Friday, June 15, 2012

The Bastardization of Healthy Eating

One of the first questions I ask a client when they mention wanting to lose weight is "what's your diet like?" I get two answers; one from guys and one from the ladies. Guys will always smirk and say "It's not too bad. It could be better. The weekends are tough." Meanwhile, ladies will always say "I eat really healthy! The weekends are tough though."

Great. That gave me zero information. Thanks for that.

The next question is to ask them to describe what a normal day looks like. With slight variability, it usually looks like this:

Breakfast: Coffee, muffin/bagel/refined carbs.
Lunch: Half of a salad with chicken on top for the ladies; sandwich for the guys.
Dinner: Refined carbs with, hopefully, a little bit of meat and some booze.
Dessert: Froyo, because they earned it by having a good eating day, obviously.
Snacks: The ladies, especially, will be good about having small snacks during the day. Dannon Light n' Fit yogurt and Laughing Cow cheeses are particularly popular.

I'll ask about the weekends, but I usually already know the answer. They go out for dinner and drinks with their friends, then they sleep in the following morning and follow it up with a big breakfast/lunch (not brunch) meal filled with refined carbs before they go out and get boozed up again and follow it up with some slices of pizza at 3 a.m. Sound familiar, anyone?

So, what makes people think this diet is healthy? The media. Magazines. Commercials. Ugh, Celebrity endorsements.

At what point did we decide we knew better than nature when it comes to the food that we put in our bodies? Why is it that we are terrified of fats that are naturally occurring in foods, yet we have no concern for the super-processed foods that come in convenient 100-calorie packs? The same person telling me that red-meat and eggs are bad for my cholesterol will turn around and eat a sandwich with "zero grams of fat" from Dunkin Donuts. Is this shit for real?

With the current mindset, people are getting fewer and fewer of their macro-nutrients from real food sources and getting more and more of their calories from fake processed food that we are being told is healthy. Let's take a look at some food labels.

First up, let's take a look at some breakfast foods. Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal has become extremely popular and everyone seems to think its health food. 

Not exactly amazing, now is it? Take a look at just how many ingredients go into this cereal product. The first half of the list are all products filled to the brim with gluten; something that is pretty certain to fill your guts with bloat-causing inflammation. Next up is  soy, which is a great way to get some gynocomastia if you're a guy. If you're a lady, it's a good way to mess with your thyroid gland and some other hormones.

Next on the list is "evaporated can juice crystals; which is the healthy way of saying "sugar". Sugar is sugar and we don't need to be eating it for breakfast. We then have some more grains, some canola oil, and then the one healthy thing about this product: cinnamon.

Now, lets take a look at my breakfast of choice: eggs.

Not so many ingredients in that guy, are there? An egg is an egg is an egg. I buy organic/cage free/naturally fed/blah blah blah as often as possible, but even the genetically engineered joints are better than the Kashi cereal.

Yup, I can hear them now. "Oh, but eggs are so bad for your cholesterol. My doctor told me not to eat them!" Frankly, your doctor is an idiot. Please show him/her thisthisthis or this. See what he/she has to say about those studies.

So, your breakfast choice can either come straight out of a chickens butt, or it can come from a laboratory where a bunch of scientists had to figure out how to make this food healthy for you. Again, why is it healthy? There's more sugar in it than protein. 37 grams of carbs, 13 grams of sugar and a tummy full of gluten? I'll take the eggs.

Let's move on to lunch; Subway subs seem to be pretty popular and common, and have been marketed for several years as a healthy option for lunch. Remember the commercials with Jared and those ridiculous pants?

Great for him, by the way. Thrilled that he lost the weight and all that; but he didn't lose that weight because he was eating Subway. He lost all that weight because he wasn't eating McDonalds and Burger King and drinking gallons of soda. He lost all that weight because he actually got up off the couch and started moving around and, gasp, exercising!

Here is some nutrition information for the different 6" Subway subs. Some of the better values: 38 grams of, that's it. One of the subs has that, everything else is below it. I'm not interested in any of the other nutritional values. Know why? Because it's all processed shit. None of it is really fresh (maybe some of the veggies). All of the meats are processed to last longer. None of the bread is even close to what I'd consider healthy. These sandwiches contain no good fats, although you can get avocado on some of the new subs. Putting some avocado on one of these sandwiches is really like putting lipstick on a pig, though. It doesn't really make it much better.

Let's compare it to something that I like to eat for lunch (specifically post-workout): beef, rice, guacamole and salsa. Mix it up into a bowl and eat it. The salsa is the most processed part of that meal, and it's only because I buy mine pre-packaged from Trader Joe's. The beef comes from one source. The rice comes from one source (rice is gluten free; very nice source of carbs). Guacamole is some mashed up avocado. Salsa is a bunch of diced up veggies. Not a particularly long ingredients list. I can name where all of those foods come from. Try and name where all of the meats in your Spicy Italian sub came from, I dare you.

I'll let that rant subside and delve into a new one: the many "vegetarians" that we deal with at my gym. So, you've made the decision to be a vegetarian and I respect that. I think it's dumb, but what you eat doesn't make me shit; so go for it.

Ask many (No, not all. Just a majority.) what they eat every day. Coffee and muffin; cheese pizza; meatless meat substitutes (i.e. soy); pasta; ice cream. Vegetables? Almost never. They eat plenty of carbs and fake-meat foods, but that's about it. I've taken to calling these people processed-food-atarians. It's not that they only eat vegetables, it's just that they don't eat meat. If you're going to be a vegetarian, at least do a good job of it. Or, eat fish and eggs and dairy too. Then you'd be a Lacto-Ovo-Pescatarian...and that sounds about a million times cooler than just plain "vegetarian".

Eat real food, people! As coach Dan John is well known for saying, "eat like an adult"! Cut out the cereals and candy and all that shit; eat real food from real sources. Stop worrying quite so much about what's in your whole-food sources and be more concerned about the science-experiment snacks you're eating. And, please, go find something heavy and pick it up!

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