We spoke with Dr. Yoni Freedhoff. Yoni is a family doc, Assistant Prof. at the University of Ottawa, Author of The Diet Fix, and founder of Ottawa’s non-surgical Bariatric Medical Institute – a multi-disciplinary, ethical, evidence-based nutrition and weight management centre. We found out how he also manages, on top of it all, to write and share great blog content, how much sugar is ok, and the (very simple) trick to make your diet actually work.
You wrote a book about how diets fail. What is the solution?
Simply put, you have to like your life. Weight lost through suffering tends to come back when you get sick of suffering. Better to lose less, and more slowly, with a life and diet that you actually enjoy and keep the weight off, than to crash your weight down being overly strict only to regain it when you can’t take it anymore.
If you could change one thing about people’s eating, what would it be?
It’d be to see people cooking more. Restaurants are an incredible pleasure, while ultra-processed ready-made foods are an incredible convenience, but we use both far too often. Even if it’s just an increase of one meal a week I’d love to see people cooking more from whole ingredients and eating those meals free from distractions, ideally with friends and family, around a table filled with conversation.
What simple changes should families make in how they approach food?
I think many families would benefit from not sweating the small stuff. Focusing on additives, single nutrients, GMOs, hormone disruptors, organics, artificial sweeteners, and more, rather than focusing on big picture issues like cooking more often, reducing restaurants, boxes, and jars, cultivating sleep, nurturing relationships, not drinking alcohol to excess, exercising more days than not, and not smoking, misses their forests for their trees. If you’re not awesome at those big ticket items, the best case scenario benefits from those small ticket items will pale in comparison.
Do you think our food system is making improvements or getting worse?
I think we’re making huge improvements. Honestly, the conversations we’re having now, and the changes we’re seeing, weren’t on anyone’s radar just 40 years ago. If you’re stuck feeling negatively about our pace of change, it may help to reflect on the fact that in the grand scheme of things, our individual lifespans are incredibly short and a generation or more for change is still unfathomably fast all things considered.
Is hospital food healthy? Can we expect it to be when catering to so many people with so many different needs?
While it may well be more difficult to provide healthy hospital meals, it’s certainly not impossible. Institutional kitchens were once the norm and with interest and effort, could be again. Happily there is a push to see improvements to hospital food – but again, it isn’t likely to be a lickety-split process.
Sugar – is it ever okay?
Absolutely. The goal should be the smallest amount you need to be happily satisfied, but for most of us, zero is too small. All or nothing efforts tend to see people revert back to all, and food is so much more than just fuel. Food is comfort, food is celebration, food is pleasure, and food is the world’s oldest social network – and sugar plays a real role in all of those.
In 2014 you wrote several blog posts about my son Ryan’s “run-in” with Canadian Sugar Institute’s visit to Northern Secondary School. What about that incident struck a chord with you?
Schools shouldn’t be providing platforms to marketers to target our kids. Full stop. I was glad to see Ryan speaking up and challenging the spin that the Sugar Institute’s educators marketers were feeding trusting kids.
You are quoted in so many articles, interviewed in so many documentaries and a sought after guest on many television shows – why?
Well it’s not because I’m particularly smart. I think more it’s because for whatever reason, I have the ability to speak in soundbites. (We happen to think you’re very smart- and humble).
How do you manage to write so many (valuable) blog posts, while running a business and being an attentive doctor? (we are impressed)
I have an incredibly supportive wife, quick fingers, and a 7 day work week.
What are 3 books that you recommend we all read and share with others?
Well I’m fond of mine, but admittedly am rather biased. 3 books I’ve really enjoyed on food and health include: Food Politics by Marion Nestle, What Comes First Cardio or Weights by Alex Hutchinson, and Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss.
Your favourite breakfast?
Favourite is probably heuvos rancheros, but I probably only have that 2 or 3 times a year. Most frequent breakfast is a protein shake that I make pretty much 5 days a week (1/2 cup each pasteurized egg whites, yogurt, milk, frozen berries, along with ¼ cup whole grain oats, and a cup or so of Swiss chard)
If you could share a business lunch with one person, who would it be, and what would you discuss?
Oh that’s tough. There are plenty of people I’d love to lunch with – though I doubt I’d talk business with any of them. Honestly though, thinking about who I’d most want to lunch with, it’d have to be my Bubbie Ethel. Unfortunately she passed back in 2006. She’d have been so incredibly tickled by some of the stuff I’ve been able to do over the years.