bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Leave a comment

Why I write

A month ago (eep!) fellow dietitian and blogger Gemma Critchley asked me to participate in a little Why I Write challenge. Gemma shares great nutrition info, recipes, and product reviews on her blog Dietitian Without Borders. She’s very thoughtful in her blog posts and takes the time to carefully review available research when it’s relevant to her topic. You can read her story about why she writes here. You might also want to follow her on twitter: @dietnoborders.

My Story

I took a bit of a long and winding road to dietetics. After high school I went straight to university and completed an honours degree in psychology. I loved it. I knew that there was no way I was going to get a job with a BA in psych so after a somewhat torturous year working in tourism retail I decided to apply to grad school. Unfortunately, due in part to my obscure choice of research interest (I wanted to combine psych and philosophy and look at the development of “self” – deep, right?) and in part to my absent honours thesis supervisor deciding that he couldn’t write me a letter of reference (due to the fact that he was absent during my thesis – grr) I didn’t get into grad school.

After my dream of a career in psychology fizzled, I decided to go back to school for graphic design. I didn’t like it though. Art school is tedious, lots of repetitive drawings of potatoes (don’t ask), I wasn’t learning what I wanted to learn, and I wasn’t confident enough in my ability to generate good ideas. I dropped out and went backpacking across Europe for a few months. It was an amazing experience but I have no desire to ever stay in a hostel again.

Following the backpacking trip I got a job. Worked. Got another job. Worked. I was frustrated and felt like I needed to do more with my life. I figured that people could use some help figuring out how to eat healthy and I loved cooking and fitness so I decided to go back to school again for nutrition. This was when I was 28. I worked through my entire degree and my internships. Internships don’t pay. Don’t even get me started about that.

During my final internship placement I had a phone interview for a position working as a public health dietitian in Belleville, Ontario. I was offered the position. Permanent. Full-time. Pretty much the dream. Packed-up my cats and drove to Belleville.

Despite having a great job, I still wasn’t happy. I didn’t like Belleville and spent most of my time running through a rotation of work, gym, hide in apartment… After less than two years I decided to move home without a job lined-up. I thought I was going to work with a fellow nutrition grad at his private practice. Unfortunately, many health plans don’t cover RD services and most people don’t want to pay for dietetic services so that plan didn’t pan out.

After time working for a temp agency in administrative positions, a brief stint working in weight management in Ottawa, and more temping, I finally landed a job working in nutrition (sort-of).

How It All Began

I started my blog back in 2011 when I was working in public health. I came to work one day ranting to my dietitian colleagues about an advertising insert for Nutella that had come in my Chatelaine magazine. I was ranting because they had a dietitian supporting their spread as part of a nutritious breakfast. Ridiculous, right? Then I saw Yoni Freedhoff ranting about the same issue on his blog Weighty Matters. I was like, hey, I’m always ranting about this sort of thing, I should start a blog!

I started Bite My Words as a place for me to vent about nutrition misinformation. Things that I read in the media or heard people say. Even if nobody read it, I wanted to combat these myths and lies and a blog seemed like a better way to do it than ranting to other dietitians (not that I stopped ranting, mind you).

It took a long time to build-up a solid readership. I’m pretty sure that there were days early on when the only hits on my blog were my mum and a couple of my friends. Seriously, I think only three people read my post about cabbage. Some of my content was great, some wasn’t. My writing style wasn’t ideal. If you go back, you’ll see that pretty much every post was one paragraph. I like to think that I’ve improved over time and that I’m continuing to improve.

How I Write

Initially, I would write a post every day and then post it immediately. Eventually, I learned the beauty of scheduling posts so that I could write them when I had time and then have them go live at the same time each day. I was still writing pretty much every evening though, having posts go live at 9am the following day. Now I try to work a bit farther in advance. Sometimes I’ll have a couple of weeks posts scheduled. Sometimes I’ll be frantically searching for inspiration the evening before. I don’t post every day anymore either. My work days are much longer than they were in Belleville and I have other things to do besides write every evening. I still post three times a week. I think that it’s important to post regularly to keep your audience (yes, you!) entertained.

I come up with topics through a number of ways. I get daily alerts and digests of nutrition and food news in my email. I follow others who are interested in nutrition on twitter, as well as quacks people like Dr Oz who are always great for blog fodder. I also read nutrition magazines, Chatelaine, books, and recent nutrition journal articles. I can be inspired by a conversation or a friend might email me something that they think will interest me. Usually it’s pretty easy to come by something that fires me up. Sometimes though, it’s a struggle.

What Keeps Me Going

For me, blogging is like exercising. I feel so much better after I do it and I know that I’ll feel crappy if I don’t. Also, my current job doesn’t afford me as much opportunity to use my brain as I’d like. Writing blog posts allows me to feel like I’m contributing to my field, helping people, and learning about the latest nutrition research and trends. In addition, positive (and even negative) feedback keep me going. When people tell me that they read my blog it’s just a really nice feeling. When I see someone land on my blog after searching for some crazy diet or scam product I like to think that I may have saved someone’s health and money.

What’s Next

For the foreseeable future I plan to keep blogging. I’m toying with other opportunities such as freelancing and entrepreneurship. Stay tuned :)

I’m now supposed to nominate three fellow bloggers to share their stories. However, I did one of those chain-blogging-type things before and I don’t think that anyone took me up on it. So, if you’re a reader of my blog and want to get in on the “why I write” action please, go ahead, I’d love to read your story. Share your link in the comments.


Leave a comment

Coke gives the green light to traffic light nutrition labelling

url

Apparently Coke is going to adopt the “traffic light” front -of-package labelling in the UK. For those who are unfamiliar, this labelling scheme uses red, yellow, and green lights to help customers make healthy choices quickly.

I can’t help but wonder how Coke is going to have anything besides red on their beverages. If they’re able to, it’s a testament to the fact that you can’t always trust labels. After all, the absence of unhealthy ingredients (as in the instance of diet pop) doesn’t mean it’s healthy as there’s still an absence of healthy ingredients.

 

Shameless request for your support: The Coast is currently doing their Best of Halifax Awards Poll and I’d love your vote for best blogger! Just go here to register your vote and get a chance to win a $1, 000 shopping spree at Mic Mac Mall!


Leave a comment

More on the return to home ec.

url

I’ve been hearing a lot about the push for home economics (especially food skills) to return to high schools (as a mandatory course) in Ontario. I’m completely behind this idea. That being said, we were talking about that back when I worked in public health and that was more than two years ago (and I’m sure that the conversation predated my time). I’m not going to hold my breath.

 

I also think that we need to go further than reintroducing a re-vamped sexier home ec. in high schools. We need to catch kids when they’re young. Many elementary schools now have gardens which are a great way to teach children about growing, harvesting, and preparing food. They’re also great places for teaching children about math and other core subjects. I think that food literacy should be one of these school subjects. Children should receive more education about food and nutrition than the occasional food guide or guest dietitian presentation in health class.

 

If we want children to develop healthy habits for life then we need to show them what healthy living is. It’s not enough to ban cookies in the cafeterias. Our goal should be that no student should finish their school without knowing that carrots have green tops, they don’t come in cans, how to grow vegetables with or without a yard, how to prepare basic nutritious meals, how to slice and dice. We have to eat every day and we shouldn’t be allowing any more children to grow-up without the skills to feed themselves.


1 Comment

Why you should read the ingredients

url-1

A couple of weeks ago, a study of packaged foods in the US showed that many of them listing 0% trans-fat on the labels actually still contained trans-fat. Many dietitians said, “No shit”. This is why reading the ingredients is often more valuable than reading the nutrition facts panel.

Many manufacturers use trans-fat in their food products but also use a serving size that allows them to report the amount of trans-fat per serving as being 0%. Until trans-fats are banned, what can you do about this? One, you can read the ingredient list. Look for the words “partially hydrogenated”. That’s your trans-fat. Avoid foods containing any partially hydrogenated ingredients. Two, make your own food. When you make it yourself you can decide what goes into your food. Use as few highly-processed packaged foods as possible. I know that it’s not realistic to expect that everyone is going to start cooking and baking everything at home. Be savvy. Do what you can. Aim for packaged foods with as few ingredients as possible. And remember that while you may be saving time in the short-term by buying frozen dinners, you’ll likely lose time in the long-run.


Leave a comment

Follow Friday: All of the low-carb diet blogs

url

When the news about the new “low-carb diet is the best long-term weight loss diet” came out I fleetingly considered writing about it. In the moment that I took to think about it, pretty much everyone else had covered it. So… Rather than reinvent the wheel. Here are some links to posts that say pretty much everything I would have said (and then some):

James Fell on Six Pack Abs: New Study: What is low carb good for

Karmal Patel on Examine.com: Is low-carb really the best weight loss diet?

Yoni Freedhoff on Weighty Matters: What I actually learned by reading that low-carb is best study

Julia Belluz on Vox: The one thing you need to know about weight loss and diet studies

There’s more, but that’s probably more than enough reading for now. I’m off to The Canteen for a sandwich. See you Monday!