Health News Hitting the Headlines: What to Believe
Health News Hitting the Headlines: What to Believe
Health news and food advice can be super confusing and often contradictory. Recently I posted about a newspaper article reporting on a World Health Organisation (WHO) report that says we need higher fibre in our diets and low carbohydrate diets are no good. The way that study was reported in some parts of the media was then criticised by healthcare professionals . Every other week it seems like there’s new health news and food advice telling us what we should or shouldn’t be eating/drinking. This week I’m going to try and tackle this thorny issue and hopefully offer a little of the Midlife Menu perspective.
How Should Midlifers View Health News and Food Advice?
So as busy midlifers with enough to think about, how should you view the mountain of health reports and food advice regularly flagged up on the news and online?
One thing to bear in mind is that everyone is different. You need to think about the big picture and where you fit into it. For example, if you’re someone who is aiming for weight loss then there’s a significant difference between your carbohydrate requirements for weight loss versus weight maintenance.
When clients transition from my 12-week programme I advise them to try and ensure that their carbs are around the 30-35% mark. That might sound like a reasonable amount but consider that the average diet is usually up to about 50%.
But as I’ve mentioned previously, carbs are what we need for energy and we are so sedentary these days that your carbs requirement is going to depend on how much exercise you do. That’s why people who start to exercise often lose weight because they’re starting to get the balance a bit better. Incidentally, that’s why weight loss can be difficult to maintain because it’s such a finely tuned balancing act between what you take in and what you use up (intake and expenditure).
Anyway, back to the health news…
You can always look at evidence in health studies from different points of view depending on your standpoint. Although that doesn’t mean that something healthy for one group is not going to be healthy for another, there are shades of grey between what you should and shouldn’t eat, depending on your needs as an individual.
For example, high fibre (as recommended in the WHO report) isn’t great for someone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Everyone is so individual in the way they process food, and the amount of exercise they do. Even if you gave someone the same food and the same exercise they would still probably process that differently depending on their age, body shape, hormones, stress levels as well as other issues around gut bacteria and how strong their digestive juices are. Even how you feel when eating has an effect. Quite simply, lifestyle, body shape and emotional attachment to food all vary greatly from person to person.
Remember: You’re the Expert
You’re the expert on you. I can’t know what you’re feeling unless you tell me. However it’s really hard to be objective about food, particularly food that gives us a bit of a jolt like sugar kicks and all those kind of things we crave. Some foods are comforting or spike blood sugar levels and we get used to the buzz they give and don’t want to give that up, even if actually it's making us feel tired, or isn’t good for us.
So, when health news and food advice comes along telling us to give up chocolate or wine or eat more fibre and less carbs it’s difficult to understand how it applies and even more difficult to follow … because what is right for me might not be right for you.
This health news sometimes gives the impression that a quick fix has arrived to help you feel better, fitter, and healthier. In our instant society it’s really tempting to think that changing one thing will solve all your issues overnight. It’s easier to get your head around doing something for a short period of time (think Dry January or a drop-a-dress size in two weeks newspaper article) than commit to a series of gradual but long term changes in the way you eat and think about food.
It’s also worthwhile digging a bit below the headlines of health news. Health reports are based on different populations, they might be short-term studies and it’s hard to get a cohesive picture. If you want to read the health news then look at the actual source of the study if there’s an online link - then you can consider the information behind it and whether it actually applies to you. Lots of people will have read or heard about the high fibre report because it has been all over the media but how many will go and read the actual study?
Dig A Little Deeper behind the Health news
Questions to ask yourself of any health study are:
Who did the study?
Who actually took part in it?
Was there any bias?
What stage of life were they at?
Does any of that connect to your situation?
With the WHO study it’s worth asking yourself if you do eat enough fibre and, certainly as a society we don’t, but you also need to look at other issues. Is there a different way you can bring that fibre in, is the carb/fibre balance right?
In short, it’s about looking at that bigger picture, not just the health headlines, and asking yourself where you fit into that picture. And that’s really hard to do objectively, which is why I so love working one to one with clients because I can really look at lifestyle and tailor it to the individual. It also means I’ve got your back as a sounding board and a motivator which helps when good intentions don’t go to plan. If you might be interested in working 1:1 then schedule a call to discuss where you are at the moment and whether this is the best next step for you.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Midlife Menu Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.