We don’t have cable so I’m not watching the HBO documentary series The Weight of the Nation, but it keeps popping up in my feed reader. Marion Nestle gave the best overview I saw with links to other good sources: Pondering the Weight of the Nation. I liked this bit from her review:
The programs ought to convince anyone that obesity is a big problem and that something big needs to be done to prevent it.
But doing something big, the series makes clear, will be very difficult.
This may be realistic, but it is not inspiring.
We need inspiration. That’s why I wish the programs had focused as much on social responsibility as they did on personal responsibility.
There’s not much amusing about this situation, but I had to laugh at the juxtaposition of two responses to The Weight of the Nation that have a similar tone, but totally opposite solutions.
Gary Taubes, writing for Newsweek and published in The Daily Beast, wrote Why the Campaign to Stop America’s Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing. He believes that the series missed the point by focusing on energy balance rather than the dangers of refined sugars and carbohydrates.
As for those of us who are overweight, experimental trials, the gold standard of medical evidence, suggest that diets that are severely restricted in fattening carbohydrates and rich in animal products—meat, eggs, cheese—and green leafy vegetables are arguably the best approach, if not the healthiest diet to eat. Not only does weight go down when people eat like this, but heart disease and diabetes risk factors are reduced. Ethical arguments against meat-eating are always valid; health arguments against it can no longer be defended.
The Healthy Librarian advocated, just as strongly, a no-meat approach: It’s a Numbers Game! What HBO’s “The Weight of the Nation” Missed – Eat More, Weigh Less on a Plant-Based Diet. Here’s how she thinks we should eat:
It’s a lot easier to lose weight, get healthy, AND FEEL FULL, if you switch to a diet that’s PLANT-BASED, NUTRIENT-DENSE WITH NO-ADDED-OILS and MINIMAL USE OF HIGH-CALORIE NUTS & SWEETENERS!
It’s the ONLY way you can eat a boat-load of food, fill your tummy, be satiated, get healthy, and STILL LOSE WEIGHT.
No calories to count.
It’s that simple!
Heh. This is why I don’t tell anyone else how to eat.
I remained an omnivore through my 70+ pound weight loss. Even though Gary Taubes and the Healthy Librarian seem to be at opposite ends of a spectrum, I have managed to incorporate bits from each camp. I eat a lot more vegetables and a lot fewer carbohydrates than I ever imagined I would.
I routinely eat six cups or more of vegetables, often in the form of two giant salads. I can attest to what she’s saying about volume of food. I was used to overeating. I think it would have been difficult to stick to the program if I hadn’t continued eating a tummy-filling amount of food.
A number of books I read quoted studies that showed the satiety value of protein. I briefly tried the diet in The Complete Beck Diet for Life by Judith Beck, which isn’t as low-carb as South Beach or Atkins, but lower than anything I thought I’d ever try. Even though I didn’t stay with that plan very long, it convinced me to make two changes.
- I rarely have a snack or meal without some protein.
- At least once a day, I have a snack or meal without a starch.
At restaurants, I often order like someone on Atkins or South Beach since whole grains aren’t usually an option anyway. A salad topped with a piece of meat works well for me. I used to believe that wouldn’t satisfy — maybe that was true when my relationship to carbs was akin to an addiction. An occasional carb-free meal is plenty satisfying now. And, my scale responds well to that choice.
So, Weekend Cooking readers, where do you land on the spectrum from no-carb to no-meat? Are you watching The Weight of the Nation? What do you think?
Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Check her post for links to other food and cooking discussions.