Gary Taubes, Ray Peat, and Dean Ornish walk into a restaurant.
Taubes – “I’ll have a 18oz steak fried in butter, and a glass of water.”
Peat – “I’ll have a 6oz steak, and a coffee with 8 pounds of sugar in it. Also, bring me the dessert menu.”
Ornish – “I’ll have 150kcal of salad to start, a 4oz filet of fish, 300kcal of whole grain pasta, and hold the dessert”
They sat around for a bit longer, and when the food came they started to lace into each other.
Taubes – “Look at you two! You’re gonna get so fat because of insulin. Whole grains and sugar! LMAO! WTF!” (I assume Gary talks in acronyms in daily life, I don’t know why).
Peat – “Are you kidding me? Look at all that fat, protein and iron! You realize iron and mortality curves are identical, protein is inflammatory and fat suppresses metabolism! And you, Ornish, look at all those PUFAs – enjoy your lipid peroxidation!”
Ornish – “Look at your meals! Processed sugar and saturated fat! You two are headed for an early grave! Arterial plaque, cholesterol, etc.”
They finished up their respective meals while exchanging hateful glances. When they walked out the door together, a good Samaritan driving a bus smashed into the entrance of the building and killed them all. They all ironically died at the same time. And the world was better for it. The End.
Okay, so that ending was a bit harsh, and I sincerely wish all three gentlemen the best. But let’s come back to the title of this post: “Diets of Exclusion: Please Die”. What exactly do I mean by diets of exclusion? Well, I’m talking about diets whose resounding message is that of restriction: Don’t eat these foods or you will die young/be inflamed/get cancer/grow a sixth toe/have an allergy/etc. A low-carber will tell you to avoid all carbs. A Paleo-er will tell you to avoid all modern foods. A Peatarian will tell you to avoid polyunsaturated fats. An IFer will tell you not to eat before your 18 hour fast is up. A Certified Dietician will tell you to not eat saturated fats and restrict caloric intake. The list goes on. All of these recommendations are those of exclusion. DO NOT DO (INSERT BEHAVIOR).
Even in the world of research, we see scientists studying “The negative effect of eggs of serum cholesterol” or “Positive effects of low-carb dieting on obesity” or “The effects of caloric restriction on longevity”. Yet studies that show the positive effects of including Vitamin K2, magnesium, zinc, calcium, sugar, etc. in a diet often go overlooked by the vast portion of the nutrition community. People go “yeah, well, duh” and then ignore just how important these studies are when looked at as a whole.
We spend so much time in the nutrition world focusing on what to exclude, when we should be focusing on something more important – what to include. When we focus on what to include, we find convergent patterns between divergent nutrition protocols. Did you know Ray Peat, Dean Ornish and Gary Taubes all think Vitamin K2, D, A, zinc, magnesium, and calcium is essential for healthy bones, arterial de-calcification, and neural function? Well they do. How about high levels of anti-oxidant intake to restrict oxidative damage? You bet. Look hard and you see that these very different guys actually have a lot in common.
We look at two-thirds of the population and we see excess fat lining people’s waist. It’s no wonder our first instinct is “Holy crap! They need to restrict…. something!” I mean, being fat and unhealthy is a symptom of excess right? They ate too much of everything and got that way, right? Wrong.
Being fat and unhealthy is a symptom of shortage, not excess.
I could dig up studies like this all day. Fat and sick people are lacking necessary nutrients for proper biological function, they do not have an excess of nutrients. Every negative dietary habit (however you may define this in your view of nutrition) can be combated by a positive behavior. Afraid of lipid peroxidation and PUFAs? Have some anti-oxidants and Vitamin E. Afraid of damage from glycosylated proteins? Vitamin E again. Afraid of oxidative damage from iron? Drink some coffee while you eat that steak and chow down on some food with zinc and magnesium (competitors of iron). For every ‘negative’ behavior, there is a balancing ‘positive’ behavior that you can engage in. Stop wasting your time, and stop destroying the quality of your life by restricting your food choices to an obscene level. Start focusing on what you actually need and less on what you don’t need.
I think if all us diet-practitioners started preaching about positive and inclusive habits instead of negative and exclusive habits, our fat and sick relatives, friends, co-workers, and lovers might be more inclined to listen to the things we say about nutrition. When your resounding message is “Oh, you know that thing you love? Yeah, stop it” we’re bound to run into resistance. The real trick is that once you make people aware of the things they SHOULD be including in their diet, they’re more likely to correctly autoregulate and restrict the “bad foods” on the basis that they’re absent of the nutrients they actually require.
Fear is a powerful motivator, but it’s hard to be afraid of a greasy burger, fries and a beer. Love is an even better motivator, and it’s way easier to convince people to love something new than to hate something they already love.