Internship: The Things You Will Learn take II

So having left my alarm set for yesterday’s wake up time (5:15am) I find myself with a little extra time on my hands this morning. Yup I feel silly, I didn’t realized I was up so early until I was showered, sipping coffee and eating a bagel with almond butter.


So now I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed and have extra time to do something, like write a blog post.

Yesterday with my preceptor I attended a workshop called Waisting Away run by a dietitian Helene Charlebois who has been in the weight loss industry (both through government positions and her own private practice) for 20 plus years. She works with other obesity experts such as  Dr. Arya Sharma.

I found the workshop very interesting, as private practice is an area I’m interested in. Her theory is that dieting is simple, but ever so complex and difficult, and really its true, the realm of weight management is confusing, full of grey areas and a myriad of possibilities (whether you are the “dieter” or the professional trying to help this dieter). She had lots of studies, evidence based research, as well as practice based strategies for helping clients lose weight (when they want to). It’s not about shaming, not about telling anyone they are not right at their weight, it’s about helping them choose if and what changes they want to make.

She discussed all the different things people do to lose weight, from bariatric surgery, to weight loss pills, to diets. She didn’t poo poo anything, but she did say consequences of these choices and how well or how not well they work. While she said the ideal is of course to have everyone eating a real whole foods diet, this might not be realistic.

One of my favourite slides showed a study that recorded 84 hours of primetime TV and another 12 hours of Saturday morning TV (meant for children). This study from the Journal of American Dietetics Journal observed the food advertisements during this time. They compared the nutrient content of the observed advertised food, and compared it to the Daily Values recommended at the time (study observed the television from 2004, and the study was printed in 2010). The following was found:

  • 2,560% of recommended daily sugar intake
  • 2,080% of recommended daily fat intake
  • 40% of the recommended daily vegetable intake
  • 32% of the recommended daily dairy intake
  • 27% of the recommended daily fruit intake

If you go by this, you can see most of us would not be meeting our daily recommendations for fruits, vegetables, dairy products, but would be eating far too much sugar and fat.

This is something I’ve always felt really contributes to the way we eat. I believe that while final food choices are (perhaps) up to the individual you can in no way say that the environment does not affect what a person eats. After all, we tend in all aspects of life to like what we know, and what is familiar and with screen time always growing, how can we not be more familiar with a big mac and fries than with a carrot?

What do you think? Does the environment influence us? Do we live in an “obeseogenic society” or is it really just “up to the individual”?


M Mink, A Evans, C G Moore, K S Calderon, S Deger (2010) Nutritional Imbalance Endorsed by Televised Food Advertisements. The Journal of American Dietetics Association.


Hungry For Change: Review

I recently participated in the online premiere of Hungry for Change, a documentary done mostly through interviews that looks at what may be causing obesity in North America (or the world in general). Here’s the trailer:

I can’t say there was anything new in this movie. It was the usual, too much sugar in our diet, too many processed foods.

I enjoyed hearing some of the “facts” but I wish they had given the studies that they received their information from (in one part they discuss how diet soda with caffeine + aspartame are a deadly combination that causes brain cells to die in complete euphoria) since some of it sounds interesting (and far fetched, though I have no doubts at all that sugar replacements are something we know very little about and are most likely hazardous to our health).

While I agree that we have too much added sugar in our foods, I’m tired of hearing it compared to a drug. Of course sugar uses the same pathway in our brain as heroin or cocaine; it’s the dopamine pathway, so anything that gives you pleasure or makes you happy could be doing the same thing. Here’s an interesting blog post discussing just that.

As a whole I support the idea of  whole foods and local eating as a way to live a healthier life, but I am tired of hearing the idea that if everyone bought a juicer, we could all be healthy. I do not believe that it is as simple as telling people to eat more fruits and vegetables (after all we do that a lot already). There is a lot of problems that are a little more systemic in our food system that deny in some instances access or availability of foods to areas, population or people I would love to see a film that maybe discusses the ways we can work to change our food system (though perhaps this is discussed in films such as Forks Over Knives, or Food Inc. I must admit I haven’t seen those yet).

On the other hand, I really liked that this film was not completely over the top about pushing a certain lifestyle. They discussed more whole foods (fruits + vegetables), more local foods. They didn’t vilify wheat, or meat, or even butter. I loved some of the discussion of how other areas of your life can affect what you eat. And the power of mind, the idea of visualization really interests me. I do completely support the idea of local and sustainable practice, and working to eat “a diet as a species would eat”. Some of the personal stories are really inspiring as well.

While in the end what goes in your mouth is personal choice, the road for food to get there is much more complicated than that. Ideas such as availability and access (food deserts anyone?) play a large role in health as well, and I would love to see a film discuss the food system, and it’s relation to obesity, from a corporate (and even food policy) level as well. We do have to really change what is going in our mouth, but perhaps we have to change what is being made available to go in our mouths

So have you seen the film? What were your thoughts?