Diet Cults

Diet Cults

The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and A Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us

Book - 2014
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WW Norton
From “The Four Hour Body,” to “Atkins,” there are diet cults to match seemingly any mood and personality type. Everywhere we turn, someone is preaching the “One True Way” to eat for maximum health. Paleo Diet advocates tell us that all foods less than 12,000 years old are the enemy. Low-carb gurus demonize carbs, then there are the low-fat prophets. But they agree on one thing: there is only one true way to eat for maximum health. The first clue that that is a fallacy is the sheer variety of diets advocated. Indeed, while all of these competing views claim to be backed by “science,” a good look at actual nutritional science itself suggests that it is impossible to identify a single best way to eat. Fitzgerald advocates an agnostic, rational approach to eating habits, based on one’s own habits, lifestyle, and genetics/body type. Many professional athletes already practice this “Good Enough” diet, and now we can too and ditch the brainwashing of these diet cults for good.
From the national bestselling author of Racing Weight, Matt Fitzgerald exposes the irrationality, half-truths, and downright impossibility of a “single right way” to eat, and reveals how to develop rational, healthy eating habits.

Baker & Taylor
Debunks current diet fads and dispels the myth that there is only one true way to eat for optimum health and offers a rational approach to nutrition based on personal habits, lifestyle, and genetics.

& Taylor

A sports nutritionist and endurance and nutrition writer debunks the current diet fads and dispels the myth that there is only one true way to eat for optimum health and offers a rational approach to nutrition based on personal habits, lifestyle and genetics. 15,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Pegasus Books, 2014
Edition: First Pegasus Books edition
ISBN: 9781605985602
Branch Call Number: 613.2 Fit
Characteristics: 303 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Jun 29, 2017

I quite enjoyed this. He's an excellent writer and it was refreshing to hear something sensible regarding diet, Lord knows there's enough quackery out there.

Dec 07, 2016

I can't say that the style of writing in this book really impressed me much but if the author was aiming to make it easy to read and accessible, I suppose he's done that. It really came across as more chatty rather than scientific, like a neighbour leaning over the fence and saying, hey did you hear about so and so?
I could have gone for something a little more scientific, maybe with some better facts and figures, though I do not in general disagree with his view of these fad diets I don't think he really came across as knowledgeable as he could have.
His alternative to these diets is a practical plan he calls 'agnostic healthy eating' that really just breaks down into eating more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff, though he does seem to be assuming that anyone following this plan will be exercising a fair bit.
None of the diets in this book are really bad for you though, they all work for some and not for others, as the anecdotes show. They tend to be adopted by particular types of people and it works for them. If the body builders want to eat Paleo, so be it.
What I really got from this book is that humans are determined to be judgemental, with every proponent of a diet insistent that it's the only way and what we need to learn is that the human body is super adaptable, just pick something that works for you and try not to bore all your friends and family with constant talk about food and exercise.

ksoles Aug 22, 2014

Most will know prolific nutrition and fitness writer, Matt Fitzgerald, from his books on achieving the ideal racing weight. In "Diet Cults," however, he targets the barrage of diets that promise the "One True Way" to eat healthily. As implied, he attempts to debunk the major fads: Paleo, vegan, low carb, low fat, raw etc. but his self-contradition and the obvious paucity of research in his work ensure that devoted adherents to these popular diets won't change their ways after reading his book.

Fitzgerald begins with some evolutionary and sociological musing on why humans feel inclined to choose a dietary tribe in the first place. Thankfully he keeps the intro short as the bored tone of his opening thoughts does not inspire further reading! He does correctly point out, though, that so many diet crazes can coexist because none can really prove itself as superior: "science has established quite definitively that humans are able to thrive equally well on a variety of diets. Adaptability is the hallmark of man as eater. For us, many diets are good while none is perfect."

"Diet Cults," then, endorses "agnostic healthy eating," which basically amounts to the (obvious) recognition that some foods have more health benefits than others. He cites professional endurance athletes as models for this type of eating: "they simply eat as the dietary guidelines based on mainstream nutrition science would have them eat, which is to say they eat everything, but they eat a lot more of the healthiest foods...than they do of the least healthy foods."

Fair enough. Except, in advocating for the Standard American Diet (SAD) based on said recommendations, he neglects to mention that 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese. If having these guidelines in place actually proved effectiveness, the population would enjoy much better health. So how to enforce beneficial dietary guidelines? Fitzgerald introduces a non-scientific but sensical ranking and a points system as a guide to healthy agnostic eating. The key lies in recognizing where a food falls in the hierarchy, eating more of what's above it and less of what's below. First on the hierarchy comes vegetables, then fruit, nuts/seeds/healthy oil, high-quality meat and seafood, whole grains, dairy, refined grains, low -quality meat and seafood, sweets and, finally, fried foods.

One could certainly quibble about the details: Is sugar really better than trans fat? Should meat and seafood have separate categories? Are almonds really a superior choice to low-fat yogurt? But generally, the ladder promotes healthy eating and nicely sums up an "agnostic" diet.

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