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Unqualified ‘Nutritionists’ offer harmful advice online

Are you qualified to be a nutritionist in Alberta? Take this quiz and find out!

Do you know that trans fats are “bad” for you? Do you know that sodium is in table salt? Have you ever seen Supersize Me? If you answered yes to any of these questions (or even if you didn’t) then congratulations! You can carry the title “Nutritionist” in the province of Alberta.

Nutritionist is not a title protected by law in many provinces, but ‘Registered Nutritionist’ and ‘Dietitian’ are. To earn these titles, you need to hold a BSc in Nutrition, complete a year-long internship, and pass a national exam. On the other hand, my dad, whose “vegetable” choice is usually sour cream and onion chips can go around calling himself a nutritionist. Isn’t that just fruity?

Caring about nutrition is trendy. I don’t know if it’s because everyone just got super passionate about leafy greens at the same time, or because of the media’s ridiculous portrayals of how bodies should look, but something definitely drove this international health kick. Nutrition advice is absolutely anywhere, and, unless you really do your research, it can be very hard to figure out what’s good advice and what’s BS. While eating healthy and working out are all the rage on social media, obesity rates have tripled in Canada in the last 30 years. The irony kills me, and, since obesity drastically increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, which is the number one cause of death worldwide, it kills many others too.

I believe that the technology in our society drives this paradox to exist. Incredibly, we have found ways to make almost-food look prettier and taste better, while, probably unintentionally, boosting calorie contents, and therefore, the sad numbers on the scale. At the same time, with the internet always, literally, at our fingertips, weight loss help really isn’t hard to find. However, long term decrease in BMI probably isn’t very likely from following every nutritionist-approved fad diet, even if the girl with the tiny waist holding a forkful of whatever the super food of the week is, is promising that you WILL lose 15 pounds in the first week!

Getting good nutrition advice is very difficult. A Swedish medical doctor, Andreas Eenfeldt, who calls himself the Diet Doctor, promotes the high fat, low carbohydrate diet, or HFLC for short. He claims that, while the diet will increase triglyceride and cholesterol levels, it will lead to dramatic weight loss if you keep at it. That is, after your side effects of dizziness, headaches, irritability, and heart palpitations wear off, and if you pay the monthly fee for his website, of course. Being an MD, he seems credible, but find me one Registered Dietitian who would prescribe adding butter to every meal and proscribing eating fruits to any overweight heart patient. You’ve just got to read the comments on his website to decide if this diet is right for you. My favourite, written May 10 by “byron”: “hi i have been doing LHCF for a week now my eyelids have swollen and i am really freeking out my cholestrol has spiked any suggestions should i continue LHCF.” I don’t know byron, cholesterol is the best measurement of plaque forming in the arteries, so make your own choice bud.

Diet Doctor is just one example of how jumping into diets without doing your research can do much more harm than good. If a diet is being promoted by someone unqualified, if it promises weight loss of more than the healthy 2 pounds per week, or is trying to sell you a product, I say just walk, skip, or jump over to your nearest Dietitian and they will help you out. Be very careful of online nutrition advice as the new breakthrough nutritionist of the month very well may be the creepy guy in his basement pretending to be some hot fitness model, you know, that guy your mom always warned you about.

2 Comments

  1. I think the best thing to do is to find a healthy diet you have not too much problems sticking to, and a good exercise routine.

    I’m on the paleo diet myself and love it. I have lost a lot of weight and I feel much better with much more energy and positivity.

    The beauty about the paleo diet is that whilst there is a focus on good foods, there are so many resources to help you make these into delicious recipes. I have written about one of my favourite cookbooks here: http://cookbook-reviews.net/review-the-paleo-recipe-book/

  2. Oh God, ain’t that the truth? Everybody’s a freakin nutritionist these days. Everybody seems to care so much about what I’m eating, but ain’t nobody caring if I buy a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts and a jug of chocolate milk, now do they? Nope. I like to eat what I’m craving. I do awesome on what I jokingly call my BBQ diet. Losing weight is freaking hard as can be, especially with so much information out there on the right way or wrong way to lose fat. Foods we can’t eat, exercises we gotta do, it’s enough to drive somebody crazy.

    It ain’t just about eating less and moving more or counting calories and weighing all your food. Sure, that stuff works for a little bit but it only gets you so far and then once you stop that diet you just gain it all back (and usually extra weight!). We lost right around 115 pounds (between the 2 of us) in just under 3 months (we tried different diets and reviewed them on our website at http://stevesweightloss.com ). It’s all about a life change. Starving yourself, doing cardio till you drop and popping diet pills don’t work and it never will.

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