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: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/jimmy-moores-may-2010-testimony-before-the-usda-regarding-the-2010-dietary-guidelines/10989
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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:
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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.
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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.