Roughly once every two years a new popular nutrition documentary comes out (typically on Netflix) and it shocks a lot of people into a state of near psychosis when it comes to their personal nutrition and health. On one hand, it’s good that people start taking their nutrition more seriously. On the other hand, completely overhauling your lifestyle based on an hour and a half long movie is not the best idea.
A few of the more popular movies that have affected people the most (in my experience) include: ‘Super Size Me’, ‘What the Health?’, and most recently ‘The Gamechangers’. Now, before I go into why you should largely ignore these movies let me say I think that most of these movies have good intentions, and that the creators are out to help people. Often enough, however, this leads to a lot of ignoring evidence that disproves their agenda. So instead of getting the whole story, you’re left watching an hour and a half of citing one-sided studies and receiving half-truths.
These documentaries will typically start off with a premise I agree with. For example, the overall theme of ‘Super Size Me’ was that eating at McDonalds is unhealthy. No argument from me there. The problem with the movie came out years later when it was discovered that the creator and star of the film was drinking alcohol (and apparently a lot of it) while shooting the film. Throughout the film he claimed he was only eating/drinking from McDonalds, and last I checked they don’t serve any alcohol. All of the times he was checked out by doctors and they told him how terrible of shape his body was in from McDonalds’ food was actually exacerbated by alcohol, but audiences were led to believe it was solely from the fast food.
In regards to the other two documentaries I mentioned, ‘What the Health’ and ‘The Gamechangers’, I’ve talked with people who thought it was a great idea to go completely, 100% vegan because of what they saw in the films. From what I’ve seen, vague references are made and data is cherry-picked from scientific studies that support their arguments. A producer from one of these films recently went on a rant about how most research that disagrees with his points is industry-funded and therefore should be taken with a grain of salt. Again, no disagreement from me. However, he failed to mention that research he cited was industry-funded from the opposing side.
A few times throughout these movies anecdotal evidence is used. For example, in ‘The Gamechangers’ the MMA fighter comments about how he could do the battle ropes for a lot longer after he changed his diet. This literally tells you nothing. What standard was used? Did he just whip the ropes up and down a couple inches, or was he slamming them with the power of Thor the whole time? If we’re to use anecdotal evidence, allow me to insert some myself. A girl I used to work out with was a vegan when she started CrossFit training. A few months in to it she was constantly tired and couldn’t seem to get full. Finally, she relented and had a steak, then began incorporating some meat into her meals. She was an absolute monster after that. Oftentimes she would use the men’s RX weights…and beat half of them. Can I prove this? No. Do I know it’s true? Yes. But it doesn’t tell anyone who doesn’t know her personally anything. I could be making this whole thing up!
Now, should you eat more vegetables and have a diet that is more plant based? Pointedly, yes. We could ALL use more vegetables in our diet. The typical American diet is crap with a side of sugar, so of course changing to more vegetables will be good for you. But taking a documentary at its word, not doing any research of your own, and not listening to any dissenting information from people with a LOT more knowledge than any of us is foolish. The point of documentaries is not necessarily to inform, but to persuade. If you have questions about nutrition and what is right for you, getting your information from a documentary off of Netflix is not the place you want to start. Instead, talk to a local expert (Darcie for example) who has your best interests in mind, not theirs.
A few things you should think about when looking into nutrition: