I love this quote (by J.R.R. Tolkien). It is so reassuring. Because during the past few years I have been wandering more than I’d like to admit.
I mean, literally, I can’t stop wandering every 3 to 4 years because we are a military family. And I wouldn’t trade the wonderful opportunities we’ve had to explore 30 countries during 7 of the past 10 years. Especially because it gave me an excuse to not feel guilty about staying home full time with my three children. But in this time, I have been pondering nutrition from the sidelines, which I feel has required more effort in keeping up with continually changing nutrition science and trends. I am easily distracted by my other jobs and interests and not surrounded daily by my knowledgeable nutrition peers to “talk shop” and stay current. Even though I’ve been inspired by other food cultures, if I’m honest, I have been floundering in my own “expertise”–and therefore, at times I have even questioned what to feed my own family. Gasp. I tell you this because mommy self-doubt even affects nutrition experts!
It didn’t happen overnight, but I began to feel unnerved a few years ago when my husband, B, a pediatrician, began an in-depth self-study of nutrition in his free time in an effort to help his patients achieve a healthy weight. He often discussed his readings with me, but I myself felt a bit out of touch with nutrition science. Wait, who’s supposed to be the nutrition expert here? (But you could ask me anything about travel planning in Europe or being a mother to 3 girls–not that I always do either well, necessarily!)
Well, ultimately, my husband’s dedication to help people with their nutrition inspires me to stay in touch with the latest nutrition. The bottom line is, the more I have delved in, the more uncomfortable I have become with many conventional nutrition guidelines. At first, I resisted my doubts, as all good dietitians would. How could I disagree with expert nutrition committees forming the guidelines? But once I got past feeling overwhelmed, I realized questioning the evidence is never a bad thing to do, especially in the evolving field of nutrition. And in questioning, I reminded myself I am, indeed, a nutrition expert and it’s my responsibility to question the science. And now I’m on a roll with topics I want to share with you!
The number one thing I have wrestled with is whether our diets should really be so high in carbohydrate and grain-based, as the USDA dietary guidelines suggest. And in full disclosure–I, like Oprah, love bread.
But the list of things I have been grappling with goes on… Is saturated fat bad? Is “moderation” really the right approach to eating? Do calories in equal calories out? Does exercise help you lose weight? Why is everyone you know eating a gluten-free diet? Why are there still so many overweight and obese people in America???
Well, I can’t claim to know the answer to every nutrition-related question. But I will certainly explore many of these topics, slowly but surely, in an attempt to find out the latest information–for you and me. Nutrition research is complicated, and economics, politics, and the media have such influence–you really have to tease out the actual evidence. And sometimes, more often than not it seems, the evidence is lacking. When it is, I will say so. When it is fairly conclusive, I will say so. But when nutrition guidelines suggest evidence is conclusive and it is not, I will also say so. No one is paying me to say otherwise. Oh, the freedom that provides!
In a nutshell, I describe my approach to nutrition as “unconventional in a conventional way.” I don’t believe you need special foods or products to be healthy. I believe in the natural simplicity of eating real foods as much as possible, as opposed to processed foods or proprietary supplements. You might agree this makes me pretty conventional. Boring maybe? (I hope to show you that’s not true, at least with regards to the way we eat!) But I am unconventional as a dietitian in that I no longer believe the nutrition guidelines always provide the most evidence-based advice. Nor have they ever provided hands-on practical suggestions for what exactly to feed your family.
So, this blog is my mission to share with you my every-day journey grappling with the science of nutrition, savoring delicious real foods, and balancing my humanity (read: emotions) along the way. Most importantly, I hope you will find something meaningful in my musings. It will feel like we are wandering, sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively, but I hope you will stick with me and relate with your food and nutrition experience. And even if we get a little lost, I’ve come to realize there’s growth in that.