I was complaining on here the other day about how “everyone thinks they’re a nutritionist” all of a sudden, or even further to that, people think having some other qualification or credentials in a related or unrelated field makes them an expert on everything, even so far as to trump the qualifications and experience of people who actually specify in the field. In this case, actual nutritionists and dieticians.
The actual nutritionists have got it tough man, everything thinks they know better. I suppose it could be worse for them though… I mean, they could be meteorologists or climate scientists right? 😡
So… there was a similar debate this week between some of the more entertaining body building v-bloggers, about the importance (or rejection of) reading the latest in peer reviewed scientific research about training and nutrition. I only gave the whole thing a cursory glance but it was timely for me because I’d been planning to write this article already, and it gave me a little more fuel for thought.
Anyway here’s what happened. If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know I tend to call out (and basically shit can) a lot of the fad diets, dodgy marketers and dangerous practices involved in the world of diet and weight loss. Generally they have to have done something to piss me off though that warrants it… it’s not just like “oh that’s a different approach to what I do, I’m going to ridicule it”… they have to be doing something actually morally wrong like spamming or pushing an unhealthy, damaging practice.
So there is this page on facebook that has sprung up doing the “fitness motivation” thing, and these pages are always run by marketers who usually don’t know jack shit about training or nutrition, but just post random images and infographics to grab people’s attention, get a like or a comment… and usually there’s a link involved to whatever stupid product they’re hawking. Now this page got my attention by posting a couple of photos of one of my clients, which I actually don’t mind because my client goes and posts “hey that’s me”, and then I go and post “tell ’em what program you’re doing girl!” and all of a sudden these scumbags are actually promoting MY healthy, ethical, common sense & no bullshit approach instead. Which is what you get when you steal photos of my clients, right?
Now, one of the other things posted on that page was this stupid “carbs are killing you” infographic that you might have seen around tumblr or pinterest before. If you haven’t seen it (other than my edited version, above), basically it is a flow chart explaining how if you even THINK ABOUT eating foods that have carbohydrates, you just started the process of getting fat. And it ends with “fats don’t make us fat, carbs do”, and the fine print at the bottom credits Gary Taubes. (link is to a review of his book)
Now before we go any further, on the off chance you haven’t already read my free weight loss education program on this site I’ll explain that what makes you fat is excess calories above and beyond what can be utilised by the body for energy, recovery and adaptation to exercise. If you do not go into excess, all other bets are off. Yes some foods may be processed faster than others, but if your body has a use for the energy they supply you with, it will put it to use and not store it as fat. So I look up this guy Gary Taubes and it is the prime example of what I talked about in the beginning of this rambling article… a guy who has qualifications in an other field and thinks that makes him more of an authority on nutrition than actual nutritionists!
So I’m googling this guy and I find a few fun videos of him debating with Dr Oz, and another one with Jillian Michaels. You guys know I’m hardly the biggest fan of Dr Oz but in this case I was actually on his side. This guy is sitting there (in both videos) saying “it’s not total calories, it’s not exercise, it’s carbs. If you eat carbs you are fat, if you are fat it is because you eat carbs”. Now you have an incredulous Jillian Michaels sitting there like “but I have taken hundreds of pounds off people through exercise and appropriate calories”… and Taubes is like “no, if you look at the scientific research and empirical data in a controlled environment you’ll see that that doesn’t work”.
That right there is my whole issue when people try use “but science” to push a fad diet or any other restrictive approach.
Science is what we use to explain phenomenon that we observe in the world. In the universe, really. We try to figure things out, we study them, we do experiments to measure what effects certain conditions produce, and then we use our human intelligence to produce a logical interpretation of these results.
Now when you cherry pick which studies you choose to look at to support your position, of course you can build a convincing case to support whatever theory you like. Maybe the studies were deliberately skewed to produce a supporting result, or maybe you just ignored all the ones that don’t support your position. Whatever.
My point (as always) is that there are countless millions of people all around the world who have a normal or even high carb diet, and are not overweight or obese. This has been true throughout history and is still true today. Similarly there are countless people who have successfully lost weight by going from inactive with excessive consumption to active with appropriate fuelling. It is beyond ironic that so many of these carb phobics who talk about their “evidence based approach” choose to disregard the overwhelming real world evidence.
My bottom line in these articles I write is always the same. People should be consuming a variety of foods, including some purely for enjoyment, to an amount that is suitable to maintain their healthy goal weight taking into account requirements for fuelling, recovering and adapting to training. To suggest anything else is irresponsible and damaging.