This week, the American Heart Association posted a recipe for overnight oats on their twitter account. The recipe called for oats, skim milk, banana, nuts, and a little maple syrup. This sounds pretty innocuous, right? You could quibble with including fat-free dairy, or a little added sugar, if you’re looking for a specific and fine-tuned approach to your diet. But for most folks, this is a lot better than most of what’s out there– it’s a palatable, filling, and high-fiber meal. So why are there 435 comments on this post, including things like “delete your account” and “how to become a diabetic, this is diabolical!!!!!!”? Why is a guy with the handle @KetoFitRapper spending so much time typing vitriolic replies on a thread like this, when he could be out pounding bacon and banging out a few more reps?
People feel strongly about diets (understatement of the day). The strength of their convictions seems unrelated to the level of their knowledge or the value of their plan. What’s going on here?
Here’s one thought: when people make a change in their diets that makes them feel good, they often assume that this same approach is best for everyone else, full stop. This belief can become a distortion where they think others are brainwashed or lazy or stupid if they don’t agree. They think, “This diet clearly works, so why isn’t everyone doing it??”. But one size does not, and never has, fit all. It’s fine if you want to experiment on yourself. It’s not fine if you insist everyone else follow your approach.
Then there are the conspiracy theories– the big pharma, big food, follow-the-money, trying-to-keep-you sick schtick. There’s deep mistrust of healthcare and science organizations from some parts of the public. The thing is, the complaint isn’t completely, 100% bogus, so you can’t just throw it out wholesale. There ARE financial relationships underlying some of the advocacy organizations and research, and evidence DOES shift beliefs over time. Some of this is troubling, and some of it is normal and benign. But to draw these realities to their extreme conclusions is just that– extreme. Doctors don’t want you sick. The decades of research aren’t completely bogus. There’s not a vast conspiracy within the healthcare industry to make Americans sick and fat. So I guess it’s not surprising that the community that takes up this extreme position also suggests extreme diets (carnivore, keto) that lack rigorous evidence for their safety and efficacy– because how could such evidence exist without involving the establishment for money and expertise?
I think a healthy dose of “you do you” is called for, ESPECIALLY in the case of the general public who lack professional duties or personal relationships with the people they’re talking to. So that’s how you get from oatmeal to angry in 280 characters.
So, if you can’t listen to the twitterati yell at each other about carbs vs. keto, what the heck can you trust to help you eat well? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Michael Pollan had it right: Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. This is a basic rule that will serve pretty much everyone. And lots of popular diets can fit this mold. You can do paleo, you can do vegan, you can do mediterranean. You can do high fat, low fat, or who-cares-about-fat. So start with the basics, and see what makes you feel best, perform best, look best, have the best lab results. And do that— even if KetoFitRapper doesn’t think you should!