I have a guest post to share today from Jacklyn, who is a dietetics student in Canada!
Hi guys! I’m Jacklyn and I blog over at Jack’s Balancing Act. I’m studying dietetics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and am absolutely in love with my program. I’ve always liked school but spending my days gaining knowledge that is so applicable to my daily life just makes me giddy. The fact that I’ll finish the program as a Registered Dietitian is just sort of an added bonus.
Two years into my four and a half year program, I have learned a lot. I can ramble off biochemical pathways and tell you all about the gastrointestinal tract of herbivores. But today I thought I’d outline a few of the “bigger picture” lessons that have really resonated with me.
1. Food Marketers are really good at what they do
Even though I did quite a bit of nutrition-related reading before starting my degree, I realize now that I was definitely prey to some food marketing. And hey, props to them for being so good at what they do. But unfortunately, it makes for a bit more work for us to distinguish the claims that are truly evidence-based and those that are just a sneaky way of making more profit. I gobbled up labels like “all-natural”. But the truth of the matter is that the earth creates some wonderful things that still shouldn’t be considered “health foods”. Maple syrup is delicious and does indeed contain trace minerals and antioxidants; but at the end of the day, consuming too much sugar from maple syrup or consuming too much sugar from high-fructose corn syrup still means consuming too much sugar. I now do my best to ignore all writing on packages that isn’t either the ingredients or nutrition facts.
2. Osteoporosis is something to start thinking about when you (or your kids) are young
As little as six months ago, I filed osteoporosis on a list of matters as concerning to me as getting hot flashes and my hair going grey. In other words, it was something I NEVER thought about. But this year one of my profs continually reiterated the line “osteoporosis is a pediatric disease” and the statement really does make a lot of sense. Essentially, our bone mass peaks when we’re quite young; typically just before 20 in females and shortly after 20 in males (source). We maintain that mass for a while but then start gradually losing bone when we hit our mid-30s. So the greater we can manage to get our peak bone mass, the more we can lose before we start being at risk of symptoms of osteoporosis. If and when I one day become a mom, the bone health of my kids is something that will really be on my radar. I hope that with time people develop a better understanding of this condition and its prevention.
3. Food and culture are deeply intertwined
I am slowly beginning the process of practicing mock one-on-one nutrition consultations at school. Before starting, I figured that the advice I gave each person would be pretty similar. But what I’m realizing is that there is such a complex network of factors that affect what and why people eat the way they do. And more importantly, I’m realizing that this network shouldn’t be ignored but embraced. How wonderful is it that different cultures gravitate toward and appreciate different flavours? So if you live on a coast and have access to fresh fish from around the corner, centering many of your meals around seafood makes every bit of sense. On the other hand, if your culture is meat-loving, focusing on eating high-quality and well-prepared meat as a protein source a few times a week is perfectly reasonable. Don’t feel like you need to eat the way your favourite blogger or your fit co-worker eats to be healthy. Work with the foods you love… it may take a bit of tailoring but I promise it has the potential to be wholesome!
4. At the end of the day, foods aren’t “good” or “bad”
As I learn more about how the body processes what we eat, I realize that digestion is one heck of a complicated mechanism. Seriously, how incredible are our bodies?! The fate of a food after we swallow it depends on what else we’re eating it with, what we’re doing while we eat it and whether our individual body is equipped to break it down. It seems to take many people by surprise when I say that I have loosened up my diet since starting my path to become a dietitian. But I no longer view foods as existing either in the “healthy” or “unhealthy” camp. As Kath so wonderfully demonstrates day in and day out, real food can be so varied and delicious. To me, assigning them as “good” or “bad” is an oversimplification of our digestive system and a sure-fire way of inducing food guilt upon ourselves. So instead, I do my best to eat foods that haven’t changed too much since they’ve come out of the ground and that make me feel alive.
Jacklyn Villeneuve is a twenty year old dietetics student whose ideal day includes delicious food, a quaint coffee shop, lots of movement and great company. She recently started blogging at Jack’s Balancing Act, where she shares her journey to a balanced lifestyle.