Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Weight Watchers, SNAP, Ultra-processed food, and Front-of package labels: a few short rants

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I have a few things I want to rant about that aren’t really sufficient for full blog posts on their own so I thought I’d do a few mini-posts today.

Weight Watchers

As you’ve probably heard, Weight Watchers announced that they’ll offer free services for teens a few weeks ago. The backlash in the RD community was pretty powerful (check out #wakeupweightwatchers on Twitter). Despite that, I did see a few RDs defending the organization with the argument that overweight and obesity is a health concern for teens and that Weight Watchers has been proven to be effective. While obesity can certainly be a risk factor for a number of chronic diseases, I still don’t think that Weight Watchers is appropriate for teens. While it has been shown to be effective for some adults, there is no evidence to support its efficacy or safety for teens and weight is not the only measure of health (and is not in any manner a measure of worth). I don’t think that it teaches a healthy relationship with food to be considering it in terms of points and weight and I worry that the impact of enrolling a teen in Weight Watchers may be more harmful psychologically and physiologically than beneficial.

SNAP

Apparently the GOP wants to replace some food stamps with a “Harvest Box” that will force “nutritious” foods on recipients. There are soooo many things wrong with this idea. 1. it does not increase food security as providing pre-selected foods to those in need is not allowing them to access food with dignity; 2. dietary needs and preferences vary widely. Will the foods in these boxes be appropriate for men and women and children of all ages and walks of life? Will there be sufficient calories for all ages and lifestyles? What about people who need to consume special diets due to certain conditions (e.g. celiac disease), allergies or intolerances? What about various cultural preferences, religious preferences, or personal preferences? People always complain about “liberals” creating a nanny state but this, this is a true nanny state telling people they are not capable of making their own food choices; 3. This is supposed to save the government money. But when you will now have to source food, package it, and distribute it, as opposed to reloading a debit card I’m really not sure how that will result in any cost savings; 4. What kind of quality will the food be if the point is to save money? I suspect it will not end-up being an improvement over choices people make on their own and there will likely be more food waste due to delivery of unsuitable foods; 5. While assuming the government knows best regarding what people living on limited incomes need the government is perhaps forgetting that people relying on assistance may not have access to all of the kitchen equipment and tools necessary to cook foods provided in these boxes. Not everyone has a full kitchen, power, gas, pots pans, knives, can openers, etc. Time is also often a barrier for people on limited incomes making foods that require lengthy preparation impractical; 6. Has the government consulted with those using SNAP if they would like to receive boxes of preselected food or how they think the system could be improved? A significant issue with many government programs (and many things in general) is that the end user is not consulted making for ineffective and poorly designed services.

Ultra-processed Food

Everyone’s all mad that the classification system for what makes a food ultra-processed isn’t perfect. Yet, we can’t call food “junk food” anymore because that’s offensive even though I don’t think anyone really takes offence to the term and everyone knows what it means. We need some sort of way to categorize food to be able to have meaningful research and discussion. We also need to realise that nothing is perfect and maybe just settle the fuck down and say, “yes, this method has flaws but it’s better than nothing and we will acknowledge that it’s not perfect and deal with it until we have a better way to do things”. Or should we just say eff-it, let the people eat snack cakes?

New Front-of-Package Labels in Canada

Health Canada is currently in the second phase of FOP consultation and you should go have your say. It will only take a few minutes. While they caved to industry and lost the stop sign option, there’s still an opportunity to add your thoughts at the end so, if you want, you can tell them they should make the image more powerful.

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Help me tell the government that we need @EatRightOntario

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Last week I received some upsetting news: EatRight Ontario is shutting down at the end of March due to a loss of government funding. This is sad news for the dietitians who currently work there who will be losing their jobs, for dietitians across the country who use their resources, and not least of all, for Ontarians who will lose free remote access to the services of Registered Dietitians.

I was still mulling over how to approach this on the blog when I attended a webinar today. It was hosted by Food Secure Canada and was about effective lobbying for food system transformation. As the Members of Parliament were talking about how important it is to copy your local representatives on letters to Minsters I realized that this was just what I needed to do about ERO. I didn’t want to have a big pointless bitchfest on here. I wanted to do something with the potential to make a real difference. My solution: I decided to write a letter to Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care (the department responsible for the now withdrawn funding for ERO) and to cc my local MPP so they’re aware of the huge loss that the termination of this service is going to have on Ontarians and Canadians. I thought that I would share my letter with you so that you can copy and paste it, make it your own if you want, and send it to your MPP and Dr Hoskins. After all, if we don’t let our representatives know what our concerns are, how can be expect them to effectively represent us?

Dear Dr. Hoskins,

It has recently come to my attention that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will no longer be providing funding for EatRight Ontario. As you are aware, ERO is a provider of evidence-based nutrition resources and tools which are used across the country, and beyond. ERO also enables Ontarians who might not otherwise have access to a Registered Dietitian to call or email a RD for free. The loss of these services as of the end of March is going to be a huge blow to these individuals as well as to healthcare professionals, particularly Registered Dietitians, who use these resources and who refer people to their services.

ERO had 22,198 contacts between January 2017 and December 2017. These consisted of 11,562 telephone calls and 10,636 emails. This does not include the millions of visits to the website every year. ERO was also the recent recipient of an internationally recognized eHealthcare Leadership gold medal for Best Overall Internet Site. At a time when other provinces, such as Newfoundland and Saskatchewan are just starting telehealth dietetic services it is a step backward for Ontario to be terminating an established service.

Chronic diseases are the leading causes of preventable death and disability in Canada. Poor diet is a major contributor to risk of chronic disease and is a modifiable risk factor. RDs are the only regulated source of credible nutrition information in Canada. Unfortunately, many Canadians who would benefit from nutrition counselling do not have access to a RD as a result of limited services available in their area and/or a lack of coverage for RD services. A telehealth service such as ERO enables Ontarians, regardless of location or financial means, to access the services of a RD, thus promoting health equity across Ontario. Teledietetics is proven to provide positive outcomes in a number of areas. Such a service saves healthcare dollars by relieving some of the burden on emergency and local healthcare providers by reducing the need for these services. It also allows RDs, particularly those in public health, to focus their efforts on population health interventions as they can direct the public to a central credible source of nutrition information rather than spending time duplicating efforts by all creating similar factsheets and resources.

The loss of ERO will mean a loss of access to credible nutrition information for Ontarians, and Canadians, at a time when it is vital to combat the misinformation widely available on the Internet and peddled by self-styled nutrition “experts”. I urge you to reconsider the decision to terminate the funding for EatRight Ontario. If this is not an option, I ask that you continue to keep the ERO website live until an alternative site can be arranged to house and maintain the resources. I also ask that you include access to Registered Dietitians as part of your consolidated telehealth services.

Respectfully,


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Does protecting the public infringe on freedom of speech?

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So, I already blogged about a very similar issue not all that long ago, but I can’t let this article pass without comment.

Essentially people (aka business owners who are hiring unqualified individuals) are pissed off because they won’t be able to hire just anybody to provide nutrition counselling to customers and clients if a NY bill passes. Which means they might actually have to hire qualified nutrition professionals (aka Registered Dietitians) and maybe pay them a semi-decent salary if they want to continue offering nutrition counsel to their clientele.

The bill would define the practice of dietitians and nutritionists and make it illegal for anyone to provide these nutrition services who’s not licenced by the State to practice either dietetics or medicine. The example the article provides to make their case that this is outrageous, in my opinion, actually serves to exemplify precisely why this bill would be a good thing.

The representative of the group attempting to defeat the bill complained that someone who’s not licenced to provide nutrition services would be able to say, “for example, “Fish contains vitamin B12.” But you could not go further to say, “If you’re feeling tired, or lack energy, try foods or supplementing with vitamin B12.”” You see, a RD would know better than to give a recommendation like this because it’s not our job to diagnose. Rather, we might suggest that a person bring their concern to their doctor and ask about having their vitamin B12 level checked. There can be many reasons why an individual is lacking energy and we wouldn’t just push a supplement on someone. I can see why health food store owners might not want to hire us as pushing supplements is what keeps them in business.

Again, what the article fails to mention is the reason for the bill. It’s not for the benefit of Registered Dietitians, although it would likely benefit RDs practicing in NY. No, it’s to protect the public. It’s to ensure that unscrupulous and/or inadequately trained individuals aren’t providing nutrition services to the unwitting public (although there are plenty of exemptions). It’s so that the public aren’t provided unhelpful, or even potentially harmful nutrition advice. It’s so that the public aren’t pushed to buy unnecessary, or even potentially harmful supplements. It’s so that the public aren’t encouraged to follow unhelpful, or even potentially harmful diets. It’s so that the public don’t have to navigate the confusing titles to determine if a professional is qualified to provide them with advice. This bill would serve to ensure that the public is receiving nutrition services from qualified credible regulated professionals.


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Why do we care how much Trump weighs?

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I know that we all want to clutch onto every piece of evidence we find that Trump is a despicable human, hold them close, let them keep us warm at night, and build bomb shelters from them. I also know that society and popular media have taught us that “fat people” are the villains. That they are lazy and gluttonous and deserving of scorn. It’s incredibly difficult to set aside these biases, especially when we want to believe these things of a person, but that’s exactly what we need to do. Trump has given us ample reasons to believe that he is a garbage human. His objectification of and assaults on women, his racist comments and travel bans, his mockery of people with disabilities, his complete and utter lack of diplomacy, and on and on. His weight is not one of them.

Weight does not reflect ones value as a human. This is true of you, of me, of your friends and family, of famous actresses, of poor people and rich people, and yes, even of Donald Trump.
We don’t get to say that body acceptance is important and that weight is not indicative of health or personal worth for people that we like and then go around making a big deal about Trump’s weight. Sorry but not judging a person based on their weight should apply to everyone, even people we dislike.