My goal in this article is not to bash nutritionists, the government, or lobbyists. My goal is to encourage people to think for themselves. The information that’s put out there by nutrition experts has some truths and some areas that don’t make perfect sense yet. People need to be mindful of their body, using the gentle HeartMark Health method to nutrition. It’s a lifestyle method that will keep you more aware of your health. It’s a method for listening to one’s body and integrating that information with the information that’s available.
I traced here a bit of the cultural history of our nation’s dietary habits. The dietary errors are part of the cultural errors of each era. The key is for people to teach themselves to use recipes for health as guidelines only so that they can find what’s truly right for their body.
When regular civilians are growing up, they are taught in schools about the food groups. (I am talking about the generation that grew up on the various food pyramids.) They memorize nutrition facts that the government provides. And they develop an assumption that there is some truth out there about what is right to eat and what is wrong. People assume that some scientists out there measured our body and measured all these ingredients and that they divided and analyzed it all and that everything makes perfect sense to somebody. More than that, they assume that the government’s nutrition is a perfect science and that they will get it right if they are …good enough.
Then, when these people grow up, they start to gain weight, and they struggle with nutrition. They seek advice from “experts.” They go to Weight Watchers, they read articles, and if they can afford it, they even go to nutritionists. And yet they don’t manage to match this so called science. The harder they try, the less it makes sense. But they take it personally and feel like failures.
Unfortunately, nutrition was not perfectly understood all these years. General ideas were accurate, but many of the specifics were not a perfect recipe. More importantly, the method to teach an entire generation was faulty. The method was faulty because no one was teaching people to listen to their own needs and their own body. People were trying to follow the government’s guidelines, and the guidelines were only partially helpful.
The US government had to change its teachings recently because the nutritionists, pediatricians, and scientists who work for the government learned something new after all these years. Or they partially admitted to it finally. Either way, it took them a really long time. The new food plate is not a different method to teach what the government already knew. It’s an admission of a mistake. The government was teaching mistakes before. This influenced what licensed independent nutritionists were teaching. It influenced what people were buying. It influenced school lunches. It influenced the nation. The new guideline is still not a scientific fact, but a guideline. The theme that you find with all of HeartMark Health is that you should collect information from external sources and also collect information from your body and listen to your body to learn what’s right.
While the government’s experts tried to consult, powerful lobbyists insisted on getting their industry’s product into the food pyramid. The result was a huge emphasis on grouping foods by the lobbying group’s main product’s name. Just look at the pyramid or the new plate and see how illogical it is. Why is the dairy group called “dairy” and not the “calcium” group if calcium is the main goal of that group? Why is the new food plate calling what used to be the “meat and beans” group now the “protein” group? In the meantime, the government does not refer to the fruits and vegetables and grains by their nutritional benefits at all. Why doesn’t the government divide all foods by the same consistent method? Why does the government divide some foods based on their nutritional benefit, while other times it divides them by some other inconsistent method like their botanical classification?
HeartMark Health’s Food Plate:
I tried to take my own knowledge of nutrition to find a method that I could use teach people years ago. It had to be simple enough for children and adults to be able to learn, but not dumbed down. After all, it is about our body and the food we put into our mouth. We are all smart enough, right? Of course!
My own lectures included a plate, like a real meal, that divided the groups based on some main benefits that you need to remember to get. Food offers the body many benefits, so it is not easy to pick just a few main benefits. I understand the government’s difficult task to some degree. I am thankful that I tried to make and teach a guideline so that I can know now what works and what doesn’t.
I chose: lean protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals from fresh sources, calcium from lean sources, essential oils, and exercise (outside the plate.) This is your plate, whether small or big, whether for snacks or for bigger meals. I can teach this lecture in one hour to children. I can explain the main sources for each group, I can explain the benefits, and I can explain how well they interact together.
My HeartMark Health plate ignores the wording that the lobbyists would want. I don’t want to hurt their industries. My focus is to teach people to eat the right foods based on what’s right for their body. I am not against any particular food source.
The government’s nutritionists are people, too. They grew up learning from previous nutritionists. The wrong information and the wrong assumptions were handed down. They were not just fighting the lobbyists. I think they were not very aware of the errors of the pyramid. I don’t know if they understood the impact that the pyramid was having on the entire nation. Maybe they thought something else was at fault. No one took the time to listen to what actually made sense to their body or to the general population.
I am not talking about all the information. Some of the main concepts were right. But quite a lot of information has been false.
The general concepts that were always accurate are that people should eat a variety of foods. The recommendations to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods, avoid salt and sugar, and avoid artificial ingredients were always right.
While people were given generally accurate guidelines, something else was influencing the nation. It was a trend toward ignoring one’s needs. A culture of recipes, formulas, and the perception that there are “ultimate truths” was brewing:
The cultural errors influenced the dietary errors:
When I was young, people said that no one should eat in between meals. They talked about moral strength to resist temptations. The famous Dr. Spock book even encouraged nursing moms to not feed their babies on the baby’s demand, but rather on a very strict schedule. These failed policies completely discouraged people from listening to themselves. They were teaching people to ignore their own body’s signs. They also made everyone feel guilty. People thought they were morally weak if they dared eat something in between meals.
I have to dedicate another paragraph to the horrible idea of ignoring the baby’s cries for food. How a parent can deprive a baby’s signal for nutrition horrifies me. A baby’s need for nutrition is certainly not some consistent amount. Babies have growth spurts. They have moments of faster metabolism. Some babies grow faster in size than others. They have hours when they are more active than other hours. The idea that a parent should follow some other person’s advice, some random male who got to publish a book–and that they would listen to this stranger more than to their own child’s cries–gives me shivers. And yet really great, caring parents did this. They did this because they were growing up in this culture of this strict adherence to schedules and morality was so closely associated with it. And they wanted to be really good and moral parents with really good=moral babies.
In this same culture, people were trained to not listen to their bodies. Babies were growing up learning to ignore their own body’s signals as well. The only benefit to not eating in between three meals a day is that the teeth get less sugar—assuming that people brush after each meal.
However, people are not built in a factory that spits everyone out the same. People have active days, sick days, stressed out days, holidays, and lazy days. For women, the changes in nutritional needs are more pronounced with the cycle of the periods. Peoples’ nutritional needs change just like the baby’s. They need to adjust their food. They need to keep their blood sugar balanced. They should eat as frequently as their body requests. They should listen to their hunger. They should listen to their body. This skill is not being taught enough!
When I was growing up, Weight Watchers and real nutritionists with high degrees encouraged 5 servings of grains a day. (Lobbyists for the farmers and manufacturers of grains influenced a whole nation who unwittingly was sure that this was the scientifically best food for them.) In 8th grade, I was encouraged to add 3 more servings of grains in order to lose weight. I was a good girl who did what I was told, so I tried to follow this uncomfortable program. They saw me gain weight and told me that it takes the body time to adjust and that it is natural and normal to gain weight before you lose, even as I told them that I can barely force myself to eat these greater amounts and that I am not used to so much bread. No one, except me, stopped to realize how ridiculous this was. I am not even touching the surface to the amount of ridiculous mistakes these “experts” were making. They actually called me their first failures. All of them.
(I shouldn’t have even been their patient to begin with, because I wasn’t really overweight by sane people’s measures. I was 108lbs in 8th grade, at 5’1. Weight Watchers insisted that I should be 98. I forced myself to eat by their suggestions and gained and became 114. I left. I went down to a weight of 109. An expert nutritionist forced me into a similar stupid program. I gained again. She called me her first failure. I secretly determined, in my gentle approach to life, that she is a moron. I am so lucky that she was a combination of knowledgeable and clearly ignorant at the same time. By college, I vowed not to diet and yo-yo. By the end of college, I was back to 108, and that’s been my weight since, wedding, pregnancies, and 3 kids later. Zero yo-yoing since I lived independently. I think most people with my height and dimensions will be happy to be my weight. But it is not about the weight. It is about finding the balance between what you love to eat, the habits that you can maintain, the nutrition that your body needs, and the size that you are comfortable in.)
Fads Made no Sense for a Reason!
When I was in Junior High, people said that you should not eat between meals. Not me. I always said that my stomach is small and I cannot fit the entire meal all at once. This nonsense of sitting down to eat so much at once and then not eating in between made no sense, and more so to a petite person. I later learned that if you eat too much at once, you’re bound to crash and need an extra boost of sugar soon after such a tiring big meal. So I was actually listening to my body when I’d come home from a restaurant and head for the kitchen. I wasn’t being bad after all! This was the early days of HeartMark Health in the making!
By high school, I was following every article I could get my hands on. “No fat. Avoid fats, and you’ll be thin.” That was one silly fad. Everyone lived on cheap starches. (Not me.) “Eat fat—eat it and you won’t be hungry and you’ll be thin!” (That did not make sense to one so petite. I was eating healthy fats and avoiding unhealthy fats.) The Atkins “Eat protein and fat…” left out the need for calcium and lean protein, essential fats rather than dangerous ones, and the all important mega amounts of fruits and vegetables. He dumbed the diet down because simple formulas sell.
Basically, people were not finding success with the government’s guidelines. They tried to work with it. They didn’t try to rewrite it. They came out with formulas that fit the government’s formula. The new formulas contradicted each other because they were never bringing people success.
I truly think that very few people knew how to just eat healthy and exercise and to teach people to think for themselves.
A Culture of Recipes
We live in a culture that is really used to recipes. People are trained from day 1 to follow recipes for every part of their lives. Do they think that they will blow up or lose all control if they find their own course in life? People follow recipes for weight loss, recipes for diets, recipes for cooking, recipes for love, recipes for what they should keep in their closet, recipes for selling, recipes for climbing the corporate ladder, and recipes for party planning. I dare not mention some of the many other recipes out there. Recipes are easily packaged and sold. They cost little to manufacture and bring in lots of $. Selling them is the perfect recipe to success.
The cultural message is that if you can come up with a diet program and if you can turn it into a packagable recipe, you are going to be on Oprah. In reverse, people perceive falsely that if they are not following a recipe of some sort, they will fail.
I really do know people who won’t change anything from a recipe. They can’t think outside the list. They are afraid they will lose control. But they have not learned to have control in the first place.
Can you listen to your hunger? Can you truly know when to start and when to stop eating? Has anyone taught you the skill and the confidence to know that you can do it? It is humanly possible to eat when hungry.
It is not something that you determine based on some formula. The answer is not in the “serving suggestion on the back of each box. You don’t have to look at some clock. You don’t need some machine to read your belly or your sugar level (unless you suffer from diabetes.)
Other articles that I already posted teach how to listen to the hunger. There is a clear difference between deep down hunger and a need for a pick-me-up. There is a way to know what cravings mean and how to satisfy them. There is a way to know when to stop eating. You can give yourself bonus rounds and stop eating when you are satisfied. You can walk away from every meal in your life and feel energized, full, guilt-free, and ready to move on to do other things.
You don’t have to be a slave to your thoughts of food, or thoughts of resisting food.
You don’t have to be a slave to formulas. You can determine your own recipes. You need to be comfortable because it is your life and not someone else’s. You need to find your own recipes that keep you comfortable, healthy, pain free, well balanced, and happy. If you follow someone else’s prescription completely, it will not match your own needs enough.
You should use other recipes as guidelines. If you listen to yourself carefully, you might just come up with the right recipe that will make many others happy, too. You might just be able to package it and end up on Oprah, too!
*You can read my study on the related “Substitution Theory” in another blog. I have been following my own formulas since I graduated. This is how I invented the heart hand gesture and marketed it. I’m talking from experience.