A Nutritional Slam

food_scale[photo source]

Well, I hope your Thursday is off to a better start than mine! I normally try to stay pretty positive on the blog, but I received a very upsetting email today. I had contacted someone regarding a volunteer opportunity and in response, I received this email:

Hey Megan,

It’s [Name Withheld], on the committee of [Name Withheld] NYC. I clicked on your blog and read all the things you ate on Tues.  I’m sorry to say from a nutritionist’s point of view, you consumed way too many simple carbs. In fact that kind of eating sets you up for high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and brings you closer to type 2 diabetes. I am a holistic and clinical nutritionist and work with over 200 patients now of which 92% eat that way and I’m sorry to say are all in the category of type 2 DM or pre-DM simply due to the overload of simple carbs.

If you’d like more in-depth info on better nutrition, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Wishing you wellness always,
[Name Withheld] Holistic & Clinical Nutritionist

I understand that this person was just trying to be helpful (I think?), but there are a few reasons why I think the email was out of line:

  • My dietary choices were torn apart when I simply wanted to volunteer my time for a good cause!
  • The email author made blanket assumptions about my eating habits and warned me that I was at risk for diabetes and high triglycerides without knowing anything about my health or background.
  • The author of the email is a nutritionist and wellness counselor, not a Registered Dietician. Although a nutritionist can certainly be well-informed, any one can call themselves a “nutritionist”. On the other hand, to become a Registered Dietician you have to go through many years of school, complete an internship, and pass a national exam. I have no way of knowing what credentials this person has simply because they put “nutritionist” after their name.

I was pretty riled up after I read this email and perhaps I should have brushed it off and forgotten about it. But I write a food and running blog and I felt like this email was a personal attack on me and everything I stand for. What kind of “healthy living blogger” would I be if I was demonstrating behaviors that were leading directly to diabetes and bad cholesterol levels? After some time to cool down and think things through, I decided I needed to address the email and the issue on the blog.

I know that I don’t have the perfect diet (does anyone??), I probably eat too many cookies and maybe not enough protein. But I’m a busy 25-year-old trying to juggle a full-time office job, part-time writing gigs, a blog, a passion for running, cycling, and yoga, and a social life.  The purpose of my blog is to show people what a healthy balance can look like (and to provide running inspiration!). To me, this means that while I did have dried fruit, a few pieces of candy, and a pb& j cookie on Tuesday (simple sugars!), I also consumed greek yogurt, whole grain cereal, whole wheat bread, hummus, part skim mozzarella, lentils, arugula, apples, sweet potatoes, and peanut butter.  Additionally, I exercise quite a bit (40+ miles of running last week plus spin and yoga classes), so I need those simple carbs for quick burning energy.

The amount of calories, carbs, protein, fat, sugar, and exercise in my life might not work for you.  It would be impossible for me to say: “If you eat exactly what I do, you’ll have lots of energy, be in great health, want to run 40 miles a week, etc. etc.” I’ve said it before – I am not a registered dietician or an expert of any sort. I’m just a girl who likes to run and eat good food!

What I’ve been doing for the past 25 years seems to have been working for me – I recently had blood work done and everything came out A-OK (with the exception of some borderline low iron levels). I don’t have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or bad cholesterol. I’m at a healthy weight for my height and frame and I have enough energy to do the things I love to do. And if I eat a little too much sugar, so what? I’m only human.

I’m not going to dwell on this incident, I’m pretty sure it was a misunderstanding. However, I thought it was a good opportunity to discuss the criticism that often comes along with how we eat. Whether it’s a well-meaning family member pushing another piece of pie because you’re “too skinny” or a friend who suggests you cut back on the nachos at happy hour, people are always going to comment on what you’re eating. Eating is something we all do 3+ times per day and it’s obviously a topic we like to think about, write about, talk about – how else can you explain the enormous popularity of foodie and fitness blogs?

 But when does this interest become too personal? And who is qualified to make dietary suggestions?

Has anyone ever criticized your diet?  How did you respond?