Enough is enough.
Alright. That’s it. I’ve been sitting on this blog topic for a while, but enough is enough.
This morning I was reading some comments on a thread about the new ‘That Sugar Film’ where a filmmaker eats only heavily processed ‘low fat’ foods for 2 months and sees what happens to his body and mind. Unsurprisingly, there is a clear deterioration in his health. The comments made my blood boil, comment after comment about how terrible it is that the ‘experts’ have been recommending this type of eating ‘for years’. Really? Are dietitians really recommending that you eat nothing but processed food? Have you ever talked to a dietitian? In the past 12 years?
I know a lot of dietitians. Not one of them, myself included, would ever, ever, ever say that a healthy diet consists of a high proportion of any processed food. Do people honestly believe that it is the dietetic community that is ‘pushing’ these types of foods down the mouths of consumers in place of unprocessed, whole foods?
Our guidelines certainly don’t, and as individual therapists, we don’t.
I am sick of people equating the ‘healthwashing’ of heavily processed foods by big food companies with what dietitians recommend. Just because a food manufacturer decides to cash in on public perception about one particular nutrient or food component, and trick people into buying their products, under the guise of it being ‘healthy’, doesn’t mean it is actually a healthier choice. You only have to look at the ridiculous number of naturally gluten free products with ‘gluten free’ blazed across the label to know there is more to this story than actually wanting people to be informed about what is in their food.
Food companies are manipulating the general public into thinking that their food is healthy. Some of their food is, frozen berries for example, a lot clearly isn’t.
“But you talk about processed foods.”
I do talk to my clients about different products. I also teach my clients how to read food labels, not because I want them to eat a whole lot of packaged food, but because sometimes they will, and it is helpful for them to know what they are really looking for when choosing between two similar products.
I’m not going to put my head in the sand, refuse to comment about a new product, refuse to compare or give any information to my clients about processed foods. Rather than just saying smugly ‘well you really shouldn’t be eating packaged food’, I will teach them how to make the best choice they can at the time. Rolled oats are not the same as fruit loops, even if they both say ‘low fat’ on the label, I will help my clients learn how not to be bamboozled by the marketing tricks. This is not the same as me ‘endorsing’ or ‘recommending’ processed food. I am about skill development for long-term health improvement, not simply telling people what to do.
Most of my clients do choose to eat some processed food. Some eat a little, some eat a lot. I’m confident that all of them eat less processed food than they did when they first walked through my door.
Just Eat Real Food? That can be a big “just” for some people.
Dietitians know about food. We love eating great food. Many of us are great cooks, we are very well educated and most of us are probably relatively affluent. Most of us have healthy eating and healthy living as close to the number 1 priority in our lives. Lots of us eat very little processed food.
But I base my recommendations and develop strategies for improving the health of my clients based on their life, not on mine. On their health conditions, preferences, skills, education, schedules, access and priorities. Sometimes this be helping them choose ‘the best of a bad bunch’. Health change is a process, not a single decision. It would be exceptionally arrogant of me to expect that everyone can, and wants to, eat and live exactly like me.
So while celebrity chefs might be happy to sit in their ivory tower of affluence, amazing cooking skills, high levels of motivation, family support and education, decreeing that everyone should simply be able to eat like them, I will not. Because I became a dietitian to help people be healthier, not to become a celebrity or push an agenda, or try to sell stuff.
I’m tired of the dietitian bashing. I am an expert in food and human nutrition. I have worked and continue to work exceptionally hard to improve the health of those who I come into contact with by providing evidence-based, individualised and realistic advice. I’m tired of the inverted commas around ‘expert’.
Things do need to change, but perhaps we should start taking aim at the food companies and supermarkets who put continue to put profits over people, not at the people who are trying to help people navigate them.