There seems to be a lot of fear mongering going on these days. Maybe there always has been and I just haven’t been paying attention. Since joining MyFitnessPal.com and spending some time in the forums there, I’ve become more aware than ever of all of the pseudoscience passing itself off as actual science. You know, the stuff that’s actually been rigorously tested and peer reviewed. The worst part is that so much of what’s being talked about in these forums is only serving to make people feel bad about themselves. Here’s just a few of the topics that I find the most angst inducing.
“Clean” Eating – You ask 10 people what clean eating means to them and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. Everything from food that is grown organically and minimally processed to food that’s been washed. That’s part of the problem with jumping on the clean eating bandwagon. What does it mean and is it really necessary? For a great article on clean eating, check out Why “Clean Eating” is a Myth by Armi Legg.
The Evil Carbohydrate – Carbohydrates have fallen in and out of favor for years. I’m old enough to have lived through both the high carb/low fat craze and the high protein/low carb craze. I lost weight on both plans but always managed to put the weight right back on as soon as my resolve weakened and I went back to eating a less restrictive diet. And therein lies the problem. Eliminating entire food groups or even severely restricting them, is not sustainable for most people. But the myth persists that potatoes and pasta are “bad” and sugar is their “toxic” cousin. I’ve seen people freak out over eating an apple when they see how many grams of sugar they’ve consumed. It’s fruit people. Fruit is good for you. Unless you have a medical condition and your doctor has recommended that you lower your carb intake, pasta, bread, potatoes and yes, even sugar, can be part of a healthy diet.
Gluten – Everyone seems to be jumping on the gluten free bandwagon these days. In reality, a very small percentage of the population is really gluten intolerant. But if someone publishes a book that promises you’ll lose weight just by eliminating gluten from your diet, suddenly we’re all convinced that it’s wheat that’s making us fat. It’s excess calories that are making us fat. For more information on food allergies, check out this article Food Allergies: Facts, Myths, and Pseudoscience.
Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCD) – This is quite the hot topic in the nutrition forums. Anyone eating less than 1200 calories a day is immediately informed that they are at risk of going into “starvation mode” by the eat more crowd and the low calorie dieters immediately fire back with accusations of jealousy because somehow being able to survive on 1000 calories a day is a badge of honor. While starvation mode is a myth, why anyone would willingly go on a VLCD is beyond me. Unless you are under the supervision of doctor or are bed ridden, there’s really no need to restrict your calorie intake to that degree. Finding your calorie sweet spot, as it were, is the key to long term success with weight loss. How to create the right calorie deficit in order to lose fat and maintain muscle is one of the things I’ll be focusing on. Nobody need suffer needlessly.