A question I’m asked regularly is, “What should my macros be?”, or a variation of that, like “How much protein should I eat?”, or “Can I eat carbs?”
It seems that every nutrition expert spouts different advice. Some tell us a high-protein diet is best. Others say a high-fat diet is better. Just a few decades ago a high-carb diet was all the rage.
But, I’m not a regular nutritionist. I’m a registered holistic nutritionist and I believe in undieting and whole foods.
So, What Diet is Best?
I want you to just ignore these recommendations and percentages. Yes. Completely. Why? Because it’s a form of nutritionism that’s backed by political will instead of quality nutritional advice. (I also believe that nutritional experts are giving advice they believe in and their advice is given with goodwill. It’s the underlying philosophy they were taught that I disagree with).
Nutritionism is a term to describe how we look at food today. Instead of talking about actual food, nutritionism is a belief that food is simply a sum of its abstract parts, like carbs, fat, protein, minerals, etc. Nutritionism seems modern and scientific…but it’s actually a bit sinister. By talking about abstract parts of food that are impossible to see or measure at home, you have to look outside of yourself for nutrition advice.
Before nutritionism, we ate whole food, prepared in ways taught to us by our ancestors. Inside nutritionism, we need to look to health experts for advice, and sadly, many of our health “experts” end up being food manufacturers and advertisers telling us what to eat.
The History of Nutritionism
Let me tell you a story about the moment in time that changed the way food recommendations were made forever. In the mid-1970s, the U.S. Senate wanted to investigate the role food plays in chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. They put together a committee headed by Senator George McGovern and filled with many lawyers and journalists (scientists and doctors were surprisingly missing).
They spent a few days listening to testimony and in 1977 released their first recommendations: “Eat less meat and dairy.” It was specific, direct, and easy to follow. And sadly, this was the last time a government agency told us to eat less of any certain food. Why? Politics. Specifically, lobbyists. Unsurprisingly, the beef and dairy lobby didn’t like these recommendations one bit. This mattered because they’re very powerful. They flexed their political muscle, and quickly, that simple and direct recommendation was retracted and replaced with, “Eat more meat, poultry, and fish that’s low in saturated fat.”
No more “eat less”. No more specific food recommendations. Now we had to turn to nutritional experts to find out where this evil saturated fat was lurking. Since most of us don’t have a nutritionist on speed-dial, food manufacturers were happy to jump in. They refined and processed the heck out of oils, dairy, and other food to remove the saturated fat. Food labels everywhere were redesigned so we all knew what foods had 0% saturated fat. The sugar lobby loved this as well! Out went the fat, and in came lots of sugar to make the food more palatable. We now know that saturated fat poses no risk for heart disease. Seriously, none! Major cohort studies, following 100,000+ people, found no correlation.
But the story isn’t over yet for Senator McGovern. The beef lobby wanted to make sure he paid a big price for making the public question their beef consumption. The next time he was up for election, the beef lobby gave tons of money to his competitor and they easily ousted this three-term Senator. The beef lobby sent a very clear message to all politicians—don’t mess with food lobbies. (Oprah learned this hard lesson as well.)
What Does This Mean For You?
The good news is this: we can ignore the food lobbies. Together we have even more power when we choose where our money goes. Every time we buy whole food and ignore nutritionism is an act of rebellion against food lobbies and their political pull (and gives money to our amazing farmers). I love this idea—eating whole food as an act of rebellion. Doesn’t that feel amazing!? (My inner teenager loves rebelling.) Choose whole foods, use your body as a guide, and rebel against politically-motivated food advice. Your body will thank you (and so will your local farmers).
Lisa Kilgour, RHN is one of Nature’s Fare Markets’ nutritionists a sought after speaker and educator who helps people heal from diverse and complex health issues. She has spoken at TEDxKelowna and is the author of Undieting: Freedom from the Bewildering World of Fad Diets. Check out the nutritionist schedule on page four and book your free appointment today at naturesfare.com.
Learn more: lisakilgour.com
This article was published in The Good Life.