What is nutrition

Nutrition: A Gimmick, Scam or Necessity?

When it comes to nutrition, almost every single human alive have their own opinions towards the matter and some even claim to be the content expert on the topic without any proper qualifications whatsoever. It seems that there’s always someone out on the street selling some magical product that’s “scientific based”, that can cure you of cancer and diabetes just by consuming it.

So what’s the deal?

Well, from a dietitian’s perspective, here’s what I feel what nutrition is and what nutrition is not.

5 Things what Nutrition is NOT and  ACTUALLY is:

1) Nutrition is NOT a small matter, it impacts your whole life.

“I mean come on, how is this small piece of cake gonna kill me? I mean ate a freakin buffet last week and I ain’t dead!”
Heard something like that before?

Well the unfortunate truth, at least from my experience, is that there’s a huge majority of people who treat nutrition like that.

We tend to indulge thinking that it will not bring us any harm in the future since it’s not instantaneous and we don’t feel anything after the indulgence.

What many don’t understand that malnutrition, that is too much or too little nutrition, very seldom produces an acute effect to our bodies, and most of the time, it’s chronic or long term.

If you’re familiar with the concept of compounding interest where interest added on to your principle amount under interest grows exponentially, the same can be said with nutrition, both proper and improper nutrition.

If you’ve taken notice, the rates of non-communicable diseases have been on the climb, before you start with it’s because of the low fat diet introduced in the 70’s (I will cover in another article) or the excess stress that people have these days, for whatever reason it may be, excess consumption has led to surplus of obesity rate in all parts of the world, being a Malaysian, you could say we’re kinda championing in this department.

Ignorance towards proper nutrition education can be seriously harmful,
You don’t become obese from 1 indulging meal but you do from an indulging lifestyle, even if you’re not aware that you are enjoying said lifestyle!
Obesity has and is highly correlated to diabetes and heart diseases, not to mention higher risk of developing cancers as well.

If you think cancer or diabetes, doesn’t affect your whole life, think again!

2) Nutrition is NOT a get healthy quick scheme, it’s a lifestyle commitment.

So okay fine, it’s serious, but I’ll lose the weight with one of those “magic” weight loss pills or regime.

Now, I’m not saying that some of those products or packages don’t work, but I will say many of them don’t last in the long haul, and many probably has very little concrete scientific evidence to them as well.

If you examine the word diet, it comes from Greek work Diaita, which literally means “way of life”.

When people claim that they are on a “diet”, they are normally inferring that they are restricting certain foods with the purpose of a certain health or bodily outcome.

Now I’m not saying that’s bad, in fact for some of the patient’s I’ve personally worked with, that kind of “diet” is very important, especially for people with certain diseases like celiac disease or kidney failure.

But for most of us, the “diet” we need is an entire change of lifestyle, not just the food you eat. It encompasses your physical, mental and social lifestyle factors.

But let’s stick with nutrition in this instance, it means that going of an Atkin’s diet for 3 months and going back to normal ain’t gonna do you any good, and here’s why, for many cases, these crash diets work by lowering your metabolism rate with calorie deficits and the moment you revert back to your original diet, you will gain back those weight and in fact even more in order for your body to achieve equilibrium!

So what’s the best way?

It’s really about understand what your body needs and taking small sustainable changes like taking the steps more often slowly and then transitioning to the gym or the track field.

Of course, have a dietitian as a mentor, that can accurately map out for you what you need in accordance to your goal, helps a lot!

3) Nutrition is NOT a culture or a belief, it is an exact science.

My mother said that if we eat more coriander root, I’ll be free of cancer!

Now, admittedly I made that up, but you know what I’m trying to get at, the relative at the dining table who glorifies a certain type of food to be this crazy substance that will cure or prevent all diseases, as well as demonising a certain food that would perhaps cause cancer in your eye balls!

While belief and culture are important components to our day to day life and not to mention our heritage, proper nutrition is not something that can be bounded by walls of personal beliefs or even testimonials, it’s a constantly evolving science based around evidences and research.

From the exact amount of calories you need in a day to the amount of fluid necessary for a child with certain medical disorders, it is an exact science. While in certain cases, there have been a few truths in the wisdom of the past about food and nutrition, many and most of which are unfortunately not evidenced based.

The truth about nutrition is that, you cannot generally label a food good or bad (unless it’s trans-fats, stay away from that crud!).
Nutrition breaks itself down to macro and micro nutrition, the macro’s being things like carbs, proteins and fat while the micros, things like vitamins and minerals, if you see any professional health expert, nutritionist or dietitian, they will tell you that there are only better packages in different foods, like in the case of sugar versus fruits, 15g of sugar and 1 medium sized green apple has about the same amount of sugar, 15g. The difference lies in the added vitamins and minerals in the apple and not to mention the fibre!

4) Nutrition is NOT a simple subject to master, it’s an art of its own and has its own set of skill sets.

Aiyaaa, nutrition ah, nehhh very easy oneeeee, just eat the fruit and vegetables can already!

Eh aunty please, I do a degree 4 years you, think because so easy ah?
All humour aside, nutrition or in my case, dietetics is not an easy subject to master. It has its own plethora of skills sets like learning and remembering different formulas for energy calculation, the different medical nutrition therapy from obesity to paediatric intensive care, the counselling techniques based of the different theoretical models like health belief model and the trans theoretical model of behaviour change, and many many more!

So please please please please, and I speak on behalf of many other dietitians, we did not take a simple and easy course, it was stressful and I lost a lot of hair learning all of it up!

5) Nutrition is NOT obvious, but it is SIMPLE.

Now this might seem contradictory to my previous point, but while nutrition itself is a complicated matter and very often confusing with all the random, unfiltered information circulation around the internet of your environment, my job as a dietitian is to simplify it for you guys, using models like the “MYhealthy plate”, apps or even new technological equipment.

So while the truth is that, nutrition is a massive complicated, never ending, ever growing science, leave the hair losing position to the dietitians and if you want to be equipped with the right knowledge for your bodily needs, may I recommend seeing a dietitian before it’s too late!

Remember, small steps, small changes, permanent results! 😉

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