Food study after food study is done in this country, and the results are media news — we talk about fitness, food, health, and obesity in our media all the time. I see at least one national story each day that addresses these subjects, so even the least well-informed American is getting some news in these areas. While I appreciate that our media is covering these things and bringing these issues to the attention of average Americans, at some point, we have to start questioning the effectiveness of media coverage and the food studies themselves in helping to educate Americans and therefore (hopefully) inspire changes in the average American diet. Are any of these news stories or food studies really telling us anything new? Anything genuinely applicable for most people?
Here’s a recent study that I think exemplifies the fact that all this news coverage and all these food studies are futile and wasteful: Jenny Craig, one of the many diet & food subscription plans available for combating obesity, funded a study to see how well participants in Jenny Craig programs could keep weight off over a long period of time (2 years). The study’s conclusion? That “ structured diet, exercise plans seem to shed pounds .”
Let’s set aside, for a minute, the obvious problems with the reliability of a food study funded by the very company whose program is being investigated. The only conclusion this study could come to was that having a well-organized eating plan and a regular exercise program helped people to lose weight? Surprise! Counting servings & calories works! Moving more works! Seriously, this is Fitness 101. Actually, this is the pre-req to Fitness 101. This is basic nutrition.
Once again, we are given news about a health, fitness and nutrition study that does nothing more than confirm the already well-known basics of fitness and nutrition science. This does nothing to motivate Americans to actually start a structured diet or exercise plan. It also does nothing to help change a food industry that is more interested in labeling old foods with new “healthy” words (like “fiber,” or “whole grain,” or “made with real sugar”) than actually changing the basic composition of its products. And studies like this make me sad because they also confirm something I know but often ignore — Americans are not interested in changing their food supply. As I read more about food and nutrition, and as I move forward in my studies toward (someday) having a Nutrition degree, I find the apathy of most Americans discouraging. This kind of self-perpetuating and solipsistic view of food and nutrition makes me wonder if there is a solution — a way to break the scientific and media cycle that continues to bring us more of the same. Ironically, that possibility, despite the sometimes discouraging reality, is exactly why I want to continue to be part of the conversation.