A wise mentor once told me, “You can either be a victim or an assassin, and you don’t want to be the victim.” Now he was offering that advice on driving in DC traffic, but I have actually applied that advice to many areas of my life including my diet.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be on a discussion panel following a screening of the movie Fed Up. I’m sorry if you were looking for a recipe today, but I was so fed up after watching the movie that I had to write this post while it was still fresh in my mind. I promise to be back tomorrow with a recipe. =)
Why am I fed up with the blame game? The movie basically tells movie goers that it’s not your fault you’re overweight, obese, or unhappy. Instead, it blames the food industry and specifically sugar for weight issues. Meanwhile, it completely minimizes the role that exercise plays in health and nutrition. I teach a class at the University of Nebraska about human metabolism including sections on how food is broken down and used for energy by the body. Research has shown that physical activity can boost metabolism, and the movie makers completely ignore this fact! Gee… I’m sorry Katie Couric, I didn’t realize you were a nutrition expert or an exercise physiologist. I also found it strange that the movie only focused on stories about children yet applied the information to all individuals. As a board certified pediatric dietitian, I can tell you that the nutrition & emotional needs of children are greatly different compared to the needs of adults when it comes to weight loss. It’s really unfortunate the movie only featured children with parents that were convinced they didn’t have the power to do anything about their children’s health.
Personal Responsibility Must Be Addressed. The idea that American consumers are all victims is just silly. You are not a victim. Bob Conklin once said, “Resistance is thought transformed into feeling. Change the thought that creates the resistance, and there is no more resistance.” Are you really going to tell me that those chips just jumped in your cart?
With that being said, great power does come with great responsibility. (thanks Spider-Man) And just because you ate at a farm to fork restaurant does not make you an expert in agriculture or nutrition. As my friend Leah would say, “It makes you an EATER!” And just because you read a book about how wheat might blow up your brain, this does not make you a scientist. Please stop comparing your knowledge of food and nutrition to those who have worked for years to study the subject.
Take a Leap of Science With Me. I think it’s funny that the movie poster had two chocolate covered candies with the letters “F” and “U” on the candies. I’m pretty sure the movie was saying, “F. U.” to science. There were so many false facts and statements including the opening line that said, “More people will die from the effects of obesity this year than starvation.” This same statement was shared at Big Omaha this year by one of the speakers and I had to pull out the fact checker on this one. Luckily my friends at IFIC produced a great report on this statement and it’s pretty amazing to see what they came up with. According to the World Health Organization, about 2.8 million will die from overweight and obesity. Yes, that’s a huge problem but there is a medical difference in the terms obesity and overweight as defined by body mass index. Therefore, you can assume that there were less than 2.8 million people who died from the effects of obesity. The World Food Bank said that there were 3.1 million children under the age of 5 that would die from starvation and Rutgers University, in 2014, placed the number of annual hunger-related deaths annually at 10 million. Why in the world would they compare obesity rates to starvation? Yes, they are both problematic, but don’t tell me that starvation takes a back seat to obesity. Again I would encourage you to check out IFIC’s report. Hey, Remember Fargo???
The movie also tried to tell us that the theory of energy balance in weight loss and weight gain is false. Energy balance meaning calories in = calories out. (So if you eat more calories then you expend, then you will gain weight and if you exert more energy than you consume, you will lose weight.) I can’t believe they would say this theory is completely wrong. As a clinical dietitian caring for patients on life support, who couldn’t eat anything but what was coming through the tube, I got to test the theory of energy balance everyday. If a patient needed to gain weight, I increased calories and if they were gaining, I decreased calories. Boom. It wasn’t magic, it was science.
Food Is Meant To Be Enjoyed. After the movie I left the theater pretty depressed, but then I remembered…wait a second, I love food! I love all kinds of food and I would be a miserable person if I knew that I had to eliminate all happiness from my diet. If I could give the movie props about anything, it would be that I did appreciate how they encouraged people to start cooking. But then the movie ended on another sad, depressing note by telling us the only success story from eating “real food” actually gained the weight back. If you want to see change happen then get in the kitchen and start experimenting with recipes and new foods. The industry is responding to consumer demand, so I wouldn’t blame them. Start blaming yourself for not taking advantage of all the amazing options you have available to you. This includes checking out local farmers markets in your area.
I’m sick and tired of food being the new politics. For once I would love to just sit down to a meal with friends without being asked, “Does this contain GMOs?” or “I hope this meat is grass fed.” Seriously??? Can we please eat a freaking meal together and enjoy each other’s company without you playing 20 questions about your food? I just want to eat and be friends for pete’s sake!
Last week I made a new friend from the Ukraine. He asked several questions about my personal food choices and if I followed my own nutrition advice. We talked about nutrition concerns in his country and I shared with him my story. Then he looked at me and said (in his Ukrainian accent), “You are a realistic nutritionist.” I don’t think I could say it any better. Realistic means I meet people where they’re at and one size doesn’t fit all.
This is the face of a realistic nutritionist. The face of one who is not perfect, but loves people deeply and believes in nutrition research. One who is fed up with the blame game and works hard to make sure you don’t feel like a victim, but instead left feeling like an assassin when it comes to having control over your diet. You can take responsibility for your health. Do not let a movie tell you otherwise.