Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Cancer diet

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Anybody else see this article about a journalist who gets cancer and starts praising nutribabble? The description really says it all: After beating cancer, Scott DeSimon rediscovered his appetite—and lost his skepticism for wellness and nutrition trends. Meet the superfoods that guided him back to health.”

The gist is that the author gets cancer, goes through conventional treatment, loses a bunch of weight, finishes the treatment and attempts to regain the weight. Eschewing what he sees as healthy eating (“I know what constitutes a healthy diet: lots of vegetables, meat mainly as a flavoring, no processed foods”) he goes for quantity over quality and calories over micronutrients in an effort to regain the weight he lost during radiation. Unsurprisingly, he makes himself sick by ingesting copious quantities of fast food and restaurant food. So, he turns to a professional. Sadly, not a dietitian nor any sort of cancer specialist. Instead, he goes to Dr Lipman who has devotees such as Gwyneth Paltrow, as if that’s a selling point. Dr Lipman is a big fan of superfoods, cleanses, supplements, and has a website with testimonials. All of which are red flags of quackery and basically amount to a red sail, or whatever you want to picture for an oversized red flag. There are testimonials from actors and fellow quacks like Mark Hyman and Christiane Northrup.

Once the author goes on the extremely restrictive diet prescribed by Lipman, he magically feels much better and he slowly starts to regain weight. While he claims to be skeptical about the regimen, it comes across as hollow to me. It’s like I rolled my eyes but threw away all of my food as started living off cashew milk and chia seeds. Of course he’s going to feel better, he’s finished radiation treatment, regained his tastebuds, and started eating again (1). I’m not saying that the diet Lipman put him on is bad, I’m just saying that there are some pretty significant confounders here and correlation does not imply causation. It’s quite likely that he would have started to feel better on a much more relaxed diet and that the strict diet is falsely being credited with his recovery.

I don’t think that anyone with cancer should feel like they have to give-up gluten or sugar or coffee. They also shouldn’t feel as if they have to subsist off expensive “superfoods” and supplements. Healthy eating, whether you have cancer or not, does not have to be a complicated or costly endeavour.

For more information on cancer nutrition visit:

Canadian Cancer Society

Cancer Dietitian

Jean Lamantia

 


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Follow Friday: @FarmGirlJen #FF

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Getting back on track with my Follow Friday RD features. This week goes to Jennie Schmidt (aka @FarmGirlJen) who has the relatively unique perspective of a dietitian-turned-farmer. She also had the moxy to nominate herself for a Follow Friday post which I totally love. While she hasn’t technically practiced dietetics in about 16 years, she points out that she uses the same principles from clinical nutrition but now applies them to soil and plants.

Jennie grows soybeans, corn, green beans, tomatoes, and wine grapes in Maryland. She’s a big advocate for genetic modification. In fact, she warned me that if that’s not my thing, I might not want to feature her. You guys know that while I’m not a supporter of genetic modification in the food supply, I’m not a staunch anti-GMOer either and I think that listening to different perspectives and having open discourse is important. To read more about her thoughts on farming, you should check-out her blog The Foodie Farmer.

You can also find Jennie on Facebook as @DirtDietitian.

If you’d like to nominate a dietitian to be featured in a Follow Friday post, please let me know!


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My problem with “babes”

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Something that I’ve been thinking about for a little while now is the proliferation of “babes” and why it bothers me so much.

It all started with the Food Babe. Others then capitalized on (subverted?) her moniker by proclaiming themselves “Science Babe”, “Farm Babe”, “Biology Babe” and who knows how many others.

There’s a part of me that feels like I should be supportive of these “babes”. Am I a bad feminist for feeling irritated when I see women dubbing themselves “babes”? Maybe. I hope not though.

After some contemplation, I think I’ve figured out why these pseudonyms bother me so much. Many of these women are doing great work. They’re trying to bring scientific literacy to the populace. But why do they need to be babes in order to do this? We all know that sex sells. I’m left feeling like in order for women to be heard, particularly those in male dominated industries, that they need to be attractive to get attention. Can you imagine a man calling himself “Science Babe” or “Science Stud”? Even with my love of alliteration it sounds ridiculous.

By virtue of dubbing themselves “babes” there’s a certain implication that other women in their fields are not babes. That they are somehow unique and that being attractive is necessary in order to be heard. But being attractive or sexy is not an achievement. It has no bearing on intelligence, knowledge, or skills. How sad is it that we live in a world in which we are more inclined to give credence to women who are considered conventionally attractive? That in order to gain attention for our messages that we need to make people think that we’re physically desirable? That the contents of our minds can only be made appealing by first enticing people with our exteriors.

 


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Top 16 of 2016

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It seems that most of my top posts were from earlier years, but here are the most popular from 2016 (from most to least hits):

  1. Grocery store lessons: Catelli “SuperGreens” pasta
  2. Should veganism be a human right?
  3. Where did her body go?
  4. Hey food industry, get out of RD conferences! #FNCE
  5. Boycott Fit to Fat to Fit
  6. Childhood obesity is not something to be battled
  7. Top 10 nutrition quacks to follow
  8. Ditch the meds: a dietitian dispensing drugs
  9. Doctors giving nutrition advice probably shouldn’t reference Pete Evans
  10. 16 cancer causing foods: what THEY don’t want you to know
  11. Is this good for me?
  12. Comparing apples to oranges
  13. The dark side of dietetics
  14. What foods will dietitians never eat?
  15. Licence to farm review (Rant)
  16. How to choose yoghurt (#FF @canva)


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Have you ever “undone” all your hard work at the gym with a burger? This post is for you.

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Have you ever said, or thought, something along the lines of “I cancelled out my workout by eating doughnuts”? How about “I just undid all my work at the gym by having pizza for supper”? Or, “I earned this treat because I ran today”? I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of saying those sorts of things. Many of us probably have. For some reason I seem to have become acutely aware of it recently.

I see articles, blog posts, tweets, overheard conversations, where people make statements like those in the examples above all the time. Since it’s the New Year, I expect that a lot of people are making health and fitness related resolutions. I’ve shat all over such resolutions in the past so I won’t do that again today. Instead of resolving to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, undergo metamorphosis, perhaps we should consider resolving to shift our mindsets.

The thing is, you’re never cancelling out, undoing, or negating physical activity by eating too much or eating foods that aren’t super healthy. You’re also never earning them by putting in time on the dreadmill. We need to separate the two. Remember when I talked about my problem with many food tracking apps and websites? We often overestimate how many calories we’ve burned during a workout. It’s more than that though. It’s that both exercise and nutrition contribute to our health and well-being but they are both completely separate entities and we need to stop thinking of them as two sides of a scale.

Regardless of what you eat, exercise is still beneficial. Exercise can improve your sleep quality and duration, it can help reduce stress, it’s important for both physical and mental health and can reduce the risk of many diseases. Conversely, regardless of how much you move, a healthy diet is still beneficial. Good nutrition can reduce the risk of many diseases, provide you with energy, can help you recover from injury… Obviously, the two are important contributors to good health. Obviously, you’re going to reap greater benefits if you are both physically active and eat a nutritious diet. However, if you workout and eat a cheeseburger you haven’t then cancelled out your workout. You’ll still be getting some benefits from being active. You’ll still be better off than if you sat on your butt all day and then ate a cheeseburger.

So, stop being so hard on yourself. Stop thinking you’ve failed if you haven’t done an hour of spin and followed that up with a kale salad. Try to separate your thoughts about exercise and your thoughts about nutrition. Your workout happened no matter what you ate afterward. A burger and fries doesn’t erase a swim.