The Rise of the Anti-Diet Movement: Is it No Longer P.C. to Want to Lose Weight?

Body positivity.  Anti-diet.  No doubt, there’s a ditch-the-diet movement going on. Heck, even Weight Watchers ditched “weight,” opting for the name WW instead.

Cries of “diets don’t work” are getting louder, and increasing numbers of registered dietitians  are embracing a “nondiet” philosophy — which was recently highlighted by dietitian Cara Rosenbloom in the Washington Post  A new trend in health care: the “nondiet” dietitian. 

I liked many parts of the article, but it begs the question:  What’s the opposite of a “nondiet” dietitian, a “diet” dietitian?  So everyone else is about rules and restrictions?  Are we separating dietitians by who supports weight loss vs. those who reject it?

It seems to me there’s a growing divide among dietitians.

Even though many dietitians have built their careers on “intuitive eating” and warn about today’s “diet culture,” other dietitians are pointing out that the “anti-diet movement” may have some problems.  Or maybe there’s not even agreement on what “anti-diet” really means.

One recent rant has been widely discussed among dietitians.  Emily Kyle wrote a provocative post I am Not an Anti-Diet Dietitian — and let’s just say, it got a lot of attention.

I don’t feel that the term anti-diet dietitian aligns with my core audience with what I want to help them with. I don’t think that my core audience knows what an anti-diet dietitian is.  I feel like writing anti-diet dietitian in my Instagram bio is just what all the cool kids are doing these days.

She made some good points.

The one thing that has freaked me out the most about the Intuitive Eating community is the complete black and white way of looking at things.  I don’t know how to explain it, but in so many conversations that I have secretly read from the comfort of my Facebook screen, I have been turned off by the black and white thinking of this movement.

In contrast, Emily wrote about her approach with clients.

I will never weigh you or ask you to lose weight.  I will hear you, and I will sympathize with you when you say you want to lose weight.  I won’t tell you that you are wrong for wanting that.

Registered dietitian Jessie Shafer addressed the topic in Delicious Living Has the Anti-Diet Movement Gone Too Far?

A downside of the anti-diet movement is the rejection of any conversation about diets or weight loss for proven healing or the pursuit of wellness through food.  Those can be — and largely are — very positive messages and stories to tell.  And even if dieting or watching your weight are not parts of your path to personal wellness and markers of your own health (it’s not a main focus for me), that doesn’t mean it’s not a meaningful tool or pursuit for others.

Another RD Samantha Cassetty recently wrote about the topic for NBC News.com Is the Anti-Diet Movement Leading us Astray?

I don’t agree that the desire to lose weight is always a sign of self-loathing as some anti-diet experts would have you believe.  Perhaps for some, but for others the desire to shed some weight is an act of self-care and can be a positive experience.

This was the theme of an opinion piece in the New York Times by Kelly deVos, author of Fat Girl on a Plane, who wrote about her daughter’s desire to lose weight,  The Problem with Body Positivity

Many people in the body positivity movement — which I’d like to count myself a member of — believe that the desire to lose weight is never legitimate, because it is an expression of the psychological toll of fat shaming. So any public discussion of personal health or body size constitutes fat shaming.

In my case, I’m still trying to get it right.  But I’ve come to feel that loving yourself and desiring to change yourself are two sentiments that should be able to peacefully coexist.

Amen.  I totally agree with that.

Similarly, Amber Petty, a writer and blogger in LA, addressed the topic in Greatist, Is the Body Positivity Movement Going Too Far?

So although it sounds extreme to say that dieting and weight loss are not part of body positivity, I think there’s some truth to that statement.  That doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight or want to lose weight and still think positively of yourself.  Individuals should do whatever they want.

I’ve had mixed feelings about the body positivity movement, but I’ve become more positive for body positivity than I would have thought. To me, they’re asking that we end the cycle of obsessing over our bodies.  Sure, some proponents of this movement go too far and claim that people who lose weight are traitors.  But most advocate just appreciating yourself as you are, and than means being OK with wanting to lose weight or being OK with staying heavy.

Even the founder and CEO of Greatist weighed in on the issue (sorry, no pun intended).  Derek Flanzraich declared It’s Ok to Want to Lose Weight

…somehow saying you want to lose 10 pounds (OK, really 15) still seems like such as shameful admission.  That’s silly — most of us want that.  Most of the country probably wants to lose more weight than that.

So we should be talking about it.  Otherwise, how can we find a healthier way to succeed at it?  I also worry the body-positive movement is holding us back, not pushing us forward.

She concludes:

To tackle weight loss the right way, we need to destigmatize it.

It’s OK to want to lose weight.

And it’s important we talk about it so we can work together to accomplish it in a way that sticks.

Yes, it’s OK to want to lose weight.  Yes, you can feel good about yourself and still want to achieve a healthier weight — and there’s more than one way to do that.  I don’t believe that dietitians should be divided into “nondiet” and “diet” dietitians.  But I do think that sometimes we don’t understand — or appreciate —  another way of thinking.  I certainly don’t like it when we attack each other, which happens all too often.  Maybe there are misconceptions on both sides.

I really liked this article by registered dietitian Kara Lydon in Shape, who tried to clarify what the anti-diet movement is, and what it isn’t:  The Anti-Diet Movement is Not an Anti-Health Campaign

Some say that the anti-diet movement has been misconstrued with countless Instagram posts of burgers, pizza, and ice cream, but what about all of the accounts that post nothing but smoothie bowls and salads? Burgers and pizza aren’t any more “extreme” than a massive acai bowl or kale salad after all. My hope is that the anti-diet movement helps to normalize some of the foods that have been demonized by diet culture so that eventually, we’ll stop calling food “good” or “bad” and start looking at food as just, food.

I wholeheartedly agree. Foods should not be demonized — and we shouldn’t attach fear, guilt, regret or morality to food.  We also shouldn’t have a narrow view of what’s “good” food — from smoothie bowls and kale salads to green smoothies and keto dairy-free, gluten-free chia pudding.  Sure, there are lots of problems with today’s diet culture.  But I think we shouldn’t appear to be so anti-diet that we send the message that we’re against weight loss. 

How can dietitians help people achieve weight loss in a healthy way — in a way that reinforces new habits and lifestyle changes. Yes, there’s more to being healthy than the number on the scale, but It’s OK if you want to see a lower number when you do step on it. No one should be ashamed of that.  It’s how you work on this goal that’s important.

Just hearing that “diets don’t work” may be discouraging and defeating. Let’s switch the focus to what DOES work — whether for wellness or weight loss.

This isn’t a new topic.  I wrote about a debate between Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size (HAES), and obesity researcher John Foreyt at our annual nutrition conference back in 2011, Is the War on Obesity a Battle Worth Fighting?

Now I’m about to attend the same conference in Washington, DC, and a similar debate is scheduled for our 2018 meeting.  I’ll be sure to report back.  But I bet I’ll come to the same conclusion as 2011.  Can’t we all get along?    Can’t intuitive eating and body positivity coexist with losing weight?  Why must we line up on two sides?  Why the conflict?

Tell me what you think.

 

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2019 Food Trends: Buzz-Worthy Foods and Ingredients You Need to Know

Get ready. 2019 food trend predictions are happening.

One of the first reports to be released is from Baum + Whiteman, international food and restaurant consultants based in Brooklyn.  Here are a few highlights from their list of the hottest food and beverage trends in restaurant and hotel dining for 2019.

Shiso leaf goes mainstream

Khatchapuri

King Oyster mushrooms

Zhoug

Tahini in unexpected places

Oat milk craze wiping out other alt-dairy milks, probably boosting other oat products

Food from the stans: Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and other breakaway republics from the former Soviet Union

French cooking will make its annual comeback

Jewish restaurant food continues its growth curve

Edible flowers

Floral infusions in plain old water

Hemp and cannabis in cocktails, soft drinks, beer and cooking

Low-calorie vegan ice cream

Umami-boosting, meat-aging Koji

Asian pastry/sandwich shops

Katsu sando (pork or chicken cutlet sandwich)

Pour-your-own-beer systems

Duck and chicken liver preparations in restaurants that people trust

No-alcohol cocktails at fancy martini prices

Szechuan peppercorns reappear in Chinese Hot Pots and Dry Pots

Hard seltzer

Sour Calamansi aka Calamondin

After the last straw local governments launch war on Styrofoam

More chefs taking on activist roles on environmental degradation, and disaster food relief (thank you Jose Andres)

 

Image credits:

Hokkaido sea urchin with shiso leaves, yuzu kosho, elderflower jelly, kimchi and seaweed by City Foodsters on flickr

Katsu sandwich by Megumi on flickr

King Oyster mushrooms courtesy of Wendell Smith on flickr

 

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No, Cockroach Milk Is NOT the Next Big Superfood. So Just Stop It.

Maybe you saw the headlines declaring cockroach milk as the next big thing.  All of a sudden, this “big news” was just about everywhere, including here and here.  It was even touted in USA Today.

Or perhaps you saw a segment about cockroach milk on TV. Here’s one from CBS.

Before you start seeking out cockroach milk to pour on your cornflakes, there are a few things you should know.

For starters, this frenzy was based on an obscure 2016 study from India.  It made news back then and for some reason the coverage has started up again.

But this study was to benefit cockroaches, not humans.  The scientists even say they’re not sure cockroach milk is safe for human consumption.  That’s not what this study was even about.

Yet the news has gone viral.

Can we just cut it out.  Cockroach milk is not a new food trend.  The researchers did not intend to suggest this is the most nutritious beverage you can drink.  No, it’s not “gaining popularity” as the coverage has claimed.

No, it’s not the “new health obsession” as Marie Claire announced.

It was a study.  And once again, research results are being misinterpreted and used to create sensational headlines.   You can’t even buy this stuff yet the stories make it sound like cockroach milk is flying off the shelf.

That’s not the case.

It’s true that insects are increasingly being eyed as potential sustainable protein source, and new products are being introduced — primarily cricket flour nutrition bars.  Gourmet Grubb is frequently cited in the cockroach milk stories, but this South African company’s “entomilk” is made from farmed insects and it’s not cockroach milk.  The Cape Town company is making ice cream from this entomilk, and it’s gotten some food-tech attention, but the product is not even on the market yet. So the media coverage has even got that wrong.

So can we move on now, please?

 

 

 

 

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Dutch Treat: My Delightful Experience With the Eating Amsterdam Food and Canals Tour

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new place — especially in Europe — is to sign up for a walking food tour.  I had a business trip to Amsterdam and didn’t plan ahead for any free time, but I was lucky enough to be a last minute addition to a tour group with Eating Europe.  It was fantastic!  And our guide, Rudolph Kempers, was the best.  I love learning some history along with the food, and he certainly delivered.

The Dutch don’t always get credit for their food, but their reputation is rapidly changing with 16 Michelin-starred restaurants in Amsterdam.  But that’s not what this food tour was really about.  We explored the historic Jordaan neighborhood that is full of old cafes and artisan food shops — visiting places that are not regular tourist stops. Originally a working class neighborhood, the Jordaan has become one of the most expensive and upscale areas in The Netherlands.

CAFE PAPENEILAND

We started our four-hour tour at Cafe Papeneiland, a traditional Dutch brown cafe – named for their dark, cozy wooden interiors and nicotine-stained walls and ceilings.  Luckily, smoking is no longer allowed in these cafes so we didn’t have to eat surrounded by cigarette smoke.  Brown cafes embody gezelligheid (coziness or feelings of friendly welcome) and are like the Dutch equivalent of an Irish pub where people gather to relax over beers and comfort food.  Cafe Papeneiland is one of the oldest cafes in Amsterdam and is loved by locals and tourists alike. The cafe became famous for their Dutch apple pie that is made from scratch using the same family recipe for over 100 years.

Instead of the crumble topping that we tend to think of for “Dutch Apple Pie,” this version had a sweet, cakey crust with thinly sliced apples piled high in a spring-form pan.  The pies are baked on site and brought out on the bar fresh from the oven to cool down.  Our tour group sat a sunny table while enjoying our pie with fresh whipped cream and listened to the lore of this famous pie.  For instance, President Bill Clinton once paid a visit for a slice and ordered an entire apple pie to go.  His visit is proudly displayed on the cafe’s website. The cafe was like a cross between a neighborhood coffee shop and a local pub.  And you could tell that beyond the tourists who flock here, many locals simply hang out like it was an extension of their home — enjoying coffee in the morning while reading the newspaper and returning in the afternoon or evening to share a few cold beers on tap with friends.

JWO LEKKERNIJEN FOR GOUDA CHEESE

Our next stop on the tour was for cheese — and not just any cheese.  We tasted The Netherlands’ most famous cheese originating from a town called Gouda in the south.  We learned about the range of gouda cheese based on age — from jonge kaas, which means young cheese (lightly flavored and creamy) to the older or mature oude kaas, which has a strong complex taste and a grainy, almost crystallized texture.

Our cheese tasting included both the young and aged gouda, along with a gouda with cumin, fig bread and bowl of Indonesian-style ginger — which I would love for my next cheese plate!

SWIETI SRANANG SURINAMESE AND INDONESIAN CAFE

I especially loved learning more about the cuisine from Suriname and Indonesian, which were both former colonies of the Netherlands that brought their spicy specialties  to Europe.  We stopped at Swieti Sranang, a toko (takeaway counter) that specializes in Surinamese and Indonesian food.  We were served by the shop’s owner Juliet, who was born in Indonesia but grew up in Suriname.  She makes everything herself and was so proud to share the most amazing chicken satay smothered in a thick peanut sauce, which was served with pickled cabbage.

SPRENKELS FOR STROOPWAFELS

On our way to the  boat for the canal tour, we dove into a bag of stroopwafels, a sandwich of two thin waffles filled with a thick syrup, or stroop.  This is a Dutch favorite, and I spotted several people making fresh stroopwafels the next day when I visited the Albert Cuypmarket, the largest outdoor market in an area known as De Pijp. 

URKER FISH SHOP FOR HERRING AND COD

Perhaps the best known Amsterdam food tradition is raw herring, and I must admit I was a bit nervous to try it. We visited Urker Viswinkel, one of the best fish shops in the Jordaan neighborhood, for a sampling of the herring (which was brined and much milder than I expected). The herring was served on toothpicks with the Dutch flag, along with pickles and onions — a combination that is frequently served as a sandwich in stands throughout Amsterdam.

The Dutch are proud of their fish and chips, made with beer-battered deep-fried cod.  We tasted the kibbeling fresh out of the fryer and it was seriously the best fried fish I’ve tasted.  They brag that it’s better than what you can find in London, and I think they might be right.  We enjoyed our pieces of kibbeling dipped in remoulade while sipping tulip vodka.  Yes, tulip vodka! 

CANAL TOUR WITH BITTERBALLEN

Bitterballen was our treat on the boat, along with an iced cold local beer.  This is a favorite pub snack and you can hear our guide Rudolph describe these crunchy, fried balls as a “layer for the drinking.”  I rather enjoyed these popular beer snacks, which are like a fried bite of beef stew that you dip in mustard.

The canal boat ride is a must if you visit Amsterdam.  Loved the view of the city from the canal, and it was amazing to see all the boat houses, which are popular to rent for a week when visiting Amsterdam.

CAFE DE PRINS FOR POFFERTJES

After the boat ride, we visited Cafe de Prins, where we tried poffertjes — small puffy pancakes served with butter, syrup, and powdered sugar. Traditionally made with buckwheat flour and yeast to give them a light, fluffy texture, poffertjes are made with a special cast iron griddle that has small indentations across the surface. It requires this large iron for making these mini-pancakes (see below) so not everyone has the equipment at home.  That’s why poffertjes are often made outside in the open markets and fairs where they’re served up hot and fresh.  I loved watching them being made the next day when I visited the open market in De Pijp.

The Jordaan Food and Canals Tour was one of the highlights of my trip.  I would encourage you to reserve ahead of time if you’re interested in going.  Check out Eating Europe.

The group also conducts food tours in Rome, Florence, London, Prague and most recently Paris.

Amsterdam surprised me.  Charmed me.  Had me wanting more.  I can’t wait to go back.

Let me know about your experiences in Amsterdam.

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Food Trends Spotted at the National Restaurant Association Show 2018

I just returned from roaming the exhibits at the National Restaurant Association Show 2018, which was right here in Chicago.

It’s a huge show and there’s so much to report on, and I hope to go back again in the next few days to visit more exhibits and attend some of the sessions before the end of the show.  But for now, some of the major trends I spotted included plant-based protein, probiotics, fermented foods, craft coffee, tea (matcha and more), gluten-free and technology — from 3-D food printers to robotics.  Food as experience and entertainment was huge, including #coffeeinacone — a South African company that sells what they describe as the world’s most instagrammable coffee.

There’s so much to share, but for today I’ll focus on some of the plant-based options and technology.

One of the most intriguing products I tried was from Ocean Hugger Foods.  The CEO was on hand to sample Ahimi, the world’s first-plant-based alternative to raw tuna that can be used for sushi, sashimi, ceviche and poke bowls.  It was quite tasty and surprisingly similar in taste and texture to tuna.  It wouldn’t quite cut it for me, I love real tuna. But I liked the creativity and the passion of the founders.

The folks from Beyond Meat introduced their first plant-based sausage, which I tried during a press briefing in the morning with sauerkraut and it was delicious.  The Beyond Sausage was one of the FABI Award winners this year, and their exhibit was consistently packed.  Although not  everyone was a fan.  When stopping by the booth later after trying it earlier in the morning, I overheard some attendees who were standing in line for the brats that were on the grill.  Once they found out they were “fake” they didn’t want to have anything to do with them.


The company behind Just Mayo introduced Just Scramble, a plant-based egg substitute made from mung bean.  They also served an egg patty in an egg sandwich for the press briefing in the morning.

Looks like jackfruit is getting into foodservice.  I saw several exhibits promoting this plant-based meat alternative and showcasing multiple applications, including jackfruit tacos.

Plant-based beverages were also featured in multiple booths, including this brand-new dairy-free yogurt drink from Califia.  It’s made from almond milk with added probiotics.  Look for it coming to a supermarket near you this summer.

Technology was a major focus at the show and there’s a session on the Future of Restaurants that I hope to attend.  A German company called Procusini demonstrated their 3-D food printer that can make chocolate, marzipan, pasta and other customized creations.

Robotics are also moving into restaurants, including this “server” from Bear Robotics.

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