I’ve been a dietitian for a long time. I’ve seen sick patients, well patients, patients with diabetes, heart disease, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, kidney disease, obese patients, and patients with eating disorders.

Genetics and physiology play a role in the development of some disease, but lifestyle and behavior also contributes. There’s never been a time when food has been more political or polarizing. Some people who choose organic judge others who don’t. Some want to point fingers at the food or beverage industry for causing the behaviors that lead to obesity and obesity-related disease (primarily diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease). Some want to blame childhood obesity on school lunches, chocolate milk or soda, while others feel a vegan lifestyle is the solution to our public health woes.

Luscious looking cakes in an Italian bakery are not causing obesity.

Luscious looking cakes in an Italian bakery are not causing obesity.

Super-sized or Super-mindless?

At what point will experts and the media pick up on the behavior end of the story? At what point will someone finally step up and say – it’s not just what you eat, but how and how much of it. It’s not bread or gluten’s fault – it’s the fact that your plate is unbalanced or perhaps your bagel or bun is just too darn huge. It’s not fat’s fault, but eating avocados by the half dozen isn’t going to help anymore than restricting butter. It’s not sugar’s fault, but serving up giant blueberry muffins or guzzling 20 ounce sweet teas or soda on-the-daily could be part of it.

Rather than diss sugar, why not fight for:

  • Regular sized muffins (the ones that were the size of your grandma’s cupcake tin)
  • Normal sized bagels (2.5 inch diameter, not 4 inch diameter)
  • 8-inch wraps (not 10 or 12-inch)
  • 8 ounce beverage cups
  • 6 ounce juice glasses
  • Smaller pieces of cake
  • Not having food around every where you turn

Many anti-sugar fanatics, however, will insist that controlling the food supply is the answer to obesity, while other experts suggest that the fact that “early learning is constrained by children’s genetic predispositions, which include the unlearned preference for sweet tastes, salty tastes, and the rejection of sour and bitter tastes.” has an impact here.

Humans like salty and sweet things. We just do.

A recent study about behavior concluded that the frequency of eating junk food is unrelated to an adult’s body mass index. Well I could have told you that by looking at my 18 year old son who mostly sustains himself on potato chips, popcorn, cereal, milk, and water (save your judging – he eats some vegetables and real meals too). But seriously, behaviors count, and they can be modified!

One of the study authors, Brian Wansink, has done a lot of research into the psychology of eating.

“…clinicians and practitioners seeking to help individuals obtain a healthy weight should examine how overall consumption patterns such as snacking and physical activity influence weight, instead of just eliminating “junk foods” from patient’s diets.”

Registered dietitians know this. The media, and perhaps some celebrity doctors, want to point the finger at the food industry, instead of helping individuals understand their own behavior and helping them modify it in a way that allows them successful, long term weight management.

So don’t buy into the scary headlines that say:

“XXX is Poisoning You”

“XYZ is toxic”

“Never eat this one food!”

Trust a dietitian who is willing to actually interview you, find out about your lifestyle and history, and help you set goals that you can achieve.