For all the health and nutrition advice out there, it seems the holy grail of health continues to elude us. Consumers are still bombarded by conflicting messages, so I continue my mission of trimming the (bad) fat and giving people the skinny on what’s really going to help them lose weight and achieve some personal health goals. When I read the following excerpt from another registered dietitian’s article today about the book, The Gene Smart Diet, it triggered a reaction in me. Conflicting advice and mixed messages abound in the press, which is apparent if you have read a recent TIME article about exercise as well. Please read the excerpts followed by my comments.
Everyone knows that genes are responsible for the color of your eyes, your bone structure, and whether you’ll live to a ripe old age. But are your genes also the key to losing weight? According to The Gene Smart Diet, understanding how your genes work is the secret to weight control and reducing your risk of disease.
Wake Forest University professor, Floyd Chilton PhD, author of The Gene Smart Diet, says that our genes were simply not designed for today’s diets and lifestyles, and that this mismatch is causing us to miss out on important bioactive substances in food that send messages to our genes to keep us healthy.This mismatch, he says, has been a major contributor to the nation’s health crisis, including obesity and chronic inflammatory diseases.
But your genes are not indelible blueprints, Chilton says, and by following the Gene Smart Diet you can change the way your genes are expressed, which can lead to weight loss and better health.
“Follow my five simple diet and exercise strategies to get your genes to work for you and it will help you improve your health by reducing the likelihood of certain chronic disease, slow down the aging process, and accelerate weight loss,” Chilton says.
The five principles of The Gene Smart Diet are:
- Exercising more.
- Reducing calories.
- Increasing fiber.
- Adding omega-3 fatty acids.
- Increasing polyphenols (a type of antioxidant found in fruits, vegetables, and tea).
(From a review of this book by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on WebMD)
About those five points. Ok, the last three are good. I agree on all and actually spend a lot of time teaching people daily how to do exactly that — focus on getting enough good fats, fiber and phytochemicals. It’s what I preach. Back to the first two points … Who hasn’ t gotten the “exercise more” message by now? But if you saw the recent TIME magazine article titled “The Myth About Exercise,” you may be feeling confused, no?! Here is an excerpt:
You’ve heard it for years: to lose weight, hit the gym. But while physical activity is crucial for good health, it doesn’t always melt pounds — in fact, it can add them.
(By John Cloud, TIME magazine, August 17, 2009)
Both authors may be well intentioned … but if nothing else, the TIME article’s title misleads readers, especially those looking for an out when it comes to exercise. If they read the entire article, there is good information to take away, i.e. diet really does matter. However, the title and introduction are all many people read. In direct opposition, the seemingly helpful and simple edict of The Gene Smart Diet to “exercise more” does not necessarily speak the right message to individuals either. What I am getting at is that we need to start defining the word “exercise” or, better yet, start talking specifics about how Americans can simply increase daily activity. For example, if as a nutrition counselor I tell someone to eat less fat, I am making some strong assumptions that 1) They know what fat is and where it comes from. 2) They eat too much of it, particularly of the bad kind. Both assumptions could be false. In fact, never make assumptions. … That is why when someone professes that “you” (the plural), typically referring to the average American adult, should “exercise more” and “eat fewer calories,” I have to interject some information! I conduct weight loss programs and counsel clients on weight loss. I know their frustration with such information. Many already exercise a lot, and I know many people who actually need to eat more calories (but perhaps different ones!) Others can’t “exercise” due to health issues. In other words, making blanket recommendations like that simply confuses and turns many consumers off. In any case, it is time to start teaching people that it’s not really about exercise per se but about increasing activity. Period. Take the pressure off people already! Get them m-o-v-i-n-g more! Walk or a ride a bike and take the stairs. Carry your laundry basket up 2 flights of stairs. Carry groceries to your car that is parked farther away than usual. Why are we always saying how healthy the European lifestyle is yet not following it? Do they run to the gym before or after work like we do? Or feel guilty if they don’t? No. But many do ride a bike or walk to work or to the grocery store. My message: spend less time sitting during the day. Some/any activity is better than no activity. As for calories, each person has individual requirements. It is possible to eat too few and not lose weight. Consult a dietitian for a personal assessment of your daily calorie needs.