Who is the biggest loser?

Last night, I sat myself down on the couch, kids finally in bed, and turned on the tele.  I had to do this manually, because my little delights had either hidden or misplaced the remote control again.  It’s very retro.

Running low on farks, I picked any old channel and plopped myself down.  I wasn’t prepared for quite how infuriated I would become.  You see, the first ad I was subjected to was the exciting announcement that our airwaves were soon, once again, to be bombarded by the objectionable, horrific car crash that is…

THE BIGGEST LOSER

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The two very buffed, smiley people heading up this year’s Biggest Loser

Indeed.  It appears that Network 10 has coughed up once more to document the ‘incredible transformation’ of a team of fat, unworthy souls, into improved thin people.  Meaning that once again, millions of viewers will be tuning in each week to watch larger bodied people with poor self-esteem (and even worse body image) being ruthlessly bullied, starved and demeaned, for our viewing pleasure.

…Or for their ultimate salvation, depending on the view you take…

The thing that devastates me is not so much that this terrible show exists (after all, reality TV has bought us some pretty dire rubbish over the years), but that come next week, the fat bullying will ramp up again.  And that a large number of generally well-intentioned members of the public will be sitting on their couches, soaking up the lies of the diet and fitness industry, and weaving these into their core values around food, body image, and what it means to ‘look after yourself’.

*hits head on desk repeatedly

I can hear the disgusted grunts and scoffs already, from some of the readers who have gotten this far.  Maybe you’re thinking to yourselves:

‘But those people are sad and unhealthy the way they are now.  This is helping them’

Or:

‘They’re lucky to be getting free diet advice and personal training from experts (cough cough), and they signed up for this’

Or my favourite:

‘This show proves that fat people can stop being fat if they just get off their asses, do some exercise and stop stuffing their faces with bad food’

Ugh.  Where do I start?  If you’re up for this… stick with me here.

Firstly, despite my ranty disposition, I don’t think you’re terrible people for being mesmorised by this drivel.  It’s pretty compelling stuff – I get it.  Hell, the ‘90’s me – fat-free yoghurt-eating, body-suit-wearing science and dietetics student – would no doubt have gobbled this shit up.

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’90’s Marnie was very into calorie counting and fat free food.  She keeps a museum of daggy cookbooks, to remind herself how uncool this was.

The fact is, we LOVE the miserable ‘before’ shots juxtaposed with the bubbly, successful ‘after’ shots.  It’s fascinating.  Seductive. And it’s why every week we see new diet books, online programs and ridiculous fat burning supplements popping up in our news feeds.  We all want a bit of that.

But what does this kind of entertainment really provide us with?  And why am I so fucking furious about the idea of watching fat people running around like sweaty turkeys, eating ridiculous portions of ‘clean’ food and being made to feel grateful for their chance to re-enter normal society?

It’s damaging, is the simple truth.  Damaging to both the people who are in the show, and the people who sit there and watch it.  And it’s perpetuating the myth that our worth and position in society should be measured by a number on the scales.

Let’s have a look at the sneak previews:

Steph is getting married.  She’s bought a dress that she can’t fit into (um.. alarm bells are sounding right there), and just wants to feel beautiful on her wedding day.

Simmo wants to find love.  Apparently, he is unworthy of love in his current (fat) body, so he wants to get a new body (by undertaking excessive exercise and restricting his food intake in an unsustainable way), so that he can become loveable, and secure a mate.

Man.  That just makes me feel really sad.

And what about Lynton, who stands to lose his job as a pilot, if he doesn’t slash his current body size?  I want to see the research that explains why fat people can’t fly planes.  Is it because they’re too busy thinking about donuts to concentrate on the flying?  Or do they just not make pilot uniforms for those with a BMI above 30?

No matter how socially acceptable it is to dis fat people, I assure you that they are no less worthy, or intelligent, or loveable than thin ones.  You absolutely can have a BMI above 30 and be healthy.  Just as you can be a thin, dashing looking pilot and suddenly collapse dead from a heart attack and bring everyone on board to an untimely, fiery end.

What does happen to people who bully their bodies into temporary smaller sizes?  Do they suddenly become happier and healthier?  Maybe on some level, and by some people’s measures.  Maybe for a nanosecond, in their long lives, they feel like they’ve reached their goal and fixed all their problems.

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If I knew who wrote this, I’d credit the author (and give them a high five)

But most of them – in fact 95% of those who diet – end up back where they were, plus a few extra kilograms and minus a few weeks/months/years of eating food they enjoy.  Not only are they fatter than they were ten years ago, they are now saddled with new feelings of self-loathing and fear, around the simple act of eating food.

I see people every day in my consulting rooms who have yo-yo’d up and down for years.  They’ve fallen on and off countless diet wagons, and progressively felt more hopeless and out of control.  And the overarching theme that always comes up is that they feel worse.  They feel like failures, who just didn’t have the self-control to sustain the diet.

Here, I beg you to watch this piece from exercise phyiologist, scientist and psychotherapist Dr Linda Bacon, explaining the complex physiological responses that happen in our bodies when we diet.  Linda says it much more eloquently than I, but a key player in this picture is the hormone called leptin.  Calorie restriction reduces the production of leptin.  Reduced leptin signals our metabolism to slow down (less calories burned).  It also increases our hunger levels, and makes us think more about food.  The result is that chronic dieters have lower levels of circulating leptin, slower metabolisms, and are hungry all the time.

I could go on (and on… and on) here, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll skip to the chase.

What is the take away answer here?

The Biggest Loser is sensationalist, misleading, fat-shaming rubbish.  Please don’t watch it, and don’t expose your kids to it.

Mind your own business. Keep your eyes on your own bloody plate.  Don’t denigrate your own (or anyone else’s) body in front of your kids.  And think about why you are judging people based on their physical appearance.  Then stop it.

Concentrate on your own health. And by health, I don’t mean weight.

I mean nourishing your body with a range of foods, eating what satisfies you and makes you feel good on that day, at that meal.  Eat the chocolate, or the cheeseburger, but learn how to eat it mindfully, and don’t make it your daily choice.

Be thoughtful about your food – sure.  But don’t buy into the clean eating rubbish that tells us carbs are addictive, sugar is the devil and anything processed is unholy.

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Favourite Christmas present this year – my profane pencil case

And find activities that move your body in ways you enjoy, and help it feel stronger and better.  Rather than desperately sweating it out just to budge a number on the scale, or squeeze into that too-small wedding dress, let your body find it’s comfortable, natural set point.  And appreciate your body for all the things it has done, and continues to do for you, every day.

If this post resonates with you, but the idea of rejecting dieting sounds kind of scary and impossible, you’re not alone.  Sometimes it feels safer and easier to drift back to the dark side, and try the next diet. Or fat pill.  Or detox.

Instead, consider seeking out a supportive, experienced, ‘weight neutral’ dietitian, who understands and practices the Health At Every Size paradigm.  They can help you understand how, why and what you’re eating.  They can help you let go of that tight grip you’ve had on food for so long (which hasn’t served you so well thus far), and show you a better approach to eating without the restriction, calorie counting and bullying.

We are out there.

***

 

 

 

 

 

8 Fantastic Foods for a Happy, Healthy Vagina!

Yes, you read correctly.  And if you’re anything like me, your initial reaction was something along the lines of …..

What the actual fuck?

(sorry mum)

There I was standing at the kitchen bench, minding my business (simultaneously listening to my 6 year old’s reader and scrolling through my Facebook feed), when I happened upon this little chestnut from Mr know-it-all himself, David Avocado Wolfe.

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Now I have a lot of questions I’d like to ask David Avocado Wolfe.  And the first one is: What’s with the super-wanky name?  Since when is it okay to plonk “Avocado” between your first and last names and then go around acting like it’s perfectly normal?  Please explain.

Another of my many questions is this:  How is it that he’s scammed five million Facebook users (including some of my friends) into promoting his special brand of Grade A, nonsensical woo to the masses?  Because in addition to being the rock star and Indiana Jones of the superfoods and longevity universe (his words, not mine), he also happens to be a certified gravity denying, flouride-in-the-water-dissing, GMO-scaremongering, deer-antler-extract-peddling dingbat, with a scarily weak grip on actual reality.

Oh.  And he has a thing against ‘big pharma’.  How utterly original.

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But let’s not get too sidetracked here.  I want to get back to 8 Fantastic Foods for a Happy and Healthy Vagina!  Because I won’t lie.  I was kind of intrigued.  As both a dietitian and the owner of a vagina, I felt it was my business to know more about these vagina superfoods.

Of course, I was skeptical –  primarily because this is David Fruitloop Wolfe we’re talking about, and also because I studied nutrition for five years, and I don’t recall that bit.

<puzzled face>

Had this guy happened upon some official Vaginal Nutrition Guidelines that I didn’t know about? Had he conducted a meta-analysis of all the double-blinded, placebo controlled studies on whether yoghurt is good for your girly bits? Or did he just sit down on a fairly slow blogging day and think ‘vaginas’.  And decide to start with some fairly healthy foods and sciency words and make the rest up?

I’m gonna call it early. I think it might have been the latter.

So off I went to do a bit of my own research on the Avocado man’s vagina diet.  His first one was (duh!) Avocados.

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Short story: here’s a link to some information about why avocados are awesome.  They’re full of good fats, antioxidants and vitamins E and C. They’re also a surprisingly good source of fibre.  But have they been shown to strengthen the vaginal wall?  Hmmm.. no.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 4.45.48 PMDavid.  I’m actually with you here.   As popular opinion would have it, it’s probably a good idea to include naturally fermented foods and yoghurts with live and active cultures for their *potential* effect on vaginal flora and pH (ie. preventing icky bacterial or yeast infections of the lady bits).

Just as an aside, if like me, you were never quite sure if you were supposed to put the yoghurt on / up your vagina, or eat it, the answer is.  You eat it.

And also, if like me, you’re grossed out by David’s dairy = pus meme, you’ll find the inclusion of yoghurt in his vagina superfoods list a little perplexing…

confusedgrossed out by milk 'facts'

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Sweet potatoes are really good for you.  Let me see if I can follow his logic here:

  • Sweet potato has antioxidants – TICK! (it’s full of the little mofos).
  • Antioxidants mop up free radicals that can cause damage in our body – TICK!

But this is where it gets sketchy – the leap between sweet potatoes being good for you and the claim that they strengthen the vaginal and uterine walls.  Long bow David.  Long bow.

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Pumpkin seeds are indeed rich in zinc and vitamin E.  And fibre.  And good fats.

But just how do they regulate menstrual cycles, and cure the very vague ‘vaginal irritation’?  And how many pumpkins seeds do I take, and how often, to relieve menstrual cramps?  And why isn’t Jean Hailes (my go-to online resource for all things womens’ health-related) espousing the use of pumpkin seeds for cycle regulation and period pain?

Because there is no evidence for the use of pumpkin seeds for vaginal ailments, is why.

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Garlic is tasty and garlic is good.  It has a host of potentially anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, anti-carcinogenic and antimicrobial effects.  It’s also a prebiotic, which may promote the growth of good intestinal and vaginal flora.  Do we have any evidence that we can use garlic to treat established vaginal infections? Nope. So he gets half a point for that one.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 4.41.23 PMI’m a big fan of dark green leafy vegetables for many reasons.  Remember that study where women were fed dark green leafy vegetables or placebo, which showed the group in the intervention arm had statistically significant reduction in vaginal burning and itching sensations?  No?  Neither do I.  Nice one David.

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Cranberries and cranberry juice do have some evidence behind them in balancing the pH of the urogenital system and potentially preventing UTI’s – I’ll give him that (even if he did just link to another wellness blog, rather than a scientific paper).

But when we start talking about balancing ‘the body’s pH’ my woo radar is well and truly bleeping.  Don’t get me started on the whole acid/alkaline diet myth about how we can change our body’s pH.  I can’t even.

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David reckons chocolate is actually an octave of sun energy (but then he also believes that mushrooms are extraterrestrial, and solar panels are draining the sun of it’s power).  Even so, I’m totally on board with the legitimisation of chocolate as a dietary staple.  Maybe it does boost your immune system!

The bit I’m confused about here is the chocolate-induced dopamine production.  This happens in the brain, rather than the vagina.  Am I right?

In conclusion

  1.  Chocolate (like many other foods) is not only good for you, it is also extremely delicious.  How much it has to do with your vagina is anyone’s guess.
  2. Eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables and including both prebiotic and probiotic foods in your diet is probably good for the whole body, including downstairs.
  3. Doing pelvic floor exercises (as opposed to just thinking about doing them, which I frequently do) is a lot more likely to give you a vagina of steel than eating any of the foods on this list.

And going forward, I’d hereby like to be referred to as Marnie Zucchini Eggplant. Not one but two vegetables.

Up yours David.

***

Bunny Shaming

Last weekend, my children took part in a yearly ritual involving a fantastical giant fluffy bunny and a shite-load of chocolate.  Some call it Easter, but in our (seriously non-denominational) family, it’s known as The Chocolate Holiday.

The holy chocolate day starts with the adult rising uncharacteristically early, and sneaking outside – under cover of darkness – to scatter the goods throughout the garden.  It is quickly followed by the stampeding of little feet, the ripping of foil, and the unbridled joy (and heavenly silence) that is legitimate chocolate consumption before breakfast.

At 8 years of age, my daughter is undoubtedly too old to believe in a giant, chocolate-bearing bunny (just as she’s surely too old to believe in Santa or the tooth fairy, yet steadfastly clings to such notions).  But she’s not letting go, or letting on, because …

CHOCOLATE

And you know what?  I totally get that.  In fact I applaud that.

As a dietitian, and a foodie, I believe that finding pleasure in food is a good thing. And following on from that, I believe that it’s okay to eat some foods not for their nutritional value, or health-giving properties, but simply because they’re luxurious / indulgent / insanely delicious.

And that’s why something I read this week made me feel very sad.

Surprise surprise, it was Pete Evans.  Pete with his special brand of blue-eyed, slightly unhinged dietary zeal, preaching once again to his tribe on Facebook.  But what got me this time was that he wasn’t just talking about himself. Nor was it another emotive, highly crafted ‘over to you’ tale of paleo triumphing over the woes of chronic disease.   This time, it was about kids – his kids – and how he was teaching them the ‘right’ way to eat.

Here it is what he posted on 13th April.

Pete Evans and the bunnies

On the surface it’s kind of sweet – is it not? The protective, nurturing father, guiding his daughters through life with a charming tale of (pure, disease free, enlightened) bunnies. And judging by the volumes of adoring comments it garnered, that’s exactly the way Pete’s tribe saw it.

But it’s the subtext that made my stomach churn.  Because when you read between the lines, Pete’s message to his daughters is that eating lollies at a party is a bad thing to do – that it would harm them, and essentially make them less pure.

His is a lesson in the dichotomy of food, and the warped idea that no amount of lollies is ever okay, if they want to lead healthy, happy lives.  It perpetuates the idea that foods are either righteous or sinful.  Tonic or toxin.  Pure or dirty.

To me, the bunny story is food guilt, dressed up as good parenting.  And it makes me sad to think what foundations are being laid down right now in his daughters’ impressionable young minds.  And – for that matter – in the impressionable young minds of children all over the country who’s parents buy into this militant way of thinking.

No bunnies were harmed

Because humans are not bunnies Pete.  We are emotionally complex, intelligent creatures who develop a relationship with food very early on in life.  We don’t just mindlessly nibble away on whatever we are fed – we learn and develop a belief system around foods from our family, friends and life experiences, which will lay the foundation for our eating patterns in the future.

Will Pete’s ‘bunnies’ grow up subscribing to his dogma and never want to eat a lolly?  Or (more likely) will they eat the lollies one day, and then feel the guilt?  What other ‘bad’ foods will they grow up feeling ashamed of eating?  Chocolate surely, and maybe grains, dairy foods, legumes, potatoes?  And how will they fare in their teenage and adult years when their world opens up to reveal a minefield of dangerously available, ultimately alluring ‘banned’ foods?

My opinion is that such teaching is a recipe for disordered eating in susceptible individuals.

And that’s why I won’t be banning my children from any particular foods, regardless of how nutritionally bereft they may be.  I won’t be staying at the party to slap their little hands away from the fairy bread, or cautioning the grandparents against buying them an ice cream.

I’ll be offering them mostly nutrient dense, minimally processed foods that I know will support the growth of their bodies and minds.  I’ll be teaching them that we eat not only to fuel our bodies, but also to indulge our senses, and to socialise, and be part of a community.  I’ll be letting them know that sometimes it is okay to eat food just for pleasure, and hoping to instil in them a mindful, moderate approach to eating, rather than a rigid, fearful one.

And so, ends my little Friday night stint on the soap box – with that vexatious, unsexy message of moderation again.  That, and a couple of questions to ponder:

1.  Are you sure no bunnies were harmed in the making of that statement?

And

2.  Is food the new rock?  Or for some, is it the new religion?

Pete Evans

Is Food the new rock? Image: http://www.news.com.au

Coeliac disease. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

So it’s official – you’re a coeliac.  A card carrying, villiously challenged, chronically inflamed misery guts.  It’s a huge shock.  But at the same time it’s so stupidly obvious, you wonder just how you missed it all along.

Most people you meet won’t know that Coeliac disease is actually an autoimmune condition, and that at present, it’s the only form of true gluten intolerance that we can prove exists – affecting 1 in 60 females and 1 in 80 males.

But you probably knew that.  And after all the poking, prodding and invading you’ve recently endured, you deserve to hear something positive.  So here’s what I’ve got:

The Good News

Firstly, know that Ryan is batting for you.

ryan gosling sucker punch gluten

He’s going to sucker punch gluten in the neck for you.  And look dreamy while doing it.

The other good news is that now you have the diagnosis, you also have the right to some good old fashioned sanctimonious revelling.  Because it turns out you weren’t a slothful, listless hypochondriac after all.  You were EFFING WELL ANAEMIC all these years (or at least chronically iron deficient), and have the approximate vitamin D level of a mushroom.

Now is the appropriate time to phone your family and shout at them ‘I’VE BEEN FUNCTIONING AT 20% CAPACITY FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS YOU JUDGEMENTAL, CAKE-EATING JERKS’.  After you’ve got that off your chest, you may also like to add that coeliac disease runs in families, and that any one of them could be next.

< insert evil laugh >

And what about your reputation as a walking, talking, high level environmental polluter?  It wasn’t your freaking fault!  Your insides are a hotbed of over-fed microbes and slaughtered villi, and it’s well time that everyone knew.

Shout it to the rooftops – Facebook it – Tweet it: ‘MY EXCESSIVE BLOATING AND FLATULENCE WERE THE GLUTEN ALL ALONG – I WAS A VICTIM OF THE BLOODY CIVIL WAR INSIDE MY BELLY DON’T YOU SEE?!?’  It’ll feel great – trust me.  And it’ll help you weed out your real friends from the hangeronerers.

Oh crap!  Are you crying now?

Can I just say something obvious at this stage?  Do me a favour and don’t just turn to Dr Google.  He’s not gonna hold your hand and walk you through the supermarket isles.

gluten is... google search

See a dietitian.  A certified glutenopathist. They’ll feel your pain, and the nice ones will probably shed a little tear with you, because they KNOW how much it sucks to be broken on the inside.  It’s just gonna take a pantry overhaul, a PhD in food science and a good twelve months, but you’ll be back baby.

And talk to the official Nerds Of Gluten at Coeliac Australia.  They know their rice malt syrup from their wheat glucose syrup (hooboy yes they do).  And they have apps, and hotlines, and experts, and seminars, and magazines, and even EXPOS dedicated to helping you get this right.

Better? Okay good.

Now most of you have already worked out how simple it is to eat gluten free at home.  No dramas there.  Except for the time when you’ll try making pizza dough on a whim and end up with a kitchen that resembles a white bomb-site and a pizza crust that doubles as a weapon against intruders.

The Not-So-Good News

The crappy news (you knew this was coming) is that popping out for a meal will never be the same again.

Ladies – you have a head start here, as you already possess the innate ability to ask what’s in your food without feeling like a twat.  Blokes – I just have to say right now that I’m really sorry.  Yes it does suck (It sucks Big. Hairy. Balls), but you’re going to have to man up, and start having that conversation.

wheat flour in everything meme

Gluten is a social creature.  It gatecrashes just about every dining occasion from your posh dinner out, to the backyard barbecue. Take that potato chip you’ve just been offered: Better check if it’s coated in starch or hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP)** from wheat. And that delicious, innocent-looking sausage over there?  Sorry, but you’re you’ll need to do some serious hunting and gathering (coeliac style) before it’s allowed on your plate.

**by the way, please stop freaking out –  HVP sounds very similar, but has absolutely NOTHING to do with Human Papaloma Virus 

Hunting and Gathering the Coeliac Way

1.  Hunt down sausage provider, by systematically questioning everyone present at BBQ

2.  Gather information regarding sausage ingredients, employing specialist bin retrieval tactics as needed

And while you’re hunting and gathering the sausage safety information, you may as well find out what mayonnaise was used for the coleslaw dressing, and whether that tempting pink dip has been laced with breadcrumbs.  Pass on the beer (once again I’m so, so sorry), but accept the wine.  DRINK THE WINE.  It will give you courage.

And you will need courage in the early days, as you adapt to your new life of planning EVERY meal in advance, and having to explain to EVERYONE how you’re not a prat – you just don’t particularly want to poison yourself.

coeliac fad meme

Because my final words of wisdom are that people can be nice, and supportive, and considerate.  But some of them can be assholes about it too.

As a general rule, most punters don’t have a clue what gluten actually is.  And here are some of the types you’re going to have to get used to:

1.  The well-meaning friends who love you but will annoy the crap out of you, when they:

  • Insist on taking you out for Yum Cha, then on realising there’s nothing you can eat, they offer to peel a dumpling for you.
  • Buy you cookies and cream ice cream, and then look horrified when you gently point out the inherent gluten threat from the ‘cookies’ component.  Ask them to bring you a bottle of vodka next time.

2.  The purely annoying people, who:

  • Insist that spelt bread is fine for coeliacs (these are the same people who claim to have cured their own ‘gluten intolerance’ with spirilina shots and kefir).
  • Make quips like: ‘Yeah well we’d all be better off without gluten wouldn’t we? It’s like, really fattening, isn’t it?’ A: No it’s not fattening YOU TWIT. 
  • Slip you the business card of their kinesthesiologist / aromatherapist / spirit healer because apparently they’ll fix you up in a jiffy.

3.  The evil people

  • The clueless, cocky person who says things like ‘C’mon – a little bit won’t hurt’ – at which point you employ a vice like nipple cripple and say ‘okay maybe you’re right, but tell me DOES THIS HURT?
  • The jerk who thinks you’re being uptight for not accepting the sausage in bread (or the sausage put in bread then removed from bread, which is now so cross-contaminated you can sense it acutely with your gluten-detecting spider senses)

And last but not least:

  • EVERY OTHER PERSON AT THE CONFERENCE who is trying to get at the sushi platter you’re so zealously guarding. That’s YOUR freaking sushi man!  It’s like, the only thing you can eat.  Slap those hands away, and jostle if you need to.  Just keep them away from that sushi like your life depends on it.

And get used to it, because from now on, you’re gonna be eating a lot of sushi…

***

Life in the Febfast lane

Yes, you heard correctly.  I’m doing Febfast.

If you don’t know me, you’ll be yawning about now and pondering whether to read on.  A dietitian not drinking for a month? That sounds about as newsworthy as your children giving up asparagus, doesn’t it?  Woop-de-fucking-do.

Well… maybe you haven’t met many real live dietitians before.  I’ll let you in on a secret.

Despite what Google thinks, we do not actually look like this:

dietitian image

Some of us don’t even like apples, you know? And the last time I whipped out a tape and measured fruit was, um.. I’m pretty sure I never have.

Oh look, you still don’t believe me?  Well here’s a picture I took at our staff meeting this month.

inside a dietitians' meeting

You see?  Wine is even mandatory during Tuesday night meetings in my workplace (it’s a good way to suss out the latest pregnancy news).

My friends will also vouch for the fact that I enjoy a good tipple, and that I hardly ever wear a lab coat.  Over the last few months, they’ve been lovingly administering me with more of the stuff than I’d care to admit.  And at the mention of Febfast, they’re now shaking their heads in sympathy – certain that I’ve finally lost my poor, tiny little mind.

You see, I’m just not a big one for swearing off things.

I’ve never quit sugar.  Actually I have a very healthy relationship with carbs (one of mutual respect and admiration).

I’m also totally rubbish when it comes to fasting – my only recent experience being when I tried the 5:2 diet to see what all the fuss was about. I lasted all of 17 hours on my meagre 500 calories, until at 2am I was wide awake and so deliriously hungry that I had to creep out of bed and make toast, least I chew my own arm off.

The truth is that I love food, and I especially love good food. And good food goes well with wine, which, in my books, is one of the perks of being a grown up.

Some foods actually demand an appropriate accompanying beverage.  Like these crisps, which – not being enough like crack cocaine by themselves – actually tell you to drink a beer with them.  I’d never noticed the fine print until this February.

chips go better with beer

It is scientifically proven that chips go better with beer

So why (I hear you asking) am I here? Very loudly and publicly vowing my sobriety throughout the month of February? Yikes, it’s hard to remember about now…

But I guess I figured it was time for some clarity.

February seemed as good a time as any to take a break from the booze, and start taking care of business.  And blimey, have I been TCB of late.

My mountain of paperwork is slowly eroding.  My bedroom hasn’t been this orderly since we moved in (one of the unexpected perks of singledom is all that extra cupboard space). And – if I do say so myself – you’d be hard pressed to find a more disciplined Tuppaware cupboard in the wider Glen Iris area.

tuppaware cupboard graphic

Suddenly it’s february 14th (blerk), and I haven’t had a sip.  Which means I’m over the half way hump already.  And considering my body fluid composition is now approximately 40% Perrier and 60% tea, I’m feeling pretty good.

I’m still waiting for the sparkling eyes, glowing skin and thick glossy hair that was promised – oh hang on –  I think I may have just confused Febfast with pregnancy there?  Forgive me.  I’ve been hitting the rocky road ice cream pretty hard tonight.

hit's of rocky road ice cream, straight from the tub

Seriously though, what I have noticed is the decided tinge of optimism in my demeanour these days.  I think it’s got a little to do with sobriety.  But no doubt it’s also just the passage of time.

So, fellow Febfasters – I know there’s a few of you out there.  I think you’ll agree that we all deserve a group hug and a pat on the back about now (or perhaps, just another mini Mars Bar and a cup of tea?).  Let’s chink our posh mineral water in wine glasses, and exclaim ‘gee, this is just so… refreshing!’ in unison.

There’s plenty of room on the sofa of sobriety at my place – we can clean out our email inboxes together, and submit our tax returns whilst knocking back peanut M&Ms like they’re going out of style.  And when we’re spent, we’ll pop on the tele and perve at the dishy Hotel Trivago guy, over, and over again. Ad nauseum.

On behalf of all the Febfasters out there, I’m dialling up a bit of Wilson Phillips tonight (in a totally ironic and self-effacing, Bridesmaids kind of way of course) and belting out a bit of ‘Hold On’ while I’m making the meatballs.

Go ahead and join me – you know you want to.

 

 

 

 

 

Last night a Mars Bar saved my night

Last week I attended a public lecture on healthy eating behaviour and weight management (which I realise is a pretty dull start to a blog post – but bear with me).  The reason I feel compelled to write about it is that actually, it was the best Tuesday night I’ve spent in ages.  There was no mention of menu planning, protein to carb ratios or meal replacement shakes – but get this:  we all had to eat a Mars Bar together.  Now that’s what I call professional development.

Image: coffeedundee.com.au

Image: coffeedundee.com.au

Colleagues reading this post have probably guessed who I’m talking about.  Dr Rick Kausman has been working to help people eat well and take control of their weight for over twenty-five years, but the big news is that he doesn’t believe in dieting.

So how on earth does he help overweight people without putting them on a diet? Well that is just it.

Rick recognises that dieting (however you do it) only works in the short term. Because whether you’re counting calories, or banning whole food groups – you’re essentially suspending ‘normal’ behaviour, for the purpose of losing weight.  In an existential way, he describes it as a bit like holding your breath.  hungry as f***

But here’s the thing that really struck a cord with me: Instead of blaming the diet when it all goes to pot, we always blame ourselves.

   “The diet worked and I lost some weight, but then I mucked it up.  I put the weight back on”  

Sound familiar?   In the long term, diets do more harm than good, with the vast majority ending up right back where they started, plus a few extra kilos and an extra dollop of shame – thanks for playing.  Case in point is our national treasure and ex-Jenny Craig poster girl Magda Szubanski – who lost upwards of 35kg with Jenny Craig back in 2009, only to be resigned in 2014 to do it all over again (and then dropped six months later).

ironic much?The truth is that most overweight people have a pretty decent idea of how to eat better and exercise more.  Many are good at losing the weight – but just not keeping it off. They’ve been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt (in a variety of sizes).

But what Rick Kausman’s experience has taught him is that exercise and nutrition are only two small pieces of a very large puzzle.   And you can’t solve a puzzle when you’re missing most of the pieces.  Fabulous – right there.  I think I have nerdy, non-sexual crush on an older married man.

So what are the other missing pieces?  Here’s my three take away messages:

1.  Mindful eating.  We need to start listening to our bodies.

So many of us have lost touch with the way we eat.  We’re wolfing food down so fast that we barely have time to register fullness or pleasure.  Or we’re mindlessly nibbling our kids’ toast scraps at the kitchen bench. Sometimes, we eat just because it’s there, and sometimes because we’re anxious, exhausted or bored.

This is what Rick refers to as non-hungry eating.  It’s normal and totally okay to do some of the time, but do it on a regular basis, and you’re tricking your body into consuming more fuel than it really needs.

Rick teaches his clients to practice mindful eating, by recording their hunger levels and state of mind using a food awareness diary.  He uses the Mars Bar exercise (God bless him) to demonstrate how with practice, mindful eaters are able to eat less, and enjoy it more.  The simple, yet powerful question he proposes is ‘I can have it if I want it, but do I really feel like it?’

And that leads me on to my next point:

2.  We need to ditch the food guilt 

Fitspo? Clean eating?  Detoxing?  How have these ridiculous, self-riteous concepts ever helped overweight people?  I’ve said this before, but man, we really need to stop thinking of foods as good or bad, right or wrong, clean or dirty.  That goes for us, and doubly so for how we talk to our children about food.clean eating pulp fiction

As parents, most of us have done it before – and I’ll put my hand up here.  Against my better judgement, I’ve caught myself calling food ‘rubbish’ in front of my children. But does it stop them wanting the alluringly packaged, disturbingly coloured, salty-sweet ‘junk’ in question?  No.  This kind of language just encourages guilt and shame around food.  And as a mum (and a dietitian), that’s certainly not what I want to impart.

It may sound a bit naff when you first say it out loud, but talking about ‘everyday’ and ‘sometimes’ foods is an infinitely more helpful and effective approach.

3.  A number on the scales shouldn’t be mistaken for a measure of health and wellbeing

On my final point here, please don’t get me wrong – I’m well aware that obesity is a huge health and economic burden in Australia today.  It’s just that I don’t see how our obsession with weighing and measuring, diet ‘policing’ and fat-shaming is going to help.

grumpy bird

It’s time to recognise and foster the idea that healthy bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  As health professionals, we need to shift the focus onto the person –  helping them to improve their self esteem, and motivating them to nurture (rather than detest) their bodies.  It’s called the person centred, non-diet approach, and the word is slowly spreading.

*   *   *
Do you need help, or do you want to learn more?  You can sign up over here to access Rick’s free resources, and find the link to his inspirational book If Not Dieting, Then What?

 

 

 

 

Paleo? Y/N? A post in defence of cheese

Okay. Are we officially over the Pete Evans / paleo social media shit-storm in Australia? I think it’s safe to say that I’m just about there.  I’m experiencing a severe case of Chronic Paleo Overload Syndrome (CPOS).

The problem is that as a practicing dietitian, it’s in my interests to keep abreast of the whole kerfuffle, and to know what Chef Pete Evans is preaching today to his 300K+ tribe on Facebook. Because you can bet your bokashi that my clients, colleagues, friends and family will be asking me about it.

How long – I wonder – before we’ll be asked to vote ‘for’ or ‘against’, and have our official paleo status stamped on our licence?:

Organ donor? (circle) Y / N.
Paleo? (circle): Y / N.

If you’re thinking I sound a bit paranoid, you may be right (along with premature ageing and a compulsion to stockpile Cherry Ripes, paranoia is a common symptom of CPOS).

But I’m not blogging here to enter into debate over Pete Evans’ recent attacks on the Heart Foundation tick – I think this recent post by a fellow dietitian says it perfectly.  When it comes to our healthy eating guidelines, or the role of fats and carbohydrates in the obesity epidemic, I defer to the extensive grey matter of Dr David Katz, and encourage anyone interested to read his recent thoughts.  And as for the idea that paleo can treat everything from autism to MS –  are you thinking what I’m thinking?..

Image: Getty images - ABC archives

What I am talking about here is the push I’m seeing for paleo to be accepted as a healthier alternative to current evidence-based nutrition guidelines.  And the proliferation of comments from the general public along the lines of:

‘I don’t see the problem with Paleo. It’s just a healthy diet that cuts out processed foods, and surely that’s better for us than eating crap isn’t it?

Most dietitians and public health experts are in furious agreement that there are some really good points to the paleo style of eating.  Engaging in debate about the quality of our food supply and where it comes from.  Stepping away from the supermarket shelves – groaning under the weight of sugary, processed, nutrient-poor foods.  Eating lots of fibrous, nutrient-rich vegetables, nuts and seeds.  Of course these are things we should all aspire to.

But let’s not get so blinded by these positives, that we fail to see the full picture.  The newsflash I have here is that there is a middle ground, which falls somewhere between a diet full of processed rubbish, and going paleo. It’s called eating things that grow in the soil, making your own instead of buying the packet, and developing a healthy relationship with food.

Quite simply – I believe going paleo is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

And this is why:

oats v fruitloops (1)

Paleo would have you think that a bowl of oats (with all that soluble fibre, folate, magnesium, protein and low GI carbohydrate) is no different to a bowl of Fruit Loops.

sandwich v fairy bread (1)

Paleo doesn’t distinguish between a sandwich made with grainy, low GI bread, and a sugar-laden cake made with refined white flour.  It lumps these two distinctly different beasts in together as ‘bad’ foods.  It perpetuates the idea that there is something inherently dangerous about gluten, despite any robust scientific data to this effect (and as a dietitan married to a guy with coeliac disease – I kind of know my research in the area of gluten sensitivity).

dairy and legumes bad

True paleo diets omit legumes and dairy – two incredibly nutrient dense food groups consumed by diverse cultures around our globe.  We’ve been eating these foods for centuries – long before the current obesity epidemic, the rise of food allergies, intolerances and their associated health burden.

There is a tonne of research which shows the benefit of legumes in the diet – probably because they are an excellent source of slow release carbohydrate with a wide range of nutrients and a good whack of fibre.

And dairy?  Slow release carbohydrate again, with quality protein, potassium and an ideal ratio of calcium and phosphorous for bone health.  A high dairy diet may not suit everyone (lactose intolerance and cow’s milk protein allergy/intolerance are known issues), and some prefer not to drink the milk of another mammal for ethical reasons.  But does dairy classify as a toxic food that is inherently bad for all of us?  No.

Please don’t make me live in a world without cheese – I just don’t think I’d cope.

miniature cheese platter

Miniature Cheese Platter – Stephanie Kilgast

So I have an idea.

Let’s start talking about nutrition without the sweeping generalisations and one-size fits all perspective. Let’s encourage a back-to-basics, cut-the-crap approach, without demonising foods we’ve been cultivating and eating without incident for centuries.  Let’s ditch the Facebook slinging match, the before and after shots and the contest for most number of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’.  And while we’re at it, how about accepting that as powerful as our diet is – it is not the cure for every disease or disorder under the sun.

With that in mind, I’ll get back to prepping my utterly non-paleo, yet delicious and healthy dinner.  Legumes, rice, cheese, vegetables – and a sneaky glass of wine on the side.  The perfect salve to my CPOS-riddled brain.

*   *   *

 

 

 

 

The truth dietitians won’t tell you about fad diets

Here’s a thing:  Diet books for dogs.

Because why limit the dieting industry to humans, when there’s a whole market out there for overweight, guilt-ridden, food focused dogs?

diet books for dogs

Now they can unlock their ancestral diet too.  Or go vegetarian (I’m no dog nutritionist here, but seriously?).  And someone very passionate about canine diets, felt the need to write a ‘complete guide’ to not eating poop.  Yes they did.

It’s further evidence that the diet industry is showing no signs of easing up.  And do you know what?  My sensible, measured dietitian-ness can’t fight it any longer. I’ve decided it’s time I ditched the goody-two-shoes routine and jumped aboard that juggernaut.

Because nobody wants to read about how small, sustainable changes to your eating habits can help you lose weight and improve your long term health.  Not even dogs.  What we’re searching for is the dietary holy grail: a revolutionary new eating program that melts away kilos, cures chronic diseases and doubles as religion.

The key to fad diet success is pretty simple – as you can see from my nifty graphic below.

Fad Diet Writing 101

Sounds pretty awesome – right?  A lot more happening than ‘eat less crap and exercise more’.

But fad diets don’t just look and sound good.  The truth is that they’re benefiting us in more ways than we can imagine.  And the new, edgy, laser-tooth-whitened me is here to let you in on what the DAA and the Government have been trying to cover up for YEARS:

 1.  Fad diets help people lose weight and feel happy

Every year, millions of people shed millions of kilos of lard on fad diets.  And while they’re doing so they feel FANTASTIC.  It’s hard to miss how fantastic they feel, because they tell anyone and EVERYONE who will listen, and the best ones even get to go on TV. The giddy joy of fitting back into your old skinny jeans and living on ketones are a pretty heady combination.

But don’t feel bad if your friend is looking suddenly more buffed than you since they kicked their toxic sugar habit.  The flip-side to stringent diets is that they just aren’t sustainable for 98.7% of those who try them**.  You’ll be able to get your own back a few months later, when they’re back in their fat pants and no longer sporting that zealous, invincible look. When you pop over for coffee, just stare a little too long at the packet of biscuits on the bench, and then ask ‘hey how’s your sugar-free diet going?’.

**figure based on random sample of my dieting friends over past 25 years

2.  Fad Diets Are Good For The Economy

Because they sell books.  Billions of them!  And you can’t stand an ebook proudly on your coffee table as a conversation starter.  Fad diets are what keeps the publishing and printing businesses afloat, and keeps people in jobs.   And it doesn’t end there.

dietbook montage

With all of these sensational, ground-breaking new diets, comes the demand for sensational, groundbreaking new products – Himalayan Sea Buckthorn Seed Oilhome fermenting kits, and fart-proof underwear (I know you think I’m joking but check this shit out).  And let’s not forget the celebrities, shonky doctors and wellness coaches whose pictures grace the covers.  Their maca powder habits and alkalised water deliveries keep the health food industry in business, which in turn sells more kooky books, which in turn drives sales of carb-free pasta and dairy-free-soy-free-real-cheddar-taste-without-the-cheese kale chips.  And who can argue with that logic?

kale chips

3.  Fad diets put food on the table for desperate TV programming executives

Just imagine where those poor souls would be, without the constant turnover of new fad diets to feed the 24 hour news cycle?  Very short on low-brow current affairs and breakfast ‘news’ segments, is where.   And in the absence of such tasty programming morsels, we’d probably be subjected to more awful news about war, disease and famine. Which would make us so miserable we’d just gorge ourselves on more biscuits and cake, and get even fatter and more disgusting.

4.  Fad diets make for excellent dinner party and water cooler conversations

Which helps us connect with like-minded suckers individuals who’re interested in any new fad innovations in nutritional science.  Next time you’re stuck for conversation, just try this:

Simply combine the phrase ‘I read recently’ or ‘my trainer says’ or ‘many people now believe’ with any old rubbish, and you’ve got yourself a whole lot of credibility and a sure-fire conversation starter. For example:

‘I can’t believe you still eat carrots.  I read recently they’re worse than soft drink’

‘Gee I’m glad they do a paleo all day breakfast here – my trainer says I shouldn’t eat gluten after 4pm on weekdays’

‘I wouldn’t touch dairy with a barge-pole these days.  Many people now believe it causes early puberty, autism spectrum disorder and flabby upper arms’

5.  Fad Diets give stupid people a chance to be famous and make money

My final point on this matter may sound a little harsh, I know.  But doesn’t everyone deserve a chance to have their day in the sun?  Why should stupid people miss out?

And here, I give you Freelee the banana girl – a raw, vegan diet coach who has invented the Mono diet.  She’s shed 20kg by eating ANYTHING SHE WANTS (as long as it’s low fat, raw and vegan that is), in ANY AMOUNT.  The catch is that she only eats one type of food at each meal. NB. If you are contemplating watching this clip, proceed with caution, and please note these are 4 minutes of your life you will never get get back.

And on the subject of stupidity, I couldn’t finish up here without introducing Alicia Sliverstone and her books The Kind Mama and The Kind Diet.  

#1 New York Times bestseller Written for the many people out there who prefer to get their dietary, fertility and medical advice from a celebrity instead of a doctor – it’s apparently topped the New York Times Best Seller list.  Now that’s what I call #booksales.

But before you race out and get your own copy, do me a favour and check out this review, which is quite frankly, more useful and entertaining than both her books put together.

*   *   *

 

 

Supermarket stupor

Well, it’s been a pretty big few weeks, I’ve got to say.  Firstly, I dissed the machine that is Pete Evans – and survived to tell the tale.  Secondly, I donned my invisible cape of assertiveness and pimped the story to a parenting website (at the risk of being descended on by activated nut-jobs around the country).  And thirdly, I joined twitter.

The freakish spike in my stats since last week’s post appears to confirm three things:

  1. Love him or loath him, Pete Evans and his ‘Paleo Way’ are very hot right now
  2. I’m not the only one who has completely cracked the sads with fad diets, food wankery and the people getting rich off the back of it all
  3. Secretly, we all have a little bit of Alf Stewart in us.
My (surprisingly real) Alf Stewart impersonation

My (surprisingly real) Alf Stewart impersonation

Happily, all of these factors seem to be working in my favour, and have brought about more than one spontaneous expression of joy through dance in my kitchen, and a record number of new subscribers.   So to the newbies, I’d like to introduce myself:

Hello. I’m Marnie.  And in real life, I’m not nearly as authoritative as I sounded in my last post (just ask my children, who never listen to me).

In a previous life (B.C.), I lived with my husband in cosmopolitan St Kilda, dined in the hottest restaurants, and worked with one of Australia’s most talented chefs (he was scary as hell in the kitchen, but a teddy bear outside of it).   But these days, I spend a lot more time reading Lego instructions than articles about the hottest new fad diet on the scene. And (quite dull I’m afraid), I spend a large chunk of my life teaching clients about basic nutrition, and preparing meals that my kids will actually eat.

I don’t usually make a habit of poking my nose into the business of celebrity chefs, or blogging about their peculiar food choices – but I’ve made an exception in Pete Evans’ case.  And that’s because he’s decided he knows a crap-load more than anyone trained in nutrition or public health, and has quite a penchant for dietitian-bashing.

The recent argy-bargy between Pete’s disciples and dietitian Susie Burrell is proof that many members of the public prefer to take dietary advice from a tanned celebrity, than an experienced health professional.  It’s also been a stark reminder of how downright revolting people can be, from behind the anonymity of a computer screen.

And that’s what was on my mind, last Friday afternoon when i-village parenting site published an edited, (somewhat less entertaining version) of my Pete Evans rebuttal.  As I quietly closed my laptop, and bundled the kids into the car for the shopping trip I’d be putting off all day, I realised I had just put myself out there amongst the trolls.

And it was in the supermarket, under that horrible flurescent lighting (my shopping list predictably forgotten) that I experienced a severe case of Supermarket Stupor.

super stupor

It went something like this:

‘Okay kids let’s think about what we came here for THINK Goddammit. Visualise the list and stop pulling the trolley – it makes it hard to steer’ Oh God… have they started slagging me off yet?!  

‘I think we’re out of juice [toxic cocktail] Who said that?!?  and cheese sticks’  Oh no – excess packaging = bad.  Will get 1kg block and cut into cheese sticks.. [probably from miserable grain-fed cows] Excuse me? What are you doing in my head?!  Hmm.. maybe should buy organic cheese – is that a thing? Quick! What would Rosemary Stanton do?

‘You wanted granny smith apples?  There – grab that bulk pack. Oh FRIG the packaging thing again –  must send message to evil supermarkets re: obsession with wrapping everything  No – get the loose ones and put them in a bag I’ll reuse the bag for dog poo and Arlo STOP pulling.  It makes it VERY. HARD. TO. STEER.’  Ommmmm… Breathing… breathing is good….

‘Mummy!! You said we could choose one thing – can we have CLIX?! Yeah CLIX! CLIX!’ here we go – this is my fault for letting them have Clix last week

‘No. We’re not getting Clix.’ stop frowning – people think you’re a grumpy cow

‘Pleeeeaaaase?’

‘NO!’ because I’ve just published a post professing we all need to eat less processed food and more plants, and I’m pretty sure Clix biscuits don’t fit into the second category there, and ? is that guy looking at me strange ?  Is he going for his..?!  No of course he’s not. Don’t be silly.  He’s just looking at his phone.  

‘Mumma can we have Shapes then?’  Maybe he’s waiting to snap a picture of your kids with Clix and Shapes so he can post it to Pete’s Facebook page with the caption:

Just encountered outspoken paleo ridiculer and brainwashed brand-slave dietitian Marnie buying her kids processed crap in the stupor market this evening #slavetothefoodindustry #dietaryguidelinesfail #badastherestofthem

 

*   *   *

You’ll be glad to know that I eventually pulled myself together and escaped the supermarket without appearing obviously unhinged.   I also stopped worrying about my potential death by social media suicide, and enjoyed an extremely delicious Thai takeaway with a friend while we watched Dead Poets Society and toasted the life of Robin Williams.

But the point of this post (I think) is that being a parent is a tough gig.  Sometimes, all of the noise and clamouring and expert advice out there about what we should and shouldn’t eat drives me a little batty – to the point where I just want to pack up, go home, and cuddle the dog.

But when I take a breath and a step back from it all –  I realise this:  Rather than freaking out and reinventing our way of eating, I just need a reminder, every now and then, to get back to basics.  And so my aims this week are simply to say no to the pester power of packaged rubbish, and to pack good, simple food in their lunches.

I’m also working on my new book I know stuff Pete Evans doesn’t – which I’m writing in the hope it will convince my husband and children that I actually do know what I’m talking about.  Wish me luck.

i know stuff pete evans doesn't

I got 99 problems – but a grain ain’t one

I’ve been channelling Alf Stewart again.  It’s something that comes over me at times of intense frustration – like when my children decide to barge through the toilet door the moment I have closed it and sat down… or in this case it’s when celebrity chefs decide they need to reeducate the nation about feeding their families.  Not according to evidence-based guidelines developed by research bodies throughout the world, but according to their own skewed beliefs and practices.

The Almonds are activated! (Image: Sunday Life, The Australian)

The Almonds are activated! I repeat: The almonds are activated! (Image: Sunday Life)

If you haven’t yet heard, Celebrity chef Pete Evans’ latest bit of Facebook grandstanding has him promising to bring his version of healthy eating into schools across Australia – and his Facebook fans – the anti-dietititian brigade – can barely contain themselves.  He hasn’t yet told us what exactly his ‘Healthy School Lunches’ program will entail, but if we are to go by his recent spot in the Australian (‘6 foods I never stock at home’), it might look something like this:

No grains.  That means goodbye to the humble sandwich and sushi roll (sorry mum). This also extends to meat that was fed grains, in case you’re wondering.

No dairy.  Because apparently no-one in his family can digest it.  And sorry (!) but soy alternatives such as tofu and soy milk are also bad for us  – proving 130 million Japanese resoundingly clueless.

No sugar (Pete goes into convulsions at the mere mention of sugar).  That seemingly innocent combination of glucose and fructose apparently causes all manner of physical and psychological disturbances, according to…. well… him.  But don’t fear, because pure maple syrup and raw honey are tickety-boo.

No vegetable oils.  Pete reckons vegetable oils are toxic.

Gee, that’s quite a bit there on the bad list Pete.  So which foods does he give his blessing to?

Nuts and seeds.  I’m right here with you Pete – these are great foods.  Activate away!

Fibrous organic vegetables.  Awesome.  Fibre is good.  Organic is nice.. if you have the funds.  We should probably all eat more vegetables.

Herbs and spices and naturally fermented foods.  No argument here.  Hey -I wonder if the sludgey banana I found at the bottom of my daughter’s bag would count as a naturally fermented superfood?!

Organic, free range, 100% pasteurised meat, poultry and eggs and hand-caught salmon from sustainable waters.   These are all good things.  Very expensive good things.  But here’s where the value judgements start to creep in – because surely if we just cared enough about our family, we’d all scrape around and find the money to eat organic?    

Coconut oil. Yes of course coconut oil.  Coconut oil is so hot right now. Because of it’s high smoke point right? (see what I did there) and it’s apparent lack of ‘toxicity’.  He also allows virgin olive oil at times, but favours lard and tallow as healthy cooking options at home.  Mmmm…

What about fruit? I hear you ask.  Fruit didn’t rate a mention – evidently it wasn’t downright evil enough to make the naughty list, or pure enough to make the nice list.  Does that mean I should give up practicing my apple swan lunch box art?  Humph.

turn-ordinary-apple-into-deliciously-artful-swan.w654

Now you’re probably thinking at this point – gee she’s really got her knickers in a knot over this one.  And yes, this is out of character for a dietitian who isn’t usually very dietitian-like about food.  It takes a bit for me to get my hackles up, but man they’re up.  My inner Alf Stewart (in his gravelly tones) has been baiting me:  ‘C’mon girly – are you gonna let that dingbat with his flamin’ activated almonds get away with this rot?’

No Alf.  I won’t stand for it.  I’m going to clamber up onto my soap-box and let rip.  Here goes..

As a dietiitan, I see people every week who are utterly bamboozled by conflicting dietary advice.  They no longer know who to believe, and many have lost the instinct which tells them whether they’re hungry or full.  Guilt is a big theme.  They ask me about the 5:2 diet, whether they should Quit Sugar or detox, and whether dairy is good or bad.  The ones who eat well are also taking spirulina and popping vitamins, and the ones who eat crap don’t don’t really give a crap.so hot right now

I’m very familiar with actual food allergies/intolerances and the restrictive and socially isolating diets that some need to follow.   Food allergy sucks.  Coeliac disease is not fun. And food intolerance symptoms can be genuinely distressing.  But I’m also encountering more and more clients who appear to be hiding their frankly disordered eating habits behind the veil of food intolerance or ‘special’ requirements.

Like the woman I saw recently, who over ten years, had whittled her diet down to only eggs (6-8/day), cream and butter, pork, chicken and lamb.  She avoided all grains and all fruits and vegetables except potato (which she fried in duck fat) and banana (100g/day).  Her blood cholesterol was a whopping 19mmol.  But in the immediate future she needed a psychologist more than she needed a dietitian.

And I suppose that’s why I get so worked up about diets that are all about restriction, and self-appointed ‘experts’ like Pete, who advocate them.  They promote the idea that eating to a certain formula will make you better, cleaner, stronger.  Through mainstream and social media, they subtly pervade the public conscious, encouraging confusion and needless anxiety around food.which diet?

Do we want to teach our kids that foods have either good or bad moral values?  Do we want to risk strengthening the foundation for disordered eating, in those who are most vulnerable?  As the mother of a nearly eight year-old daughter, the idea terrifies me.  And I wonder if the thousands who ‘like’ and ‘share’ Pete’s grandiose school lunch plans have really thought this through?

Pete obviously has passion for what he does – and that’s great for him, and the upwardly mobile, alternative-aligned punters with whom the paleo movement resonates.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.  He’s a TV chef with nutrition qualifications from an ‘Institute Of Wellness’, and quite frankly, he’s no Jamie Oliver.

I prefer a bit of common sense and moderation, myself.  I learn from my colleagues, who blog with intelligence and perspective – like Dr Tim Crowe from http://www.thinkingnutrition.com.au – who presents the science in lovely bite-sized, helpful chunks.  And http://www.thenutritionguruandthechef.com – a breath of fresh air in cyberspace in the form of no-nonsense, cut-the-crap good food.

So how about we all just calm down (that’s you included Alf), practice a bit of moderation, and agree that different styles of eating suit different people.  If we cook real food at home, eat plenty of plants, eat less processed food and stop when we’re full, I figure that’s a pretty good start.

(now if you’ll excuse me – I’m just popping down to the shops for some organic free range offal and giant mushrooms to make this paleo burger for the kids lunch tomorrow)