Detoxing from dogmatic dietitian education and attitudes for a mind wide open
But first, “you must unlearn what you have learned” YODA.
Do you find nutrition advice to be overly dogmatic? As a dietitian, I do too. After 20+ years of practice, I decided it was time to detox from the routine safe, feel good, motherhood statements and to dive into the research and points of view that fall outside traditional dietetics and explore all things nutrition and health-related. Find out my ‘why’ for starting this podcast.
Coming up on the podcast will be informative interviews with various thought leaders, MDs, dietitians, nutritionists, journalists and more including:
- Dr Sheila Dean DSc RDN and Kathie Swift MS RDN from the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy
- Dr Terry Wahls – MS Recovery and the Wahls Protocol
- Angel Pifer MS CN – The SIBO Guru
- David Wiss MS RDN – Nutrition Therapy for Addiction and Eating Disorder Recovery
Read the transcript
Welcome to the Dietitian Rehab podcast where we not only challenge and inspired dietitian to think outside the traditional dogmatic education, training and attitudes for a mind wide open but also to challenge anyone to think differently about your own health. We’ll talk all things food, health and nutrition related as we explore points of view, evidence and strategies for better health that will allow you a fuller understanding of the hot topics that everybody’s talking and asking about.
Hey, friends. Welcome to the first episode of the Dietitian Rehab podcast. I’m your host, Doug Cook, a registered dietitian and integrative and functional nutritionist. So, if you’re listening, there’s a really good chance that many of you probably know me through my personal and professional circles or maybe you get my newsletter or follow me on social media and my blog DougCookRD.com. But maybe some of you and hopefully a few are going to meet me for the first time with this podcast which is awesome. So, I’d like to say welcome.
So, I think for me that this podcast has been a natural progression in my career. So, in the last 21 plus years, I’ve explored a lot of different avenues in terms of expressing myself as a nutrition professional. I’ve been a hospital dietician and still am for 21 plus years until last fall—I guess that’s the fall of 2019—I did private practice. I’ve done tons of writing. So, I’ve been the co-author, contributing author, nutrition expert, content reviewer on I guess about 11 books. I had a newspaper column for seven years. I’ve written for tons of magazines, websites and other people’s blogs. I’ve done lots of presentations, workshops and for a whole bunch of different types of audiences. So, that includes the public, dietitian peers and other health professionals. And back in the day, I did some media work, I did some brand promotion, guest interviews on TV and radio.
So, I think from me at this point, it was time to try something new and truth be told, although I didn’t really talk about it with anybody is I’ve been thinking about a podcast for probably two years. So, like a lot of people, there’s a lot of hesitancy, there’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of doubt, people will wonder if this is a flop, etc. That’s what I was sort of thinking. But anyway, long story short, I finally bit the bullet and I did it. So, yay me.
So, the purpose of this first episode is just to simply provide a brief introduction into what the show is about, who is it for, what it’s about, what kind of things we’ll be talking about and what kind of things can you expect to come in upcoming episodes if you subscribe to the show which I hope you will. Right off the bat, the majority of my listeners are going to be dieticians for sure and other nutritionists. There are going to be a lot of different health professionals as well but also there’s going to be a lot of people from the general public and those people are going to be super curious by nature and interested in the topics that I’ll be covering and talking about.
So, if you’ve clicked onto this through one of the directories or you’re listening for the first time through my website, right off the bat, I want to be clear. Do not let the name of the podcast throw you. Dietitian Rehab is not for dietitians. As I said, it’s for anyone, anyone who really has a desire to learn as much as they can. It’s for anyone who wants to hear as many perspectives and points of view on nutrition from a whole bunch of different people on a variety of different health and nutrition topics and that’s because the reality is each profession has its own lens and its own viewpoint on a given topic. And also, the fact of the matter is no one discipline has all the answers when it comes to a topic and that especially goes for the topic of nutrition.
So, you might be thinking well, what about the title? What is Dietitian Rehab all about? And really I see it as my journey to basically be in rehab as a dietitian. And so, what I mean by that is this is about my journey of, as I say, detoxing and purging from the dogmatic education and mindset of traditional dietetics education and training. So, in that sense, I’m shaking off a lot of conventional wisdom and conservatism. So, I want to have the freedom to explore all things health and nutrition in any way that I want to. Regardless of the source or the topic, I want to learn about it all. I don’t really care if somebody’s controversial. I’m going to speak to them if possible and interview them and hear what they have to say.
So, together you and I will explore all things nutrition. As I say, the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ll cover anything from the tried and true to the emerging sciences along the way as well as the controversial. So, I think there are a lot of interesting things to consider when we expand our knowledge and our boundaries in nutrition as the controversial topics often challenge the status quo and challenge us to think in ways that we never did before which ultimately is going to benefit the profession and anybody who’s interested in nutrition.
So, as I said will be challenging long-standing assumptions and will be challenging conventional wisdom and more importantly will be questioning the history of different health and nutrition dogma and topics and ideas. So, you might be surprised at how much the history of a topic shapes how things have evolved to where they are today and how those assumptions and the history of why these things got started in the first place have never been challenged or questioned.
So, that’s kind of the gist of what I mean by dietitian rehab. And so, bottom line, no topic is going to be off-limits. I’m going to talk about whatever I want to and not just what’s talked about in dietitian circles. So, if I want to talk about vitamin therapy, IV vitamin therapy, I will or I may even critically look at stuff, long-standing held truths like the notion that all fruit or fruit in general really is healthy and maybe you’ve never wondered how they ever arrived at the five as the recommended number of servings of fruits and veg in the five-day campaign. Do you know if it’s even evidence-based? Is it based on research or studies? You might be surprised. So, the long story short, we’re not going to be making any motherhood statements with this show. We’re going to be looking at anything and everything.
So, what I’m trying to say is that I’m going to be honoring the very thing that got me started on my nutrition journey in the first place and that is out of pure curiosity and with a healthy dose of skepticism because growing up even as a kid, I never really liked to take things at face value. I never really accepted something to be true just because somebody said so.
So, I was always a little rebellious and highly skeptical. So, I’m going to like basically continue with that theme in this podcast. So, all that to say is I’m not here just to say nice things nor am I here to make sure that nobody is challenged or uncomfortable or even possibly offended by the content around these topics. Quite the opposite actually. I want us all to expand our understanding and hopefully, along the way we’ll all learn together. So, I guess I can summarize it up with a quote by a well-loved character from the movies and that would be Yoda who put it this way: “You must unlearn what you have learned.” And I hope that Dietician Rehab will help you do just that.
So, what are the goals for you, the audience? I want you to be exposed to as many different points of views on all things nutrition, again understanding that no one profession or discipline has all the answers. I mean how could they? It’s just simply impossible. I want you to be part of rich conversations from thought leaders in their respective fields or anyone who’s just pushing the envelope. I want you to expand your knowledge while picking up some tips and tricks along the way to help improve your health and I also want to point towards resources so you continue to learn and grow on your own.
So, you might be thinking to yourself well who is this guy and why should I listen to him? They say everybody has a story so I guess I’ll start with that. I never really thought of myself as having a story but upon reflection I guess I do. So, as I mentioned at the start, I am a registered dietician. I am an author. I refer to myself as a health nerd but I’m also a nutrition expert and I have an insatiable appetite for learning. So, I can read studies, read research all day long and if I’m left to my own devices, that’s what I’ll do. So, maybe it’s an obsession, maybe it’s healthy, maybe it’s not but I do have a lot of knowledge.
I’m known for that and I just want to keep reading and learning as much as I can. I’ve always been inherently rebellious as I said although I’m not sure that anyone who knows me would describe me that way. For sure, they may say I’m a bit of a loudmouth. So, I’m quite opinionated not the least of which is in the field of nutrition and in conversations with my peers and others. So, and as I also mentioned I’ve never been content to blindly toe the party line or accept so-called health dogma and conventional wisdom without question. So, that’s who I am and that’s what I’ll be bringing to the show.
In terms of my background, I’m a licensed nutrition professional and have been for over 20 years now. I can’t believe it. I also mentioned that I have been a hospital dietician for 20 plus years and continue to still work in a hospital. I had a private practice for 18 years and have done a lot of consulting and writing as I mentioned. So, growing up, I was always a curious person and I don’t know why or when or how but I did become interested in basic sciences when I was quite young and somewhere along the line I kind of got interested in health. I think partly it’s because there was some not subliminal but little health communication messages going along the way that was maybe not understood to be just that when it was happening. So, as I’ve always said, I was raised in the kitchen by my mom and my nana.
So, like many women back in the day, they did a lot of home cooking and they always included me and my sister and I would help out but I have fond memories of myself helping out for sure doing everything from making cookies and jellies and relishes, helping out making the Christmas pudding with my nana in November or grating potatoes and carrots and suet and making butterscotch dressing, etc. I have memories of making oatmeal at the cottage standing beside my grandmother. She was stirring the boiling water, adding the salt and I had to very slowly and meticulously add the rolled oats to make sure that the oatmeal wasn’t lumpy.
And now that I’m a dietitian looking back at the history of the food guide which came out in 1942 and which there has been several iterations along the way throughout my childhood, I remember my grandmother sharing these little nuggets of nutrition advice as I say, not knowing at the time that she was just repeating a lot of the directional statements on the food guides. So, she talked about the importance of roughage, she talked about the importance having one dark orange and one dark green vegetable every day. So, these health messages were instilled along the way without me knowing about it. Another kind of obvious health message that was communicated without actually being overtly communicated that way is on our lazy Susan in the kitchen, we always had all the vitamin C. I distinctly remember the dosages were either 250 milligrams or 500 milligrams per chewable tablet and then we had different iterations of multivitamins. So, when I was younger, we had a Flintstones chewable and then we moved onto a one a day and onto a centrum.
So, it was always kind of there. There were two events I think that deepened my interest in nutrition and one was when I was about 16, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and already at that time I had the idea or the notion of the role of diet in chronic disease was already there in my head. So, after my mother’s diagnosis, I read up as much as I could on diet and cancer and at the same time, I happened to be taking my lifeguarding and swimming instructor courses. So, there was the bronze medallion award of merit, National Lifesaving Society’s Lifesaving Lifeguarding Certification.
Of course, with those courses, there’s a lot of activity, there’s a lot of swimming, timed rescues, etc. So, I was looking also at the role of nutrition as it relates to fitness and performance, etc. So, those two things kind of combining at the same time really kind of kick-started my interest in the field of nutrition. But despite all that, despite this interest that was there really early on, I never went back to school to study nutrition. I was interested in exercise, physiology and fitness. And so, I kind of bumped around a couple of universities with different majors but never studied nutrition. Then after graduating, I went on to work some part-time jobs, full-time jobs making minimum wage and finally I decided to go back to school to study the very thing that I was interested in and that was nutrition.
What’s interesting is at that time I had no recollection that I had even heard of the word dietitian. I didn’t know about internships. I didn’t know about hospital jobs. I just knew I was interested in nutrition and because I had gone through university, in my mind the place that you go to to study a topic is a university. So, that’s what I wanted to do. I was living back in Toronto where I grew up. I was living here. So, I thought well, what school can I go to to study nutrition? So, I went to a local university here and once I got in there, my classmates were talking about an internship this and you got to get grades and it’s all about getting your grades and getting in because internships are so competitive. So, that’s where I started to understand this whole world of being a dietitian. When I got back to school, I thought it was going to be studying things that I had read about on my own. I’d come across health magazines. I knew about vitamins and minerals and I thought we were going to get into more of the biochemistry and the physiology and the anatomy.
So, the school I went to had what I think is an abysmal curriculum. So, I didn’t go to school to study two semesters worth of consumer studies or two semesters worth of family studies or two semesters worth of organizational behavior or two of marketing—not sure if I said that—or accounting. I wanted the scientific stuff. So, unfortunately, I was hugely disappointed with the curriculum but did what I had to do and I got my undergraduate degree. And so, I got into an internship in Toronto, a highly competitive one I managed to squeak through at a respectable teaching hospital here and I thought for sure things were going to pick up. So, absolutely I learned a ton. I learned all about clinical nutrition, I learned how to do chart notes, I was exposed to different professions, doctors, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nurses, how to read EMAR or medication administration record, I learned all about medications and that type of thing.
So, I thought things would pick up and I’d have a lot more involvement in patient care. And while I got really good at honing my clinical skills and my clinical judgment and writing fabulous chart notes, the interventions were always the same. There were these pretty lesson inspiring so-called therapeutic diets followed by Ensure or Boost if people aren’t eating. So, again, I really wasn’t thrilled with what I was doing and figured that there was a lot more that I could do and then went on to grad school and again somewhat disappointed, maybe one where the course work was interesting.
So, there was. I had an undergraduate degree in food and nutrition, a post-grad internship in clinical nutrition and a Master’s of health science degree in nutrition as well, ready to change the world. I was already working at that time. So, the reality of the job as a hospital dietitian had already kind of hit me, hit me hard. It’s highly restrictive, it’s quite dogmatic, it’s not at all what I thought I would be doing as a nutrition professional. So, I did find it a little disappointing and maybe it was a bit boring after a few years. I just didn’t feel like there was a lot we could do for patients.
And then the other thing that left me quite flat was the continuing education I received as a dietitian through traditional dietetic channels. So, the education is quite limited. You’re not hearing the whole story. There are so many different points of view and heaps of research that just isn’t making its way through. The information that we get is highly selective and highly biased. I don’t think anyone would argue that and as I said, I knew I wasn’t getting the whole picture. Early in my career, I was never made aware of the influence of the pharmaceutical and food industry’s influence on dietitians’ education and practice guidelines. So, that was quite disappointing because no one would disagree, it’s pretty much a settled fact that when it comes to clinical practice guidelines, there are committee set up. They decide what research to include and what not to include. We assume that they’re 100% objective. They’re not. And then they decide what research to use to shape clinical practice guidelines.
The other thing to consider is clinical practice guidelines lag primary research by conservatively a minimum of 15 years. So, primary research is alive and well but it can take a really long time for us to implement that for the improvement of our clients and patients. And the other thing that made it more challenging for me during this whole process, during school, internship and working is that I was always aware of other research and points of view because I was doing delving into the stuff long before I went back to school.
So, when I was 16 and 17, I was in health food stores, I was picking up magazines, health magazines that often cited research that was valid research, peer-reviewed information, not to say that that’s the most accurate research out there but I was aware of these different types of things and I knew I wasn’t having discussions about this in work and in my continuing education. Then, of course, this made things worse because as the internet grew and more information was made online, the more I realized I wasn’t being given the whole story on a variety of different nutrition topics and therefore neither were my peers, neither were my patients nor my clients.
And I’m talking about legit research. This is the stuff that’s peer-reviewed and published and index on PubMed and for those of whom don’t know what PubMed is, this is the go-to place to get research, where health professionals get research. So, PubMed is the repository of health information research that is overseen by the U.S. National Library of Medicine from the National Institutes of Health. Because back in the day, if you wanted to go learn on the topic like beta carotene in lung cancer, you would have to make the track to go to the university library, find a computer, sit down, go through this bit of an archaic search, see what they have available in the stacks where all the journals are and you get a list of available journals that they have in the library. Then you have to go to the card catalog, find out where those are located in the library, go to the library stacks, pull out the journal and then pay a small ransom in coins to photocopy those things. That would be a whole-day effort to do all of this and you’d have to try and get like 10 to 15 papers if you’re trying to write a subject, a topic or a cited paper.
So, nowadays with the internet being so prolific, you can get all this stuff really rapidly. So, as I said, this just made things worse when I realize that there’s so much out there that I wasn’t being exposed to and when you’re relying on those channels to help with your continuing education, you’re hoping you’re getting like a big picture. Anyway, all that to say is that I knew to truly learn that I had to admit that neither I nor my profession knew at all and it was quite the opposite actually. Anyway, this is a long-winded little monologue to basically bring us to the point where I am today starting this podcast and again, I it’s guess it’s a little self-indulgent. It’s a place where I get to talk about all things health and nutrition and more importantly, I get to share it with all of you.
So, as I said in the beginning, no topic is off-limits. Dare I say the more controversial, the better because that’s where we learn. It’s all about getting uncomfortable, stretching the boundaries and getting to the edge of our comfort zone. So, what’s coming up on the Dietitian Rehab show, podcast? We’re going to have rich discussions on a variety of topics such as healthcare, food, supplements, nutritional sciences, health, wellness and much, much more. I’ll be talking to thought leaders in various areas of practice, researchers and more including nutrition scientists, journalists, and other health professionals like even doctors who don’t automatically toe the party line. So, there’s a lot of them out there who are also kind of leading the charge and challenging the status quo and getting us kind of to a place where we really can expand our understanding.
So, hopefully, all of that made sense and if you stuck with me to the end of this intro, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. If you want to connect with me further, it’s really with my website and blog. So, keep coming back as I’ll be updating content regularly and I’d also be really happy if you signed up to be part of my tribe as they say by downloading the booklet on my website called My 5 Must Have Supplements. Not only will you get this great resource, you’ll automatically added to my newsletter that comes out twice a month with recipes, cutting-edge nutrition articles, and announcements. And of course, we can always continue to connect through social media. So, for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I can be found at Doug Cook RD and that’s about it. So, please hit subscribe to get an alert whenever a new episode is posted and so you can be ready to expand your nutritional world, perspective and gain knowledge and confidence on all things nutrition in a way you didn’t you could. So, until next time.
Hit subscribe and get ready to expand your nutritional world, your perspective and gain confidence in a way that you didn’t know you could and be sure to check out my website, DougCookRD.com.
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