Tuesday, May 21, 2024

I’m a Nutritionist. Here’s Why I Can’t Stand Online Nutrition Advice

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Since wellness practitioners are going to keep doing their thing, it’s up to us to (a) disengage from the chaos and (b) know how to spot a fake. It’s time we learn to prioritize our actual wellbeing over a strict set of rules that someone else made up about what is healthy. We get to choose what healthy looks like for ourselves. If wellness information makes us feel confused, anxious, or guilty about our food choices, do not pass go—just unfollow. If you choose to engage with wellness information, curate a small selection of positive and supportive practitioners whom you trust to influence your wellness practices. Registered dietitians and people with PhDs in nutritional science are a good place to start. And among those, practitioners who focus on additive behaviors, such as eating more fiber or vegetables, rather than food restriction, are far more likely to have your health (and not your clicks) in mind. (A few of my own favorites: Dr. Adrian Chavez, Ayten Salahi, Andy Miller, MS, RD, LD. And there’s me.)

Sounds simple, yes? I wouldn’t be the dietitian I am without acknowledging that getting to this magical place of grounded self care takes work. And time. It took me decades. The first step is acknowledging that much of what we call wellness is really Diet Culture in disguise. The fear mongering. The gatekeeping. The demanding (and expensive) regimes. This diet-driven mentality challenges our relationship with food and our bodies, and robs us of the joy of eating.

Critical to the next phase of your wellness reeducation—and ensuring that you don’t go running back into the algorithmic fray—is reminding yourself that no one ingredient, food, or meal will make or break your health. Pattern over plate, always. A healthy diet isn’t “everything free”—it’s one where broccoli, chickpeas, and apples peacefully coexist with the occasional Friday night nachos. You need to let this one sink into your bones because we are still inundated with messaging about cheat days, guilt-free food, and detoxes. After a lifetime of food rules, welcoming unrestricted eating into your life might feel untethering. A trusted friend, non-diet dietitian, or counselor can help you through that. There will be a lot of unlearning to do. And it will take time to trust your newly unrestricted food choices. In the meantime, just remember: The single most effective detox in wellness is hitting the unsubscribe button.

Desiree Nielsen is a plant-based registered dietitian, podcast host, and bestselling author of three cookbooks including her newest, Plant Magic.

Excerpted from Plant Magic by Desiree Nielsen. Copyright © 2024 Desiree Nielsen. Photography and illustrations by Gabriel Cabrera. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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