Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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If you’re cheating on your diet, then you should probably break-up with it

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Yes, the above post is undoubtedly very cute. Using emojis is a fun way to make your point. However, I would argue that if you are struggling with your weight that you should actually reverse the suggestion by Dr Nadolsky.

I’m not saying, eat unhealthy food all day every day. I’m saying, take some of those “treat” foods from the weekend and enjoy them whenever you feel like it. Something more along these lines:

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If you’re struggling with your weight and you’re eating super healthy through the week and then you “undo” all your hard work by eating a bunch of crap on the weekend your problem is not the weekend. Your problem is the week. If your workweek diet is very restrictive and doesn’t allow room for treats, or carbs, or entire food groups, then it’s not a sustainable way of eating. If you feel deprived during the week, then it’s not a sustainable way of eating. If you can’t continue to eat the way you eat during the week through the weekend, then it’s not a sustainable way of eating. If your diet through the week is devoid of pleasure, then it’s not a sustainable way of eating. If you’re cheating on your diet whether it be for one day a week, or all weekend, then you should probably break-up with it.

Regardless of your weight, your diet should be one that you enjoy. That provides you with nourishment and pleasure. You should be able to enjoy your food every damn day of the week.


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Representation matters and the health care industry is failing miserably at it

Source: UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

In relation to my recent posts about how a dietitian’s weight is not indicative of their professional capability, I’ve been thinking a lot about weight bias. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how we portray (or don’t portray, as the case may be) people who are considered to be overweight or obese.

At work, I often find myself advocating for more diversity in our images of people. But by that I always mean “maybe we should include images of some people who aren’t young and white”. It actually kind of blows my mind that every time a draft comes back from a graphic designer that EVERYONE is youthful and white. Anyway… That’s not what I wanted to write about today. It’s the fact that they are also ALWAYS thin. I get it, we’re in the business of promoting health and what would you picture if I asked you to picture someone healthy. You’d probably envision someone who’s trim, youthful, smiling. The fact of the matter is though that health comes in all shapes and sizes.

Representation matters. If you don’t see yourself in an organization’s images, or a magazine’s, or in the media, you’re not likely to relate to the messages they’re sharing. I’m not talking about showing pictures of headless obese bodies when we’re talking about obesity, as a matter of fact, I’d rather we all just stopped talking about obesity altogether but that’s another rant. I’m talking about when we choose an image for a campaign for oral health, or a social media post about sexual health, or a banner promoting your services. Whatever the case may be. Think about it, with more than half the population falling into the category of overweight, our healthy living (and really ALL promotional) messages are missing out on a huge proportion of the population. If we truly want to promote healthy lifestyles for all then we need to include everyone in our messages. Don’t make it about weight though. Weight loss should not be the message. The message should be that everyone, regardless of size, age, ability, or race is deserving of good health and can enjoy a healthy active lifestyle. That everyone is deserving of health care services. That regardless of size, your voice should be heard. It really stuck with me how in Hunger, Roxanne Gay wrote about becoming more invisible the larger her body became. This is not how things should be. Your worth should not be inversely proportionate to your weight.

If you want to start including more positive non-stereotypical images of people with obesity in your work, check out Obesity Canada’s image bank or Yale Rudd Centre’s image gallery.


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Call in the food police, we’ve got another unruly body

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I feel the need to expand on something I touched on in my post last week. It’s related to people judging dietitians on the basis of our weight. My previous post mainly discussed why it’s inappropriate to judge anyone’s professional abilities, including dietitians, on the basis of their perceived size. However, I think this all too common judgement also speaks to the lack of understanding of what we do.

There’s a common (mis)perception that dietitians are all weight loss counsellors. As a result, if we don’t have that elusive “perfect body” people think that we suck at our jobs. After all, what else do we do other than police the food people put into their mouths. If we can’t control the food going into our own mouths, how on earth can we possibly control the food going into the mouths of all the other owners of “unruly” bodies. While some dietitians certainly do work in weight management, even those dietitians are not actually food police. The majority of dietitians don’t work in weight management. Curious what a dietitian actually does, check out this old post.

It is not part of my job to control my body so that it fits your perceived notion of healthy and fit. Whether or not I am large has no bearing on my knowledge of nutrition. It does not impede my ability to calculate a tube feed, modify a recipe, expound on celiac disease, or help someone with diabetes manage their blood sugar. Just as being small and having no knowledge of nutrition does not automatically imbue me with the capacity to do these things. As with any profession, the size of a dietitian is not a reflection of their knowledge, experience, or capability.

Dietitians do So Much More than help people lose weight. Despite the impression that our name gives, we are not all about putting people on diets. For many of us, aside from medically necessary diets (for example in the case of allergy sufferers or those with celiac disease) “diet” is a four letter word. We’re not all on a mission to rein in unruly bodies and create a world populated solely by thin bodies. When we do work in positions of counsel we usually aim to help people to gain greater compassion for, and appreciation of their own bodies. To help people view food as a source of pleasure rather than an enemy out to destroy our hard-fought-for chiselled physiques.


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Being thin is not a qualification for providing nutrition advice

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Last week a bunch of crossfitters and meatatarians got all worked up because the former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the US organization representing registered nutrition professionals) released a video that essentially warned RDs to watch for people without appropriate credentials providing nutrition advice. Some people evidently felt that she was unworthy to issue such a warning as she did not fit their limited definition of an acceptable body size. There are so many things wrong with this assertion that I don’t even know where to begin.

First, I happen to agree with Beseler (the RD in the video). As I’ve argued in the past, dietitians are regulated healthcare professionals which means that we have to complete a number of requirements to maintain our licencing. Being licenced also means that the public has added protection and recourse in the event that we do provide advice that causes harm. Would the video have more credence if it came from someone slimmer? Let me remind you that being young thin and pretty are not qualifications to provide nutrition advice.

Second, just as being young thin and pretty aren’t qualifications to provide nutrition advice, nor is being old large and unattractive a sign that someone is not qualified to provide nutrition advice. An individual’s appearance is not a reflection of their expertise. Personally, I wouldn’t want to receive nutrition advice from someone who judges others based purely on their size.

Third, I can’t tell from the video what size Beseler is anyway. Her size should be irrelevant anyway. Attacking her based on her weight is bullying. The narrow perception of what bodies are acceptable also shows the narrow-mindedness of the attackers. It also shows the pervasiveness of weight bias in our society. That people are more willing to accept advice from someone who has no nutrition education simply because they fit a thin ideal over someone who is highly credentialed but may not have that “perfect” physique is a sad reflection of our ingrained fear of fat.

Healthy bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. Your worth is not related to your size.


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I don’t know why you say Hello (Fresh), I say Goodbye

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One of the items in the swag bags at the conference I attended a few weeks ago was a coupon for Hello Fresh. You know, one of the meal box delivery services that’s a hybrid between home cooking and a ready meal. I figured I may as well give it a try. Considering on my boyfriend’s nights to cook he often says some variation of “what should I make for supper?” I thought it might give him a bit of a break.

Of course, the coupon was tricky and ended up being not quite as good a deal as it first appeared. It was a $50 off coupon but it turned out to work as $25 off two separate weeks. Which, honestly wasn’t all that great a deal. I chose the least expensive option: the pronto box (meals that take about 30 minutes to prepare – more on that later) for two (more on that as well) which still ended up costing me over $50 out of pocket for one week. If you order the box at full price, it’s $11.67 per serving. Less than you would likely spend eating out, but more than you would normally spend for a home cooked meal (and we rarely eat out).

After one week and three meals, I noted many of the things that others have already voiced. Things like: excessive packaging, nutrition, and longer than advertised cooking times. However, I’d like to expand on a couple of them.

The first meal we made was Herby Steak Skewers with Crispy Potato Smash and Feta. This recipe allegedly should have taken 30 minutes to prepare. Perhaps if it had come with the water boiling, skewers soaked, and if I had the recipe memorized it would have. Instead, it took the two of us 50 minutes to prepare. Considering that I’m a pretty confident cook, I can’t help but wonder how long it would take someone who subscribed to this service because they aren’t confident in the kitchen.

The next two meals were a little faster. Partially because I didn’t follow the directions in sequence. Rather, I did them in the way that I knew would be fastest. The Leek and Pea Risotto with Roasted Fennel and Ricotta took me approximately the allotted 35 minutes while the Pan-Seared Chicken Elicoidali (pasta) with Asparagus and Parmesan took about 30 minutes, as promised.

My other major issue as a dietitian, was the nutrition. The portion sizes were all out of wack. We got about four servings out of each meal, and we have appetites. On one hand, this was great, it made the boxes a bit better of a deal and I liked having lunch taken care of the following day. On the other hand, I worry that people believe that these meals are portioned appropriately and thus, may end up eating more food than they need. The other nutrition concern was the vegetable deficiency. The meal with the skewers did not have enough veg. A tiny orange pepper and some bits of red onion are not enough vegetables for a meal. I ended up augmenting the meal with some asparagus from the fridge. The chicken pasta only had a bit of onion and a small quantity of asparagus. Even the vegetarian risotto was a little light on veg (although definitely the best of the three) with a few green peas, pre-sliced leek, and fennel.

Considering that nutrition is one of the major benefits of home cooking, I feel like Hello Fresh may be doing more harm than good but providing meals that don’t have enough vegetables and have excessively large portions.

I also have the impression that many people order these meal kits because they’re short on time and want quick and easy meals. Sure, they save the hassle of going to the store and planning what to make a few nights a week but I don’t think they really save much in the way of cooking time. If I wasn’t already comfortable in the kitchen Hello Fresh would likely have left me with the impression that cooking “healthy” meals is complicated and time-consuming. I mean, if it takes 50 minutes to make a meal that’s already portioned and partially prepared, how long will it take to make a meal with unprepared ingredients? This is not the case. There are many delicious and nutritious meals that can be on the table in under 30 minutes. Rather than encouraging people to cook more at home, I worry that these meal kits may actually discourage people from cooking.