Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Junk food - healthy food cost/ tax comparison

A quick follow up on my piece on the Ontario Medical Association trumpeting their bold and supposedly new recommendations on curbing obesity by reducing tax on healthy food and increasing tax on unhealthy food.

I went to a grocery store, bought some junk food and some healthy food, and compared the receipts..

WTF?  Something must be wrong with the receipt printer..  The damn thing shows NO TAX on the healthy food.  This can't be.  The Ontario Medical Association is having a hay-day in the media talking about their egalitarian concept to save Canada's overweight population by reducing tax on healthy food.

I didn't pay any tax on this healthy food.  How does a tax get less than zero?  I did pay tax on the junk food though, and the junk food was a buck more when compared to a similar number of servings of healthy food.  yes you read that right.. the junk food cost more than the healthy food.

Do the doctors at OMA ever go shopping for food?

Did they actually check what foods are currently taxed and which are not before winding up their boisterous media blitz?

No?  Whoops, minor oversight there.

As usual I do the heavy lifting and uncover the uncomfortable truth that nobody else does.

Actually I did a simple Google search; food tax Canada, and, looked at my grocery receipt.

This is not difficult to figure out, but, as usual, political hyperbole and media sensationalism distract people from the reality right in front of our faces.  More entertaining to pay attention to the dancing bear than look at actual facts.

This link will show you all the foods that are and are not taxed in Ontario. All the provinces have near identical lists for provincial taxes, as does the country as a whole for GST and HST.

I really want Canadians to eat less and change their social norms so that healthy eating is embraced instead of scoffed at.  I wouldn't mind seeing some of our tax dollars being put to good use with useful initiatives to help reduce and prevent the ever growing number of Canadians that are overeating their way to obesity and the ensuing health problems that hurt them.

I'm not going to hold my breath..

Back to reality..

Some research suggests that 10% tax on junk food can reduce purchases of junk food.

Of course, I have a serious problem with this research as most healthy food has long been cheaper, or at least competitively priced with junk food, yet most of our population choose junk food over healthy food much of the time.

Take a look at the receipts I've posted here.  The 1 L of pop was $1.34 and the 1 L of skim milk 1.49.  That's an insignificant difference.  The pop was on sale so I payed $1.00 for it plus 12 cents tax. Still an insignificant difference.

What would the price look like with another 15% tax (30% total tax).. a doubling of the current tax?

Instead of paying $4.75 for a bag of chips and a pop I would have had to pay $5.49, 74 cents more.

I don't eat junk food (I gave away my junk food to an all too eager taker) so I don't care how much it costs.  But for those who love their chips and pop I think most will find a way to pay an extra 10% or 15% over what they're paying now.

People overeat because they enjoy it, not because healthy choices are more expensive. "I'm going back for seconds on triple cheese pizza because broccoli is expensive."  Nope, doesn't happen. You go back for seconds because it tastes so damn good you want more.  That's the way that works.  Good research shows that overeating fatty, sugary, salty food alters appetite regulation causing increased hunger and decreased satiety.  The more you eat, the more your appetite regulation adapts to eating more.

And because of how our brain organizes memories of rewarding experiences, when we're hungry again we're likely to remember that we like pizza, so that is what we seek.  These foods stimulate an above  normal excitation of reward centres in the brain.  That's why we perceive them as tasting extra good compared to a great tasting apple.  Apple tastes great, but doesn't put reward perception into overdrive.

This is one of the strongest drivers of seeking out these foods.  People are not strongly compelled to buy junk food because it's cheaper.  People seek it out because of altered appetite and reward seeking regulation, a side effect of consuming these foods.  Not to mention the fact that socially, junk food is more respected than healthy food.

This isn't about changes taxes, it's about changing behavior, and moving away from perceiving junk food as better than healthy food.

The whole add new tax to junk food thing is BS, top to bottom anyway, since it's already taxed.

So as far as the grocery store is concerned, which is where most Canadians will be spending most of their food budget, healthy food already has no tax and is cheaper than junk food which is taxed.

What about restaurants and delicatessens?  Selfishly I would like to pay no tax on deli salads, where I and everyone else currently pays GST and PST on every menu item.

Because there is tax on healthy restaurant foods there exists the potential to mess with taxes here, but I'm still not completely sold on the idea that a fat tax or healthy = no-tax is going to be a reasonable primary strategy in the reversal of obesity in Canada.

The Ontario Medical Association seems to be aloof in placing at the top of their list of anti fat commandments a fat tax and reduced tax on healthy food for the obvious reasons I've already stated.

You know, why don't we just ignore the commandments from on high and start eating less.  We'll feel much better dropping a few pounds.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ontario doctors waging war on fat

The Ontario Medical Association is taking off the gloves, and shoes, in recommending a multifaceted attack on curbing the over-consumption of junk foods in an attempt to reproduce the success of the movement against smoking in the fight against obesity.

Here's an excerpt from the OMA's press release on the initiatives they recommend

  • Increasing taxes on junk food and decreasing tax on healthy foods;
  •  Restricting marketing of fatty and sugary foods to children;
  • Placement of graphic warning labels on pop and other high calorie foods with little to no nutritional value;
  • Retail displays of high-sugar, high-fat foods to have information prominently placed advising consumer of the health risks; and
  •  Restricting the availability of sugary, low-nutritional value foods in sports and other recreational facilities that are frequented by young people.
The recommendations put forward today build on the actions Ontario’s doctors have already called for including:
  • Legislation that would require calorie contents to be listed adjacent to the items on menus  and menu boards at chain restaurants and school cafeterias;
  • An education campaign to help inform Ontarian's about the impact of caloric intake on weight and obesity; and
  • Making physical activity/education mandatory throughout high school.

Of course I'm all for actions that can help reverse and prevent obesity.  I think this hit 'em from all sides initiative is a good idea.  

If you sense a "but" coming, your intuition is impeccable. 

First, I agree with the marketing, calories on menus, education, and physical activity ideas presented by the OMA.

I'm not 100% sold on the increased tax on junk food and decreased tax on healthy foods, but not because the concept lacks academic validity, rather because it isn't as practical or as potent as it seems. 

You all know I love researchers and doctors.  I love those who have true altruistic motivation to do good for humanity.

I have a bit of a problem though, with impractical idealism's that may sound intuitively good at first wash, but once you get the shine off and get down to the wood you may find a few knots and maybe even a bit of rot.

There is currently no tax on most basic groceries, including fruits and veggies, in Canada.  

Maybe the Ontario Medical Association would benefit from reading about food product taxation in the province of Ontario.. 

Some of the foods not taxed in Ontario (identical for the rest of Canada)

Vitamins and minerals

Some of the foods that are taxed

Alcohol (not really a food..)
Chewing gum
Ice cream
Snack food (like potato chips) 

Um.. zero tax on healthy food, and tax on junk food.  Am I missing something here?

Junk food is already taxed and is already significantly more expensive than healthy food.

A grapefruit will cost you around $2.80/ kg with no tax, and a bag of potato chips will cost $9.80/ kg plus tax.

It is an urban myth that people buy junk food over healthy food because junk food is cheaper.  People buy junk food because they like it more.

Read my post where I did a grocery store price comparison of healthy food vs junk food:

You buy a banana, orange, or apple from a grocery store and you're out of there for under 50 cents, no tax.  Tell me what junk food you can buy for 50 cents.  Exactly.  People aren't buying oranges at the same rate as they're buying potato chips because people want the potato chips more, even though a bag of chips is a few dollars and an orange is bought with nickels and dimes.  People will pay more for what they want. Significantly more.

How many times have I bit my lip in a grocery store line up witnessing a person on a very tight budget put back the healthy items and keep the pop and chips to stay within their spending ability?  Too many times.  I've seen down on their luck mothers with kids in tow put back milk and keep the pop.  I'm not talking about putting back $5.00 worth of milk and keeping $2.00 worth of pop and chips, I'm saying there are many that, in spite of their tight budget will opt to favor displacing $5.00 of milk in favor of $6.00 of chips and pop.

It isn't as though most people are complaining about how they can't afford healthy food; it's that most people complain that they don't prefer healthy food as much as they prefer unhealthy food.  Remember, healthy food is already cheaper than junk food.  People preferentially buy unhealthy food because they like it more.

When I was a smoker and hurting for cash and managed to make a few extra bucks I didn't think, "wow, now I can buy some broccoli".  Nope.  I thought, "Players Special Blend, king size". The smokes were a reward, a treat, much more so than healthy eating.  I wasn't the only nicotine fiend making the same delusional decision.

This is reality.  This is what happens right now and has been happening for decades.  Many low income people smoke.  In fact smoking decreases as income increases.  For many adding more tax to cigaretts and junk food would result in even less of their income going towards healthy choices as many will put aside the healthy choices in favor of the more appealing unhealthy choices.  We need to help people change their reward associations so healthy choices feel intrinsically more appealing than unhealthy choices, and cost alone wont make this happen, and wont have as much of an influence as other more socially and emotionally compelling reasons will.

So if healthy food is already significantly cheaper than junk food and has zero tax, what's the point of raising tax on junk food, and how can you reduce tax on something that already has zero tax?  How about a tax refund for making healthy choices?

Although currently more expensive, maybe junk food isn't yet prohibitively expensive.  Maybe that's what they are thinking.   There is some research showing that tax on unhealthy food reduces spending on the taxed food, and that making healthy food cheaper increases the sales of healthy foods.

A fat tax might change the current public perception that healthy food is more expensive than junk food.  People may be buying junk food because it tastes good and is perceived as being a bargin.  Bring in a fat tax and advertise it and people may be more fiscally motivated to spend their cash on cheaper, healthier food.  Maybe, but I would think the first reaction would be simply paying more for chips and donuts because the lowly orange isn't currently perceived as all that appealing. 

There is also research showing that the more overweight you are, the less influenced you will be by the increased price of unhealthy foods.  The less overweight you are the more likely you will choose healthy foods when healthy foods are made cheaper and unhealthy foods more expensive.  This may help in preventing obesity, but it appears that once you're overweight the habit of overeating compels you spend more on what you've habitually come to feel satisfied with.

Has a national fat tax been done anywhere?  Yes, in 2011 Denmark implemented a fat tax.  Is it having an affect?  Yes, people are shopping for cheaper junk food in adjacent countries with cross-border shopping.  Denmark is now considering repealing the fat tax.

The question I have; is a fat tax likely to be a major player in reducing obesity amongst Canadians?  It will be, if the tax is so high that junk food simply costs far too much forcing people to make a decision that isn't necessarily out of careful contemplation but rather through punitive big brother influence.  That's a bit Orwellian. 

I may be jumping the gun there with suggesting that we're all smart enough to make our own correct, self preserving decisions where our health is concerned.  It doesn't appear as though this is the case.  If it were we wouldn't see an obesity epidemic. We wouldn't see the vast majority of the population wilfully living in a way that causes them to develop all the unhealthy outcomes known to be associated with being overweight.  I mean, how much sense does it make to eat ourselves into heart disease? So maybe we do need the government to tell us what to do. 

Or maybe it isn't as simple as someone telling you what to do.  Maybe once you start overeating it's hard to stop because of hormonal changes and habituated behaviors.

What is the real driver for buying junk food?

How about because it tastes good?  How about because eating unhealthy is an indoctrinated social norm?

There is still a lot of work to do on smoking.  The reason for smoking being on the way out is because of the multi-pronged approach of increased taxes, reduced advertising, education, and of course the change in how smoking is depicted in entertainment media. Except for period specific shows like Mad Men, modern depictions of smokers in movies is that of the evil character or a duffus.  Was it mainly the high taxes, or was it a change in social acceptance that provoked smokers to quit and potential new smokers not to start?

When I smoked the cost was not an issue. Sure, it was an expensive habit but my interpretation of the value of smoking was such that I justified the cost.  Out of all the X-smokers that I've spoken to, very few say they quit because it was costing too much.  Nobody has told me they quit because of the pictures on the packages, but I'm sure at least a few have.

Most quit because they came to realize that smoking wasn't a very smart thing to do, what with the self inflicted harm and all.

Smoking is now viewed as a turn off.  It stinks, it's messy, and has a "I'm not too bright, and I'm indignant towards you and your "fresh air"" stigma attached to it.  Smokers aren't cool anymore, they're a bit of a social scourge who's haplessness is often forgiven because we understand the burden of addiction. 

The habit of overeating still enjoys social support.  You have a box of donuts and you're everyone's friend.  Try that with a box of cigarettes. Or a box of carrots.  You'll get a few takers for the smokes and carrots, but you'll get a mob line up for the donuts.  Chips and donuts; we've bought in, and bought in like Bernie Madoff customers.. the deal is too good to be true, but the reward of overeating is more appealing than the health bankruptcy it will cause, so we make friends with Bernie.

Like smoking, maybe overeating needs a long time to be recognized as the health hammering waste of chewing that it is.  Maybe we do need these tax initiatives that we initially balk at but over time people will relent to the cost and the public awareness campaign.

Or maybe the tax bit is the lesser of influences and change in public perception through awareness campaigns and reduced images of and reduced support of celebrating overeating will be the winner.

I would think that less advertising of high calorie foods and more public awareness of letting people know that eating a 10 oz steak is about as smart as wanting to develop type II diabetes, would have more affect than taxing junk food (which is already taxed).

I understand the reasons for a fat tax, but this isn't the first place I'd go.  I think it's a tax grab, and not very well thought out.  It's worth mentioning again that healthy food has had zero tax for decades, and junk food has been taxed for decades.  Obesity has increased every year for decades despite zero tax on healthy foods, and tax on junk foods.  How is this a new idea, and why do people think it will work? 

We eat too much, and have put far too much social and personal acceptance into celebrating and self gratifying via eating too much.  We need a big slap in the face.  Will the OMA's plan be the slap we need?

Maybe.  I know a lot of people will jump on board with feelings of social superiority and will happily retail the idea that fat taxes and pictures of diseased bodies on bags of chips is the obvious answer, but these people wont be thinking of the person on a fixed income who already puts back the milk so they can drink pop, or the low income smoker who already chooses to pay for the death darts instead of healthy food.

I like the fact the Ontario Medical Association is getting a lot of traction in the press with this issue only in that it gets people talking about how we eat too much junk food and aught to do something about it.  I don't like the fact that the OMA didn't do their homework before presenting their ideas.

Maybe merely threatening a fat tax is the OMA's savvy strategy to get people thinking about and discussing the larger issue, and they don't actually want a fat tax. That's a huge stretch though and I'm giving the OMA too much credit for being so wise.  No, the OMA is most likely as it appears to be on this issue; hapless meddlers using their platform to show everyone how heroic they think they are.  Too bad because you'd think educated physicians would get their facts straight before going public with something so important.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Why we fall for diet and exercise myths

Slow metabolism makes weight loss difficult, preventing many from losing weight

It's hard to get vitamins and minerals from food, we need pills

To get fit, we need exercise that beats the hell out of us

Carbs make you fat

Let me demolish these four myths

The power and durability of the common urban myth is often greater than what the truth is.  While disassembling urban myths gives me personal short term gratification because it makes me feel like I'm making a difference in the world by conquering the dark side, the satisfaction I feel is undeserved because in reality I'm not making much of dent.. I'm up against something bigger than me.  Who, or what, is keeping these myths alive?

Is it big brother?  Big fast food?  A cult movement? Darth Vader?

Nope.  It's a 3 pound gelatinous mass that has infested 100% of humans, and we can't get rid of it.

The human brain.

Dum dum duuummm!  - that's dramatic music, not a slag against dumb brains.  Although that works too.

I have been told that my brain is up my um.. well you know where.   I'm not sure if this is a genetic trait or perhaps I have an advanced mutation that occurs in higher (or lower) thinking evolving humans.  Wherever the location, the brain is bit of a busybody recluse doing a heck of a lot of work behind the scenes, often to our detriment.

Don't believe me?  Ever tried finding your keys?  You would think your brain could remember this one simple value.   Even when you nail a key hook to the wall, there is no guarantee that your brain will remember that this is where keys go, and confoundingly, when keys are placed there, your brain won't remember putting them there.


Brain in denial. 

Myths play to our denials

Denial ; something we do when it's too hard to face reality. The brain is really, really good at denial.  In fact studies have shown that when we're presented with plane, easy to understand facts that refute our current beliefs our brains go into "FU" (False Understanding) mode and our belief in that which is clearly wrong is strengthened.

We humans can be somewhat stubborn when trying to get a grip on reality, and we have a lot of historical boondoggles to show for it.

It seems our natural instinct is to deny facts.  More facts?  Bring on more myths to support our denial.

"Cris, you should quit smoking".  Did I like hearing that?  My defence?

Get angry with the person (redirect away from subject of me smoking).

Make up some crap about them meddling with my life (redirect).

Claim that is hasn't hurt me so far (denial), that lot's of old people smoke and they're not dead yet (redirect/ denial of how it affects me personally).

Demonize the person delivering the message (so I could make it feel easier to discredit their quit smoking concerns).

Having been in denial of reality and a believer of some these myths myself I can say I know exactly where the myth believers are at.

If my writing style had the talent of brevity I might write something like, "You're all wrong.  Cut the crap and get real.  You'll be better off.".. I could make this would a one line blog entry.

I'm not so talented though so I make satirical references hoping that that my cro-mag humour will lull you into reading more of my stuff.

On with the myth busting..

Slow metabolism makes losing weight more difficult.

It's difficult to change our habits and eat less and exercise more to lose weight, but a slow metabolism isn't one of the things working against us; slow metabolism causing weight gain is a myth.

What's more work; walking up stairs carrying just yourself, or walking up stairs carrying 40 pounds of bricks?

Of course it could be 40 pounds of anything, but hey, bricks sound heavier.

The more we weigh the more energy we expend to move our bodies around.  Comparing our lean selves to our extra weight selves, the extra weight version will always expend more energy doing the same tasks.  Even sitting down relaxing is more energy intensive when we weigh more.

Our breathing muscles have to work harder to move the extra mass on our upper bodies to allow our ribs to expand to fill the lungs.  When resting metabolism is measured the heavier versions of ourselves will always burn more calories at rest than the leaner version.

Resting metabolism increases as body fat increases, the exact opposite of the myth that suggests weight gain slows metabolism.

"Whoa, whoa there Cris.  OK fine, calories in calories out.. whatever.  You can't seriously be in denial of true health disorders that actually do reduce metabolism can you?

Ever heard of hypothyroidism? Look who's in denial now!

Gotcha Cris!"

I put that in here because I've actually had people say those words to me.

Here's an excerpt from the American Thyroid Associations brochure on Thyroid and Weight

"In general, 5-10 pounds of body weight may be attributable to the thyroid,
depending on the severity of the hypothyroidism. Finally, if weight gain
is the only symptom of hypothyroidism that is
present, it is less likely that the weight gain is
solely due to the thyroid."

Hypothyroidism does not cause excess fat gain.  Most of the weight gain that occurs with hypothyroidism is water mass. If a persons primary complaint is excess weight gain, Hypothyroidism will not be a suspect for the weight gain, even if Hypothyroidism is diagnosed.  Eating too much and not enough physical activity will be suspect.

Here are the facts for all to deny..

[Obesity and hypothyroidism: myth or reality?]. [Rev Med Suisse. 2007] - PubMed - NCBI

Weight loss after therapy of hypothy... [J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011] - PubMed - NCBI

The only way to gain excess body fat is to eat too much, hypothyroidism alone cannot cause extra fat to accumulate in the human body.. that is in fact, an urban myth, a myth to support the denial of overeating.  This myth drives peoples creativity to generate other myths, such as believing there are special foods or food combinations that will speed up metabolism, or special exercise routines that increase metabolism after exercise.  Admitting to ourselves and others that we eat too much can feel bad, so we deny we eat too much.

If our daily energy expenditure reduces, we need to eat less to match the reduced energy expenditure.  Hypothyroidism can make people feel tired and less likely to be active. Less activity means fewer calories expended.  If a person develops hypothyroidism and becomes less active, but doesn't eat less to compensate, fat gain will occur from eating more calories than expended.

Only about 4 to 5% of the population has hypothyroidism so thyroid problems can't be the main driver for 60 to 70% of the population being overweight.  But due to the pervasiveness of the thyroid and metabolism myth, many people will self-diagnose themselves as having some kind of metabolism challenge as the root cause of their weight gain.  When facts are presented showing that this is really not the case, many can feel like they're being attacked and dismissed . What's really happening is their brains are refusing the new information, they're in denial, and they want to stay in denial by perceiving others as picking on them.

I'm not talking about the unacceptable nonsense of teasing someone because they are overweight or skinny for that matter.  I'm talking about straight talk about why we eat too much.  I wish the social stigma of overeating wasn't so strong, that would make it feel more comfortable talking about a problem that affects so many of us.

Here's a study that revealed why diet resistant people were not losing weight.

Discrepancy between self-reported and actual ca... [N Engl J Med. 1992] - PubMed - NCBI

The study examined obese people who "perceived a genetic cause for their obesity, used thyroid medication at a high frequency, and described their eating behaviour as relatively normal." However the researchers revealed these study subjects underreported their food intake by 47% and over-reported physical activity by 51%.

Study conclusions: The failure of some obese subjects to lose weight while eating a diet they report as low in calories is due to an energy intake substantially higher than reported and an overestimation of physical activity, not to an abnormality in thermogenesis.

They ate too much and didn't exercise enough and were in denial of this reality, to support this denial they bought into the myth of a genetic problem causing slow metabolism, causing weight gain. It's a difficult place to be.  Difficult to talk about openly.  That's one of the principal assets of denial; it's a protective mechanism that allows us not to face an uncomfortable truth.

That's how myths survive.  Myths play to our denials and play up our unrealistic hopes.  Diet and exercise myths tell us that eating too much didn't cause our weight gain.  Myths tell us to engage in crazy short term exercise plans because long term plans feel too daunting and we don't want to face that reality.  Long term exercise plans are actually not daunting but in reality are continually rewarding and liberating as we continue to increase fitness long term.

Hard to get vitamins and minerals from food

Here's a nutrient profile from a day of my own eating.

Here's what I ate

I actually ate a little more than this.  I ate a banana, some dried figs and apricots, and a homemade chocolate muffin.  The reason I didn't include these in the above analyses is I wanted to show that you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need in a day by eating fewer than 2000 calories in a day.  Most people wanting to lose weight will need their daily caloric intake to be between 1500 and 2500 calories, depending on their weight and activity level.  It's important to eat healthy nutrient dense foods, especially when reducing calories to lose weight.  Less food means chance to get the nutrients you need.

I am not at all saying that people have to eat what I ate here.  I'm simply demonstrating that we can get all the vitamins and minerals we need from food we buy at the grocery store.  The food I ate here requires minimal prep time, which addresses another myth; eating healthy takes too much time.

There are many ways to change up the variety of foods to get the same or better nutrient profile.

It took me 10 minutes to enter the foods I ate into eatracker, a free online diet analyses tool.  It took me longer the first time, but I've got the hang of it now.

Vitamin D is the exception here.  Research shows that people living above the 49th parallel most likely need daily Vitamin D3 supplements.  

 To get fit, we need exercise that beats the hell out of us

This myth comes from many places, one of the more common is from athletics.  No doubt; we can't develop peak athletic ability without pushing hard, really hard.  This leads many to jump the gun and superimpose elite athlete training onto those with little or no developmental training.

To gain performance we need to push hard, but only when we're trained enough to handle it otherwise injury and overtraining occur.

Not everyone is into trying to develop performance.  Why then are the majority of fitness programs based on killer gut busting workouts?  Because that's what sells.  It's a good business model.

Many believe in the myth that you have to exercise really hard and feel really sore to get a worthy workout.  Why not sell people what they believe they want?  This keeps the myth going.

The truth is productive exercise is moderate to easy most of the time, only reserving the more challenging workouts for when we're durable enough to do hard work, or when we're recovered enough from our last hard effort.

Healthy productive exercise takes time and a gradual progression.  Since we want results yesterday, we create myths telling of fast results from "advanced" workouts.  These myths support our denial of the fact that it takes months and years to get fit, not days or weeks.

Here are a few blog entries on the subject

Young athletes forced to train too much

Runners get injured, then incur another injury before healed

Too much too soon injures pro's and 1st timers alike

Carbs make you fat

Do people ever love this myth.  It serves many purposes.  Allows us to believe that we didn't overeat to gain weight, it's those damn carbs. It allows us to make double bacon and egg sandwiches and laugh at those "nuts" eating veggies.  News flash.. only eating too much causes weight gain.  It doesn't matter if its carbs, fat, or protein.

Cut the high fructose corn syrup, pop, and high sugar snacks?  You bet, but don't toss the whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans, legumes, and potatoes.

If you cut out most of your carbs, What does that mean? No really, what is that?  Well if your daily carb rich muffin has 300 calories in it, and your daily white bread daily has another 300 calories, and that serving of rice, pasta, or potato each have 200 calories, and you're cutting all that out you're.. wait for it..

Cutting hundreds of calories per day!

Let's take a look at a typical low carb diet day..

These meals were taken off a "low carb" recipe web site. Although this day of food intake is a few hundred calories more than my own intake detailed above, it doesn't deliver all the vitamins and minerals that mine did, it comes up short on meeting daily needs.  That's what happens when you cut out or dramatically reduce carbohydrate sources; you drop a primary source of vital nutrients.  As expected though, the nutrients found in meats and fish are in abundance. Don't be going into denial and say, "look at those five nutrients! They're off the chart!  Low carb must be good."  This warped perspective is expected though, based on what we know about our ability to deny objective facts so we can sustain our current beliefs.

Sure, 5 nutrients are delivered in spades, but 8 come up short.  We will choose to deny the significance of over half of our nutrients needs not being met by focusing on information that supports our denial.

What I found most interesting is that the website I took these recipes from claimed that each day of meals delivered fewer than 20 grams of carbs per day, as 20 grams of carbs per day is supposedly the magic number for carb intake.  When analyzed though, the actual amount of carbs is double what is claimed.  Should I be surprised that a website supporting a myth based diet has incorrect data on it?

Typically low carb diets emphasize fats and proteins.  Interestingly a person would have a better chance of losing weight eating my diet compared to the low carb diet as mine had fewer calories.

My carb sources were whole grains, fruits, and veggies.  No refined sugars except what occurs in the multigrain bread, but this is insignificant.

Low carb extremists have become slightly more savvy since the typical low carb diet has been publicly eviscerated and its nutrient deprived profile revealed for all to see.  The modern low carb diet has more veggies and more carbs in it than the traditional (but still popular) variant I've used here.

So what does that mean?  Does that mean after decades of the validity of the low carb diet being hammered by the facts, the low carb'ers finally started to see past the myth and thus alter the low carb diet by what..  Increasing carbs via more veggies, grains, and fruits?  Say it ain't so.  Give it a couple more decades of maturing and the low carb diet will evolve into a normal diet.

The basic slight of hand (or mouth) scam of the low carb diet is diverting your attention from calories in/ out and focussing on carbohydrates.  In reality you're cutting calories. 

If you cut out hundreds of calories daily you're going to lose weight so long as you eat fewer calories than you expend.

The low carb restrictive diet isn't sustainable. The science shows that most people eventually gravitate back to eating the way they did before and gain back all the weight they lost plus more.

So if the low carb thing is a myth, why do so many fall for it?  Why do people keep smoking?  Why do people buy snake oil?  Why do smart people make dumb decisions?

It's the brain!  Blame it on the brain.  Once we humans believe something, it's near impossible, despite good evidence, to change that belief.  Our brains also get used to reward seeking patterns and if our brain knows we're going to feel rewarded from high doses of fat, salt, and sugar, then that is what we will crave.

If we've developed a habit, it can be very hard to quit because our brains are wired to keep it up, even if it's bad for us.  So is this denial as well?  It's not me, it's my brain?  Sure, this could definitely be used as an excuse to not change.. but it is our brain, and ultimately we can make efforts that do make for long term positive outcomes

Eating less and exercising are not actually all that difficult.  What is difficult is overcoming our prejudice, being myopic, old habits, wired in reward seeking, and our denial of reality.

I've repeated bad habits enough that they became wired in my brain; smoking, overeating, and exercising too much.  I also practiced not doing these things, and making better choices.  And like the stats suggest, I failed many times before I succeeded, but I did succeed and so have many others. It can be done.

That's the great thing about the brain, neuroplasticity is an adaptive asset of the brain.  It can change.  In fact the brain is just as good at changing as it is at maintaining the status quo.  All it needs is consistency  with the new thoughts and practices and it will change, we will change.  Living healthy can and does feel like a relief from living by these crazy urban myths.