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Read This, Not That…

November 23, 2009

The other day my brother was pointing out to me once again how if you can get your product/news story on the front page of yahoo news, you will get millions of hits.  It is the sum total of our business model for our poker timer:  Get on yahoo news, sell all of our timers.  So, the example Jeff was using to show me just how stupid most of the news stories are on Yahoo news (and therefore how easy it should be for us to get on there), was one of a nutritionist advising people of the best things to eat when there are no good choices to make.

I have been searching for the news story ever since so I could share with you some of the absolutely idiotic advice she was giving.  The advice reeked of the ‘Eat This, Not That’ school of dieting.  It wasn’t until I did some more searching that I discovered why.  Apparently this registered dietitian was just parroting what she saw David Zinczenko suggesting on the Oprah Winfrey Show (you have to scroll down a ways to find David’s part in this show).

David Zinczenko, the King of Abs Diets…

I was floored.  In essence this registered dietitian was just showing us another example of the ‘Eat this, not this’ school of dieting.  The idea behind ‘Eat this, not this’ is that  if you make better choices more often, you will not have to impact your life so greatly and you will lose weight.  It is a great principle and it does work, but most of the current examples of it are so useless as to be infuriating.  This is all thanks to the  ‘Eat This, Not That’ books series.  The book is written by the editor of Men’s Health, David Zinczenko, the man responsible for so much Ab misinformation.  I actually have been so put off by the covers of these books that I haven’t done anything but a cursory glance inside.  You see, on the cover of every book there appears to be a different swap.  So far I have seen:  Eat a Big Mac instead of a Whopper, eat a Dairy Queen banana split instead of a Baskin and Robbins banana split, eat Breyers ice cream instead of Hagen Daaz, and eat a Pizza Hut personal peperoni pizza instead of an Uno Chicago personal pizza.  Seriously?!!?  No diet book should have these items on their cover.  Never ever.  In fact, the kid version of the book says, “Be the Leanest, Fittest Family on the block”, by swapping Kraft dinner with Campbell’s original Spaghetti O’s…  I would hate to see that block… I am sure there is a block like that in North America and England, where simply making that swap would make you the fittest, but I know I don’t want to see how bad things are there.  It really is enough to make you cry.

The idea of food swapping is a great principle and generally comes out of the calorie density camp, as you can swap calorie dense foods for less calorie dense foods and get to eat more, be more full and stick to eating better.  It is a great principle and I have seen it used on the internet and by responsible dietitians.  Unfortunately I can’t find any of these examples without spending hours on google because the swap this ‘unbelievably crappy food choice for that slightly better one and save 220 calories and 10 grams of fat’ are everywhere.  I will put together a list that has the intent of the food swap in it at a later time, but for now, I have written my own ‘Eat this, not that’ comparison to point out how stupid this book series is:

Do you want to lose 12 pounds of fat this year alone?  Do you want to do this while making almost no change to your lifestyle?  You can, in fact it is so simple you will wonder why you didn’t do this before.  You will live longer, have more energy, be healthier and have a better love life, all you need to do is make this simple food swap.  While dining at Olive Garden, instead of eating the Fettuccine Alfredo, choose the Cheese Ravioli with Meat Sauce.  This isn’t even a sacrifice, yet you will save yourself 430 calories and 47 grams of fat with this choice alone!  Keep this up all year and the pounds will just melt off of you.

No, the pounds won’t.  You shouldn’t be eating a whole portion of Cheese Ravioli with Meat Sauce at the Olive Garden.  It has 790 calories!  It would be a terrible choice to make and you will probably be in the 250 pound plus category if that is a food choice you make every week.  By the way, where did I get the number of losing 12 pounds?  Well, I assumed* (the asterisk is just there to make you realize how stupid the claims in the book are, they all assume you eat this food a lot) that you ate at the Olive Garden twice a week and chose this each time.  That is 430  calories*  2 times a week * 52 weeks in a year, which comes out to 44, 720 calories.  Divided by the number of calories in a pound of fat (3500) we come up with 12 pounds and change.  I can go through every menu and find HORRIBLE food choices and replace them with BAD food choices and make you think you can lose weight this way.  You do the math and it appears that you can, but you can’t. This is asinine.  Food swaps are good, these ones are bad.  Everyone has gotten in the game by the way.  About.com has this food swap list,  which includes choosing onion rings, chocolate pudding, and Miss Meringue Chocolate Chip Minis.

I know the answer to the question I am about to ask, but this situation begs the question, ‘Have we become so glutinous and week willed as to call this good advice’?  I know the answer is no.  I know the answer is that media is driving this crap down our throats.  Thanks to idiotic shows like the Today show, who only want to generate ratings and do so by inviting pretty dietitians and compelling book authors, with no regard as to the content of their presentation, we are awash in misinformation. Because media has relinquished its responsibility in reviewing the truth of statements made by so called experts on the shows that are broadcast, they present any and every crackpot they can get their hands on, and not only do they support the claim that these people are experts, they actually bolster that claim to improve their ratings.  Sure we can watch these people and determine if they are experts or if their advice is good, but when actual good advice doesn’t get any airtime because it is boring and there is nothing new with it, the airwaves and subsequently our mindshare gets overwhelmed with exactly the wrong messages.

I don’t want anyone to think that we can’t eat unhealthy foods.  The reality is we can eat at Olive Garden, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Dairy Queen.  We can eat Hagen Daaz too.   The thing is, we need to show some willpower with portion control and limiting our eating of these foods to special occasions.  They are bad for maintaining a healthy weight.  We need to find a health within our current lifestyle and the key to finding this is most assuredly not in these books.  It isn’t even close.

This is another terrible series of books from a terrible author (although I must admit, top notch marketer).  On top of this offensive collection of books, David Zinczenko has also brought us the Abs Diet series.  I have already itemized some of the questionable claims in that book that have set back the fitness industry years:  12 ‘Powerfoods’?!?!  Certainly those are 12 good foods, but power foods… get serious!  I am so sick of your slick marketing of foods and diets that are just normal diet recommendations.  You market them with claims of ‘afterburn’ and ‘8 perfect stay-young foods’.  Of claims that we burn 50 calories per pound of muscle.  That if we gain some muscle weight loss will get easier.   You have sold over 3.3 million copies of your ‘Eat This not That’ diet books just by looking on a menu for the worst thing and finding something a little bit better but still seriously bad.  I wonder if you and Matt Goulding sit around the table, cranking out one of these books every hour or two, laughing all the way to the bank, or if you just have people do it for you now.  Hell, if you like you can have my example in this blog for your next book.  How many millions of people have read your books?  Why are we still getting fatter?  You run the most popular men’s and women’s health magazines in the world…  To Quote Friedrich Nietzche: “He who lives by fighting with an enemy has an interest in the preservation of the enemy’s life”.

A visit to the Eat This, Not That Blog turns up more confusion…

I wonder what you truly believe.  What your motivations are.  I have gone to your ‘Eat This, Not That’ blog and found this current entry:

When Canadian researchers asked patrons at 10 different restaurants to rate how satisfied they were with their meals, those eating low-fat foods were significantly more pleased than their fat-feeding peers. Their reasons ranged from “freshness” to “lack of fat and grease.” What’s that mean for you? Replace at least one of your usual weekly meals with any of the items on this list and you’ll not only shed pounds, but you’ll also walk away completely satisfied.

Are you serious?!?!  When did you get such a pathetic grasp on reality??!?  “What does this mean for you?”, you ask.  You answer it with, “replace at least one of your usual weekly meals with any of the items on this list and you’ll not only shed pounds, but you will walk away completely satisfied?!!?!?!?”  Could you really be that dumb? I don’t think so.  Could you be so stupid as to suggest that you will shed pounds, or are you just trying to convince people that eating healthy is easy, like a patronizing ass?  It is so patronizing to tell people that they will shed pounds by the way.  You might not be aware of it, but from the entire world community of people who have struggled with weight our whole life, every time you write that we will ‘shed’ pounds with whatever cockamamie scheme you come up with, you are directly insulting us.

Here is the truth.  People who eat healthier selections have come to enjoy fresher, lower fat foods.  It probably took awhile for them, or they have always eaten that way.  They are fit people, and they aren’t hooked on the fatter foods.  Those of us who have been hooked on the fat foods know that replacing one meal a week with a salad, etc will only make us miserable.  We need to make small lifestyle changes over time until we can get to a healthier state.  If you took your standard burger, fries and chicken nuggets eater and gave them a salad, they WOULD NOT WALK AWAY MORE SATISFIED, they would be pissed!!  Even a 12 year old child would clearly know this.  Even then if I accepted what your blog says, your book suggests going to McDonalds for a Big Mac instead of ordering a fresher, less fat alternative, like a salad with chicken!  The truth to the story on your blog, the good news isn’t that you can shed weight, but that you can enjoy life when you reduce your dependence on the unhealthy selections.  Once you get to the other side you will be just as happy or happier with what you are eating.  That is great news by the way.

The thing is David, you are doing a tremendous amount of damage with your slick packaging and pathetic food swaps.  The fat isn’t going to melt off the person who chooses the personal Pizza Hut Pepperoni Pizza and you know it.  This food choice has 640 calories in it.  That is way too many calories for a meal and even then, a personal pizza is quite small and won’t fill up most eaters.  Do you want some honesty in your advertising?  ‘Eat This Not That’ shouldn’t say that you will lose, 10, 20 30 pounds it should say:

Eat This Not That and you might slow down your weight gain.  Instead of gaining weight at 10, 20 and even 30 pounds a year, you could cut that in half (maybe)!  Yes in this mind-blowing book, brought to you by the ‘genius’ who puts revolutionary Abs Diets on the cover of every magazine he can, you could learn to make bad food choices instead of terrible ones.  Think about it, while your friends will be dying of heart disease and weight related problems at the age of 45, you could live to be 50 or even 55 by following the tips in this book.

Not that I need to help you write your books, but here are some more ‘Eat This, Not That’ recommendations:

  • Instead of ordering the Hardee’s 1,420 calorie Monster Thickburger, order the Burger King Whopper with Cheese
  • Instead of ordering Baskin & Robbins 2300 calorie Heath Shake, order a Large Butterfinger DQ Blizzard (990 calories).

Again, feel free to use these in your next edition.  Consider it my gift to you.

What started me down this road…

Okay, this book writing seems too easy (much easier than the first book I wrote) and we are losing pounds by the second.  I swear I even feel fitter coming up with this list…  What started me down this road by the way was the claim from the before mentioned dietitian recommending the best choices when you get 2 bad ones.  She mentioned that if you were given the choice of a glazed donut and a multi-grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese, you would be surprised to find that the glazed donut is the healthier choice…  By the way, I was looking for the video because this one is hard to believe.  The glazed donut would be hard to recommend even up against the Monster Thickburger or the Heath Shake, and there is no world in which it would beat out a multi-grain bagel and low fat cream cheese.  Apparently this came from a quiz that David Zinczenko gave on the Oprah Winfrey show (the link at the top of this article).  Here he apparently was asking which food had more calories.  Note here that Mr. Zinczenko is not asking which item is a better choice, but which has more calories:

3. A. Multi-Grain bagel with low fat cream cheese
B. Glazed Donut.

The answer is B. the Glazed Donut because it has 180 calories where the bagel has 500 calories. He said we get seduced by these buzzwords that cause use to eat too much. He said that eggs and bacon is still more nutritious that a glazed donut.

This distinction about calories is important because although I don’t have a clue where he is getting his calorie information from, in the end he is right.  When I do the research I come up with 210 calories for an 80 gram whole wheat bagel (note that if you asking questions like this, quantities are of vital importance).  If you add to that 121 calories of low fat cream cheese (56 grams) you get a total of 331 calories.  The glazed donut I pulled up was 65 grams and had 250 calories.

The more important point though, is that as you can see in the article, he alternated between what is more healthy and what is lower calorie at will, not making a distinction at all.  Most of you know I am not a fan of whole grains (they are better than non-whole grains to be sure, but grains have a tremendous calorie density), and still I can tell you why the multi-grain bagel and cream cheese is a better choice.  The multi-grain bagel has 8 grams of fibre, 18 grams of protein, 1.6 grams of sugar and a calorie density of 2.43 (see You Are Not A Fit Person for an explanation of calorie density and why it is important).  The donut has 1 gram of fibre, 4 grams of protein, 13 grams of sugar and a calorie density of 3.846.  These are the important measurements along with the obscene amount of carbs that each of these has.  You would have to be an idiot not to make the right choice here.  A donut is much smaller and it won’t fill you up nearly as much.  Of course it has less calories it is SMALLER.  I could give you a small plate of gummy bears or a huge platter of asparagus so that the gummy bears had less calories…  That is obvious even to a child.

It gets even weirder when you look further down the list:

4. A. French Fries
B. Tator Tots

The answer is B. Tator Tots. The reason they are healthier is that they are baked in the oven instead of being deep fat fried.

I am pretty sure that Ore-Ida deep fries their Tator Tots before selling them to you (all of their products are precooked).  It is possible that he means after they get out of the freezer the person who cooks them will bake them and deep fry the french fries, but I doubt it.  I have eaten Tator Tots at many a mexican fast food restaurant and they are always deep fried…  Here again, a quick visit to caloriecount.com turns up some disturbing information.  If we compare the calories in the Ore-Ida Tator Tots with the Ore-Ida Steak Cut Fries, the fries win this myopic battle with 110 calories per 85 grams to 150 calories per 85 grams for the Tator Tots…. The point is though, neither of these are a good choice.  Why offer a cagematch between poor choices in the first place?  At the end of the day, even if you were right, which you are not with surprising frequency (I cannot for the life of me find where you got your turkey bacon information for example, it appears simply impossible), you still come off looking like an idiot.

So, to Eat This, Not That, I offer instead the following advice:

Read this:   Not That:


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