Sunday, April 7, 2024

Big Tobacco -- sorry, Big Food -- fights back.

djmilic | Deposit Photos
Toward the end of my time in DC, I was in a bad way. I had been on and off diets for about 50 years, losing hundreds of pounds, only to gain them all back, plus some. I was on two high-priced drugs for type 2 diabetes, one of which was Ozempic. I knew that diets didn't work, and yet every doctor I saw told me I needed to go on another one. When I resisted, I was called noncompliant. The whole dance stressed me out and gave me a binge eating disorder. 

Then a therapist told me about health at every size. The idea is that the scale is not the be-all and end-all -- that your weight doesn't matter as long as your blood pressure, etc., are fine. I glommed onto the idea like a life preserver. The therapist sent me to a dietitian, who recommended a book called The F*ck-It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy. (The publisher put the asterisk in the title, not me.) A lot of what the author wrote made sense to me, so I decided to try eating whatever I wanted, whenever I was hungry.

My fasting blood sugar shot up to about 180. (Note to those who know nothing about blood sugar readings: a fasting reading of between 70 and 100 is normal; 200 is high; at 400, you need to go to the E.R.; and if it's as high as 600, you could go into a coma and die.) I started to maybe think I was being sold a bill of goods -- that as a diabetic, maybe I couldn't eat whatever I wanted. When I broached the subject with the dietitian, I was a titch confrontational -- but the upshot was that she didn't know whether a fasting blood sugar reading of 180 was dangerous for a diabetic or not. We parted ways immediately. Very shortly thereafter, I also parted ways with the therapist who'd sent me to her.

This was not my first run-in with dietitians and nutritionists, although it was the most egregious. So this past week, I wasn't terribly surprised to see this article in the Washington Post: "As obesity rises, Big Food and dietitians push 'anti-diet' advice". It's a gift article, so feel free to click through and read it. The bottom line is that big food manufacturers like General Mills are co-opting the health-at-every-size message and turning it on its head. They claim to be empowering people to reject fat shaming and eat anything they want -- including, of course, Big Food's highly-processed products. To get there, they're enlisting dietitians as social media influencers, even to the extent of paying them to promote the manufacturers' products. (That link is also to a gift article. Both are the result of a new partnership between the Post and The Examination, a nonprofit news organization that specializes in coverage of public health issues around the world.)

The worst part is how these food manufacturers are distorting the health-at-every-size message. Its roots are in the 1960s civil rights movement, according to the article; the original goal was to promote equal access to healthcare. By 1995, the movement had come up with "intuitive eating" as a way for people, including those with eating disorders, to learn to listen for internal hunger cues that diet culture had taught them to ignore. 

As interest in intuitive eating increased, Big Food began to pay attention. Clearly, the industry is scared that the anti-diet movement, along with the success of drugs like Wegovy (aka Ozempic formulated for weight loss) in tamping down desire for junk food, are going to upend their business model. After all, obesity has been deemed a healthcare crisis. So the industry is manipulating the movement's message by "essentially shift[ing] accountability for the health crisis away from the food industry for creating ultra-processed junk foods laden with food additives, sugars and artificial sweeteners," as last week's article says.

This looks suspiciously like the sort of propaganda that Big Tobacco employed for decades to convince its customers that its addictive, cancer-causing products weren't really that bad, and were even healthy.

Last fall, according to the Post/Examination article, the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on a number of influencers and food industry trade groups for not being explicit about who was funding the influencers' posts. But that just means the influencers have to be clear about who's paying for their messaging. They don't have to change their advice.

I'm not trying to discredit all dietitians. I'm sure many of them offer nutritionally sound information and don't take kickbacks for social media posts from anybody. But we've received so much terrible information about nutrition from "experts" over the years -- eggs cause high cholesterol (LOL, nope), margarine is better than butter (actually, the trans fats in margarine make butter the better choice), high fructose corn syrup is fine (not so much), dairy fat is bad (that one's being disproven, too) -- that, well, just be careful about whom you listen to. Especially if it's a paid influencer on social media.

By the way, I didn't lose any weight on Ozempic. See, Ozempic makes your appetite go away. But a big appetite was never my problem; my problem was binge eating due to stress. I ate whether I was hungry or not. It wasn't until I retired, moved cross-country, and started low-carbing that I've lost weight and kept it off.

These moments of doughnut moustrapping have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!


Anonymous said...

Hi Lynette this is Clarice. You know I was taking authentic. And I ended up in the hospital for a week because I ended up with. I ended up with gaba problems pancreatitis Low magnesium, low potassium and low calcium in all those things. Help your Oregon's work. So I was in the process of becoming very real. Thank God for the pain. Should I had that mit sent me to the hospital? And I did lose weight but I don't think it was because of the osamic. It was because I actually. Watch what I was eating. I'm now on. I'm trying your keto diet kinda. I'm not doing a totally but pretty close and it seems like it's working I'm i'm dropping. I dropped a few pounds already in a week. Cell, we'll see how this goes. My niece said Sharlene's daughter. Christina said that she had a girlfriend that did it and she gained all the way back plus more. So I'm a little Larry of it. Any of these diets are in all kind of like. There may work they may not work at depends on your metabolism. And all that other goods s*** but anyway. I just thought i'd let you know about that. So be careful with some of those medications. I had it. I.
I get out that help my nutritionist with that. Help me.
Hydrates, and all that and it really helped curse them. You know, you get crazy and you start doing things you wanna do. When then you start gaining weight again? I mean, I was enormous now I'm down. I'm still large but not as big as I was. So i'm hoping that I will get back To
Problems with my gallbladder and also.
Pancreatitis My, I have, they found out. I had pneumonia and also that I was low and magnesium calcium. And.

Lynne Cantwell said...

Sounds like fun - not. :( I had my gallbladder removed probably 20 or 25 years ago. Didn't have a problem with my pancreas on Ozempic, although I know that some people do. Glad that you got that settled. Whew!

Good luck with the low carb diet! It's tough to give up all that tasty, unhealthy stuff, lol. I have to tell myself that my goal isn't to lose weight, because I know that won't work for me, but to bring my glucose numbers down. I can't control the way my body retains fat or insists on packing it back on, but I *can* control the blood sugar numbers. So that's where my focus is.

Sometimes I think about Grandma and whether she would have lost her leg if we'd known as much about diabetes and diet as we do now. I was only 6 when she died -- wish I could have known her better.

Take care!

Mike Beck said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective. In my decade working as a massage therapist, the subject of body image comes up a lot. I have the privilege of hearing many people's experiences living in their body. So, of course
I had to look into many of the movements that sprung up during my tenure.

Intuitive eating, healthy at any size, and the fat rights movement all seem to stem from a very real need to lower the stigma of being fat. Many of the people I spoke to feel societal pressure to be thin and as a result adopt diet plans with the intent of dropping lots of weight quickly. Our bodies do not like this. One of the main drivers of people regaining weight after dropping it is a process known as adaptive thermogenesis. This is where your muscles become more efficient as a result of strained "caloric budget."

Another way this societal pressure sabotaged my clients is that healthcare systems tend not to be kind to overweight people. Doctors will often prioritize weight loss over addressing other medical concerns. This made them wary of many different providers of medical care. It seems that may even have matched some of your experiences as well. I'm sorry to hear that. Doctors, dietitians, and literally everyone else have their own internal biases that affect the kind of advice that they give. I think the real shame of the story you shared is that your dietitian was so woefully ignorant about diabetes.

In the end, I'm never quite sure what the right answer is. Everyone's eating habits and individual bodily needs are different. There is no one size fits all approach to health.

Lynne Cantwell said...

Mike, thanks for your comment, and I'm sorry I haven't gotten to it sooner. You are absolutely right about the stigma and about how people in healthcare treat those who are overweight.

The weird thing about this particular dietitian was that she understood the mechanics causes diabetes, and even explained it to me at our first meeting. I don't whether she forgot that I was diabetic, whether she truly didn't know the answer to the question I asked her, or whether she thought I was trouble (LOL) and had backed her into a corner. I was just glad to get out of there.

Anyway, you are exactly right that health has no one-size-fits-all answer.