Dieting

One of the most excruciating things we have to do as nutrition majors is also one of my favourites: diet practice.

Who likes being told what to eat? Not I, said the Kate. (Which begs the question, why would the Kate want to be a dietitian?) But diet practice forces the Kate to learn far more about the applications of potential diet advice than the average assignment, so it feels like a break from school (yay!).

We don’t get enough of it, in my opinion-but nutrition majors are taught empathy and a few principles of education along with all the technical details of food and metabolism. One of those empathy assignments is dieting for critical illnesses and writing about our experiences. Last semester was the worst-two consecutive days of low protein and then 3 of low potassium for kidney failure patients. Potassium wasn’t so terrible, but for the protein diet we had to meet or exceed a certain calorie level while never going over a truly minuscule protein limit. That low protein diet made me angry and annoyed and cranky and generally nasty for 3-4 days-before, during, and after. It was horrible trying to plan it, it was horrible to follow, and it made me feel horrible health-wise. In case you were wondering, Swedish Fish do not mix well with Coca-Cola-and that’s basically all you can eat that’s protein-free.

Aside: If you are ever diagnosed with one of the early stages of chronic kidney disease, do everything they tell you ASAP. There’s usually hope that you can stop or slow the progression of the disease if you make a few relatively simple lifestyle changes. Good dietitians can help you figure out a diet you can live with while compromising on your favourite foods-and trust me, what look like little frustrations right now will be much, much better than an extremely low protein diet or dialysis.

This semester is looking better than last year. Our first assignment in this vein is a 5-day diabetic diet, where we have to aim for certain carbohydrate levels at each meal. I was really surprised at how much I had to eat to make those levels. As an example, a woman who’s 5’4″ and fairly active needs about 1800 calories. Half of those calories should come from carbohydrates (sugar and fiber) and since 1 gram of carb = about 4 calories, that comes out to 225 grams. If you think of it in terms of specific foods, that’s

– 15 slices of bread, or

– 5 and a half cokes, or

– 40 Girl Scout Thin Mints, or

– 8 cups of ice cream, or

– 9 bananas, or

– 6 slices of Domino’s pepperoni pizza

I’d always thought a diabetic diet would be really restrictive-and it is. But it’s more about watching when you eat things and staying on top of portion sizes than giving up all tasty food. To get good blood sugar control, sugary foods should be distributed pretty evenly throughout the day-say three meals and a couple snacks. Confession: I’ve resorted to both butterbeer and coke already this week to make my carb quotas.

So. Much. Food.

Have you ever tried a diet before? Why? Did it work?

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