Intuitive eating and my thoughts on current 'fads'...…..
A certain show on Netflix has been a huge topic of conversation, I'm sure you know the one I'm alluding to...….. Some of you have asked my thoughts on the topic so I will endeavour to give you my opinions in a methodological approach. Now please keep in mind that when writing a blog, it is one persons opinion, not a research article or meta analysis so don't hate me...…..!
First and foremost, those who know myself and Louise know that we don't follow a diet or do any workout 'challenges'. We both adopt an approach to health and wellbeing that encourages engagement, promotes continuity and most of all is enjoyable! I try to avoid hysteria created by fad diets and stick to my ethos of moderation.
So when it comes to 'The Game Changers' what are the experts actually saying about the content of this Hollywood Documentary? I tuned in to this documentary to see what all the talk is about. I can certainly see why it has become such a topic of conversation as there are some pretty startling facts. Some of the data that was provided showed some pretty impressive changes in bloodwork, namely in the case of inflammatory markers and improvements in athletic performance. What I did ascertain though was that all of this data was collected from highly trained athletes who are being given the best plant based diets and are all doing huge amounts of physical activity. In my limited research, plant based diets have a lot of evidence both refuting and encouraging them - so how do you as a consumer know what's best? Here is a brief synopsis of the pros and cons of plant based diets:
Low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol.
Rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants
Lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and a number of cancers
Lower body weight and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol
Requires you to change your eating habits
Adopting to your new diet may take time
You'll have to prepare a lot of your food yourself
They don't meet all vitamin needs and therefore may require supplements.
Many people on a plant based diet report feeling more energetic, have less aches and pains and an overall sense of well-being. It is however, regularly documented that for a plant based diet to be healthy, it must come from good quality sources. With vegan diets becoming more popular, there are lots of "vegan fast food" that is often loaded with sugars and other processed ingredients. Now in terms of the documentary, it has caused a huge amount of conjecture. Here are some of the concerns or anomalies if you like:
"Cameron does the film no favours by not declaring his significant conflict of interest upfront. He and wife Suzy — vegans since 2012 — founded the vegan food company Verdient Foods in September 2017. They recently invested $140m in a joint venture with US-based refiner Ingredion to expand its range of plant-based protein “solutions”." (source https://www.foodstuffsa.co.za). Hmmmmmmmm does anyone see an issue that the producer has a huge investment in vegan products and is now producing a show that is promoting a vegan lifestyle...…?
"The film is slick in presentation and has fans. It has also precipitated a flood of criticism from top nutrition scientists, medical doctors and dietitians worldwide for its lack of scientific balance, the chronic weakness of the science it does present and its wild claims."
"A classic tactic used by the film makers of Game Changers is to cherry pick single studies that support their agenda, avoid discussing studies that DON’T support it, as well as omit recent meta analyses and systematic reviews (studies of studies = higher quality evidence)." One of the biggest issues with the film is that it is one-sided with a bias towards what they are trying to get across to consumers - I certainly felt that way....
Now the reason I bought all this up is because I feel that watching this show has certainly piqued my interest in plant based diets. It did however highlight that there was very limited data showing other diet and lifestyle choices, especially in the long term. Most of their data was short term biochemical changes rather than long term case studies. I am really sitting on the fence here......
So this takes me back to my lifestyle of moderation and Intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is a "self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion, and rational thought and was created by two dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995." It emcompasses the following approach:
Reject the Diet Mentality
Honor Your Hunger
Make Peace with Food
Challenge the Food Police
Respect Your Fullness
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
Respect Your Body
Exercise—Feel the Difference
Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition
I have just come across intuitive eating recently BUT I love it! Its exactly what I do myself and to me, it makes sense. Some of the concepts include rating your hunger levels from 1-10 and then rating your fullness level afterwards from 1-10. For example, 1 would mean you're absolutely starving and would eat just about anything. 5 is that feeling of 'nothing' and 10 is the feeling post Christmas lunch. The idea behind it is that you don't want to get to the point where you rate your hunger as a 1 as this is where you tend to go from 1-10! You also want to feel comfortably full after eating, not distended and bloated. There are no limitations or exclusions with intuitive eating, it simply means listening to your body. So if you eat a meal and then are hungry an hour later, it clearly didn't fill you so next time you have that food, you may need to have more of it. Conversely if you ate a meal and it made you feel over full, you will have less next time. Intuitive eating also looks at why you are eating. Are you actually hungry or are you bored? Curious? Emotional? If you are, try and find something else to cure the boredom - exercise? reading? Any other activity that makes you happy. By rating your hunger level, you can ascertain whether its hunger or emotional eating and then rechannel the hunger feelings into something more productive.
Followers of this approach want you to live a life in a way that feels good to you. If that means having a treat each day, that's ok! It might mean allowing yourself to have one row of chocolate (not the whole block....) and then rating your fullness/ satisfaction level. By checking in emotionally and listening to your bodies feedback mechanisms, you can still enjoy food however ensure you are not overeating or eating because of other psychological reasons. You may establish better eating patterns by understanding hunger signs and eating earlier or later or more regularly. This approach can be adopted long term as "the process of Intuitive Eating is a practice, which honors both physical and mental health. Intuitive Eating is aligned with Health at Every Size, because the pursuit of intentional weight loss is a failed paradigm, which creates health problems: including weight stigma, weight cycling, and eating disorders. All bodies deserve dignity and respect." (source https://www.intuitiveeating.org/definition-of-intuitive-eating/)
This philosophy is not a diet or a food plan, rather a journey where there is no "pass" or "fail". There is no calorie counting or exclusions as the dieticians behind this have found that study upon study have found that dieting and food restriction for the purpose of weight loss leads to more weight gain.
So the point I am trying to make is to ensure that whatever lifestyle you decide to follow, make sure you are doing it for reasons that are evidence based and not because of sensationalism! Do your own research or consult a professional; there is a huge amount of data out there if you want to look further into nutrition. Also, make sure that it's enjoyable and not a chore. I love food and I love cooking - for me having a wide variety of food groups to choose from gives me pleasure and diversity. I also choose to follow good influencers on social media like dietitian Marika Day as she has a realistic and healthy outlook on nutrition. I find that people who either have a vested interest or a fiercely one way (like Pete Evans) don't always give the best holistic advice...….
Ok, that's enough from me - I could go on forever! I hope you enjoyed the read and can take away some good ideas...…. :)