Food Philosophies

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

–Michael Pollan

In class, we’ve been discussing personal food philosophies like Michael Pollan’s listed above. My personal food philosophy, if I had to sum it up into a few sentences, would be:

Eat nothing you can’t make from scratch. Have as colorful a plate as possible. And easy up on the carbs.

I would not say that my personal idea of nutrition is the be-all-end-all of healthy eating. I obviously try to live by these rules, but I do not think that following them is necessary to healthy living. However, I do think that having a set of food guidelines is a good idea for anyone in order to establish good nutrition.

First and foremost, having a personal food philosophy makes someone more conscious of what they are eating; if a person strives to stay away from dairy, for example, you can be sure that they are checking the ingredients on everything they eat for milk products. By consciously seeing what is going into your body, you have a better idea of the micro/macronutrients you are getting as well.

More than that, though, having solid food habits can affect you for years to come. By having a simple philosophy that you can remember, you will be able to set up eating patterns for yourself and those around you.

This article on the portrayal of obese people in advertising shows an advertisement from the National Obesity Forum in the UK (#11 on the list) that states, “The eating habits you give your children can last a lifetime.”

 

 

 

 

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The picture is quite shocking, showing the angelic faces of two babies superimposed on the near-naked bodies of an obese man and an obese woman. It certainly would grab my attention, though it would not necessarily make me want to read more.

But it brings us back to my point: the habits you have, and thus the habits you teach your children, can stick for a lifetime. By following a personal food philosophy that is as healthy as it is simple, you are changing your life and the lives of those around you for years to come.

The FDA Fails… Again

If I unknowingly consumed those extra calories every day, in a week I would put on an extra pound of body weight.

Once again, I find myself reading an article about the shortcomings of the FDA and its ability to do what it says it will. Apparently, the somewhat controversial New York mandate for most chain restaurants to post calorie count is regulated by nothing more than the honor code. Basically, restaurants can post any number they like until someone decides it sounds wrong and has them audited (not very likely).

Again… why do we have the FDA? It’s seeming more and more that the Agency’s job is to come up with regulations and rules that it has no intention (or means) of enforcing. Neistat, the writer of the NYTimes article, spoke to the representatives of five chains that listed calorie values less or much less than their actual count. Responses from the chains varied, each having one excuse or another.

If this is a problem in New York, a state with some of the strictest nutritional regulations, then I can only imagine how bad the mislabeling is in other areas of the country. According to the article, the older method of calorie counting is far less accurate than the way we currently do it in a lab. Yet many companies base their values on the old system and old “set” counts for many ingredients. And no one seems to notice!

Especially not the FDA.

You Are What You Eat

While reading some articles on food and nutrition this week, I stumbled across the website of the Nutrition Science Initiative, a nonprofit devoted to reestablishing the scientific method into nutrition research. Its goal is to help develop better-designed studies that rely on the same scientific rigor as pharmaceutical studies. While I’ve always known that scientists are not exactly all-knowing when it comes to what makes us obese, I had never considered that they might not be doing everything they could to remedy that fact, either. NuSI’s website says that the overwhelming majority of nutritional studies use participants that rely on the “honor code” of sticking to the diet being studied. That means being away from the watching eye of scientists in the comfort of their own homes. Who is to say that many of these participants don’t cheat on these diets and then lie to save face?

“In short, the state of the scholarly literature is such that we need well-designed, well-controlled, large n, lengthy studies directly addressing the question of whether the carbohydrate content of the diet influences fat mass independent of total caloric intake and whether total caloric intake has an influence independent of carbohydrate content. Such studies would also ultimately address the effect of nutrient composition on biomarkers of disease and other relevant outcomes.”

You would think that with the enormous obsession Americans have on obesity, we would be putting more effort (and funding) into these studies being more scientific. Current studies definitely approach nutrition from a holistic standpoint; since many vitamins and nutrients affect multiple bodily functions it can be hard to isolate distinct factors that lead to malnutrition and/or obesity. But even if scientists maintain that they cannot be any more “scientific,” how can anyone be okay with how little research we are actually conducting?

Numbers

The above photo shows the spending of the USDA, American Cancer Society, American Heart  Association, and the National Institutes of Health on obesity and nutrition research. Yes, school lunches, behavioral & hypertensions research, and HIV treatment are all extremely important and should not lose funding. But it would be difficult to find someone who disagrees with the fact that proper nutrition can help prevent and/or mitigate the symtoms of many diseases. Personally, I think funding more nutritional research would not only be beneficial in understanding what goes into our bodies more, but also that it could open doors in terms of drug research.

On a related note: scientists have discovered that a drug commonly used to treat canker sores might be the key to weight loss but have yet to test it on humans. While great, weight loss is quite different than nutrition. Whether or not we are thin is not an indicator of health. Moreover, the article notes that if this drug did work on humans, it would have to be used every day to maintain low body weight. This is, of course, problematic, given how much American already depend on pharmaceuticals. Hopefully, new research like that supported by NuSI will reveal a healthier way to reach our goal weights that does not involve pills.