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Fat Head + My Rant About So-Called "Experts"

Monday, February 04, 2013

So last night I watched a food documentary on Netflix Instant called "Fat Head." Essentially, a comedian, Tom Naughton, wants to debunk Morgan Spurlock's (SuperSize Me) claims that eating nothing but fast food will cause you to gain weight. For thirty days, Naughton kept to a 2,000 calorie diet, limiting only his carbs (100g), and ate nothing but fast food. He also increased his weekly walks to 6 times a week instead of 2-3. After all was said and done, he actually managed to lose 12 pounds and reduce his cholesterol.

There was a lot I liked about this movie. I've watched SuperSize Me and was rather dubious that Spurlock really consumed 5,000 calories a day. I don't doubt you can with eating at McDonald's every day, but the claim that he did that with only 3 meals a day seemed odd, and Naughton further shows how that claim is likely untrue. It's especially suspicious because Spurlock would not release his food log. Why would you want to hide it? That makes no sense.

I also liked Naughton's common-sense approach. He drank only diet sodas, iced tea, or water. He increased his exercise. He stuck to a calorie deficit and limit. He did eat "fast food" but he managed to do so without going overboard. And it wasn't all McD's salads either...he had many cheeseburgers. But I did not see any french fries, likely due to his low-carb limit.

Which brings me to my next point. A lot of this movie was Naughton talking with a number of experts about how animal proteins and fats are not bad for you and how we as humans did not start having a lot of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues until refined sugar and flour were heavily included in our diets. A lot of these people, Naughton included, advocate a low-carb lifestyle and how what kind of calories you consume is more important than how many you take in.

Now, I do agree with a lot of this and I don't think many would disagree at this point that sugar and white flour are not really all that good for you. Not only are they full of empty calories that will not leave you satisfied, but they also make your body's insulin production go haywire. Even a non-diabetic can experience a sugar crash right after having a candy bar. I would even personally go so far to say that I think there's more of a diabetes epidemic than an obesity one in our country. There are so many average-sized people with huge blood sugar and insulin resistance issues that don't even realize it.

And while creating a calorie deficit is a good thing, that alone will not make you lose weight. We all know this because we are all different and our bodies react differently to what kinds of food we eat based on our metabolism. I know when I had 70% or more of my calories as carbs, I could not lose weight at all, even if I cut my calories down to the bare minimum. Not to mention how horrible I felt.

At one point, they even go on a tangent about cardiovascular disease and how cholesterol does not cause plaque building...inflammation causes plaque build-up. Cholesterol plays just a small role in that. And inflammation can occur from vegetable oils, refined flour, and sugars. Dietary fat like saturated fats (but not trans fats. those are still bad) are OK because they will not cause your cholesterol to increase.

Based on Naughton's results, that does seem to hold water. But while they show some really compelling evidence against advocacy groups and the government (especially the "McGovern Report"), I don't know if I can buy this hornswaggle any more than I buy any of the other "evidence" all the other groups claim.

Sheesh, no wonder we as a society struggle with how to eat healthy. We have everyone telling us something different.

Vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians, low-carb, carb lovers, paleo, gluten free...the list goes on and on. Some groups say low-fat, others say low-fat will make you depressed. Some say eating too many whole eggs is bad for your cholesterol. Others say dietary cholesterol does not impact your overall level as much as genetics, so whole eggs are OK. Some say low-carb, others say you need carbs for energy.

They ALL have "scientific research". They all have "experts". And every 5 seconds, someone comes up with a new way to eat and be healthy. Just look at all these different diets on WebMD.

It's RIDICULOUS. And we all fight with each other over who's right and who's wrong and I personally can't make heads or tails of what I should be doing or eating based on all these "studies".

I'm honestly tired of it. And it's almost impossible to find actual precise research unless you are in college and have access to a lot of research papers or are able to find them at your local library or online.

And we all think that just because someone is a medical professional, a TV personality, or some Joe Schmoe with his own documentary, that they must be right! And everyone else is wrong!

At this point, I don't know what to believe. I DO think the evidence is compelling for further research. And I plan to do that. It's not going to be easy to find good, unbiased research that is based on actual factual evidence and decent sample sizes.

Even in Naughton's case, I'm not so sure. Sure, his cholesterol levels went down, but if they aren't a factor, why does it matter? Also, what was his blood pressure? I don't think they once mentioned that in the film. With all the sodium he consumed, I'm curious. Also, did his increased exercise play a role in the cholesterol levels and reduced body fat? We don't know.

While this is a great movie to get one thinking, don't take it as gospel any more than Spurlock's "SuperSize Me". As Naughton says frequently, use your own common sense. Don't always believe what someone say because it simply looks legit or it comes from a doctor. Do your own research and draw your own conclusions on what is best for your own health.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Read enough , and eventually we'll get to a point where "water causes cancer!" (Hypothetical future headline on CNN or Fox glossing over the details or whatever study they're willfully misrepresenting, dont'cha know?) Your bottom line is the right one, figure out what works for you as an individual, and stick with it.
    1930 days ago
    I think people would have more success living a healthy lifestyle if they cut out sugar rather than fat. We definately did not evolve to eat that, and it is a form of carbs that just has no health benefits at all. From weight, to insulin and diabetes, to tooth decay, sugars, including 'healthy' ones like honey, should be eliminated from your diet as much as possible. Keep your burgers if you will, cut out the soda and sweets.
    1932 days ago
  • CAMAEL100
    I would say that it is the nutrients in the food we consume is the most important. Yes we could eat 2,000 calories of junk food or 2,000 calories of nutrient rich food and we would have the same figure on the scale but I think the junk food diet would eventually lead to a loss in energy levels and sickness due to not taking in enough vitamins and minerals.
    1932 days ago
    I've pretty much come to the conclusion that each body is different and probably needs different things.

    My ex was sensitive to gluten, and once he stopped eating it, he dropped a ton of weight, gained a lot of energy, and was much happier overall. When I ate the same things he did, though, I gained weight, got moody, and became depressed.

    Bodies are different. I mean, people talk about what we "evolved" to eat, but a lot of that is geographical, too. My ancestors are mostly Eastern European, and you can bet they "evolved" eating a lot of cabbage and pork! People from other areas did fine without either. I actually think one of reasons the US is so weird about food is that we have so many cultural traditions mixing here, so there's not one "traditional" way to eat but experts keep trying to force one -- and only one -- on us.
    1932 days ago
    Great blog on so many points. And all the better any time you can weave Sweet Brown into a blog! LOL!

    Best of luck finding "good" research! I get so frustrated with that problem.

    To your point "Do your own research and draw your own conclusions on what is best for your own health."... my great grandfather said to take all the advice you can get and then do whatever you damn well please.
    1933 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    Great Blog!

    1933 days ago
    I totally agree with you on all of that. I loved a lot of the stuff that FatHead put forward. A lot of it makes sense! I just hate all the conflicting information out there.

    If you want to see a doc that will REALLY piss you off, though, go watch Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. It has lots of dumb looking cartoons in it, and is basically about a dude who got fat, got allergies, decided some mysterious skin problem was killing him, and bought a juicer. The entire thing is one, long juicer commercial. He talks to people about what he eats and puts forth that basically no American ever eats fruits, vegetables, or knows how to cook. The entire thing was so idiotic that we ended up making fun of it and didn't realize it was finally over until the credits were finished.

    A better one that I found very interesting: King Corn!
    1933 days ago
    So spot on. For now I just go with what I know, try to eat just things that I know were grown or came from something once living and try to learn more about different foods as I go along.
    1933 days ago
    You know what annoys me most of all about all these documentaries? They are based on the faulty premise that anecdotal evidence proves stuff. It doesn't! 1 guy eating McD's and gaining weight proves nothing. 1 guy eating McD's and losing weight proves nothing either. But lots of people watch these documentaries and see them as gospel truth about health and weight loss. They are, at best, a very biased account of one person's experience with a dietary change.
    1933 days ago
    I always say eat everything with moderation; it's not about the food it's about how much of it you are going to eat. You can eat many veggies and fruits but you can't have many hamburgers during the day.
    So if we track what we eat and we know what goes in, we can control our nutrition and create a better lifestyle.
    And no matter what documentaries/papers/researches will tell, there is nothing better than homemade food, because you know the ingredients and you use your care/love to prepare it.
    1933 days ago
    Since starting this vegan experiment, my diet has been probably 60- 70% carbs most days. I've lost 9 pounds in a little over three weeks, feel great, and have tons of energy. Of course, all of those carbs are from beans, brown rice, fruit and processed foods like Ryevita crackers. I've had white bread maybe twice, and have had a baked potato on a couple of occasions as well.

    Before this, I panicked if my carbs were more than 30-40% of my day. In fact, my most successful diet before was the 4 Hour Body, that is basically protein, veggies and beans. I was eating 2-3 eggs every day and my cholesterol went down.

    As for Supersize Me, Spurlock had an agenda when he started the film. His girlfriend is a vegan chef, he is invested in the lifestyle, and he wanted to prove that fast food was horrible for people. It makes for a compelling movie, but is not good science. USDA is lobbied by all sorts of farming and food businesses, so you really cannot tell if what they are saying is science, or being in the pocket of Monsanto.

    I think whoever said to eat like your grandparents has it right--food you can pronounce, in season when possible, and treats for special occasion, not every day. My grandmother was a fabulous cook, and made amazing baked stuff, but she didn't serve it every day, and when she did, it was something like baked apples or peach cobbler, not Cool Whip and fat-free pudding. I think a lot of the problem is that so much of what we put in our bodies is not food, and our bodies are hungry for something real, so we keep eating until we are sick.
    1933 days ago
    Everyone interprets things differently from all of the literature, nutrition advice, diets, etc., etc.

    You have to find what works for YOU - and stick with it. Personally, it's the low carb lifestyle that works for me. After recent blood work, my numbers have all improved, so I'm happy with what I'm doing, but don't try to tell anyone else what to do.
    1934 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/5/2013 1:29:38 AM
    I understand all the confusion and frustration with our current nutritional recommendations.

    You're right to want to follow the research. A good and reliable *source* is Google Scholar. Still, you have to know how to evaluate research and cut through the bias. There was SO much of that in the foundational research that drove our (non-scientific) committees...the things even current "knowledge" relies upon is still, in great part, based upon those flawed studies.

    ADARKARA ~ I would *especially* not believe what the USDA tells us, at this point. It was their recommendations that got us here in the first place!

    I can only speak from personal experience - but I've lost a big load of weight and improved my health considerably by following a restricted-carb lifestyle (I probably wouldn't have gone this route if it hadn't been *on prescription* from our endocrinologist). I also try to eat whole foods, preferably locally produced (not only for my benefit, but to support those small holders trying to compete with BigAg). I'm not strict about my diet...but I am careful with the carbs. Carbs are just complex sugars, after all.

    So do your research. Talk to people who can give you first-hand experience, not the nutritionists and dietitians and yes, even the doctors in some cases, who are still caught up in the dietary recommendations we've had encouraged to us for the last 50 or so years. Huh. How about that. Just about the time that our health has been on the decline.
    1934 days ago
    Great blog! I'm going to school to be a Health Coach and although we learn over 100 dietary theories, the main message about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition is that every person is different. They call it bioindividuality. What works for one person will not work for another, and vice versa. The focus on health coaching is for the coach to be the guide for the person to figure out what works for THEM personally - not a fad diet or what the coach thinks the client should eat. Also, you can eat everything right and do everything right and if you're too stressed out because of your job or a bad relationships or toxic people in your life, you still won't lose weight and your health will suffer. I LOVE this focus! There's a huge movement out there that's all about each person as an individual and I'm proud to be a part of it. I like that you are being smart about what you're hearing and not taking everything one person says as the law. Great job!
    1934 days ago
    I liked the movie too. Between that and a book called "Why we get Fat" by Gary Taubes, I changed the way I eat.

    I've seen real good results by cutting down the carbs....a much flatter belly and reduced weight. Nothing magical on the weight loss maybe 7-8 lbs (but I also lift weights), but I've seen my body change shape quite a bit, getting slimmer as I've added more muscle from exercise.

    For me, I've come to the conclusion that losing weight is not just about the math of calories in and calories out....there is something about the chemistry as well.....the type of foods we eat determines the equilibrium our bodies settle in to. Sugars & carbs cause us to settle in at a higher weight....getting rid of them puts us in a different equilibrium.

    My $.02....good luck!
    1934 days ago
  • KIMBERLY19732
    I love your blog! I am jaded with the diet plans and books and programs, too. I imagine that each of us with our dietary histories and so forth will have our own diet catagory! (that would really work anyway!)
    1934 days ago
    I usually try and eat food my great-great-great grandparents would recognize. I go to the farmers market and buy meat there without hormones etc. I grow most of my own vegetables. This simple rule keeps alot of empty calories out of my body and my home.
    1934 days ago
    There is honestly SO much frickin' weight-loss/nutrition propaganda out there right now, it's hard to believe even what the USDA tells us. There's no way I could eat as many grains as they say! And what works for one person does not work for everyone, so we can't have one solution for everything.

    Here's what gets MY goat... Eggs are good for us again... yet eaten ONE egg yolk blows my cholesterol for the day, and who eats one frickin egg?! ;)
    1934 days ago
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