It’s Not What You’re Eating, But What You’re Not Eating

By: Anthony Campo

Many diets center on the idea that certain foods are “bad” for you. They claim all you have to do is avoid these “bad” foods and you will have success. Let’s take a classic fast food choice that pretty much everyone would agree would fall into the “bad” category… A Big Mac meal from McDonalds.

Now answer this question: Why is a Big Mac meal “bad” for your health?
Most people would give the following answers:
– Too many calories
– Too much fat
– Too much sugar
– Too much sodium
– Poor quality of ingredients

While some of these explanations are valid, they are just a part of the puzzle. They place too much emphasis on what you are consuming but not enough emphasis on what is missing from the food you consume.

Now let’s rewrite the explanations in the context of what is missing in this meal.
– Extremely low nutrients for the amount of calories (empty calories)
– High proportion of inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids compared to a small amount Omega-3 fatty acids that serve a multitude of healthy duties in the body
– No fiber to go along with the high amount of processed sugar
– Hardly any nutritional quality and lacking in nutrients

Many people believe that in choosing to avoid poor food choices like a Big Mac meal that they are depriving themselves. The word “deprivation” is often thrown around when talking about diet. Just recently I heard Oprah on a Weight Watchers commercial referencing deprivation. She stated that she doesn’t “feel deprived” on the Weight Watchers plan because she can still eat treats like potato chips. I have even read in “Women’s Health” magazine an article speaking on food choices in which they recommended an ice cream sundae with a shot of rum on it because, as they stated, “diets do not work if you are depriving yourself.”
So Oprah and “Women’s Health” are saying that if we don’t eat potato chips and alcohol covered ice cream then we will experience deprivation? Now clearly these are marketing tools, however, they are taking advantage of a warped cultural definition of “deprivation.” The truth is that many of these treat foods are actually lacking in nutritional value, and when you choose them over other healthier options are really depriving the body of nutrients.

So just what really is deprivation?

Medical Definition of Deprivation
: The act or process of removing or the condition resulting from removal of something normally present and usually essential for mental or physical well-being.

*Take Home Point
With this definition being understood, let’s go back the example of the Big Mac meal. True deprivation is not saying no to a Big Mac meal, but rather making consistent food choices that are lacking in adequate nutrition such as the Big Mac meal. So a better way to look at this is not what you are eating, but instead what you are NOT eating. Many treats as we know them in today’s culture (cookies, cake, pizza, soda, chips) are lacking in nutrients. Constantly choosing these types of foods along with many other processed foods instead of a variety of whole foods (Meats, Veggies, Fruits) will actually deprive your body of nutrition and can cause damage to your mental and physical wellbeing.