The definition of insanity…

It is now exactly 3 days until I start working. To say that I am nervous would be an understatement of the century. For now, I’ve been pushing any hospital-related thoughts to the deepest corner of my mind (from whence they tend to re-emerge just as I’m falling asleep causing me to break into cold sweat). My plans for my last few days of freedom and frivolity are to soak up as much sunshine as possible, ride my bike, watch really bad action movies from the last century (Lethal Weapon, yes, really) and overall do as little as possible.

In between all these exciting activities I also read the draft of the new Australian Dietary Guidelines, as a special type of punishment for my laziness. 288 pages of government-speak is no joke. I find myself re-reading the same paragraph 3-4 times and its meaning still devilishly eludes me. I don’t want my readers to suffer the same fate so I will be feeding you those pearls of wisdom one post at a time. Just a few statements and observations for you today.

“Diet is arguably the single most important behavioural risk factor that can be improved to have a significant impact of health”

I was very impressed with this profound statement in the Introduction. I am sure many of you feel like doing a little fist pump in the air: finally, the role of diet is getting recognised and appreciated not just as something that might make one fat and obese. But also as an important health determinant. Good stuff.

However, seeing diet as a “behavioural” problem has never sat well with me. We fall into that thinking all too easily. Ever glanced over an obese woman eating an ice-cream and did a little “tsk, tsk, tsk” to yourself? But overweight has not always been seen as primarily a  character flaw. One of Leo Tolstoy’s best characters, Pierre Bezukhov, (for those of you who braved “War and Peace”) is described as a big stout man. And no, it is not a reflection of his lack of willpower. And yes, he gets the girl in the end.

Venus and the Lute Player, Titian c.1560. Source Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, because the media and government health agencies are so preoccupied with being PC, they use different tactics to accuse overweight and unhealthy people of being disgusting slobs without actually calling them “disgusting slobs”.

Here is one used in the Introduction to the Guidelines in the chapter dedicated to adherence.

“Adherence to dietary guidelines in Australia is poor”.

=disgusting slobs continue ignoring our well-meaning advice and insist on becoming a chronic disease burden while laughing into their French fries.

It is such a sad sentence I think they need an emoticon :(

A couple of paragraphs later:

“There have been changes in the intakes of macro-nutrients over the past 3 decades, generally in the direction encouraged by previous dietary guidelines” (my bold italics)

Say what? The compliance is SO POOR that people change their intakes in accordance with your guidelines? (I wrote a post about one of the multi-million dollar lifestyle modification campaigns in Oz and the subsequent “non-adherence”.)

It all becomes clear when we see this statement in a table form.

Call me an optimist but looks like both men and women REDUCED their fat intake, INCREASED their fibre intake and INCREASED their carbohydrate intake.

Kiddies INCREASED their dietary fibre (somebody is actually eating their bran muffins!), INCREASED protein and INCREASED carbohydrate.

It also looks like reduction in fat didn’t result in reduction in total calories consumed. Bugger me! I thought fat being more calorie dense and all…

Does anybody need a reminder on how the obesity and overweight rates in Australia went while we were busy modifying our intakes “in the direction encouraged by previous dietary guidelines”?

“I don’t know why the sacrifice didn’t work.

The science was so solid.”

King Julien XIII, Madagascar 2

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13 thoughts on “The definition of insanity…

    • Lee, you and my boyfriend should get together. He tried to make me watch “Top gun” but I had to draw the line somewhere! Mind you, I’d class “Lethal weapon” in my so bad it’s good category.

  1. Good words. I just had this discussion with someone about how ‘well’ all the govt. food planning has worked in America. If you look at the older version ‘My Pyramid,’ and the newer, ‘My Plate,’ it’s easy to see that the large portions of carbohydrates could beneficially be diminished and the glass of milk replaced with some filtered water.

  2. I spent about 20 years trying hard to comply with the government guidelines. My reward was to end every year fatter than the year before with a serious case of self loathing for having “failed” yet again.
    The last few years, since I quit the low-fat high-carb path and began following the Paleo way of eating, I have ended each year fitter and healthier – and happier than the one before.

    Reading this new stuff, I vacillate between anger and sadness, but the thing that makes me most angry is that they call this rubbish “science”.

    Thanks for doing this work on the new guidelines for us – you do it so much better than I could.

    • Thank you for your kind words. We’ve all been there. Years of following guidelines, feeling conflicted and getting frustrated. No more.

  3. Anastasia, don’t be nervous! You will be a BRILLIANT doctor. Sure you are smart & “know your stuff”, but, honey, you are a brilliant communicator & that is worth its weight in gold. If I have ever to be a patient in your care (when I retire to Noosa!) I’ll know I’ve got the best doc.

    • Thank you Sally! Teaching 30-40 people to use their bodies as a Pilates/yoga instructor was a fantastic practice. By the looks of how you are going, I don’t think you will need a doctor any time soon but I will be happy to have you as a patient :). Noosa is still on the cards although PM is treating us very well.

      • Oh I don’t expect to need your services for another 25 years at least!!! Enjoy Port. Will give you a hoy if I am ever up that way!

  4. All hail King Julien! (and Anastasia and the gift of her wisdom to her soon-to-be-patients). All the best in your new job!

  5. Oh, I noticed that Weight Watchers has changed its whole diet model…fruit and veggies are pretty much free.

  6. Thanks for this piece, I still wonder if there is another part of the puzzle missing. I eat very well and have a high carb low protein diet and my weight has been bang on healthy for years. If this diet works for some people and not others clearly there is something else going on! (This is a hint to any researchers out there) Imagine the reverse pain if there is someone wired like me out there who is trying to drop excess weight by reducing carbs.

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