My post yesterday on why A Calorie is NOT a Calorie — and why “eat less, move more” is a simplistic and harmful slogan masquerading as scientific weight-loss advice — led to a delightful reconnection with someone I first met more than a decade ago.
My good friend Dave deBronkart’s comment on my LinkedIn post drew Dr. Ted Eytan into the discussion, and it was a great pleasure to renew our acquaintance.
I first met Dr. Eytan in 2009 when we were on a panel together at a conference in Baltimore (which was also the day I met Ed Bennett for the first time after having interacted for several months on Twitter).
I had heard Nina Teicholz on a podcast talking about the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Commission and her work with The Nutrition Coalition, so it was cool to find out that Dr. Eytan is working so closely with her. As described earlier in this series, her book — The Big Fat Surprise — started me on this journey of dietary discovery.
The Nutrition Coalition is urging public comment as the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Commission is developing its 2020 Guidelines. This process happens every five years, and it has a huge impact. It affects everything from hospital meals to school lunches to what physicians and dietitians recommend to patients.
In one sense, the explanation is that my gluten-free diet allowed the damage to the villi in my small intestine to be repaired, which meant I was now absorbing my nutrients.
That’s how I explained it to myself at the time anyway. While I had previously been able to eat anything and in any amount without appreciable weight gain, with newly repaired villi that was no longer the case.
I simply needed to adjust my portion sizes to this new reality. And I also tried to follow the advice in the USDA Food Guide Pyramid (which I had used as the basis for my SMUG Social Media Pyramid.
At its base was the recommendation of 6-11 servings per day from the Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta Group.
While I couldn’t have wheat, barley or rye because of celiac disease, I soon had plenty of other options, especially as food manufacturers became more accommodating of the gluten-free diet.
The next level up featured the Vegetable Group and the Fruit Group, with 3-4 servings per day each.
I’m not claiming to have been a model adherent to these guidelines. I’m sure my idea of a serving size didn’t correspond exactly to the USDA’s definition.
But I’m pretty confident the proportion of my diet coming from each of the food groups was reasonably close to the recommendations. I had done media relations work in the cardiology field, so I minimized eggs and drank low-fat (but not skim) milk to reduce my fat and cholesterol intake.
A typical day’s menu looked something like:
A bowl of cereal (typically Corn Chex) for breakfast
A grab-and-go chicken salad from a restaurant near my office, with a few favorite choices
Dinner (various entrees and side dishes)
At least a few nights a week, air-popped popcorn as a late-evening snack, with no butter.
Sometimes instead of popcorn I would have tortilla chips and salsa, taking one item from the grains and another from the vegetable group.
While I now know some of those choices weren’t the best, none were wildly out of line with USDA recommendations.
And yet, within less than four years, I found myself carrying around this much extra weight:
As I sometimes joked, I was “working on my ‘before’ pictures.”