Every culture has its own mythology. In Western culture, much of ours surrounds food and drink. While many of these ideas are considered “conventional” wisdom, the truth is they are making us fat and sick. It’s not that “diet experts” are trying to intentionally harm you when they suggest common dietary advice. It’s just that they, like the rest of the American public, have been very misinformed about what constitutes a healthy diet. We have moved away from our natural intuition as to what to feed our bodies, and are sucked into an ever-complicating “diet” world.
The unambiguous proof lies in the statistics. The prevalence of obesity in the United States over a single generation has grown substantially. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity in America went from less than 14 percent in every single state in 1985 to higher than 20 percent in nine states, greater than 25 percent in 25 states, and higher than 30 percent in the remaining states. At the same time, the incidence2 of type 2 diabetes (an illness typically found in people over 40) is rising in children and adults! Autoimmune disorders are on the rise, as well.
Clearly, something is wrong here. Many experts are pointing their finger straight at the contemporary Western diet, and I concur that the very poor diet that most people have is indeed at the root of an overwhelming amount of health problems.
I always find it strange that many health experts blame these problems on a lack of willpower. After all, the diet industry in this country is booming. Americans spend billions on an array of products that promise to facilitate weight loss, including low-fat foods, diet books, diet programs, and more. Yet, America as a country continues to grow fatter in spite her citizens’ best efforts to count calories, cut out fats, eat “diet” microwave or packaged foods and lead healthier lives. I’ve always believed that the biggest issue isn’t about willpower. Instead, I think America’s health problems lie in all of the myths that have become conventional wisdom.
Let’s take a look at just a few of these myths so we can see how they just might be affecting the unbalanced weight of the Western world.
Myth 1: Counting Calories is The Best Way to Lose Weight.
How many diets have you personally been on that recommend counting calories? According to the calorie hypothesis:
- If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
- If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
If this were the case, a lot more people would be thinner than actually are. The calorie hypothesis assumes that the human body behaves like a simple thermodynamic machine and employs a straightforward method of burning food for energy.
What is a calorie, anyway? By definition, it is the energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. While this definition actually defines a kilocalorie, it’s been shortened to calorie. This works in a simple machine, like a car engine, but does it work in human beings?
The answer to this question is very likely no. The human body is an extremely complex biological mechanism that does not operate according to the rules of simple thermodynamics. I personally know people who have counted calories religiously yet remained overweight in spite of their best efforts.
How often do you see overweight wild animals? From personal experience going on over 11 safaris in Africa, I can vouch for the fact that wild animals maintain normal weight. Yet these animals haven’t a clue how to count calories. Instead, they eat the foods their bodies need and move as needed. This helps them maintain a healthy weight. Since humans are animals, it makes sense that our biological responses are very similar.
Counting calories may work for a few people, but have you ever noticed how difficult it is for them to sustain weight loss? For most, it is a lifelong, ongoing struggle to keep weight off by religiously counting and continuously cutting calories. It is indeed a miserable way to live.
It’s not how much food you eat, it’s what you eat that matters.
Does this mean you can eat as much as you want all the time? No. Not counting calories is not a license to stuff yourself; however, if you eat the foods your body was intended to eat, based on whole and natural foods, your weight problems will be alleviated. You will get more nutrition from such foods, and will not need to eat such huge quantities naturally. These foods also possess fiber, which is a filling and natural means to help with calorie restriction. Furthermore, natural foods do not clog up your digestive tract with sludge, which keeps you from feeling full and getting the maximum amount of nutrition from the foods you are eating. If you eat heavier, more difficult to digest foods that don’t digest as cleanly, you will eat more and rely on external sources of energy such as sugar and caffeine.
What should you eat? Eat mostly organic, whole plant foods for good health. Eat foods that were grown in the earth, and not manufactured in a lab or that have a long list of ingredients. Avoid “diet” foods such as artificial sweeteners, “energy” bars and microwaved frozen dinners.
Myth 2: Milk – It Does a Body Good.
The dairy industry has spent a lot of money convincing you that milk is essential for good health. Over the years I’ve seen multiple claims about the healthfulness of milk including:
- Eating two servings of low-fat dairy every day can help you lose weight.
- Dairy products help prevent osteoporosis.
- Dairy products help build strong bones and teeth.
- Milk and other dairy is the best source of calcium and vitamin D available.
- Yogurt can help build healthy intestinal flora and is good for dieting.
In fact, we’ve bought so deeply into the dairy mythology that our food pyramid even has a special section just for low-fat dairy products.
Nature creates a way for mammal mothers to nurture their young. After giving birth, mothers produce milk in order to nurse their young through the first few months or years of their life. Human babies are intended to drink breast milk for the first few years of life, not cow’s milk. That is intended for baby cows. In nature, cows stop producing milk after the calves are weaned. Dairy farmers continually breed the cattle in order to maintain ongoing lactation.
Milk contains two ingredients that are very difficult for humans to process: lactose and casein. Additionally, the milk contains hormones that may lead to sensitivity in humans, and many dairy cattle are injected with rbGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), a hormone genetically engineered by the Monsanto Corporation to artificially increase milk production.
Human health problems associated with dairy consumption include:
Lactose leads to gas, bloating and discomfort
rbGH in dairy increases the incidence in IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1) in humans. This can decrease insulin sensitivity and may be a precursor to type 2 diabetes. IGF-1 may also increase risk of developing heart disease or cancer.
Casein is the protein in dairy products. In the China Study, Dr. T. Colin Campbell concluded that casein ingestion promotes cancer in all stages of development.
Dairy is extremely acid-forming.
Dairy is extremely mucus-forming, which means it is slow to digest in the digestive tract, which may lead to more toxicity being compounded in the digestive tract and throughout the body.
Avoid dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt and kefir. Instead, eat a plant-based diet, and get your probiotics from Probiotic & Enzyme Salad and probiotic supplements. if you need milk, then try unsweetened almond, hemp, coconut or hazelnut milk. Goat’s cheese is a good transition cheese that digests better than cow’s milk cheese.
Myth 3: Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day
There’s probably not a mom alive that hasn’t repeated this myth at some point. Breakfast is entrenched in our belief system, and many people feel this means they should eat a heavy, protein-laden breakfast in order to get the day started right.
In fact, a heavy breakfast will start your day off just wrong! Every morning is a new opportunity to cleanse your body, since it has fasted all night and your food has digested. Eating a heavy meal in the morning can plug up the plumbing and decrease your energy stores as your body focuses on digesting all of that food you just ate. If you eat a huge breakfast, you will need more snacks and caffeine by mid-morning.
What should you do instead? Don’t force yourself to eat until your natural hunger kicks in, and then start yourself off with a Glowing Green Smoothie. Eat heavier meals later in the day when your body will have a long time available to digest them. Try it for yourself for 2 weeks, and notice how much better you feel than from having huge daily breakfasts! You will feel lighter, more energetic, and will be able to perform all functions more efficiently.
Myth 4: Grazing Every Few Hours Is the Best Way to Maintain Weight
Grazing doesn’t give your body time to fully digest the foods you eat. Instead, it causes foods to back up in your intestinal tract, forming a rotting, partially digested sludge in your gut. It also means your digestive tract is constantly working. This burns an incredibly amount of energy and can actually accelerate the aging process. Instead, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and minimize snacking. I sometimes eat a snack between lunch and dinner, but keep it to only that one snack.
Myth 5: There’s No Difference Between Organic and Conventional Plant Foods
Conventional produce is grown using toxic pesticides. At the same time, many conventional foods are also grown from engineered seeds that have been genetically altered in order to better accept pesticides and fertilizers. Every time you eat these foods, you are filling your body with toxins no matter how well you wash the plants. Additionally, most conventional plant foods are grown on “factory farms” that favor monocultures where they grow only one type of crop in a field. This can strip the soil of nutrients and leave the plants open to disease.
Choosing organic foods grown on local family farms on the other hand, allows you to eat chemical free produce that is far more nutritionally dense than conventionally grown produce. The soil of organic farms is more rich, and will therefore impart more minerals to the produce that is grown in it. Eating this way and purchasing your foods from local farmers markets or CSAs also allows you to support the dwindling number of small family farmers in this country.
There are many other dieting myths, especially those regarding the excessive consumption of animal protein, which is also acid-forming and slow to digest (and therefore aging). For further info on this topic and other myths, please check out The Beauty Detox Solution, it won’t all fit here. Wishing great health to all!