This question occured to me recently. It seems like every person I've ever met in the States who tries to eat healthy is not following this stuff to the T.
At some point most end up going overboard on the sugar or other refined carbs. After all, no people in the history of the world have eaten this way (avoiding animal fat, seeking out whole grains). And, to give some credit to the conventional wisdom, even these guys recognize that you shouldn't be chowing down on white bread and high fructose corn syrup.
So do you know anyone whose dietary habits would make the Surgeon General truly proud? Have you ever followed this advice for an extended perioud of time?
I'm just curious, but also think that, if my suspicions are true and that no one actually follows this advice, that would strike be pretty damning indictment of those who are pushing it. And I've never heard this point made explicitly before, so I thought I'd see what y'all think.
I had this very assignment in my high school social studies class and tracked everything I ate quite faithfully for three weeks. At the end of it I'd gained 4.5 pounds (quite a bit for me), my acne was worse and my cramps were crippling. It was the first good education I had about the food pyramid, right down to my teacher dismissing my results and saying I must have cheated. I firmly attribute my lifelong mistrust of established food wisdom with this incident.
I followed eating almost exactly what the USDA guidelines suggested for several years. I ate no refined sugar, no potato chips, no ice cream, no chocolate, no coffee, no alcohol, no desserts, no packaged snacks, no soft drinks, and no candy. Not single a piece in many years. Except on my birthday or a relative's birthday which I reluctantly tried a piece of cake.
I only ate fast food once a month, but have avoided the fries, soft drinks, and ice cream. I ate polyunsaturated vegetable oils in place of animal fats. A lot of refined starch. A few pieces of fruit. And a lot of vegetables. I would eat several cups of broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, legumes, soy, and spinach every night for dinner, all covered in vegetable oil!
And the result? My belly expanded more and more the less and less saturated fat I ate. The more I did aerobic exercise, the more I became fatter.
I became hypothyroid. I became more and more weak. I became more and more depressed. I became more and more shy. I looked more and more like a girl. My muscles deteriorated. My belly looked pregnant. My breasts expanded, even though I'm a man. The funny thing is that people would even treat me more like a girl!
A paleo diet would suppress my appetite, so I had to eat some starch to increase my appetite.
The Aussie food pyramid is pretty much the same as the US guidelines, and yes I have tried following them exactly. A few years ago (2006) I became a gym bunny and started monitoring my food closely. A stupidly large number of grain servings, a few veggies and fruits, a small piece of meat for dinner, and no added fat. I could still have candy during the day, of course! I tracked everything. I can see now, on reflection, that I was eating fewer calories than I did last year when I lost 14kgs. Whilst a low-fat gym bunny, I lost only a few kilos, and gained a decent amount of muscle thanks to spin classes and Body Pump. But I was constantly tired and sick. And at the end I was binging on low-fat ice-cream and popcorn all the time (but still fitting it into the pyramid's rules!).
I quit the gym when I finished Uni and started teaching full-time, and soon I couldn't stick to the food pyramid since I was too busy and tired. Once I stopped worrying about grams of fat and calories, started eating as much fruit & veg that I wanted, and binged in brie and crusty white bread for a while. I gained weight, lost muscle, but had much better energy. Not as good as now, of course, and I was still sick all the time (probably due to now working in an environment with hundreds of people in close proximity), but the improvements were noticeable.
This experience helped me sit up and pay attention when I saw my first 'how to lose weight - eat fewer carbs' article in a magazine, starting me on my research journey to eventually finding paleo. I hope others find their way here without having to struggle through the obstacles I suffered.
I had a couple of projects to do while taking nutrition in college that involved putting together menus and tracking my eating and such based on mypyramid.gov. So I've probably on 2 occasions followed it to the "T" for about a week each. I also followed it "pretty close" for a while thereafter. I must say, that I felt a little better than my previous diet of whatever crap I wanted. But, I was hungry frequently, and all of the measuring I had to do was really, really cumbersome. Eating this way did nothing to regulate my mood swings that come with variations in blood sugar. If I got hungry, I still got confused and irritable.
Contrast that with Paleo, I'm losing my last little bit of fat at a reasonable rate. I'm rarely hungry, and on those occasions where I do have to skip a meal, I don't get cranky and confused (which sells my wife on Paleo right there). I feel better than I ever have before, and much better than when following the food pyramid.
I ate according to the old version of the US food pyramid for about a year in 2003, except with less fruit. It served me well. Very little sugar, lots of whole wheat bread and pasta, and lean meats. It appears nobody else shares this experience?
Maybe paleohackers are not a representative sample of the population as a whole. Although the USDA food pyramid isn't ideal, it may work quite well for some/many people.
Im 31 and have never once followed, or even read thoroughly, the USDA guidelines. I am familiar with them now, though. Growing up, while definitely NOT eating what i consider health-promoting food, we did not ever once have the guide around or talk about anything even related to that. Food and meals were always just a matter of course. Meat and potatoes, breakfast cereal, sandwich, repeat.
Of course this directly lead to my transitioning to the "husky" size as an adolescent and it wasnt until late highschool and the drive to date etc that i lost the weight. Member the husky size? lol
Yes, I did during my 30's. I like to cook at home and I tried really hard to get in my whole grains. I strived for whole grain cereal in the mornings, but did serve eggs about 3 times a week. When I thought it was a "good thing" to eat oatmeal, I gained lots of weight! I served meat, whole grain rice, pasta, bread, or potatoes with every meal along with my the very popular at the time, corn for dinner. I feel a bit angry that I was so misinformed.
I have one daughter having a difficult time when I try to get her off the re-fined carbs! We have discussions about her eating habits every day. She says, "MOM! just lets kids be kids."
On the other hand, I am super happy that my other daughter's science teacher told them that grains are bad and explained why. He also said that other countries are studying the US eating patterns because of Type II diabetes occurring in children. She just nods her head in agreement.
I tried to follow it in college. I became more healht conscious and started to eat lots of pasta and starches because 'they where good for me.' I cut out most red meat and ate only small amounts of low fat fish and chicken. I also exercised a lot, but the end result was that during those years, I gained a lot of weight and was sick a lot. Then I got a very nasty intestinal problem and ate very little for 3 months. I lost about 40 pounds from this illness (VERY rapid weight loss) and finally got better by just not eating for many days and then eating only rice and bananas for weeks. The doctors meanwhile suggested I was fine and really just needed to take some Mylanta. ($&%*Q&!!!) In the end, I was at my lowest weight ever but often felt weak, sick, and dizzy.
I tried to maintain that weight that the doctors said was 'healthy' by eating super low fat and mostly carbs. IN order to do that, I had to keep my caloric intake under 1000 calories per day. The end result was I was weak, sick, and often dizzy but at a 'healthy weight'. Everyone told me how good I looked! But over the years, I slowly lost control of keeping intake that low and gained all the weight back. I never had another successful diet plan, ie worked to lose weight, until I started lowcarb. For a large part of my life, I had tried to lose weight by exercising more and eating less and it simply did not work. It was only when I discovered lowcarb that I realize that the carbs are what was driving the desire to overeat. There is nothing like success to really understand that something works! Now more recently, after discovering paleo, I have tweaked my eating to be more healthy and natural as well, but I will always be grateful to lowcarb and Mr. Atkins for showing me the general way out.
Ironically, when I was younger/in my teens I ignored much of conventional medicine/USDA guidelines. When I hit my twenties I still didn't necessarily heed their advice, I simply began to incorporate it to try and gain weight (admittedly, I have a short man complex at 5'7-5'8) and wanted to bulk up as much as possible. When I started eating whole wheat, brown rice, ect. shit really hit the fan--somewhat literally as I have IBS. My digestive health is shot now and I'm trying to get that back into order. Thanks USDA!