The diet deniers
Eat less, move more – annoying cliché, or inconvenient truism?
I have been following the diet industry, in one way or another, for almost 30 years now, either as a customer trying to lose weight, or as a professional who ‘cracked the code’ and is now trying to help others.
I have seen trends sweep through this industry – fashions, buzzwords, fad diets of course, that come and go. A few years ago, the phrase ‘eat less, move more’ became ‘the latest thing’ in the media, perhaps rising partly off the back of the popularity of Paleo diets. The increasing use of this expression seemed to rise as a result of press articles summarising the words of doctors, scientists and personal trainers who were promoting studies showing that lack of exercise and the ease of access to hyperpalatable, high-sugar, obesogenic foods were the main societal drivers of the obesity and type-2 diabetes epidemics.
Now, the latest, latest new thing, in the last year or so, has been to decry this expression as the most naïve and pointless weight loss advice ever promoted! It has become très trendy among the educated classes to laugh at the idea that eating less and moving more could possibly be good advice in tackling the rising obesity problem.
Almost every day now I read posts by diet and nutrition bloggers, or I see books from doctor-this and PhD-that, brushing off ‘eat less, move more’ as laughably short-sighted, and “anyone who says that clearly doesn’t understand the complex factors driving the obesity epidemic” and “oh how silly, if only it was that simple” and “telling an obese person to eat less is as pointless as telling a depressed person to just cheer up.”
Well ex-cuse me, you highly-educated diet-snob, but I’ve been both an obese person, and a depressed person, and I can tell you ‘eat less, move more’ worked a hell of a lot more effectively for me than ‘just cheer up’ ever did, so you can stick your PhD where the sun don’t shine pal, because I’m pretty darned certain that about 50% or more of all the overweight and obese people I see and meet out there in the real world damn well need to just eat a little less, and move a whole lot more, and in a great many cases they are perfectly happy to admit it!
Obesity is a multifactorial condition
Now I know the obesity epidemic is being driven by a lot of complex factors. I know some people overeat as an emotional crutch to make up for traumatic or psychologically damaging events that happened in their past, sure that maybe accounts for about 5% of the overweight and obese people out – probably only really 1% or 2%, but I am being generous.
And I know that there are genetic factors, some people (like me) have genetic SNiPs that affect how they metabolise certain carbs or certain fats, but among those who have studied genetics, we all know that such factors maybe explain obesity in no more than a few percent of the population. You know it’s true. I have had my genes tested, I have those SNiPs on my FTO genes, the genes that the popular press calls ‘the obesity genes’, and that still didn’t stop me losing 7 stone 3 (101 pounds, 46 kilos) of fat and getting down to 12% bodyfat – eating less and moving more did that.
Unlike many of these doctors, scientists and trainers, I have ‘been there, done that’ and after 20 years of yo-yo dieting in and out of obesity, I beat my demons, overcame decades of crippling low self-esteem, lost a ton of weight, quit smoking, drinking, drugs and sugar, overcame depression, got fit, got educated and cleared up my health conditions (nasal rhinitis, urticaria, angioedoema) and came off 17 years of prescription medications.
Along the way I certainly lost weight by quitting starchy carbs, I lost weight by quitting sugar, and I lost weight by quitting alcohol. But in every case, I lost weight because my caloric consumption went down – I quit starchy carbs and replaced them with salads and vegetables – better foods, more micro nutrients, more fibre, fewer calories. I quit sugar and ate more fresh whole foods, fish and vegetables. Taking those hyperpalatable high-sugar foods out = fewer calories. Quitting alcohol = fewer additional calories on top of my food, now I drink herbal teas instead. And over the decade of my own personal health transformation, I learned to love regular daily exercise. I moved a lot more.
How did I beat 20 years of obesity and yo-yo diets? How did I lose 7 stone 3 pounds? I ate less and moved more.
I am not saying that being overweight is self-inflicted, not for everyone, I understand that. I know that some people were raised on a diet of junk food and TV as children; some people were abused or mistreated; some people live and work in so-called obesogenic environments; some people genuinely don’t understand that pizza, ice cream and cakes lead to weight gain; some people have imbalances in their gut flora that promote weight gain; some people should see a Nutritional Therapist and get tested for food intolerances and insulin sensitivity; some people have a thyroid problem; some people have a hormone imbalance; some people’s blood type, constitution, phenotype or genotype may suit certain foods better than others; yes, I am well aware of all these factors and more, but all added together this maybe makes up the reasons behind 30% or 40% of the overweight population, at most, which still leaves 60% or 70% of overweight and obese people who, frankly, need to eat less and move more.
Like all notions of political correctness, these ‘diet deniers’ who are rubbishing the idea of eating less and moving more are coming from a good place. I get it, really I do, there is no point talking to someone who has been obese for 30 years, who comfort eats because of traumatic childhood physical or sexual abuse, and just saying “you’re overweight because you’re a pig who eats too many cakes! Eat less, and move more, and you’ll be fine!” – No!
I get it, that’s just wholly wrong on many levels, I understand the need to address every individual and their individual needs, and to tailor a solution to that person. But the fact remains, once we get that person the counselling and psychological help they need, and straighten out their diet, and provide them with a supportive nurturing environment…within that environment what will we then encourage that person to do? Eat less and move more!
Diet deniers be damned! The world has changed. When I was a kid hardly any house ever had two cars on the drive. I grew up without a car, we had zero cars on our drive, and we were not the only car-less family. But now every house has two or three cars out front, sometimes four or more. People walk less. When I grew up we had to walk to buy our groceries – supermarkets didn’t offer online ordering and van delivery to your door. We walked to school, walked to the shops, carried our food home.
Compared to 40 or 50 years ago, there is now less sport and exercise on the national curriculum, kids don’t exercise as much at school and kids in general don’t go outside and play as much as they used to – they’re inside watching TV or playing on a games console. When I was a kid TV had 3 channels, they were not 24 hour and remote controls had not been invented. Now there are 400 channels and they run all night and most folks have two or three or four remote control devices laying on their sofa. There was no online-multiplayer, vibrating-handset, 65-inch screen, PlayStation multimedia experience 40 years ago, that stuff is new, the world has changed!
And while folks drive more, play less sport, watch more TV and kids spend more time inside, obesity is rising sharply. Deny it all you like, but the answer for well over half of all the overweight and obese people out there is to eat less and move more!
Eat less, eat better, and move more
Now, I will make a concession to the diet deniers, and I will agree that food type and food quality is a major issue.
While I firmly believe that most overweight and obese people who want to lose weight need to eat less and move more, there certainly is truth to all those other factors as well. I do 100% agree that one size does not fit all, and no one piece of health advice, including ‘eat less, move more’, is going to universally work for everyone.
Some people do need to adjust for genetic factors; some people do need emotional support or psychological counselling; some people should test for food intolerances; some people really do have a thyroid problem, or a hormone imbalance; some people (a lot of people!) do need education around food and healthy diet; some people should avoid certain carbs or certain fats; some people need personalised training plans; some people suit strength training, others suit cardiovascular exercise better; these factors are all true.
But these diet deniers out there telling ‘everyone’ that ‘eat less, move more’ doesn’t work, are applying ‘one size fits all’ advice themselves by saying ‘everyone needs personalised medicine’! Screw down to small enough detail and sure it’s true that everyone needs personalised medicine, but at the 50,000 ft view, half to three quarters of all overweight folks just need the basic advice of ‘eat less and move more’!
I know that my own personal weight loss journey is just one anecdote, and I know that the evidence-based medicine world will say that the plural of anecdote is not data. But over the last decade I have met hundreds and hundreds of people who are overweight and they openly admit they eat too much, they eat the wrong things, and they don’t exercise. I was one of them! I used to stroke my huge belly proudly while laughing about how much Guinness I had drunk to make it so big!
People come up to me at my live seminars all the time and openly admit something like “I eat far too much cake and chocolate, we live on take-aways, I eat half-a-loaf of bread every day, I haven’t done any exercise in a decade and now my doctor says I am pre-diabetic…coming to listen to you today has been the kick up the arse I needed!” then they email me after three months of broccoli and gym sessions telling me they are 50 pounds lighter! Whaddya know – eat less and move more works!
And not everyone is offended by such simple advice; a lot of people know it, admit it, and need to hear it. And they tell me that hearing it straight, ‘in your face’, is the cold hard finger-wagging truth they need.
So taking everything into account, I think the expression should be modified to ‘eat less, eat better, and move more’.
The 12 Core Principles of Mother Nature’s Diet are founded on that very bedrock.
By cutting the sugar, the bulky starchy white grains, the hyperpalatable processed foods and the excess alcohol from your diet, you cut your caloric intake – that’s ‘eat less’ taken care of without any calorie counting or starving. Then we ramp up vegetables, fish, meat, fruits, nuts and seeds, and good hydration – that’s ‘eat better’ sorted without the bullshit of superfoods and expensive supplements. Then we encourage lots more walking, and a good habit of daily exercise, with more time outside, more sunshine, fresh air and proper sleep patterns – that’s ‘move more’ in place.
See how easy this is?
I am in no way ignoring the specific needs of the many individuals who do need extra help. Heck, I rely on those individuals to earn a living. You need extra motivation? Come to my live seminar or hire me for one-to-one mentoring. You need personal training plans and exercise advice? Great, please hire me as your trainer, I’d be happy to help. You need diet advice? Great, come to our 3-day workshop and we’ll fill you with all the nutrition knowledge you need. You need to understand your own gut flora, genetics, food intolerances, hormone regulation? Great, drop me an email and I will hook you up with our recommended Nutritional Therapist to look at your medical history and detail out a personalised diet plan for you. You want to understand the role of genetics in diet and how to formulate the ideal diet for you as an individual? Great, look out for news of our Mother Nature’s Diet health Retreats and come along and we’ll iron out the perfect diet and lifestyle plan for you. There is plenty of scope for personalised nutrition.
But for the majority of people, eat less, eat better, and move more, remains as good advice and an excellent starting place on your weight loss journey to optimum good health.
The way ahead is all incorporated into the 12 Core Principles of Mother Nature’s Diet for you. Just get started, now.
To your good health!