Government Guidelines - Let's Get Real!!

** I'm updating and bumping this post because my omission of a link to the blog post has led to some confusion as to the reference to Dr. Jeff Volek in the second to last paragraph.

Here's the blog post I was discussing:

-------------- original post -------------

So ...

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times. The USDA's misguided nutritional advice has wreaked havoc on our population and spawned the obesity epidemic.


Firstly, let me state flat out that I agree that the old pyramid was misguided. And I believe the newer guidelines are even more misguided. They aren't going to solve the problem. Basing a diet on whole grains and encouraging grain consumption when whole grains equates with flour and highly processed foods is absurd.  

That said, let's be honest here. When a 275-ish pound Jimmy Moore testified before the Congressional committee and made the following statements:

... And in January of 2004, I started on a low carb diet because after years of frustration trying to follow the Dietary Guidelines that you guys put out every five years, I was failing.  It was not working for me.  I was a 410 pound man, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.   I was in really bad shape at the age of 32 and it wasn't until I was able to think outside the box and go beyond what my government was telling me was healthy, and I was finally able to get my life back and my health back...
he was being more than just a little disingenuous.  How can ANYONE take this man seriously when he talks like this and yet he's previously posted this menu eaten by the former 410 lb Jimmy Moore?
8:00AM 2 sausage and egg biscuits from McDonald's, Large Coca-Cola, 7 doughnuts someone brought to the office
10:00AM  Honeybun out of the vending machine at work, Large Coca-Cola 
12:00PM  #2 Big Mac Meal Deal Super-Sized with a Large Fries/Ketchup and a Large Coke, 2 Soft Chocolate Chip Jumbo cookies
2:00PM  2 bags of M&Ms and a Three Musketeers bar , Large Coca-Cola
4:00PM A whole can of Pringles potato chips, Large Coca-Cola
6:00PM  2 boxes of macaroni & cheese, 4 hot dogs with cheese and mustard, Large Coca-Cola
8:00PM  1 whole box of Little Debbie Swiss Miss rolls watching TV, Large Milk, Large Coca-Cola
9:00PM  1/2 box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream cookies watching TV, Large Coca-Cola
Firstly, I'm not seeing a whole grain in the menu, and I'm not seeing where all the Coke, candy, donuts and Little Debbies fit in with the USDA food pyramid.  Our government is NOT telling us to eat all of that crap, let alone that much of it!  Really, this does not sound like someone who has ever listened one iota to the USDA recommendations.  Or perhaps he might note that a box of mac and cheese contains 3-4 servings!  Nevermind that 
in 1999 I did an ultra low-fat (almost no-fat) diet because we have always been taught that eating fat makes you fat and I did surprisingly well on it losing 170 pounds in just nine months.
Because what happened next?  He ate a McD's burger and binged  up the whole 170 lbs and then some by 2003.  Now I'm not advocating ultra low fat diets here, but Jimmy Moore's problem was not trying to eat as our government tells us.  Let's look at that old pyramid:

My biggest problem with the pyramid - other than it's basis on processed grains - is the inclusion of corn and potatoes in the vegetable group.  Since before I can remember, my Mom always considered potatoes and corn as starches, not veggies.  So let's put those starches down on the bottom there, let's presume Jimmy, as a relatively young 6'3" male, should be eating at the top levels of the suggested servings.  Now, a serving of grain is 1 slice of toast, 1/2c cooked pasta, cereal or rice, 1/2 bagel, etc.  These are not equivalent and range from around 70 cal - 120 cal with about 15g - 25g carb/serving.  So even if a big eater ate 11 servings, let's use an "average" of 100 cal and 22g carbs, that's 1100 cals and under 250g carbs which would come out to under 40% starch carbs.  Former Jimmy met that with his 8am meal of 2 biscuits and 7 donuts.  Surely Jimmy was Jonesing on carbs, but such a low fat diet?  Your average donut contains 300 calories, 15g fat = 45% fat, and those sausage and egg biscuits at McD's run 510 cals/each and 33g fat = 58% fat.  Jimmy's "USDA Guidelines-inspired" breakfast weighed in at over 3100 calories, just under 50% fat, just over 40% carb, and under 10% protein.  It's a wonder he didn't weigh over 600 lbs.  And he stood before this committee with a straight face testifying that it was the government guidelines that made him fat as he struggled to comply?  The only veggies he ate were whatever leaf or slice was on that Big Mac (oh, and the potatoes in the fries would count as a veggie to the government), and the only fruit he ate might be what little was inside a jelly donut.  Sheesh.

My point on the USDA recs and obesity is that it appears that, while Jimmy was certainly an extreme outlier, almost NOBODY is actually listening and following the government's advice!  Perhaps in this day and age of information, food availability and relative affluence, we can do without this whole charade and be better off?  They seem to have NO impact whatsoever - either way - e.g. preventing or causing the obesity epidemic.   In 1994 the average American was eating just over 6 servings of grain, and in Jimmy's age group almost 8-1/2 servings.  We're not eating veggies, and since potatoes are the most increased in consumption - mostly as French fries - even what we do report eating understates it.  We were getting too many calories from the tip of the pyramid - clearly where the bulk of Jimmy's former diet would fall.  

So some thoughts on the My Plate concept that has come out of the 2010 Recs:
Now, with the exception of drinking dairy as the round circle (glass) would imply, the plate could be much worse.  And I dare say that if we just put the starchy veggies over in the grain part of the plate we're not doing all that bad there.  I dare say filling half one's plate with fruits and non-starchy veggies would be a huge improvement for the majority of Americans.  This MyPlate sure as heck doesn't even remotely resemble the SAD "cafeteria" diet, that's for sure.  When one considers that tomatoes and avocados and such are technically fruits, if we just ditch the fruit juices and stick to whole foods there, what's that incredibly wrong with this?  Just don't douse the veggies with dressing and butter.  The equal portions of grains (I'll replace that with starch) and protein makes for a moderate carb diet by absolute amounts.  We really need to get away from percents as targets.  

So, one low carb group - Lehigh Valley LC - proposed a simpler version:

At this point in my journey, I cannot agree with this ... but that's just me.  Now over in the LLVLC camp, they have another idea:
Huh?  Protein is less than 1/4 of this plate?  This is just disturbing folks.  Granted they are breaking out the macros but even if doing the half and half using fatty meats so we extend the line down the center, this is just a ridiculous way to eat.   There's no room for any real carbohydrates in this militant diet.  Oh, but we have to make room for CANDY here.   Dark chocolate is a processed food people.  I'm surprised, as well, that the cheese-loving LLVLC'ers would reduce that dairy circle.  After all it could be cream cheese, right?!  But anyway ....

Just for shits and giggles, I made up a quick Old "trying to eat like you guys told me to" Jimmy's breakfast plate, and add in a large Coke:

This resembles neither the USDA nor the LLVLC plate.  But one thing is clear, it was coming close to the fat content of the latter.  

I don't think you'll be seeing a Don Matesz-like turnaround from me on carbs and fat anytime soon, but I've certainly moved away from this notion that VLC/VHF is anywhere near the optimal diet for humans.  Seems starch was and is an integral part of human nutrition, and perhaps the majority energy source for billions of us through the millenia.  I certainly don't see a day when the Plate above ever would or, more importantly, even should be advocated by the government.  This is not to say that this isn't roughly the percentage of macros in a safe low carb reducing diet (though I'd make the case for less fat and more protein), but in maintenance or to advocate as a macronutrient composition of a diet to prevent obesity?  Nah.

It certainly hasn't been working for Jimmy of late who looked like this at and around the time of his testimony in 2010:

--------- edit in from Jimmy's post --------
Dr. Volek later told me that when I started speaking, every member of the USDA Committee who was present looked up from their papers and was staring at me as I testified. They heard me. They saw me. And I bet they won’t forget me and what I said anytime soon either.
---------- original post ----------

Perhaps the reason Dr. Jeff Volek noted how "every member of the USDA Committee who was present looked up from their papers and was staring at me as I testified" was not because "they heard me". Rather "they saw me" and were probably wondering how someone could blame "trying to follow the Dietary Guidelines that you guys put out every five years" for his weight issues when he'd been eating "more fat" low carb for six years.  There he was, a real person alright, an obese real person, person bashing their work.  

Some final words on the USDA Guidelines.  Fuggettabout 'em.    I want to encourage everyone to be their own health and nutrition advocate -- lobby yourself and forget the lobbyists for the food industries (and yes, there are LC food lobbyists too!).  There's no dearth of information available in order to do so.  Consider your sources and listen to your body.  Eat real foods.  Eat them as whole as possible, as much of the time as possible.  Don't drink your calories.  That last statement reflects what likely explains a goodly portion of the obesity epidemic as it is surely something that changed dramatically since the 70's that has demonstrably added to caloric intake over the past few decades.  Avoid white flour and sugar.  But come to think of it, if one merely moves the starchy veggies from the veggie category to the grain category, the MyPlate doesn't really look so bad after all.


Tom said…
OMG, what a mindless eating machine. Forget dietary guidelines, if you eat that much every 2 hours, you will be fat and unhealthy
I liked the idea of the plate, hated the pyramid which seemed less utile for the population that needs things SIMPLE. On my blog, I expressed that I pretty much ate like that plate, only I ate my dairy (cheese) and I didn't do gluten, so instead of grains, I'd have more veggies, sometimes even a bit of rice or taters or sweet taters. But that's it for the starch. Otherwise, my plate is 1/4 to 1/3 protein, the rest veggies (with maybe a starchy veggie on occasion or rice) and fruit for dessert. Maybe 80 to 120 carbs. Mostly organic produce and organic or at least "natural" (no hormones, antibiotics) meats/eggs/poultry. I'm big on fresh, close to raw or minimally cooked produce, simple and discreet uses of fats and dressings (not bottled salad dressings, cause that has crap). I do eat processed meats, which is a concession to laziness. It's easy to make lunches or have snacks for hubby and myself or pump up breakfast with Applegate farms sausages, Boar's Head hams and turkeys, and the occasional bacon. :D

If people ate mostly "real food", mostly fresh in the proportions on that plate, we'd be doing a helluva better than we are now as a nation. WE'd be kicking ass.
CarbSane said…
Well said Princess! Haven't had a chance to check out many other blogs of late, so hope your battle goes well these days :)

Yeah Tom, it's one thing to hear the repeated "low fat made me fat" and "government guidelines that replaced fat with carb made me fat" mantras, it's quite another to find these sorts of admissions amongst the writings of some of the most strident anti-"conventional wisdom" crowd. Honestly I hope that was an exaggeration b/c even in my worst binging days we might be talking just those Little Debbies and maybe that burger meal. Or even the sausage biscuits but without the more than half dozen donuts chaser. ... Washed down with a diet soda of course ;-)
Flavia said…
Jimmy's diet was not in line with anyone's standards. I think had he even actually followed the SAD recommendations he would have lost weight.

What he was doing was not eating, that was binging.
Anonymous said…
OMG. If I am ever tempted to testify about the wonders of my diet in front of any kind of committee, someone PLEASE put a bag over my head. Really, I hate having someone critique MY physique, no matter how off-the-wall I am about how my diet saved my life!
CarbSane said…
LOL ... Just to be clear, although I've been critical about the sizes of low carbers, and the central adiposity due to my OWN concerns on that front over the effect of the diet, I'm not scrutinizing the individual physiques. We're all different, and frankly some of us look better thinner or fatter in our very same bodies. However, when part of the issue is that the USDA guidelines have somehow CONTRIBUTED to the obesity epidemic, weight is an issue. In his "after" shots in a suit, the 230 lb Jimmy looks rather svelte - in a suit anyway - and I don't think anyone would criticize his appearance - especially given his former extreme obesity (I think some misunderstood my comments on Kent Altena as well as being overly critical when I was merely pointing out that using a uniform objective standard he might not stack up favorably to other weight loss successes).

Jimmy is basically saying USDA is misguided and doesn't work, LC is working and will work. And SHOULD be incorporated into the guidelines. So, sorry, but his physique does bear mentioning in this equation at this point. He's the one that put himself up before the panel as representative of "real people". He's brave, I'll give him that!
Sue said…
Yeh, Jimmy binged on junk and hence the massive weight gain.
I also loss weight in the past on low fat and felt and looked the best ever.
OnePointFive said…
I hadn't realised that the US counts potatoes as a veg and not a starch. The WHO specifically excludes potatoes and other tubers (cassava, yams etc) from it's 400g a day fruit and veg recommendation. And what about things like legumes and plantains, do they also fit in the veg section?
The guidelines I know best are from France and the UK, but I've read a few others from European countries and can't recall seeing any that didn't use the category starch.
CarbSane said…
Legumes and nuts are shown with protein in my first graphic above. I read - I think it was in one of those NHANES surveys - that almost the entire increase in US consumption in veggies can be attributed to eating more potatoes - specifically as french fries and other "convenience" forms of potatoes. This publication lists legumes with the veggies later in the text:
Unknown said…
I like the Lehigh Valley LC one. You/they realize potatoes and rice are plants too? LOL
ChenZhen said…
Great post, I had exactly the same thoughts when I saw Jimmys diet.
Yeah, it's the baaad carbs, not a diet consisting of super high calorie garbage without a single real food in it...
But of course, thanks to his god GT he can blame the evil hormones that dictated him to eat junk food only. For how long has he been a LC zealot now? After so many years and still being fat I'd start to wonder if it's really the bad carbs :)
It's always a problem to associate ones name with such a highly specialized lifestyle and putting everything in one basket.
A problem the paleos are facing now too with people justifying everything they like as paleo because that's their new religion :)
CarbSane said…
Welcome ChenZhen! When I first found Jimmy in 2009 he was darned near close to his 230 goal reached in 2005. At the time he wasn't posting his weight but it seemed from the comments of others, they were aware he was gaining. He gained in 09, gained in 10 and is gaining again in 11. The only reason he's not gained all the weight back is that periodically he goes on extreme plans like his egg fast and loses a goodly chunk of weight. This is no way to live and I and many others have tried to get him to see what he himself used to understand. He's increasingly censored comments so I don't bother anymore and others have as well.

Hi Melissa, of course! Although the Lehigh group seems pretty low carb from the bit of poking about I did. Still, half the plate of animal seems a bit much to me at this point. But since the nutritional content of plants is so varied, at least a starchy/non-starchy breakdown makes sense to me.
Flavia said…
"OMG. If I am ever tempted to testify about the wonders of my diet in front of any kind of committee, someone PLEASE put a bag over my head."


Look. Jimmy saying that the US guidelines made him fat is a LIE. It is disingenuous. I honestly think that if people ate even according to the guidelines they would not be so fat.

It would help to know what a serving was....perhaps they could reduce the servings, but I don't think its just macros that influence us...and it certainly didnt have anything to do with Jimmy's gain. He binged on junk food. I don't see doughnuts and Little Debbies, eaten in massive quantities anywhere on that pyramid.
Diana said…
I like the One Plate concept. What's great about it is that it' plate. I don't think it matters what you put on the One Plate as long as you don't heap it a foot high (with rice, for example) and keep it to....

one plate. How many calories can you put on One Plate?

(Are you supposed to eat One Plate 3x per day?)
Dustbunny said…
Did you not notice that menu of Jimmy's was posted for April Fools Day?
CarbSane said…
Yes. It was an April Fools joke on the readers of the LC Jimmy. Did you notice he dated it 2003 and added this: NOTE: Just a quick flash from the past of what Jimmy Moore's menus used to look like. That he ate like that was no joke.
Dustbunny said…
Certainly a menu like that is how people get to be 410 lbs and then they try following the Dietary Guidelines to take it off, which, for Jimmy at least, didn't work. It's absurd to think that the menu he posted was his attempt to follow the Dietary Guidelines.
CarbSane said…
He lost 170 lbs in 9 months following a conventional diet. The guidelines etc. are not Jimmy's problem. HE said, not me, that trying to follow the guidelines was not working for him. Therefore, this menu was his version of trying. Yes, it's absurd to even believe he was trying!
Moran Bentzur said…
I think you somehow got Dr. Jeff Volek's name into the penultimate paragraph by accident.
CarbSane said…
Hi MB - you're the second person who mentioned that (another by email) and I can see how it might be misleading w/o reading Jimmy's blog post. I added the link and updated this post. Thanks.
ChenZhen said…
Sorry for the late answer! Thanks for the welcome, love your blog :)