Eat for real change | Dr Joanna McMillan | TEDxMacquarieUniversity
Translator: Eugenia Mársico
Reviewer: Silvia Fornasiero
How would you feel if I was to tell you
that nutrition science
has come such a long way
that in my hand I have
some pretty special pills.
You’re never going to have to eat again,
You won’t be eating any meals,
all you need to do
is take one of these pills
breakfast, lunch, and dinner
for the rest of your life
and it’s going to give you
the perfect balance of protein,
carbohydrates, and fat.
It is going to give you
the number of calories or kilojoules
that you need to stay at exactly
the perfect weight for your body.
It’s going to give you
all of the antioxidants
and what we call phytochemicals
which just means plants nutrients,
that are good for us.
All in this amazing little pills.
Isn’t science amazing?
How would you feel?
That’s what I was hoping for.
I hope you are feeling,
“God, that would be awful!”
I hope there are some memories
coming into your mind right now.
They certainly are in mine.
I remember my mom’s awesome lasagna
that she always used to make
when we’d used to appear
as millions of people
and she had twenty mouths to feed
and she would whip up this lasagna.
I remember my grandmother
used to make this extraordinary
that my mother could never replicate
despite being the better cook.
I remember the pancakes
that the grandmother of a family friend
always made us whenever us kids
appeared at their house.
I remember being a teenager
doing exchanges with a student in France
and we had bowls of hot chocolate
with white bread
yes, white baguette with butter and jam
and we dipped it into our hot chocolates.
I remember the amazing paellas
that we used to have as a family
in Spain on our family holidays.
The point is food is much much more
than a bit of nutrients.
You’d be pleased to know
that science is not nearly at this point.
because food is more
than the nutrients that it contains.
Food is part of who we are.
Food is part of our culture.
It is part of our upbringing.
It’s part of how we negotiate
and interact with each other.
Just think about, those of you
in the room with a partner,
what did you do on your first dates?
I’m willing to bet that you
went for dinner at some point.
What do we do when we’re celebrating?
Apart from popping open the champagne,
we probably have some celebratory cake
or we have some food.
What do we do at Christmas and New Year?
What do we do at funerals?
Food is always involved.
I’ve traveled to some pretty
remote places in the world
and it’s the same everywhere you go,
whether you’re in the most
modern urbanized city
or whether you’re in some village
in the middle of Africa somewhere;
people want to share food with you.
The sharing of food
is the sense of friendship,
a sense of who we are as human beings.
And here’s my concern,
is that …
and I’m a Nutrition Scientist,
I’ve devoted my career to the space;
my concern is that nutrition
is destroying some of those things.
But here’s the problem,
because we do have quite literally
a big problem.
Here in Australia,
in most of the rest of the world,
certainly all of the developed world,
and, fastly catching us up,
the developing world,
it is now the norm in Australia to be fat.
Now that’s not an aesthetic problem.
I’m not here to talk about body image,
that’s a whole other talk.
But that problem coaches us in
a whole number of chronic health diseases.
We know that diabetes is on the rise.
Type 2 diabetes is now the fastest-growing
chronic disease in this country
and 280 of us are diagnosed
every single day.
Every 12 minutes an Australian dies
of cardiovascular disease.
Ladies, one in three of us
will develop cancer
and guys, I’m sorry, one in two of you
will develop cancer before you’re 85.
Now, while much of that
can’t be prevented,
we do know that diet, and lifestyle
but diet is intricately involved in all
of those chronic diseases.
If we were to change the way that we eat,
we could dramatically
reduce those numbers;
we could dramatically reduce
the early death that is in this country
and dramatically improve
the quality of life
for so many people.
So, why is it that it’s so hard to do?
If you’ve ever tried to follow a diet,
isn’t that an awful word?
I hate calling myself a dietitian
because that word “diet” is in there.
But diet really just means
the way that we eat
and what we are eating.
It’s really hard to change
the way that we do
and part of that is because
of how ingrained the way that we eat is
in the way that we live today.
So, how you’ve been brought up to eat
will always have a dramatic influence
on the way that you’re eating today
and the way that your future children
and the next generation comes through.
But I also feel that part of the problem
is the amount of confusion.
I was involved in a recent survey
where we asked people about
how they felt about healthy eating
whether they were confused by it.
87% of people said that
they were completely confused
by what on earth is healthy eating.
That’s coming from
some of the media sensationalism
that we have around this area.
And don’t get me wrong,
I’m involved in the media
and I love that people are so passionate
about this area,
but unfortunately, it ends up in some
things being slightly skewed and bent
and what was the truth kind of gets bent
out of all proportion.
So, let’s take butter as an example.
Did you see the Times magazine
not so long ago
where it had “butter”
in the front cover and said:
The scientists have got it all wrong”.
And suddenly my Facebook page
and other people’s
were going crazy saying:
“Yes! Burgers and bacon and everything
are all back on the menu!”.
That wasn’t what the research
showed at all.
The research actually showed that,
hang on a minute,
if we replace saturated fat
with a bunch of refined carbohydrates
we are in just as bad a state,
possibly even worse.
That’s actually what the research showed.
Did the research say:
“Hey, saturated fats
are actually really good for us”?
No, they didn’t.
It questions, yes,
the relationship between
saturated fat and cardiovascular disease
but that’s one aspect
of saturated fats in our body.
It certainly didn’t show us that, “Hey,
eating saturated fat reduces your risk”.
No, it didn’t say that,
but that’s the media reporting.
So that’s just one example
out of many that are showing us
how we’re actually
causing more confusion.
So, let’s take a little trip back
through my lifetime,
because essentially the thing
that I want to remind you about
is that we haven’t really got fat
until the last 50 or so years.
I’m not that old
but really is just those last few decades
that we are starting to have
this really major problem.
So, here’s what I’ve seen happen.
When I was a teenager, mom and I
first got interested in trying to diet,
became aware of my body and thinking,
“I’ve got to be skinnier”.
Skinny equals beauty
unfortunately in this country
and in the UK where I grew up.
And here’s what happened:
mom and I embarked
on a whole bunch of diets.
We did the Cambridge diet,
which was all shakes and pills and so on.
We were both ill by about day 3 in bed,
so we decided: “Ok,
maybe that’s not the way to go”.
Then we tried something else
called the Scarsdale diet,
that involved eating
a dry piece of wholemeal toast
in the morning with an orange,
I ate that breakfast
for I don’t know how many weeks.
I couldn’t do it today.
Tuna sandwiches I still struggle with
‘cause we had tuna sandwiches
a piece a fruit, a low-fat yogurt, so on.
We tried everything
we settled on the low-fat diet,
and of course that was the era
of the low-fat way of eating.
I remember eating
an entire French baguette
because it was fat free,
so guess what?
In here, license to eat.
And that’s exactly what we see.
So, the low-fat era took off,
and what happened?
Food companies responded
to our need for low fat
by giving us a whole bunch
of low-fat food.
it was full of refined starch,
lots of added sugars, additives
and whatever else, flavors galore
to try and make the food taste
even remotely good.
Psychologically, we all had
that license to eat.
“Oh, it’s fat free,
therefore, calorie free,
I can eat as much as I like”.
That’s the way that we interpreted it
and we continued to get fatter.
So then, suddenly
the finger of blame went:
“Hang on a minute, we’ve got it all wrong,
it’s not fat, it’s carbs!
It’s carbs that are to blame.
Go back to eating lots of fat.
Let’s focus on the carbs”.
And that’s kinda where
we are at the moment.
So, I went shopping, and normally
you’d expect a little shopping basket
to be full of food.
Here there’s not very much food,
but this is what people are eating.
So, now we’ve got a whole bunch
of products here.
This one says “Raw protein”.
So, we are fixated
with the problem is carbs.
This is raw protein and in the ingredients
says it’s got brown rice syrup
and brown rice protein.
How do you reckon
they got it out of brown rice?
Yet this is called the raw bar.
We’ve got “Think thin”.
Cookies and cream.
We’ve got high-protein, low-carb bars
in chocolate flavor.
You know what we want:
our cake and eat it,
we really do.
And things that make it sound like:
“Eat this and I’ll get you burning fat”.
All of those bars in here
have more than a thousand kilojoules
but you know what we are scared of?
God forbid you eat a banana.
It’s going to go straight to the belly.
That’s the situation we are in.
We’ve got cookie.
You know, we really wanna have
the chocolate, the sugary,
the cakes, the biscuits,
so we’ve got this kind of thing
It’s free of pretty much everything.
But you know what’s in it?
Basically rice, butter and sugar.
Just happens to be gluten-free flour.
This is the situation we are in
where people are completely confused,
and the food industry keeps responding
by giving us more and more of what?
That’s a basket, apart from my banana,
of processed food.
I live in Bondi, and I went
into one of the local whole foods cafes,
it’s honestly called Whole Foods,
that’s on its banner.
They serve these
amazing green smoothies
and I asked for the green smoothie
without the protein powder.
She looked and recognized
who I was and said:
“Why are you not having
the protein powder?”
“Is this not a good protein powder?
Should we have a better protein powder?”
And I said, “Because I don’t eat
or try not to eat too much of it”.
and the dawning on her face
was like, “Oh!”
I could see she had never considered
that this green pea protein powder
was actually a processed food.
So, why is it that we are
kind of recognizing
processed carbs are not
all that good for us,
we’ve certainly recognized
processed fat, trans fat
are not good for us,
but now we’re doing it with protein.
We’re processing the life out of that
and thinking that’s going to be
all our answers.
So when we look worldwide at the moment
we’ve got a number of different
We’ve got a very low-fat approach,
that’s practically vegan,
from Doctor Dean Ornish
over in the States.
He’s got lots of great research,
he’s shown some amazing studies
and published some amazing results.
We’ve got doctor Loren Cordain,
who’s the kinda father of the paleo diet
I’m sure there’s some people in the room
who might have tried or at least heard,
it’s the most googled diet at the moment,
That same Kathy, by the way,
that serves the green smoothies,
now serves paleo banana bread,
paleo brownies, paleo protein powder.
Where is paleo man eating any of that?
But we can’t see how ridiculous
that is, can we?
We’ve got the very low-carb approaches,
started of course by Doctor Atkinson,
now incorporated by a whole bunch
of other different people,
still really popular
in the fitness industry.
We’ve got the South Beach Diet
and the low GI diet.
And then we’ve got traditional diets
around the world
like the Mediterranean diet,
which is actually pretty high in fat,
but it’s fats from really good stuff,
like extra virgin olive oil,
avocados and nuts and seeds.
Really solid evidence
behind that kind of a diet.
We’ve got a very contrasting diet,
but they have
some of the longest living people
in the world in Japan:
the Japanese diet.
The Okinawans have
more people that live to 100
than anyone else in the world.
So that diet has been studied extensively
to see, can we learn anything from this?
and it’s very low fat.
So why did our low-fat thing not work
and theirs does?
Because when we look
at all those different approaches
they have some commonalities,
and that commonality is
that they’re based on real food,
on whole foods.
And the state that we are at
in nutrition research –
and I need to remind you
that nutrition research,
or nutrition as a science,
is still a very very young science.
We only discovered vitamins and minerals
We have so much more
to understand and to know,
so it’s a fascinating science to get into
and to study and to read about.
But there’s so much we need to know.
But there are,
despite the apparent confusion,
there are some very clear messages
coming out of this science.
that is that there are some foundations
that we can all employ,
the most important one of those
is that it is about eating more plants.
We absolutely must eat more plant food.
That’s the first thing.
But the other interesting thing about
looking at these traditional diets
that seem to be so healthy
is about the attitudes
to food in those places
I’m going to give you three words
and I just want you to think about
which one of these is the odd one out:
bread, pasta and butter.
Which one is the odd one out?
Because bread and pasta are carbs.
This question comes from
a real psychology study
that was published a few years ago.
More than a decade ago
now actually I think.
And they looked at the different cultures,
and they had the Americans,
the Belgians with the French,
and the Japanese.
The French answered that question
“Pasta is the odd one out,
‘cause bread and butter go together”.
The Americans answered that question
just as some people here did
by saying: “Bread and pasta go together
‘cause they are carbs”.
Who has the bigger problem with food?
That study showed that the Americans
were much more concerned and worried
about the foods that they buy,
they were much more likely to buy
the foods that are in my shopping basket.
They didn’t place much priority,
and they certainly
didn’t place much pleasure in food,
whereas the French do.
When I was a student,
I spent a summer waitressing
in a restaurant in Paris.
And it was in a business area
and what would happen
when all the local business people
would come to the restaurant
for a sit-down lunch with a knife and fork
converse and chat over the table
and then go back to work in the afternoon?
What happens in Sydney?
You’re lucky if you grab a sandwich
on the way.
People are eating in the street,
something my mother always told me
it was really rude to do.
Everything is grabbing on the run.
Everything is on the run. Rush rush rush.
We don’t give any priority,
and we don’t give any respect
to food anymore.
You know, when I was at school,
I’m not particularly religious,
but at school we had to say grace
before we ate our lunch.
The whole school had to sit down
at our tables,
and we all chanted the grace,
and then everyone could start to eat.
Something nice about that kind of respect,
’cause at the end of the day
what we have to recognise is that
we are really lucky that we have a choice.
We can choose to follow low carb,
or low fat, or paleo.
We have that choice.
But where I want to leave you
is by saying if we’re really
going to get some change,
and changing those awful statistics
that are hitting Australia,
I need you help.
We need to lose the diet wars.
We need to give up on the promises
that the quick fix is in the pills,
potions, and shakes,
and everything’s going to do it for us
without us putting in any effort ourselves
and we’ve got to go back
to eating real food.
And you can choose your ultimate diet.
As long as you have those
core whole food foundations
with lots of plant food,
whether or not you choose to add meat
or other animal products into it,
then you can make it
individualized to you.
And above all,
we absolutely must eat with joy.
We have to take pleasure
in what we are doing
because otherwise you’re not going to
do it for the long term.
It’s only when you change
for the long term,
you change the way your thought
that’s the only way that
we’re actually going to get real change.
And I hope you’ll agree with me,
that that is an idea worth spreading.