This is the final part of the three-part series of lessons learned in my first year as a student dietitian. Click here for parts one and two.
The Amount of Misinformation Being Spread
Many years ago, as a teen trying to work out what the heck I was meant to be eating I was quick to trust the advice of people who I thought were trustworthy when it came to nutrition. I assumed being an author or because they had the letters “Dr” in front of their name their views on nutrition must be right and one I should hold in high regards.
Nowadays some of the biggest frustrations for me are reading things presented as absolute truth but in reality, there is not a shred of evidence behind them (not evidenced based, remember the restaurant analogy) or even worse, we have great evidence they are completely wrong. Funnily enough, those saying these things are normally talking outside of their scope of practice (remember that means talking about stuff you don’t actually know about) and have just read something on someone’s blog, heard something on someone’s podcast or they’re being paid to endorse something. Now as I have mentioned previously, I have a particular scope of practice and so I don’t claim to know everything, but after being engrossed in the field of nutrition for four years I have picked up more than enough to see that many of those people who I perceived as being knowledgeable to actually just be sharing, for lack of a better word, bullshit.
My best advice to you is, be skeptical of the nutrition information you read and hear from public figures. Ask the question, why should I listen to this person? Are they an expert in what they are talking about? While there are some good places to go for nutrition information on the internet or in books, a registered health professional like a dietitian or registered nutritionist is generally the safest place to go.
The moral of the story for me this year though is listen to the experts in their respective fields, not the businessman dressed as an "everything related to health expert" or the wannabe “Jack of all trades” because they are the experts of none.
The More You Learn, The Less You Realize You Know
This was something that stuck with me after my first day as a student dietitian. The more you start to unravel a problem the more you understand just how complex it really is. With nutrition, it seems the more I learn, the more I see there is to learn. It can certainly feel like you’re trying to climb a mountain on a treadmill at times but at the same time is very exciting that there is always something new to discover. It reminds me of the importance of staying up to date and so makes me glad that I chose to do something that I have a genuine passion for, because I have my work cut out for me climbing that mountain.
While I think a trait of a true expert in their field is possessing the ability to simplify a complex topic, be skeptical of those who oversimplify things, because that may be a sign they themselves do not understand how complex that thing is. One common oversimplification is that sugar is bad. If you start sharing the message that sugar is bad people become confused or think they should stop eating everything with sugar in it, like fruits and dairy/dairy alternatives. In reality, these foods make up part of a healthy diet. You’re also more likely to make people feel guilty when they eat something with sugar in it. Now don’t get me wrong, products with large amounts of added sugar are not health promoting, but part of living a healthy, balanced and enjoyable life is enjoying a piece of your favourite dessert on occasion. Making people feel guilty about it ruins those times when they have cake. Cake tastes good. Please don’t ruin cake.
The main lesson here for me, don’t ever assume you know everything there is to know about anything. Chances are further you keep digging the more you’ll realise you have to learn.
With my first year as a student dietitian over I’ve had some time to re-evaluate what I’m trying to achieve with my blog. After much thinking not a lot has changed. My mission is still to educate the world about how what they put into their body’s effects them and make positive changes in the health of others. I will continue to provide education and answer questions within my scope. While I am certainly no chef, I will also continue to share relevant meal ideas and recipes trying to provide options that are a combination of health promoting, quick, easy and cost-effective.
I hope I have managed to get across the significance of the past year for me. I think it's important I also show some appreciation to the dietetics teaching team at Otago uni as well as my amazing classmates who have been the source of much of my learning. The sophistication of the brains and character of the people that make up both the teaching team and my class can't be well described in words (well a few short ones anyway). Look out for some waves to be made in the nutrition world in the coming years.
Thanks for reading.