Four Words This Dietitian Hates

Words have more power than we give them credit for and there are a lot of words that irk me when people use them during conversations about food and nutrition.

Healthy – Define “healthy” for me, because your definition is likely very different from mine. If you tell me that you want a “healthy diet” or that you eat “healthy food,” I know absolutely nothing about what you’re putting in your mouth. It’s very similar to, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”; if you put enough makeup on a girl, someone will think she’s pretty, and if you put enough buzzwords on a food label, someone will think it’s “healthy.” What’s “healthy” for a 30-year old man with 10% body fat is not necessarily “healthy” for a postmenopausal woman who is trying to lose 25 pounds. Food can’t be “healthy,” and the correct word choice here would be “healthful”…but let’s not get into semantics because neither word means anything to me.

Natural – Sugar is natural and so are a lot of illegal substances. I wouldn’t recommend using large amounts of either. There is no regulation of the term “natural.” I could sell you a jar of just about anything and label it “natural,” and if you didn’t know any better, you’d even pay me extra for it.

Intolerant – This is the equivalent of lumping all learning disabilities under one big and ignorant umbrella. People tell me that they are “intolerant” of specific food components all of the time. The symptoms, unfortunately, are often the same as treatable conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraines, dermatological problems, celiac disease, anxiety, etc. I’m NOT saying that food intolerances aren’t real, and I am certainly not saying that diet isn’t an essential component of most health conditions, but I am saying that self-diagnosing yourself is never a good idea. It is troublesome to me when I see people going on increasingly restrictive diets because they haven’t been correctly diagnosed or treated by a medical professional. Some conditions get worse over time, and if you are wasting precious time trying to decide which food to cut out of your diet next, your physical well-being could be at stake.

Unprocessed – This is pretty similar to “natural,” because we have put these foods on a pedestal and have cut perfectly good foods out of our diets. Sometimes processing is not only necessary, but it is also desirable. Unless you want to puree your own tomato sauce, make your own bread, mix up your own peanut butter, ferment your own wine, bottle your own vanilla extract, and cook up a batch of your own broth…you are going to eat processed food. If you are super-wealthy, don’t have to work, and have time to burn – feel free to make your own yogurt and so forth. I’ll be in aisle 3 making the best choices I can.

Detox – You know what the ultimate in detox is? It is hemodialysis for people with kidney failure or lactulose for people with advanced liver cirrhosis. Toxins aren’t building up in your system right now if you’re in relatively good health. Do you want to know how I’m so sure of that? Because you’re alive and if you were full of toxins, you wouldn’t be. Your kidneys, liver, skin, and lungs are detoxifying you right now, as you read this…isn’t that a beautiful thing? Yes, it is, and no fasting, green juices, charcoal drinks, special pills, or colon cleansing are necessary. Feel free to spend the time and money that you would exert on this unnecessary and dangerous practice elsewhere– like exercising, prepping a nutritious meal, or meditating.