We often hear from people who ask us what the difference is between the Functional Nutrition Academy Courses and a degree based Dietician course. Below is an account from a ‘recovering dietician’ who chose to study Functional Nutrition after she completed her degree…. over to you Marnie.
“When I finished my Dietetics post grad 23 years ago, I just knew I didn’t want to work in the hospital system. The system and methods I’d experienced didn’t sit well with me. For example, in the Diabetes Outpatients Clinic, we were told not to discuss GI with patients, as it was too complicated. Instead it was all about matching carbohydrate serves to insulin dosages, rather than the other way round.
I was passionate about sport, so I set up my own Sport & Health Nutrition practice instead.
I loved the work, my job, as well as the motivated, inspiring fit and healthy people working around me in the gym. I also quickly realised that my university course didn’t teach me anything about practical nutrition work and the day to day running of a business.
So I enthusiastically (or naively) began working 60-80 hours a week, on top of an intense competitive aerobics training regime, plus aerobics instructing. In the midst of this I also suffered the devastating, sudden loss of my eldest brother. Within four years, l was burnt out. So I closed up shop and chose the easy 9-5 option, working as a Dietitian for a drug company….
Shortly before this, I had become involved with an elite triathlete, whom I thank for introducing me to running. A lack of confidence meant I got involved in sport later in life, so where my competitive aerobics career didn’t start till 23, my marathon running career started at 30!. But for the first time in my life, I felt like I’d found my real passion and my people. I no longer even wanted to be the girl sitting at a desk discussing sports nutrition with athletes; I wanted to BE the athlete. So at 31, I quit my stable, unsatisfying, ‘ground-hog day’ pharmaceutical job to train for the Olympics.
In my second marathon I broke the international Olympic qualifying time, in a time of 2:41, but NZ’s tough selection standard of 2:37 still needed to be met. Fast forward to the London marathon, one year later, and at the 20km mark I was on track to do it. My family had recently sustained another major loss, burying my father only 3 months earlier. But I used this to spur me on; believing I not only had my brother and mother there cheering me on, but also 2 angels on my shoulder. There was no doubt in my mind that I could do this. Although fate had another plan for me, as a sudden ligament tear forced me to abort the race.
The following 4 years, and many injuries later, I learnt to train smarter, became stronger, and had my best patch of training and racing ever. Two days after winning and racing my fastest 10km, my life took another turn ….. What seemed to be a typical cold virus, resulted in on-going fatigue, insomnia, brain fog, and muscular pain that would not respond to any amount of rest, conventional nutrition, supplements, pharmaceutical drugs or mental coaching (I was also a trained life coach too).
I was diagnosed with “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” and Fibromyalgia, which to me was just a name given to a bunch of symptoms that the doctors had no idea what the root cause was.
My traditional nutrition training and conventional medicine wasn’t working
I became incredibly frustrated, at times mildly depressed, and felt like I’d completely lost my identity. There was a massive lack of scientific information available.
I was too tired to work, too tired to train, and felt I was a burden to everyone around me.
This journey however led me to try many ‘unconventional’ methods, and I spent tens of thousands of dollars in an attempt to regain full health.
It has been through an integrative approach that I’ve gained my biggest insights
By understanding the recent breakthroughs in science, epigenetics, functional testing, gut health and the microbiome, my fascination for nutrition began to re-ignite.
I had a desire to update my nutrition knowledge after 10+ years away from the field, but I needed a course that aligned with my new philosophies to give me a framework. It was then I discovered Cyndi O’Meara, through Kim Morrison, Twenty8. I watched the documentary ‘What’s with Wheat’, and I knew it was what I was looking for.
So why are the Functional Nutrition Academy Courses so refreshingly different from my Uni training…
- Critical thinking.
During my Dietetics training, I’m pretty sure if I was to write an article supporting the inclusion of unprocessed saturated fats in the diets of those with hypercholesterolaemia (even with scientific evidence), I would have failed miserably. I can’t actually remember if I ever presented both sides to an argument in my assignments??. Because you definitely got the feeling there was a right or wrong answer.
Surely if we are to make any progress in what is still a relatively new area of research, we need to be able to critique the literature without bias. This will enable us to grow and be prepared to change our opinion when old theories no longer serve us.
In a world where everybody has an opinion on nutrition (and quite often aggressively expresses it on social media!), I think this can give us the confidence to express our point of view (based on science) so that we can hopefully avoid taking any comments personally!
For me, learning how frighteningly common the propensity for research bias due to vested interest occurs has also reignited my keenness to do the research and question everything, rather than become complacent and rely on others for information. I was recently caught out by this, paying $1200 for a food and chemical sensitivity test, which I discovered lacked evidence for validity or reproducibility, whilst doing an assignment for the Functional Nutrition Course.
This course provides opportunities to translate scientific learnings into real world language and practical uses, like writing radio interviews and analysing case studies…. This was something I’d previously had to teach myself after 5 1/2 years of university! For anyone wanting to set up a nutrition practice or add nutrition consulting to their current work, when you combine these practical skills with critical thinking and great research skills, there is every reason to feel confident that you have all the tools you need to really make a difference.
University degrees do not necessarily make for superior teachers. In my experience it can be quite the opposite, due to a lack of real world experience, institutionalised biased opinions, or inappropriate language.
3 Vitalism vs Mechanism
This is another major insight I’ve gained from this course. Post Dietetics however, I was totally sucked into‘nutritionism’ and believed man-made ‘foods’ could be ‘therapeutic’
In my mind, reading nutrition labels trumped actual ingredients: ‘olivani’ margarine thus beat butter, trim milk ruled, and ‘Special K’ was the perfect breakfast because it was not just low in fat and calories, it had added vitamins and had a low GI. I still shudder when I think of the copious amounts of Diet Coke I consumed, and justified because of the (clearly biased) studies I had read, which illustrated that you would need to drink at least 50 litres a day to have any detrimental effect!
And I had no excuse!…
I was brought up on a farm where my Mum grew two organic veggie gardens and used composting practices, we ate wild venison, turkey, and grass feed hormone free beef and lamb. We had chickens for fresh eggs, and dairy cows for raw, unpasturised, unhomogonised, milk.
It is now clear to me that just as the medical profession is largely educated and influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, conventional nutrition training is influenced by large food and agricultural companies. It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s just that money talks….
4 Innate intelligence
This course has made me so incredibly aware of how little we currently, and will ever know about health, compared to the indescribable intelligence of our own bodies, and nature. Curcumin may be an incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory component of turmeric. But I’ve learnt to just eat the whole turmeric! Our bodies are smarter than our IQ will ever be!!
The concept of giving our body the right tools, from nature, and it having the most profound ability to heal itself is one of the biggest takeaways for me that will forever change my view of health. If we just stop, be still, and feel the signs our body is giving us, rather than masking with pharmaceuticals and alcohol, our body knows what’s best for us. Sound science will get us part of the way, but I believe tuning in to our bodies will get us further.
5 The significance of anthropology and culture and traditions
Understanding the importance of anthropology, culture and traditions, was a welcome addition to my almost non-existant learnings at university. It provided such an amazing framework when considering individual foods and dietary programs. Through this historical perspective it’s so easy to see why our world is in an ever decaying state of chronic disease and how returning to these cultures and traditions would make a significant contribution in reversing the trend.
What’s Next ……
My journey so far has taught me that the life we have planned for ourselves is not necessarily the path the universe has for us, but this doesn’t mean we’ve failed on our path, it just means that we have much more to learn.
In a way I’m grateful that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, has taught me to be more open-minded, as it has lead me on a path to this amazing course, and to a much deeper, holistic understanding of health.
I really want to encourage anyone who feels unsure of what they have to offer, or maybe feeling unworthy to have an opinion on nutrition because you don’t have a university degree…. it’s just that little gremlin called fear talking. As I’m in a position to compare both courses, I believe that studying with Functional Nutrition Academy, will greatly equip you as you will have a bigger world view of health, and a huge ability to impact the lives of others with everything you’ve learnt, and will continue to learn as a result of this course. The domino effect from just being the example in your life, will be far greater reaching than you can ever imagine.
My goal now is to continue my quest back to full health, and keep connecting the dots to determine this greater life plan in store for me. In the immediate future I’ll be delving into the science behind essential oils and health, to help expand the educational arm of Twenty8 – the beautiful essential oil and natural skincare company my husband and I now recently part own.
I will also be collaborating with Twenty8 founder Kim Morrison to develop wellness programs combining our knowledge of nutrition, essential oils, natural skincare and chemical free living. I’ll have time to start blogging and vlogging again for my recently launched online health and wellbeing business ‘Perky’. And the rest is a work in progress!
Thank you Cyndi and all the team at the Functional Nutrition Academy for giving me faith in nutrition as a profession again. I’d like to leave you with this thought….“Scare the world. Be exactly who you say you are and tell the truth”
Marnie Perkinson – Perky