Monday, May 14, 2012

Dr. Oz Wants You to Slimdown for Summer!

Photo courtesy of
I don't watch Dr. Oz firstly because I have more important things to do during the day but secondly and most importantly, I think he is full of it!  There, I said it!

But I have to admit, he is like a train wreck, however.  I see something he says or writes, and I can't turn away despite all my best intentions.

The train wreck I couldn't turn away from this time was a link I saw via Twitter to his Swimsuit Slimdown Plan.  The article starts by evoking fond memories of your childhood, spending carefree days on the beach or by the pool.  It goes on to point out how many of us avoid these situations as an adult because of the fear of getting into a bathing suit.  The article pulls at your emotions and then reels you in with the common "diet mentality" hook:
You can stay inside all summer, wearing layer upon layer to hide your trouble spots, or always swim in a scuba suit. Alternately, if you’re ready to crank up your confidence, you can follow Dr. Oz’s smart and simple steps to lose weight, feel fit, and regain the confidence you need to wear your bathing suit
What is this amazing plan you ask?  Well let's take a closer look.  It starts like any other fad diet with simple, easy steps to losing weight and a better life.  The first step is to "Sip Smart" with a drink made from 1 cup of grapefruit juice and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  Sounds a little tart to me, and maybe to some others too because Dr. Oz allows you to add 1 teaspoon of honey to make the drink a little more palatable. How generous of you doctor! The premise for this drink, (which is supposed to be consumed before each meal) is that it is high in Vitamin C which Dr. Oz argues will help burn fat DURING exercise.  He cites one study (no link supplied of course) which found that participants with adequate Vitamin C levels burned 30% more fat during moderate exercise than those with lower Vitamin C levels. I found the study that the article references here but I could find no others that support this finding...shocking right? The final sentence is another example of Dr. Oz's fad diet sell:
Drink Dr. Oz’s secret slimdown drink before every meal and you’ll literally burn away your fat while enjoying a citrusy delight.
Part two of the plan is my favorite.  The "slimdown salad" is comprised of 1 bunch of dandelion greens, 1 cup of watermelon and parsley.  The "diet" says that you'll get plenty of healthy protein from the dandelion greens.  Yes, you will get protein from the dandelion greens but according to this nutrition data, you'll get a whole gram of protein for each cup of greens.  One measly gram!  Seriously Dr. Oz, no one on your staff could Google "protein content in dandelion greens" and find that one gram of protein will not fill you up?  The watermelon is included in the salad because it is a "good source" of arginine, "which might promote weight loss" according to a study quoted by Dr. Oz.  The study was from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition and can be seen here.  I'll let you read the full article but the basic gist is that lab rats (n=8 in each of four treatment groups) that were supplemented with over 1 gram of arginine per day had less fat accumulation than the other groups of rats.  So, arginine MAY help prevent fat mass accumulation (according to 1 study of just 24 rats) but this begs the question how much arginine is in a serving of watermelon?  Well there is a total of  86.7 mg per 1 cup.  Wow, an amazing 86.7 mg!  Stand back fat, prepare to meet your doom.  IF the study on arginine is true and it helped, why would you only choose 86.7 mg of arginine?  If you wanted arginine in the salad, why not just add one cup of cooked lentils to the salad which would give you 1380 mg of arginine, 16 grams of dietary fiber and 18 grams of protein?  Now that will fill you up!  But this salad is not being sold to you for taste or for flavor but only as a miracle fat burner high...a quick fix.

The other two parts of this genius summer slimdown is to buy a $40 bottle of aminophylline cream to reduce cellulite and a "sculping" exercise routine that can be done in just 5 minutes each morning.  Since I'm a dieitian I'll focus my critique on the nutrition content of the article and just summarize these two points simply by saying they are more quick fixes from the doctor.

This article bothers me on so many levels.  First off the research Dr. Oz is highlighting are singular studies on a topic and without large scale validity.  Secondly, the nutrition advice does not support the "diet's" goals and it looks like it has come out of a lab and not based on building appealing, delicious and nutritious meals.  Why would I want to drink vinegar and grapefruit juice before each meal?  Come on! Lastly, the reason this bothers me the most is that Dr. Oz is abusing his MD credential.  He is another example of how celebreties use their name to promote a quick fix to weight loss.  Is this any different than Kirstie Alley or Charles Barkley?  Sure Dr. Oz is not selling any supplements but he is selling himself, his reputation and in this case, a fad diet.

There is no simple four step plan to health, weight loss or summer happiness.  This is just another in a long series of diets that MIGHT help you temporarily but they won't provide any long-term solution.  Your solution to health lies within you.  You will discover your own healthy life when you finally reject the diets, honor you hunger, make peace with food, respect your fullness and stop using food to cope with your emotions.  That is how Intuitive Eating works.  Why not start to listen to what your body is telling you about your food choices?  With some practice you will begin to intuitively know what foods make you feel best. 

As always, I welcome your comments.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Intuitive Eating? That Sounds Dangerous"

That is exactly what my close friend's doctor said after their most recent visit this week.  Apparently my friend has gained some weight over the past two years and the doctor said she was concerned about the trend.  My friend mentioned that I'm a dietitian and of course what did the doctor say, "You should have him make you a meal plan." My friend, who has been trying to become an Intuitive Eater, tried to explain some of the basic principles.  That is when the doctor laid out the gem that is the title of this blog post.  Her next sentence was, "I would intuit to have a candy bar every day."  Well doc, maybe that is just what your body needs.

Intuitive Eating (IE) is scary for some people.  Imagine what it must be like after years of dieting and the constant good vs. bad fight going on in your head to then say, I can eat whatever I want.  The answer is yes...yes you can.  One of the basic principles of IE is to make peace with food.  This means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.  When we don't have permission to eat what we crave, we hide what we eat, we binge and most of all we feel guilty and like a failure when we do "cheat."  Until you break down all the existing food rules and diet mentality, you can not learn to listen to your body and choose the foods that honor your health.

I feel horrible now because my friend is once again obsessed with the scale.  They are once again looking at diet books and different tools to help that silly number on the scale go in the right direction instead of focusing on their health.

I think what upset me the most about the doctor's comments was two things.  First, the doctor dismissed IE like it's just some trivial notion...that eating what we crave and making peace with food is something from a science fiction movie.  That couldn't be farther from the truth.  IE is written by accomplished RDs, it's based on research and we are finding that Intuitive Eaters are healthy individuals.  The second is that doctors have influence over people.  And to make a comment like that to someone who is struggling to listen to their intuition is a real set back into their diet mentality.  This is the exact sort of situation that believers of Intuitive Eating struggle with all the time.  It is part of all of our journeys.

If you would like to read some of the research on IE, just click here.  Also, weight is not the only determinate of good health and some would argue that weight is actually a very poor indicator of health. If you are interested in learning more about that go here and here.

As always I welcome your comments.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How I Got Here: A Career Change Success Story

(reprinted from feed your career)

I spent almost 10 years as a Producer of on-line video games. I focused mostly on children’s entertainment and educational titles. I worked for both large production companies and small start-ups. I got into that profession just by chance. I dropped out of college when I was 21 after floundering for a long time, I got a job as a game-tester and thought I made the big time because I was being paid to play video games for a living. It wasn’t as glamorous as I thought but I still enjoyed the work and moved my way up the “corporate ladder” until I was managing the development process of games I had thought up. I managed a team of artists and designers and I was the person in charge of timely delivery of a quality product that didn’t go over budget. Even though I worked with great people, I never really loved going to work, in fact I ended up dreading it. I would start to stress-out Saturday night because I knew my weekend was almost over and I would have to go back to work on Monday morning.
Let me pause because I need to give some other background at this time. I’ve struggled with weight my entire life. After high school I became less active and I started to gain weight quite quickly. By the time I was 27, I weighed over 300 lbs. One morning I woke up and literally said to myself, “Enough is enough.” I started to exercise, eat right and I lost over 100 lbs in about a year without any outside help. It was quite literally a life-changing moment, not just because I was healthier, but I realized that I can do anything I put my mind to. So now we return to my life as a Producer which was horrible. I just coasted through my responsibilities, much like my life during college. After realizing that I was not getting anything more than a paycheck from my work, I went back to school to complete my BS in Nutrition so that I could become a RD.
After failing at school the first time, I sailed through my school work the second time around. I was motivated and happy and the grades reflected that. I treated school like my job and dedicated myself to learning as much as I could. Fast forward through graduation and my dietetic internship, to where I am now an outpatient dietitian working at the VA teaching classes as part of the MOVE program to help vets lose weight.

I hated my job as a video-game producer. I was not motivated but I didn’t know why. I had already read, What Color is My Parachute to help me identify what I’m good at so I had some insight into what previous experiences in my past had given me the most fulfillment. I began to research becoming a RD after losing weight but I was scared to go back to school. I was a miserable student the first-time around, but I also knew that becoming a RD was really the most “legitimate” way to go.
Finally, I found a career counselor who sat down with me and talked me through a lot of things. He helped me identify what I really wanted out of work and why I was so miserable in my current career. When I told him about the RD thing and mentioned how scared I was about returning to school he said, “You know your whole attitude changed when you started talking about this.” He said I lit up and was upbeat. He told me not to worry about the school thing, that if I loved it, I would excel. He also said, “So you become an RD at 35…that still means you could work in that job for 30+ years!” It was through those discussions that I really realized this was going to be a great career change for me.

I clearly remember telling my now wife that I was going to quit work and go back to school. I was worried about telling her and what she would say but she said that if that’s what I wanted to do, then I should go ahead and do it and we would figure out how to make it work! We were going to live on only one income for a few years, but that was ok. That was a relief!
My biggest freak-out moment though was the first night after I got home from summer school. I had to take college algebra at a community college as a pre-req for the Statistics course I had to complete before I could transfer to the university. I came home and cried for about 30 minutes thinking about what had I gotten myself into. My wife finally talked me down, but that was the first time that I my career change became real.

A lot of people are unhappy with their jobs. I’ve learned that there are pros and cons to every job, no matter what. There is always going to be politics, things you don’t like and things that make you crazy. We each need to make that personal list for ourselves and really understand what makes us happy at work. I knew for sure I needed to change careers, after bouncing around from company to company. At each new job, I was still unhappy. I finally realized the only thing that was consistent at each new place was ME. I was what needed to change.
That forced me to think about what I needed in a career. I realized that I don’t care about being the boss, getting a huge paycheck or being responsible for others. I don’t need to cure cancer or be famous, but what I do need is some positive personal interaction each day and to feel like I made a difference in someone’s life. My best days are the ones when I make that connection with one person; their eyes open up and they feel like they can change their life because of a conversation or advice they have gotten from me. That is worth a million dollars!

It was interesting to hear what people said when I told them I was going back to school or that I was a 32 year-old full time student. Either they said “that is amazing”, “how great”, or they would question how I would pay the bills, or was this just “an escape from reality” instead of just “sucking it up”. What I found is that those who fit in the latter category, were really just insecure and unhappy in their current jobs. Those were their thoughts about their careers…not mine. That helped me let it just roll off my back.
That being said, I had an unbelievable support system. My wife was willing to move to a smaller apartment, save money, and put off starting our family until I finished school. She helped me study for tests, proof-read papers and listened as I worried about not succeeding. Let me just say, I couldn’t have done it without her! She’s the best!