes, food lobbyists, and issues with the National School Lunch Program.  Mario Battali’s alfredo sauce doesn’t even make the Top 100.

    Brown then goes on to make the following statement:

    “The old wisdom of everything in moderation was pretty much hogwash.”

    This from the man who has chosen to “boycott French fries” and  “now snacks incessantly on avocados, sardines, and almonds.”

    First of all, it is still very possible to gain weight while “snacking incessantly”.  Although avocados, sardines, and almonds are very healthy foods, they are by no means calorie-free.

    In fact, I recently spoke to somebody who didn’t understand why she wasn’t losing weight even though she stopped eating junk food.  A look at her dietary habits demonstrated that while she was eating healthier foods, she was getting just as many calories from those foods as she was in the days when potato chips, Skittles, and sugary cereals were staples of her diet.

    Furthermore, Brown’s example that moderation is ‘hogwash’ is based on the fact that he used to eat massive quantities of French fries, which sounds like anything but moderation to me.

    Then there’s chef Alex Stratta, who “decided to get off sugar, fatty meats, and carbs after his suit wouldn’t fit for an awards reception”.

    Sigh.  When I hear people say they “got off carbs”, I always have to count to ten and take deep breaths.

    Carbohydrates are not just in donuts, cookies, cakes, and 600-calorie muffins.  Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and healthy whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley are also “carbs”.

    Therefore, when people proudly beam that they “no longer eat carbs” , my response is often: “Wow, you stopped eating fruits, vegetables, and beans?”

    As for sugar — it is absolutely a source of empty calories, and undoubtedly overconsumed in the United States.

    However, what is with this notion of “swearing it off”?  Why not just set a goal of eating significantly less?  Besides, most people who I speak with who claim to be “off sugar” only mean white sugar, since they still consume honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup as if it somehow were calorie-free or chock-full of nutrients.

    Stratta’s “tips” get worse:

    “His new rules include starting the morning with a protein shake, having only three meals a day and never eating after 6 p.m.”

    It is “thanks” to ridiculous articles like these that I come across so many confused individuals at workshops and classes that I teach.

    In essence, what Stratta is doing is — are you ready for it? — eating fewer calories than he used to!  Wow, imagine that.

    It would be much more helpful if he simply credited that for his weight loss, because it is very possible to do the three things he does and still not lose a pound.

    Depending on what goes into it, a protein shake can have anywhere from 200 to 800 calories.  As for “three meals a day”, there are plenty of people who only eat three meals a day and gain weight because their total caloric intake for the day surpasses what they need!

    Rules like “never eating after 6 p.m.” are not only unnecessary, but also overly rigid.  Munching on a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts at 8 p.m. is not going to make the magical weight-loss fairies disappear into thin air.

    Another example of misguided advice?  The article states that renowned chocolatier Jacques Torres (who intelligently lost a total of 32 pounds by joining Weight Watchers) “stocks up on 70% cocoa chocolate bars, with the goal of always having a low-sugar options on hand.”

    Let me be perfectly clear — chocolates with a high cocoa content are great.

    The intense flavor often helps one satisfy cravings with small amounts, and they offer some added health benefits as a result of having more cocoa than milk chocolates.  Low sugar values, however, are irrelevant.

    The reason why high-cocoa chocolates are a better snack than those with lower figures?  They are higher in fat, which means they take a longer time to digest, therefore allowing you to feel full with a lower amount of calories.

    And then the magazine industry wonders why it’s going down the drain…


    In The News: Behind the Scenes of “The Biggest Loser”

    biggest-loserI never understood the popularity of NBC’s weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser.

    Actually, let me backtrack.  I get why The Biggest Loser is a hit — it appeals to our interest in makeovers, weight-loss, and cheering for the underdog.

    What I don’t understand is how a show that humiliates obese people (the sight of publicity-obsessed Jillian Michaels berating an obese person panting on a treadmill doesn’t scream “empowering” to me) and condones unhealthy weight-loss practices (i.e.: six hours of a day of exercise, extreme caloric restriction) was so welcomed by millions of television viewers.

    Today’s New York Times features a much-needed article on just how dangerous this show’s diet and exercise guidelines can be.

    Of course, the show’s producers attempt to justify their reality circus by giving lip service to America’s “obesity crisis” and inspiring people to be the best they can.  Blah, blah, blah.

    Not surprisingly, medical and nutrition consultants to the show have nothing but praise and positive comments for the show they are employed by!

    I wholeheartedly agree with many of the statements made by Dr. Charles Burant, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Health System director of the Michigan Metabolomics and Obesity Center:

    “I’m waiting for the first person to have a heart attack.  I think the show is so exploitative. They are taking poor people who have severe weight problems whose real focus is trying to win the quarter-million dollar [grand prize].”

    Meanwhile, how much longer do I have to put up with those heinous commercials for Jillian Michaels’ various pills, supplements, and “fat burners”?  Enough is enough.


    In The News: Surprise! A Faddish, Unhealthy Diet Gets Press

    img_PizzaKingEarlier this morning, New York City-based dietitian Keri Gans Tweeted a link to this article on the Tampa Bay FOX affiliate website.

    The piece, titled “Eat nothing but pizza, and lose weight?” is all shades of horrible.

    In summary, a man by the name of Matt McClellan (who, oh so coincidentally, owns a pizza shop) went on a 30-day, 2,500-calorie “nothing but pizza” diet and significantly reduced his weight, body fat percentage, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

    Sigh.  Let’s dissect a few things.

    “He eats eight slices total for a full day of nutrition. That’s 2,500 calories.”

    Alright.  If a steady diet of 2,500 calories resulted in 25 pounds of weight loss over the course of a month (which, personally, sounds exaggerated), then what we are looking at is not “pizza makes you thin”, but rather the ever-classic “eat less, lose weight.”

    Keri Gans’ comment when posting this link on Twitter was, “I wonder what he was eating before.”

    Precisely!  If Mr. McClellan’s regular diet consisted of 3,800 calories a day, then, yes, 2,500 calories (no matter what food it comes from) WILL result in weight loss.

    “Matt says he boosted his good cholesterol and lowered the bad and dropped 25 pounds.”

    Again, this is regardless of the pizza.  The improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels can simply be attributed to the weight loss.

    PS: Had Mr. McClellan’s 2,500-calorie diet consisted of healthy fats, he would have probably seen even more changes with his blood cholesterol levels.

    “He also boosted his workouts to 60 minutes a day, every day. One day, Matt does cardio; the next he works with weights.”

    Bingo!  So, in essence, we have someone who is consuming fewer calories and exercising more.  So… why am I supposed to be surprised that this led to weight loss and a healthier blood lipid profile?

    “In the future, Matt says he’ll publish a book on his pizza diet plan and wants to tour the country in an RV to promote it. Matt hopes to challenge Subway’s Jared to prove pizza can be the healthiest fast food on the planet.”

    No, thanks.

    The problem with these senseless diets is that they focus solely on weight loss, rather than total nutrition.

    A significant reduction in calories will always result in weight loss.  However, an unbalanced meal plan (such as a 30-day pizza-fest) does not fully meet vitamin and mineral requirements.


    What Gender Is Your Soda?

    roadtrip-los-angeles-001Last week, one of my posts analyzed the cultural and gendered implications of President Obama’s hamburger run featured in the NBC White House special.

    Whether or not they agreed with my my viewpoint of what I perceived as subtle messages sent out by the Obama camp by selecting Five Guys hamburger chain as their to-go lunch spot, many readers have mentioned they have become more aware of the social constructions and symbolisms attributed to food.

    In any case, Small Bites reader Quinn Andrus was reminded of my “food and gender” post (and generous enough to e-mail me!) when she came across the billboard you see in the accompanying picture while traveling in Los Angeles.

    Apparently, even soda is gendered (or at least that’s what Pepsi wants male consumers to believe).

    To prove this point, the ad features a crushed soda can (Arrrrggghhh!  Me man.  Me mad soda is done.  Me crush can!!!).

    What apparently makes this zero-calorie, sugar-free soda “manly” is its increased caffeine content.  Interestingly enough, Pepsi Max wasn’t advertised this way under its previous name — Diet Pepsi Max.

    So, basically, we come back to the idea of heathy eating and caloric restriction as “womanly.”  A “real man” would never be seen drinking something with the word Diet on it.  Apparently, playing into those stereotypes makes some advertising executives very rich, folks.

    And while we’re on the topic of gender, how amazing is the advertisement directly below the Pepsi ad?  Why do I have a feeling it’s not a coincidence, either?


    You Ask, I Answer: Skinny Bitch

    What do you think of the book Skinny Bitch?

    — Jamie Pierce
    Salt Lake City, UT

    Skinny Bitch advertises itself as “a no-nonsense tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!”

    While I do give the book credit for rightfully criticizing the treatment of farm animals and dedicating a Marion Nestle-inspired chapter to the politics behind the approval process of artificial sweeteners and other substances, I summarize it as “an often inaccurate, wannabe-“shocking” nutrition book that sometimes spouts crap and is under the impression that insulting the reader is fabulous!”

    Skinny Bitch claims to “finally tell you the truth about what you’re feeding yourself.”

    However, despite its “hip” title and grrrrl-power writing style that launched it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, it is riddled with faulty facts, bad science, hyperbolic pronouncements, and silly suggestions.

    Skinny Bitch makes the argument that the only way to be healthy is by becoming a vegan who shuns alcohol, white flour, and caffeine. Let me make one thing very clear — I don’t doubt for one second that one can achieve health by being vegan and avoiding those three things. However, it is untrue to claim that is the only way.

    Disturbingly, the author prey on readers’ body image fears by making the case that not only does even the smallest amount of meat and dairy make you sick, it also makes you — gasp! — fat.

    Allow me to share some passages that elicited groans and eyerolls from me.

    * “Soda’s high level of phosphorus can increase calcium loss from the body, as can its sodium and caffeine.”

    While phosphoric acid in soda has indeed been linked with leached calcium from bones, the sodium mention is odd.  Did the authors take look at the nutrition facts on a can of soda?  A 12-ounce can of Coca Cola contains 35 milligrams (that’s 1.4% of the suggested daily maximum intake). Ironically, the frozen vegan burger products the authors endorse so enthusiastically can contain as much as 500 milligrams of sodium per serving.

    As for the caffeine-calcium loss link — it’s weak, at best.

    * “One study even links caffeine to an increased susceptibility to diabetes.”

    Bad science alert! The studies they refer to are ones suggesting that people who already have diabetes may benefit from cutting back on caffeine in order to improve their blood sugar levels.  Besides, certain compounds in coffee — such as chlorogenic acid — have been linked with reductions in blood sugar levels (and, therefore, a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes).

    * “When we eat fruit with other foods… it rots and ferments in our stomach.”

    Not surprisingly, that ludicrous statement is not attributed to any source. Right, because it’s science fiction. Feel free to enjoy nectarines in a salad, bananas with almond butter, and sliced apples with oatmeal.

    * “We have food rotting, decomposing, and fermenting in our intestinal tracts and colons, hence the need for colonics.”

    Did the author with the Masters degree ever take a human physiology course? I assume she didn’t; otherwise, she would know that nothing can cling to the colon and “rot away” since the cells that line that organ slough off several times a day. There is no physiological need for colonics. The best thing you can do is consume plenty of fiber and remain well-hydrated.

    * “You don’t see many tigers getting colonics, do you?”

    A very weak argument. I also don’t see tigers brushing their teeth, wearing contact lenses, or making green smoothies.  Does this mean I shouldn’t, either?

    * “Your body can’t handle animal fat, so it settles like lumpy shit all over your ass, thighs, sides, arms and stomach.”

    I’ll let that ridiculous quote speak for itself.

    * “If you want to get skinny, you’ve got to be a vegetarian.”

    The idea that vegetarian = skinny is ludicrous. After all, vegetarians can eat ice cream, cakes, cookies, muffins, pizza, french fries. They can consume more calories than they need and, consequently, gain weight.

    There is no doubt many vegetarians eat whole, minimally processed foods and enjoy plentiful health benefits.  However, the mere act of not eating dairy or meat does not equate with weight loss.  Furthermore, this quote is disturbing in that it is focused on weight, rather than health.

    * “Dairy products produce mucus.”

    Another myth these authors clearly didn’t research (spoiler: dairy sticks to existing mucus; it doesn’t produce it).

    * “[Dairy products] are the perfect thing to eat if you want to be sick and have a diseased body.”

    As much as I dislike the narrow-minded notions that dairy products are the only way to get calcium and absolutely necessary for human
    health, I am also irritated by the frantic and inaccurate warnings that dairy products are equivalent to chugging Draino.

    * “Eggs are high in saturated fat.”

    Absolutely untrue. One egg contains approximately 1.5 grams of saturated fat — that’s 0.4 fewer grams than a tablespoon of olive oil!

    After pages upon pages of criticizing processed foods and sugar, the authors go on to recommend a variety of frozen vegetarian burgers, soy ice creams, and tofu hot dogs. HUH? Frozen vegetarian foods, like other frozen items, are hyper processed, high in sodium and offer minimal nutrition. Soy ice creams are high in added sugars; the fact that they are free of dairy does not turn them into a “health” food or a daily staple.

    * From the FYI chapter: “Donate blood. You can save a life and lose weight at the same time.”

    I think that was when my eyebrows hit the ceiling.

    Alas, I could go on (trust me, I could!), but I think you get the point.

    To “make up” for their verbal abuse at the reader, the authors conclude the book with positive-thinking mantras lifted right out of The Secret (“every day in every way my stomach is getting flatter”) and a clearly-tacked-on-by-a-public-relations-friendly-editor reminder that, despite the title of the book, unrealistically thin illustrations on the front and back cover, and constant references to weight, “they couldn’t care less about being skinny.”


    In The News: Oh, Look… Calories!

    CNN is reporting the findings of a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine comparing the efficacy of four diets — high-carb, low-carb, high-fat, and high-protein.

    Although not based on popular diets (the high-protein diet, for instance, does not provide the same distribution of nutrients as Atkins), the four eating plans had their particular distinctions (i.e: one offered 35 percent of calories from protein, while another increased the amount to 65 percent of calories from protein).

    The conclusion? “All produced weight loss and improvements in lipids [as well as] reduction in insulin. The key really is that it’s calories, not the content of fat or carbohydrates — just calories,” summarizes study co-author Dr. Frank Sacks of the Harvard School of Public Health.

    Or, as the study itself beautifully encapsulates it: “reduced-calorie diets result in clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize.”

    No matter which of the four diets the 811 overweight participants were on, they all “had a[n average] 750-calorie reduction per day.”

    Not surprisingly, they all lost weight.

    Note that even the higher-in-fat diets followed American Heart Association guidelines (mainly sufficient fiber intakes and limited saturated and trans fat intake).

    Let this be even further proof to the “saturated fat is the healthiest fat; everyone is lying to you!” camp that diets rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat do indeed lead to improved lipid profiles and weight loss.

    Adding to the uniqueness of this study is that it is one of the few that tracked participants on these diets for two entire years.

    How will “calories don’t matter, it’s all about limiting carbohydrates”enthusiasts explain yet another study showing weight loss can be accomplished while eating a substantial amount of carbohydrates?


    Thud, Thud, Thud…

    Oh, don’t mind me. That’s the sound of my head hitting my desk repeatedly.

    Why? Oh, I just found out about the latest diet book making the Internet rounds — The Lemon Juice Diet.

    Really? Yes. Really.

    I’ll let the publisher’s description speak for itself.

    “Instead of just suggesting dieters drink a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne, and maple syrup, The Lemon Juice Diet starts there and then integrates lemon juice into a healthier, easy to maintain, long-term plan. Lemon is a natural powerhouse; its great flavor makes it an easy addition to your diet and its low glycemic index provides a steady stream of energy, without the sugar high and subsequent crash we get from high GI foods.”

    Oh, it gets better: “Lemon juice, when taken regularly first thing in the morning, acts as a tonic to the liver and stimulates it to produce bile making it ready to digest the day’s food.”

    Anyone else in favor of a 100-year moratorium on any diet plan that suggests any beverage that combines lemon juice with cayenne pepper?


    In The News: Another One Bites the Dust… Yay!

    Those of you who watched my YouTube video on appetite suppressants know how much I loathe them.

    So, as you may imagine, I was pleased as punch to find out today that multi-national giant Unilever has canceled negotiations with Hoodia supplier Phytopharm to use the plant extract in Slimfast products, despite plunking down $25 million in research and developments costs over the last four years.

    Unilever’s official statement is very PR-friendly: “the extract would not meet our safety and efficacy standards.”

    In other words — the whole thing is bunk and they want nothing to do with it. Good!

    By the way, Hoodia was one of the “magic indredients” in TrimSpa. We all know how THAT ended.

    For those of you unfamiliar with Hoodia, it is a plant native to the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, which Natives have supposedly eaten for centuries to keep hunger at bay while on long treks.

    The “magic” apparently occurs due to a molecule in the plant known as P57, which allegedly shuts off appetite by targeting the hypothalamus.

    Mind you, there is absolutely no evidence that Hoodia works. All we have are anecdotal accounts (generously provided by companies selling the product, of course.)

    It’s also silly to assume that processed parts of a plant, either in powder or capsule form, yield the same results as consuming it in unadulterated ways.

    That’s like someone hawking fruit juice concentrates in pill form and claiming they offer the same health benefits as a piece of raw fruit.

    Even if Hoodia did work, appetite suppresants are the worst thing you can do for long-term weight loss.

    They don’t teach new behaviors and can have risky side-effects (remember, the term “appetite suppresant” is a euphemism for “amphetamines.”)

    How about a pill that makes consumers immune to diet scams, frauds, and “magic bullets”?

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