Lustig means Joyful in German and funny (or weird) in Swedish, but Robert Lustig is neither of those things. At least it’s not that side of him that shines through in his book “Fat Chance”. He’s pissed. And coming from his angle, as a pediatrician working with obese kids, it’s understandable. That main thesis of the book is that we tend to place blame on the individual when it comes to overweight, and that this, in many respects, is wrong. What set him off was the current boom of obese children, and the idea that any way you put it, they are victims, not perpetrators. He then goes on to claim that this is at least in part true to the grown up population as well. We are victims of our hunger-adjusting hormones, and of the food that is made available to us.
Just like six million other people, I’ve watched the video on Youtube where he lashes out at sugar and the FDA. Some might feel that he comes across as a little cocksure and arrogant, and some of his statements are a bit bold. For these reasons I like the book more, even though it’s not as easily digested as the video. (It’s not light reading, and most of the book is really about clinical work and politics. Obesity on a population level.) For instance he takes care in the book to mention that sugar is not proven to be an addictive substance, but that his personal view is that it behaves as one. All in all he is a bit of a maverick, but I personally think he does a very important job in trying to change eating habits among the poor in the US. I hope he gets some influence.
One funny thing is that a lot of the remedies he suggests are already implemented here in Denmark. The supermarkets are full of fresh produce, traditionally the Danes eat a lot of whole grain bread. And, as in Germany, they are nuts about organic food. The situation described in the book, where there are only fast food joints or supermarkets with ready -made meals is completely alien to me. Of course, Denmark is also famous for Danish pastry, beer, sausages and cigarettes: It might just be because I live in a privileged neighbourhood. Last fall I attended a PTA meeting for my daughter’s kindergarten, and one of the parents hijacked the meeting, and went on for an hour to discuss an apple pie (organic, without added sugar, but sweetened with apple jam) that had been served to the kids. She claimed that it was damaging to introduce the kids to the concept of cake and party food. That the idea itself was damaging to the future health of our children. Holy shit.
It makes you ask, as Matt Fitzgerald does, “Are you part of a diet cult?”. Maybe I am. I’m trying to lose weight to run faster, and I do obsess over nutrition. My main focus though, is to enjoy good food and never ever feel hungry. So a personal sugar ban is a good thing for me.
Speaking of diet cults, the whole family went to a raw food restaurant a couple of weeks back. And we all got a massive stomach ache. It turned out every salad on the menu was dressed in “nut milk”. How much nuts can a person really eat? And why do you have to call it milk? How come every health food movement focuses blindly on the exact things you aren’t allowed to eat if you follow that diet? Examples are paleo “cookies”, raw food “pizza”, gluten free “muffins”, vegan “burgers”. There is so much delicious vegetarian food around, why slap people in the face with a big disappointment like that instead of just selling a diet on it’s strong suits?