Starving Dietitian

Lies We Tell Ourselves (About Nutrition)

“For every lie, there’s a truth we’re anxious to face” But why is that?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself repeatedly as I’ve had patient after patient throw blatant lies in my face.

I only eat ‘this’ much” – while gesturing a shape not even suited to a child.

I always track my blood sugars” – while showing a 3 month blood sugar the highest I’ve ever seen.

I know my body“. – While straddling the line of permanent amputation.

It left me wondering, what lies do us non-clinical patients tell ourselves on a daily basis, that hold us back from reaching our biological potential?

So to the best of my abilities, here they are.


1) It won’t happen to me.

fat-super-sized-david-statueThis is probably the most dangerous lie I see, and not even specific to patients. This mindset, that you can continue abusing your body with garbage-grade food without consequences is one of the most common, and incorrect ideas I encounter on a daily basis.

The truth is, it will come back to bite you. If you don’t believe this idea that the body isn’t a perfect machine, read back to Hypertense to see how your choices now will catch up to you later.

2) A diet is only temporary.

Whoever coined the term “Diet” to describe a 2-3 day pseudo-starvation should have their validity revoked. When we use the term diet, we Dietitians mean “the foods you eat with regularity”. If I eat a single meal of lobster, I wouldn’t go around saying “I’m on the lobster diet”. If I ate it everyday, (I wish), yeah it would be.

So often we lie to ourselves when we start a 4 letter word “diet”. “It’s only temporary”, “It’s just to lose that last 10” “I can eat whatever after this month”. These are all, at a minimum, false assumptions. If you want to keep that figure for life, you gotta maintain that diet for life. Sorry, there’s no shortcuts. Which brings me to the next lie….

3) There’s an easy way.

starvingrd maze

Let me simplify, the first company to come up with a miracle weight loss drug that A) works B) doesn’t kill its patients and C) Continues to work, will be the most successful company Western Medicine has ever seen. So tell me, if Billions (with a “B”) of dollars of research can’t figure out something that achieves better than 10 lbs of weight loss (the Maximum for most current drugs). How do you expect that bargain bin Wal-Mart “weight loss aide” to achieve the 40lbs you want to lose?

4) It worked in the past.

If the same solutions worked for everything all the time, life would’ve become boring long before you got here. Seeing this mindset in patients strikes me harder than I care to admit. The reason? Because it means they cared enough at one point, but can no longer bear the idea that this time might take MORE.

Much to the chagrin of every parent ever, I’m going to tell you that LIFE ISN’T FAIR. If you’re sensitive to truths, maybe now’s a good time to bury your head in sand. The truth is, as you get older, and your youthful image fades, your body gets WORSE at handling calories. So much so in fact, that your metabolism declines by about 1% per year starting around 28 for men and 24 for women. If you’re a 28 yo male eating 2k calories per day, that means next year, you better only eat 1980 otherwise that extra 20 calories a day results in 2 lbs (~1kg) gained per year. And it only gets worse.

What does this mean? You have to exercise MORE and eat LESS, every year of your 30’s onward to avoid that slow trickle of weight gain common to most people.

5) I can do it without exercise/ whenever I want.

potato starvingrd

It’s funny how closely weight loss can resemble drug rehabilitation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think food abuse is entirely comparable to drug abuse, but there’s some similarities that I see in my patients. Most importantly, they feel like they’re 100% in control, which I don’t think is true.

I think people think they can avoid the pain/sweat/anguish of exercise. Which is one of the reasons why “shortcut” methods are tried. I’m here to tell you that it’s a lie. I’m the first to admit that exercise isn’t the only means of weight loss, in fact I’ve said before that diet has a much larger effect on weight loss. The key to exercise, is that it turns on genes that supercharge metabolism, lower blood pressure, reduce depression, improve memory, and fill a void normally satisfied by food.

I can tell you that I love fine cooking so much, that if it weren’t for my excessive passion for cycling I would be in a constant struggle to maintain weight. And I think that’s the key to exercise, dieting takes so much willpower, that exercise can give you a temporary free pass to enjoy food again.

This will be another post I store away as “Simply Complicated”. Nutrition is relatively easy; but dig into the psychology, biology, physics, and physiology, and suddenly you have this crazy beast of information to try and make sense of. My hope is that putting these lies in writing, will let those who carry them set down their baggage and for once, see the truth in reality.

Do great things.

– Joshua Iufer, RD

One comment

  1. You can do it without exercise. It is not a fact that increased exercise leads to decreased weight, it is a “fact”. Increased exercise leads to increased appetite. Eating carbs leads to fat storage, fat storage leads to weight gain. There is only one way to lose weight while eating enough to satisfy hunger, and that is to stop eating carbohydrate. Think about it–if the eating ‘too much’ leads to weight gain why aren’t we all fat? If eating one extra bite of hamburger than you need, than were required by the mechanical work your body does per day leads to weight gain then how does anyone regulate how much they should eat? If I drink a big gulp at Quick Trip (2000 calories) I would have to run a twenty six mile marathon to keep from putting on weight from it. Something else must regulate weight gain–and its not a simple energy balance equation. Did you know that scientists tried to put squirrels on a diet, controlling the number of calories that they could consume very carefully, and they still couldn’t keep them from putting every bit of energy they ate into fat cells? the squirrels got fat even though they barely had enough energy left due to their starvation to get to their ration of food? Something else controls fat production in us, too. Fortunately science now knows how that system works. More exercise does not lead to weight loss is my point. Exercise is desirable, but not for that reason.

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