Category Archives: read

My Thoughts on The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Corporate Sponsorship

I’m an idealist, there’s no doubt about it. I dream big! With my beliefs though compromise is a necessity to get anything done. It’s a reality I accepted when I started studying nutrition as a teenager at Penn State University. And there really is no better analogy for compromise than my academic pursuit to become a Registered Dietitian.  Yes, Cattle and Dairy Boards have influenced nutrition as we currently know it, but I’m confident that thanks to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics I received the best education in nutrition available. I have no regrets about becoming an RD.

Note that I say ‘best education in nutrition available.’ There is room for improvement and not everything my professional organization does I agree with. My ideal organization is really unfathomable, so I choose my battles and do more to promote what I want to see than to fight what I am against.

ANDReportCover

With that said, Michele Simon’s report, And Now A Word From Our Sponsors, hit a chord with me. It’s no secret that The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics works closely with major corporations and big food interests. I remember the first year I attended the Food and Nutrition Convention and Expo, the Academy’s annual conference, and was staying with a friend of mine. She noticed my conference bag and said, ‘Coca-cola sponsors your conference? Really? That’s insane that these are supposed to be nutrition experts and something so unhealthy sponsors your conference!’ And in one sentence she nailed the problem with having such sponsors. Not to mention the embarrassment!

The issue here is power.

With size and money big companies become powerful. They alter the environment we live in (‘environment’ in both senses of the word!) and normalize use of their products. It’s no coincidence that Coke billboards are everywhere, portion sizes have grown tremendously and nearly everyone on the planet knows what soda is.  Do you remember the Beef Industry freak-out over Meatless Monday being in an internal USDA memo? And the USDA issuing a public apology immediately? That’s power.

They have influence.

They influence government regulation from safety standards to advertising to young children. Big brands have billions of dollars to advertise their products, buy smaller companies and influence decision-makers and policy-creators like Registered Dietitians.

People say we need to hear both sides and we have to work with them to make change.

But the reality is their number one interest is in selling more of their product. It’s the nature of capitalism. The power dynamic is off: health professionals are not on equal footing, it is naive to think so. They have fought every single effort to reduce their effect on our health and the planet. If you work for them you are merely doing damage control.

190386701

One of my first tweets ever was this photo from the 2010 FNCE in Boston of RD’s lined up to get free soda from Coca-Cola.

This is what makes small companies different.

It’s not about any sponsors. It’s about the right ones. They do not have the access to power and influence, so say the Mushroom Council or Broccoli Growers Association (one of those is real!) are not able to throw their weight around the way Coca Cola does. They don’t have the power to promote positive research and to bury negative outcomes. Or to buy off health professionals. Selling sugar-water is much much more profitable than selling vegetables straight out of the ground and these profits must be protected. When we work with them we are helping to protect their power, influence and profits. Is it worth the damage done to our field?

Yes, Registered Dietitians are smart enough to know if research has been influenced.

But that is not the issue. It is merely the association with our professional organization that is problematic. Like the story of my friend who pointed out the blatant hypocrisy. It’s embarrassing. We can do better. I understand defending your professional organization, but fellow RD’s please put your ego aside and think about what’s best to remain credible and move on as the nutrition experts we are.

A few links to read more about this.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics did respond to Michele Simon’s report, but it’s either purposefully ignorant or simply they don’t understand what the issue is. And she has since responded and pointed out what they are missing.

This has gotten some media in the United States, which Michele Simon covers here, but the most interesting, in my opinion, is this Al Jazeera 25-minute video on the topic.

The Union of Concerned Scientists briefly cover the influence of corporations on science in a recent article, which I recommend if this idea is new to you.

And every single person who works in the food and nutrition field should read Food Politics by the great Marion Nestle. And while you are at it, World Hunger: 12 Myths will give you a good idea of how corporate interests are protected at the expense of people’s health all over the world.

To my Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

I am proud to be a Registered Dietitian. I have compromised with you tremendously over the years. I know we don’t see eye to eye on everything. But this is a big deal and we need to make some changes. Please read the suggestions that Michele Simon makes, listen to your members (and ex-members! This is why so many have quit!) and let’s continue to be the experts on nutrition. We don’t need Coca Cola’s money to do that. And taking it just isn’t worth our reputation.

7 Comments

Filed under eat, nutrition, political, read

Some updates and my favorite stuff from the web this week

I was at a bike race. Racers rode fast, I ate a veggie dog.

I spend a lot of time reading articles on the internet and some time in the future I’ll have an email list set up so that I can share my favorite articles and information. For now, here’s a post with what I’ve been reading this week.

Calculating Optimal Advocacy for All Animals on Vegan Outreach’s blog. I love Vegan Outreach; their philosophy has impacted my own work and activism.

How the Health Argument Fails Veganism by vegan RD extraordinaire Ginny Messina is a great accompaniment to the above. Also, like VO, her ideas have influenced my work.

Inside The Fridge is a fun project by fellow RD Robin Plotkin who was nice enough to feature my fridge and do an interview with me.

Shark Accidents, Car Attacks? looks at the terminology we use to describe incidences and how that affects our perception. Even though drowning kills more people than sharks do, when a shark bites someone there are always accompanying calls to end their protected status. Meanwhile automobile drivers run down pedestrians and cyclists with impunity and we call these ‘accidents.’

Whites Believe They Are Victims of Racism More Often Than Blacks is about research from Tufts and Harvard that most white people hold the preposterous idea that they suffer from racism more than blacks. It’s a sad reality that most are blinded by their unquestioned sense of privilege and they have absolutely no idea of the difference in realities between whites and people of color. It shows how far we have to go. Huge disparities in health is one place to look, like this chart from the New York Times on infant mortality rates.

And a quick plug for my twitter and facebook pages that both have regular updates with articles like these. And our Day in the Life page has a new episode and has undergone some reorganization. Thanks for reading!

 

3 Comments

Filed under political, read, vegan

What are you capable of right now?

What can you do today to work toward your life goals? Do you have life goals?

I struggle with these questions every day every hour of my life. And I know I’m not the only one. Often, I wish I had more answers to these questions. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of working, answering emails, preparing food, paying bills and all of the other must-do’s of today’s society and miss out on how we can build.

Some people say, ‘Choose your goal and work hard every day and you’ll get there.’ But that often doesn’t work for me. I’m not Type-A nor am I super goal-oriented. I never said to myself, ‘I’m going to study nutrition for 7 years and then become a vegan RD’ or ‘I will ride cross-country and do double centuries in order to prepare for the Furnace Creek 508 in X number of years.’ My brain just doesn’t work that way. If yours does, congrats! I’m envious. It’s an exceptional ability to do so.

But I’m fortunate to have had the experiences and end results I’ve had. And the privilege and time to be writing about them for an audience! One of my main reasons for having a site like this is to motivate people. I see so many folks struggling with what they want who are so close. But they are caught up in the mundane day-to-day I mention above and they simply cannot see the steps to get where they want to be. Or don’t have the confidence to take them. And with reason! It’s not an easy task. My advice here may be counter-intuitive, but these have been helpful lessons in my life and maybe you can learn from them?

If you want to do more, do less.

Be unrealistic in your dreams, but realistic in your everyday.

Ask yourself what you truly want. Do you want to ride a mountain bike for 100 miles or do you want to have ridden 100-miles? Do you want to become an MD to help people or for people to think that you’re smart?

What is the feeling you desire and can it be obtained any other way?

This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg but questions worth asking. You can dive a little deeper and follow one of my favorite twitter feeds, Zen and Tao as well.

I’m off for my own adventure right now and cutting this short, but I’ll leave you with two music videos that are as obscure as they are amazing: a Reggae track about what vegans eat and a Hip Hop track about getting back into the gym. Get stoked!

2 Comments

Filed under race, read, travel

Inside a Registered Dietitian’s Shopping Bag

“But what do YOU buy?’

A question I often hear. And a difficult one to answer! Like most people, I go through phases with what I feel like cooking and eating and that affects my shopping. While I eat strictly vegan, I am not as strict with local and organic, but I often will pay a little extra for these. I balance it by saving money by soaking and cooking my own beans and preparing as many foods as possible from scratch. I’m not as awesomely cheap at my good friend Steevo who survives as an elite road racer on mostly oats and peanut butter and makes his own bagels, but I am frugal. AND I eat great, healthy food. For the first time in my life I’m walking distance from a member-owned organic vegetarian co-op  and it’s expanding my usual food purchasing.  Here’s my recent score:

 

Now this is not all I eat, as it doesn’t include staples like peanut butter, rice, tortillas nor as many vegetables as I eat, but I wanted to share what $42 can get you at an organic co-op:

1.5 pounds garbanzo beans
1.5 pounds lentils
5.5 pounds bananas
2 pounds purple potatoes
0.75 pounds broccoli
0.2 pounds garlic
2 pounds tofu
1/2 gallon soymilk
5 pounds russet potatoes
2.5 pounds pink lady apples
1 pound zucchini
3 pounds canned tomatoes
8 ounces vegan ravioli (It was on sale!)

And fortunately over 25 pounds of food fits inside my messenger bag:

 

Combined with my staples, this is many days worth of food, without that much labor (the garbanzo beans are cooking while I write this- multitasking!). What does your shopping cart or messenger bag look like? And have you seen these articles from the past few days?

-Jonathan Safran Foer: environmentalists who eat meat have a blind-spot

-Cook County (Chicago) Health Department: become a vegetarian!

-FBI tracking videotapers as terrorists?

-Should you go vegan to get skinny? by Ginny Messina, RD, MPH

I’m also working on a post about New Year’s Resolutions, should be up before the end of the week. Oh yeah, happy new year!

10 Comments

Filed under markets, read, vegan

Read!

-The Moral Crusade Against Foodies is a fantastic article in the Atlantic. Worth reading in its entirety. A choice quote, “Here too, though, an at least half-serious moral logic is at work, backed up by the subculture’s distinct body of myth, which combines half-understood evolutionary theory with the biblical idea of man as born lord of the world.”

- List of chocolate companies based on knowledge if their chocolate is harvested with the use of child labor or not. From Food Is Power.

-Fifty Most Powerful Food Folk in America from the Daily Meal.

-Coconut Bliss is now majority owned by a dairy farm. A small, organic, family-run dairy farm, but definitely controversial. Twenty-two year old me would not buy it anymore, but 32 year old me understands the complications of running a business and that we don’t exist in a vegan vacuum. Read the explanation and decide for yourself.

-From the above link is this visual explanation of the corporate nature of the organic industry.  Giant corporations are the real problem and it makes buying anything all the more complicated.

-This Huffington Post Guide to Egypt has been in my queue to post since before they were bought by AOL for $315,000,000. See above comment or this article about how journalism and the readers will suffer the biggest blow from this buyout. You can also look at this collection of awesome Egyptian protest signs or this photo collection of women in the protests or just watch what Daily Show has to say.

 

I’ll leave you with a kick-ass (he-he) Bruce Lee quote:

“There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

 

1 Comment

Filed under read