eek. it's been such a long time since I've blogged... sorry! :)
I wanted to talk about dietitians and nutritionism.
What is Nutritionism?
In his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan dedicates a whole chapter to nutritionism, which basically states that the key to understanding food is its nutrients. That is, that food is essentially "the sum of their nutrient parts".
Pollan takes aim at the “nutritionist ideology” of focusing solely on nutritionism- on nutrients at the expense of foods’ other qualitative properties, and other factors surrounding food and food choices- environment, production methods, culture, upbringing, experiences, society, history, etc.
So, he's saying that health is promoted through food, and more specifically through their nutrients: eat this % carbohydrates and you'll have lots of energy, eat antioxidants and you'll prevent this disease, eat less calories to lose weight....
And the problem with this is that the nutrients are taken out of context of food, and food is taken out of context of the diet, and the diet is taken out of context of the person (and all the factors that contribute to health and well-being).
We've been talking about this in a class I'm taking and a classmate said that she felt inhibited in properly counseling clients because of the science foundation of her dietetic training, stating that her training limits her from really being able to understand her clients and therefore being able to help them meet their goals. She's left oftentimes simply able to say "there's no conclusive evidence for eating or not eating that".
Moving Beyond Nutritonism
A new movement, called Critical Dietetics, was created as part of Dietitians of Canada (DC) that seeks to move the profession beyond nutritionism and explore questions like:
What counts as “knowing” in dietetic practice? How do we, as nutrition professionals, come to know what we don’t know? How does the evidenced-based culture of dietetics give voice? Where does dietetic culture render silence? What is it that we have already accomplished as a profession? In what ways do we continue to evolve? What do we envision for the future of our profession?
Where I am
I use nutritionism in this blog... I have lots of posts that break down the research and state that this nutrient has been found to prevent this or that... And what's difficult for me is that I know people want this information... these are the posts that get the most traffic. A communication expert came to talk to us (in another class) and said that it is our role as nutrition experts to provide answers for our audience. This contradicts Critical Dietetics which asks us to question our knowledge and rethink how we know what we know.
One source states that to identify ourselves as experts is very presumptuous of us, meaning how can we be experts of someone else's life? Food and eating is so personal to people, how can we assume an expert role over that?
I'd love to know what you think.
I think that while many of us are guilty of 'nutritionism moments', I still think that most of us look beyond nutrients when we counsel our clients...That said, I think it's important that we not be scared to take a critical look at our profession...
I also believe in the scientific foundation of our training and that our role as dietitians is to stay current of this ever-changing science, and to always be aware that food is more than a vehicle for nutrients and that what we eat, how much we eat, and why we eat are determined by a myriad of factors that we need to be able to recognize with the help of other disciplines. Our role is also to help our clients meet their needs and goals, to support, teach and learn from our colleagues, and, ultimately to have conviction in our message and our profession.
Click here for more information on Critical Dietetics