So as some of you might recall, I did another segment on Good Morning America in mid- August. What I thought was very harmless information, and very basic for many of my colleagues, turned out to be a huge deal with Registered Dieticians! For the first time in my life, I actually got hate mail. Yes, hate mail! Well, with millions of people watching the show, the chances of people not agreeing with you are a given. But I had probably 20 or so RDs write me emails, which ranged from “you are misinformed and only RDs should be telling people about nutrition” to “you are an idiot, shut up, you are not an RD!”
Wow!! Well like yoga teaches, every experience is something that should be embraced as a lesson, everyone that comes into your path is a teacher. I wish some of my “teachers” didn’t have to be so aggressive though. :) And I can only imagine what my celebrity clients go through! Still, it really thickened my skin, and made me stronger. It also pushed me to finally finish my official CCN degree (Certified Clinical Nutritionist), which is the most “official” title a nutritionist can have, of which I am completing this week! I am also already a Certified Nutrition Specialist.
My blog has grown to thousands more readers a day since the segment, the unspoken ones of you that I know support my intentions and perspective on health :). And more than anything, it was like, “Oh crap, I’m not in Kansas anymore!” As in, my prior readers were those interested in eating for beauty, natural eating, healing the body with food, etc. I realize that when I was exposed to the mainstream, not everyone is so receptive to those messages. And many are quite threatened by them, if they do not support what they have learned in their own degrees and training. My audience just got a whole lot bigger.
The segments are also very short, and you don’t have time to explain too much. For instance, one of the “controversial” parts of my segment was to tell people not to eat fruit for dessert. I didn’t say don’t eat fruit, I said don’t eat fruit after dinner, which is comprised of cooked food for the average American. Fruit leaves the stomach in 20 minutes and passes into the rest of the digestive tract. If there is heavier food that takes longer for the food to digest that is “blocking” the way for the fruit to go through, the fruit will start to ferment and acidify. This causes bloating, gassiness, and increases the chance for the food to turn into a toxin, since it is baking at 98 degrees inside your body. There has been research on food combining- for instance Dr. Herbert Shelton ran a clinic studying food combining in Texas from 1928-1981. Dr. Ann Wigmore, founder of the Ann Wigmore Natural Healing Institute, and whose work inspired the Hippocrates Institute in FL, researched nutrition for over 35 years and was a huge advocate of food combining. The issue is that these theories and doctors are not considered mainstream, and are not widely studied in traditional training programs (including even the CCN course I just completed!) or talked about. It doesn’t mean that these theories are not valid.
And so on and so on…I could go on for a whole show’s worth on each part of that segment! But that is not our topic today.
In the midst of the “me as nutritionist vs. the RDs” controversy, which I certainly never foresaw, I found the blog of a young RD (in training) that wrote about my segment in a surprisingly open and insightful way.We have since started a dialogue, and she is great! It is nice to know that in all fields of health and nutrition, there are open-minded practitioners that are open to learning new things.
Emily is one of them. Please read my interview with her, below, to hear her perspective on health:
First: please provide your background, what hospital you work at, blog address, etc. I am an intern at St. Louis University, so I’m not a full-fledged dietitian yet. I have a BS in Dietetics with a chemistry minor and just graduated from The Ohio State University with a MS in Nutrition Science. My blog is called The Health Nut. I blog because I’m fortunate to have learned so much about nutrition and hope that someone, somewhere will be able to benefit from the information I share. I became interested in nutrition as a result of my dad’s health problems, which led to a liver transplant and many subsequent dietary changes. My dad explored different forms of alternative medicine (he sees a naturopathic doctor) when Western medicine had no more solutions to offer.
1. So, tell us about what nutrition work you do at the hospitals. As an intern, I rotate through various hospitals and complete 1200 hours of clinical, food service, and community work. Right now I’m in the clinical setting, which involves studying physiology and the pathology of different disease states and using that information to make dietary recommendations for patients I see in the hospital. My focus is pediatric nutrition, so I have quite a few rotations at pediatric hospitals in the St. Louis area.
2. What issues, if any, do you find in the way the mainstream Western medical community disseminates info. on nutrition? I fully support the American Dietetic Association’s use of evidence-based research to guide their recommendations; however, sometimes research for alternative medicine treatments doesn’t exist, but these treatments still have potential benefits for certain populations. I think diet manuals are helpful tools, but I don’t like putting cookie cutter treatments on people. Each person is unique, and his or her dietary treatment should be customized. In clinical dietetics, this becomes difficult when you must see many patients in a day, but using your clinical judgment and knowledge of the pathophysiology of disease is key to being a great dietitian. There are many different views of appropriate “nutrition,” and I would like to see the mainstream Western medical community become more open to the avenues of alternative medicine.
3. What would you change about the way nutrition is handled in the Western community? How would you propose to change it? I think doctors need to use nutrition care professionals as integral components of the care team. Although they have taken some nutrition courses, we have received extensive training and deserve recognition as nutrition experts. I definitely think that alternative medicine needs to be a part of nutrition curriculum because of its potential to play an important role in treatment. I sincerely wish that more schools would offer advanced degrees in nutrition with an alternative medicine focus (this would definitely be motivation to seek a PhD after I finish my internship)!
4. What are some nutrition recommendations you have made to your patients that have made the biggest difference? Nutrition recommendations are only recommendations. The patient must ultimately make the choice to take action and implement anything I may encourage him or her to do. Recommendations vary depending on disease state (lower sodium for patients with hypertension, lower saturated fat for patients with heart disease, etc), but I think the most effective recommendations are those that encourage healthy lifestyle changes. A favorite word when counseling patients is moderation. I think this is the key to being balanced and to truly living.
-Get some kind of exercise every day: take a walk, enjoy the outdoors, play soccer with your friends…be active for your mental and physical health.
–Manage stress: research is showing that chronic stress contributes to disease development. Make you sure you take some relaxation time for yourself and find a positive outlet for stress relief (music, running, yoga, reading, etc).
6. Are you in interested in alternative, rather than strictly allopathic, treatments? If so, which ones? I’m interested in both. I recently joined the ADA’s Nutrition in Complementary Care practice group, which is for dietetics professionals interested in the study of alternative and complementary therapies. I think there is so much I need to learn about alternative medicine, and I’m always trying to find ways to integrate it into my current knowledge of nutrition.
7. What differentiates you from other RDs? (And certainly some of the ones I have encountered!). My education has been from the traditional medicine side of dietetics, but I’m also very interested in alternative medicine. I’ve learned that some remedies, while not necessarily extensively researched, can be effective in certain cases. My dad’s health problems and exploration of alternative medicine have made me grateful for the innovative approach to treatment that it provides. I think some dietitians just haven’t been exposed to alternative medicine, so they tend to shun it, which is unfortunate.
8. What are some of your personal career goals? I love clinical dietetics, but I’m also very interested in research. I’m always asking “why,” and I want to be a part of establishing new dietary treatment protocols for diseases. I’d love to have a career that fuses research and clinical practice and most definitely incorporates alternative medicine.
9. Anything else you’d like to share? I saw Food, Inc. this summer and became very interested in eating local and seasonal foods. As a nutritionist, the source of the food I’m eating is just as important as (and directly affects) the nutrients in the food itself. Sustainability has become very important to me, and I’m really passionate about spreading the word to others. SLU Nutrition and Dietetics does a lot to promote local farmers and food, including running a cafeteria that uses mostly local food and running a garden education program in area schools, which is incredible.
Thanks Em! Be sure to check out her blog when you get a chance: The Health Nut.