I read an article the other day about the foods dietitians hate. It was designed to be an appetizer of healthy information, but — for me — it was a main course of facepalm.
Here’s a taste of their “wisdom.” The primary dietary culprits they listed — as quoted from the article — are:
“Alcohol, preserved meats, processed snacks, and energy drinks were the four major culprits that dietitians said can derail healthy eating.”
“And while we all know it’s not healthy to binge on beer and hot dogs, the experts said you’d be surprised how these things sneak onto plates, even of “healthy” people, from deli meats in your lunch sandwich to a packaged granola bar or a whisky or glasses of wine to wind down.”
In other news, apparently, being a regular human is now, also, unhealthy.
Instead of hating these foods, how about we try something different? Before I go on, let me make something clear: I know how these articles work, so let’s remove all of the typical caveats: it’s an article, they had to answer questions selected by the author, who knows how much of the answer was cut-off, and so forth hand. All of these are valid complaints. But, here’s my issue…
The article is not the exception to the rule. It’s your reality when it comes to advice on improving your health. Diet articles fundamentally create fear and restriction around almost everything.
I once read an article trying to convince you that kale is bad for you, and I lost my mind trying to digest the logic. The crazy part? I wrote my rebuttal to the post 7 years ago. We’re not making progress, and we’re definitely not learning from our mistakes. We’re spouting the same stupid diet advice and food hate that has led to the same underwhelming results for so many people.
When will we learn that we don’t need another article on what to avoid?
The overwhelming majority of people know that too much fast food, too much alcohol, and a diet of no fruits and vegetables isn’t a recipe for health. But, for so many people, they don’t have access to all the best foods, they want to eat at restaurants, and — occasionally — they don’t want to feel guilty about having a drink. And, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
You know what I want to see? Diet experts finally provide guidelines that meet people where they are and include the foods we all eat into plans for maintaining good health, building muscle, supporting weight loss, or whatever the goal might be.
This can be your reality. I know because we’ve been doing it for thousands of people in our online coaching program for more than 12 years. I love it when clients come in and say something like, “I’ve been dreading you taking away my white rice,” or “I’m going to miss dessert.”
Nope, there’s nothing to dread and nothing is being taken away.
- The more diet rules you have, the more likely you are to fail.
- The more you restrict foods, the more likely you are to fail.
- The more you create “black and white” thinking, the more likely you are to fail.
- The more you blame one food (carbs, fat, dairy, gluten), the more likely you are to fail.
- The more you try to blame one behavior (you must eat breakfast, you must intermittent fast, you can’t eat after 7 pm), the more likely you are to fail.
Diet is complex, but the structure of a plan should be simple. Create a plan that works for your schedule, maintain some of the foods you love, eat 80% of the good stuff you know is healthy (protein, fruit, vegetables, fibrous carbs, healthy fats like avocados and nuts), and then make adjustments as you see progress or stall.
I have an amazing job. I get to help people be healthier and change their lives. But, if we want people to change their lives, we need to help them design realistic lifestyles; and that doesn’t happen by offering effective but impractical plans that no one would ever willingly select.
As I wrote back in 2014:
Are you trying to help people or just earn more page views?
I hope the traffic was worth it because each click of this page led to another person frustrated and confused about what they are supposed to eat and what to believe.
Let’s do something about it and provide diet advice that will empower rather than terrify and confuse.
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and the author of You Can’t Screw This Up. He is the founder of Born Fitness, and the co-founder of Arnold’s Pump Club (with Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Pen Name Consulting. An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was previously the Chief Nutrition Officer for Ladder, the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to The Huffington Post, Bornstein is “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and E! News.