Chasing Fads (change can learn from what has happened in dieting about chasing fads)

The approach to change and diets is similar, ie using fads can be misleading and disastrous as it can "lead you down the wrong track". Need to be careful of fads, especially those that appear to be backed by research.

One of the initial approaches to healthy dieting was calorie consumption/counting. It was claimed that a man needed around 2,500 calories per day to maintain his weight. If he consumed more, he gained weight; if he consumed less, he lost weight. It sounded easy and simple but there are some problems with this, ie

i) regaining lost weight, ie more than 80% of people regained any lost weight in the long term. Lose weight and your body will try to regain it by slowing down your metabolism and reducing your energy usage (like in change management, people have a natural tendency to revert back to the status quo, ie zone of comfort and entrenched behaviours).

ii) oversimplifying, ie calorie counting is simple (like in change management, complex problems can be oversimplified into simple frameworks/techniques that are not applicable to the real world), eg

a) calculating the exact calorific content of food.  On the other hand, foods with identical calorific values may have different digestibility; need to take into account from which food the calorie came from (what works one time in change management is not guaranteed to work again in the future or elsewhere).

b)  individual styles of digestibility (no 2 digestive systems are the same). The calorie count is based on how much heat food gives off when it burns in an oven. On the other hand, a human body is far more complex than an oven.

"...When food is burnt in a laboratory it surrenders its calories within seconds. By contrast, the real-life journey from dinner plate to toilet bowl takes on average a day, but can range from 8 to 80 hours depending on the person. A calorie of carbohydrate and a calorie of protein both have the same amount of stored energy, so they perform identically in an oven. But put these calories into real bodies and they behave quite differently..."

Peter Wilson, 2019

As we all are different, when we

"...consume the same meal, the impact on each person's blood sugar and fat formation will vary according to their genes, lifestyle and unique mix of gut bacteria..."

Peter Wilson, 2019

Certain sets of genes are more common in overweight people than in skinny ones. This suggests that some people may have to work harder than others to stay thin.

The difference in gut microbiomes can impact on how people process food. For example, some research found a rise blood sugar levels in different people varied by a factor of 4 in response to the same food.

Some people's intestines are 50% longer than others. The shorter ones absorb fewer calories which means they excrete more of the energy in their waste, putting on less weight.

Other body responses include your eating and sleeping schedules, like

    - you may increase your weight if you eat small amounts over a 12 - 15 hour  period as compared with eating the same food in 3 distinct meals over a shorter period

    - how the food is prepared like chopping and grinding (means less energy is expended digesting) makes more calories available for your body, cooking increases the proportion of food digested in the stomach and small intestine from around 50% to 95% (by cooking, the digestible calories in beef rise by 15% and in sweet potatoes by 40%); the calorie load of carbohydrate-heavy food, like rice, pasta, bread and potatoes, etc changes simply by cooking, chilling and reheating them; adding ingredients like coconut oil when cooking rice, then cooling it makes the starch less digestible

".. As the starch molecules cool they form new structures that are harder to digest..."

Peter Wilson, 2019

    - different parts of the vegetable and fruit may be absorbed differently, eg the starchy interior of sweet corn kernels is easily digested while the cellulose husk is very difficult

    - getting a good night's sleep can encourage your body to create more fatty tissue

(change can be very circumstantial, contextual and situational, ie there is no one-size fits all)

c) calorific data for different macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and fats; a gram of either carbohydrate or protein produces 4 calories of energy; a gram of fat offers around 9 calories. This doesn't take into account some factors like

    - complex carbohydrates, like cereals, are a string of simple carbohydrates that break down slowly into sugar compared to the sugar in fruit juices which gives a sugar hit

    - proteins that act as the main building blocks of bone, skin, hair and other body tissues and are a backup to carbohydrates as fuel in the body. Since proteins break down more slowly than carbohydrates, protein is less likely to be converted to body fat

    - fat breaks down in the tiny fatty acids, it makes you feel fuller for longer and it is more slowly processed than carbohydrates or protein. Fat is required to make hormones and to protect our nerves. It is also a way to store energy, ie excess fuel in case we run out of food

(there are no universal standards in change management, it is more of an art than a science)

d) understanding of the human body, ie the body expends different amounts of energy depending on the food eaten (the initial conditions in change management need to be fully understood for change to the effective)

e) exclusive focus on energy content rather than the complete nutritional aspects of food like vitamins, etc.. Sugar and highly processed carbohydrates can impact people's hormonal systems, ie

"...High insulin levels means more energy is converted into fat tissues leaving less available to fuel the rest of the body. That in turn drives over eating......constant hunger and fatigue suffered......by dieters may be symptoms of being overweight, rather than the cause of the problem..."

Peter Wilson 2019

(need to understand the complete picture in change management, not just selected areas; also, if you impact one part of the organisation it will have flow on to the other parts, ie cannot isolate impacts)

f) storing fat is influenced by many factors like calories, our genetic make up, the bacteria that lives in the gut, food preparation, sleep, etc (like in change management, there are many factors that can influence the outcomes)

g) exercise is a minor player as around 75% of the average person's daily energy usage does not come from exercise but from your ordinary daily activities including keeping your body functioning by digesting food, powering organs and maintaining a regular body temperature (like in change management, we sometimes make false assumptions, ie assume something  is important when it is not, or vice versa. Also, tend to focus on the symptoms rather than the causes)

h) importance of natural foods, ie focus on the quality rather than quantity. Listen to your body and eat whenever hungry, eat natural, not processed food. This is the best way to be healthy, ie metabolically, physically, mentally, etc (like in change management. need to get back to the basics and don't be side-tracked)

i) individual genetic make up, ie

"...there is a great diversity in the inherited genome, which affects the nutritional bioavailability and metabolism..."

Michael Fenech as quoted by Helen Hawkes 2019

"...while nutrigenomics pinpoint generic differences between how we absorb or process nutrients, it also reveals what nutrients we are deprived of. Folate or vitamin B9, is a good example. The form found in green leafy and cruciferous vegetables such as spinach and broccoli is converted after eating into a bioactive form needed to make DNA. A folate deficiency is connected to a higher risk of anaemia and cancer..."

Helen Hawkes 2019

Some examples of differing responses to food

- coffee (the variations in the CYPIA2 gene have a strong influence on caffeine metabolism. Those who carry this gene have a slow caffeine metabolism, ie drinking more than 2 cups a day can increase the risk of non-fatal heart attack)

- obesity (multiple genes including FTO gene help with metabolism and weight control)

- Alzheimer's disease (a variation of ApoE gene encoding - a cholesterol carrier protein - is a risk factor for the disease

"...we know that there are at least 120 genes required for replicating and repairing DNA properly when it is damaged......it is common knowledge that oxidative stress - from pollution, pro-inflammatory chemicals, smoking - damages DNA. These are enzymes that sense oxidative damage and/or remove it, which need zinc and selenium to perform......some foods contribute beneficial nutrients but also accumulate genotoxins that could harm DNA..."

Michael Fenech as quoted by Helen Hawkes 2019

For example, large fish have a high level of mercury which can impact on DNA. On the other hand, they are a good source of vitamin B12, omega-3 long chain fatty acids and selenium needed for folate metabolism, prevention of inflammation and anti-oxidant function (like in change management, the initial conditions need to be known and understood).

Over the last 50 years with rising incomes and greater female participation in the workforce, more people are eating out and/or buying prepared food (like in change management, conditions change and approach needs to be flexible enough to handle the uncertain future).

Because they wanted more direct nutritional information on what they were eating, labelling became standardised and mandatory for food in the 1990s (like in change management, people want facts and figures and don't realise the importance of emotions, non-rational behaviours, etc).

Also, obesity was becoming more of a concern as people were becoming more sedentary and started eating highly processed foods with lots of sugar. It is estimated that the average person in the developed world consumes 20 times as much sugar compared with 100 years ago. (there are unexpected consequences of actions in change management that require a flexible approach).

Thus began the war on fat (like in change management, a new fad becomes popular).

As fat is high in calories, it was thought to be bad for you while food low in calories but rich in sugar and carbohydrates appeared healthy. Dietary fat was demonised. In the late 1970s it was recommended to have a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Thus micronutrients were being removed from food items and replaced with sugar, starch and salt (like in change management, a new fad has both positive and negative impacts).

This didn't result in improvements in better public health. Instead, it resulted in a dramatic rise in obesity from the mid-1970s to now, ie world-wide, nearly 40% of over 18's are overweight (World Health Organisation) and has

"...Contributed to a rapid rise and cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke) which became the leading cause of death worldwide. Rates of type II diabetes, which is often linked to lifestyle and diet, has more than doubled since 1980..."

Peter Wilson 2019

(in change management, need a holistic approach).

Despite the above evidence, the approach in dieting is still "count and cut calories" - the current system is very entrenched with policymakers and the public. It is hard to change, because key stakeholders, like food processing organisations, are happy with the current system. These stakeholders state that it is up to individuals to make their own decisions around their health (like in change management, it is easy to blame somebody else for the problem and not be accountable).

However, there is a move away from "count and cut calories". In 2001, Weight Watchers (the world's best-known dieting firm) introduced a point system that moved away from focusing exclusively on calories to classifying foods by their sugar and saturated fat content plus their impact on appetite (like in change management, are you part of the problem or solution?; you can be a change leader and disruption can come from inside industry, not necessarily from outside).

In summary, the most important thing is your metabolic health, not your weight. There is some research (Rosie Taylor 2019) that shows that some people who are overweight are still perfectly metabolically fit as they are physically active and eat good food (in change management, sustainability is the key).

Like dieting, in change there are a maze of factors that impact the outcome.

For dieting to be effective, as a bare minimum, you need to understand

- genetic make up of a person (owing to different genetic make-ups, some people put on weight more easily than others)

- hormonal balances (when eating unhealthy food, hormonal messages can send the wrong message to the brain)

- brain's activities (for example, when under stress, some people eat more, especially processed foods, and gain weight. They use food to the deal with emotions.)

NB The importance of fibre

(Source: SBS 2020b)

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