The Rejects: 6 Assumptions About Nutrition That Are Utter Bull.

Food and nutrition pops up in our news feeds every day, with someone claiming that eating carrots will make the sun shine out of our backsides, or that broccoli will obliterate all illness from the face of the Earth. There are several assumptions and clichés associated with the subject, leaving qualified nutritionists and dieticians rocking back and forth in the corner of a padded cell. As a recently qualified nutritionist who hasn’t been assigned a padded cell yet, I’m going to rant about these assumptions and hope that someone takes notice of me.

Nutrition isn’t a valid subject.

If I had a lollipop for every time someone said “oh that’s just eating your greens, right?” I’d be diabetic by now. Trust me, after (perhaps stupidly) spending 3 years and £27,000 to study the various ways of becoming diabetic, I would know. Taking a week long online course can give someone a basic overview of nutrition, but it’s a little insulting when that online course is equated with a degree, especially when that degree covers everything from food safety and legal requirements to physical chemistry and biochemistry. That isn’t even comedic hyperbole; it’s the truth.

Sports nutrition is the same thing as nutrition nutrition.

Before all the sports nutritionists start foaming at the mouth like one of their beloved protein shakes, I am not saying that sports nutrition is an invalid subject. It’s just a different subject.

While I would be able to give an athlete general advice on how much protein to eat from which foods, I wouldn’t be able to give specific advice where sport is concerned. This is primarily because my capacity for sports is summed up by my inability to throw a piece of paper in the bin that is less than a metre away from me, but also because I studied gross diseases that make for perfect dinner conversation. Where a sports nutritionist can give general advice about eating healthily, they might not be as clear on individual variations and needs such as diseases.

Supplements are the best thing since someone realised they could make money from them.

I don’t know how many times qualified medical professionals have to say this, but over-the-counter supplements are a waste of money. You excrete excess nutrients in your urine if you even manage to absorb them, so essentially you’ve created the planets most expensive piss. If you don’t absorb the nutrients, they’ll take an alternative route into the toilet. Many scientific papers also note that multivitamins only improve nutrient levels in the body when a relatively healthy diet is already in place, meaning that the supplements can’t be used as a fruit-and-veg replacement.

If that isn’t enough of an incentive to stop, how about the various means by which multivitamins can cause physiological damage when overused? Their overuse may even be a risk factor for obesity.

When supplements are prescribed by a doctor, they help to treat a deficiency in a particular nutrient, and are essential for recovery. Otherwise, in all honesty, save your money.

Anyway, if you wonder why the models and actresses on TV adverts for these supplements always look so glamourous and happy, I think you’ll find that make-up, Photoshop, and a big pay check have a lot to account for.

Weight Loss is Easy.

Aside from amputating a leg, there is no way to shift loads of weight instantly, and I’m not an advocate of unnecessary limb removal.

Starving yourself for rapid weight loss can result in all sorts of unpleasantness, such as bad breath and the inability to take a dump. Oh, and death. It can be down-right hazardous to health, which is the very opposite of what you’re trying to achieve by losing weight.

Think about it this way; if Weight Watchers actually worked, they’d go out of business. Their yogurts are great though. Seriously, they’re good.

Nutritionists are judging you.

In just about every scientific paper where dietary habits have been recorded, it is recognised that what is recorded may not be what was actually eaten. There are lots of reasons for this; short of weighing something it’s difficult to get accurate portion sizes, it’s easy to forget drinks and snacks consumed between mealtimes, and quite frankly, people lie.

When asked to record what they’ve eaten, people will often say they have eaten less of the typically unhealthy foods, and more of the typically healthy foods, than what they actually ate. They do this because they think a nutritionist would look at their actual diet and heartlessly berate them until they started crying. In reality, the more accurate information the nutritionist receives, the more they’ll be able to provide help. Everyone makes mistakes or bad choices concerning food at some point, partly because there are so many social, commercial, and biological factors controlling food intake that it is impossible to control them all.

Nutritionists aren’t judges; they’re food-doctors.

Nutritionists eat nothing but raw broccoli.

Having dedicated three years of my life to studying food, I think the conclusion that I really like food is plausible. In particular, I like cake.

Somewhat strangely, people always manage to catch me sinking my teeth into a big, sugary, creamy, diabetes-inducing slice of chocolate gateau, and then call me a hypocrite (or sometimes just a hippo). I get told I shouldn’t eat it because I’m a nutritionist. Clearly they have failed to realise that nutritionists are actually human beings with the same nutritional needs as everybody else, and therefore are also capable of eating cake without dying immediately in response to inorganic glucose touching our delicate lips.

What they also don’t realise is that I am actually making a great sacrifice for humanity by eating cake. In doing so I am reducing the availability of cake for everyone else, removing temptation from their path. It truly is a great sacrifice to make for the benefit of society and has absolutely nothing to do with the affinity of my taste buds to cake.

Nutrition is a nerdy subject for nerds who like to eat, and I honestly can’t think of a better example of leaving it to the experts. Actually, nuclear physics springs to mind. Yeah, definitely don’t want amateurs playing with nuclear equipment; we all know what happened the last time someone did that…

You Are What You Eat.

Given my passion for my chosen field of academic study (nutrition, if you didn’t know) you should probably be relieved that up until this point I have managed to resist to urge to write about what I eat. Today that all comes crumbling down (ooh, crumble).

The complexity of the relationship between diet and health cannot be overstated, but is only made more complicated once disease has to be considered. Throw in multiple diseases and suddenly you need a degree to figure it all out. Fortunately, I just so happen to have one.

My primary consideration when it comes to food is actually fat intake, due to the fact that all the way back in February 2017 someone stole my gall bladder. The gall bladder stores bile and pours it into the small intestine when food is detected in the gut. Fat absorption is increased as a result. Without a gall bladder bile simply drips into the gut continuously, regardless of the presence or absence of food. When it comes to meals the bile excretion doesn’t change and the ability to absorb fats from meals therefore reduces. Simply and grossly put, if the fat isn’t absorbed it leaves the intestines via another route in something called steatorrhoea. If you are in any way squeamish, for the love of god DO NOT GOOGLE WHAT THAT IS.

After this I need to assess my fibre intake. Colorectal cancer runs in the family, and the constant dripping of bile into the intestine after the gall bladder is removed irritates the gut wall, increasing the risk of developing the cancer even more. CFS can also result in constipation which is alleviated by fibre, as the use of painkillers and decreased exercise levels both demote bathroom business.

My next consideration is maintaining energy levels throughout the day. Consuming complex carbohydrates like bread, pasta, oats, rice etc. provides energy over a longer time period, and caffeine and sugar can be used to give me instant boosts when my energy levels drop. I also don’t want to consume too many calories as without exercise extra calories simply get stored as fat, causing a gain in weight.

Minor considerations include vitamin and mineral intakes as these are all involved in the normal energy metabolism and immune responses, and also the consumption of isoflavones from soya which may reduce the risk of breast cancer, a disease which also runs in the family.

This all sounds very complicated to create a diet that meets all of these needs, so to demonstrate what this looks like, I’ve recorded what I eat on an average day.

6 am: caffeinated coffee and cereal with skimmed milk (to keep fat intake low).

7 am: another coffee with a little skimmed milk in.

9 am: either coffee or tea, again with skimmed milk.

11 am: either coffee or tea, skimmed milk.

12.30 pm: lunchtime! Coffee with skimmed milk, a sandwich on white bread (white flour is fortified with additional nutrients, whereas wholemeal bread has more fibre, but compounds in the fibre reduce the absorption of nutrients), an apple, a handful of grapes, and a low fat yogurt.

2 pm: tea or coffee with skimmed milk, a couple of biscuits.

4 pm: tea or coffee with skimmed milk.

5.30 pm: tea or coffee with skimmed milk.

7 pm: decaffeinated tea with skimmed milk.

9 pm: carbonated water, main meal (example: Stir fty with instant noodles, sauce, poultry, a red onion, pepper, courgette, and frozen sweetcorn. The soy sauce contains isoflavones, and the frozen sweetcorn is richer in nutrients than fresh sweetcorn as nutrients are “locked in” when frozen), dessert (cake, sometimes with ice cream or custard).

10 pm: decaffeinated tea with skimmed milk.

Without access to some of the resources I used on my degree it’s difficult to give a precise calorie count but this comes to between 1,600 and 1,800 kcal per day. The occasional glasses of wine would bump this up to 2,000 kcal. Before you panic and say I eat too little, please remember that I have extremely low levels of activity and therefore simply don’t need the calories!

The management of my diet enables me to maintain relatively steady energy levels throughout the day, which is particularly important at work, and also keeps me from developing the very unpleasant side effects that come from gall bladder removal. At the same time my diet is by no means bland, is interesting and varied, and includes some typically unhealthy foods. Consumption of unhealthy foods in moderation can be part of a healthy diet, and I don’t spend my entire life eating what looks like next doors hedge.

And now that I’ve written this, I’m hungry…