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Green Shield Canada

Episode 22: The diet dilemma

In episode 22, host David Willows and producer Sarah Murphy bring back GSC writer Carley Parekh to discuss her recent edition of g(sc) TALK which takes a critical look at the world of diets and diet culture.
And now for something completely indifferent

And now for something completely indifferent

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Episode 22 Transcript

[INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:15] SM: Hello and welcome to another episode of GSC’s podcast; And Now For Something Completely Indifferent, where we’ll be discussing the hottest topics and trends in Canadian health benefits. I am the producer and editor, Sarah Murphy.

Before we get started with today’s episode, we would like to remind our listeners that the views expressed in this podcast are those of the individuals speaking and not necessarily the views of GSC. We may talk about possibly controversial subjects and therefore reserve the right to potentially offend some listeners, but are apologizing for it upfront.

You can download this podcast from our website at greenshield.ca/podcast or subscribe to it from where ever you get your podcasts. We also encourage you to read our publications, the inside story, follow the script and GSC talk, which you can also download from our website, and please be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

And now let’s get started. Today’s episode is hosted by David Willows, GSC’s EVP of digital innovation and brand experience.

[00:01:16] SM: Hello, David.

[00:01:16] DW: Hi, Sarah. Today we have one of our little short pods with our old friend, Carley, who is on our team and one of our writers, and this month’s GSC talk, which she is the owner of, is about food and diets and fads and fasting and all of those things. I have to say, we’re recording this intro after we’ve already recorded the pod, and she was quite almost confessional about her challenges in finding her proper relationship with food. I think it’s clear, women have a different relationship with food in our society than perhaps men and the societal pressures and such.

I thought maybe as an intro we could talk food. Because we’ve known each other for like 8 or 9 years now. We’ve worked together. We’ve had a lot lunches together. We’ve had some dinners.

[00:02:13] SM: We’ve shared meals.

[00:02:14] DW: Yeah. Should we maybe, in the spirit of transparency, share with each other what we believe our food issues are? I’m going to tell you what I’ve seen and what I’m concerned about.

[00:02:24] SM: Oh! You’re going to talk about my food issues. Oh! I don’t have to confess. You’re just going to do it for me?

[00:02:28] DW: Yeah.

[00:02:28] SM: Oh, okay. Great.

[00:02:28] DW: It’s feedback. No. We’re trying to build a culture of feedback in this company and I think most business cultures are. I thought this would be an opportunity for me tell you what I’ve seen in a semi-unprofessional way, because that’s what we do.

[00:02:43] SM: By that you mean because we’re opening it up into the public.

[00:02:45] DW: Yeah.

[00:02:45] SM: Yeah. That’s great. Yup.

[00:02:46] DW: I’ll go first, because you didn’t know I was going to do this.

[00:02:48] SM: No, I didn’t.

[00:02:48] DW: Then you have to, one, respond to what I say about you and then quickly try to figure out what you’re going to say about me. But Sarah Murphy, I believe you have – Although not a vegetarian, you have a disordered relationship with meat.

[00:03:03] SM: 100%, but I don’t think it’s diet related. It’s not because of a diet.

[00:03:07] DW: Okay. Why do you have this strange relationship with meat? You should probably tell people what I’m talking about.

[00:03:12] SM: I think it’s because, for those who know me, I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. I don’t love to get – Most people don’t like to get sick, but I’m probably a little bit more obsessed with it than others.

[00:03:25] DW: You believe meat makes people sick.

[00:03:27] SM: I just somehow, rational or not, feel like undercooked meat makes you sick.

[00:03:33] DW: Undercooked meat.

[00:03:34] SM: Specifically chicken.

[00:03:35] DW: Yes?

[00:03:35] SM: But all meat, really.

[00:03:36] DW: Now you have a superbly disordered relationship with chicken in particular.

[00:03:40] SM: Yup, undercooked chicken. Most people should have this, but they don’t. Some people seem to –

[00:03:44] DW: But you literally will not eat chicken even if it’s cooked.

[00:03:47] SM: Yup, for the most part unless I cook it.

[00:03:48] DW: Yes, because you fear –

[00:03:50] SM: That I’m going to get sick from undercooked chicken.

[00:03:52] DW: Even if it’s overcooked, you will not eat it, fearing it’s secretly undercooked.

[00:03:56] SM: Yeah. That’s exactly right.

[00:03:57] DW: Okay.That’s pretty screwed up.

[00:04:00] SM: It’s totally screwed up.

[00:04:00] DW: Okay.

[00:04:00] SM: And it’s not really connected to a diet. I just don’t eat chicken because I’m on the non-chicken diet. It’s because I just don’t want to be sick from undercooked chicken. Yup. That’s my one thing. Otherwise, I have a pretty healthy relationship with food. I do fairly well.

[00:04:11] DW: You sound defensive. I’m just giving you feedback. Don’t be defensive.

[00:04:16] SM: Okay. Fair enough. All right.

[00:04:17] DW: Okay. Hit me.

[00:04:18] SM: I think you admitted to it in the podcast actually that you have a little bit of a fasting issue. Like it’s not that you are specifically following a fasting diet, but you sometimes just choose not to eat breakfast at all.

[00:04:27] DW: That’s right.

[00:04:27] SM: You’re going to wait until lunch, and then for you, lunch time sits at 10.

[00:04:32] DW: That’s more like – that’s true. No. I’m an early bird.

[00:04:34] SM: Right? In working with you. We’re in meetings.

[00:04:35] DW: I don’t have breakfast.

[00:04:35] SM: And by 10, you’re like – It’s literally like, “Is it time for lunch?” “No. It’s 10, David.”

[00:04:40] DW: But, yeah, when you call it fasting, I think that’s giving me too much credit that there’s some thought into it.

[00:04:44] SM: You’re right. It’s not –

[00:04:44] DW: Right? I’m just not a big fan of like breakfast food. I like all the food that comes after. So why not load up on that?

[00:04:50] SM: Right. So it’s not so much that you’re intentionally not eating because you’re trying to starve your body. It’s just you just don’t like breakfast foods That’s the only thing I’ve really observed. Otherwise, fairly normal.

[00:04:57] DW: Okay. I would say between the two of us, I’m sort of less weird than you.

[00:05:03] SM: 100%.

[00:05:03] DW: And that’s on the record now. Maybe the next intro, you can just sort of unload on me on some other behavioral issue that I have that I didn’t bring up. Let’s bring Carley in.

[INTERVIEW]

[00:05:19] DW: Hey, Carley. Welcome back.

[00:05:21] CP: Thank you. 

[00:05:22] DW: This topic that you’ve recently written about in GSC Talk, which is the piece that we do really aimed at plan members more than some of our traditional writing for sponsors and advisors was around food and diets and the hot one today, which is fasting. We’ve been talking about writing about this for some time now, because it’s been one of my little obsessions because I’ve noticed over the last year or maybe a little bit more that a lot of my friends who, let’s face it, are sort of clustered in this. They’re middle top or middle class. I would say they have some privilege about them. They have the money to eat well and take care of themselves and get good advice, but they have what I perceived very strange relationships with food, and I see this a big a sort of a modern phenomenon. I don’t remember this sort of when I was growing up or even my 20s and 30s. I don’t know whether it’s attached to this whole foodie culture as well where people are more interested in food at a younger age and then extrapolate from that broader relationships with food.

Really in the last year, a lot of these folks have been fasting on some level. I’ve got some friends who have done it for sort of days on end and I’ve witnessed some of them at sort of the end of that fasting and making sure that my limbs are not near their plate as they have their first meal. I’ve seen others who are just doing this shorter period, which I’m sure you’re going to talk about here.

It’s interesting. I’ve often found this fasting happening, but then I see these same people in what I would describe, binging mode, as well. So then I wonder whether is fast binge the new craze? We just talked about the fasting part, and on the binging part is sort of our quiet shame. You did a lot of research. It sounds like you confronted some of your own demons, which we’ll try to get out under the airwaves as well, but just tell us sort of what your thinking is after doing your research and writing this piece and where you’ve landed on some of this.

[00:07:34] CP: So fasting does seem to be the diet that at least in my circles as well, everyone’s talking about. I admit, I’ve tried it for a while as well. I think the secret shame of binging is what I will make not secret right now. It happens. I experienced it as well and it is one of the known pitfalls of fasting. I guess I’ll backtrack a bit. There is some really good evidence that there are health benefits to fasting. When we talk about fasting, there are typically two common approaches. Either you’re fasting for specific days of the week or you’re restricting your food intake to a specific period of time every day. It’s usually 8 to 10 hours. I tried the latter, which is that every day you’re eating only between 8 and 10 hours.

There is some evidence that this is really good for your blood sugar. It does allow your blood sugar levels to come down and there is some evidence around metabolism as well. It’s good for your metabolism. But ultimately it’s still calorie restriction, which a lot of diets, this is kind of what they’re based around, is that you’re just restricting the amount of calories that you take in. If you’re eating for less time during the day, then you would be technically eating less calories.


But of course, your body’s metabolism is set to a certain amount of calories. Even though you have decided that you’re going to restrict your period of eating, your body is telling you, “But I’m hungry. Please feed me,” and I found that that’s what happened with me where I would sort of have my limited period, which would start generally later in the day. I was a breakfast skipper and then we go sort of until like 7:30, 8:00. But then I’d find like almost subconsciously that I’d be in my fridge at like 9:30, 10:00 at night, which is really it’s kind of – There’s lots of evidence to say that like late night snacking is not good for you. But I just couldn’t help myself.

[00:09:36] DW: Because you were hungry.

[00:09:37] CP: Because I was hungry. Right. 

[00:09:38] DW: Yes. Okay.

[00:09:38] CP: Because your body is legitimately hungry, right?

[00:09:40] DW: For the record; fasting causes hunger. That’s our big aha moment here.

[00:09:46] CP: Yeah. I think I was saying earlier that I would no longer consider myself fasting, but I do try to limit. I try not to eat anything after 7:30 PM, generally. There are certain instances if I’m watching a game or something like that that sometimes I’ll pull out a bag of chips, but generally I try to keep that rule.

[00:10:05] DW: And there is a game on every single night.

[00:10:06] CP: There is a game.

[00:10:07] DW: Between hockey, basketball. 

[00:10:09] CP: I know.

[00:10:10] DW: Your piece also talks about other sort of famous/infamous diets that are out there. Can you walk us through some of them and what other ones that have some research/credibility to them to this day?

[00:10:24] CP: So I want to actually make the distinction here around the word diet. Diet is really just a pattern of eating, and that could be a cultural pattern. Today we sort of associate it with these very strict prescribed regimens that usually have some kind of catchy name, marketing name attached to them.

[00:10:52] DW: I’m currently on the steak and red wine diet. I’ve got a book coming out about it.

[00:10:56] CP: It’s not a thing. It is a trend though. I feel like in every podcast, we perhaps talk about your love for red wine. The diet in terms of a commonly understood diet that most people are familiar with was the Mediterranean diet. That one is generally understood. Doctors prescribe it. It’s based on research from the Mediterranean part of the world that shows that they have lower incidents of basically all of the chronic diseases and they just have lots of – I don’t know if how you would say it, lots of longevity. They have long longevity. But anyhow, they live a long time.

[00:11:32] DW: And they eat pretty well. By any standard, right?

[00:11:34] CP: They eat pretty well.

[00:11:35] DW: I don’t think any of us think of, “Oh, I’m going to go the Mediterranean. That’s going to be terrible.” 

[00:11:39] CP: Right. Yeah. No. I mean, it’s a pretty well rounded diet that doesn’t – It’s not so much about exclusion. It’s more about enjoying lots of different types of food, that we’ll get to this, but like mostly plant-based and not so much red meat. They even enjoy a glass of red wine from time to time.

[00:11:58] DW: But they don’t forbid red meat. It’s just sort of limited, right?

[00:12:00] CP: It’s just limited. It’s just not a large part of their regular diet, right?

[00:12:03] DW: Yeah.

[00:12:04] CP: So we did look at a few other diets which were generally kind of understood as being in the category of lose weight fast, but not necessarily good for your health. So that would be like whole 30 ketogenic. Any of those detoxes that you see, like just really are not good for you. They’re really marketed to help people who are looking to lose weight really quickly sometimes at the expense of health.

Of all of those diets that I looked at, the Mediterranean diet came out as being the clear frontrunner. But I think one of my favorite parts about writing this article was the study that I came across by this researcher, Dr. Katz and then a colleague of his, Dr. Stephanie Miller. I think they’re at Yale, who did a review of all the diets sort of in popular culture over the past several decades and they tried to draw some conclusions from them. Can we say what diet is best for health? And Mediterranean diet was one of the ones that they looked at.

At the end of the day, they kind of came out and said, “We really can’t declare a winner here,” and while they didn’t have a winner, they did say that there were patterns that emerged among all of the diets that they would say would form a healthy diet, and where they brought that back to was there was an article in 2007 by Michael Pollan. He wrote a book about it eventually called Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants., and they said that that’s actually a fairly good mantra. If you’re trying to healthy, if that’s why you’re looking at your diet and you’re trying to eat healthy for the purposes of being healthy, that’s really what you want to do. You want to enjoy food, real food. So an unprocessed is possible, as close to its original source, not too much. To your point, binging is maybe not a healthy way to be eating, and mostly plants. Focusing on plant-based eating.

Again, and I think this kind of brought me back to this place of, “What are we talking about here though? Are we talking about diets as a health-based decision or are we talking about it in the more marketing speak way that we think about diets today where you think about them as a way to lose weight, look good, all of that kind of stuff?

[00:14:29] DW: What’s interesting to me is that – I mean, that mantra. What is that? Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I would love to get into the psychology of the human species that our inability to sort of do that, which is sort of simple and seemingly normal, but we can’t do that, so we don’t eat for long periods of time and then we hope we’re not going to eat a lot to make up for it rather than, “Okay. I’m going to eat those three meals, but I’m not going to each too much and I’m going to try to have fruits and vegetables,” and I just can’t get my head around this issue.” 

[00:15:09] CP: Yeah. Like why it’s so hard.

[00:15:11] DW: Yeah. 

[00:15:11] SM: Rational.

[00:15:12] CP: Right. I think that the word that you used at the top of this was the right one, which is that it’s a relationship, right? It’s a relationship to food and it can be functional of dysfunctional just like any other relationship. When we break diet down into its nutritional components, when we’re talking about carbs, or fat, or vitamins, nutrients, all of that kind of stuff, we really lose the big picture and we look at food as if it’s like a math problem that we have to solve. We’ve got to have all the correct inputs and outputs and all of that.

I think – And this is what was argued in that study. It’s like we’re really overthinking this, and ultimately if we just eat good food, and it’s okay if you’re not doing that all the time. You don’t have to be strict about it. You can just enjoy it. Create a relationship with food that’s based on enjoying foods that are healthy and good for you and sometimes also enjoying foods that are maybe not in that category and not beating yourself up over it.

If you’re eating well most of the time, then you’re probably pretty healthy. Again, it depends on what your aim is. Are you eating to be healthy or are you eating because of all the cultural baggage that’s wrapped up around diet? I think that’s where this article got really personal for me, is especially as women, we’re targeted by a lot of marketing around looking a specific way. Eating to sort of attain that specific look and thinking about that as having affected my relationship to food I think was really interesting. Thinking about the way that I think about food and why did I feel that I needed to start intermittent fasting? What was I hoping to accomplish from all of that?

[00:17:01] DW: Tell us the answer. Are you still on that journey to figure that out?

[00:17:05] CP: I mean, yeah, kind of, right? I think it should be an ongoing discussion that you have with yourself. Why do I think of this food as bad and that food as good? Especially now, like I have a child and I’m trying to teach him how to eat too. I think it really puts all of that into perspective. How are my emotions wrapped up in what I eat and how I eat? Am I really just overcomplicating this for myself? I generally eat very healthy actually. I would say that I have a pretty healthy diet. I do enjoy chips and red wine and also steak from time to time, but that’s okay.

[00:17:43] DW: Okay. Well, that’s good. Thank you for this sort of confessional.

[00:17:47] CP: It’s very therapeutic.

[00:17:50] DW: In part two of this podcast, I’m going to ask you to answer the question of is [inaudible 00:17:53] role model or not. That’s sort of the other side of this debate, which I’m fascinated with recently, but I won’t make you go on air about that because that’s even I think more landmines in that one.

[00:18:04] CP: It’s a good question though, and I think also, yeah, wrapped up in some of the topics in this article, right?

[00:18:11] DW: Yeah. Sarah, you know this. Basically, since the Raptors won the championship, I’m ready to go. I don’t care anymore. I’m not going to try to hang on for too long. So I’m in a phase now where sort of I eat and I drink what I want. I would say I have a healthy relationship with food. We love each other greatly and I’m willing to live with the consequences of that forbidden love.

[00:18:35] SM: Perfect.

[00:18:36] DW: Thanks, Carley. We’ll come back next time and should see what you write about next.

[00:18:41] CP: Thanks so much.

[00:18:41] DW: Bye.

[00:18:42] CP: Bye.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

[00:18:46] SM: Thank you to our listeners for tuning in to another episode of And Now for Something Completely Indifferent, a Canadian health benefits industry podcast. To be sure to get future episodes, please subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts or visit our website at greenshield.ca/podcast to download.

As a reminder, we talk about these issues consistently in our publications which are available on our website as well as on social media. So be sure to follow the conversation. For today’s episode, be sure to check out latest issue of GSC Talk.

Thanks for listening, and we’ll talk again soon.

[END]