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    Archive for the ‘weight loss’ 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.

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    Chocolate Milk: Muscle Nectar? Weight-Loss Secret? Neither.

    Pick up any fitness magazine and you will see the virtues of chocolate milk extolled away, often times classified as the best thing you can drink after a workout. Over the past few years, chocolate milk has even been touted as a heart-healthy beverage (alas, a careful reading of the studies proves otherwise).

    For some odd reason, a May 2010 article titled “The Chocolate Milk Diet” penned by Men’s Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko was shared by a handful of people on my Facebook feed today.   I should note that despite having no background or credentials in nutrition science or health, Yahoo! Health identifies Mr. Zinczenko as a “health expert”.

    If you are a new Small Bites reader, you should know that I have my share of — pardon the pun — beef with Men’s Health (for their ridiculous attacks on soy, their mixed messages, their condoning of ice cream, soda, and beer following a workout, and for the horrible underlying message behind their popular “Eat This, Not That” book series).

    This particular article gushes endlessly about the many virtues of chocolate milk, mainly weight loss and muscle-building.  Although I shared the article on Twitter earlier today (prefacing the link with “Today’s daily dose of nonsense, courtesy of Men’s Health“), I felt the need to explain, in detail, my frustrations with it.

    These sorts of articles irritate me to the extent they do because not only are they are read by millions, but they are presented as legitimate, objective, trust-worthy nutritional science, when that is not always the case.

    Now, let’s tackle this piece — bit by bit.

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    Who Said It?

    QuestionMark“Just drinking three liters of water a day… burns 75–100 calories. If you add a little lemon juice to it, which is ascorbic acid, that can speed up your metabolism by 33 percent.”

    Come back on Friday for the identity of this “expert” — and the truth behind this claim.

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    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.”

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    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.

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    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.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Endocrine Disruptors & Obesity

    Keep-the-Weight-Off-After-You-ve-Lost-It-Weigh-Yourself-Daily-or-Weekly_slideshow_imageWhat do you think of articles (like this one) that link chemicals known as endocrine disruptors with obesity?

    — Various Readers

    While on vacation last week, I received over a dozen e-mails inquiring about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their potential role in “making Americans fat”. 

    Also known as “obesogens”, these chemicals are present in pesticides, plastic containers, and unfiltered tap water.

    According to the article linked to in this post, EDCs explain why “traditional diet advice — choose chicken over beef, eat more fish, load up on fruits and vegetables — may not work anymore.”

    Hold up.  Do you see the problem with that description of supposed “traditional advice”?  None of it is about eating fewer calories!   “Choose chicken over beef”, for example, has very little to do with caloric intake (that advice has more to do with lowering saturated fat intake).

    While I am not denying that EDCs exist, and can pose health consequences to us, I really dislike the notion that they are the reason “why you can’t lose those last ten pounds.”

    EDCs may very well be a tiny factor in rising obesity rates, but we can’t ignore the main one — excessive caloric intake.

    By “excessive caloric intake”, I don’t simply mean “we are eating more”.  To me, “excessive caloric intake” encompasses crop subsidies (which make heavily processed, not-at-all filling ingredients cheap), exploding portion sizes (a direct result of crop subsidies), food deserts, and other social factors. 

    Imagine, if you will, that you light a match and start a fire outdoors.  A gust of wind will strengthen it, but it did not start the fire.  The same can be said about EDCs and obesity.  They very well could be the wind that provides some extra fuel to the obesity flame, but they are certainly not the match that started it all.

    I am not downplaying the benefits (both personal and environmental) of eating organic produce and avoiding BPA, but keep in mind that many people have successfully lost weight while strill drinking unfiltered tap water, eating conventional produce, and eating/drinking items from plastic containers. 

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    Are We A “Hungry Girl” Nation?

    HungryGirlI’m sure you’ve seen the perfectly coifed, sparkling-teeth caricature somewhere.  Perhaps a bookstore.  Or a container of “Hungry Girl approved” yogurt.  You may even subscribe to her newsletter.

    Hungry Girl (real name Lisa Lillien) has been a full-fledged nutrition star for several years.

    Her fans — and there are many of them, as evidenced by her books reaching the top of the New York Times bestseller list — point to her relatability as one factor behind her success.

    Ms. Lillien is not a nutritionist or dietitian.  She is not a doctor, nor is she the star of a basic cable reality show.  She’s simply a woman who lost 30 pounds several years ago, and wanted to share her story — and recipes — with the world.  Soon enough, her subscriber list exploded to half a million people, and food companies learned that a recommendation of one of their products from Hungry Girl equaled big sales.

    I know some Registered Dietitans who see Hungry Girl in a favorable light and publicly support her work.

    While I certainly don’t hold any animosity towards her prototypical “everyday dieter” persona, I truly worry about what her rampant success means.

    Sure, she does not employ the word “skinny” anywhere in her message (the whole “skinny this, skinny that” trend in nutrition books and diet plans is so tired it’s comatose), but Hungry Girl epitomizes Frankenfood dieting.

    Her hyper-popular recipes (featured in books like “200 [Recipes] Under 200 [Calories]”) tend to center around “Franken-gredients” like fat-free whipped cream, sugar-free syrups, and artificial sweeteners.

    There is no emphasis on health.  It’s not about cooking vegetables in a tasty sauce, eating healthier fats, or whipping up quick and simple recipes rich in phytonutrients and fiber.  It’s simply about the calories.

    As one colleague of mine brilliantly remarked when discussing this issue with me, it emphasizes the erroneous idea that nutrition equals weight management.

    Granted, Ms. Lillien does not profess to be a health expert.  “I’m just hungry,” is her trademark response.

    These, however, are the main things that I dislike about the Hungry Girl phenomenon:

    • The often-repeated “guilt-free” idea.  What makes a bowl of strawberries with Splenda and sugar-free syrup less “guilt-inducing” than a Lara bar?  And why must we always associate guilt with great-tasting food?  This goes well beyond the scope of this post, but why is it so hard for some people to realize that there are plenty of decadent, delicious, healthy foods?  Why the “either or” mentality?
    • The allusion that healthy eating is not tasty.  The unspoken idea behind a lot of the recipes is that they are not necessarily mega-healthy, but they are tasty and low in calories (because apparently “healthy” and “tasty” are opposites?)
    • The idea that the only way to lose weight successfully is through artificial sweeteners, chemically-laden processed food, and foods that didn’t exist thirty years ago.  Fat and sugar substitutes proceeded rising obesity rates!
    • The perpetuated gender stereotype that it is solely women who care about weight loss, and have “uncontrollable” sweet tooth urges that must be indulged ever so carefully (again, an issue way beyond the scope of this post, but still worth mentioning)

    Agree?  Disagree?  Want to add a new angle to the discussion?  Please comment!

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    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Beth Ostrosky

    holidaybethhoward1-170x224What would the start of a new year be without celebrity weight-loss tips?

    This time around, it’s Beth Ostrosky (AKA Howard Stern’s wife), who tells OK! magazine that the key is to exercise more and completely give up sweets.

    Ms. Ostrosky tells OK! that “literally from [the moment I gave up sweets], my body has completely changed. I dropped six pounds in the first week.”

    Considering her previous dietary habits, it’s no surprise she has lost weight.

    Not only were Swedish Fish, Starburst and Hot Tamales dietary staples — she would also admittedly pop 15 Toostie Rolls as a pre-running snack!

    Newsflash: that’s a total of 750 calories.  Since sugar does absolutely nothing to help satiate us, you are looking at 750 calories that don’t make you feel full!

    Despite Ms. Ostrosky’s claims that she can now eat unlimited quantities of foods (she claims to eat a bagel for breakfast, “a lot of bread” with lunch, and “a big pasta dinner” regularly) because she no longer includes sugar in her diet, we are looking at the tried- and-true, yet always effective, “eat less, move more” strategy.

    Also, someone may want to inform Ms. Ostrosky that Starbucks uses vanilla soymilk (which contains a tablespoon of added sugar per cup) in its soy lattes.  Those are not sugar-free beverages!

    Thanks to Jessica Rothschild for forwarding me the OK! article.

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    Taco Bell’s Drive-Thru Diet

    8222_M_W_300Taco Bell’s latest advertising project? Their Drive-Thru Diet®.

    Their spokesperson, a real-life dieter identified as Christine, claims to have lost 54 pounds over the course of two years “by choosing Fresco items from the Drive-Thru Diet® menu and making other sensible choices.”

    As if the “other sensible choices” part wasn’t enough of a hint that there’s more to this than meets the eye, we then learn that Christine simply reduced her total caloric intake by 500 calories for a total of 1,250 calories a day.

    It seems that even the folks at Taco Bell are aware this campaign is a bit of a stretch.

    Not only does Christine herself share that “these results aren’t typical” and that “as you know,” (?) “the Drive-Thru Diet® menu is not a weight-loss program” — the Taco Bell website makes this statement:

    “For a healthier lifestyle, pay attention to total calorie and fat intake and regular exercise. Fresco can help with calorie reductions of 20 to 100 per item compared to corresponding products on our regular menu. Not a low calorie food.”

    This comes back to a point I often make on this blog — actual weight-loss can be done with almost any food.

    In fact, this campaign reminds me of a similar one by Special K cereal a few years ago.  The gist was that Special K helped you lose weight, provided — of course — that you had a bowl of it as your lunch.

    Christine could have consumed 1,250 calories worth of ice cream, french fries, and pizza and still have lost the weight.

    The added challenge comes from achieving weight loss while meeting nutrient needs and providing the body with sufficient energy and care.

    A 1,250-calorie diet of junk food will result in weight loss, but also in completely inadequate nutrient intakes.

    It’s also worth pointing out that one can consume 320 calories in a half cup of premium ice cream or six cups of strawberries.

    The strawberries, of course, provide phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber lacking in that half cup of ice cream.  In fact, a mere half cup of strawberries (roughly 50 calories) provides significantly more nutrition than that half cup of ice cream.  In that sense, all calories are most certainly NOT created equal!

    Furthermore, while I understand what Taco Bell is trying to do here (reminding customers that their menu offers lower-calorie items), two things bother me:

    1. This campaign is completely carried by a woman, once again reiterating the stereotype that only women care about managing their weight and seeking healthier options
    2. All this talk of healthier options is a little silly when you consider that some Fresco items contain half a day’s worth of sodium

    Rather than create this eye-rolling gimmick, why didn’t Taco Bell simply advertise their lower-calorie items with a “At Taco Bell, low calories are no problem”-ish campaign?  It would at least be — gasp! — more honest.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    heartstructureExcess weight  (and its health consequences) is believed to be the main factor in 79 percent of heart disease cases and 52 percent of strokes.

    Remember — a multitude of diseases and health conditions stem from high levels of cellular inflammation.

    One of the primary causes of cellular inflammation?  Excess weight.

    It’s important to keep in mind that any amount of lost excess weight is beneficial.

    I recall a conversation I had years ago with someone who, at the time, was 65 pounds overweight.

    In her mind, her choices were either to stay at that weight for the rest of her life or lose 65 pounds.  Silly as it may sound to some people, it had never occurred to her that even shedding 15 of those 65 extra pounds would have a positive effect on her health!

    Long story short — once she saw how much better she felt after losing 15 pounds (“It’s so much easier on my knees when I use the stairs!” was one of the first things she mentioned to me), she was motivated to continue her healthier eating patterns and has now been at a healthy weight for three years.

    New body shape aside, her biggest surprise came when, after years of avoiding getting a physical, she received her blood test results.  Compared to her heaviest period, her blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol had significantly lowered.

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    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.

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    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…

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    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.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Dissociated Diets

    dissociated-dietsA friend of mine says the best way to lose weight is with a dissociated diet.

    She showed me her menu.  One day she can eat all the fruit she wants, and nothing else.

    The next day is a meat day, then a vegetable day, etc.

    She says that this makes the body work more and burn more calories since you are tricking it.

    Why is that?

    — Therese (last name withheld)
    Queens, NY

    Human beings are funny creatures.  You have to admit, we can give ourselves too much credit at times — especially when it comes to believing we can trick human physiology with fad diets.

    Can you lose weight with a dissociated diet?  Yes.

    Is a dissociated diet the best way to lose weight?  Absolutely not.

    Remember, losing weight is not difficult.

    The challenging parts are:

    • losing weight in a way that is healthy and keeps nutrition at the forefront
    • losing weight and maintaining that weight loss over a long period of time

    Dissociated dieting does not meet either of those two requirements.

    Bottom line — there is absolutely no basis for dissociated dieting.  Limiting yourself to one food group every 24 hours does not speed up metabolism, “trick the body”, or perform any other magic.

    This kind of eating pattern “works” (for a short amount of time) because it turns eating into a dull and boring “task”.  How much enjoyment can you get from eating nothing but meat or fruit for an entire day?

    Additionally, by limiting you to one food group each day, it automatically restricts your caloric intake.

    On a “meat” day, for example, you can’t have that food as part of a sandwich, a wrap, a sushi roll, or even a salad.  Nor can you have that food with a side of, well, anything.

    By the fourth day on this kind of diet, you lose a pound or two… and your sanity.

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