Several weeks ago I had the privilege to attend the Washington State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2015 Educational Conference. I joined the academy about a month ago as a student member, and with the conference happening about 10 miles away from me I thought I’d check it out to learn more about my newly pursued profession. So, with a one-day student pass in hand, I ditched my morning General Chemistry lecture, and sat myself among a legion of Washington dietitians and listened. And here is a bit of what I learned.
Dietitians are Nice
First off, I think it’s worth mentioning that I found dietitians to be a welcoming group of people. I registered on-site, which seemed somewhat exciting to the ladies operating the registration table… I got the feeling I was the only one the whole conference to walk-in and get a one-day pass. Even though I missed the breakfast, they also made sure I got a pamphlet from the breakfast sponsor, Siggi’s, because they wanted to be sure I got the yogurt coupons it contained. Thanks to them I’m now enjoying an ongoing supply of delicious 70 cent yogurt for breakfast.
See? I told you they were nice people.
I don’t consider myself to be a natural networker, or even comfortable with “networking” at all, but within the first hour I found myself in a conversation with one of the speakers.
Okay, now to a couple of big takeaways I learned from the conference.
I feel 50% of the people I’ve ever known have done a detox diet within the past 5 years. It seems everyone is detoxing to cleanse their bodies of something. A few years ago there was a “cleanse” diet that a friend told me about where you basically didn’t eat anything. You just drank lemon water, mixed with maple syrup, and cayenne pepper. I had no reason to do it, other than curiosity, so one morning I set out with a lemon and syrup in hand. I lasted until about 1 pm that afternoon, had a splitting headache, and after plenty of “cleansing” I broke down, drove to the store and promptly bought some chicken breast – which I more promptly devoured. I had decided I was clean enough.
Despite my brief experience though, I’ve remained curious wether or not there are real applications for detox diets. So, of course I was intrigued to see a conference session on Detoxification, and to gain some perspective from a Registered Dietitian. Here’s what I learned:
- There is little scientific research evidencing the merits of detox diets.
But from a clinical perspective, clinicians have claimed positive results with some patients. “Detoxing” typically isn’t necessary for most people. However, in some cases where high exposure to certain metals have occurred, certain dietary alterations can help the body to flush those out. This takes working with a dietitian to identify dietary changes on an individual basis.
- A healthy detox can start with something as simple as replacing sweetened beverages with water.
If we want to detox our bodies, probably one of the best things we can do is start making small changes to our consumption that reduces the stress on our body. Rather than making a drastic shift to drinking nothing but laxative tea and lemon water for a week long cleanse, it’s better to think long term sustainability. Reducing the daily intake of alcohol and sugar intake will be far more effective at reducing the stress on your liver and pancreas than other drastic short term actions that can actually stress the body more.
- Finally, cliche “detox” diets that eliminate food and encourage daily rations of lemon water with cayenne pepper are likely to provide nothing more than a capsaicin buzz.
Before attending this conference I hadn’t considered the magnitude of “change management” that dietitians practice on a daily basis to effectively change to patient eating habits. It makes perfect sense that this is part of the job, but from this conference it seemed obviously clear to me that change management is one of the largest challenges in clinical dietetics. Obviously, any habit takes considerable effort to break – and often times the longer that habit has been in place, the harder it is to break.
One session I sat through was specifically related to managing change in elderly patients with Type 2 Diabetes. This is a segment of people who grew up in a completely different era of knowledge and public health beliefs. When they were children, smoking in the hospital was possibly still allowed. I mention this just to highlight the magnitude of changes in public health knowledge which can occur in a relatively short amount of time. The industrialized food system we know today has only been around for less than a century, a small blip in the history of mankind – and we are only now beginning to understand the health implications of a highly industrialized food system with sugar supplies vastly beyond what humans have ever experienced in the previous 10,000 years. In the future we may look back at the twentieth century populations and see that we were somewhat of the unintentional guinea pigs of early food industrialization.
All of this to say ~ if you grow up believing one thing, it’s often hard to shift your beliefs, or more so the early habits those beliefs help form. Habits can be changed, but it takes consistency and grit along the way.
So there you have it, a couple of my main takeaways from my first dietetics conference.
More to come soon,