Back to school on nutrition

Considering how much I love my food (the creating, the cooking, the presenting and the eating!) it’s astonishing how firstly ignorant, and then befuddled I have been in the past about food beyond the flavours.

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In 2015 I attempted to learn more about nutrition by doing. I undertook a somewhat ill-advised fitness and nutrition programme, that mainly served to confuse me more and make me feel far away from my goals of self-improvement and a healthy diet. It gave me all sorts of pseudo-scientific ideas about the role of fats and carbs in my diet, macro nutrient timing, supplements and exercise that weren’t sustainable or suitable for my level of ability, and didn’t give the results I wanted.

Since then I have read a lot of online literature, and listened to a lot of podcasts, following a trail of nutrition experts to improve my understanding. In 2016, my pet project is to solidify this by going back to basics and taking some formal training in nutrition for my own personal knowledge, and to improve my recipes in health terms!

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My diagnosis of coeliac disease in 2009 was perhaps the first step in an awakening to what I am putting in my body. You can’t help but learn more about the science of food when regularly screening labels and ingredients; but even now I am wary of the so many articles, bloggers and practitioners who ascribe food mystical powers and call it ‘medicine’. When changing your diet has such a concrete impact on one health condition, it can be very tempting to blame dietary causes for every small malady. I try not to. The world seems to be full of people with ailments, desperate for a cause and something they can control to fix them – food is a tempting answer. There are a plethora of well-meaning ‘holistic’ practitioners, nutrition coaches and plain charlatans willing to play on this by trying to help where medical practitioners can’t (or won’t).

Deciding the route to take when learning more about nutrition has been tough: there are so many budget and bogus courses and accreditations. Famously, Dr. Ben Goldacre was able to register his dead cat as a Nutritionist – even apparently reputed institutions give diplomas that aren’t worth the paper! That’s not to say that all nutrition is bunk. I want to do something evidence-based, scientific in content, but simple enough for a layperson before deciding if I want to take it further; so have found a short course accredited by the Association for Nutrition that I can fit around my work and family commitments. They focus on evidence-based practice; unlike the myriad organisations who are just as likely to show you how to wave some crystals over someone’s belly as tell you about the demon gluten (whether you need to avoid it or not). My aim is to get a simple grounding in the basics before deciding if I want to study more in depth or on a particular element of nutrition (for fitness, weight loss or allergies/intolerances perhaps). This has, of course, necessitated the purchase of lots of new stationary! I’ll no doubt update you on my progress as I begin the course, for now, here are a few recommendations for people to follow and nutrition podcasts I enjoy:

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