It’s frustrating, but often I find myself writing about the great hotly-debated topics of the health and weight loss industry…
- ‘Calories matter’ versus ‘calories don’t matter’!
- ‘We should all go low-carb’ versus ‘carbs are not the whole story’!
- ‘Exercise is crucial as a weight loss tool’ versus ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’!
Oh how these arguments go round and round and get turned inside out and upside down daily; every opinion being ‘proved’ every way by some credentialed expert quoting a study here and a study there! It’s no wonder the general public are fed up with it all and utterly confused!
And so often, arguments come down to playing ‘the blame game’ - that is, who is to blame for rising obesity? In crude terms - is it all your own damned fault, or not, that you’re fat?
Two sides to blame
I recall the clever and well-respected Dr Mark Hyman tweeted about his new book release.
But what more stirred my thoughts on this topic was equally clever and well-respected author Nina Teicholz’s retweet, and the comments it generated.
We see one side of this story, the likes of Dr Hyman, Nina Teicholz (both of whom I like, follow and respect) and many others saying that in broad terms, governments have given the public poor dietary advice over the last 40 years. They have been telling us to place carbs at the bottom/base of our food pyramid, to get 30% to 50% of our calories from grains and starches, and they have largely ignored mounting evidence, until very recently, about the dangers of added sugars. These guys argue that food companies and the sugar industry have lobbied governments and paid off scientists to distort and hide the truth…dietary fat has been painted as the bad guy, and after 40 years, we have obesity and type-2 diabetes epidemics as a result.
They conclude “It’s not the fault of Americans that they are fat and sick!”
But interestingly, plenty of people see the other side of the argument - that in fact people still have free will to decide what they put in their mouths. People still have free choice whether they watch TV, or go to the gym. During these years that the obesity epidemic has grown, people have had free choice whether they buy fresh meat and vegetables in the supermarket and cook a meal, or whether they order a pizza or Chinese take away.
So, who is right? Have governments failed their people? Have food companies piled it high, sold it cheap, and spent a fortune on advertising? Have we lived through times where far more money has been spent on designing hyper-palatable foods, and on advertising those foods, than has been spent on research into effective weight loss protocols and helping educate the public about healthy living?
Or, have people failed themselves, failing to exercise personal responsibility for their health outcomes? Have people failed to buy the foods they know are healthier? Have people failed to exercise regularly? Have people passed off the blame for their own apathy?
I see this battle rage daily in the media, on the health blogs and groups I follow and I see everyone looking for the answer. Personally, I think the problem is that everyone is trying to prove they have the answer. I don’t think we are going to come up with the answer. I think both sides of the argument have an answer. Perhaps both are right. But perhaps neither are right all the time, for all the people.
Despite the facts that all these scientists and authors, doctors and experts should not need to be reminded, the truth is that as they publish their books and blogs, they constantly seem to forget that one size does not fit all.
Over the years as I have learned about health, fitness and nutrition, this has pretty much become my number one guiding principle. There just is not one answer for all people. It’s not possible, there is no one single solution for any problem in health, weight loss and nutrition.
- We all know someone who smoked for 20, or 30, or 40 years yet didn’t develop lung cancer.
- We all know someone who is overweight, stressed, doesn’t exercise, and drinks too much, yet they haven’t had a heart attack.
- We all know someone who eats loads of sweet foods yet they are not overweight and don’t have type-2 diabetes.
- We all know someone who does no exercise yet they remain slim and lean. (Yeah I know, we all hate that person!!)
The point is, even the things we think are “a certain sure thing” are still proven wrong time and again by people who don’t fit the norm. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in any aspect of health, weight loss and nutrition.
I believe, that the observed and worrying reality in obesity trends is caused by many factors. I can certainly tell you that for myself, for my own 101-pound weight loss (46 kilos of unwanted fat, 7 stone 3 in old-English language) I just needed to eat less, and move more. I ate and drank too much, and I ate and drank the wrong things, and I did too little exercise. I can tell you that I have been driving around the country delivering my health seminar for the last six years and people come up to me all the time during those talks and say “You are the kick-up-the-butt that I need! I eat too much and don’t workout, it’s all my own silly fault! Thanks for being honest with me!”
This is no judgmental fat-shaming, this is just what people say to me of their own free will.
But that is only some people. Not all people.
On the flip side, other people eat pretty well and make efforts to be active, yet they can’t seem to win the weight loss battle.
For many people, government guidelines that were created over 40 years ago, have failed to change with the times. The reality is that today, car ownership is up and people are far less active than they used to be when dietary guidelines were established. I think that for many people, they are consuming far too much starchy carbohydrate and just not leading active enough lives to burn up all those calories.
Food manufacturers have done nothing to help, they have positively made things worse. Far too many processed foods are now promoted in big-size servings, they have too much added sugar, convenience packaging and high-spend advertising promotes over-consumption.
There are many factors behind the obesity epidemic in the US, the UK and across Europe and elsewhere. We could talk about psychological and societal factors, economics, obesogenic environments, hyper-palatable foods, carbohydrate tolerance and sensitivity, and many more factors besides (all covered in my books if you want to learn more) but one reality stands over them all - one size does not fit all.
All factors are ‘the’ cause for one person, but no single factor is ‘the’ cause for everyone.
So the point of this post is to say to you - if you are overweight, and struggling to win the battle, which factor is ‘the’ answer for you?
And if you need some help figuring that out, let me know.
To your good health!