This is…What?

I recently started watching the TV series This is Us after several suggestions to do so. While I have definitely been enjoying catching up on the fuss surrounding this show, there are some issues I have with one of the storylines. This post is a little long, but I have a lot to say. So get comfy, and read on!

During the first few episodes, you will quickly learn a little bit about Kate, one of the characters in the show. The style of This is Us is that it bounces back and forth from the past to the present, which helps you understand why/how certain events came to pass. It’s part of the intrigue of the show, in my opinion.

Anyhow, Kate is very overweight; and her struggle with weight is the basis for her story. While the journey one faces when battling with one’s weight from childhood into adulthood is definitely a trying and emotional one, I do not think they way the portray Kate’s experiences are helpful to the viewers who might also have difficulty managing their weight.

I believe it was during episode one where there was a scene in which Kate and her siblings were about eight years old. In this scene, an overweight eight-year-old Kate enters the kitchen to eat breakfast. Kate’s brothers were already sitting at the breakfast table eating some sort of sugary, colorful kid cereal; in Kate’s spot at the table sat half a small cantaloupe with a bit of cottage cheese in the center. The scene begins with Kate’s mom saying something like “C’mon Kate, we talked about this” as she sees the sad look on Kate’s face upon noticing she has a completely different breakfast than her brothers have.

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Holy yummy, batman…!

I have some significant problems with the different-breakfast-for-the-overweight-child situation. My immediate thought was that Kate’s breakfast of cantaloupe with cottage cheese was about a thousand times better than the sugar pops or whatever the boys were eating – why weren’t all the kids eating that? Just because the boys were not overweight does not mean that there was anything healthy about refined carbohydrates + sugar + food dyes. The only saving grace of them eating that cereal was that most cereal makers crumble up some synthetic vitamins and stir them into the sugary abyss.

The only protein the boys consumed from their breakfasts was from the little bit of milk poured on top of the sea of sugar. Meanwhile, Kate was getting fiber-rich healthy carbohydrates, antioxidants, and phytochemicals (“natural food dyes!”) from that delicious and juicy cantaloupe; and calcium, potassium, fat, and protein from the cottage cheese. Good nutrition is not limited to those aspiring to lose weight; rather it is critical for maintaining proper function of organs, mental clarity, cognition, physical strength, mobility, mood, energy, sleep…and on…and on…and on. To think that the only relevance to nutrition is weight loss or gain is absolutely absurd. Shame on you, Kate’s TV mom. Feed those boys some brain food too!

Furthermore, while I am not a behavioral health specialist, I can see the glaring problem with the fact that young Kate is already being made to feel different (and not in a good way). She is being encouraged to view healthy eating (cantaloupe and cottage cheese for breakfast) as a punishment rather than nourishment. Her relationship with food can/will be forever changed if this is a consistent occurrence in her home. There are unanswered questions that are critical to understanding the whole picture here, as home/family dynamics that haven’t been exposed could’ve been involved. And as a mom myself, I can’t imagine what hard choices this mom and dad face while trying desperately to raise happy, healthy kiddos. However, I think any one of us, especially parents, need to take a moment and think about how it might make a vulnerable child feel (both short-term and long-term) if they are taught that healthy eating is a negative consequence to being overweight.

A few episodes later, adult Kate is hanging out with her boyfriend. He invites her over to a party and the snacks included a vegetable tray. While I am, of course, happy about vegetables being present, the boyfriend says “I threw away the dip, just like you asked” (or something like that). What is wrong with dip? I find that a little dip makes me eat ten times more vegetables than I EVER would “dry.” Yet again, the problem I have with this scene is that it gives the viewers the impression that this style of eating (plain, bland vegetables) is what people have to do to lose weight and/or be healthy. WRONG. This way of thinking keeps people in a constant battle. Why? Because it is so restrictive that we eventually cave in and overeat on things we love. Then we feel bad about it, and keep doing it for a while – like a food hangover. Then eventually we feel so physically and emotionally BLAH about our health that we “get back on the [dieting] wagon” and do all that same stuff again. These are the defining characteristics of why DIETS FAIL. Stop dieting!

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Success with weight loss or even weight maintenance does not require eating plain vegetables (unless you really like them that way). It does not require (nor should it) avoidance of fat. It does not require restriction from all your favorite things, although changing perspective on some behaviors is pretty important. Seek out recipes or ideas for making healthy eating TASTE GOOD. Add some butter to your broccoli, just don’t go crazy. Dip your carrot in some dressing if you want (or better yet – hummus!). Leave the skin on your chicken when you roast it (it tastes much better!). Healthy living is not portrayed properly in the media in many cases. If you want to learn more, seek out a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to coach you on the many intricacies weaved into the world that is nutrition. And, in the meantime, catch up on some lettucetalk archives 😉

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Enjoy eating, just be smarter about it.  If you don’t know how exactly to do that, ask an RDN for help.  Many popular grocery store chains have RDNs, as do some big-time gyms.  An employee at GNC is NOT a nutrition expert.  An employee of ANY vitamin store is not a legit nutrition expert.  Most personal trainers are NOT nutrition experts, nor are most self-proclaimed experts.  An interest in nutrition does not constitute an expertise.  A google search does not compare with an accredited education and years of legit experience.  Choose wisely where you get your advice…

Xoxo – Casey

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