Everyday I am approached by overweight individuals who proclaim to me their desire to get in shape, lose weight, and live a healthier life.  Out of shape, unhealthy and sometimes obese individuals get to a boiling point with their health and decide once and for all to finally make that lifestyle change.  I admire the conviction some gym goers have as they step into the gym that first day, ready to take on the world one cardio session and barbell curl at a time.  The ever growing feeling I’ve had as a personal trainer over the past eight years is, “how could someone who cares so much about their health, ever have decided to be unhealthy, like they have until now?” A younger me would have answered a question like this much differently.  In the past, like many others, I saw overweight people as lazy, unwilling, and inconsiderate with their health and it’s effect on themselves and the people who love them. Although I have not changed my perspective of health (education especially) being an individual’s responsibility, I do not believe the individuals that come to me ever consciously decided to become obese, how then could one simply make the opposite choice and be successful? With the failed logic at hand I have deduced that these individuals, in some way, have always had the desire to be healthy. Yet the misinformation or guidance they have received has been faulty, taking them further from their goals in the long term, despite short term “progress” they may have experienced with intermittent diet/exercise attempts in the past.  With this in mind, I have turned my attention from various fad diets and their failed promises and short term pros and cons to the underlying problem which is the growing obesity trends in the U.S. as it correlates to the ever changing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

In an attempt to further uncover what many health providers before me have begun to unveil, I have been doing a lot of research on nutritional guidelines and federal dietary recommendations.  It’s easy to find the correlation between shifting consumer misinformation through labeling but that causation doesn’t surprise me because there are a lot of variables at play such as: new scientific data, technological advances, and an increase in consumer awareness which doesn’t make things better. Rather, it makes the government sneakier.  The politics of the agriculture industry and the economical gain created through the lobbyist advocacy are disgusting. I’m growing more angry with the nutritional guidelines and labeling regulations that are becoming more of a disservice to the general public than a helpful tool.
What is important for all consumers to know is that the nutritional labeling practices and federal dietary guidelines have little to do with the health of an individual and more to do with the disease management of society.  Given everyone one has different dietary needs due to variance of individual genetic make up, medical history, metabolic dispositions, and activity/lifestyle choices, the general guidelines are nothing more than a fail safe mechanism to prevent consuming quality good foods. Keep people on the sugars, which are cheap to produce and have the highest profit margin, and everyone wins!  The agriculture industry wins (they made some serious dough), the politicians win (the agriculture people give them dough to say good things about their dough), the medical complex wins (more doughy patients), the ever growing “fitness and health” industry wins (everyone wants to get rid of those 10-20 pounds of extra dough).
Im not saying I have the answer to the problem. Well I think I do, but that’s beside the point.  I know a long term solution is education and awareness.  If we can open our eyes and give a few fucks, we would see that as a society we are terribly misguided.  The federal dietary recommendation for carbohydrates has jumped from 45% to 55% in the last decade alone. Added sugars no longer need to be labeled under “sugars”. Fiber is still counted as a carbohydrate, and tens of other issues I could rant about.
It’s not just the FDA, it is also the USDA.  In fact, the USDA has the most power over what ends up in our food supply (subsidies, lobbyist, “big food,” etc.).  For example, the USDA has restrictions on what needs to be included in school meals.  They revamped the entire program and now allow tomatoes to be counted as a vegetable.  Let’s examine this closer – Wheat subsidies (cash crop) + dairy lobbyists + tomato is a vegetable serving = pizza.  At first sight one might deduce that pizza is healthy to have regularly, and what kid ever stops at one slice?  And if this is a “healthy” option at school then why is pizza at home unhealthy.  Obesity is being promoted without even advertising it.  And then in response to growing numbers the government is requiring the same agencies who serve nutritious meals to promote nutrition.  It’s ass backwards.  Instead of being proactive we’re so reactive that new agencies are created to combat what we know is the root cause – the USDA!
Here’s a case study for you, look at the nutritional facts of a small bag of Doritos and tell me how many grams of sugars there are… Oh really, less than 1 gram of sugar?.. Okay well if there are only 2 grams of fiber why does it say 27 grams of carbohydrates?   Something is unaccounted for. When the low fat diets came on the scene sugar additives became very popular. This way, these fad dieters, who are trying to make changes to live healthier lives, can still have great tasting food while they try tirelessly to be healthier.  When low sugar diets came out, sugar alcohols and additives began infiltrating every “healthy” beverage and snack.  For every movement or shift in consumer trend, the FDA has shifted their requirements and labeling policies to effectively distract consumers from the real problems with nutritional eating habits.  By keeping people in limbo with their eating habits they simultaneously jeopardize their fitness goals and more importantly their health.

Its time to cut the strings of the mast puppeteers, and educate ourselves on the truths of nutritional guidance in this country.  Get in touch with your body, and ask yourself the right questions rather than searching for the same answers as everyone else.  Proper nutrition is more about your health than your six pack.  Sure it’s nice to look and feel good, and done the right way a healthy lifestyle will provide those aesthetic perks, but the visual benefits are far diminished and temporary if done the wrong way.  Your body is a brilliant organism, full of complexities and compensatory measures to help take care of you.  Your body wants nutrition, mobility and survival.  Optimally it wouldn’t mind a little reproduction as well, which I know for some throws a wrench into my “who needs a six pack” argument ;).  Even in the latter case, no one would disagree that mental health and stability as it relates to character, relationships, and “compatibility” are far more attractive than the buff douche bags at the gym who are either too hyped on pre-workout to shut up or too carb deprived to hold a conversation. Federal dietary advocacy in our country preys on the insecure, looking for the shortcut to happiness. There are no unwilling victims in this world, we choose to follow blindly or to take action for ourselves. So with that in mind I would hope that anyone looking to live a long, happy life would invest in their own knowledge and choose not to rely on the government, youtube, fitness magazines, or handsome gym owners.  It’s your health, it’s your life, it’s your choice. Listen to your body and give it the respect it deserves so you AND all of your loved ones can reap the benefits.

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