As a dietitian, I don’t sell “the dream”…

25th November, 2016

As a dietitian, I don’t sell “the dream”, be that the weight loss dream, the health dream or the happiness dream. I don’t sell it because I can’t, and nor can anyone else despite the claims made, the shiny TV shows, the millions of followers or the millions of dollars.

I learned fairly early on in my career that part of my job as a dietitian is to pick up the pieces, the pieces from broken dreams. I don’t see my job as something sad or secondary, I see my job as something healing and powerful, something with the potential to show people, that’s you, that you can find within yourself what it is you’re really looking for. And when you do this, you can finally stop the search for the next best thing that will turn your life around. You can stop blaming food, or looking to food for the answer to health and happiness, and you can stop hating your body. And when you learn to do this, you can truly be free to find whatever health and happiness means to you.

For those of you who watched 60 minutes on Sunday, I have a few points about Peter F’s new book.

Awesome that he’s dropped a stack of weight and feels great, I don’t begrudge him for that in any way, shape or form.

But his claim that sugar was the main villain and that everybody else should do the same… let’s look at that more closely.

From what he said he ate and drank, a large portion of the food energy he cut out wasn’t from sugar, it was from alcohol (ethanol). FYI a bottle of wine has less than 6g of sugar.

He also pointed out he ate too much food. Food is a combination of fat, protein and carbohydrate (sugar is a carbohydrate). Again he didn’t just reduce his sugar intake, he ate less food. In addition to the decrease in food and alcohol, Peter significantly increased his exercise, again not a sugar thing. I strongly suspect the sugar angle is simply to get the headlines and of course it has worked as a brilliant money maker for several others.

His message for men, “don’t be a weak bastard”, I’m sorry Peter but shaming people does not lead to long term changes in health behaviours, plenty has been written on this. Here’s a starting point

Now, to be clear, many people do have too much added sugar in their diets and this adversely impacts on health. Dietitians work to help people understand this and change their eating behaviours in a way which is both enjoyable and sustainable. For many people, just cutting things completely out of their diet is neither enjoyable or sustainable, and many people’s eating habits actually end up worse when they try these more extreme measures, as dietitians we see thousands of these people. Of course some people are able to go cold turkey and that’s fine. But can I just make the point that when you have a book deal and a prime time TV segment, money can be a great incentive…. and when you’re not making $$$ from cutting out sugar, you’re motivation might not be as strong, at least not long-term.

That aside, complete avoidance of sugar is not necessary, many people enjoy good health without having to quit sugar. Lastly, as I’ve explained many in my blogs and on The Moderation Movement, health is much more complex than just what we eat or how much we weigh (see my Health At Every Size and Managing your food blog categories).