Old guidelines don't work, but neithor will the new ones, and here's why
Big shock this week, the National Nutritional Guidelines are wrong, you know, the ones that have been steering us to such great health.
Thank god I haven’t been following them! If you want to know what I’m on about check this out.
For those without oodles of time on your hands allow me to summarize. The current approach used by Dieticians worldwide is wrong. Apparently it does not take into account that peoples metabolic rate changes as they lose weight (it slows down) and therefore the Calorie needs vary and weight loss is not consistent.
They do however claim to have fixed it now, so don’t worry, you can all relax. The predicted 50% obesity rate by 2030 probably won’t happen now, not with these geniuses behind the wheel.
In fact soon I will no doubt have to seek a different specialization, rather than fat loss specialist I may have to jump on the corrective exercise band wagon or see if I can become a strength and conditioning coach for the local darts team.
Are Dieticians idiots?
OK, before I go any further I want to categorically state that I have the upmost respect for dieticians. I am a personal trainer, I have a few certifications in Nutrition and I have studied it hard and with passion but I am way out of my league when it comes to in depth Nutritional Biochemistry or understanding the 8 steps of the Krebs cycle.
I also do not wish to put all dieticians into the same category, there are leading researchers out there paving the way for the future of our understanding of what foods do and how we can apply this, there is so much we don’t know yet and the field of Nutrition has a very exciting future.
On top of this, my forte is the general public, but dieticians help with some pretty serious conditions such as Anorexia Nervosa or terminally ill patients, and so it bugs me when I see other personal trainers getting on their high horse and being disrespectful to Dieticians, and so it is I write this article with respect.
But I will state this, not arrogantly, but factually
There are lots of great Personal Trainers and Nutritionist who get better results than dieticians do with fat loss clients.
Here are my Top 6 problems with the Current government approach. I took most of my guidelines from this government website.
6 Reasons why the current Government Nutritional approach is failing worse than the Greek economy
1. Insistence on calorie counting
So getting back to the News that sparked me writing this article, the old calorie model is wrong, the new calorie model is supposedly right. There is only one problem however, counting calories is bullshit.
I have explained this before here but allow me to reiterate
- Most people don’t count or understand calories, telling pregnant women that they should have an extra 300 calories a day is as futile.
I understand they are trying to avoid falling for the trap of “eating for two” but really, an extra 300? From where? Fats/ carbs/ proteins/ wholesome food/ take aways/ snacks?
Its ok to tell people to eat more clean food and drop the crap for a bit.
- Not all calories are equal, if I eat my standard 2500 calories for men from crisp, snacks and take aways, and you eat your 2500 calories from veggies, healthy fats, whole grain rice and good quality meat and fish, then chances are your body would be better nourished, you would feel better, you would look healthier and you would be more likely to live a whole lot longer.
- Which of course brings up Nutrients, food is about so much more than calories/ fat/ carbs etc.
Food is meant to nourish us, to give us life! Crap food makes us feel crap. Good food makes us feel good. Nutrients make our body work better, so I strongly believe that if a person eats lots of crap, then switches to a healthy plan where they eat tons of Nutritious food, their body will work more effectively, which means metabolism could Increase?
- Rather than worry about food that is high in calories, worry about food that is junk. I see too many people avoiding healthy foods like avocado’s, nuts or buying spray olive oils in the mistaken belief that they are making better choices all the time they are packing their trolleys with low quality diet snack bars loaded with chemical additives.
- Quick backtrack- Calories may be significant, but they are only a very small part of the equation. I never use calories when helping people to lose weight, instead we change behaviors like eating more veggies, healthy fats, getting hydration right etc.
- The only time I use calories is when trying to help people put on weight, in this case people rarely have a clue as to how much food it will take them to add more muscle so we work out a standard Meal plan with the right macronutrient ration for the bodyweight, body fat and their goal.
2. Getting it wrong with fats
I’m not sure why fats get such a bad rap from the government. They seem adamant that people should only ever use fat as a last resort, and that even then, they should probably use a spray fat, ,stand 10 foot away from their food and only press the lid half way down so as not to overdo it with all that nasty fat stuff.
“Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram they contain fewer than half the calories of fat”
Yes its true, fat does have more calories than starchy food, about 9 calories vs 4 calories. But the effect that food has on the body is far more important than the calorific intake, let me try and explain this very clearly, if you are mistaken for a large apple when waddling towards people, then you have insulin problems.
Anyone who is overweight will have some issue with insulin. It would probably be a good idea for them to avoid foods that spike insulin as it will further desensitize their overstuffed cells.
So why make it worse by encouraging people to choose pasta over steak? Yes, it’s more calories but as we have already established, calories don’t matter that much, we should be far more concerned with the effect of that food.
This is before we even start looking into issues like gluten sensitivity which I have found many now suffer from without knowing and this only further compounds fat gain and health problems ( its why all my clients eliminate it when they first come to see me)
Let me tell you why fats are cool
- They fill you up, fats increase satiety, they make you feel more satisfied when you eat and you will feel fuller quicker.
- You know those cool hormones that help raise your metabolism ( Thyroid) or burn fat( Growth hormone) or repair your body and make you stronger ( Testosterone ), well they are all made from fat, and a low fat diet will mean less of these, which will further compound fat gain.
- Fat is part of every cell of your body, the average person has about 150 trillion cells all lined with a double layer of fat. Now does a low fat diet sound sensible?
- Fats can do some pretty cool stuff, monounsaturated fats like Olive oil, avocados and macadamia nuts can help unclog your arteries by increasing good cholesterol and reducing bad cholesterol, and some research suggest they can increase your cells sensitivity to insulin.
- Omega 3’ can help improve heart health, improve mood, enhance cognition and even burn more fat.
OK, all right, sure.. I hear you say, but what about the bad fats?
Like saturated fats, what’s your answer now smart arse?
Well this is actually my other big problem with government guidelines,
“ Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease. Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as hard cheese, cakes, biscuits, sausages, cream, butter, lard and pies”
Yes, the above food should probably be avoided, but not because of the saturated fat, but because its processed shit with a truck load of additives.
Can saturated fat increase heart disease risk?
Well actually this is speculative at best, saturated fats can make cell membranes tightly packed which reduces their insulin sensitivity and makes people more likely to become obese, but actually its to do with the ratio of Saturated fats to Monounsaturated fats that appears to be the big problem.
We do actually need Saturated fats, they make important hormones and also add some necessary structure to cell’s ( they make up about 50% of a healthy cell membrane).
Women at risk from Osteoporosis should definitely include some saturated fats because they help increase absorption of calcium into bones.
I could carry on this rant, I could even go into why I am in favor of eating foods containing cholesterol like eggs ( yet another thing government guidelines misinformed people about)
But instead I shall finish this point by quoting Dr. Ronald Kraus from the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California, he and his team did a meta analysis on 21 different studies involving 350,000 different subjects and concluded this
“Our meta-analysis showed that there is insufficient evidence from prospective epidemiologic studies to conclude that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD, stroke, or CVD,”
Of course I should point out that there are bad fats, manmade Trans fats are probably the biggest Nutritional Health threat we have invented, this is why many places ban them from food products, but they still show up in one form or another.
I won’t go into trans fats here as I have already covered them dozens of other times.
Encouraging people to eat a low fat diet based on the fact there are bad fats is like telling people to avoid watching films because of bad actors. Instead we should just tell people to cut out bad fats, and stop watching anything with Jennifer Aniston in.
3. Not getting the 5 a day right
I got the info for this point from this government web page http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/5ADAY/Pages/5ADAYhome.aspx , firstly, let me point out that I agree with about 80% of this, people who follow these guidelines are definitely taking a step in the right direction, but if a client is paying me for a result, they will need a lot more than this.
This is why I have a problem with it,
- Should be 10 a day- There are speculations about where the 5 a day actually came from, with some people saying it was based on some research done by the World Health Organization and some people saying it came from some sadistic marketers. Wherever it originated from the fact remains it’s not enough.
There is a reason for this, the government thought it would be too unrealistic for people to eat more than 5, if they set the target for 10 and people didn’t achieve that target then they would feel bad and give up.
But aiming low and hitting is worse than aiming high and missing. More veg dramatically reduces the risk of certain cancers and heart disease, people who eat more veg are far less likely to be obese. Veg fills you up, it provides valuable nutrients, this is probably a good time to mention a petition I recently signed http://double5aday.org/our-first-campaigning-event/
- Getting the suggestions wrong, ok so I appreciate not everyone wants to lose fat, some people don’t need to and some people probably just enjoy having no energy and getting puffed out walking up the stairs.
But if you come to see me to get in shape, I will make damn sure you don’t take on board too much sugar, particularly Juice.
I should point out here that taking an orange from your fruit bowel, peeling the skin and juicing it is a very different product from the crap we buy in Supermarkets. That stuff has way more sugar in it, and far less fibre, and it has questionable quality source ingredients.
To give the government credit, they do at least point out that it’s just one glass a day, yet I still meet people who think they can just have 5 glasses of OJ to hit their 5 a day.
Oh, and another thing, since when the hell did Spaghetti Hoops become a veg?
Why is it even legal for those Cockheads to do that?
Here is another snippet from their website
“Fruit and veg in convenience foods, such as ready meals and shop-bought pasta sauces, soups and puddings”
WTF? Why advocate processed crap and tell people it’s ok because it has some fruit or veg?
My rule for eating crap is this, if you are gonna eat it, at least know its crap, don’t kid yourself there are any health benefits, the other ingredients such as sugar, hydrogenated fats, MSG, etc cancel out any supposed health benefits, so don’t sit there smugly thinking you’ve had one of your 5 a day, you haven’t.
- Not distinguishing between fruit and veg - Ok granted, I have the attention span of a lab rat on smack, so I didn’t trawl through the government website for hours looking for points to pick apart, in fact researching this article only took me about 10 mins, that’s about as long as I would expect the average person to spend on their website getting info, and if that’s the case, they would not find much mention of how much fruit and how much veg.
I have seen many a failed dieter, when I ask about their fruit and veg intake if they eat any its always fruit, usually banana’s. People have no idea that fruit can hinder fat loss, its not that fruit is bad, its just that is yet another source of sugar in a diet that’s been overloaded with it for far too long.
I like to encourage people to eat far more veg than fruit, the more active you are, the more fruit you should eat, but veg is still the mainstay, that’s the stuff the builds champions.
4. Not quite getting it right no sugars
This is the advice from the NHS
“Base your meals on starchy foods. Starchy foods include potatoes, cereals, pasta, rice and bread”
This is great advice if you want to help someone get fat, otherwise its bollocks. Too many people already get most of their diet from starchy potatoes, cereals, pasta, rice and bread.
And look where that’s got them.
I am not even going to bother distinguishing between whole meal bread, pasta etc (seeing as they didn’t either)
I don’t really have a problem with a little starch now and then, it can do some great things like clear your bowels, lower bad cholesterol, improve mood and fill you up.
But the issue I have is that when we eat too much of this stuff it pretty much gets broken down into sugar, and if people are not very active ( as in most people) then that sugar needs to be stored somewhere, as the muscle cells and liver are already full, then fat cells must be built.
This also coincides with the prevalence of so much gluten intolerance now being more widely recognized.
I also take exception to people being actively encouraged to eat cereals, most of the cereals I see are complete crap, I think it’s downright immoral and disgusting how a company can make a ton of sugar laden processed rubbish, and then sprinkle a little whole meal flour on top and get to call it whole meal goodness with a big green tick on the front.
They also seem to encourage people to go for low sugar versions of foods, but these versions just contain poisons like aspartame which has its own health dangers that the government has decided to keep the public blissfully unaware off.
5. Getting it wrong on Salt
What!! But surely we should cut out salt right Rich? That stuff can cause heart disease, it can massively increase blood pressure right? so here is what the government says
Eat less salt
"Even if you don’t add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. About three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and sauces"
Well I STILL have a problem with this, forgetting the fact that they have already encourage people to buy breads, breakfast cereals and soups in their earlier guidelines.
The issue is actually not with proper natural salt like Himalayan salt or Celtic salt, which is actually a good source of minerals, but with processed, refined and bleached table salt which is more like sugar than salt in that delivers no Nutrients and takes from the body.
The research linking heart disease to salt intake shows a risk above 2300mg a day, or 1500mg if in a high risk group such as diabetics.
If you have a diet with no processed food then you would be hard pushed to consume more than 1200mg of salt a day, and that would be a big effort.
There is also some discrepancy about how much salt individual’s need, with some people possibly needing more and some people possibly needing less.
6. Getting Hydration Wrong
For the record, its not that they don’t cover it, I just don’t think they get it quite right. Here is what they actually say.
"Don't get thirstyWe need to drink about 1.2 litres of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated. This is in addition to the fluid we get from the food we eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water, milk and fruit juices are the most healthy"
Not terrible advice, people shouldn’t get thirsty as being well hydrated can stop people from eating when they are thirsty and can help them drop weight by hydrating fat cells ready to be metabolized.
Like the fruit and veg thing, I think they are aiming low 1.2 L is a good start, and people should build up gradually, and it does depend on size, but in my experience people tend to lose fat much easier, and feel healthier when they drink anywhere from 2-3 litres with some of my active big athletes having 4-5 litres!
I also want to know why water doesn’t even get a mention. Are people really to drink 1.2 Litres extra of milk and juice, I thought they were trying to get people to cut back on calories, not drink more of them.
I personally like to suggest to clients to drink pure water, they can still have tea or coffee, but I want people to get their hydration recommendations from water alone.
If its contained in anything else then it either adds more sugars to the body, or otherwise it adds more chemicals to be detoxified.
Either way it’s a burden and will prevent best fat loss.
People are getting much more fat, obesity is rising faster than fuel company profits and the current Soft approach the government is using to coerce people into making healthy choices clearly isn’t working clearly enough.
There is an obesity Epidemic coming, its OK to tell it to people straight. It’s OK for politicians to turn down money from food producers who want to keep poisoning us, it’s OK to ban any shit from our foods and it would be fine and dandy if instead of pussy footing about the government told people that they are not going to save them and that the public needs to take some responsibility for themselves.
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