Sue Ontiveros: ‘Family Feud’ reveals failure of diet guidelines

SHARE Sue Ontiveros: ‘Family Feud’ reveals failure of diet guidelines

A simple mechanical scale will accurately tell your weight, but it will not measure your percentage of body fat or your body mass index, both of which are used to gauge your fitness level. (Photo Illustration by Wayne Hansen / Gannett Photo Network)

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You’ve probably heard a lot about the recently revised federal Dietary Guidelines — how much dairy, fruits and vegetables you should eat and the like.

But did you know that for the first time in the Guideline’s 35-year existence Congress has earmarked $1 million to the National Academy of Medicine to do a peer-review? Essentially, the Academy will look at what science was used to come to the current conclusions. (Cut the sugar in your diet is the advice news stories have focused on, but basically the Guidelines remain steadfast in promoting a high carbohydrate/low fat diet.)

Sure, look at the data. This is good. But all you really have to do is watch “Family Feud” to know that Americans have been getting bum eating advice for too long.

Hear me out.


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Almost two years ago I started watching “Family Feud.” A lot. I needed to hear voices after days of working alone. I discovered Steve Harvey is a hilarious host – and quite a good dancer – but starting noticing other things too.

For those unfamiliar with “Family Feud,” the game show pits one family against another in guessing the most popular answers to survey questions. When the families are standing in side profile at the center buzzer, it is hard not to notice that with amazing frequency one or both families are overweight or even obese.

Oh, those overweight contestants must not have any discipline, one might think.

That’s the running theme on obesity. From weight-loss reality shows to the profit-making “experts,” the message is: it’s your fault. Read through the Dietary Guidelines and you’ll detect that tsk-tsk tone: shame on you, overweight Americans; you don’t try hard enough to lose weight. You must lack discipline. You don’t put in the effort.

But here’s the thing: I’ve been listening to the people on “Family Feud” share stories of their jobs, families and lives and, wow, some are impressive. You hear contestants tell of how they got through college despite tremendous odds. You applaud their description of illustrious careers in the military. Or, how they started in a menial job and now own a successful business. Sometimes they’ve raised families under difficult circumstances.

These are not people without discipline. Quite the contrary. These are people who have incredible drive and fortitude. When all other indicators in their lives were signaling probable failure, they forged ahead and succeeded.

And yet, in this one area – their weight – they have not been able to succeed.

I bet they’ve tried to lose weight, maybe multiple times. Who hasn’t? In mainstream American culture, being thin is the gold standard, albeit an elusive one. Some 45 million Americans diet each year, according to the respected Boston Medical Center.

I look at these earnest contestants and know in my heart it isn’t because they lack discipline or desire that they aren’t thinner. More than likely it’s because they, like the rest of us, have followed the advice of the Dietary Guidelines. After all, these are the standards that influence everything food-related in our country.

The number of us with weight problems has been on a steady climb during all the time we’ve been following the Dietary Guidelines. Today more than two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese. And we’re supposed to be the failures?

Americans deserve and desperately need Dietary Guidelines that’ll truly promote good health and weight.

On that you’ll get no feud from me.

Sue Ontiveros writes an eating well/fitness blog at


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