The ultimate diet!

Loved this Vox interview with Matt Ferguson, nutritionist and author of a new book on “diet cults.”  His take just seems to make all kinds of sense:

JB: When you looked at the evidence supporting all these popular diets, what did you find?

MF: Every diet claims to be the best, but the fact is that it’s not. It doesn’t mean you can’t get good results from certain diets. When people commit to these diets in a sensible way, they can be effective. But that’s also the first bit of evidence that there is no one true way to eat. We’ve seen that you can chose diet A or B, commit to it in the same way, you’ll get the same results…

JB: I recently talked to a bunch of other diet and weight-loss experts for a story and they all pointed out that, even though they know there’s no one “best diet,” their patients often demand one. They want rules.

MF: There is a comfort in certainty. When you’re looking for a solution to a problem that’s really troubling, a problem that affects your health, self-esteem, and relationships — and the solution isn’t obvious — it’s only natural to want to find something that you can be absolutely certain about. That not only works but you know it works. You can relax and turn your brain off, and not think about it. What people want is a pill. But if you can’t have that, you want a diet that’s a functional equivalent of a pill: simple, tidy, neat, certain.

Ferguson actually has his own “diet,”  But it’s not really a diet, so much as a science-based framework for thinking about how we eat:

JB: Your book is really an anti-diet book, but you too propose a sort of diet: “agnostic healthy eating.” Can you tell me about it?

MF: It’s a high quality version of a culturally normal diet. I take the entire universe of foods, and divide them into 10 basic types: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, dairy, grains, sweets, fried foods. I rank them in terms of quality. That ranking is base on scientific research. The lowest quality food is fried food, and highest quality is vegetables. We can agree that it’s a sensible ranking. All I suggest is that people weight their diet toward the high quality end and away from the low quality end.

There’s just a little more detail on this here:

There’s One Rule

Agnostic healthy eating has no particular rules, but there’s a simple guideline that makes it easier to practice consistently.

There are 10 basic types of foods: vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, high-quality meats and fish, whole grains, dairy, refined grains, low-quality meats, sweets and fried foods. The first two types are classified as “mandatory,” the next four as “recommended” and the last four as “acceptable.”

The one rule of agnostic healthy eating is this: Each week you must eat each of the two mandatory foods more often than any other food type; you must eat any of the recommended food types you choose to eat more often an any of the acceptable food types; and you must eat any of the acceptable food types you choose to eat less often than any of the mandatory or recommended food types.

The rest is details…

He actually gets a little too rule-bound for my taste in that snippet, but it’s hard to argue with that as a healthy approach (I think he gives in to the idea that people want rules).

But in the end, we all know that some foods are healthier than others and we should eat more healthy foods and few unhealthy foods.  Not complicated in theory.  In practice, being at my in-laws house for Thanksgiving means being surrounded by foods at the bottom end and my willpower muscle is at a low ebb.  But next week I’ll be good.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to The ultimate diet!

  1. Mike from Canada says:

    Tape worm diet.

    Plus, you’ll always have someone to talk to.

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