This week I got really angry. Like, “write a super-long, frothing-at-the-mouth Facebook rant and then delete it” angry. Like “go for a run to shake the anger and come back still feeling angry” angry. And it all had to do with what passes for “health” in this day and age.
As a freelance health writer, though I’ve been getting plenty of great work lately, I continue to stay open to new publications and previously unexplored avenues. So a couple weeks ago I responded to a call for new contributors from the health editor of a major women’s magazine. (One you’ve definitely heard of.) It seemed like a really exciting opportunity to even be considered for creating content for this magazine. I felt like if this came through for me, I really would have hit the big time.
And, in a way, the opportunity did come through: I received an email from the editor with an invitation to pitch her some story ideas. But when I read the description of what she (and the magazine) want to cover in their newly revamped Health section, that’s when my anger–and, underneath it, my sadness–began. Because every. single. item. on her list was something that stands in direct opposition to my integrity as a licensed nutritionist, or just as a thinking person who cares about the truth.
When I chose nutrition as a career, I never expected that one of the challenges I’d face would be frequent tests of my personal and professional ethics. Sure, maybe I would have predicted that some wacky supplement company might occasionally want me to sell their bogus product or that I might encounter some nutritional charlatans here and there. But to see the opinions presented as facts, the controversies for controversy’s sake, and the outright lies that major publications want to pass of as “health journalism” really grinds my gears, and it’s happening ALL the time. There is so much bad, biased, faddish, and nonsensical advice going around–and since my mission is to share evidence-based, trustworthy health information, that makes me mad.
So here’s a bit of a manifesto about what I personally (and this blog) stand for when it comes to nutrition and health. Here are 7 topics you won’t find me writing about–here or anywhere else–and why.
1. Foods to remove from your diet. These days we love to hate certain specific foods. I believe many people want an edible scapegoat to point to as the culprit behind their health problems. It’s the gluten! It’s the dairy! It’s the lectins! While it’s true that there are some things most of us probably shouldn’t be eating much of, if ever (like Flaming Hot Cheetos, let’s say), we’re all products of our overall diet and our entire environment. As a nutritionist, I find it more valuable to focus on general patterns that to demonize individual foods. Unless you have an allergy or disease that’s actually aggravated by a certain food, I don’t believe in totally ousting one thing or another.
2. Detoxes and/or cleanses. I’ve said it on this blog before, and I’ll say it again: Your body is already equipped with its own detox system. It’s called your liver and kidneys. Yep, believe it or not, your body does a pretty awesome job of filtering out toxins on a daily basis. So you really don’t need to do anything special to help it do so harder or more efficiently. If you’d like to change your diet to be healthier, that’s fantastic! (If you want to do it in the long-term, even better!) But slow and steady usually wins the race, not of a blitz of über-health followed by a return to poor nutrition.
3. Fad diets. The only time I’m interested in writing about fad diets is when I get to expose them. (Which I’m all too happy to do!) Though I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, I myself subscribe to a mostly Mediterranean diet and feel confident that a lot of basic nutrition advice can be applied to most people. Eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meats, and not too much sugar. Is it exciting? Nope. Is it good for you? I believe it is.
4. Nutrition buzzwords: Mmm…adaptogens. Yes, they’re a real thing, and no, I don’t care to focus on them. See “fad diets” above.
5. Celebrity trends. Just because someone’s butt looks amazing on TV or they have a million Twitter followers doesn’t mean their health habits are something we should emulate. So what if Kim Kardashian dropped 20 pounds by eating baby seahorse heads? That doesn’t make it a good idea. Reliable health information comes from professional, (and usually credentialed) sources.
6. Fat positivity. I absolutely think that practicing compassion toward ourselves and our journeys of health is a wonderful thing. But I see the body positivity/anti-fat-shaming movement often crossing a line into celebrating actually unhealthy behaviors. Healthy weight leads to better health outcomes. As a nutrition professional, I cannot, and will not, deny this.
7. Pointless complaints. I’ve literally seen a health publication asking for articles about how, because the media has given so much attention to unhealthy thinness and obesity, medium-sized women are being marginalized. Real issues of health inequality exist, I am 100% sure, but my personal mission around nutrition and health has far more to do with highlighting what we can do for our wellness than stirring up pointless unrest. Aren’t we all angry enough already?
To see some health topics I DO love to talk about, check out my Nutrition page!