Many times I have had people say to me about their extra snacking or overeating, “But it’s Healthy Food!”. To lose weight they simply think that healthy is the key.
My commonest reply has been to ask them if they have read any pamphlets about fruit and vegetables put out by various government agencies… and have they read them CAREFULLY.
Because if they have they will discover that these pamphlets do NOT say that eating fruits and vegetables will make you lose weight.
Instead they will say something awkward like this:
Eating plenty of fruit and vegies not only contributes to good health, but also protects against a number of diseases and helps maintain a healthy weight. – Go For 2 and 5 Campaign
People who eat more fruits in an overall healthy diet have lower risks of some chronic diseases. – US ChooseMyPlate Government Program
Did you read that?
Lots of feel good statements, but little more.
In fact if really pressed they will sound very convincing:
Eating more fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of overweight and obesity – Go For 2 and 5 Information bulletin
Until that is you dig a bit deeper. Why would they say ‘can’ reduce the ‘risk’? What about someone who is already overweight or obese and wanting to lose weight. Why wouldn’t they emphasize these results because surely that’s where the biggest impact will be?
Now, before you tell me I hate fruits and vegetables, no I don’t.
They are in fact worthwhile in so many other ways for your health and eating enjoyment.
I just hate simplistic advice that doesn’t deliver the results it pretends to claim, and this can apply to fruits, vegetables, legumes, meat, fish, and anything that is promoted as being more than it actually is.
So why would they say such vague ‘motherhood’ statements?
Simply because they know that the evidence that eating fruits and vegetables, or in fact any so-called ‘healthy food’ to lose weight has no evidence to support it. It’s not what you eat as much as it is the way you eat it.
People have funny ideas about food. One of the things I’ve discovered is that sometimes when people think something’s healthy, they really haven’t worked out what they mean by that.
I first encountered this when a woman came to see me who had managed to lose by herself about 20 kilos. Unfortunately, she put it all back on. However, even when she lost 20 kilos, she had about another 20 kilos to lose. So I asked her what she’d done to lose those first 20 kilos. She was all serious when she looked me in the eye and said, “I ate nothing but salad and salad vegetables for 9 months.” And she said after about 3 months, she’d lost the original 20 kilos but then she stabilized and plateaued and no matter how much longer she kept going she was unable to lose anymore.
Now, the first thing I realized was that I didn’t believe that someone could actually just eat salad, vegetables and nothing else. Not choosing it, not anything else like that, for that amount of time. And it’s probably very unhealthy to do that. But knowing her, I actually took her seriously. What I asked her instead was, “How did you manage the fact that on that sort of diet you didn’t end up hungry? You didn’t end up with times where you didn’t feel like you had enough and you wanted more?”
She said something very interesting. She said, “Well, I was eating all these healthy food so what I decided to do was just allow myself to eat more of it.” I said, “Interesting. What did you eat?” She said, “Basically, I stuffed myself so full with carrots that I couldn’t eat anymore and so I stopped being hungry and craving other things”. So it turned out that on almost the calorie content of carrots alone, she had managed to maintain her weight about 20 kilos over what it should be for her height.
But she’s not alone. Just today, I had someone come to me, and in talking to them about what they were doing, they complained they were snacking. I said, “Well, that snacking is probably giving you enough calories to end up making your weight going”. And he looked at me, as the lady before her done, and said, “But it’s healthy.” And I said, “It’s probably very full of nutritious vitamins, minerals, fiber, all that good stuff but it also has calories.” And he said, “But it’s not like if I was eating biscuits or something. I’d know that was unhealthy.” I said, “Well, they both have calories and right now for your weight, it’s not about your health, it’s about the amount of energy putting in your body compared to what you’re using up”.
This idea that something is healthy doesn’t mean it gives you allowance to do whatever you like with it or to it. Respond to your body. If it wants “healthy stuff”, that’s fine. If it wants stuff that “not healthy”, that’s fine too. It allows your body to find a balance and responding what I think is an emotionally and physically healthy way to all types of food.