What Should We Do About #DearFatPeople?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week, by now you’ve have heard of, read about, or watched the offensive and shaming #DearFatPeople video Nicole Arbour created in the name of “comedy”. You may have even seen one of the responses, which at least this awful video gets people talking and saying “this sh*t ain’t right.”

There is a lot of chatter going on about the idea of fat shaming, summed up to “it’s bullying” and “it’s never OK.” I agree. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been supporting Association for Size Diversity and Health (I’m a member) Health at Every Size and their collaboration with Women’s Health Magazine in their #StopTheShame campaign on Twitter.

The Gasoline for Weight Stigma

In thinking about what I could possibly contribute that would add to the “this is not OK” conversation, I was immediately drawn to exploring what fuels weight stigma in the first place. The first thing that comes to mind, is the idea of dieting. In our desperation to conform to societal thin ideals, we diet. Instead of exercising and eating well because we love our bodies, it’s because we hate them. We compare. We despair.

It’s Not Just Adults Who Diet. It starts Early.

I have been working on a blog and infographic on teens and dieting. The fact that I’m even having to do this is sad. It sucks. As a mom of two, I dread my girls feeling the pull of dieting like I did by 12 years old.
What I want to know is, what should we do about it? Let me know in the comments below.

A 10-year study looked at dieting, unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors, and binge eating to determine if engaging in these behaviors during adolescence increased the risk for continuing them into young adulthood.  The study involved 2,287 adolescents and young adults that were about half female and half non-white and divided participants into a younger group (average age ~13) and an older group (average age ~16).

At the beginning of the study approximately 50% females and 25% of males reported dieting in the past year. For females and younger males, this number stayed consistent through young adulthood.  The number of dieters in the older male group actually increased as the study progressed.

Over 50% of females and 33% of males engaged in unhealthy weight control behaviors at the start of the study.  Particularly alarming was that extreme weight control behaviors including diet pill use in all groups, and laxative use in young females increased significantly over the 10 year period.

Overall, those who reported dieting at the beginning of the study were more likely to continue this behavior.  The same result was seen in regards to unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors and binge eating.

Other studies have linked dieting to weight gain, binge eating, disordered eating, and eating disorders.  One study of 17,000 kids found that those who dieted were 8-12 times more likely to engage in binge eating than those who never dieted.  Researchers from this study actually suggested that dieting may be at the root of the current obesity epidemic!  These results were echoed in a twin study which showed that the weight gain associated with dieting is independent of genetic predisposition to weight gain.

This video provides more details on these studies.



These findings, suggest that we need to prevent these behaviors before they start.


Young people with weight concerns need to be guided towards healthy behaviors, including intuitive eating and physical activity and away from destructive dieting.

Healthy behaviors can start at home.  Practice intuitive and mindful eating as a family.  Focus on eating for physical hunger as opposed to emotional hunger. Also make fitness a family activity.  Everyone can benefit from healthful eating and exercise, get the whole family involved in the healthy lifestyle and DITCH the DIET!

For more information from Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and her work with Intuitive Eating click here

Source: Neumark-Sztainer, D; Wall, M; Larson, NI; Eisenberg, ME; Loth, K. Dieting and disordered eating behaviors from adolescence to young adulthood: findings from a 10-year longitudinal study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Jul;111(7):1004-11.

So… what should we do about #DearFatPeople?

I think one thing we need to do is loudly say that no amount of fat shaming is OK (and we need to listen to people who have been shamed!) They will tell you that family, friends, and medical professionals make them feel shame when they push and push and push for weight loss over healthy lifestyle as the goal. (At least that is what I hear time and again.) It’s as if their love is conditional. That’s just sad. What if someone makes the changes they want and don’t weigh what you think they should. Are you OK with that? I think we need to realize it’s not up for judgement. If we care about weight shaming, we need to also care about healthism, the idea that you can’t push health on people. Read what I have to say about it.

What Do You Think?

What do you think we should do about weight shame, stigma, dieting etc.? What were some of the best response articles and videos you found? Do you have a fat shame story? Share in the comments below.

Diet Fraud: Sensa/HCG Fined $34 Million for Fraudulent Health Claims

Oh happy day! Finally the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hammering down on companies with misleading claims about their products body-slimming capabilities. Four companies, L’Occitane, Sensa, LeanSpa LLC and HCG Diet Direct, will all receive hefty fines for using deceptive language and fraudulent claims marketed towards diet-driven consumers. I was thrilled to appear on FOX News Your World with Neil Cavuto yesterday to discuss this issue.

Will an additive found in candy really make you less hungry? 

Not only are these companies claiming unrealistic weight loss results but they are also making false claims about their product ingredients.  Products like Sensa which claim to reduce hunger and melt away the pounds when sprinkled on foods primarily contain maltodextrin, a starch-based food additive commonly used for the production of soda and candy. HCG (made from human placenta) is supposed to be taken with a very-low calorie diet of less than 800 calories per day. Maybe that should be front and center on the label, instead of just in the fine print.

Will a slap on the wrist make them change their tune?

While these companies have agreed to refund many of these mislead consumers, $34 million in fines is a drop in the bucket for the $60 billion plus diet industry. Sensa and L’Occitane will continue to stand by their products and bogus health claims, selling desperate consumers hopeless creams and powders that will result in nothing more than a slimmer pocket book.

Click below to see my appearance on FOX News defending consumers’ rights in the need for government involvement in this matter.

Here are a few highlights from my segment :

  • People argue that consumers’ own common sense should be the judge versus the Federal Government in this dieting matter.
  • As a Registered Dietitian I believe that every consumer deserves to have accurate information about the products they purchase.
  • Consumers are desperate for quick weight loss fixes, but the truth is diets don’t work.  95% of all diets fail and most dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years.
  • FAT CHANCE: There is no magic powder, cream, or pill that is going to make you skinny, yet consumers continue to buy into the multi billion dollar diet industry each year.
  • It’s about lifestyle choices. Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

The Hard Facts About Dieting:

  • 35% of “occasional dieters” progress into disordered eating and as many as 25% advance to full-blown eating disorders.
  • Dieters typically make four to five attempts per year.
  • Only 5% of women naturally have the body type advertisements portray as real.
  • 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet
  • 75% of American women surveyed endorsed unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies.

#MushroomHealth Summit Day 2 Recap: Blendability, Research Tidbits, and “Green” Mushrooms

Missing the Mushroom Health Summit? Be sure to read my Day 1 RecapDisclosure: I’m working with the Mushroom Council to share information from the summit.

Mushroom Health Summit logo

Before we kicked off day 2, I visited the mushROOM to learn more about the growing process for specialty mushroom. I’ve heard of oyster and shiitake mushrooms, but this was the first time I saw pom pom, maitake, and King oyster. Take a look. They are so interesting!

Video Growing Specialty Mushrooms

Mouth Watering Already?

Be sure to check out these fabulous mushroom recipes on Pinterest and Mushroom Council’s website. You can also “like” Mushroom Council on Facebook.

Interesting Tidbits from Morning Sessions

There was so much information, I can’t summarize the entire day in one blog. I picked my favorite a-ha’s I thought you would like.

  • Mushrooms are the leading source of selenium, a powerful antioxidant being studied for its anticancer and immunity properties.
  • Mushrooms are high in “Ergo” (ergothioneine), a naturally occurring antioxidant found in red blood cells that may help protect the body’s cells. A lack of “ergo” may be related to development of chronic inflammatory disease. See: Grigat et al., 2007, Biochem Pharm. 74:309-316 (2007)
  • Digestive health is all the rage when it comes to “hot nutrition topics”. We are just now beginning to understand the “microbiotic community” living deep in our gut. Mushrooms are high in betaglucan, which is considered a prebiotic “food” we can’t digest, but the microbes in our gut much on in order to keep a healthy GI environment. This is crucial for our helathy immune system.

Find more research studies on mushrooms, antioxidants, inflammation, and immunity.

Lunch Demo – The Trend to Blend

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RD, Senior Director of Programs and Culinary Nutrition for Culinary Institute of America did an awesome job showing us how mushrooms can improve nutrition and consumer appeal of popular meat-based dishes.

Take a look at this story in pictures!

Three samples of mushroom blendability study.

Three samples of mushroom blendability study.

Sample 2 was my favorite 50/50 blend of mushrooms and meat

Sample 2 was my favorite 50/50 blend of mushrooms and meat

We were given 3 samples and asked to taste and rate each. Then the identity of each sample was revealed. We gave characteristics of sensory and flavors, both positive and negative. I liked all three.

The first one I could tell was 100% meat based on color and lack of mushroom taste. Between the second and third sample, it’s clear to see I liked the second sample best. This was a 50/50 mixture of mushrooms to meat with seasoning that amounted to about 320 mg sodium per 2 oz portion.

The third sample had about 100 mg less sodium, but I noticed a taste difference. I also felt the second sample was the most moist of the three. I think my favorite would work as long as the portion of meat/mushroom stuck to 1-3 oz per serving and the rest of the dish, more veggies etc. was minimal in sodium.

Another potential bonus for blendability is cost savings. Who doesn’t want to stretch their dollar? Basically 50/50 is less expensive than 100% meat and the more mushroom % in your blendability ratio, the greater the savings. That’s food for thought.

Be on the lookout for more studies and press about “blendability” of mushrooms in the near future. One of the study journal submissions was recently accepted.

Lunch Demo – Release the Umami, a Chemistry & Culinary Experiment

We also learned that it’s a culinary strategy to maximize the umami (savory) flavor from mushrooms. This is one of the key factorsphoto-18 that allow mushrooms to be blendable with traditional meat based dishes. Umami provides a satisfying sense of deep, complete flavor, balancing savory flavors and full-bodied taste with distinctive qualities of aroma and mouthfeel.

I haven’t discussed the “Maillard reaction” since my dietetic internship (and I won’t tell you how long that has been!) If you have heard of “caramelization”, “browning”, or “searing” then you know what I’m talking about. Caramelizing the mushroom releases more umami flavor than sautéing.

What’s the difference between browning/caramelizing and sautéing? You need high temperature DRY heat for caramelization. You need to use a little oil and give mushrooms space. Use too many in the pan and they will steam (wet cooking method). If you give them room, they will cook to brown color with crispy bits and deliver more of a nutty flavor.

Find more research on umami and sodium.

Mushrooms, Known as “White” are Really “Green”!

I thoroughly enjoyed the talk from the mushroom farmer at Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc.

He drove home the sustainability opportunities of mushrooms. Boiling it down in simple terms, growing mushrooms uses agricultural waste (yay recycling), grows in a matter of days on small plots of soil (yay), and uses minimal water and chemical additives.

When you eat mushrooms, you are eating a sustainable, nutritious food. Mushrooms are good for you and good for the planet. With the blendability concept, you don’t have to become a vegetarian to eat less meat, but you can easily add mushrooms to your traditional meat based recipes without sacrificing taste and flavor.

I had a fabulous time at the conference and I hope you enjoyed my summaries. To catch up on the chatter, you can visit the Twitter #MushroomHealth stream.

#FNCE Recap: Poster Presentations on Whole Grains, Antioxidant Availability, and Improving Diet Quality

I stopped by the poster session at the 2012 Food Nutrition Conference and Expo to review some recent studies that were funded by Con Agra. I became interested when I heard that instead of focusing on “the bad” foods to take out, the studies had a focus on what could be “added in” to help improve eating habits and nutrient rich food intake.

Here is a summary of the three abstracts presented.

A Daily Popcorn Snack Increases Whole Grain Intake Without Changing Consumption of Other Food Groups

Author Block: K. Reimers, PhD1, N. LvI PhD2, J. Lowndes. MAZ* T. Angelopoulos, PhD3, V. Nguyen, NIS, RD2, J. Rippe, MD2;

1NutritionI ConAgra Foods, ino. Omaha, NEI 2Rippe Lifestyle Inst., Celebration, FL, 3Health Professions, Univ. of Central Florida. OrlandoI
• Results of this  study showed that popcorn – a 100% whole grain snack, can help people to increase their consumption of whole grains.
• Researchers looked at the diets of people who ate a daily snack of 100 calories of popcorn for three months without being asked to change anything else about their diets. There were 117 people, split up into a control and test group. Ages were 42-62 year olds.
• At the end of the three month period, those who ate popcorn as a snack increased their consumption of whole grains while also decreasing their consumption of refined grains.

My thoughts: Interesting outcomes, especially since we can encourage people to “add in” whole grains with examples of whole grain foods and they could naturally drop refined grains, which are more processed and not as quality nutrition. In addition, I think popcorn is a delicious, filling snack.

Antioxidant Availability of Commonly Consumed Vegetables in the U.S. Food Supply

Author Block: M. Andon, PhD, K. Reirners,  B. Meokna, MS, RD;
Nutrition, ConAgra Foods, Inc, Omaha, NE.

People who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables tend to have a decreased risk of cancer and heart disease. This health benefit may be related in part to fruits’ and vegetables’ contribution of antioxidants to the diet.
• Researchers recently looked at the most common non-starchy vegetables in Americans’ diets to determine the vegetable that provides the highest level of antioxidants based on total consumption and antioxidant capacity — using the Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) assay.
• They found that canned tomato products provide the greatest amount of antioxidants to Americans’ diets over any other commonly consumed vegetable. contribution to total vegetable intake. Canned tomato products (sauce, paste, and
tomatoes) accounted for 39% of the total per capita ORAC availability, onions 14%, green bell pepper 9%, iceberg lettuce 8%, raw tomatoes 7%, broccoli (raw and frozen) 7%, carrots 5%, celery 4%, cabbage 4%, and green beans (raw, canned, and frozen) 3%. Tomato paste had the greatest and canned green beans the lowest ORAC concentration.
• Canned tomatoes are also a convenient and economical way to increase vegetable intake.

My thoughts: Here is a case where canned may be better nutritionally than fresh — although I love me some fresh summertime heirlooms :)  I think there are lots of ways to get quick, nutritious meals on the table using canned tomatoes. Use canned diced tomatoes with any other non starchy vegetables, mix with quinoa or steamed brown rice and herbs.

Try tomato paste in a slow cooker sloppy joes or chili – here’s a recipe I created that has 5 different vegetables in it.

Frozen Single Serve Meals at Lunch Result in Improved Diet Quality

Author Block: K. Reimers, PhD1, Z. Yu, PhD2, S. Sinnett, MS2, S. Weston, MS2, V. Nguyen, MS, RD2, J. Rippe, MD2;
‘Nutrition Con/Ägra Foods, Inc, Omaha, NE, 2Flippe Lifestyìe Inst., Celebration, FL.

A recent study found that overweight or obese people who ate a portion-controlled frozen Healthy Choice meal in place of their typical restaurant or cafeteria lunch, without changing anything else about their normal diet or exercise routine, lost weight and improved their diet quality at the end of 30 days.
• Replacing lunch with a Healthy Choice meal led to decreases in total fat (fat intake for the day decreased by 30%, 84% at lunch), saturated fat (also down 30%), trans fat (down 44%) and sodium (down by about 900 mg/day) in the participants’ overall diets.
• While overall calories consumed per day decreased (by about 400-500 calories a day), the study participants’ intake of the food groups dairy, fruit and vegetables did not change.
• The researchers concluded that eating frozen, portion-controlled meals for lunch is a convenient and effective way to decrease daily calorie intake and improve diet quality.

My thoughts: I think these results were interesting. For people usually eating out, if they replace with a portion controlled meal and don’t make any other dietary changes, their nutrition – saturated fat, sodium, and calories decrease. I have learned through my nutrition counseling practice that many people don’t like to cook, have difficulty planning all their meals, or they feel too busy to think about food and eat as healthy as I’m recommending. They often resort to cafeteria and fast food and usually clean their plate. I’m a big proponent of meeting people where they are and helping them change. I spend time working with them on the root behavioral changes — we will work together on “quick and healthy” meals that involve little cooking, we will plan healthy meals and snacks. What I like about the portion controlled frozen meal option is that it makes it a bit less overwhelming for some people, especially if they already eat them. The portion control is good too for my clients who struggle with moderation. The fast food meal may be harder to put down at “comfortable full”.

Did you see any of the posters at FNCE? What are your thoughts on these papers?

Disclosure: I was compensated by Con Agra to review the poster abstracts for studies they funded and include a summary report in my blog.

It’s a Disease Not a Diet: Gluten Free Diets

By: Carlene Helble

It seems like the latest fad diet, is one associated with a serious disease. Going gluten free has become the latest ‘weight loss’ plan among many, but dropping pounds doesn’t come with dropping gluten.

Rebecca was recently interviewed by Fox 5 on Gluten Free dieting as a way to lose weight, made popular with “The G-Free Diet”  book written by Elisabeth Hasselbeck. See the video on Rebecca had to say on this myth.