Wednesday, March 11, 2015

2015 National Dietitian Day - Should "Radical" be the New Normal?

Blogging "rules" tell you to limit blog postings to 300 words or your readers won't get the message. Sorry. I don't subscribe to the "fast food", "grab-n-go" mentality of our society that is constantly pushed on us. So,  I am just giving my readers a heads-up. This blog posting will be much longer than 300 words, so if you are still interested in reading what I have to say, I suggest you wait until you have time to read my full posting, that you have the time and mental space to think, and perhaps even savor what I have written. I would like to envision you having made a pot of organic, fair trade tea before reading this. :)

Ok - enough lead in. Good news! Another year has gone by, and I'm still "healthy enough"! So here we go for National Dietitian Day 2015. :)

Forty years ago at this time in 1975, I was finally applying for a coveted spot (even then) in a dietetic internship. Once I had finally made the decision to become a registered dietitian (RD), I then worked so hard to fulfill the prerequisites and had been so focused on this path during the previous two years that I honestly never thought about what I would do if not accepted. So surprise! shock! when I learned I had been rejected. I was able to learn that I was rejected not because I didn't meet the rigorous academic requirements, but because I was a childhood cancer survivor. Pause ……. Yes, you read that right.

I'm going to make a long story short here. I got in, that year, to the same internship that had first rejected me, in fact discriminated against me based solely on my medical history. This was not the first time I had found myself going against the grain, needing to advocate for myself, doing something differently than the usual path, speaking up, speaking out to solve a problem. Nor would it be the last.

The simplest way to explain my thinking and subsequent actions is to say that having survived an illness in which doctors involved did not even offer my parents any treatment ("just take her home and make her comfortable"), let alone offer hope, I was not going to let anyone easily tell me "no" for anything. Having survived what was considered hopeless, my modus operandi very simply had become "finding a way to yes". And finding a way to yes to find a solution for a problem I decided to tackle has often involved seeing things differently, asking different questions, being persistent, and simply not giving up! 

So, again to make a long story short, I finished that lengthy and rigorous internship combined with a Masters degree, which included a complicated research project and thesis, presented my research (which actually changed best practice for children born with the inborn error of metabolism called PKU) at an international conference, had my first child (with a complicated pregnancy, delivery, birth, and my baby's stay in a neonatal intensive care unit), and then passed the national registration exam (to permit me to use RD after my name) on the first opportunity after my graduation with a MS in Nutritional Sciences. The only thing I didn't get done during this 5-year period - which I still regret - was to actually walk to get my MS diploma, which I had worked so hard and long to achieve.


But I was just getting started. :) I have written about all the meaningful work I have done as a Registered Dietitian (RD) in my previous National RD Day posts starting in 2008. (here is the link to last year's post, which also includes the links to all previous posts I have written for National RD Day).

In a nutshell, I am SO glad I spoke up and didn't just walk away, accepting that initial rejection. 

However, here is the most important lesson that I learned with that initial rejection. In order to solve a problem, rather than just patch it up, or hope it would somehow solve itself, you must first identify and understand the cause or the root of the problem. 

Which leads me to the title of this post. "Should 'Radical' be the New Normal"? 

Huh? Here is the connection. 

Was what I did, challenging the initial rejection into my dietetic internship based on a decision that was clearly discrimination, considered radical? Maybe yes, maybe no, but in either case I don't know that I would have worn that word comfortably back in the 70's as my husband and I had arrived at the University of Wisconsin campus shortly after an anti-war bombing of one of the campus buildings, an action that was clearly radical to the extreme in my mind. 

Indeed, looking up the word radical, the first definition typically includes the emphasis on "extreme":

– Advocating or based on thorough or complete political or social reform: 
representing or supporting an extreme section of a political party.

However, as I have been thinking about what I am doing now as a Registered Dietitian who is also a certified organic farmer, in addition to many things I have done over the past decades that I have been an RD, I have been thinking about this word "radical" more and more. 

Synonyms for the word radical include revolutionary, reformer, revisionist, progressive (among other less appealing words like die-hard, bigot, militant, etc). 

Digging further (oh, I like that pun!), two additional definitions I found for the word radical that ring true and deep with me are the following:

– Adjective: Coming from the Latin radix, of or going to the root or origin; fundamental

– Adjective: Forming a basis or foundation 

Thus, I have come to use the word radical in a meaningful, positive, and powerful way, taking the word radical back to its roots, literally and figuratively, i.e., radical meaning "going to the root" of a problem to find solutions, back to the fundamentals in order to actually understand the cause of problems and then work toward solutions or reform in a thorough and complete manner, rather than a quick, easy, short-term fix, just putting on band-aids, or kicking the can down the road, over and over and over again.

And thinking of the word radical in terms of the word root leads me as an organic farmer to first think about healthy, organic soil as the "root" requirement (i.e., the absolute basis and foundation) for growing healthy, nutrient-dense food as the starting point that leads to solutions for nourishing personal, public, and planetary health.  With that awareness, I realize that I am a "radical dietitian" because I am committed to this "radical vision" of a food system that starts with healthy, organic soil as my touchstone, my roots, the basis for defining my professional responsibilities, which then guide my professional influence and actions.

Should "radical" in that sense be the new normal? Should all RDs be "radical" dietitians, no matter what area of practice they choose? In my opinion, yes, if "radical" means that everywhere possible RDs are making food and nutrition recommendations and/or even direct purchases that lead forward to the development of healthy communities and a healthy planet and also go backward to start a healthy food system with healthy soil.

I often tell my dietetic students that the basis, the starting point, for health is not "we are what we eat" but is instead "we are what we grow", because striving toward health should be larger than just personal health. No matter what narrow focus each of us may choose within the many opportunities our profession offers to apply the appropriate medical nutrition therapy (MNT) learned to become an RD (i.e., diabetes, cancer, sports, eating disorders, GI, intensive care, long-term care, wound care, food services, managing, consulting, research, policy, business ownership, education, and on and on and on and on!!), also using our expertise to work toward the larger picture of healthy environments and healthy communities should be the fundamental, underlying, root reason for choosing to become an RD.

In my view of our professional expertise and responsibility (and yes, it took me a while to see and appreciate this wider and deeper view), this larger picture of healthy environments and healthy communities is a goal that all RDs should support and pursue (where possible) by advocating for healthy food, healthy soils, water, and air as the starting point for health, i.e., back to the starting point "we are what we grow".  

Is my thinking "radical"? Is it "too radical"? What could possibly be "too radical" (in the negative sense that the word is often used) about envisioning and working for solutions that lead to healthy soil, healthy food, healthy people, healthy communities, and a healthy planet, i.e., true sustainability for all?

 What could possibly be "too radical" about directing our professional influence and recommendations to the promotion and support of systems, policies, and practices that preserve, protect, and regenerate healthy soils in addition to clean water, genetic biodiversity (both above and below ground), pollinators, intact diverse ecosystems, and promote carbon sequestration in our soils that can mitigate (even reverse) climate change

Maybe I'll trade in my "Eat More Kale" bumper sticker for one that says "I LOVE Soil" :) 

Before I end this blog post, I will just pause to mention that I am grateful beyond words that my parents challenged the first medical opinion (and even a second) and that they shared my earliest story with me (which I was too young to actually remember). As I grew into young adulthood, trying to piece the world together, I slowly appreciated the significance of their actions, which showed me the importance of thinking clearly when faced with a problem, looking for solutions outside the norm, finding courage, speaking up, creating a way to yes, going against the grain when necessary, being atypical, even being radical (at the extreme) when that was the only possible solution, as my parents were by challenging the authority of a medical system that first said "no", at a time when questioning a doctor's recommendation was never done. 

I am also grateful beyond measure for the one person on that internship selection committee who saw things differently and helped to move the Universe in ways that ultimately got me back on to the acceptance list. 

Just a few more thoughts before I sign off this year's blog post for the 2015 National RD Day. Maybe RD can also be a professional abbreviation for "Radical Dietitian". :) Probably not, but I am quite comfortable wearing that word now. In fact, I like to envision all future registered dietitians (RD) also thinking of themselves as being "Radical Dietitians", making "radical" professional food and nutrition recommendations that seek to address root causes of problems wherever they can in order to promote effective solutions within every component of the health care spectrum, solutions that support healthy, microbe and humus-rich organic soil as the non-negotiable beginning, the foundation, the root of healthy food systems, healthy communities, and a healthy planet.

I like thinking of that training and commitment being the "new normal" for my profession, and I am happy thinking about and working toward that along with other RDs who share the same vision and values.

If you're already an RD or an RD2B (still doing an undergrad program, already in a dietetic internship, or just starting to think about becoming a registered dietitian) and you'd like to jump on board to help shape the future in this "radical" direction, my best and most enthusiastic advice is to join the Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (under the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - AND). You'll be in good company with the values held by other HEN members along with HEN's mission to empower its members to be leaders in sustainable and accessible food and water systems, which is the foundation of our professional responsibility no matter where you apply your expertise and passions about food and nutrition. (Note: student members of AND can join HEN DPG for a reduced fee!) 

One last thought - I have just turned age 65. With that milestone, I also just received my Welcome to Medicare card, which is no small feat for a childhood cancer survivor who was first given zero chance of survival at age 6 months in 1950 and has had multiple additional cancer diagnoses and significant medical problems secondary to cancer therapies since then. Although age 65 and Medicare are often still synonymous with "retirement" in this country, I have not even looked at the criteria for continuing membership in my professional organization in a retired capacity.

I am still "healthy enough", and I think I still have some work to do for my profession as long as I am able, perhaps mostly planting seeds and nurturing others' careers through my opportunity to touch the future via the dietetic students and interns who participate in HEN's School to Farm Program.

I am both happy and grateful thinking about that, too, as that work means that I am also still able to carry the torch forward representing and advocating for both cancer prevention and a healthy life for all cancer survivors.

Paraphrasing the title of an inspirational book I just read, Good Morning, Beautiful Business by Judy Wicks, every morning I say:

 "Good Morning, Beautiful Life!"

Yes, adding an exclamation mark. :) I hope all of my readers (whether you are an RD or an aspiring RD, cancer survivor, or one of my many general readers) also have a way to greet your new day, every morning, thinking about or creating some part of your day, some part of your life, where perhaps wearing the word "radical" is comfortable and also a beautiful part of your own new normal. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD (radical dietitian) :)

PS - This blog post (the last time I checked) is 2,202 words.  Might be more by now. Thanks for reading this far. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A+ – Lentil Patties that do not fall apart!

Maybe I just got lucky this time but yes, the post title says it all. The important feature about these lentil patties that I made for my daughter-in-law is that they formed beautiful patties and did not fall apart during assembly or cooking! Oh yes, they tasted great, too, and didn't have any ingredients to which she has allergies. Bingo!  I needed to write this down so I can find it easily for the next time I want to make them.

I wanted to use ingredients I had on hand (no surprise there), and ultimately developed (fused together) a recipe that is modified from several bean patties that I reviewed on the internet. Here we go:

• 1 cup black lentils + brown lentils (I had about 3/4 cup of the black lentils and topped off the cup with the typical brown lentils)
• 2 cups water for cooking the lentils
• 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
• 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
• 3-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1/2 small jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
• 1 cup pumpkin (about 1/2 of a 15-ounce can of pumpkin without spices, ie., not pumpkin pie filling)
• 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
• 1/2 Tbsp. mustard (I used Dijon mustard)
• 1 cup oat bran
• 1/2 cup rolled oats
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
• Water as needed

1) Cook lentils in the 2 cups of water until soft but not mushy (about 20-25 minutes) - drain any extra water and allow lentils to cool to room temperature
2) Peel and chop onions and garlic, heat olive oil in small skillet and sauté onions first then add garlic for about 5 minutes total over medium heat. Take off heat and allow to cool.
3) In a large food processor, combine the drained lentils, onion and garlic, pumpkin, oat bran and oatmeal, jalapeño pepper, soy sauce, mustard, oregano, salt and pepper.
4) Mixture should be mostly smooth but not completely blended. Add water by the tablespoon if needed (I added 2 Tbsp. water).
5) Form patties (I made 6 that were quite large and about 1 inch thick). I used a 3/4 cup measuring cup to scoop up the mixture and drop onto a piece of waxed paper, then used my hands to form a patty from the mixture.
6) I baked the patties on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 35 minutes at 350ºF.
7) Allow to cool then freeze if not eating right away.

These make beautiful patties ("burgers") that will hold up well inside a bun. Top with all your favorite toppings and condiments. Yum, yum!!

A+ – Lentil Patties that do not fall apart not baked yet
So what does the A+ mean? Are they that good? Yes, they are, but that is not what A+ means on labels in our freezer. Here is our code. Our daughter in law's name begins with the letter A, so anything labeled with A+ in our freezer is food that she can eat. It is doubtful she would ever just drop in because she and our son live so far away, but when I know they are coming, I can quickly take stock by looking for anything labeled with A+ to see what I have for quick eats when I am starting to plan food for their visit. 

Go ahead and make these for yourself, even if you don't have to work around some food allergies, because they are that good. In fact, I have to resist pulling them out of the freezer for just us! I think it will be a good idea for me to actually go through all of the recipes on this blog to label which ones can be called A+, for my own quick reference! :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sweet Potato Enchilada Casserole

Oh Yummy! Here is an easy recipe to feed a crowd, like when our sons and their wives are home for the holidays. One of our daughters-in-law has food allergies so making delicious food for the group with her needs in mind keeps my mind active. When I make food ahead and put it in the freezer, some are tagged as "A+", which translates to "Anna-Friendly". :) Here is a winner!

Bonus with this recipe, which I modified from several I found on the web. I learned about the Ro*Tel brand of foods, a long-time family-owned company in Texas, of course now owned by a series of "big food" acquisitions, but there it was, right in my regular locally-owned grocery store (albeit on the tippy top shelf). With our summer abundance of tomatoes and hot peppers, I will likely play with this combination to freeze my own "Ro*Tel" items in the future, but that is for another day!

Here is what is now made and ready for the arrival of the "fam", (no photo yet), complete with my notes for making it next time.

Sweet Potato Enchilada Casserole

Ingredients (I buy seasonal, organically and locally grown foods where available):
• 2# sweet potatoes (makes 2 cups of sweet mashed sweet potatoes)
• 2 cups cooked black beans
• 10 ounce can Ro*Tel diced tomatoes w/green chilis, drained (save the liquid for soup stock later)
• 2 cups frozen corn, drain if needed (again, save any liquid for using in soup stock later) - my frozen corn comes from a local company called Locavorius that purchases locally-grown produce in the summer, does all the prep work, freezes it to sell during the winter months
• 1 bunch scallions, slice the whites and also slice the green tops to use in different parts of the recipe
• 1 chipotle pepper, chopped from a jar of them in adobo sauce (left over from one of our summer interns - adding 1 pepper to most dishes is "just right")
• 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
• 1/2 cup salsa
• 6 Tbsp lime juice - or juice 2 limes and zest if they are organic limes
• 1 teaspoon chili powder - or to taste depending on how hot your chili powder is and of course how spicy your family likes its food!
• 18 corn tortillas - whole - I use an organic brand I find a Whole Foods Market
• 1 1/2 cup salsa
• 1 cup sliced pitted black olives (I buy pitted black Kalamata olives at a deli and then slice them - I stopped buying canned black olives years and years ago, which have no flavor, except salt!)

1) Preheat oven to 350ºF.  (or make this dish ahead, cover with foil, and heat later)
2) Cook sweet potatoes (I washed them and then just put them in my slow cooker overnight on low - they were perfectly done the next morning)
3) Peel sweet potatoes (cut in half, scoop out the potato, giving the peels to your dog or chickens - both are ecstatic recipients in our family)
4) Mash sweet potatoes, mix with lime juice, salt, pepper, and chili powder
5) In another bowl, mix together the drained beans, tomatoes/chili peppers, corn, chopped garlic, white section of the scallions, and 1/2 cup of the salsa
6) Spread a few tablespoons of salsa or other taco sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.
7) Layer 6 overlapping corn tortillas over the bottom of the baking dish.
8) Layer 1/2 of the sweet potato mixture, then layer 1/2 of the bean mixture, in each case spreading to cover the tortillas.
9) Cover with another layer of 6 corn tortillas then repeat #8.
10) Top with 6 more corn tortillas.
11) Now spread the final 1-1/2 cup of salsa over the top layer of tortillas, sprinkle the sliced green onions and olives over the salsa (of course you may add some shredded cheese here if you wish - we do not so my daughter in law can eat it)
12) Cover with foil, heat 20 minutes at 350ºF. or so (longer if this has been held in the refrigerator until needed) until fully heated through and bubbling on the edges.

Note: I bought one of those deep 9x13 aluminum baking dishes at the grocery store so I could make this ahead and still have our baking dishes to use for food tomorrow. The pan I bought was deep enough that I could easily have had a 4th layer, which I will do next time, increasing the filling ingredients by 50%.

Serve with a green vegetable, salad, and home-made guacamole (yes plan ahead to have avocados on hand and ready to make your own, which is easy, delicious, and so much cheaper than buying it ready made.

Note: No photo yet. I'll try to take one and post it up later this week (don't hold your breath). You can all imagine how beautiful this dish is, so colorful with several yellow, green, red, white, and black foods combined, and with so many textures, too. Delicious! The word "healthy" does not even need to be mentioned, but yes yes yes, it is. :)

PS - I suppose I should change the photo at the top of my blog, too, but on a cold, rainy Christmas Eve, it is actually nice to look at those gorgeous sunflowers!

Happy Holidays, Everyone! 

Diana Dyer, MS, RD
"Cultivate your life: You are what you grow, inch by inch, and row by row"

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Catching up!

As tomorrow is September 8th and I have not posted anything since late April, I want you to know I am still here, still standing, still doing well, still overcommitted (again, LOL, what else is new?), and thus going to share just a very brief update.

Highlights since my last posting?

(1) Actually going through the organic certification process and coming out the other side with that USDA Organic Certification!! Finally!! It is not an exaggeration to say that we are still very excited about finally having our farm officially certified. We chose our farm name (Dyer Family Organic Farm) very intentionally back in 2009. We never dreamed that our process would take so much time (for so many reasons), but here we are, five years later. We proudly hang the USDA Organic symbol from our market tent. At some point over the winter months, we'll do a better job of having it inserted into our farm website, market banner, business cards, and other materials.

(2) Having the pleasure and privilege of both sons and their wives live with us for many weeks during this past summer, as they were between chapters in their life, between leases, and we welcomed them with both open arms and an open heart. We put them to work on our farm, of course, and we were busy beyond busy, but having them here was enormously helpful and enjoyable for us (and I believe for them, too). Again, I repeat, having our grown sons and their wives live with us was both a pleasure and privilege that I could not have seen in my future as I struggled through the various times I was undergoing chemotherapy and/or recovering to rebuild my life after all cancer therapy was completed.

Gratitude. Pure. And. Simple. 

(3) Although I don't have time to post on any of my blogs at the present time, I am still writing our farm's newsletter, which is weekly when we are in the marketing season. If you wish to subscribe, that is easy to do on our farm's website, and if you only wish to browse previous archived newsletters (there are lots of photos), you may do so at this link. In addition, if you want to follow daily updates for our farm, you may do so two ways via Facebook: a) Facebook feeds are visible at the bottom of our farm website's homepage without joining Facebook, and b) on Facebook itself (find and Like The Dyer Family Organic Farm/Dick's Pretty Good Garlic). Many customers stop by our table at the markets to say how much they enjoy reading the newsletter, even if they do not need garlic or honey that day! Awww…….I confess that I enjoy hearing how much they enjoy the newsletter. I look forward to writing it, just as I always have looked forward to writing on my blogs! :)

I don't know that there is any one photo that captures the summer perfectly. So I will include one of the first sunflowers we have had on the farm (planted by one of our summer interns). I have enjoyed looking forward to seeing them finally bloom, which only happened this week. And only this week did I first read a quote by Helen Keller that fits with my happy sunflowers:

"Keep your face to the sunshine, and you cannot see the shadows. 
It's what the sunflowers do."

I know that each of us has challenges, and shadows, but I hope your summer has had some healing R&R, some happiness, and some sunflowers. I hope you are looking forward to fall. And I also hope that you can keep life's shadows behind you. Addendum: The wind during a recent ferocious storm flattened these sunflowers after I took this photo but before I got it posted. A few days later, they are now doing their best to stand back up, with their faces still facing the sun. I'll just bet that the vast majority of my blog readers can relate. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Morning Memories

It's almost time for me to give up reading what I follow on Facebook (I'll still be posting up on the farm's Facebook page) with even less frequent blogging, too, until we are done planting garlic in November. My long-time readers know to expect this by now! However, I don't know if I can give up my morning visit to The Writer's Almanac. I would miss hearing Garrison Keillor read Mary Oliver, and other poets, and really miss learning that today is the anniversary of the the publication of Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide to Birds. 

Hearing Roger Tory Peterson speak at the University of Wisconsin during the mid-70's has been one of the highlights of my life. I was too naive at the time to know I should have brought my first copy of his book Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America (bought in the early 60's) to have him autograph it. In any case, I can still recall much from that evening, just as he remembers his experience of having a flicker explode into life with his touch. 

One of my friends and I were recently talking about how much we love our professional work (she's a physician, close to my age, with no plans for retiring), and wondering if either of the two of us had 'hobbies'. I'm not sure if my love for birds is a hobby, as I cannot really 'set it down', versus a foundation that drives my passion and advocacy for healthy food systems because healthy food systems and healthy ecosystems that support diverse and thriving bird populations are mutually dependent. 

Lovely morning memories of my past that have shaped who I am today - plus a bonus gift, a male wood duck on our pond this morning (photo and comment on our farm's FB page). 

The blessings in my life as a multiple-time cancer survivor are simply uncountable, but I give thanks every morning for what I have and what I can share. As Mary Oliver finishes her poem The Place I Want To Get Back To, "I live in the house near the corner, which I have named Gratitude." :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, April 25, 2014

Winter is over, really!

Because my last post about headlines has gone a little 'viral', I thought I should finally change the upper photo on my blog which showed Phoebe walking the paths in our snowy garlic fields last December, with her ears blowing up and back from the strong wind. Yes, it nearly the end of April and our snow is finally gone, frogs are singing, and the garlic is coming up through the mulch in all the fields. So spring is clearly here, even if we may still get one more quick snow storm before spring fully settles in.

However, sorting through photos, I saw one I could not resist sharing. Instead of a spring fling, it is like Phoebe's final winter fling as she is throwing herself into the air to chase something, which surely seems like a better way to chase a critter than plowing or trudging through the snow (we all got tired of doing that this winter!). 

This photo won't stay up there long. I'll get some spring photos taken and share one at the top of the blog soon. But in the meantime, here is one photo that shows it's hard to keep a good dog down (I got lucky with this shot)! 

One of those exceptional, gorgeous mornings when the hoarfrost covers everything. 

Ok, now it's time to download the camera of recent photos and take some more new ones, showing spring. That would include showing our chicks now full-grown, our rooster also being full-grown but with a modified comb due to frostbite (still quite handsome, just different), our garlic on its way up through the mulch, asparagus peeking up, spring beauties and other wild flowers, our thriving bee hives that (shock of shock) made it through this past winter (with uncountable polar vortexes and a record amount of snow), geese and ducks on the pond, bluebirds flitting through the farm, and on and on. 

I hope you all have an enjoyable weekend, with your hands in the soil, helping spring along as you get something cleaned up or planted. 

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Don't always believe the headline or the bottom line

I was thrust into the world of "the media" when the Detroit Free Press wrote an article about my cancer recovery way back in 1997, an article that was well written overall but contained a deliberately constructed "headline" within the article that was a "hook" to create interest and controversy (i.e. readership) about the content and path of my recovery. (The internal headline was "No time for chemotherapy". Yes, I probably said that, as an off-hand comment, like who does???, but yes, I underwent both chemo and surgery. I did not 'cure' myself only with diet, etc.) 

Sigh……..welcome to the real world……...

Recently an article has been published in the New York Times (link below) that essentially says "diet doesn't matter" for cancer prevention. This article is now making the rounds within other newspapers and all over the internet. 

Sigh………don't believe everything you read, anywhere, not just the New York Times, not just "the internet". 

I have asked a colleague for permission to add her comments to my blog, for my readers to see a well-reasoned response to this article and the reactions you may be seeing or reading (thank you, Karen). Please also read the links she has included, both the original article and the response from The American Institute for Cancer Research, where I donate proceeds from my book.)



I want to give you a head's-up about a column appearing today in the New York Times Science section.

In giving a commentary on the recent Amer. Assoc. for Cancer Research conference, the article, "An Apple a Day, and Other Myths" provides a limited quote from a presentation there by Walter Willett (distinguished researcher from Harvard involved in the Nurses' Health Study and many others; and one of the panel of scientists on the panel responsible for the AICR Expert Report that is the source of the AICR Recommendations to Reduce Cancer Risk).

Headlines, as this article is shooting all over the media, are referring to diet and cancer as a "mess". You may be getting questions about it (or hearing from patients or colleagues repeating this article's findings as fact without asking you a question).

So you may want to read the NY Times column yourself:

I also strongly encourage you to read a post from AICR that attempts to put the article in perspective:

We all know the research on diet and cancer is becoming more and more complex -- but it's unfortunate if that gets misinterpreted as meaning that the two are unrelated, rather than what is actually happening, as we are finding that the complexity means that cancer is not all the same, people are not all the same (genetic differences may make some more vulnerable to certain aspects of diet than others), and foods are not all the same (different forms of fiber have different effects, carotenoids differ from each other, grains differ from each other, etc., etc.). The emphasis in recent years on eating pattern rather than specific foods or nutrients, and diet's interaction with physical activity and body composition, indeed make this complex. But that's very different than the message portrayed in the NY Times article.

I hope this is of help to you all in being ready to respond to your patients and colleagues.

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN

Taking nutrition from daunting to doable SM 
Speaker, Writer, Consultant
Nutrition Advisor, American Institute for Cancer Research
Co-Director, Wellness and Cardiovascular Nutrition subunit, SCAN dietetic practice group


In addition, I would also add that most diet and cancer studies have many major short-comings, not the least of which but maybe one of the most important, is that most people are likely not eating enough fruits and vegetables to see potential benefits (i.e., even the "high" intakes in these studies are still low, which is why I have set my personal goal of eating 9+ servings/day, every day, every week, rain or shine, winter or summer, traveling or home, etc, etc).

Please don't fall for the conclusion in this article that diet does not matter, for either cancer prevention (or cancer survival). This article appears to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I can only guess for the sake of "readership" (i.e. advertising dollars). 

I once had an oncologist (not my own) ask me if I really thought all the work involved with my cancer recovery journey (as I describe in my book) was really worth it if I only increased my odds for survival by 2% (a number he pulled out of the air). I was standing in front of 600+ people as the invited keynote speaker at a huge cancer survivor day event when he asked me that question. 

I let the question sink in, for both me and the audience. I am serious when I say I could have heard a pin drop in that auditorium during that moment.

Here is how I responded. "Let's see. Let's play with those hypothetical numbers a bit. Only 2%……….let's say I increased my odds from 1% survival to 3% survival. Those are not great odds, either way, but one way to look at that change is it being a 200% increase. Another example, let's say I increased my odds of survival from 49% to 51%. Again, on the surface, the increase does not look like much, but now I have taken myself out of the minority and put myself into the majority odds for long-term survival, which is where I much prefer to be."

There was another full moment of silence in the room. I suppose people were digesting what I had just said or maybe they were waiting for either that oncologist to say something else or maybe for me to follow-up with additional thoughts. When neither of us spoke, the audience jumped to their feet and roared with applause. I was stunned and embarrassed by all the hooting and hollering and foot stamping. I guess what I said (totally unplanned) sank in and resonated with this group of survivors. 

Afterward, both cancer survivors and other health care professional came up to me to thank me for "standing up for patients". 

I guess what I am reacting to in this New York Times article is the negativity that is being projected on to people (both those concerned enough about their health to make changes and the health care professionals trying to guide them).

Believe me, I am not tossing my diet changes out the window, but I may stop reading the New York Times, let alone counting on it for "news". 

Ok - enough disgruntlement from me. Now let's all go out and enjoy spring! It's that time of year when we should all smell like soil at the end of a day, :) :) and oh yes, enjoy eating your vegetables knowing you are nourishing health in your body and soul, and hopefully also nourishing your local farmers. :) :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

PS - the formatting may look weird, at least it does for me with a preview version. I don't know why (something to do with cut and paste I suppose) but I don't have time to sort this out. Apologies for the vagaries of blogging. :)