Today’s post comes from Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS. Ellis is a sports dietitian, who counsels athletic programs on nutrition and teaches athletes how to eat the right foods on a sensible schedule to fuel performance, prevent muscle cramps, finish strong and recover well. He is also a member of ENC’s Health Professional Advisor panel.
Being a veteran Sports RD means being able to cut through the nonsense we see on the front lines of athletics and keep coaches and athletes grounded in reality vs. the misinformation they’re constantly being exposed to. Recently, I accepted a dinner invitation with representatives of a company that works in the sport nutrition field and, during the meal, I watched these folks spend an extraordinary amount of energy sorting through the menu trying to find something that they could order in an establishment with a very up-to-date menu.
It seems these folks suffered from a new dilemma that, for lack of a better term, could be called “food elimination attention syndrome” or “FEAS.” It’s a condition whereby eliminating select categories of food from their diet, and choosing others, they can speak of themselves more delicately, as if describing their favorite clothing designer. “Who are you wearing? What are you eating?”
At one point, I must have had my jaw hanging open as the waiter made his third attempt to take the order, because one of the FEAS victims looked at me and asked, “Don’t you eliminate anything?” My mind raced momentarily, trying to find something that I routinely eliminate from my diet. Short of not eating sushi at a gas station, I struggled to find a category of food that could make a fashion statement, and I suddenly felt as if I had just pulled up to the prom on a moped!
How could I lived 50 years and not managed to eliminate anything with a healthy dose of religious fervor? Sure I’m concerned about the food supply that low income families are exposed to and, I certainly try not to eat fried food routinely or reheat my nachos in a Styrofoam box, but that was not enough to register with anyone at this table. Choosing not to avoid soy, eggs, gluten and lactose, made me a non-starter with this crew. As I took a slug of my non-organic cabernet, it hit me: this is why credentialed Registered Dietitians are so crucial to the field of nutrition.
I run across this scenario with some regularity. Dietary assessments conducted by non-credentialed “nutritionists” might falsely identify a previously-unknown allergy or food sensitivity, requiring elimination of something that athletes love to eat and don’t really have problems with.
In fact MDs and credentialed medical professionals like RDs seem to be a favorite target for those who prescribe to the FEAS mindset. However, these are old plays from a tired, dusty playbook that leverages distrust, often to make the case for those with something to sell. Personally, this kind of manipulation inspires me all the more to promote the value of true-to-form Sports RDs, which has been the focal point of our campaign for several years now at the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association (www.sportsrd.org).
Being a Sports RD features, in no small way, the task of helping athletes separate fact from fiction. It’s all about helping the next generation of young athlete realize the importance of a healthy diet and that illegal practices, like doping are NOT the norm. We have much work to do and little time to waste if we are to protect this generation of young athletes. Rigid rules that ensure fairness and a level playing field have never been more important to all of us who work in sports, not to mention the athletes themselves.
Here’s to fighting the good fight!