Something is really starting to get to me in the world of nutrition. It is the thinking that if something is deemed “good,” then MORE MUST BE BETTER. And if LESS of a particular thing is good, then NONE MUST BE BETTER.
Somewhere in the distant past, after years of the nation’s love affair with predominantly white bread on the market, so-called “healthier” versions of bread began to gain popularity. Whole wheat and “multi-grain” breads with more fiber. Are they good for you? No! But are they LESS BAD than their white counterparts? Maybe slightly. But as Dr. William Davis’ so aptly pointed out, less bad doesn’t equal good. He makes a good point. A low tar cigarette may be less bad for you than a regular cigarette, but does that mean that low tar cigarettes are GOOD for you and you should take up smoking? No! But that is what happened to our dietary recommendations. Those “healthy grain” products became the base of our nutritional pyramid. Because if these products were better than white bread, then eating HEAPS of them MUST be good right? Well, I don’t think I need to answer that question for anyone who follows this page. I think the obesity and diabetes epidemic speaks for itself.
Sadly though, our method of thinking has not changed. We seem to think that “if some is good, then more MUST be better” and “if less is good, then NONE must be better.” As we have learned, this is not necessarily true at all times for all people.
I’ll give you a good example. I once read that you should eat an avocado per day for all of its health benefits. I’ve tried that, multiple times. And every time, I’ve ended up with wrenching gut discomfort. I’ve learned that there are certain substances in avocados that I cannot tolerate in large quantities on a regular basis. But I can enjoy reasonable amounts of avocados on occasion. I have also tried the ever popular “egg fasts” on a few occasions and felt terrible. I love eggs, I probably eat 2-3 every day. But to cut out my vegetables and eat tons of eggs? Didn’t work for me.
So, learning that fat was healthy and carbs, well, not so good, I see some adopting these views that fat is to be gorged on and all carbs are evil. “If fat is good, well, let’s just pour it in our coffee and slam down fat bombs. If carbs are bad, let’s go zero carb.”
This is similar to the logic used in interpreting studies that people use to “prove” that meat is bad for you. (I’m about to go off on a slight tangent here…). Some who avoid animal products say there are studies that show that “meat eaters are less healthy.” Well, it’s the meat, right? (Wink wink) And then, by association, if meat is bad for you, ALL animal products are therefore, bad for you. Or is it that some of the meat eaters in the study also smoked, drank more alcohol, exercise less, and ate more sugar and wheat products vs the plant eaters in these particular studies? The law of good science states that only ONE variable can be tested at a time to prove any causative link. So you would have to take two groups where EVERYTHING is exactly the same (ie. all participants are non-smokers, all exercised the exact same amount, all avoided alcohol, all avoided sugar and wheat, all got the same amount of sleep, all had stress management support, etc) except one group added some meat to their diet and one went without. No study to my knowledge like this has ever been done. In fact, this is what makes nutritional studies nearly impossible. Because two variables will ALWAYS be involved. If you lower one macronutrient, you increase another. If you don’t replace the missing macronutrient, then the calories won’t be the same (another variable). So that is why nutritional studies are often not extremely definitive and why I’d rather see each person experiment for themselves, based on their own health markers, what is best for them. PS this does not mean that I am against plant based diets if you choose them. But you should choose them because it is your preference, not based on faulty premises.
But I’m getting WAY away from my point.
My point is, just because something is deemed “good,” that doesn’t mean that MORE IS BETTER. And just because less of something is good, it doesn’t mean that NONE is better.
And it’s not just with food that we have this skewed logic. It’s with everything in life. How about exercise? Cardio exercise is good. Is more better? Not really. Here is a great post from Dietitian Cassie talking about long periods of steady, chronic cardio being a hindrance to good health. HERE My point? More is not necessarily better.
What about ketones. If ketosis is good for weight loss, then higher ketones equal MORE weight loss, right? So we all need to drink MCT oil by the bottle and take exogenous ketones, right? Here is a great post from Amy Berger of Tuit Nutrition. While the article she references is great, her comments on this matter are even better. HERE My point? More is not necessarily better.
Or what about fasting? It is the new “in” thing, even though we’ve done it for thousands of years. Many have embraced “intermittent” fasting. And that is great. It is extremely healthy. But “intermittent” means we do it periodically. (For instance, many do it 2 days per week). But I have read soooo many comments about people doing long term daily fasting and they stopped getting results. Then, when they decided not to fast permanently, they had weight regain, and blood sugar problems returned. What happened to “intermittent?” My point? More is not necessarily better.
How about exercise? We have had a HUGE emphasis lately on “exercise is not the key to weight loss.” Why? Because diet is the most important factor for weight loss. And that is 100% true. But now, that has been translated into “exercise is unnecessary, ALL you need to manage weight, is diet.” Well, WHY do we want to manage our weight? To be healthy? To look better? Well then WHY is exercise not considered necessary. It is extremely important for all of those goals.
Even from one of the biggest LCHF proponents in the world, who’s slogan is #bringbackthefat, she posts this…good point, huh?
Can’t we be a little more reasonable? Why must it be all one way or the other? How about getting our body good and healthy and then listening to its cues? I’m a HUGE believer in the body’s innate ability to make its’ needs known. Some days I crave more vegetables, so I eat them. Some days I crave more fat, so I eat some. Some days I’m not hungry at all and will eat very little. Some days I’m very hungry and will eat more. I try to listen.
Now, am I saying that if your body craves sugar, then listen to it? No. As I’ve said many times, I recommend cutting out all processed food. If it has a label, it’s probably bad for you (unless it has only 1-2 ingredients, and they are all RECOGNIZABLE, lol!) So when I talk about listening to your body’s cues, I mean only eating REAL food.
Outside of that, why such extremes? I feel like in order for my lifestyle to be sustainable, it has to be something I’m willing to do for life. I’m not willing to be zero carb for life. I don’t want to be FORCED to fast forever. I don’t want my body to accept this as my new normal so that if I eat vegetables (carbs) or I eat a third meal in a day, I have a backlash, instant weight gain and sky rocketing blood sugar! For me, my body adapts to anything I do long term, and I stop reaping the benefits. So I have to make constant adjustments within my healthy guidelines.
But 30g (or up to 50g) of carbs for a person (like me) with metabolic disease gives you PLENTY of healthy veggies to choose from. Then, take care of your basic protein needs (more if you are young, or physically active, less if you are overweight and sedentary.) And for those on plant based diets, up to 100g of carbs will allow you to take care of your protein needs with plant based foods (which come with carbs versus animal sources that are carb free). Then, both groups add fat until you are no longer hungry. Don’t add fat in your drink and call it a meal. Don’t eat a pound of bacon “because you can.” And don’t cut out all vegetables because you’ve stalled losing weight on 20g of carbs, so “lower must be better.” For goodness sake, how about exercise, how about sleep, how about managing your stress, how about getting a medical check up, how about getting off any drugs you can safely remove from your life? If you are eating only 20g of total carbs per day and you can’t get results, then less carbs is probably not the answer. You’ve got bigger problems. Find out what they are.
I don’t have all the answers. But I’m pretty sure that this type of reasoning is not the way.
Lastly, our bodies are something to be cherished, well cared for. They are designed to work hard, sometimes really hard. But they are not made to be punished into submission. Be kind to your body. It is the only one you’ll get.
Wishing you all health and happiness.