Why The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Are Messed Up
This is the kind of news I wish I didn't have to share, but I do. I wish that dietary guidelines were simple and created with the sole purpose of making it easier for you to be healthy. Unfortunately, it's a lot more complicated than that. I'm giving you a glimpse of how the U.S. Dietary Guidelines are created. This is just one example of why you may be trying to follow all the rules and recommendations and yet you're still not getting the results you want.
I can't emphasize this enough: It's not a lack of willpower that's preventing you from getting results. It's because you're not being set up for success. The good news is: if you do your own research, you can get amazing results. The bad news is you have to be your own health advocate and do your own research to know which advice to follow. I'm here to help you with that.
Remember the food pyramid in the 90's that made everyone afraid of fat and emphasized bread, cereal, and pasta as the foundation?
You learned about it in school (if you're my age) because those were the U.S. Dietary Guidelines at the time. Thankfully, the recommendations have improved since then. But they're still not what they could and should be.
Every 5 years the USDA updates their Dietary Guidelines. These guidelines are not only important in influencing the choices we make eating food (directly and indirectly), but it also has a huge impact on state and local food policy programs, school lunches, and the products that large food companies create.
The government hires an independent advisory committee comprised of 20 nationally recognized scientists to review the latest scientific evidence and research. The committee then presents their recommendations for any updates that should be made. Fantastic.
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue stated,
USDA is committed to ensuring everything we do is data-driven and based in scientific facts, which is why this expert committee’s work in objectively evaluating the science is of the utmost importance to the departments and to this process. The committee will evaluate existing research and develop a report objectively, with an open mind.
Sounds great, right?
The U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, stated,
The scientists we selected to serve on the committee are national leaders in the areas of nutrition and health. HHS, USDA, and all Americans will benefit from the collective experience and expertise of the committee, which will conduct a rigorous examination of the scientific evidence on several diet-related health outcomes, including the prevention of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which are three of the leading causes of death in the United States.
Sounds good...this makes sense. A board of experts in health and nutrition is hired to look at the scientific evidence available and to come up with recommendations that are in the best interest of our country to help decrease the leading causes of death in our country. Awesome!
Except….they chose not to listen to the advisory committee’s recommendations.
This year, the committee recommended decreasing the limit of daily added sugar from 10% of total calories to 6%. They also recommended decreasing the alcohol limit for men from two drinks to one per day (the same as women). The USDA guidelines did not include these recommendations in the revised US Dietary guidelines. I wish there was a good reason for this, but unless money from lobbyists is - I’m afraid there isn’t. Why am I sharing this?
I want you to see what you’re up against.
Unfortunately, recommendations can be outdated and may not always be 100% in your best interest. If the added sugar recommendations had been updated, this would have pressured large food companies to lower the amount of added sugar in their products. Why is that a big deal? Because sugar is (unnecessarily) hidden in everything, including the savory foods you're eating. And that's really messing with your ability to get the results you want. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out these posts and videos for information on why:
- You’re Probably Consuming More Sugar Than You Think
- The Single Most Important (And Easy) Swap to Achieve The Body You Want
If you’re not getting the results you want in your body, it’s not your fault.
And when I talk about results I’m not just talking about achieving a certain weight. You can be your goal weight and feel absolutely miserable.
- I want you to feel comfortable, energized, strong, and confident in your body without deprivation.
- I want you to feel focused, sharp, motivated, and happy throughout the day so that you're showing up as your best self at work and at home.
Ultimately, this is why the number one key to getting the results you want and feeling great is to start tuning out all the confusing recommendations out there and to start tuning into the one thing that’s going to give you the information you need: you.
When you can learn how to start listening to your body and what works best for you and your lifestyle, you will feel happier and healthier and that will carry over to all aspects of your life. Since large food companies likely won’t be changing their ways any time soon, the single most helpful thing you can start to do is to focus on including more real, nutrient-rich food and less processed food. When you do this, it makes it easier to listen to your body’s natural cues. And while the USDA chose not to follow the guidelines from a panel of experts, you still can.