Look around you: Americans are among the fattest people on earth, fatter than any group of people before us. People judged overweight or obese in 1960 would now be viewed as thin. Obesity has achieved such a level of severity that we need a new category of “super-obese” with body mass indexes (BMIs) of 45 or higher (compared to the longstanding BMI of 22 in preceding populations, 20-21 in hunter gatherer populations). Agencies in the business of providing dietary advice, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Diabetes Association, attribute this trend to laziness and inactivity, overeating, calories in exceeding calories out. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans leave no doubt about the severity of this societal problem and their stand on the solution: “About half of all American adults have one or more preventable, diet-related chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and overweight and obesity. . . More than two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and youth are overweight or obese.”
Eat a hamburger and the Guidelines will persuade you that the problem is the cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium in the hamburger. Have some pepperoni pizza and the Guidelines tell you that it’s the fatty cheese and pepperoni that is the source of health problems. They say cut back on the meat and fat and eat more of the bun, breads, and rolls. And Americans have, over time, followed their advice, increasing their adherence:
Have the Guidelines, widely discussed nationwide, been a success? No, of course not. But why? The HHS, USDA, and other agencies all agree: you eat too much and move too little because people fail to follow their Guidelines—yet their own data suggest that Americans are increasingly adhering to the Guidelines. They argue that, if everyone would just follow the Guidelines even more closely and cut back on fat, eat more grains, and be more physically active the entire problem would disappear.
Then why were people slender and far less likely to develop type 2 diabetes in 1950, 1960, or 1970 before the Guidelines were developed?
Just so you understand that the Guidelines are not just a piece of meaningless bureaucratic nonsense with no practical consequences, know that schools are required to adhere to them via the School Lunch Program. This is why you hear about children being sent home because they failed to have a grain-based food in their lunch bags. Agencies like the USDA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conduct educational programs to professionals and the public to broadcast this awful message. This is why most doctors still think that cutting fat and weighing the diet in favor of grains with sugar “in moderation” are still healthy practices, why dietitians advise that you can simply walk off the can or two of Coca Cola you drink.
Imagine I set you and your family down in a remote setting: no food, no cell phone, no car, etc.–just basic tools for survival. How would you go about eating? We would all eventually tap into instinctive behaviors, especially as thirst and hunger set in: find running water, craft crude weapons like traps and spears, then hunt squirrels, rabbits, or other small game, look for eggs, pick berries, spear fish, etc. Following such a back-to-the-wild plan, type 2 diabetics would no longer be diabetic within a few weeks, obese people would be slender within a few months, most autoimmune diseases would reverse over time, many other chronic conditions would lessen or disappear. Yes, much modern health problems and overweight are caused by modern diet, now made much worse by the absurd pronouncements of the Dietary Guidelines, aided and abetted by the predatory practices of Big Food.
The good news: Recognize these basic facts and you are empowered to not be victimized by the Dietary Guidelines. In fact, do the opposite: Eat more fat, eat no “healthy whole grains,” never count calories, and don’t “ask your doctor” about healthy eating.