So obviously papers have a very loose definition of news on January 2. I was already grumpy because they didn't do a Sunday magazine - it's the holidays and I've got nothing better to do than make fun of overpriced, ugly clothes. Then on page 4 of the 'news' section they printed an article where 5 members of the Sunday Star Times staff each trial a different diet for two weeks. Each diet is evaluated about by a dietician (for extra confusion between 'news' and 'advertising' the dieticians contact details and website are at the bottom of the article).
Now two and a half of these diets say that they mimic what our ancestors ate. This is an unbelievably moronic idea, and I have been looking for an opportunity to mock this idea shitless for quite a while. But I wanted to point out that just because I'm mocking a few of the other diets more that doesn't mean weight watchers is any better. Despite huge wittering to the contrary, weight is not a good indicator of health. It's true that diet and exercise can impact on people's health, but if you change your diet and exercise for health reasons, rather than as an effort to lose weight, you're more likely to see better health results. I would find diets like Weight Watchers slightly more palatable, if they were just a little bit more honest, and admitted that the reason people want to loose weight is because of society's pressures about our bodies. But I have some mocking to get into, so I'm not going to get into that rant right now (although I recommend Ampersand, he has a lot of good information and analysis - even if I don't agree with all of it).
Anyway let the mocking commence:
One of the diets is the Warrior Diet: "Mimics ancient hunter-gatherers by promoting exercise and under-eating (raw fruit and veges) by day, and overeating (nearly anything you want) by night." That actually just mocks itself, but the blood-group diet is equally ridiculous. The idea is that blood type is an evolutionary marker of the sort of food you can eat:
I am Type O, The Hunter, [...] According to my red blood cells I am a muscular, active sould who thrives on a meat-rich diet. I am not sure I am true to my type but I know I am not Type A, The Cultivator, whose blood dictates they should avoid red meat and only eat vegetables. Type B is The Nomad, the only type that can thrive on dairy products.Uh-huh
There's also the Australian Total Well-Being Diet (brought to you by the Australian Meat Board) which is a low-carbohydrate, high protein diet. Now I only counted this half because as far as I know it doesn't reach back into time to find out what we should eat. It's slightly nuttier cousins The Zone and Atkins both do, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to mock them as well (the argument goes that the domestication of grains is a relatively recent invention and therefore our ancestors didn't eat that much carbohydrates because they were all out killing dinosaurs - or something)
So there are a whole bunch of diets out there with various eating programmes that all defend themselves by saying they were how we used to eat back when we were living on plains. Now, the fact that there is more than one diet that does this is the first signal that maybe we shouldn't trust them. But more importantly, we're a pretty adaptable lot; we've lived from Greenland to the Equator, and had a slightly different diet everywhere we went. We've hunted large mammals until they died out, and then found other things to eat. We've lived in areas where there's lots of protein, and areas where there's little protein. Just about every society Jared Diamond described in Collapse had a slightly different diet - some high in carbohydrate, some high in protein - and whether they died out or not depended on what they did to their environment, not the ratio of 'carbs' to protein in their diet.
However, that's just a pimple on the bottom of the the fundamental logic problem these arguments have; they all say that eating like our ancestors will help us lose weight. Lets go back to life on the plains (or early agriculture, or most times in history) what were people's main nutritional needs? Throughout the vast majority of history there has been only just enough food to feed the people who want it (and not enough in some years). So our main goal was to have enough food to live through the next winter (or drought depending on where you were). If you put on some weight this was a good thing because that store of fat was energy that you could use to get through hard times.
Our ancestors wanted to gain weight not lose it; there is no reason at all that eating like our ancestors would make us lose weight.
I know the diet industry is one stupid unbacked up statement after another, but the complete lack of basic logic here stands out even so.