The Case of The Fat Nutritionist….
I recall “back in the day” when I ran a private training business out of World Gym in Dedham MA, a registered dietician (RD) set up an appointment with me to go over her nutrition and her exercise plan. As far as she was concerned, she had a perfect diet and exercise plan, yet she was clinically obese. This women was not just an RD she was an MS RD, which means she has a masters degree in the sciences in addition to her RD. Ergo, she was a well educated person, educated specifically about the very topic she was coming to see me about. Like many RDs, she worked in a clinical setting at a hospital.
After going over her nutrition, and her exercise plan, I concluded it was terrible. Her diet was 80% carbs, 10% fat, and 10% protein. For exercise, she did mostly low intensity aerobics (you know, in the “fat burning zone”…) and low weight high rep weight training. She used no supplements of any kind.
OK, so she’s paying me to help her, I look over her diet and exercise plan, and make recommendations. I explain to her the benefits of essential fatty acids – in particular Omega-3, for weight loss and health – attempt to get her to increase her protein intakes and lower her carb intakes ( most of which were of a high GI low fiber type to boot) and recommended she add a multi vitamin and a few other things.
On the exercise front, I explained to her why the “fat burning zone” was a myth in terms of its effectiveness on fat loss, and explained why high intensity exercise, especially resistance exercise was the way to go, etc.
Problem is, this obese nutritionist was having none of it. She was taught in school high carb diets were the way to go, low intensity aerobics was best for losing weight, and a bunch of other debunked hyperbole I wont bore you with as I am sure most readers know what was said.
I never heard from her again after the three sessions she paid for.
It’s interesting to me that most people in my experience are unable to comprehend the fact that much of what they are taught in school, especially in the area of nutrition, health, and fitness, is either out of date by 20 years or so, or just plain wrong, and or not supported by the available data.
It’s interesting that some people will come out of such programs realizing their learning is just beginning, and some will take what they learned in school as gospel, and will not question it or research any further. It’s as if, if they find out much of what they were told is wrong, their faith will be lost and their bubble burst. I don’t know why, but I find this mentality the most common in nutritionists. I don’t know if it’s a certain mentality that is attracted to that topic, or something else, but I don’t find scientists in other areas so inflexible and so locked into what they were taught in school. That’s not to say most scientists are known for their flexibility, ‘cause it’s not a common personality trait in the scientific community as a rule.
At one point in my college experience, a loooooooooooong time ago, I was going to be an RD, until I got into an argument with the head of the department and quit the program.
A course I was taking at the time called for us to break down our own diets and critique it. I got a poor grade on the project because my protein intakes were too high (e.g., well above the RDA) and the teacher said “I should know better.” I took my issue to the head of the department, a PhD who ran the nutrition department. He agreed with the poor grade and informed me my protein intakes (which as I recall were approx 1g per lb more or less) were “dangerously high” and would harm my kidneys. I asked him simply for the data to support that statement, at which point he threw me out of his office.
What, a peon undergrad actually ask for some objective data to support an unsupported statement made by an all important PhD, and head of the department?! Never! Thus, it was clear to me I was not cut out to be an RD (at least not via that school and that dept…) and that was my first real experience with how dogmatic, closed minded, and inflexible people involved in the nutritional sciences could be.
I decided a good general science based program was best for me, and I could take courses and or research the topic of nutrition on my own time, which I did.
Now I didn’t write this to offend all the RDs out there, and I do know a few good ones, but I do find as a group, they tend to follow what they read in their textbooks in school more so then other health professionals, and that’s a shame. I will also say things have been steadily improving as it relates to nutrition programs out there since I was in school, but I still find myself locking horns with people in this profession, and there’s still an anti supplement bias that runs deep…
Remember, never stop questioning what you are told or read!

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15 Comments
  1. Robyn Booth 10 years ago

    Fascinating read, Will. It can be disheartening how obtuse people can be about learning new ways. I was having a conversation recently with a trainer about how difficult it is to get people to change their minds from the ‘way things have always been done’, even when there is a stack of evidence to say that the ‘old way’ just doesn’t work. In my comp prep for fat burning, I am doing all anaerobic work, all metabolic conditioning and high intensity stuff and no low intensity in the ‘fat burning zone’! I have had a few comments from old style body builders that I am doing it all wrong -I should only be walking, jogging at the most. Been there, done that and not risking losing hard earnt muscle this time!

  2. Makster 10 years ago

    Sometimes people can’t see the “forest for the trees”. Clearly an obese person should realize that their diet and exercise is not that “perfect” or they would not be obese.
    You would think that would clue them to take a different path. As you say some people just can’t or won’t change their way of thinking, and will suffer for it.

  3. Will… your story resonates so well with mine that it’s scary. The similarity makes me sh*t my pants! I guess some things will never change.
    I too was taught all about the “fat burning zone”. Pfft… and along with that, I got a 59% grading on one of my nutrition assignments. Why? Protein intake was too high and supplements were looked down upon. (In my college 60% was considered a passing grade, not 50+%). So this dork of a prof gave me 59… yeah… to say I was pissed is quite the understatement.

  4. George 10 years ago

    ‘Never stop questionning’…..
    I heard of a new book just out that says you should exercise for ONLY about 12 minutes…..a week!
    Do you have any reviews/comments about the book:
    The book is called Body By Science and their website is:
    http://www.bodybysciece.net

  5. Nick 10 years ago

    That sounds exactly like what I went through in University as well – almost failed my “Chemistry of Nutrition” class because of the orthodox views in the old textbooks that have been proven completely wrong. The nutritional analysis I did on my own diet almost gave my prof a heart attack when he looked at the protein numbers!

  6. Author
    Will Brink 10 years ago

    Sounds like a lot of people have had almost an identical experience to mine!

  7. Frank 10 years ago

    The high GI carbs and low fiber and protein is the cause for obesity in this country…

  8. Scott Irv 10 years ago

    I have found many sciences far behind the times. They got their degrees by obeying limits set for them. They expect you to do the same. I propose this. Holding back knowledge is the real goal of “scientists,” gatekeepers. It is their way of keeping classified knowledge advanced ahead of the crowd. Further, they don’t really want us to have good health so they hold such info back and resist it.
    I find it you want something done right, you absolutely must learn to do it yourself. Trust is deadly. Trust is for lazy people. Effort yields rewards, always. Most science is very obsolete. INdependent knowledge will yield very surprising results. that is what I have found.

  9. Lara Stoudt 10 years ago

    Great article. I was wondering your opinion on the theory of “Eat Right for your Blood Type”. There is a lot of compelling information it these books, is there evidence to support what they are saying or is it just another fad?
    I respect your opinion and looking forward to your reply.

  10. George 10 years ago

    I have a question about HIIT.
    (I am using yoga as a comparison – but it could be walking, rowing leisurely etc)
    HIIT may make you fitter but it also vastly increases the chance of a heart attack when compared to, for example, yoga.
    HIIT causes a reflex which then causes a number of automatic responses: the heartbeat is accelerated; minor blood vessels are constricted so that more blood is fed to the brain and muscles; the lungs take in more oxygen; the amount of cholesterol in the blood is increased; adrenaline is pumped into the bloodstream helping these changes, stopping or slowing the digestive process, and stimulating the conversion of glycogen, a form of sugar stored by the body, into glucose which the body can use more easily as a source of energy.
    A major and important change is the prolonged production of a group of adrenal hormones called corticosteroids. An excessive production of corticosteroids has been shown to produce hypertension and other symptoms of heart disease.
    So wouldn’t yopga (etc) ALWAYS be safer than HIIT?

  11. fairlane 10 years ago

    Haha, so funny Will. I encounter folks like your RD all the time. Their attitude is so stuck on what they learned (You must unlearn, what you have learned). I tell them look, you did it your way, and gee, you’re still the same. Doesn’t logic dictate that you should try something different? You know what they say, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. You keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to get the same results, in your RD’s case – no change. Try a different approach. What’s frustrating about your example is that you’re thinking to yourself “this woman came to me for help but then refuses that help”. Duh, then why did you come to me in the first place?!?

  12. Rikki Keen 10 years ago

    Hi Will,
    I am an “RD”. I know you stated that you did not write that to offend RD’s and I’m not offended, actually I understand where you are coming from – but maybe offering to your readers what they should look for beyond the “RD” title would be most helpful – ie specializing in sports nutrition (CSSD) or having a background in exercise phys. or personal training (NSCA).
    I do respect you & your thoughts on this topic and can agree with some of your points – however I also am confident I do not fall into that group. Your readers maybe surprised some RD’s have a great bit of knowledge with protein & supplements – for example, my mentor in college was Kevin Tipton (protein researcher).
    Oh, and I’m not obese. 🙂

  13. Kathleen 8 years ago

    Is there a nutrition credential you would recommend, Will? CISSN? Precision Nutrition? For the most part, I want to work with non-athletes, over 50, females mostly. I notice magazine assignments tend to go to the RDs, and getting those assignments is also a consideration. I’d be grateful for your advice.

    • Author
      Will Brink 8 years ago

      Credential wise, the RD is still going to be your best bet, especially with your goals.

      • Kathleen 8 years ago

        Thanks!

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