Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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The thing about Rupaul’s Drag Race and Tic Tacs

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I love Rupaul’s Drag Race. I know that I’m late to the party but I only started watching it after it was added to Netflix last year. I think it’s fantastic how diverse the contestants are. I mean, can you think of any other American reality show that consistently has contestants from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and such a range of body types? Despite this, it’s becoming increasingly disturbing to me that the show promotes eating disorders.

Even though there is always at least one larger queen on each season they are often among the first to be sent home and (at least from the seasons I’ve watched so far) a larger queen has never won. Contestants regularly make comments about each others (and their own) weight and size. There is clearly a huge amount of pressure to conform to an ideal.

The thing that highlighted the eating disorder aspect to me the most is the “lunch” with Ru that the contestants participate in toward the end of the each season. I put lunch in quotation marks because this so-called meal consists of a plate of tic tacs which contestants inevitably make jokes about being far too much food. Like, “oh, I couldn’t possibly!” Or “but I’m watching my figure! Ha ha ha.” I have never actually seen Ru, or any of the contestants, eat even a single tic tac. Generally, this is the only food featured in the show (although there was one challenge in which participants had to design their outfits based on cakes. Naturally, there was an observation made by Ru about the amount of cake gone from one of the larger queen’s cakes and an overwrought admission by a very thin queen to having eaten a slice of their cake). To me, this only serves to glorify eating disorders and disordered eating. Look at us, we’re so virtuous. We never eat. Not even a damn tic tac for lunch.

Given that a number of contestants have openly spoken about their past (and present) struggles with eating disorders on the show I find it really unsettling that disordered eating is being promoted by the show itself. I hope that future seasons, now that more contestants are openly talking about their personal struggles with eating disorders, will stop with the segments that glorify these illnesses.

We know that eating disorder rates are likely higher among LGBTQ+ populations and I can only assume that they are just as high, if not higher given the immense importance placed on appearance, in the drag community.

Given that it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week I think it’s important to emphasize that eating disorders are not trivial. They are not something to be made light of nor are they something to aspire to. For instance, did you know that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders? Bulimia can lead to electrolyte imbalances that can also result in death. These disorders take an immense physical and emotional toll on those experiencing them and on their loved ones. Sadly, rates of eating disorders appear to be on the rise.

If you are suffering from an eating disorder know that you are not alone. If you need someone to talk to and you live in Canada you can call the National Eating Disorder Information Centre for free at 1-866-633-4220. In the US you can contact the National Eating Disorder Association helpline (at the time that I’m writing this their phone line is down but you can chat with them online).


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Is milk out?

I’ve been hearing a number of complaints and concerns about the new Food Guide. The one I’ve been hearing the most is that “dairy is out”. I’d like to dispel that. No, dairy is not “out”. Yes, the “milk and alternatives” food group is gone; as is “meat and alternatives” but milk and dairy products still fit within the protein group in the new guide.

The Food Guide now recommends a proportion-based approach to eating, rather than a more prescriptive portion-based approach. Rather than telling you how many servings of each food group to have every day, and how big a serving is, the new guide simply advises you make half your plate vegetables (and fruit), one quarter protein foods, and the other quarter whole grains. It promotes consuming plant-based protein foods “more often”. This is pretty subjective and should – in theory – make it a lot easier for people to adopt. For some people this may mean consuming plant-based protein foods in larger amounts than animal-based proteins. For others, this may mean consuming plant-based sources of protein more often than they usually do. In a country that’s extremely meat-centric this could mean something as simple as adding more beans to a chili and cutting back on the meat slightly.

I’d also like to point out that given that a quarter of your plate should be devoted to protein foods you can easily mix and match to your heart’s content. This might mean that you have lentils and salmon (like I did last night), cheese and bean casserole, tofu and chicken, etc. It might mean that at one meal your protein comes from milk or meat but that at another it comes from legumes or nuts. Snacks can (and generally should) also include a source of protein. If you eat three meals and two snacks a day this means that there are ample opportunities for you to consume protein from a variety of foods, including milk products if you desire.

Personally, I think that having a food group specifically for milk (and alternatives) was unwarranted and I’m glad to see it go. There are many people who can’t consume milk products (due to lactose intolerance or an allergy) as well as those who choose not to and it is entirely possible to consume a nutritious diet without the inclusion of milk. For those who are concerned about where people will get their vitamin D and calcium from without milk products there are other food sources of these nutrients.

Vitamin D is pretty near impossible to consume enough of through food sources alone anyway, at least during the winter months in Canada and Health Canada recommends all adults over the age of 50 take a supplement of 400 IU/d. I’d also like to point out that milk is fortified with vitamin D as are most plant-based milk alternatives (always check the label to be sure). Other food sources of vitamin D include: egg yolks, salmon and other fatty fish, some meats, and other fortified foods which may include things such as orange juice and cereal.

Non-dairy food sources of calcium include: dark leafy greens (like spinach, collards, and kale), soy beverage, canned fish (eat those bones!), tofu (if prepared with calcium), beans, nuts, seeds, and even blackstrap molasses.

If you are concerned that you may not be meeting your nutrient needs through your diet I recommend keeping a food journal and making an appointment with a registered dietitian.


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Another hot take on Canada’s new food guide

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You all know that I can always find something to bitch about. I’m that girl who’s always the one to find a bug in her freshly picked raspberries or the bone in her piece of fish. My mum will attest to that. It was a running joke in my family that if there was anything weird to be found in the food, I would be the one to find it. So, it should come as no surprise that I have lots to say about the new food guide. But… it may come as a surprise that I don’t actually have anything negative to say about it! In fact, I think it’s pretty fucking great.

In no particular order, here are the changes that I’m most excited about:

  • The addition of food skills (and food literacy). This is literally 85% of my job and it feels really good to have Health Canada supporting it as an important part of healthy eating.
  • The removal of juice as a serving of fruit. It’s going to be so nice not to have to deal with that terrible piece of advice anymore.
  • The removal of serving sizes and recommended number of servings. They confused people and it’s impossible to make recommendations that will work for the entire population. I can’t wait to no longer hear “I can’t eat ALL that” again.
  • I’m glad they got rid of the meat and alternatives and milk and alternatives food groups and lumped them into a proteins group from which they encourage plant-based sources of protein.
  • I appreciate the inclusion of Indigenous foods and ways of eating and the acknowledgement that many people in remote communities and on reserves may struggle to meet the recommendations in the food guide.
  • Following from that, I also appreciate the recognition that external factors, in particular, many social determinants of health, can affect the ability of people to follow a healthy diet.
  • I’m glad that water is recommended as the beverage of choice, again bye bye juice and chocolate milk 👋🏻👋🏻👋🏻
  • I like that the emphasis is on promoting health and only once is weight mentioned. As I’ve ranted about in the past, the food guide is not supposed to be a weight loss diet plan.
  • The photos included in the guide are really appealing. They look way more appetizing to me than the old cartoonish images did. Plus, they’re all about full meals and not just random foods.
  • The overall focus is on a healthy pattern of eating, not just individual nutrients. Much more in-line with how we actually eat. Plus it’s advised that we enjoy (wow!) our food.

My one concern (aside from a couple of very minor things) is that apparently Health Canada does not plan on making the resources for the general public available in print. I think this is a huge mistake. Not everyone has ready Internet access. Also, the old food guide was used in schools and other educational settings (including the food literacy classes I teach) as a teaching tool. I work in public health and we get MANY requests from schools, organizations, and individuals for copies of the food guide. I’m not sure how we’re going to educate people and incorporate the food guide into our programs if we don’t have a print resource available. I hope that Health Canada will reconsider this decision so that everyone has equal opportunity to benefit from the new food guide.


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Doctors don’t know about nutrition but who could possibly teach them?

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I came across this journal article in an email digest last week and I discovered that I do have enough fire left in my belly to keep blogging because holy shit y’all was it ever enraging!

The article title and abstract indicate that nutrition education is missing from the education of doctors and that doctors need this education due to the important impact of diet and nutrition on health and in many disease states. No argument here. However, they then go on to say, “Without properly trained trainers, we have no one to train the doctors of tomorrow. This is a “catch 22.” Okay, they must be planning to talk about how dietitians, you know that entire profession devoted to the study of nutrition, can play a role in the full text. I mean, it seems like a pretty obvious solution. But… I find the full text and there is nary a mention of dietitians in the entire article. It was then that my blood began to boil.

Is there some sort of rule that I’m unaware of that only medical doctors are qualified to teach medical students? Have the authors never heard of dietitians? The entire article is quite frankly baffling. I’m honestly appalled that the authors, one of whom appears to be a medical doctor, are incapable of such basic research as to be able to discover that there is in fact an entire regulated allied health profession devoted entirely to the study of nutrition. They’re worried that doctors don’t know about nutrition? Well, I’m worried that doctors can completed medical school without basic research skills. I’m also a little amazed that it was accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal devoted to “advances in nutrition” and no one thought “hey, hang on a sec… this is not actually a problem. Dietitians and nutrition scientists can teach these students. Maybe we can just tell them this and save them the embarrassment of publishing this drivel.” But no, apparently everyone was like, “yes. Very serious problem. Doctors need to know about nutrition but doctors don’t know enough about nutrition to teach medical students so future doctors will all continue to graduate without the foggiest understanding of human nutrition and women will continue to suffer from anemia.”

Good news: there are plenty of dietitians and nutrition scientists (not all nutrition researchers have the RD credential) who teach dietetic students who could also teach medical students about nutrition. While they’re at it they can also let them know that doctors don’t have to be experts in every area and they can in fact refer patients to dietitians when they require nutrition support.


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Top 10 of 2018

Easing back into (or maybe out of) blogging in the New Year with my top 10 most popular posts in 2018 (based on number of hits). Thanks for reading!

  1. Being thin is not a qualification for providing nutrition advice
  2. Are Clif Bars a healthy snack?
  3. Are pharmacists the new dietitians?
  4. Call in the food police, we’ve got another unruly body
  5. Breathing vs raw food. Should we be getting our oxygen from our diet?
  6. Whole Life Challenge review
  7. I don’t know why you say Hello (Fresh), I say goodbye
  8. Naturopaths are jumping onboard Nutrition Month and this boat ain’t big enough for all of us
  9. A smile doesn’t hide your weight bias
  10. To keto or not to keto