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Before You Watch “Game Changers” Food Documentary on Netflix

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“Game Changers” is the hot new diet documentary that made it’s way to Netflix mid-October. With a producer list that rivals some of the coolest Hollywood parties, it’s definitely entertaining, even if it’s light on factual information.

Every time one of these new food documentaries come out, it causes a small stir in the fitness community. “What the Health” was the latest one before this. In the second paragraph of the Wikipedia page for “What the Health”, it doesn’t hesitate to cite criticisms for the documentary.

The documentary(What The Health) has been criticized by a number of medical doctors, dietitians, and investigative journalists for what they describe as…
Confusing causation with correlation
Cherry picking science studies
Using biased sources
Distorting study findings
Using “weak-to-non-existent data”.
(Courtesy of Wikipedia.org)

When it comes to “Game Changers”, they definitely INCLUDE all of these 5 and I would like to add 5 more…
Using anecdotal evidence from a sample size of 1 in an uncontrolled environment
Selling ideologies, emotions, and fear, instead of science
Pushing propaganda to further the producers’ business interests
Spinning percentages and statistics to make them sound like way more than they are
Focusing more on the villain than telling the story of the hero
(I can’t stand when others push people down to make themselves look good.)

Right here at CFPB, we have athletes questioning “what they’ve always done” after watching “Game Changers”. I desperately want to like these food documentaries so bad, because I love teaching others about health (why I’m writing this). But here’s another food documentary I simply can’t recommend because I’m afraid it will do more harm than good for my clients.

Not everyone has the nutrition background and subsequent diet common sense that comes from hearing hundreds of points of view on diet over the past twenty years of my life. There’s definitely a skill you can develop to watch these documentaries or read diet books and retain important information without getting caught up in the entertainment of it.

And that’s exactly what these documentaries are, entertainment. Even a lot of the doctors you see in these films have personal brands and books that made them into millionaires. There’s big business here when it comes to your health. All the doctors are handpicked because of their known stances on the subject. You have to understand who’s behind the movie you’re watching before going into it blindly.

You can learn a lot about a film by looking at who produced it, who’s in it, who funded it, etc. My wife and I recently watched another food doc, “Food Evolution”. It turned out to be a very pro-GMO film and downplayed the rise of organics. I say turned out because it started seemingly unbiased before making a hard left towards pesticide produced food country. It was funded by the Institute of Food Technologists, that receives it’s funding from big companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, Monsanto, and DowDupont.

The biggest name behind “Game Changers” is James Cameron. The famous director who’s movies have generated over $7 billion in revenues and is worth over $700 million himself. He and his wife own a plant-based food company, Verdient Foods. This is no small start-up as they seek to be the leading organic pea protein company in North America and have taken on hundreds of millions of dollars in outside funding.

On the Verdient Foods website it says, “The Camerons watched the documentary film “Forks Over Knives” and their understanding of healthy eating immediately shifted.” Go figure that one food documentary has now led to another. (Slaps forehead.)

After Cameron, The “Game Changers” list of producers is impressive…REALLY impressive if creating a man cave of memorabilia. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton (Formula 1), Novak Djokovic (Tennis), Chris Paul (NBA), James Wilks (UFC), Derrick Morgan (NFL), Rip Esselstyn (Engine2Diet), and of course Pamela Anderson (Baywatch).

It was surprising to see so many big names on the producer list, yet the likes of Chan, Djokovic, Paul, and Anderson never made it into the movie. Not that this movie needed more personal anecdotes in uncontrolled environments, but I thought they would at least have success stories to share.

Even Schwarzenegger’s few minutes left a lot to be desired. He’s clearly ungrateful, but I wouldn’t say regretful, for the body, meat (and maybe steroids just a little?) gave him to bring him his fame and success. He downplays the need for protein now that he’s 69 years old and happy with a lot less muscle mass…as he should because he’s now 69 YEARS OLD! But that shouldn’t give him the right to misconstrue a message to younger bodybuilders who have years of competition ahead of them. It’s really hard to take anything away from his scenes except a few laughs…I guess that’s on par for the Kindergarten Cop.

This seemed to be a theme throughout the athlete testimonials. They had already gotten to where they were in life eating meat in their diets and had only recently changed to a vegetarian or vegan diet late in their careers.

The most misleading testimonial was from Kendrick Farris, an Olympic weightlifter, who switched to a vegan diet in 2014 for religious reasons inspired by the birth of his son. He won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007, and finished 8th in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. In the 2016 Olympics in Rio he finished 11th. They were so desperate in this movie to include big strong guys on vegan diets, they made use of this senseless timeline and spun a great story out of it.

These athletes claim the recent diet switch made them even stronger and they set new PRs. Let’s say that is true. Is there any possible explanation for these results? Of course there is. I’ll name two, 1) NUTRIENT DENSITY and 2) MACRONUTRIENT RATIOS.

Nutrient Density: They most likely cleaned up their diet going towards veganism. This means they ate more vegetables and colorful plants allowing them to consume more micronutrients. The Tennessee Titan football players in the film all said they ate fried chicken and fast food all the time before making the diet switch. Of course you will see a change in performance when going from fast food to homemade meals. That’s the great thing about any diet, the mindfulness it brings to the things you put in your body. It’s how almost ANY diet can see short term results.

Macronutrient Ratios: In the sea of anecdotal athlete “evidence”, I was really hoping one of them would explain how they changed what they were eating, without changing what they were eating in terms of macros. This means how many calories they consume each day from carbohydrates, protein, and fat. It’s important for average Tony’s like you or I to consume the right macronutrient ratios that work for OUR BODY and OUR LIFESTYLE. For the professional or Olympic athlete, it’s crucial. They can’t just guess or estimate the right amount of carbohydrates for peak performance, they need to have it dialed in. As these athletes moved from a meat + whatever I see in front of my face diet, to a plant-based approach, I can almost guarantee you they increased their carbohydrate intake while lowering their fat intake. This led to more fast-burning energy for explosive lifts and high-intensity exercise. Their protein intake probably stayed around the same or went down around their events, competitions, or games. Which is a good thing because you don’t want a body full of protein on gameday. You’d rather be “carb-loaded” ready to burn that fastest burning energy source.

A couple of other parts of the film made me laugh and also ask, “and then…” It started to become obvious their storytelling was only telling the sides of the story they wanted you to hear. Nothing new for these documentaries.

One story that I couldn’t wait for them to finish was about the Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz UFC fight. I had to Google it mid-film once they went off-topic to something else. Turns out, McGregor had to add 15 pounds to his fighting weight just to fight Diaz, since he was the featherweight champion at 155lbs and Diaz typically fought in the welterweight division of 170lbs.

They told the story as if the rushed timeline of Diaz only having 11 days to prepare only affected him when it clearly affected McGregor and his typical weight more. Diaz won that first fight, and then they had a rematch at the same weight (170lbs) six months later. McGregor won the rematch. Needless to say, once they returned to Diaz’s amazing, triumphant, shocking, world-shattering story of his win over the meat-eating champ in the first bout, I was already less than impressed.

I also thought it was funny that Scott Jurek, the vegan ultramarathoner who they show breaking the Appalachain Trail hiking record got hurt during his hike. It wasn’t funny he got hurt, but you have to laugh when it’s the narrator’s mission to tell the story of how anti-inflammatory and amazingly repairing a vegan diet is, and then a muscle goes and gets torn.

The slick editing here also made me laugh. They showed Jurek kicking a rock and falling over it, leading us to assume this was the stone that tore his quad muscle. It very well could have. Or it could be worth noting that muscles are made up of protein, and a possible lack of protein could be responsible for his depleted, susceptible to tearing, muscles. As we teach at CFPB, it’s never just that “last lift” that injured you, it was everything you did, ate, drank, slept, etc. before that.

Generally speaking, I love the parts in any documentary where they take the claims of the opposition and throw all this evidence in their face about how wrong they are!

That wasn’t this movie.

I’ll paraphrase….

Question: Are vegan diets getting incomplete amino acid profiles from not eating meat?
No, they’re complete.

Don’t humans have teeth made for chewing meat?
No, that’s silly, our teeth are rounded to grind plants.

Doesn’t a diet rich in soy products increase estrogen in the body?
No, it increases phytoestrogen, but that is not estrogen, but looks like estrogen.

…From what I know it’s still clearly understood in the medical community that phytoestrogens act like estrogen in the body even if not as strong. Studies have shown phytoestrogens help women balance their hormones, especially through menopause where they could see a drop in estrogen levels.

My biggest bone to pick with this movie is the usage of the words “plant-based”. I realize “plant-based” is marketing spin from the vegan community to make it appear more mainstream and wasn’t necessarily the invention of “Game Changers,” but they take it way too far. As soon as they started comparing meat consumption to smoking, I was ready for this film to be over.

I wish this was a plant-based diet movie. I wish a message of “just eat more plants, please” could be taken from this movie. That’s the message I send to my clients and wanted a movie to help back that up. This won’t be it.

I wish they could show how conventional meat and fish farming is killing our planet, without attacking proper and sustainable ways to acquire those foods. Not all meat is created equal. Even after this film, I stand by the motto, “You are what you eat eats.”

I wish they went into further detail about how to do plant-based right, instead of continuing to bash the opposition. There are right and wrong ways to do every diet. In my opinion, there are already way too many meat substitute products out there filled with complete crap. Also, telling someone to give up butter from healthy, grass-fed, pasture-raised cows, for margarine and oils from processed vegetable oils and chemistry labs is just BAD advice, and could be dangerous to someone’s health.

I wish their agenda was simply YOUR BEST HEALTH. It never is with these food documentaries. There’s always a book, supplement company, or Hollywood director worth $700 million who owns a Vegan food company behind it.

I hope I’ve saved you 88 minutes of your life (minus the time to read this) to continue creating your best health. Nobody knows your body better than you so no matter what kind of information a coach, book, or movie tells you, always stay in tune with what it does for you.

-Tony Frezza, Co-Owner CrossFit Palm Beach