Sunday, July 23, 2006

Why The 'Eat In Moderation' Advice Is Silly

Don't you just hate it when you hear somebody utter that infamous silly phrase that is bound to come up during a discussion of the various weight loss methods out there? You know what I'm talking about.

"Just eat in moderation and you'll lose all the weight you want."

Everytime somebody says that to, I just want to throw up and beat them with a wet noodle (a low-carb one, of course!). But that's exactly what this American Council On Science and Health article written by their research intern Julianne Chickering is proposing. Oh brother!

In a stern rebuke of the various weight loss plans out there, including livin' la vida low-carb, Chickering said these different ways of eating are all just "madness" because having so many choices for would-be dieters makes it so confusing for people to differentiate between what is healthy and what is not when it comes to losing weight.

No it doesn't. What it does is it provides people with various ways to lose weight since we don't all do well on a "one-size-fits-all" diet plan. If we did, then EVERYBODY would be on that plan and there wouldn't be a need to have so many diets. But the reality is that people should find something that works for them and then they need to keep doing it forever to maintain their weight. As strongly as I support low-carb for me, I very much realize it is NOT necessarily for everyone.

Refusing to buy into the organic food trend that's all the rage right now, Chickering said the fruits, vegetables and meats you find at your local supermarket are just as "balanced" as the fresh ones are. The perceived need to buy from specialty stores is a useless endeavor, she claims, because the nutritional quality is virtually the same.

I'm sure my friend Richard Morris would have to disagree with that assertion since his life has been radically changed and "unburdened" by the discovery of fresh organic whole foods that have been the cornerstone of his incredible weight loss and improved health. It is incredibly shortsighted of Chickering to claim these foods are not superior to the ones you purchase in the grocery store in terms of nutritional value. I personally prefer buying my fruits and vegetables from the Fresh Market or Whole Foods stores better than my local grocery store because the quality is so much better.

Chickering made one statement that got to the root of her diet philosophy:

"Food choice alone does not make a person healthy or unhealthy."

I could not disagree more. Food choice is PRECISELY why most people have gotten fat in the first place. They chose to consume too much sugar, fast food, junk food, and the like over and over and over again. Those choices have made the majority of the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight or obese get that way. There's just no denying it!

At the same time, food choice is why people like me who have overcome their obesity problem were as successful as they were. When I started livin' la vida low-carb at 410 pounds, making the conscious decision to stop eating sugar, white flour, and other refined carbohydrates as part of my new healthy lifestyle, that move alone was the beginning of a dramatic change in me that made me much more healthy in the end when I lost 180 pounds. You can't tell me that my food choice did not contribute to my success, Ms. Chickering.

She quickly added that genes, how you live your life, the type of diet, and your level of physical activity also play a factor in determining what happens to your weight.

Sure, lifestyle choices can make a difference in controlling your weight, but it goes back to what you are stuffing your face with that lays the groundwork for whether you are eating healthy or not. A diet consisting of McDonalds, Dairy Queen, and Krispy Kreme will not put you on the road to becoming skinny!

In a definite rebuke of low-carb diets, Chickering noted that "eliminating completely or over-emphasizing the importance of a certain food" is not the best way to lose weight.

Too bad for Chickering livin' la vida low-carb doesn't eliminate any foods. Had she read up on what the low-carb lifestyle is about, then she would know that most low-carbers eat between 20-60g carbohydrates when they are losing weight. This isn't "eliminating completely" the consumption of carbs. It's simply bringing the intake of this macronutrient down to a level that will enable fat to be lost while stabilizing blood sugar levels. What's so wrong with that, Ms. Chickering?

Continuing with her theme, Chickering said "people should eat a wide variety of foods in moderation and get regular exercise."

"Fruits, vegetables, bread, dairy, and meat all have their place in a healthy diet and the occasional brownie or beer isn't going to instigate a medical nightmare either as long as they remain an occasional treat. Walking to the store will do you more good than worrying about the nutritional value of the pasteurized milk you get once you arrive."

I agree with you on the exercise comment, but this "eat in moderation" advice is just plain silly. When do you know when you've gotten enough of something, Ms. Chickering? How much sugar is needed for my diet to be "in moderation?" How about white flour, processed foods, and starchy veggies? What does a serving of arsenic look like "in moderation?"

Does anyone else see the nonsense of just eating everything "in moderation?" If people knew how to moderate their intake of food, then why would they need to go on a diet? People need direction about how to eat because most of us haven't a clue about what is healthy and what is not. Which goes back to Chickering's point at the beginning of her column.

If there is so much advice out there for people regarding how to eat healthy, then how can we expect them to know what is right? The answer is elementary, my dear. If you want to lose weight and keep it off for good, then find a plan that fits within your lifestyle, follow that plan faithfully even when it gets tough, continue to execute the dictates of that plan until you reach your goal, and then keep on doing that plan as your permanent lifestyle change until the day you die.

Does this mean you will NEVER eat something you shouldn't? Heavens no. But if you have the right perspective about what you need to be doing to control your weight rather than vaguely trying to "eat in moderation" all the time, then and only then will you find the pathway to lasting weight loss and greatly improved health. Sorry to burst your bubble, Ms. Chickering.

You can e-mail Julianne Chickering your comments about her "eat in moderation" column at


Blogger Gary said...

Wikipedia to the rescue! The ACSH is essentially an apologist for industry!! Y'know as I was reading your blog entry, Jim, I could just smell it a mile away.
The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is a scientific organization founded in 1978 by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. It produces reports on issues related to food, nutrition, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, lifestyle, the environment and health. Its core membership is a board of 350 physicians, scientists and policy advisors who review the Council's reports and participate in ACSH seminars, press conferences, media communications and other educational activities.

ACSH frequently defends industry against claims that its products create risks of injury, ill-health or death. ACHS also criticizes some industries for making unscientific and overstated health claims, promoting dangerous natural supplements, or otherwise failing to tell the truth about scientific issues. Some of the scientific and professional journals that have recently published ACSH's work include: Medscape, CRC Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Journal of Health Communications, Clinical Therepeutics, and Technology.

ACSH is a nonprofit institution exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All contributions are tax deductible as provided by law.
According to the Congressional Quarterly's Public Interest Profiles, Whelan's organization received more than 75 percent of their funding from the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. As a result, the ACSH has been accused of being more of a public relations firm, and less of a neutral council on Science. Jeff Stier, Associate Director of ACSH, has claimed that this information is outdated and inaccurate, with ACSH receiving less than 50 percent of their funding from industry. Despite Dr. Whelan's oft-repeated denial that ACSH is influenced by its funders, there are instances in which funders are known to have participated directly in the production of council publications. According to the council's former administative director, The Hershey Company did the in-house printing of an ACSH booklet on the health effects of sugar consumption, and the Stroh Brewery Company participated in the editing of a booklet about the health effects of alcohol. The participation of those companies was not acknowledged by ACSH.[1]

The now defunct Tufts University Nutrition Navigator produced a rating guide to nutrition websites. It gave the ACSH site a rating of 20 out of 25 and an Accuracy of Information rating of 8 out of 10. However, it commented, "This site aims to arm consumers with the facts necessary to make wise decisions about health, but be aware that the information here is biased and represents a very conservative interpretation of current science. Consumers looking for a balanced debate on health issues will have to look elsewhere."[2]

[See Wikipedia for full article with footnotes. ]

7/23/2006 9:37 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

So that makes the intern an apologist-in-training! ;*)

7/23/2006 9:38 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

Why would I want to eat poison in moderation?

7/24/2006 11:24 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Precisely, newbirth. I my not-so-humble opinion, institutes like this and the likes of ms. Chickering are the real reason why the obesity and diabetes epidemic is completely out of control. I call it the Ostrich approach. Lies, denial and deception reigns, these days.

7/25/2006 7:04 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

To follow up on Gary's comments and to add a rant and rave of my own.

"The ACSH Board of Directors concluded that what critics objected to was not ACSH's funding but ACSH's views — and that in avoiding corporate donations we were limiting ACSH's fundraising potential to no avail. So the Board voted to henceforth accept funding from corporations as long as no strings were attached. This remains the fundraising policy today, with about 40% of ACSH funding coming from private foundations, about 40% from corporations, and the rest of the sale of ACSH publications."

Another words, if you're going to be accused of being corrupt, you might as well go all the way. It reminds me of our politicians who get huge campaign contributions from say Exxon, which at least at this time are probably needed for them to get reelected, and then claim that they are not influenced by them. Maybe if they don't want to see that contribution again. Also, you try getting to talk to your senator about an issue of interest as a private citizen and then try again after contributing $10,000. Big difference. At the end of the day, it's not that ACSH accepts contributions from industry, but rather that they see no need to be specific about the source and its relevance to the article, e.g. In an article defending sugar use to say that we accepted $10,000 dollars from the American Sugar Council. That's what is called responsible journalism.

To give an example they are attempting to defend trans fats as just another fat (see ignoring completely the actual science which has found them to be harmful to your health. Specifically, the National Academy of the Sciences has found that there is NO SAFE LEVEL of trans fat. The real problem is that trans fat contribute to insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease because they are alien fats. The body has never seem them before and therefore has no idea what to do with them.

As for her main point about moderation, I prefer the term mineration, eating forbidden foods in minimal quantities. I can look at a cookie and eat only half because I know that any more than that minimal portion is not healthy. This is apparently not true of everybody and in the spirit of full disclosure, I was losing my taste for sugary products well before I discovered low carb

7/25/2006 2:46 PM  

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