The Phenomenal Adele Hite

The first thing I want you to do is go read this article by Heba Saleh, interviewing Adele Hite.

Seriously, read it. Go on. I’ll be here when you come back.

Better keep an eye on this one...

Now that you’ve read it, my commentary might make more sense. I’m going to pick out a few lines that I found particularly important, or relevant to the work I’m trying to accomplish in my own nutrition career.

1. “I would recommend my program at UNC, and for good reason. I recommended it to Pam’s daughter – she wouldn’t want her daughter to go through a program where Laura’s opportunities to learn and inquire are squashed at every turn. That is not the way that UNC operates at all.”

I think this is a really important distinction that Adele makes, and I’m so glad she went to the trouble of listing all the reasons why you might select the best nutrition program for your career goals. Often times, despite my obvious frustration with much of the material I’m presented in my program, I find myself constantly defending the RD credentials to people who think all RDs are mindless ADA (AND) drones who have no ability to think for themselves. I hope this article convinces you all that this is simply not true, and that there are RD programs available that do not ‘squash’ your opportunities to ask questions and delve deeper into topics. That’s something I love about UNC, and I’m really glad I am attending this program. I’m learning so much about nutrition, as well as the way nutrition policy works in the U.S., and overall the education I’m receiving is invaluable to my future career as a (hopeful) game-changer in the world of nutrition and public health. So if you’re looking for an RD program that supports an inquiring mind and encourages some level of dissent, I’d say UNC is a pretty good place to attend if you get the opportunity! I’m sure there are other RD programs out there as well that are open to students’ questioning of the material.

2. I was also one of these people; I was obese, struggling to lose weight, eating less and exercising more, and just being marginally successful at best. And people would give a most discouraging reaction, like “you must not be trying your best” or “you must be lying to yourself or others about what you are eating”. These statements are not only condescending, but also devaluing of another person’s human experience. 

This comment really hits home with the message I brought up in my post about struggling with your body weight. Even though Adele wasn’t taking a Paleo approach to her lifestyle, she was still working as hard as she could at doing what she believed was right. For people to write her off and say ‘you’re not trying your best’ is a really ridiculous statement that I think comes up a LOT in the nutrition and health world. I think even people who are eating a perfect Paleo diet and exercising adequately may still never attain their ideal body weight. We’re not living in a diet and exercise vacuum here. Other factors play into body weight such as epigenetics, maternal nutrition, exposure to environmental toxins, gut health, chronic infection, inadequate sleep, and chronic stress. As much as you may try to imitate the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the truth is that none of us will ever be immune to external forces that may play a role in our health. So the idea that someone would criticize someone for ‘not trying hard enough’ when they’re doing their absolute best to be healthy is just unproductive and, in my opinion, unjust.

3. This is what makes being a nutritionist really important — to tailor advice to peoples’ needs. Well-trained nutritionists can help people evaluate the science, see how it applies to them, evaluate their own body’s messages, because that can be an art by itself. We haven’t been taught as Americans to understand what the body is trying to tell us.

This is something that I think will play a huge role in your success (or failure) as a nutrition professional. I think sometimes people tend to forget that blanket nutrition prescriptions for everyone rarely, if ever, work. Granted, I think the general Paleo/Weston Price guidelines are a great starting place for most people, but truthfully, there is a HUGE range in what people can tolerate in their own diets based on their genetics, lifestyle, and exercise choices. I hope that those ‘experts’ who are in the business of demonizing macronutrients or providing blanket recommendations for all people, regardless of extraneous circumstances, will consider this point when making dogmatic statements about what all humans should or shouldn’t be eating.

4. We do see a lot of zealotry or moralizing about food in the world, and I think it’s interesting especially when we’re looking at ancestral ways of eating. Do we look at the far, far past — the caveman’s diet? I’m taking a food culture and anthropology class and one of the things we know is that we ate a lot of insects and grubs when we were at sustenance-level eating, but I don’t see anybody zealously defending eating bugs!

This is another great point that Adele brings up. Not that I think grains are an ideal component of the diet, and Adele seems to agree that there is no obvious nutritional benefit to including grains in the diet, but I think some people tend to demonize certain foods in general. A good example of this is dairy: some people do great when including dairy in their diet, and others have horrible symptoms and side effects. And others will argue that ‘paleolithic man didn’t eat dairy, so why should I?” Does this mean dairy is evil? No, but dairy is one of those foods that is not universally tolerated by all individuals, and people need to determine whether or not they want it to have a place in their diets. I’d even argue that no food can be considered “universally tolerated,” so again, we’re back to the whole ‘individualization’ thing. Funny how that happens, right?

5. As long as the USDA and the HHS own the definition of “healthy”, there is so much we are unable to change — our agricultural food supply structure, the labeling of products, the advice we give people in medical care and health care systems, the information distributed in the media, our health educational system, all funding for studies — each one of those is tied back to the guidelines.

This is something that I think is so important that Paleo people start discussing. Part of why I’m getting a little tired of the ‘perfect diet’ discussions is that they’re way too narrowly focused on individual goals, and not nearly enough on the kinds of changes that need to be made in the way America eats and produces food. Sure, we all might have access to the Paleo foods we want now, but what happens if the government decides to enact a saturated fat tax like the one in Denmark? Or if health insurance companies start charging you a higher premium because your blood cholesterol is higher than 200 mg/dL?  Or the government shuts down your local raw milk provider? If the Paleo community is too busy arguing amongst itself about ideal carbohydrate intake and the pros/cons of intermittent fasting, we’ll never have any impact on those important big-picture issues that may one day affect our access to the foods we consider healthy.

6. The best thing as I’ve said before is to join forces — those who are in the slow food movement, the agricultural reform movement, WAPF, paleo, low-carb, healthcare reform movement … all these people, if they came together as one and were willing to simply agree on the fact that what we’ve been doing up until now is not working, we can start to push for things to change.

This is the kind of work that will be undertaken by groups like the Healthy Nation Coalition in the (hopefully) near future. However, I think it’s super important that people in the Paleo community, who are already so passionate about healthy food and nutrition, start getting involved in political action that supports our vision for a healthy future in our country. As Robb Wolf said at PaleoFX, “We’re going to either make a policy shift on our own, or it is going to shift for us in the form of a failed state.” I think it’s getting to be that time where Paleo people start thinking more about the global impact of their dietary choices, and whether or not we live in a world that will support our right to choose healthy foods for much longer.

If you read the article (which I seriously hope you did by now), what did you take away from what Adele had to say about nutrition and food policy?

Chime in with your comments!!

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  1. I actually laughed out loud when I saw the graph titled, “Prevalence of Obesity among US Adults”. Particularly, the comments underneath. If I had a dime for everytime someone explained this by saying “Well, people are moving less,” I would be a rich woman. I wish there were a way to keep this article in my pocket at dinner conversations with my inlaws. They are always asking questions about paleo (they bring it up, not me) and then continue to shoot my opinions down. Father in law loves to argue that people just moved less and that’s that!

    Great article all over. Will definitely be starred to my faves.

  2. Laura,

    I’m really enjoying your posts. You write so well and are ‘hitting so many nails on the head’ so to speak!

    I had a revelation the other day that I went on my first diet when I was 14 which means I have been in a constant battle with my body for close to 30 years. Thankfully I have seen the light and finally broke a serious scale habit (like 4 times a day!) and have not weighed myself in about a month.

    I see other people struggle with their weight and beat themselves up because they think they are just not exercising enough, or just eating too much, or just not disciplined enough and I really ache.

    Let’s hope that this kind of thinking starts gaining momentum in the mainstream (like Paleo/Primal) has and that people are freed from thinking they just aren’t good enough.


  3. Hi Laura,

    The inside perspective on nutrition education in the interview was so interesting. I totally respect all the work that goes into earning the degree. But, I don’t know that I’ll do it, and I’d still like to help people. Do you see potential for collaboration between people with nutrition credentials and people with kitchen & teaching skills, to increase reach/impact?

    One interesting model: the nonprofit Cooking Matters pairs up a cooking instructor and nutrition instructor to teach six week basic cooking courses to low-income families – I am a volunteer with them, but of course we’re constrained to a curriculum of very conventional nutrition advice.

    A similar offering with a real food focus would be amazing.

    1. I definitely think there will be opportunities in the future for people with kitchen skills to start helping people learn how to cook real food.

      In fact, my ‘dream’ is to eventually open a multi-disciplinary ‘ancestral wellness’ center, with different medical professionals, fitness trainers, and culinary teachers on staff to see clients and offer a variety of different services from nutrition counseling, personal training, and cooking classes that all follow the ancestral health model. I know I’m not the only one that has thought about this type of business model, so perhaps there are other professionals looking to develop a business like this in the future.

      I agree that there should be Cooking Matters-type opportunities for people who promote nutritional philosophies like Paleo and Weston Price. Definitely an area for potential growth in this community!

      1. I agree – I think one of the reasons people find it so hard to stick to a more nutritious eating plan is because they don’t know where to start to make delicious meals with whole foods that are quick and easy. It’s so easy to revert to the tin cans and packaged foods and the drive throughs. I’m lucky my husband is a great cook so I’ve twisted his arm to start making some ‘Cooking from Scratch’ videos. We also want to do retreats where people can come to us and learn about the basics of eating for nutrient density and teach them the basic cooking skills that will get them confident enough in the kitchen to make delicious meals at home.

      2. That’s a good point about cooking videos, Candice, there’s a potential to reach a much larger audience with limited resources, although you still have the problem of connecting with the people who need help and not just the people who want to tweak their already fairly healthy lifestyle .

  4. Adele’s comment relating a child’s hunger with that of a middle aged obese woman’s really struck a nerve with me. There is no feeling more terrible than the hollow of an empty stomach. I have had my own battle with Anorexia, which I overcame with the help of a certified nutritional specialist, cognitive therapy focused on ED and lots of self-work! Also, going through the rigors of the massage therapy program, with all its scientific focus on anatomy, physiology and kinesiology really reset my head. I agree that a more personalized approach to nutrition, that encompasses assessment and evaluation of the individual through a scientific and psychological lens is necessary. It certainly worked for me.