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Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of US

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of US.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Matt Fitzgerald(Author)

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From the national bestselling author of Racing Weight, Matt Fitzgerald exposes the irrationality, half-truths, and downright impossibility of a “single right way” to eat, and reveals how to develop rational, healthy eating habits.

From “The Four Hour Body,” to “Atkins,” there are diet cults to match seemingly any mood and personality type. Everywhere we turn, someone is preaching the “One True Way” to eat for maximum health. Paleo Diet advocates tell us that all foods less than 12,000 years old are the enemy. Low-carb gurus demonize carbs, then there are the low-fat prophets. But they agree on one thing: there is only one true way to eat for maximum health. The first clue that that is a fallacy is the sheer variety of diets advocated. Indeed, while all of these competing views claim to be backed by “science,” a good look at actual nutritional science itself suggests that it is impossible to identify a single best way to eat. Fitzgerald advocates an agnostic, rational approach to eating habits, based on one’s own habits, lifestyle, and genetics/body type. Many professional athletes already practice this “Good Enough” diet, and now we can too and ditch the brainwashing of these diet cults for good.

Matt Fitzgerald is an acclaimed endurance sports and nutrition writer and certified sports nutritionist. His most recent book, Iron War, was long-listed for the 2012 William Hill Sports Book of the Year, and he is the author of the best-selling Racing Weight. Fitzgerald is a columnist on Competitor.com and Active.com, and has contributed to Bicycling, Men’s Health, Triathlete, Men’s Journal, Outside, Runner’s World, Shape, Women’s Health and has ghostwritten for sports celebrities including Dean Karnazes and Kara Goucher.

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Book details

  • PDF | 336 pages
  • Matt Fitzgerald(Author)
  • Pegasus Books; 1 edition (May 15, 2014)
  • English
  • 2
  • Health, Fitness & Dieting

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Review Text

  • By Aaron Olson on May 22, 2014

    In his book, Diet Cults, Matt Fitzgerald lumps all diets into one category -- cults. These "cults" he says, are fundamentally flawed, and the evidence of their flaw is that they all assert their superiority over one another. Since they can't all be correct, they must all be wrong. From there, his book takes us on a bizarre journey jumping from one of Matt's pet "diet cult" peeves to another, all while cherry picking research that conforms to his own beliefs about what constitutes a healthy diet.One of the things that makes "diet cults" eminently frustrating to read is how often Fitzgerald contradicts himself in his writing. The theme of his book is that there is no singular way to eat for health, yet he continually recommends mainstream guidelines such as the SAD (Standard American Diet) as a way to eat for optimal health.Considering the fact 2/3 of Americans are either overweight or obese, I fail to see how mainstream recommendations such as the SAD should be used as a template for an optimal eating strategy. The reason diet fads are so popular in the first place is because the SAD has failed us so miserably.Another thing that makes "diet cults" so frustrating to read is the paucity of research went into the writing. If you're going to attack something, at least do the research and find out what you are against. By Matt's own admission, he doesn't actually read the books he attacks. In a Nov 2013 interview with Endurance Planet, Matt says:"I actually don't read many of these books, because they just make me tear my hair out, but my understanding is that in Loren Cordain's book, he says that, like, you know, that this is the diet we were all meant to eat, in no uncertain terms, because I actually quote it in the book."Since he didn't actually read any of the books he's against, it makes sense why I found so many errors, such as his claim that the Paleo Diet advocates eating a 50% meat diet. But, in Cordain's book, The Paleo Answer: 7 Days to Lose Weight, Feel Great, Stay Young, he specifically says not to eat more than 35% of calories from protein, as it becomes toxic to the body above that threshold.Fitzgerald also claims that The Paleo Diet Revised: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat author Loren Cordain advocates "eating just like a primordial hunter-gatherer". Yet, in my interview with Cordain, he advocated a diet that allows us to find foods at our local grocery store that are similar to the nutritional quality of our ancestors. He never says that we should eat exactly like our primordial hunter-gatherer ancestors.I found so many errors of this sort when he was attacking The Paleo Diet, it made me wonder what research he did, aside from conducting a few Google searches or reading some tweets in his spare time. It also made me wonder about the veracity of the claims he made about other diets that I am less familiar with.Matt also gets it wrong when it comes to mainstream nutrition. He quotes Marion Nestle as a mainstream nutritionist saying,"The range of healthful nutrient intake is broad and food from the earth, tree, or animal can be combined in a seemingly infinite number of ways to create diets that meet health goals".But we shouldn't take this quote by Nestle as an endorsement of the mainstream Food Guide Pyramid. Her reaction to the Food Pyramid was more skeptical. When asked about the Food Pyramid in 1991 she said,"The USDA is in the position of being responsible to the agriculture business. That is their job. Nutrition isn't their job."Fitzgerald chastises those who follow one of the "diet cults" for thinking that they have come to their way of eating through rational, scientific analysis. A more honest analysis, he says, shows that we all come to our own way of eating based on our personalities and food preferences.Matt, ever the rational philosopher, prides himself on taking an "agnostic" approach to healthy eating; presumably believing that he has somehow escaped the emotional tendencies that guide the rest of us. What he fails to see is how his own dietary choices are just as biased and influenced by circumstance as everyone else's.The problem with studying human nutrition is that it is an infinitely complex science and it's difficult to form conclusions based on scientific studies alone. There are so many uncontrolled variables present during any study that it makes it nearly impossible to draw hard conclusions.Rather than seeing nutrition science for what it is: a budding science that has yet to make its way to the hard sciences, Matt thinks that mainstream nutrition has basically nailed down what we should eat.The fact that there are so many conflicting studies, points to the idea that nutrition is still a new science that shouldn't be taken too seriously. Nutrition is more like the alchemy that preceded modern chemistry. It's still greatly lacking and is prone to the bias, whim, and prejudice.If mainstream nutrition has figured it all out, as Matt suggests, why is it that despite our best efforts to maintain a healthy diet, so many of us are tired, depressed, and overweight? Anthropologist Daniel Lieberman shows in his book, The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease, that a long list diseases like obesity, acne, flat feet, myopia, depression, anxiety, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and type II diabetes, are rare amongst hunter-gatherers, and often have roots in our modern diet and lifestyle.Taking a true agnostic approach to eating would be more like that of Weston A. Price, a dentist in the early 20th century. Price was one of the first to point out what was so wrong with our modern diets. He showed that modern man's teeth, despite special care, suffered from cavities and decay, while indigenous people around the world never brushed their teeth and kept most of their teeth into old age. Price found that the dietary practices among indigenous people varied widely, but lacked the processed packaged foods, refined grains, and sugar, common in modern diets.Traditional diets also placed great emphasis on food preparation. Indigenous peoples knew that certain food such as grains, legumes, and dairy were difficult to digest. When consuming those foods, they employed elaborate preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting, and fermenting. This made the food more nutritious and easier to digest. Michael Pollan points this out in his latest book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. He shows how modern food preparation, in the name of convenience forgoes traditional methods, and the nutrition of our food suffers.Fitzgerald places a lot of emphasis on "real world" results, but dismisses the positive experiences of those who follow ancestral or Paleo style diets. He sees them as being co-opted by cult-like thinking. Ignoring the diets of our ancestors misses a huge sample size of past generations that we must include if we want to find out what kept our ancestors healthy and robust. One need not go back to the days of the paleolithic to understand what makes a healthy diet, but taking a broader perspective helps avoid the myopic thinking of the nutritional mainstream as exemplified in Diet Cults.

  • By blaine decker on July 3, 2014

    I was looking forward to reading Diet Cults because there is a giant need for such a book. Unfortunately, Diet Cults isn't it.Matt makes the same mistakes over and over that he criticizes other diet "guru" authors for: namely, letting their own bias influence their writings.The saddest part of this book is that it is well written and there is a lot to agree with. However, there are blind spots in Diet Cults that you can drive a truck through. So let's get started.First, Matt is an extreme endurance athlete who works with professional extreme endurance athletes. Matt reports he is 6'1", weighs less than 160 pounds and exercises 90 minutes every day! Judging from his pictures on the internet and obsession for maintaining lean racing body weight, a good guess is he has 6 to 8% body fat.Matt doesn't seem to understand that he is not as normal as the subtitle of his book suggests, "The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us." Just who exactly is he including in, "the Rest of Us?"If by the rest of us, he means extreme endurance athletes, who are under 50 years old, not prone to injury, obesity, diabetes or heart disease, then this book may be for them. However, if you are not in Matt's exclusive group, beware, because some of his diet recommendations are not only misguided, they could actually be dangerous.While Matt does a good job of making the case that there is not, "One True Way" of eating, he saves most of his disdain and criticism for Professor Loren Cordain (founder of the Paleo diet) and Dr. Tim Noakes, author of Lore of Running and one of the leading exercise physiologists in the world. Both men are lifelong successful runners who advocate a natural whole foods diet and abstinence of processed foods.The irony of Matt's criticism of these two men is that Matt makes the case for the Paleo diet with his own, "Diet Quality Hierarchy," which lists ten categories of foods in decreasing order of quality. Matt's idea is to eat more foods from the top categories and less from the bottom.* Vegetables* Fruits* Nuts, seeds, and healthy oils* High-quality meat and seafood* Whole grains* Dairy* Refined grains* Low-quality meat and seafood* Sweets* Fried foodsHow is it possible for Mat to criticize the Paleo Diet when the Paleo Diet says you should eat from the top four categories on Matt's list for most of your calories and avoid processed foods whenever possible? It is nonsensical for Matt to call Paleo a fad diet.In effect, Matt's major criticism is that by his own standards, Paleo is clearly better than the diet he eats himself and recommends at the end of his book... unless you think eating boxed cereal, whole wheat bagels and orange juice six days a week (Matt's diet) is somehow superior to eating as Dr.Tim Noakes would say, "natural whole food that is recently dead."Matt clearly gets away with eating Grape Nuts, Life Cereal, bagels with cream cheese and drinking orange juice almost every morning because at the present time, his body is able to process this sub optimal food. When you are under 50, under 10% body fat and exercise 90 minutes every day, it may be possible to get away with eating crap, just like Michael Phelps who reportedly ate whole Pizzas. But not everyone can eat like Matt and Michael Phelps, (even Michael Phelps admits he can no longer eat like Michael Phelps).Dr. Tim Noakes followed the high carb diet Matt recommends for years. Noakes ran over 70 marathons and developed type 2 diabetes from Matt's high carb diet. Now Noakes has gone to the other extreme and is recommending a high fat, low carb diet which may work for an extreme endurance sport but has many aspects that may be just as bad as Matt's diet.If you don't exercise vigorously 90 minutes every day and are one of the 100 million people in America that is diabetic or prediabetic, Grape-Nuts and orange juice may be the single worst things you can eat in the morning, except maybe that whole wheat bagel or heaping bowl of Life Cereal that Matt eats when he is not eating Grape-Nuts.Let's break it down. One half cup of Grape Nuts has 210 calories, 47 carbs and 5 sugars. But absolutely no one eats just a half cup. Measure it yourself and you won't believe how puny a half cup of Grape-Nuts is. So let's be reasonable and say it's a whole cup with four ounces of blueberries, eight ounces of orange juice and a cup of milk. This breakfast totals, 710 calories, 137 carbs, 50 sugars and is 24% of the calories Matt says he eats every day.Matt's breakfast is a carbohydrate, sugar bomb that will explode the pancreas of a carb sensitive person. The entire breakfast is almost instantly metabolized as sugar. Grape-Nuts has four ingredients: highly refined whole wheat flour, malted barley, salt and yeast. It doesn't sound too terrible until you realize that malted barley is barley that has been soaked to turn its starch into sugar and then when it is combined with finely processed wheat flour and baked at high temperature, the result is a pure sugar cereal that is instantly metabolized and almost immediately spikes blood glucose levels. The other cereal Matt likes is Life Cereal where the second ingredient by volume is refined sugar. Nuf said.Matt does do some things right. He avoids fast food, soft drinks and too many deserts... although he should know that orange juice, ounce for ounce, is only slightly better than drinking Coca-cola for breakfast. Eat the whole fruit instead.Being an extreme endurance athlete is not a get out of jail free card. Matt Fitzgerald owes Loren Cordain, Tim Noakes and the people who bought this book an apology.On a personal note, I'm 6'1", weigh 160 pounds and exercise 45 minutes every day. To avoid injury, I limit my running to two 25 minute HIIT sessions a week. The rest of the time is spent on a bike, lifting heavy weights and stretching. Just like Dr. Noakes, I too developed type 2 diabetes and was able to reverse it when I gave up Matt's diet and went mostly Paleo, avoiding all processed foods, most grains, liquid dairy and eating almost exclusively from the top 4 categories on Matt's list of diet quality hierarchy.Matt's a lot like Mikey of Life Cereal fame, he will eat anything. Skip this book and read instead, Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It's the book with a piece of toast on the cover just like the design Matt's publisher ripped off for the cover of this book.Classic You Tube Video of Mikey:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34wJt3pRY0w&feature=kp


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