If you are not familiar with the American TV show What Not to Wear (which was based on the British version), you might want to skip this post. Without a thorough steeping in the ins and outs of that show, this post will not make any sense to you. I could take time (and several hundred words) to explain it, but honestly, if I do that, I guarantee the magic of the show will lose something in translation. So if you’ve never seen WNTW, no worries. Just sit tight and wait until I post something else. (If you were hoping to kill some time with one of my super-long posts, take a few seconds and go check out the book Growing Tomorrow, by the author of Gaining Ground, which I reviewed here. Hard to say which one I like more. (Actually, no. It's Gaining Ground.) Frankly, this guy is a friggin’ dynamite writer [and farmer!], and both books are excellent. Growing Tomorrow review coming soon!)
For the rest of you, if you have seen WNTW, I think you’ll agree that I have a million dollar idea here.
I think there should be a show called What Not to Eat, closely modeled after WNTW. It would be just like WNTW, except instead of a wardrobe makeover, someone would receive a diet makeover. On WNTW, the person was typically nominated—unbeknownst to them—by friends or family who thought they were dressing inappropriately in some way. The friends & family did it out of love and wanting to show this person how much more was out there for them—professionally, romantically, whatever—that they were closing themselves off from based on the way they dressed. On WNTE, we could have something similar—concerned friends and family staging a kind of “intervention,” OR, people could nominate themselves, if they’ve arrived at a point of recognizing that they need a nutritional overhaul. I think self-nominating would probably be best, if only because, for whatever reason, what people eat is a WAY touchier subject than what they wear. Seriously. People have probably gotten divorced and/or lost friends over soybean oil and gluten, for crissake. Heaven knows warring dietary dogmas do get in the way of otherwise nice relationships.
Instead of fashion experts Stacy and Clinton, the show would be hosted by a nutritionist (or a pair of nutritionists, if network execs want to keep the male/female dynamic going). And just like Stacy and Clinton started the show by having a heart-to-heart with the subject, digging deep and asking soul-searching questions to get the person to acknowledge and understand why they were dressing the way they were, the nutritionists could have a conversation with the person to get at the heart of why they eat the way they do. Budget constraints? Time constraints? Sugar addiction? Loneliness? Don’t know how to cook? Using food to numb emotional pain? Terrified to eat fat? Ethical dilemmas around the issue of eating meat or dairy?
You can see that a lot of personal “stuff” would come up. Difficult, ugly, embarrassing, scary stuff, which would be very hard for someone to acknowledge on TV, but which could help potentially millions of viewers who have the same struggles. (If you have ever thrown away junk food in an effort to get it out of sight, and preferably out of mind, only to go back later, take it out of the trash, and have some more,
I am you are not the only
What Not to Eat would follow largely the same format as WNTW, replacing clothing with food. Just like Stacy and Clinton would go through the person’s closet and perform a huge “purge,” getting rid of everything that was not suitable, the nutritionists could go through the pantry, fridge, and freezer, getting rid of everything inappropriate for the person’s current state of health and future goals. (Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention: the initial heart-to-heart would also include a detailed medical & dietary history, plus setting goals and priorities. For example: fat loss, relief of chronic pain, better blood sugar control, reduction of heart disease risk, reversal of insulin resistance, supporting fertility, reduction in or elimination of medication, etc. Obviously, there would have to be an MD involved. So maybe it could be a nutritionist and an MD, rather than two nutritionists. Oh, man…who could it be? Me & Ted Naiman? Me & Aseem Malhotra? Franziska Spritzler & Eric Westman? The possibilities are endless!)
The funny thing is, depending on where people are starting from, some of them would probably end up with a nutritional intervention opposite from what they were expecting. The 45-year-old pre-diabetic male truck driver with gout and a beer gut, who’s on blood pressure meds and a statin? The reason he’s never seen a nutritionist before is because he’s certain she’d tell him he needs to stop eating red meat, butter, bacon, and cheese. Lettuce and celery sticks would be his new best friends, and if he’s gotta spend the rest of his life eating like a rabbit, then dammit, he’d rather die from a heart attack! (Cue the low-carb nutritionist…)
Or the 23-year-old girl who’s working her first job out of college, 60 hours a week, plus doing intense exercise six days a week (maybe spin class at 5 a.m. and then a heavy lifting session after work), plus planning her wedding, and attempting to do this on 1200 calories per day of mostly quinoa, raw kale, vegan hot dogs, and, when she’s especially hungry, a third of an avocado in her blueberry chia smoothie. (Cue the low-carb, high fat, non-vegan nutritionist…)
Guided by the person’s current state of health, goals and priorities, the big kitchen purge would not be only about getting rid of the stuff that’s not appropriate. It would be an opportunity to educate the person (and millions of viewers) as to why those items are not appropriate. (Type 2 diabetic? Perhaps the toaster waffles and orange juice aren’t the ideal breakfast for you. Rheumatoid arthritis flaring up daily? Maybe you want to rethink the pasta with tomato sauce and eggplant. Trying to lose weight? Starting the day with a ginormous insulin spike via a fat-free bran muffin with raspberry jam and glass of skim milk probably isn’t the most effective way to reach that goal.) Just like Stacy and Clinton would bring people in front of a mirror and show them why their clothing wasn’t doing them any favors, the nutritionists could provide some basic explanations about human physiology and metabolism so that the logic starts sinking in. (Because eventually, these people are going to have to make food choices for themselves, and they’ll need the knowledge to guide them.)
The beauty of this is that it can be totally customized for the individual in question. Stacy and Clinton gave people makeovers and wardrobe overhauls, but they did it in such a way as to let the person retain some of their individuality and quirkiness, without scaring off potential employers and/or suitors. The same could be done for diet. These days, there are so many substitutions easily made: cauliflower for rice and potatoes; shirataki noodles for pasta; grain-free or low-carb bread, cookie, muffin, and cake recipes. OR: the nutritionists could design programs tailored to people’s unique level of carb tolerance, dairy sensitivity, etc. That is, they could help figure out the amount of “wiggle room” someone has for consuming the things they love without causing metabolic harm. (For example, I eat ice cream, bread, dark chocolate, and I drink wine. Not a ton, and not often, but I do very much enjoy these things from time to time, and I’ve been at this long enough that I know how much I can “get away with” and still be happy with the way I look and feel, and what my bloodwork shows. [Wait, what? You thought I was a low-carb saint? You found me because you were looking for someone to hold up as your inspiration for dietary perfectionism? Sorry. WRONG BLOG FOR YOU.])
Back to my point: there are plenty of people who do not need to be 100% gluten, sugar, soy, or dairy free. If you’ve ever combed through the success stories on Mark’s Daily Apple, then you’ve read countless stories of people who do just fine by mostly cleaning up their diet and doing intelligent exercise, but who still enjoy a weekly feast at the local Mexican place, complete with rice & beans, or a monthly date at the Greek place for hummus, pita, and rice-stuffed dolmas, or who have a glass of wine a couple nights a week, and maintain their weight loss, pain relief, lack of medication, clear skin, or whatever else they experienced by going Primal.
So while, at least in my vision for this show, things would lean toward Paleo, Primal, and low-carb (the degree of the latter determined by the degree to which someone is insulin resistant or diabetic), it would be completely personalized. It would be tailored for food allergies and sensitivities, chronic conditions that need to be managed/reversed, etc. Maybe it would be gluten free, maybe not. Maybe dairy free, maybe not. Maybe no nightshades or legumes of any kind. Maybe it would be very low-carb, maybe moderate, maybe medium, depending on someone’s activity level, athletic performance goals, etc.
Things could also be customized for budget. This is a critical issue, because top-quality food doesn’t come cheap. (On the other hand, as I have written about before, the good stuff isn’t always as expensive as people think it is.) On WNTW, price was not an issue because the person was given $5000 to spend on a whole new wardrobe. For food, someone would spend far less than that, but they’d be shopping far more often. So the show wouldn’t give them money; rather, we would see what the person’s food budget is, and see how to get the best bang for their buck while staying within that constraint. Maybe they could afford super-yellow summer butter from grassfed cows at a local dairy farm, but they’d get conventional beef from the supermarket. Or maybe they’d prioritize getting grassfed beef and pastured pork and not worry about non-organic vegetables and nuts. Or maybe someone’s budget is really tight, and all they can afford is what’s on sale at the local supermarket, conventional all the way. THAT WOULD BE TOTALLY OKAY. Better conventional beef and chicken than sugar-laden granola and breakfast cereals. This show would educate people about the importance of food from local, sustainable farms, and emphasize the superior nutrient density of such foods, but if I had any say in it, it would not engage in food quality “shaming” at all.
Another fun aspect of WNTW was when Stacy and Clinton would go shopping with the person. Same on WNTE! The nutritionists would go food shopping with the person, and it could be to wherever that person normally shops: regular supermarket, Trader Joes, “upscale” place like Whole Foods, or even a local farmers’ market. (And if the person has avoided farmers’ markets because they think they’re only for crunchy hippies and the great unwashed, they could see that market customers run the gamut of the whole human spectrum.) The neat thing is, the nutritionists could also introduce people to places that would be great for them to shop, but maybe they had never considered before, like an ethnic Asian or Latin American market. (Dude, if you’re looking for really interesting organ meats, unusual vegetables and fruits, spices and seasonings you might have never even seen before, and, generally speaking, food for super cheap, these places are your new best friends.) And just like Stacy and Clinton would help people navigate the clothing stores, steering them away from their former favorites and helping them understand why other items would work better for them, the nutritionists could walk people through the store aisles and teach them how to read labels so as not to be taken in by bogus “healthwashing” claims. (Lesson 1: organic, gluten-free, artisanal junk food is still junk food!) They would also focus on looking not just at the macronutrient breakdowns (fat, protein, carbs), but also at the ingredients. Something can be “low carb,” but loaded with cottonseed oil, hydrogenated canola oil, and hydrolyzed corn protein. (Yum!)
Okay. Let’s go back to what I said at the beginning of this post.
Seriously: tell me this isn’t a million dollar idea.
I am not suggesting that I be one of the nutritionists on the show (although I would be open to the possibility!). I would not expect to be in front of the camera. (I might be kinda cute, but I’m not TV cute.) But if I’m not part of the show in a big way, then all I ask is that the network at least send me a big pile of cash for coming up with the idea. (Or make me a consultant behind the scenes…even better!)
I generally cannot stand reality TV and I avoid it almost entirely. (Except for WNTW, which was, in my opinion, completely different from the total garbage, drivel, and morally bankrupt crap on TV now.) But this is something I might be tempted to tune in for!
P.S. Clinton Kelly is now on The Chew, alongside one of my favorite “celebrichefs,” Michael Symon. (How can you not like a guy who wrote a cookbook called Carnivore?) Chef Symon frequently sings the praises of pork, pork fat, local farms, farmers’ markets, and old-school butcher shops. [If you live in NYC, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats is one of his favorites. All charcuterie made in-house, and all meat supplied from small family farms in upstate NY!)
Disclaimer: Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition and is not to be used as a substitute for the care and guidance of a physician. Links in this post and all others may direct you to amazon.com, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through my affiliate links.