I know what you might be thinking; ‘why did he say asked as a nutritionist and not as a dietitian?‘ Makes sense, after all my ‘professional’ title is Registered Dietitian but that’s a specific title given to those who have done specific training and written an exam to be granted that title but it doesn’t capture all of the nuances of the field of nutritional sciences. There are many highly educated, smart, and knowledgeable folks with PhDs and/or Master degrees with greater expertise in the field of nutrition and it’s interplay on physiology, disease, health, as well as, have a better understanding food science/chemistry and the like. They, like myself with an undergraduate degree in nutrition, are all nutritionists and I see myself as a nutritionist first [since it came first] and dietitian second. Being a dietitian doesn’t trump my nutritionist title although there are many in the dietetic profession who would like to see otherwise; some who think the title nutritionist should be scrapped and who might be conflicted or pissed off by reading this but to quote the fabulously funny YouTube video on the Honey Badger – I really don’t give a shit.
Catching the nutrition bug
My ‘story’ began when I was about 16 when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I had always had a sense of the role food played in health having been ‘raised’ in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother; helping to prepare meals, chop peppers for homemade relish, or helping out with blanching & freezing summer vegetables to have on hand during the winter – this was all very normal for me. Along the way I picked up little nuggets of nutritional wisdom from my grandmother such as “it’s important to choose one dark orange & one dark green vegetable at dinner”. Little did I know that was a directional message on the version of Canada’s Food Guide at the time, something that was removed but added back with the 1992 reiteration. And yes, gasp, we always had a bottle of multivitamin with minerals and extra vitamin C on the kitchen table – oh the humanity!
How my nutritional lens was shaped
After my mother’s diagnosis, I wanted to learn more about food, nutrition & health and disease so off to the book store I went. I bought several books on health and nutrition and read all that I could. While studying my first degree in biology, I spent more time reading the textbooks from the department of nutritional sciences [yes, I bought Kraus from the university book store and read it on my spare time years before internship] instead of studying biology! But what I took away was the role that nutrition plays in the biology of us & by extension health; human beings: bags of elements like selenium, nitrogen and more, walking biochemical reactions, a well-orchestrated manufacturing plant making complex molecules such as blood cells, antibodies, brain cells and more from scratch; I thought to myself:
“Cool! THIS is what nutrition is all about”
So back to university I went to study nutrition, I hadn’t even heard of the word ‘dietitian’ let alone know that after school it was all about getting a coveted spot in a hospital-based clinical internship. All I knew is that I loved the topic, the subject matter, the science of nutrition and I liked food and cooking. The reality is, working as a dietitian has mostly been conversations about sodium, trans fat, grams of fiber & carbs or helping patients eat, given the limitations of a particular disease, in a way that reflects, or tries to approximate the recommendations from Canada’s Food Guide or questions like “applesauce or rice pudding”, “what flavour of Boost would you like?”. While a lot of dietitians these days boast that they hate Canada’s Food Guide or don’t use it because they feel it pigeon-holes them as nutrition educators into boring ‘one-size-fits-all’ practitioners, watch them do a 24-hr recall and get nervous if a patient isn’t getting enough dairy or dairy alternatives or lose their shit if someone ‘cuts out a food group‘ but I digress.
Questions I typically get asked as a dietitian
- How can I lose weight?
- Do you do meal plans/can I get a meal plan?
- Can I have a diabetes diet?
- What should I eat for snacks?
- Will carbs make me put on weight?
- Will I gain weight if I eat after 7 pm?
- How do I boost my metabolism?
- Can I get a list of the top foods to avoid?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for this, but it’s for this reason I identify first and foremost as a nutritionist; specifically a functional nutritionist where I tailor my messages at a level that goes deeper than most of the public health messages dietitians give. Most will counter-argue that this level of details will overwhelm the poor client or patient, that they don’t have the capacity to understand these concepts but experience has proven otherwise.
Research in adult learning is clear, people come with previous education, learning and experience and are much more capable than most are given credit for. People can and do understand when the content and information, regardless of the complexity, is communicated in a way that is easy to understand – more importantly when practitioners understand it and make the effort for the client. The title of this post is a bit misleading, while I wish more clients truly understood the power that nutrition has on their health & healing, many savvy clients are coming in with these kinds of questions that deserve to be answered in an equally thoughtful way. When taken to this level, I find clients get more from their consultation and are better able to ‘buy into’ the message.
Questions I really wished people would ask me:
- Where will I get my anti-oxidants?
- Where will I get my vitamins? My minerals? My phytochemicals? My micronutrients? My omega 3’s?
- What can I eat so my mitochondria will thrive?
- How can nutrition help me with my recovery/addiction treatment plan?
- How might personal genetics influence how my body uses nutrients?
- What foods promote brain health and prevent dementia?
- What nutrients can help to prevent/support mental health or mood issues?
- How do I support neurotransmitter function?
- How can I support my immune system so I’m not as vulnerable to an auto-immune diseases/pathogens/colds/flu or cancer?
- What foods can I eat to counteract inflammation?
- Can we test to see if I have food sensitivities?
- How can I prevent Parkinson’s? Diabetes? Heart disease?
- What can I eat to stave off early aging?
- Does everyone really need the same amount of nutrients or should recommendations be personalized?
- Is there a link with gut health and psoriasis? Eczema? Any truth to candida overgrowth?
- Is there a way to see if I’m at risk for Celiac disease?
If you, or someone you know, has questions like these and is interested in improving their health and eating habits, I offer a variety of services including coaching, presentations & lunch n’ learns. For more information, check out my Services page