This Pretty Much Explains What Went Wrong, Part Deux

Back in June, I wrote a post titled This Pretty Much Explains What Went Wrong.  The post featured a Wall Street Journal report about how the FDA is still considering whether to change its definitions of healthy and unhealthy foods.  Under the current definitions, an avocado is an unhealthy food, while Frosted Flakes are good for you because they’re low in fat.  That’s the kind of advice that turned us into a nation of fat diabetics.

I recently found another example of what went wrong on one of our bookshelves.  When we bought this place, we told the previous owner to just leave anything she didn’t want to move and we’d deal with it.  We’ve since re-purposed a lot of old farm gear she left behind.

She also left behind quite a few books.  Don’t know why I didn’t spot it before, but one of the books is titled Great Health Hints & Handy Tips, published by Reader’s Digest in 1994. It’s full of the usual drivel — and I don’t mean that as a knock against Reader’s Digest.  I wrote for a small health magazine in 1980s, and we offered the same kind of advice.  Back in those days, anti-fat hysteria was in full swing, and diet and health information passed through a small number of gatekeepers.  Fortunately, the internet enabled the Wisdom of Crowds to crowd out such nonsense.

Anyway, here are some quotes from the chapter on nutrition:

Does it ever seem like everything you thought you knew about food has been disproved?  Information we learned in school on avoiding starches and eating plenty of red meat has been reversed.  We’ve found that other old favorites, like whole milk and cheese, should be limited.

Ugh.  If only that information we used to learn in school hadn’t been reversed.  Look at what’s happened since we decided we knew better than all those previous generations about what constitutes a healthy diet.

We now know that carbohydrates should form the largest part of your diet, approximately 55 to 60 percent, and that you should hold the quantity of protein to about 15 percent of calories.

And that’s how pasta-makers became a must-have in fashionable kitchens.  Load up on those healthy carbs, people, and cut way back on meat!

To avoid raising their blood cholesterol, most people have to follow two dietary rules: limit both high-cholesterol foods and those containing saturated fat.

Can you say Egg Beaters and margarine?

There is, of course, a color picture of the Food Pyramid, with this text on the opposite page:

The Food Guide Pyramid was created to illustrate not just food categories, but the correct proportions for a healthy diet.  Bread and cereals form the large base, followed by fruits and vegetables.

And a lot of us ended up with a large base by following the Food Pyramid.

Limit the amount of fat in your breakfast.  When eating pancakes, waffles or toast, restrict the butter or margarine to one teaspoon or skip it entirely.  For a topping, try a fruit spread or apple butter.

Right.  Because when you’re loading up on grains for breakfast, nothing enhances the metabolic effects quite like putting sugar on top.

Rather than a doughnut or sweet roll, eat an English muffin or a bagel.

That reminds of a commercial from back in the day:  the announcer says something like Now that we’ve learned a bowl of grains in the morning is good for your health, why not try this?  Then a bagel drops into a cereal bowl.  The book would apparently agree:

Bagels, which are low in fat, aren’t just for breakfast.  Top them with low-fat cottage cheese or salmon or tuna salad.

Bagels in the morning, bagels in the evening, bagels at suppertime.  Yup, that will help you eat the 6-11 servings of grains per day the USDA assured us was the key to good health.

Here are some tips for lunch on the go:

Sandwiches made at delis, diners and other eateries are often overstuffed with meat.  Ask for yours to be prepared with less mean than usual, or else remove some of the meat.

Think twice before ordering a diet platter if it includes a hamburger patty, hard-boiled egg and cottage cheese made from whole milk.  This high-fat meal is no calorie bargain.

And here’s some advice for packing your kid’s lunch:

If your son or daughter won’t eat vegetables for lunch, send extra fruit.

Pack 1 percent chocolate milk mixed at home instead of having your child buy 2 percent chocolate milk (which contains more fat) at school.

Obviously, this was written before the USDA decided to ban anything other than skim or 1% milk in schools.

Offer grains rather than white bread.  Quick breads, such as banana-oatmeal bread, pita wedges and low-fat crackers may also be good alternatives.

So there you have it.  Eat your grains – with fruit topping! – and cut way back on meat, eggs, whole milk, and anything containing cholesterol or saturated fat.

That’s what we were all told, and that’s the advice most of us tried to follow.  That’s how I ended up eating bowls of pasta with low-fat sauce as the main course for dinner.

And that’s how we became a nation of fat diabetics.


52 thoughts on “This Pretty Much Explains What Went Wrong, Part Deux

  1. Wayne Gage

    I’m afraid the followers of the low fat advice will be with us until the last obese person dies.

  2. Josh

    And don’t forget that some of those organizations that gave us all this bad advice years ago are still here today giving advice – BUT THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT!!!!

    Yeah, Right.

    I still think these organizations have found themselves in a bind – If they admit they were wrong they lose credibility and may incur the wrath of the people they mislead, (and perhaps open themselves up to legal issues?) So, they are slowly oozing towards somewhat better advice and hoping we forgot that a certain chocolate sugar bomb cereal was healthy for the heart, and trans-fat loaded margarine were healthier than butter.

    There must be a special place in Heck for these people.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Of course, the American Heart Association just doubled down on its anti-saturated-fat stance, so they’re not even ready to slowly back away yet.

  3. Firebird7478

    “Sandwiches made at delis, diners and other eateries are often overstuffed with meat. Ask for yours to be prepared with less mean than usual, or else remove some of the meat.”

    I found out yesterday via Twitter, that you can go into Arby’s and order just the roast beef @ $10 lbs.

  4. Stephen T

    No wonder everyone was always hungry and on the sugar/carb rollercoaster.

    So, you should eat glucose endlessly and then be criticised and placed on medication when you become diabetic. They’ll then tell you to continue to eat lots of glucose and give you lots of medication to reduce your blood glucose. Your health will continue to worsen and you’ll be advised to continue eating what made you ill.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      And after you become diabetic from eating the subsidized carbs, you can demand subsidized healthcare to pay for your treatments. It’s a great system.

      1. j

        spend your tax dollars to get you sick..then spend your tax dollars on trying to get you well..

        sounds evil..

        1. Anonymous

          The money is not spent to get you well. The money is spent to prolong the agony and more importantly to buck up big pharma and farma.

          Insulin to drive the carbage into your cells to be stored as fat, so that you need more insulin, amputation, seeing eye dogs etcetera.

  5. Kathy in OK

    I remember ordering ” a hamburger patty, hard-boiled egg and cottage cheese ” when I had to travel most of the time (decades ago, thankfully). Why couldn’t *they* just leave us alone. Of course I smoked heavily at that time, so *they* may have saved me from a life of COPD with all their meddling.

  6. Tom Welsh

    Seems to me that cardboard meets most of the official requirements for healthy food. Low in fat – check. No cholesterol at all – check. Low in total calories – check. High in fibre – check. And best of all, it tastes so disgusting you don’t really want to eat any of it at all.

    It’s not really “nutrition” advice, is it? It’s more non-nutrition advice. Follow it and die.

      1. Bill

        And devoid of nutrition too. Just like most government sanctioned “heart healthy’ food. I am still amazed at how many people see a breakfast of bacon and eggs as a a sin. “back to cornflakes tomorrow”, mustn’t do this every day, my doctor says it will raise my cholesterol . Followed by: You do what!? Eat this every day! What does your doctor say? My reply:I don’t know, I never go, I’ve not become a hypochondriac courtesy of the media, Pharma, government and big food.

      1. JIllOz

        Yes it’s such a shame about bagels. 🙁 Even saying the word “bagel” is fun, and the boiled bagels were delish!

        Oh well.

          1. Walter

            You can eat the butter and chive sour cream without the bagel. Perhaps on your veggies or in a meat roll up. Much better.

  7. j

    I remember those blissfully ignorant days of thinking that the purpose of gov was to help us 🙂

    Fortunately, more people are being red-pilled..perhaps largely thanks to the internet and social media.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The sooner more people realize the purpose of government is to control, the better off we’ll be.

      1. Walter

        The purpose of the government is to protect and increase the profits of the major corporations. For Congresscritters it’s to collect campaign contributions, that is bribes.

  8. JIllOz

    I found a book on health and diet recently in a thrift store (op shop in Australia) written by -wait for it! – ANCEL Keys and his wife!

    I haven’t read it through yet, but thought it might be interesting to peruse at some point. 🙂

  9. Dianne

    I only wish somebody had done a serious clinical trial of the carb-based diet advice vs. the old advice to avoid starch and sugar BEFORE publishing the food pyramid and all the rest of the rotten advice we’ve been given for decades. Or else I wish I’d listened to Grandma. Or just had some basic common sense. Back when I ordered the diet plate with a burger patty and cottage cheese and maybe a tomato slice for lunch, I felt great and actually got mistaken for Audrey Hepburn a time or two (I’m assuming those folks weren’t wearing their glasses). That sure hasn’t happened in a long, long while! But you’d think any reasonably intelligent young woman would have put two and two together and realized that if carbs equaled weight gain and feeling punk, and protein and fat equaled feeling great at a stable weight, then Grandma was right and the government was wrong.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I kick myself for listening to the “experts” as well. I adopted their advice and got a little fatter each year, but attributed it to getting older.

      1. Firebird7478

        I was just discussing this with the receptionist at my chiropractor’s office. I wondered aloud how much permanent damage has been done to our bodies by simply listening to the so called experts and our government guidelines.

  10. BobM

    The thing that really irks me about this (emphasis added): “We now KNOW that carbohydrates should form the largest part of your diet, approximately 55 to 60 percent, and that you should hold the quantity of protein to about 15 percent of calories.” Even though I ludicrously believed everything I was told back then (and all the men’s magazines were spouting the same garbage), they did not KNOW–at all–this was true. There were never any randomized, controlled trials to figure this out. They BELIEVED it to be true, but there was basically zero evidence it WAS true. And the first evidence was fat-related. That is, they thought that reducing fat would be good, so the carb intake was higher to limit fat intake.

    And the other thing that irks me about this: They still believe this garbage. They can’t say “You know, maybe telling everyone to eat low fat, low cholesterol, high carb, and unnatural seed oils might not have been a good thing.” Instead, they double-down or quietly change things so that no one can tell they screwed up. Ugh.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Thomas Sowell has written about how the intellectual classes fall in love with bold new ideas and want to implement them without waiting for proof they’ll work. I think this was one of those cases.

  11. Victoria

    This article is as horrifying as the oft-cited 1985 NY Times article that makes moms feel guilty for even looking in the direction of a pat of butter (

    I was a teenager at the time, and all around me, including in school, we were surrounded by this “fat is the devil” message. As a result, I spent my 20s and 30s feeling as old, sick and tired as any 90-year old. Kind of makes me depressed to think of all of those lost years of poor health but grateful that the truth has finally emerged through movies, books and blogs like yours.

  12. Zachary

    Such horrifying health advice, yet I remember all this advice so clearly. Bagels and oat meal in the morning, or a “healthy” bowl of Total (wow look at all those vitamins!) were my attempt at staying healthy. In college I felt proud of ordering the boca burgers instead of the regular burgers, because they must be healthier right? Thankfully that’s around when I first saw Fat Head, jaw on the floor by all the information that was completely backwards from what I heard all my life. Now I wouldn’t put 99% of the stuff I used to eat anywhere near my mouth.

  13. chris c

    When my mother was young, “everyone knew” that you cut back on starch to lose weight – some still called dieting “Banting” from the first time around.

    During her career as a teacher, from the thirties to the seventies, there might be one or perhaps two “fat kids” per class, maybe as many as one Type 1 diabetic, often none, and perhaps a couple of kids with asthma or allergies, in the whole school.

    Same when I was at school, and college, and early days at work, hardly any fat people or diabetics of any type. I can still remember reading about cutting back on carbs in my girlfriend’s Cosmo, shortly before I got suckered into a HCLF grain based vegan diet and heart healthy margarine, then it all went downhill.

    Now it’s the thin kid in class who is the anomaly. Scary.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      When I was in high school, the wrestling coach (also the health teacher) told us if we wanted to lose weight, we needed to stop eating sugar and grains.

      1. chris c

        Those were the days eh? More recently I recall a military PT instructor (can’t remember now if UK or US) bemoaning the fact that since they started serving pasta in the field kitchens he had never seen so many fat or unfit soldiers.

  14. chris c

    When even some of the supermarket staff have noticed the fat people dutifully buying their “low fat! low calorie!!” CIAB, while the slim fit healthy old folk can mostly be found in the butchers, veg shops and farm shops, you have to wonder why these highly educated dieticians and even doctors and nurses still can’t see it.

    “They” will tell you the diet has slashed CVD which is why it is so important to continue to eat it. “They” will also tell you that the explosion of obesity and metabolic diseases is because actually no-one is following the diet. Yet their heads fail to implode from the contradiction.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      If they could spot contradictions, their beliefs would have changed a long time ago.

    2. Bill

      ‘CVD has not been slashed due to ‘healthy’ eating advice . It started to decline in the mid sixties, before low fat hysteria took hold. Listen carefully to the language. Death from CVD has dropped by a lot. But this is due to many factors, public health and sanitation so less infectious disease, less smoking, better interventions such as stenting and bypasses and people generally understanding what heart attacks and angina are.

      Here is the irony; diabetes raises your likelihood of heart attack a lot. Given that the world seems to be in the grip of a type II diabetes epidemic, primarily due to the nonsense ‘they’ have been pouring onto hapless populations for 40 years, we should expect heart disease to rise again.

      1. chris c

        Precisely! The CVD seems to have come and started to go completely without reference to dietary factors. Try to tell them that and you will be accused of listening to those “cranks on the internet”. Like especially the ones on PubMed. Subversives all (except Frank Hu and Uncle Walt Willett).

        Indeed, I expect CVD to rise again along with all the other diseases like cancer and Alzheimers whose incidences track HCLF but with longer lead times. Real Scientists are finding correlations and actual causal links to hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance right left and centre, not just hyperglycemia. You won’t see any of that as scare headlines in the meeja any time soon, unlike “cholesterol”, or bacon.

  15. chris c

    Strange, this wouldn’t post complete, but it did when I split it into two halves. As you were . . .

  16. Firebird7478

    This is really interesting:

    “Now if this vegan pseudoscience is right, we would suspect that the hose was being plugged by pieces of meat.

    Never once did we see any solid chunks of meat. I became so curious about this that I once swallowed the largest chunk of meat I could possibly get down without choking. Because of the shortness of my bowel, it only took about twenty minutes for my stomach to empty into the ostomy. Better than two hours later, there were no signs of any meat chunks. What was always clogging the ostomy tube were pieces of vegetables that were not fully chewed.”

    1. chris c

      Meat is healthfood, not toxic waste!

      The corollary is that yes, my kitchen sink eventually gets clogged by fat, especially coconut oil. But then it is not at body temperature.

      Now try putting in some heart healthy oatmeal. This is an experiment you will do only once.

  17. Joe

    Wow. I remember the first day I ever tried eating LCHF. This horrible low-fat nutrition advice was so engrained in my head that I decided to eat a half a piece of toast with the meal. The bacon and eggs (NOT whites) tasted great…eating that felt almost as good as losing 6lbs the first week.


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