Discover more from dine well
eat your oats
on glucose, hate-watching and not inventing problems for ourselves
Welcome back to dine well! We took a lil unexpected hiatus- as my fellow neurospicy humans will likely relate to and understand, I found myself in what I lovingly refer to as Depresh Mode for the last few months. After some rest, a lot of cat cuddles while staring morosely at the wall and some fiddling with medication, it appears I am back in action and once again able to form coherent ideas and write them down. Go me! I hope you can also give yourself the grace to take breaks when you need to. Even though it feels counterintuitive, I find sometimes we even need breaks from the things we love so that we can come back to them wholeheartedly, with a full cup and renewed inspiration. Trust yourself, and trust that the things you love will still be there when you get back. So thanks for still being here :)
Completely organic segue- do you remember the show “This Is Us”?
You know- the NBC family (melo)drama about an Average American Family and all the heartwarming joys and Shakespearean-level tragedies that befall them, and also it starred Mandy Moore for some reason?
So, I actually never saw the show myself. But the best part of my week was when it was on TV, because my dear friend Catherine “hate-watched” the show and provided live, real-time commentary on her Facebook page. It was GLORIOUS. Contrived and cloying plot lines, the saccharine inorganic dialogue, and the pandering “lowest common denominator” blandness of it all- Cath positively skewered it. Her snarky critique was so hilarious and spot-on that I was in stitches reading it every week. Thanks to Cath, I didn’t need to watch it to know exactly what kind of show it was- one where dramatic, emotionally manipulative music played as the faulty wiring of an old slow cooker set the family home on fire (an actual thing that happened in the show), which prompted CrockPot to issue statements defending the integrity of their slow cookers (also, incredibly, a real thing that happened).
That was when I first learned about “hate-watching”- deliberately watching a really bad show or movie just to laugh at how cringey and awful it is. Turns out my sister and I had been doing it for years with shows like 7th Heaven, not knowing there was a name for this harmless and highly entertaining activity. Think Mystery Science Theater, but in real life and with no robots (oops did I just date myself?).
Nowadays, in social media land, there have been a few accounts I have “hate-followed” for a little light schadenfreude, hoping it doesn’t make me a bad person. I’m sure you have them too. It could be an ultra-cringey celebrity, a corny meme account, or the girl who bullied you in high school and now is in an unhappy marriage and an MLM. So there’s one influencer that I started following purely to roll my eyes at, but I recently had to stop hate-following because it started to feel actually troubling on a deeper level. I wanted to write about it because there’s a lot of health and diet stuff out there that feels not just harmless, but “true”- that in reality falls apart under the slightest bit of scrutiny. And as we all know, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet- even if it feels “true” and is wildly, insanely popular.
The influencer in question is @TheGlucoseGoddess, a tiny, blonde, pretty, very French biochemist with an adorable accent and 2.4 million followers on Instagram (I’m honestly scared to look her up on TikTok). She has popularized one of the newest diet fads sweeping the internet, which is eating to balance blood sugar and prevent glucose spikes. Much of her content is images of her own glucose monitor readings which plot her glucose levels on a graph after she eats certain high glycemic index foods, followed by a second reading after she has followed her own tips, tricks, hacks and recipes for stabilizing glucose levels (which, naturally, you can buy in book form).
This all seems very benign. She has a set of “easy to follow” and “nonrestrictive” core tenets for balancing glucose- having a tbsp of vinegar in water before eating, starting all your meals with a plate of vegetables, eating a savory breakfast vs a sweet one, not eating “naked” carbs (without fat or protein), going for a walk after meals- that seem pretty simple and straightforward. She recommends doing these things when it’s easy and convenient, and that it can improve your energy levels, hormone levels, and help prevent pre-diabetes. She even has been dubbed “the anti-diet diet guru”. Cute!
Not to be a killjoy, but… nothing sums up my abject hatred for the current iteration of diet culture content quite like The Glucose Goddess.
Why? Because if you dig beneath the surface at all, it becomes clear that folks like her are talking out of both sides of their mouth. These tips and hacks are touted as “not a diet”, but the entire concept is predicated on food rules. Glucose Goddess loves to claim that her guidelines are “non-restrictive”- it’s virtually all over her page- but one of her core tenets decrees that you should “never” eat dried fruit or drink fruit juice, and should only eat sweets at night, or when you can do some light exercise after. Spoiler alert: this is precisely what restriction looks like. Half her page is decrying certain foods and particular ingredients, and some of her conclusions- which seem scientific, but are actually more anecdotal- are suspect. A recent post declared aspartame- which is currently being evaluated by the WHO as a potential carcinogen- a “healthier” and “better” option than cane sugar based solely on glucose monitor readings after she consumed both Coke with real sugar and Coke zero.
Glucose Goddess has clout and credibility built into who she is. A trained biochemist (note: not a nutritionist), we assume that what she’s saying is evidence-based and scientific based on her credentials. Conventionally attractive, thin and able-bodied with glowing skin, she is the poster child for what we imagine “health” looks like. This coupled with her whiteness and “pretty privilege” affords her a huge platform- she’s someone people want to look at, want to listen to, want to trust.
In reality, the science behind the Glucose Goddess model is…. not as robust as you would think. Many of the studies she cites are outdated, did not involve human subjects, or were done only on diabetics. In fact, the original study from 1981 used to develop the glycemic index itself had a sample size of only 5-10 people. According to GG, frequent glucose spikes cause everything from inflammation, gut problems, brain fog and energy slumps to PCOS, premature aging (via “glycation”) and pre-diabetes- which on its face, all sounds true. Blood glucose monitoring and run-of-the-mill dietary changes- eating fewer processed foods, more fruits and vegetables, more fiber, etc.- are known to be helpful for lots of people, especially those with chronic conditions. But GG not only touts her glucose hacks as something of a panacea (you’ll feel better! you’ll look better! you’ll avoid illness!), she claims her methods can “reverse PCOS”, which is not a thing. I repeat: NOT A THING. In fact, transient glucose spikes- on which GG has based her entire model and health worldview- aren’t linked to any of the things that GG claims her hacks help prevent in otherwise healthy people.
The scientific truth is that the vast majority of us simply do not need to monitor or control our glucose levels to this degree. Short-term glucose spikes are pretty much irrelevant to overall health on a population level, making this, in essence, an imaginary problem. In addition, such micro-managerial behavior isn’t psychologically very healthy and can be an extremely slippery slope. As registered dietitian Abby Langer points out in a fantastic article which I recommend reading in its entirety, according to GG’s “eat vegetables first” principles, you wouldn’t just eat a sandwich. You’d have to pick the veggies out of it first, then eat the protein, then the bread… which is textbook disordered eating behavior. Insisting on eating (lower calorie) vegetables first may well cause you to eat fewer calories from carbs and protein as you fill up, leading to a calorie deficit… i.e. weight loss. All diet culture roads inevitably lead back to weight loss, my friends.
One person in the comments section of a GG post remarked “the hacks don’t work for me :( what am I doing wrong?” The answer is: nothing! The hacks won’t work for everyone, because blood glucose is not one-size fits all. Nothing on GG’s page mentions that in truth, everyone’s body processes glucose differently. So GG’s personal glucose monitor readings? They have no real clinical significance for anyone except for her. In fact, even the American Diabetes Association doesn’t recommend using the glycemic index for individual nutrition therapy- diabetics learn how their own individual bodies react to different foods or activities through consistent or continuous glucose testing. Moreover, the way glucose is released into the bloodstream varies greatly depending on a wide variety of factors, including:
-immune response to illness (if you have a cold, for instance)
-if you’re experiencing pain
-how long since you last ate
-time of day
-hormonal fluctuations (i.e. during menstrual periods)
-if you have a sunburn
-the ripeness of the food (i.e. a greener banana vs a browner banana)
-how the food is cooked or prepared
-what else you’re eating at the same time
Source: The Mayo Clinic, CDC
A recent reel that I hate-watched multiple times features Glucose Goddess being interviewed by another thin, blonde fitness influencer. The cover frame of the video shouts at you in all-caps ARE OATS BAD FOR YOU??? This is followed by about 60 seconds of the Glucose Goddess- who supposedly espouses non-restrictive eating- explaining why you should not eat oats, a highly nutritious whole grain that has sustained humans for literally thousands of years since the Fertile Crescent days. Her reasons? They’re starchy, and although they do contain a little protein, there are “better ways” to get your protein. The blonde interviewer sits rapt, vigorously nodding in agreement the entire time. I couldn’t help but laugh while watching it, hardly believing what I was hearing. So oats are bad now?
Down in the comments section, responses are mixed. Many die-hard fans unconditionally praise and express gratitude for this new rule, this new food to exclude; some aren’t so sure. One commenter, a registered nurse, lamented “meanwhile, (another influencer) claims that oats are good for gut health. I’m tired.”
Yeah. I think we’re all tired.
Just as Weight Watchers rebranded as WW and touts itself as “not a diet, but a lifestyle” (spoiler alert: it’s still a diet), GG is a diet culture wolf in sheep’s clothing: demonizing foods, espousing disordered habits in the name of health, and giving us another set of rules and another health metric to obsess about. It’s another snake oil cure-all being sold to us in the name of optimizing and hacking our bodies. It’s another way to restrict, another body problem to solve, another way to try and achieve “perfect” health… another way to feel in control.
Will some people be able to take GG’s ideas with a grain of salt and not obsess about them or view them as canon? Yes. Are they beneficial and helpful health guidelines for some people? Absolutely. But for the rest of us- the vast majority of us- this is just diet culture noise.
My two cents? Don’t follow The Glucose Goddess. Unless a medical doctor has advised you of insulin resistance issues or pre-diabetic health markers, don’t worry about your blood glucose levels. Work instead on tuning in to your body and listening to it- what foods it wants, how it feels after eating certain foods, when it asks for rest or movement or water or sleep- it really does know what it needs. And keep your bullshit detector on the ready. Cause y’all- there’s no such thing as an anti-diet diet guru.
And if you like oats? EAT YOUR OATS.
Check out the extremely quick and easy recipe for my favorite oatmeal here :) that link doesn’t redirect you? ZERO CLUE WHY BUT OH WELL. Go to my Instagram page (@ksfchef) and in my highlights, click on “Best oatmeal” <3 <3