Archive for the “Bad Diets” Category

Readers send me links to articles all the time.  (Bless all of you who do.)  Some articles are particularly newsworthy or timely and become fodder for blog posts.  Others don’t and end up in what I now think of as the Cold Case Files.  They’re old, but still worth digging out now and then for a second look.

I just came across one that deserves a second look because it relates to my recent posts on how U.S. News ranked the popular diets and The Rider And The Elephant.  I poked fun at how U.S. News ranked the Slim Fast diet #13 while placing the paleo diet 35th out of 35 – because it’s just so darned hard to follow, you see.  What I didn’t mention in that post is that the Biggest Loser diet was ranked #9.  The U.S. News panel of experts had this to say about eating like a Biggest Loser:

The diet received high marks for short-term weight loss, safety and soundness as a regimen for diabetes, and it was rated moderately effective for heart health.

Good for short-term weight loss — and it must not be hard to follow, because according to the (ahem) logic the panelists cited while putting paleo at the bottom of the list, a difficult diet should earn a bad score.

We know the Biggest Loser diet is good for short-term weight loss because we see people losing impressive amounts of weight during weekly weigh-ins on the TV show, right? Uh-huh … so let’s take a look at an article from an Australian news service I found in my Cold Case Files:

Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello was a contestant on the Biggest Loser in 2008 … Today, Cosi writes exclusively for news.com.au about what contestants really have to go through on the hit Channel 10 show.

“The only thing that really disappoints me about the Biggest Loser is the length of time between the weigh-ins. Have you ever wondered how the contestants manage to lose a staggering 12 kilos in a single week? We don’t. In my series a weekly weigh-in was NEVER filmed after just one week of working out. In fact the longest gap from one weigh-in to the next was three and a half weeks. That’s 25 days between weigh-ins, not seven. That “week” I lost more than nine kilos. I had to stand on the scales and was asked to say the line, “wow, it’s a great result, I’ve worked really hard this week”. The producers made sure that we never gave this secret away, because if we did, it created a nightmare for them in the editing suite. The shortest gap from weigh-in to weigh-in during our series was 16 days. That’s a fact.”

So that short-tem weight loss isn’t as impressive as the U.S. News panelists think it is.

“The thing is, overweight people get inspired by watching the Biggest Loser. They get off the couch and they hit the gym. But after a week in the real world, some people might only lose 1kg so they feel like they’ve failed and they give up.  That’s where the show is misleading. You need to remember it’s a TV show, it’s not all real. In fact, not even the scales we stood on were real.”

Awesome.  So people watching the show try starving themselves and horsewhipping themselves into hours of exercise so they can achieve a similarly awesome seven-day weight loss … except the weight loss might have actually required 25 days and was measured on a not-real scale, at least while the cameras were rolling.

“I would say that about 75 per cent of the contestants from my series in 2008 are back to their starting weight. About 25 per cent had had gastric banding or surgery.”

If 75 percent are back to the their starting weight and 25 percent had bariatric surgery, that would leave … hang on, let me get out the calculator … almost nobody achieving long-term weight loss.

Yes, but … uh … the short-term weight loss is good.  Just ask the experts consulted by U.S. News.

“Anyone can lose weight in a controlled environment; I’d say it’s almost impossible not to lose weight on the Biggest Loser.  But the show doesn’t address the reasons why people like me are so obsessed and addicted to eating excess amounts of food; it doesn’t get to the root of the problem.”

Bingo.  People who go on The Biggest Loser are (as the article makes clear) agreeing to be in lockdown.  Same goes for people who participate in metabolic ward studies.  And yes, under those circumstances, you can probably demonstrate that all weight-loss diets work as long as the dieter sticks to the diet, as some internet cowboys like to point out.  So what?  All that tells us is that if you lock the elephant in a cell, he doesn’t run away — because he can’t.  But he’ll be miserable the whole time, and when he’s no longer in lockdown, he won’t be hanging around for long – even if the rider thinks he should.

When Ancel Keys conducted his semi-starvation study in the 1940s, the participants were in lockdown.  Yup, they lost weight.  They also lost their energy, their ability to concentrate, their sex drive, their desire to talk about much of anything besides food, and – in a couple of cases – their sanity.  One man bit off his own finger to get released from the study.  That’s an elephant being pretty damned determined to run away.  Soon after the study ended, all of the men regained the lost weight, and some gained more than they’d lost.  After being starved, the elephant wanted to protect itself against future starvation.

So again, I don’t give a rat’s rear-end what the (ahem) experts consulted by U.S. News consider a good diet.  A good diet is a diet that keeps the elephant happy instead of dragging him to a place he doesn’t want to go.  And I doubt the Biggest Loser diet fits that definition for most people.

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We’re only two weeks into the New Year, which means millions of people are on a diet, hoping to fulfill a resolution to lose weight. Last week I wrote about how U.S. News ranked the popular diets. The low-fat, low-sat, low-flavor DASH diet was ranked #1, the Slim-Fast diet was ranked #13, and the paleo diet was ranked last. I finished that post with this comment:

So here’s what we’ve got with the U.S. News diet rankings: the same group of idiots who’ve been pushing low-fat, low-salt, low-meat diets for decades were asked to rank diets and – surprise! – they chose the low-fat, low-salt, low-meat diets as the best …

And that’s why the same people will be making the same weight-loss resolution next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.

Now and then some internet cowboy will pop up in a forum and make the (ahem) profound observation that all the popular weight-loss diets work equally well if people stick to the diet. Uh-huh. That’s roughly as enlightening as saying all alcoholism-treatment programs work equally well as long as the alcoholic doesn’t drink. Or that knee surgery is equally successful under no anesthesia, vodka anesthesia or general anesthesia, as long as the patient remains perfectly still for the procedure. That may be true, but I’m pretty sure the type of anesthesia influences the patient’s tendency to run screaming from the room.

You can lose weight drinking Slim-Fast shakes instead of eating, but you’ll probably be miserable the whole time. If your diet puts you at war with your own body, your body is going to eventually win. I wrote about that phenomenon early last year in a series I called Character vs. Chemistry.

Later in the year, I read a thoroughly enjoyable book about the psychology of happiness titled The Happiness Hypothesis. The author, a psychologist named Jonathan Haidt, presents an explanation of human behavior that I like so much, I’m borrowing it (with attribution) for the book I’m writing for kids.

As Haidt explains it, your body and your unconscious mind are like an elephant. Your conscious mind – the part of you that thinks and makes plans and vows – is like a rider on top of the elephant. We like to think the rider is in control. But he isn’t, at least not if he tries to guide the elephant somewhere the elephant doesn’t want to go – like, say, into a fire. Here are some selections from that chapter that I edited down:

The image that I came up with for myself, as I marveled at my weakness, was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him.

It will help to go back in time and look at why we have these two processes, why we have a small rider and a large elephant. When the first clumps of neurons were forming the first brains more than 600 million years ago, these clumps must have conferred some advantage on the organisms that had them, because brains have proliferated ever since. Brains are adaptive because they integrate information from various parts of the animal’s body to respond quickly and automatically to threats and opportunities in the environment. The automatic system was shaped by natural selection to trigger quick and reliable action, and it includes parts of the brain that make us feel pleasure and pain and that trigger survival-related motivations.

Language, reasoning, and conscious planning arrived in the most recent eye-blink of evolution. They are like new software, Rider version 1.0. Automatic processes, on the other hand, have been through thousands of product cycles and are nearly perfect. When language evolved, the human brain was not reengineered to hand over the reins of power to the rider (conscious verbal thinking). The rider can see farther into the future, and the rider can learn valuable information by talking to other riders or by reading maps. But the rider cannot order the elephant around against its will.

Because we can see only one little corner of the mind’s vast operation, we are surprised when urges, wishes, and temptations emerge, seemingly from nowhere. We make pronouncements, vows, and resolutions, and then are surprised by our own powerlessness to carry them out.

Love it. That last sentence described me pretty much every January through April before I found a diet that doesn’t leave me feeling deprived. I’d resolve to lose weight, adopt some variation of a calorie-restricted, low-fat diet, and lose a few pounds … then give up after stalling, or finding myself unable to take the gnawing hunger anymore, or both. And then, of course, I blamed myself for being weak-willed.

I wasn’t weak-willed. I was human. I had put myself into a battle with my own body chemistry, and chemistry won. Or to use Haidt’s wonderful analogy, I was trying to drag the elephant to a place the elephant refused to go – because the elephant believed he was in danger. To repeat a quote from Haidt:

The automatic system was shaped by natural selection to trigger quick and reliable action, and it includes parts of the brain that make us feel pleasure and pain and that trigger survival-related motivations … When language evolved, the human brain was not reengineered to hand over the reins of power to the rider (conscious verbal thinking).

The automatic system – the elephant – is far older than the conscious mind and was shaped by the need to survive. If evolution has hard-wired one survival instinct into every living creature on earth, it’s got to be this: don’t starve. Starvation means death. In our conscious minds, we may believe going hungry for weeks on end is a fine idea if we’ll look good in a swimsuit by summer. But the elephant disagrees. And as Haidt puts it, the rider cannot order the elephant around against its will. So the elephant decides to run away and escape the danger.

Haidt doesn’t claim that the elephant makes it impossible to change our behaviors or reach new goals. (After all, the title is The Happiness Hypothesis, not The Hopeless Hypothesis.) His point is that the rider has to learn to work with the elephant, not simply try to order the elephant around. Then the rider and the elephant are both happy.

For people trying to lose weight, working with the elephant means adopting a diet the elephant doesn’t consider a threat. If you simply starve yourself, you’re dragging the elephant somewhere he doesn’t want to go. If you deprive yourself of what your body knows it needs – fat, protein, salt, vitamins, micronutrients, and yes, perhaps even some “safe starch” depending on your metabolism – the elephant will run away. If you drink a sugary shake that jacks up your blood sugar, then leaves with you low blood sugar after the insulin spike, the elephant isn’t going to be happy. Low blood sugar is one of those triggers for a survival-motivated behavior – the behavior in this case being run out and eat something, now!

So to quote again from my post about how U.S. News ranked the diets:

On one plate, you’ve got a slice of grass-fed beef, some eggplant and green vegetables drizzled in olive oil, and perhaps a small sweet potato. On the other plate — wait, make that in the other glass – you’ve got a brew of FAT FREE MILK, WATER, SUGAR, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), CANOLA OIL, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, FRUCTOSE, GUM ARABIC, CELLULOSE GEL, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY LECITHIN, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM (NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS), SODIUM CITRATE, CITRIC ACID.

Paleo vs. Slim-Fast … or as the U.S. News panel of (ahem) experts would label them, the worst diet vs. one of the better diets.

Hmmm, I wonder which of those meals would satisfy the elephant and which would leave it feeling deprived and threatened?

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Last night Chareva and I watched two episodes of the National Geographic series EAT: The Story of Food.  One was on sugar, the other on wheat.  If you’re looking for information on the health effects, look elsewhere.  The episodes were mostly about how these foods changed societies – and how much we love them!  The only warning about sugar was that it might cause diabetes, and the episode on wheat may as well have been written by the grain industry, with sections on The Miracle of Bread (the staff of life!) and The Magic of Beer.

I’ve mentioned in several posts that I’m a grammar grump, so I suppose this description in our on-screen cable guide should have served as fair warning that I wouldn’t like the episode on wheat:

My own grammar went immediately downhill when I read that one.  Good thing the girls weren’t in the room.  The expletives were out of my mouth before I checked the whereabouts of young ears.

I was hoping, of course, that the episode on wheat would be another example of the Wisdom of Crowds overwhelming the official dietary view of wheat as a health food.  Oh well.  I guess the crowd hasn’t crowded its way into the production offices at National Geographic just yet.

Nonetheless, it’s obvious the grain industry has seen the writing on the wall and is now fighting a defensive battle.  A reader alerted me to an article in the U.K. Daily Mail with the headline Wheat-free diet could be WORSE for your health, new report warns.  Take a look:

Stick-thin celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham, and Gwyneth Paltrow rave about their healthy ‘wheat-free’ lifestyles. 

Note to journalists:  if you want to scare people away from grain-free diets, it’s not an effective strategy to refer to grain-free celebrities as “stick-thin.”  There are millions of people out there who look nothing like a stick and would like to give it a shot.

Devotees claim going gluten-free can alleviate everything from tiredness and bloating to spotty skin and hair loss.

I’m a fan of wheat-free diets, but trust me on this:  if you’re bald, giving up wheat won’t resurrect your hair follicles.  Best you can do is compensate by growing a beard that some readers like and some readers don’t.

But wheat-free diets ‘lighten the wallet and not the waistline’, according to a scientific report due to be published later this month.

The report comes as a poll by Weetabix found 32 per cent of British people avoid wheat because fad diets like the Paleo Diets and Wheat Belly diet warn against gluten.

There’s that Wisdom of Crowds effect that has them scared witless.  Paleo?  Wheat Belly?  Has either ever been given a stamp of approval by the official experts?  Hardly.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  And yet both are catching on for the simple reason that people are telling each other how much better they feel after giving up the grains.

In a report due to be published by Warwick University, experts will argue that there is little evidence behind the claims made by popular wheat-free diets.

Good luck with that argument, you wild ‘n’ crazy experts.  Because here’s the cold, hard truth:  when people ditch wheat and find relief from arthritis, gastric reflux, asthma, psoriasis, etc., etc., they tend not to give a rat’s ass what the (ahem) experts say.

Dr Robert Lillywhite, senior research fellow at Warwick Crop Centre, said: ‘The scientific evidence behind many of the most popular wheat free diets is surprisingly thin. It may perhaps be the case that most will only lighten your wallet, rather than provide longer-tern health benefits, by encouraging you to switch from low cost cupboard staples to specialist foods intended for those who genuinely need to avoid gluten.

Yeah, yeah, yeah … only 1% of the population has celiac disease, blah-blah-blah.  I don’t have celiac disease either – I had the lab test run out of curiosity, since wheat was causing me problems.  Those problems went away when I ditched the wheat (although the baldness stubbornly refused reverse itself).  Thanks to the Wisdom of Crowds, people are learning that you don’t have to be officially diagnosed with celiac disease to be damaged by wheat.

‘We are delighted that Weetabix are investing in a review of the science in this area but of course we won’t be able to comment further on this work until the research is complete.’

Weetabix … you mean the people who make these?

Yeah, I’m sure that will be an objective review.

A quarter of people under 34 said they buy less cereal and bread because of the latest diet craze.  This could be why 90 per cent of British people eat less than half of the recommended 30g of fibre a day.

Eating the recommended amount of fibre can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers, and can also improve digestive health, doctors advise.

Claire Canty, Senior Brand Manager at Weetabix said: ‘The research highlights the misconceptions about whole wheat and how people might be mistakenly avoiding it.

No, I’m pretty sure people are avoiding it on purpose.

‘Whole wheat has been shown to be important to gastrointestinal health, thanks to its high fibre content and range of micronutrients.’

Riiiiiight.  Gotta eat your wheat if you want a healthy digestive system.  That explains all the people in health forums online sharing stories of how adding wheat to their diets caused all kinds of nagging health issues to go away.

Go ahead, Weetabix spokespeople and other eat-your-grains types.  Find those stories online.  Send us links to all those “wheat saved my life!” posts on social media.

You can’t, because they don’t exist (other than any planted by the grain industry, of course).  But there are plenty of compelling stories being shared by people who gave up grains.

I’ll recount one of those in my next post – a story from one of Chareva’s relatives whose health was saved by the Wisdom of Crowds.

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A reader sent me a link to this documentary produced by the CBC in Canada.  It’s 45 minutes long, but well worth it.

I only have a few complaints:

1. Despite all the recent research, a couple of the doctors interviewed just can’t help themselves:  they still have to lump fat and sugar together, as if they’re equally to blame for bad health.  They should know better by now.

2. The narrator mentions fruits, vegetables and grains as part of a healthy diet.  Head. Bang. On. Desk.  There’s nothing health-promoting about grains.

3. Since there’s a problem, then by gosh, we need a government solution, at least according to the producers.  No, we don’t.  We just need to educate people about what sugar does to their health.  If they still want to eat the stuff, that’s their business.  All those fat-free foods that hit the market during the anti-fat hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s were the result of consumer demand, not government regulations.

Let me know what you think.

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Hiya, Fatheads!

Bad news.

Tom is hard at work on that book/DVD project he’s been teasing us with for the last year or so, which is good. But it’s taking a bit more time and effort for this phase than he’d planned, so you all are stuck with me for another week or so. It should be worth it in the end, so let’s all, as Lone Watie said in the classic “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (played by Chief Dan George) –

“endeavor to persevere.”

BTW, if you’re too young to get that reference, you need to watch that movie. If you don’t have that kind of patience, or if Josey has ended up on the non-PC list, or if you’d just like a reminder of one of the great scenes in movies:

Okay, enough about the first Americans put on a government-run welfare program.

Back here in the present day, I’ve pointed out before the adage that “grandchildren are your reward for not strangling your children when they’re teenagers.” The Wife and I got an invitation to go to breakfast with The Oldest Reward (1st grader) yesterday at her school’s Grandparents Day. It was fun, and well attended.

Of course, you knew this had to be there:

You want to indoctrinate kids when they’re young. Otherwise, they may start thinking for themselves and we all know how messy that can get. Here’s something I never saw posted on the wall in the school cafeteria when I was a kid:

I never saw it, because hypoglycemia is associated with diabetes. Type I (juvenile) diabetes is rare and kids with it don’t need a poster to be aware of it. The other is Type II diabetes, but when we were kids, that didn’t exist. The condition did, of course, but it hadn’t been renamed to Type II diabetes. It was called “Adult Onset diabetes,” because almost no one got it until they were well past school age, usually mid-life and later.

It’s no puzzle to any Fatheads on how you create an unprecedented epidemic of insulin resistance in children. It’s simple. You just feed them breakfasts like this:

Didn’t manage to capture the other offerings in the picture, but you could balance your plate out with oatmeal and/or a plastic wrapped muffin, also. Not a drop of the fat kids need for their brains in sight, and the only protein available was a few grams in the milk. Fat Free!, of course. Ugh. The menu was missing one of last year’s offerings:

Thanks a lot, Michelle Obama.

Leah picked out what she thought looked good, and ate about half of it.

The Wife and I passed on the meal and just enjoyed being with her and her multitude of buddies. I was still fuming over the whole raw milk thing (or as the grandkids call it — “creamy milk!”) and took a look at the label on the fat-free chocolate milk:

Interesting that the FDA, USDA, CDC, and the Illinois State Medical Society are conducting a jihad against raw milk, but don’t seem to have anything but praise for the folks who bring our kids milk concocted with alkali, cornstarch, salt, artificial flavors, and carrageennan. Note also that the label does warn the consumer that this product “CONTAINS: MILK.” You know, just in case anyone was worried about there being milk in their milk.

It was fun being with the Oldest Grandkid, and we got to meet her teacher and see some of the school before she blasted off to the playground to squeeze in some playtime with her buddies before the bell started the school day. But the wife and I were a bit hungry so we stopped on the way to work and picked up a much higher quality breakfast to start our own workdays:

(Heh, heh. Just making sure Tom keeps getting those royalty checks from Ronald McDonald!)

Have a great weekend. Like it or not, I’ll have a few more things to say next week.

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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Before I was a programmer, I was a software trainer for Manpower in Chicago.  In fact, I started teaching myself programming to pass the time during long stretches when the trainees were busy working away on their tutorials.  I was stuck at a desk with a PC, reading books or magazines in front of the paying customers was a no-no, so why not make use of the time?

The training consisted of step-by-step instructions that walked the trainee through the basics of working with, say, Microsoft Word or Excel.  I soon noticed that the trainees fell into one of two categories:  those who viewed the instructions as gospel that must be followed to the letter, and those who viewed the instructions as a means for learning the software.  I thought of them as process-oriented vs. goal-oriented.

The process-oriented people would drive me a little nuts sometimes.  We’d have conversations something like this:

“Excuse me, I did something wrong here.  The next step shows that I should have a table with six columns, but mine only has five.  Should I start over?”

“No, you’ve already typed all that data into the table and I’m sure you don’t want to type it again.  Do you understand how to create a table?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Then just move on.”

“But the picture in the sample shows a table with six columns.”

“That’s okay.  You probably just typed the wrong number of columns in the dialog box when you created it.  If you understand how to make a table, you can move on.”

“But mine doesn’t look like the instructions say it should.  Can I do this exercise again?”

“If you really want to, sure, go ahead.”

These people had learned what they needed to learn.  But they hadn’t followed the process to the letter and seemed to think they’d get a black mark on their permanent records if they didn’t go back and successfully complete every instruction.

By contrast, the goal-oriented trainees usually skipped past some of the instructions once they knew they’d grasped the concept.  They understood that the point of the training was to learn the software, not to be a slave to training process.

I witnessed a laughable example of the follow-the-instructions mentality when I was working as a contract programmer at Disney.  This was 1999, and most of us were busy rewriting database systems to make sure they were Y2K compliant.  We had regular meetings to ensure that we met conversion deadlines set by upper management, and some dim-bulb administrative assistant was put in charge of running the meetings and writing progress reports.

At one of those meetings, she announced that we were supposed to certify seven systems that day.   I had created one of those systems using Access 2000, which was Y2K compliant.  I demonstrated the system’s functions, showed that it would handle four-year dates, and figured that was that.  My boss (who unfortunately wasn’t also the dim bulb’s boss) nodded his approval.

Then the dim bulb explained that her Y2K process manual said we should have a document from Microsoft stating that Access 2000 is Y2K compliant.  I told her I’d already gone online and checked Microsoft’s technical specs, which stated specifically that Access 2000 is Y2K compliant.

“But we’re supposed to have a document.”

At that point, my boss jumped in.

“Tom just demonstrated that it’s Y2K compliant, and Microsoft has stated that it’s Y2K compliant.  It’s Access 2000.  They wouldn’t release software called Access 2000 that can’t handle dates starting in the year 2000.  Let’s move on.”

“But we don’t have a compliance document from Microsoft.  The manual says we should have a compliance document for the files.”

My boss sighed.

“Okay then, Tom will find out how to get a compliance document.  Let’s move on and certify the other systems.”

“We can’t do that.  We’ll have to reschedule.”

“Reschedule?  Why would we reschedule?  Everyone’s here and we have the meeting room for another hour.”

The dim bulb referred to her printed meeting agenda.

“It says here we’re going to certify the following seven systems at this meeting.  But we can’t, because we don’t have the document for Tom’s system.”

“Yes,” my boss said slowly, as if speaking to a toddler.  “So let’s certify the other six and we’ll come back to Tom’s system next time.”

The dim bulb checked her agenda again.

“But it says here we’re going to certify these seven systems.  We can’t certify one of them today, so we’ll have to cancel this meeting and reschedule when we’re ready to certify all seven of them.”

For a minute, I’d thought I’d actually see my boss (a very affable man) blow a gasket.  Instead, he pointed to her printed agenda and spoke through gritted teeth.

“Well, you see, what you have in front of you there is just some ink on a piece of paper. The goal here is to get systems certified.  There’s no reason we can’t certify the other six systems on the list and then come back to Tom’s system next time.”

“But it says here we’re supposed to certify seven systems today.”

“There are seven systems on the list because that’s how many we thought we could demonstrate in the time allotted for this meeting.  These systems have nothing to do with each other.  They just happen to be on today’s list.  So let’s certify the other six.”

The dim bulb looked confused for a moment, then sought clarification in her printed agenda.

“No, it says here we’re supposed to certify seven systems.  We can’t do that today.  We’ll have to reschedule.”

So the meeting ended with eight of us rolling our eyes and the dim-bulb satisfied she hadn’t violated the dictates of some ink on a piece of paper.

It took me about 10 minutes to find and download the document the dim bulb needed.  I forwarded it to my boss and told him I would have found it sooner, but Chareva had called me from the grocery store.  She’d gone there with a list of 12 items to purchase but discovered the store was out of one of them.  So she had no choice but to put the other 11 items back on the shelves and reschedule the shopping trip.  My boss liked that one.

So what does all this have to do with health and nutrition?

Well, I thought about the slave-to-instructions mentality when several readers sent me a link to an article about a mom in Canada who (eek!) violated government nutrition guidelines:

A Manitoba mom was slapped with a $10 fine because the lunches she packed for her kids’ lunches didn’t have any Ritz crackers.

Kristen Bartkiw sent her children Natalie and Logan to daycare with lunches of leftover roast beef, potatoes, carrots, milk, and oranges.

That sounds like a pretty decent lunch for a kid.  What could possibly be the problem?

The daycare providers evidently didn’t think the wholesome lunch fit the nutritional bill because Bartkiw was subsequently charged for the Ritz crackers that the lunches had to be ‘supplemented’ with.

According to Metro News, Manitoba laws require that daycares provide children with a nutritious meal as prescribed by the Canadian Food Guide.  That means one milk, one meat, one grain, two fruits.

Oh, dear.  Mrs. Bartkiw didn’t include a grain product in those lunches.  The Canadian Food Guide says each lunch must include a grain product, so by gosh, the rule-followers had to jump and give those kids a Ritz — because we must always obey the process, and because everything (including stupidity) sits better on a Ritz.

Let’s look at the ingredients for Ritz crackers:

Oh, yes, definitely … those are the ingredients that turn a nutritionally deficient meal into a nutrition powerhouse.

This is what I mean by confusing the goal with the process.  The goal is for kids to be healthy.  Anyone with a brain should recognize that there’s nothing about the meal Mrs. Bartkiw packed – beef, vegetables, fruit and a potato – that’s going to harm her children’s health.  And anyone with a brain should recognize that adding Ritz crackers to that meal isn’t going to make her kids any healthier.

That’s why I want governments to get out of the nutrition-advice business.  The “advice” becomes a set of rules, and then the rules must be followed.  Everyone involved becomes a slave to the process.  The original goal that the process was intended to support – helping people become healthier – ends up having nothing to do with any of it.

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