It’s not fat. It’s not sugar. It’s not the USDA guidelines. It’s the DIETS. It has ALWAYS been the diets.

Forward: this blog post is not intended to promote any specific diet or way of eating. This blog post is about critical thinking, and critical thinking alone. This post is meant to promote critical examination of the actual evidence. The intent here is to goad the reader into thinking more deeply about the information they’re consuming and where it’s coming from. The intent is NOT to tell the reader what or how they should eat.

This is a post I made on my facebook wall:

“Diet gurus like to blame the USDA dietary recommendations for the obesity epidemic. But there’s a flaw in their logic.

The USDA dietary recommendations call for 5-9 servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Currently, the percentage of American adults consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables is hovering around 25%.

So, we can safely estimate that at BEST, 25% of American adults are following the USDA dietary recommendations.

So how the gurus figure that the recommendations, which most people don’t follow, are responsible for obesity is beyond me.

No, I’m not advocating any specific diet here, I’m advocating examining the evidence critically. Until we get better compliance with the recommendations, there’s no way to tell if they cause obesity.”

We can’t know how awful, or how good, the guidelines are unless and until people actually follow them. So all the rhetoric blaming them for obesity is completely specious.

But the guidelines made us afraid of fat, Amber! And then we started eating fake processed foods because they were low fat! All because the guidelines said fat was bad!

The guidelines do not recommend a low fat diet. The current guidelines recommend getting 25-30% of calories from fat – that’s not low fat! It’s actually quite moderate. I get about 100 grams of fat a day on average, which works out to about 30% of my calorie intake, which is totally in line with the dietary recommendations. 100 grams of fat a day is NOT low fat.

No, it wasn’t the guidelines that made us fear fat. It was the diet gurus of the time. The diet gurus of the 80’s and 90’s who took the recommendations out of context, who cherry picked evidence, who used logical fallacy to support their claims that their low-fat diet would cure you of disease and obesity. You know, kind of exactly like the low-carb anti-sugar diet gurus of today take recommendations out of context, cherry pick evidence, and base their claims on elaborate logical fallacy constructs to support their claims that their low-carb diet will cure you of disease and obesity. Today’s diet gurus have creatively found a way to blame “the government” for the sins of their predecessors. It was the DIET GURUS that made us afraid of fat. It was the DIET GURUS who sold us low fat diets and low fat fake food and low fat cookbooks. Blaming the government is handy, because it distracts the consumer from the fact that they are selling similar exactly the same shit as the gurus of yore, just wrapped up in a different colored bow. It’s not fat that’s evil any more. It’s sugar now.

But look Amber! The guidelines recommend low fat dairy! It’s CLEAR that the guidelines vilify fat! And you know what happens when ‘they’ take the fat out of dairy…they put in all sorts of toxins and additives and fake stuff!

‘Low fat dairy’ is not synonymous with ‘low fat diet’. I prefer low fat dairy for the texture in general, and also because low fat dairy is more protein dense that regular dairy. Am I saying YOU should eat low fat dairy? No. Eat what you want. But there is more to the low fat dairy recommendation than the ‘fat phobia’ the diet gurus trumpet. Protein density for instance.

And as for the claims that low fat dairy contains fillers and additives and toxins – it’s bullshit. The back of my container of FAGE low fat greek yogurt lists “milk, cream and yogurt cultures” (yogurt cultures are probiotics like acidophilous and bifidus – you know, things the gurus tell you you should take in pill form). Milk, cream and yogurt cultures. That’s it. Where are the toxins? Where are the fillers and additives? They’re in the rhetoric made up by the diet gurus, that’s where. Not in reality.

The USDA guidelines are not responsible for the obesity epidemic. Barely anyone is following them, so there’s no WAY they could be responsible. And the USDA guidelines are not responsibly for fat phobia. The USDA guidelines even explicitly recommend against dropping below 10-15% fat. The DIET GURUS are responsiible for fat phobia. The DIET GURUS are also responsible for sugar phobia and carb phobia and cardio phobia and fruit phobia and bacon phobia and virtually every other food phobia we are plagued with. Those diet gurus are very good at creating a mythology that they the ones saving us all from the evil government, but their logic is flawed. The DIET GURUS, and the DIETS are the problem.


Want to check out the guidelines, and rates of compliance, yourself? Start here:

16 thoughts on “It’s not fat. It’s not sugar. It’s not the USDA guidelines. It’s the DIETS. It has ALWAYS been the diets.

  1. Nice post Amber. You could even add the fact that the caloric RDA guidelines are in fact, far too low for the average person- based on self-reporting of intake from a relatively small sample size. The standard ‘2000’ for a woman is in fact damagingly low for most, whereas doubly-abelled water trials show an intake closer to 3000 for average women under 25, and certainly 2500 for average older women (ie. not the people who exercise loads!). Pressure to change these figures by about 500 kcal in the USA has been scuppered by diet industry interests. If anything, the Govt. guidelines would make people lose weight in the short term, and even damage themselves if stuck to for a long period.

  2. LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Geez, Dr. Oz has a new diet on every day – women out there buy anything he says so are they starting a new diet every day & buying every pill he tells them about – craziness!

  3. The problem is that people want to take everything to an extreme. The whole field of diet attracts obsessiveness.

  4. Everyone cherry picks data to support their bias…and you are no exception.

    Per USDA reports. per capita consumption of fruits and vegetables has actually increased since 1979, so to claim that only 25% of Americans eat the recommended amount doesn’t tell the whole story.

    If we also look at the government’s dietary pyramid of 1992 which touts that the majority of our calories should come from breads, grains, pastas, cereals… and that obesity rates started to rapidly increase around that same time begins to tell a story. We can argue about causation… but at least there’s a data point comparison.

    Here’s another data point: The use of corn sweeteners has “octupled” (also from USDA reports) in recent years. Perhaps this is more telling than the food pyramid recommendations, and while this may not be government’s fault (and I would argue the in some ways it is… since the government provides subsidies to the growers of corn), you seem to be claiming that sugar is not to blame. I disagree. Again, there is a direct correlation between increase in sugar consumption in America and the rise of obesity and diabetes.

    Americans turn to the government for guidance in dietary recommendations… it’s a bit naive to say there is no culpability there. The “diet gurus” were the first to challenge the government’s recommendations about eating the majority of our calories in the form of bread, cereal, rice & pasta. Thank God for that voice! I would argue that they influenced a change in the government’s recommendations…for the better. Sure there are shysters out there making false claims, etc. but there are also many who provide sound advice.

    • “the government's dietary pyramid of 1992 which touts that the majority of our calories should come from breads, grains, pastas, cereals' and that obesity rates started to rapidly increase around that same time begins to tell a story. We can argue about causation” <-- yes, we can absolutely argue about causation. The internet was 'born' right around the same time and everyone's lives began to change dramatically. There's plenty of evidence that Americans have been eating bread/grain in large amounts for hundreds of years - it didn't become a problem until the 80's-90's...which was when video games and the internet changed our day do day lives profoundly. Now kids sit and play video games where they used to play outside. Now adults sit at computers 8-12 hours a day. Much changed in the 80's and 90's that had little to do with diet, and ignoring those factors does a HUGE disservice to people struggling with their weight. Dietary fixation is myopic and unhelpful. And like I said, this post isn't about what people should eat. it's about examining the information we're consuming. People are also eating more calories that they were in 1979. And live more sedentary lives. But it's the grains. Yeah.

      • How dare you look at something other than diet. Context has no place in nutrition! geesh '?

        • ps – what is pretty funny is people are so quick to tear down the USDA guidelines, but if one were to mimic the exact guidelines set forth by the USDA AND (I repeat, AND) follow the ACSM guidelines for exercise, we wouldn’t be in nearly a problem we are now. Yes, I just defended the USDA nutrition guidelines. Obviously I’m working for a major corporation out to screw your health over.

    • “Per USDA reports. per capita consumption of fruits and vegetables has actually increased since 1979, so to claim that only 25% of Americans eat the recommended amount doesn’t tell the whole story. ” <-- yes it does, that is what the report SAYS. Only 25% of Americans eat the recommended amounts, and in fact, the people who aren't eating enough fruits and vegetables are eating LESS fruits and vegetables than they were in 1979. All as per the report.

  5. Even people who claim Science!! refer to the Harvard school of public health researchers as “Authorities” and their guidelines as outdated, especially when it comes to fats and eggs, because they read one abstract on pubmed, usually cited by some food blogger who wants to cook with butter. As an epidemiologist, MD and scientist, I find this very frustrating.

    • Thanks Jan! It must be frustrating indeed.

      I love getting feedback from real scientists, it makes up for having to wade through some of the word vomit (some) other bloggers feel compelled to spew in my comments. Seeing as they know more than scientists and all. '?

  6. Oh my God! There is one sane person left in the world! My faith in humanity is restored. Thank you for writing this. It’s the diets. It’s always been the diets.

  7. Hi! I am loving your blog! I have a quick question, I am Breastfeeding and gaining weight. I was wondering if i should up my cals because i am breastfeeding? My daughter is 10 weeks and at first i dropped off 20lbs. I have gained 7lbs in about 3 weeks. My diet has not changed, I eat clean and normally eat 1900-2100 cals a day

  8. Pingback: May 2014 — Recap | Kelly's Revival

Comments are closed.