“If it's not organic, it's pretty much poison”
In theory, eating organic undeniably better. The American way of farming has cut corners, genetically modified fruits and vegetables, and inhumanely raised animals. These practices have been a large contributing factor in the widespread increase in chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.
It is natural to react in an extreme way when you read some of the statistics and articles in the media. The headlines alone are scary:
- “GMO’s are killing you”
- “The hormones in beef give cancer”
- “Milk will make your teeth fall out”
- “Organic chicken broth will make your run faster”
Obviously, I am being a little facetious, but the point is these headlines can be scary. It makes the smartest of us stop and think, “Should I be eating more locally-sourced kale?”
The answer is NO. Absolutely NOT.
Listen up close while I take you backwards
Let’s “Missy Elliot” organic for a second and go backwards. First, we need a little history.
Until the 1920’s, all agriculture was generally organic. Farmers used natural means to feed the soil and control pests. It wasn’t until WWII that farming methods took a dramatic turn. While researching to find a chemical to act as nerve gas, scientists accidentally discovered that they were also capable of killing insects very efficiently.
In 1939, the first of a new class of insecticides paved the road to a new, faster, and less buggy way of farming. The heavy use of chemicals were now promoted, leading to an outright dismissal of organic farming methods.
By the 1960s and 1970, a movement was born known as the ‘be natural’ approach, named after the growing consumer interest in health and nutrition. The growth of the green movement and the focus on conservation and environmental issues stimulated the development of the organic market and encouraged farmers to adopt organic methods.
Smaller bodega style markets housed most organically grown foods until 1980, when four local businesspeople in Austin, Texas decided that the natural foods industry was ready for a supermarket format known as Whole Foods Market. The original Whole Foods Market opened in 1980 with a staff of only 19 people. It was an immediate success. At the time, there were less than half a dozen natural food supermarkets in the United States.
From its birth in 1980, Whole Foods has been the unofficial leader in organic foods space.
Fast Forward to 2016
Originally, Whole Foods and other markets like it had a very important intention: to seek out (and I will quote Whole Foods directly here):
“...the finest natural and organic foods available, maintain the strictest quality standards in the industry, and have an unshakeable commitment to sustainable agriculture.”
Man, that sounds like an amazing mission. But in 2016, the word “organic” has come to mean something far more complicated.
To The Consumer
To The Organic Business
Sales Valued at $40 Billion Annually
Sales Growing at 11% per Year
Charging on average 47% premium to their non-organic counterparts
Yea, but it's organic, so it's worth the $$
Let’s get sciency for a second. In 2012, a massive analysis was published by Stanford University. I know, fancy. Now, this may make your head explode, so sit down, grab some coffee, and be ready for some big words.
The team analyzed 240 studies: 17 comparing populations consuming organic versus those consuming conventional diets, and 223 studies that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry, and eggs) grown organically versus grown conventionally.
The study found:
“.... little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods, as well as no consistent differences in the vitamin content of organic products. In fact, only one nutrient (again, phosphorous) was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce. Protein and fat content were also similar, although a significant difference was reported in organic milk, which contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.”
“….The review yielded scant evidence that conventional foods posed greater health risks than organic products. While researchers found that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides.”
There ya have it. There is really no scientific proof that organic food is healthier, more nutritious, or better for you. They do contain higher levels of phosphorous and lower levels of pesticides, but not significant enough to make a difference in your overall health and well being.
But I love Whole Foods
Don’t get me wrong, I love going to Whole Foods too. It’s an elegant shopping experience and I’m a gentleman. But my mission is to uncover the truth behind the trends in our nutrition to understand if they have true merit. My #1 job is not to sell protein, but to change my client's relationship with food.
Every client I have ever spoken to has predisposed ideas about what’s healthy, but there is one huge flaw with every single argument. It is rarely balanced, often biased, and following some trend of the moment.
Even in our Strengthlete Questionnaire, when we ask people to “Describe a typical day of eating,” it is usually answered with:
- “No carbs at night”
- “Low carb”
- “High fat”
- “High protein”
- “Intermittent Fasting”
When we ask “Why,” most people respond:
- “I don’t know”
- “Because it’s bad to have carbs at night”
- “I heard it on a podcast”
- “Fat is good”
- “Because it's healthy”
- “Because someone told me at CrossFit, and that guy or girl is jacked”
Let’s Take it a Step Further
None of these answers make any sense. Food, no matter how it's grown, farmed, or raised, is not inherently good or bad. It may be right for your body or not right for your body. But that changes from person to person.
I am lactose intolerant. My body does not do well with cheese. But, I don’t think cheese is bad or evil, I actually love cheese and wish I could have a slice of pizza without having to take 5 lactaids first.
So why are carbs considered “bad” or “evil” and fat seen as “good” and “healthy,” even though you can gain as much weight overeating avocados as you can eating bread?
The Eating Rollercoaster
My biggest obstacle is overcoming the nutrition media. The nutrition media has clouded the internet and your brain with ideas of what is healthy, nutritious, and “good” and “bad.” This information is conveniently written at the same time a diet, trend, or fad is hot.
The result is the “eating rollercoaster,” going from eating all organic, to being on a juice cleanse, to eating low carb, to eating high carb. But why?
Are we all searching for a magic pill that will :
- Help us lose weight?
- Help us feel more confident?
- Help us feel better about our body?
- Flip a switch in our brain so we can have 1 cupcake instead of 7
You Can’t Avoid Food
This is very important. Listen closely. YOU CAN’T AVOID FOOD. YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH IT.
No matter what, you will be surrounded with food that is not always the most nutritious. You will be invited to:
- Family parties
- House parties
- A night out at the bar
- Eating at restaurants
- A cocktail party
The goal is not to avoid food, but to be able to control yourself around it. If your nutrition or eating plan is not teaching you to have a better relationship with food, it is failing you before you even start. Period.
To learn more about my anti-diet approach to weight loss, start with my workshop below.