This morning, I came across an article on the New York Times (via the Huffington Post) called Why Nutrition Is So Confusing. It’s written by Gary Taubes, who is health and science journalist and a co-founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative; these credentials lead me to believe that the guy knows what he’s talking about.
He opens the article with this statement:
Nearly six weeks into the 2014 diet season, it’s a good bet that many of us who made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight have already peaked. If clinical trials are any indication, we’ve lost much of the weight we can expect to lose. In a year or two we’ll be back within half a dozen pounds of where we are today. The question is why.
The piece goes on to discuss the obesity and diabetes epidemics and how long-term studies (meaning decades-long studies) need to be done to determine their true lasting effects on the human body. Basically, if the information we already have is so definitive, why haven’t we solved the problem of Type 2 diabetes? We already know that the easiest way to defeat obesity is through diet and exercise; shows like The Biggest Loser and Extreme Weight Loss are proof of this. But Type 2 diabetes? While diabetics can take insulin and check their blood sugar, there’s no cure for the disease. Once you’ve been diagnosed, it seems, that’s it. Game over. You’re stuck with that “Hello, My Name is Diabetic” for the rest of your life.
So what can we do?
Well, first of all, it seems that we all need to accept that sugar is Satan reincarnate. Sugar causes so many problems for people, from cavities to diabetes and everything in between. Sugar is one of the biggest reasons why people have so much trouble losing (and keeping off) the extra pounds. I know this is personally my biggest issue; to an extent, it’s my fault — I have a very sweet tooth — but, at the same time, so many products that claim to be “healthy” (or “healthier”) or “all-natural” are saturated with sugar to improve their flavors. It certainly doesn’t help those of us who are trying to educate ourselves on what the truly healthier food options are! My intentions are good. In my humble opinion, “reduced fat”, “reduced sugar”, and “all-natural” should live up to their names! I hate feeling as though I’m being lied to by companies I want to trust. At least with candy and soda, I pretty much know exactly what I’m getting.
Best example? Soda is obviously not good for you, and I’m not a diet soda drinker (it just tastes nasty to me), but the word “diet” implies it’s supposed to be healthier in some way. Is it? No — there’s more sugar in it than in the regular stuff! It can be very difficult to plan for healthier meals when the ingredients that recipes call for aren’t actually healthy. I made a pasta dish a few weeks ago from the Pillsbury Fast & Healthy cookbook, which I love, but I took issue with the fact that the sauce recipe called for butter-flavor granules. Butter powder?! How is that in any way healthy? I don’t care that it asked for “all=natural” butter-flavor granules. That’s not the natural form of butter, and I don’t think it should have been included in the recipe, even in the very small amount that was called for.
We know that plant-based foods and lean meats are good for us, and that’s great. I can certainly appreciate that, but I don’t appreciate some of these products on the market that advertise themselves as better for us in any way and really aren’t. These products are counterproductive to maintaining good health, they’re quietly driving up obesity and diabetes, and I wish they’d either make themselves truly healthy or come clean and admit that they’re not. They are unrelated to poor willpower on the part of the individual, but instead to the technique by which they are trying to lose weight and get healthy. We’re trying our best to do the right thing, and we’re being tricked into doing the wrong thing.
And that, my friends, is why nutrition is so confusing — for me, at least.
What can be done about this confusion?
Lots of studies.
Lots of research (not only on the part of scientists, but also on the part of the consumer).
And, perhaps most importantly, lots of self-awareness.
It’s a daunting prospect, but it can be done. For me, once I can further loosen my death grip on sugar — which I’ve gotten better about lately — the threats of diabetes and further obesity will diminish. From there, as long as I can maintain a healthy diet relying on truly healthy foods, I should be well on my way.
And maybe then, nutrition won’t be so confusing!