Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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The day the Internet dies

Sometimes I think that we would all be so much better off if the Internet collapsed. Or at the very least, social media networks.

I was reading this article: The Death of Civility in the Digital Age that Yoni Freedhoff shared on his blog last week and thinking about how true it is. People are so ready to attack, always looking for a fight, on social media. The interaction of your fingers with your computer or mobile phone sending out words to someone you’ve probably never even met irl is vastly different from having a conversation with someone face-to-face, or even over the phone. It’s so easy to respond hastily and to neglect to consider that your words will be read by a real actual live human.

While I love that I can find the answer to nearly any question immediately on a tiny computer I carry in my purse I find myself more and more often wondering if it’s worth the cost we’re paying. Egregious cellphone bills in Canada aside, I mean what we’re paying in declining humanity and rampant misinformation.

I can find the answer to nearly any question online but anyone can put what they believe to be the answer out there. This means, especially in the world of nutrition, that there can be heaps of misleading, inaccurate, and completely false information that I need to sift through and assess before I come to the correct answer. There is an ever growing mountain of misinformation online and a tide of dietary dogma on social media. It’s ever so tempting to just shut it out but I feel an obligation to stay online to fight it, to try to dilute it with as much truth as I can. Which is hard because there aren’t many hard and fast truths when it comes to a balanced diet, despite what the radical carnivores, vegans, ketoites (I don’t know what they call themselves), LCHF-ists, HCLF-ists, etc etc would have you believe.

I also hate the constant need for self-promotion. I’m reading the novel Radiant Shimmering Light right now and the whole obsession with getting likes on IG, and RTs on Twitter really rings true. There are a few characters in the book who are “lifestyle” bloggers and they present these varnished, edited versions of their lives as currency. They make money through links on their websites and through selling the idea of perfection and self-marketing. The book is kind of poking fun at this world we’ve created but it’s done so in a way that you really feel the anxiety-provoking compulsion of the narrator to check her notifications. It’s nearly impossible for a dietitian, especially one in private practice, to not use social media. There are dietitians who make a living by coaching others on how to optimize their Instagram feeds. Like are you even a dietitian if you’re not posting perfectly styled photos of acai smoothie bowls and kale salads?

Our years of nutrition education and proof of ongoing education are no longer enough. Now we must be savvy social media marketers, chefs, expert food stylists, and photographers. We must be brands in and of ourselves. We must constantly be competing with self-styled nutrition gurus, other dietitians, and ourselves. I know that I’ve probably got my rose-coloured glasses on, but I yearn for a day when I don’t have to see literal meatheads mocking people for eating plants on twitter. When I can be blissfully unaware of the insane dietary advice naturopaths and some chiropractors are doling out to their clients. When I don’t have to see dietitians promoting juice as nutritious.  When we can all just stay in our lanes and do the jobs we were trained to do.


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Should dietitians use #eatclean on social media?

clean-eating

A friend shared this article with me last month. For those of you who can’t be bothered to click links or belong to the TL;DR camp (of which, I’ll admit, I’m a frequent member) let me give you the briefest of synopses. It was about clean eating, why people got so sucked in by the notion, and why it won’t freaking die already.

Reading about all of the self-appointed “clean eating” wellness gurus got me thinking about how many of us who rail against fad diets are also inadvertently complicit in keeping them alive. I see lots of well-intentioned dietitians using hashtags like #cleaneating and #eatclean on their Instagram posts. Personally, I prefer the tag #eatdirty although I don’t think it garners me as many likes as it hasn’t quite caught on in the way that I had hoped. Anyhow… I’m not here to judge my fellow RDs. I’m not even sure how I feel about this myself.

There’s a part of me that thinks it’s good for dietitians to be appropriating the “eat clean” hashtag. By doing so, perhaps they’re reaching people who are all-in on the trendy diet train but who might benefit from seeing sensible nutrition and food suggestions from a nutrition professional. On the other hand, is using these hashtags on Instagram lending legitimacy to them? Isn’t it possible that by using the hashtags, no matter the content, it’s implying that the RD posting supports the notion of clean eating? And for all I know, maybe they do, not all of us are on the same page. But let’s assume that they’re using it, not because they believe in “eating clean” (which means nothing by the way), and not because they’re just trying to get more likes (I know, terribly cynical of me), but because they want to show people who are into “clean eating” a more balanced way of approaching food. Is it cool for dietitians to be using the hashtags for this purpose? Even if it means that it lends an air of legitimacy to a silly fad diet. Does the end justify the means? Or would it be better if we risked only preaching to the choir by using hashtags that truly represent our personal philosophies toward food and our professional opinions?


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Follow Friday: @Evergreen_RD

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Back on track with the RD Follow Fridays for the penultimate Friday in Nutrition Month. This week I’d like to suggest you follow the fabulous Marianne Bloudoff of BC. Like me, she took a meandering path to a career in dietetics. Unlike me, she had a cool career in fisheries management before heading back to uni to study dietetics in order to combine her love for both science and nutrition.

Much like me, again, she ended up moving away from the ocean to work in public health. She’s currently employed as a population health dietitian with the Northern Health Authority and is the regional lead for food security. The region being the entire northern half of the province. She’s a regular contributor to the Northern Health Matters blog.

I got to find out some other cool facts about Marianne when I told her I wanted to write a post on her. Like, did you know that she competed for Australia in synchronized skating at the world championships?? How cool is that?! On a less cool note, she’s one of those unfortunate souls who dislikes cilantro :(

You can find Marianne blogging at Evergreen Eats or follow her on various social medias… She’s on twitter as @Evergreen_RD where you can find her posting about nutrition, recipes, politics, and whatever else strikes her fancy. On Instagram as @Evergreen_RD where she primarily posts gorgeous food photos. On Facebook as (nope, she fooled you!) EvergreeneatsRD where she shares lots of food porn and recipes and I’m getting hungry writing this post. Last but not least, for the dog lovers out there, you can follow her French Bulldog Barley on Instagram too @barley_thefrenchie.

Do you know an amazing RD who should be featured in a future Follow Friday post? Get at me!


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Follow Friday: @AndyThaRD

For today’s Follow Friday I suggest that you follow fellow RD Andy DeSantis whose goofy antics on social media have fast earned him a number of devoted followers. He tweets at @AndyThaRD but where he really shines is on Instagram. He has his fair share of the obligatory food pics and selfies but he also started a challenge a little while ago asking people to post photos of themselves striking yoga poses with vegetables.

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Andy's Vegan Yoga Challenge – You must post a picture of yourself doing a yoga pose that includes a vegan food in a humorous way. Tag me and I will re-post the one I that think is the funniest. FYI I am far from a legit yoga practitioner but that did not stop me from putting a bag of avocados in my mouth and whipping out a poorly executed pose that I learned from P90X. All skill levels welcome 😂😂😂 #yogachallenge #yogagram #yogisofinstagram #veganeats #plantbaseddiet #dietitian #rd2be #nutritionist #yogainspiration #trianglepose #vinyasa #eattherainbow #foodiegram #torontofoodie #yogapose #hippies #yogapants #meditate #spiritualgangster #instavegan #instayoga #vegansofinstagram #plantpower #fitfoodie #healthspo #eatcleantrainmean #onewithnature #ashtanga #forkyeah #instafoodie

A post shared by Andy De Santis RD MPH (@andytherd) on

It needed to be seen to be believed, right? ;)

Andy is serious about supporting new RDs and promoting a healthy lifestyle; he just knows that you can’t take anything (including yourself) too seriously in this business (life?). He recently began featuring blog posts from dietetic students on his blog. The most recent post features a recipe for vegan minestrone from Rachel Asbury, perfect for the cooler temps that are about to hit.

Another recent initiative of his is a YouTube channel “Dudes Talk Nutrition” in partnership with Aussie RD @hearty_nut (aka Joel Feren). Want to know if carrots cause cellulite? Watch their latest video to catch them combatting nutrition myths:


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Nutrition sponsorship scandal

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Excerpt from the Nova Scotia Dietetic Association’s Private Practice Guidelines

In the wake of the Olympics I thought that it would be timely to write about product endorsement. Every time the Olympics roll around there’s much hullabaloo about sponsorship and the promotion of crap food like McDonald’s. But the promotion of food is not just associated with the Olympics. It’s going on all the time and marketers are getting savvier about it. Enter the role of dietitians.

As dietitians we position ourselves as the experts on nutrition and healthy eating. We’re constantly battling misinformation and trendy diets, telling people to come to us for guidance in making better food choices. We are the unsexy voice of reason in a sea of cold-pressed juice and expensive shakes. Who better than dietitians then to promote food, beverages, and supplements?

I see so many Tweets, Instagram photos, and blog posts by dietitians promoting myriad brands of food, drink, and supplements. I took a little scroll through some prominent Canadian media RDs Twitter feeds when I was considering writing about this topic. I found a number of sponsored posts; some obviously so and others not. Because this isn’t about pointing fingers, making enemies, and in-fighting, I’ve decided not to share any of these posts with you. Many of them come from excellent dietitians. Perhaps they truly believe in the products they’re promoting. Is it wrong to make money from promoting a product that you like and believe others could benefit from? It’s also a hard truth that we all need to pay the bills and making a living as a private practice dietitian can be extremely difficult.

The problem with dietitians promoting brands and products is that it churns up the murky conflict of interest waters. There is no way for us to know if the dietitian tweeting about a supplement or posting a photo of their branded snack honestly believes in the value of the product. In promoting a product, ethically, a dietitian needs to believe that it would be beneficial to those they’re promoting it to. When you’re posting things to social media you’re posting them to anyone else using that platform. It’s pretty near impossible to know if the people looking at your posts are going to benefit from the products you’re promoting.

As dietitians, our first responsibility lies with the public. It’s our job to help people meet their nutritional needs and goals. When we promote products we may be undermining those goals. As much as I’m loathe to see athletes and pop stars promoting pop and fast food, they don’t have that same ethical obligation. While it’s true that dietitians aren’t generally promoting such nutritionally void products, we still need to be extra careful about the message that we’re sending to people. Seeing the promotion of a sports supplement or an energy bar by a dietitian sends the message to the public that these things are healthy and they should be consuming them.

I mentioned earlier that some of the sponsored posts were obviously sponsored while others were not so clear. Some dietitians have put a note in their profile that they are spokespersons for certain brands. Others use hashtags like #ad and #spons when posting about a product. Others don’t have any indication that a post is sponsored so maybe they’re just huge fans of a product or maybe they don’t make their affiliation readily apparent. If I, another registered dietitian, can’t tell if a post is sponsored, how can anyone from the public be expected to?

The sad truth is, I’ve gotten to the point where every time I see a post by an RD in which a specific brand is mentioned I automatically assume that it’s sponsored and discount the value of the product. And that’s not good. Not being upfront about our conflicts of interest and potential biases undermines our credibility. We have enough trouble gaining the confidence of the public without undermining ourselves. I’m not saying that all dietitians should stop promoting all products. There are some brands that I genuinely love and could theoretically be convinced to promote. We’ve all got to pay the bills and if you can do so by marketing a product that you believe in then power to you. However, people shouldn’t have to dig to find out if a dietitian is being compensated to promote products. We need to be upfront about our affiliations so that the public has all of the information they need to make an informed decision about whether or not the product they’re seeing posted by their fave dietitians is for them.