Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Deprivation Myth

One notion I find fascinating in the area of nutrition is the idea that if you eliminate a food or ingredient from your diet, you're depriving yourself and thus setting yourself up for failure in the long-term. At least that's what the "experts" tell us.

It is an arguement that, at its core, is flawed.

While on the one hand the experts tell us that "everything in moderation" must be our mantra, we find the flaw on the other - they preach reducing and restricting our fat intake. Yet no one seems to challenge what is, in essence, a bait-and-switch approach.

For some reason the general public and media accept that deprivation of sugar is bad while deprivation of fat is good. It is accepted that if you crave sweets you should eat them but if you crave foods that are high in fat you must remember that "low-fat is healthy" and go eat a rice cake instead.

I consider this logic a kind of "double think" - think sweets are ok, think fats are bad, think craving and caving for one is ok, think craving and caving for the other is bad. The general public isn't the only audience this message is spoon-fed to though.

A recent headline in Food Navigator - Overweight consumers looking for added satisfaction not deprivation - highlighted how prevalent this thinking is not only in the public mind, but also within messages to the food industry. I've included it today for my readers as an example of the type of articles directed at industry to show how the messages to industry - messages that help them develop products for your consumption - are corrupted with the same "double think" of the popular press.

It isn't about what's good for you or healthy, it's all about what's "politically correct" in diet and nutrition and what's profitable.

One of the first paragraphs took me by surprise - The glycaemic index, which ranks foods based on the speed at which the sugars are broken down and released into the body, is emerging as the basis for a healthy diet, and as a means of losing weight, particularly among UK consumers.

Here I am thinking, OK, they get it. Wrong.

Their growing interest could reflect a shift in attitudes towards weight management, which favours increasing satisfaction rather than cutting out foods or certain ingredients, says Linda Gilbert, president of HealthFocus International.

“Consumers are moving away from the deprivation model and becoming more interested in stabilizing blood sugar levels and controlling cravings than counting calories,” she told


"US consumers tell us that a diet is a recipe for failure – as soon as you go off it, you will start putting the weight back on. Many are actually waiting for medical solutions," she said.

"But food companies need to start talking about lifestyle and satisfaction, using transparent changes or small, gradual changes that fit into existing behaviour."

Fit into existing behavior? Are you kidding me? Not 'let's communicate that changing bad behaviors leads to health', no, no, instead it's 'let's just keep the status quo'. Hey, it is great profits and won't upset the buying public!

One thing is certain, going on a diet just to lose weight by making temporary changes in your eating habits for the short-term, only to return to your previous eating habits is a recipe to gain the weight interest. We know this.

We also know that it is only making a permanent change in your diet that helps maintain weight in the long-term and optimize your health. So why this continued notion that satisfaction trumps all else and we can design something to coddle those who don't want to change how they eat?

Is it that they really don't want to change, or is it that they've been fed a steady diet of messages that insist they don't have to?

I personally think it's the latter.

The HealthFocus research has found that in almost every country surveyed, only half the overweight consumers questioned admit to their weight problem. And for those that do, eating less and exercising more is not a solution, says Gilbert.

Ya don't say!

Of course eating less and exercising more isn't a solution - it's called DEPRIVATION! How long can one exist on too few calories while attempting to increase physical activity?

Researchers who are investigating low-carb and controlled-carb approaches are consistently finding that when dieters wipe the slate clean and start with the basics - the essentials for life - protein and fat with limited, nutrient-dense carbohydrate, amazing things happen. People lose weight, rate satisfaction with food selections high, note increased satiety and reduced cravings. And the bonus? Calorie intake often takes care of itself when the body has adequate intake of the essential nutrients it needs!

Who knew?

Those of us who have followed a controlled-carb approach have known for years the power in controlling carbohydrate intake. We've also known that it's not about deprivation - it's about nourishment.

You see, the flip-side of the deprivation arguement is when you "deprive yourself" of added sugars and refined, highly processed foods, you enrich your body by providing it with the nutrients it needs for well-being.

So, the next time a trans-fat laden, sugary piece of frosted, commercially-baked cake beckons you, remember this - when you eat it and think everything in moderation is great - you may be satisfying your desire but you're depriving your body of the nutrients it needs.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Regina. We live in a society that moves at breakneck speed--unfortunately, alot of people who could benefit from realigning their diets just the way you said don't have the patience to stick it out because either the results are not fast enough for them or they feel deprived of the foods they've always known--a sugary cereal, a slice of pizza for lunch, a bagel for breakfast, and bread on a sandwich. It's how all of us came into the world--it's almost as if we never knew we weren't eating as nutritionally sound as we should have from the get-go. Undoing that is a monumental task and unfortunately one that is going to take a long time before it's generally accepted by everyday people.