Why you should think twice before taking dietary advice from anyone other than a Dietitian
I know I’ve written about this before and it probably won’t be the last time I write about it, but it needs to be said; it’s best to think twice before taking dietary advice from anyone other than a Dietitian. Far too often do Dietitians hear about their patients/ clients taking dietary advice from unqualified nutrition “experts.” This list includes doctors, personal trainers, health advocates, celebrities and people that have tried the most recent fad diet (the list goes on, but I’m going to save you a headache and stop right here). You maybe asking or saying to yourself; Aren’t doctor’s more qualified to talk about this? But my neighbours wife lost 30lbs in 2 weeks doing this! But my personal trainer has the body that I want! (And again, I’m going to stop here to save you another headache). The answer is no, they’re simply not qualified and this ends up causing more harm. An this is not one of those situations where the end justifies the means. There’s actually a very simple good and simple reason for this issue. None of the mentioned people/ practitioners fully understand what food actually means to the individual.
Now before I go on I have to say that there are many AMAZING doctors, personal trainers etc. that respect the limitations of their training. This article is not an attack on Doctors or personal trainers as a whole. It’s merely addressing the MANY concerns and issues that are currently preventing the population from actually eating healthy and proper nutrition, which is making the problem worse. This blog post is addressing those practitioners that don’t seem to respect the limitations of their training or the complexity of nutrition and seem to think there’s nothing wrong with giving dietary advice when they are not qualified to do so.
Earlier last week I woke up and a fellow Dietitian posted a link on her social network page that read “Insulin makes you fat, fasting makes you thin, according to Scarborough doctor.” Now having read the title, I obviously clicked the link to read the article (found here), and what I read was just insanity. The article discussed Dr. Jason Fung’s new book “The Obesity Code” which argues that obesity isn’t caused by overeating, but by excessive insulin. After reading the entire article and interview my reaction was “Is this guy kidding me?” Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist and founder of The Intensive Dietary Management program (which surprise, doesn’t have a Dietitian on staff and he’s the only one running this program) promotes fasting as a “new” way to combat obesity. There are just too many issues with this. Aside from the fact that he’s looking at just patients in his nephrology clinic to generalize to the entire population (because it’s completely rational to take what he learned from kidney damage and kidney failure patients and apply it to everyone else) it seems that no one bothered to tell Dr. Fung about Insulin resistance, how Insulin actually works instead of his insane “thermostat” analogy, that fasting isn’t new at all or about the difference between fat mass and lean muscle tissue. Dr. Fung seems to have a complete misunderstanding of the obesity issue and doesn’t realize that his “effective system” can actually do more to promote disordered eating. I will give him some credit, he recognizes the impracticality of his proposed “diet,” but that doesn't seem to stop him from promoting it. He just doesn’t understand any of the issues related to obesity at all.
Let’s not forget almost anyone can write a book. Dr. Fung isn’t the first one to try to do this. The Bernstien diet, Dr. Poon’s Metabolic Diet are just a few others. What’s worse is they advertise medically supervised weight loss, but when you look closer at the program, the term ‘medically supervised starvation’ is more appropriate. Further more the strict inclusion and exclusion criteria of the Dr. Poon program raises ethical questions about how successful the program actually is. Lastly, have you ever wondered why these programs don’t post statistics about how successful their clients are at keeping off the weight? That’s because none of them are actually sustainable and therefore they’re just a band-aid solution that causes more harm in the long run.
In the same week I had to call a personal trainer that works out in the Oakville area because he had been verbally harassing and manipulating a client of mine to the point that she was in tears during an assessment. This personal trainer seemed to think his ‘newborn clarity’ of how damaging our food system is and how animals are unethically treated allows him the right to verbally harass everyone that disagrees with him. It also appears that in his “research” he failed to understand the fundamental differences in American and Canadian food production systems and regulations. After admitting that he has no actual training in nutrition aside from a few Google searches, reading nutrition books written by Doctors that simply do not understand nutrition and watching a few documentaries, he plainly stated that he has no intention on stopping despite my educating him in the error of his ways. Ironically no one seemed to explain to him how unethical it is to force your own PERSONAL ethical/ moral code onto other people.
Now you may be thinking to yourself “But Ben, that’s only two examples.” And you’re right, I’m only giving you two examples, because if I listed them all I would never be able to finish this article, also, it was a slow week. All Dietitians have had countless arguments with these self appointed “Nutrition Experts,” so many that we have lost count, and that’s just within our first year in the profession.
What’s the ultimate issue in all of this? (Aside from the lack of formal training in Dietetics and that these practitioners can’t seem to respect the limitations of their scope of practice). These interventions completely ignore the individual. They’ve ignored so many facets of information that desperately need to be considered and are vital to success and sustainable behaviour change. They’ve ignored what food actually means to people. Of course it’s easy to lose weight when you have no actual relationship with food and you think food exists only to fuel the body. The reality is that this type of person is the minority. For the majority of the population, someone’s food choices are a reflection of their culture, their religion, their ethical/ moral beliefs, the way they were raised, their income level, their political beliefs, and their emotional state with many other factors at play. Essentially, someone’s food choice is their identity; it is a reflection of them. Think about that for a second. If someone comes in and tells you to change EVERY aspect of your dietary patterns you may be able to maintain that for a week, maybe a month, but at some point you will abandon that diet or meal plan because you can’t recognize who you are anymore, making the extreme diet methods even more unsustainable and damaging. Am I being overly dramatic here? Not at all, because the emotional toll these changes take on a person are devastating. When you ignore the individual’s identity or relationship with food what you have is a recipe for failure. Furthermore what these practitioners don’t seem to understand is that it’s the Dietitians that have to clean up their irresponsible messes. And what’s worse? These diets cause so much damage that it makes weight loss and healthy living so much more difficult!
The truth is that these people may know one or two things about food and the human body, but by no means does that mean they know anything about nutrition. Nutrition involves so much more than just calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, food groups etc. Nutrition involves many social sciences, the study of cultural and religious aspects of food, economic patterns, societal and political differences, microbiology, organic chemistry and the list goes on. The important thing here is that Dietitians have been trained to combine all these complex topics into a recommendation specific for the individual that has no other agenda then to improve that person’s health. Most other self-proclaimed “nutrition experts” cannot even fathom how complicated it is to balance that many things and simplify it to a recommendation that promotes health. That is the real art of what a Dietitian does.
At the end of the day, a doctor is only qualified to look at what they’ve been trained to look at. A personal trainer is only qualified to give exercise recommendations and teach you how to safely perform an exercise. The training Doctors get in nutrition is one course over one semester and personal trainers get one chapter in a text book, and what’s worse is most of the nutrition information is completely wrong! (I know because I was a personal trainer) I’m not even going to explore anything else here. If you want someone to give you GOOD dietary advice, go to a Dietitian. A Dietitian has a minimum of a 4-year undergraduate degree and a master’s degree or has completed an internship. A Dietitian will create something specific and personalized for you. So would you trust the dietary advice from someone that took one nutrition course or read one poorly written chapter in a text book over someone that has over 5 years studying nutrition and before they can be considered an entry level Dietitian? I’m hoping you say no, because taking dietary advice from someone without formal training makes as much sense as getting a plumber to install a new hardwood floor. I'm not saying that they're wrong, I'm just saying maybe you should consult with a Dietitan before making any changes, after all Dietitians are the specialists in Food and Nutrition.
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian
President of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management
19/5/2017 01:43:37 am
This article although at first has a good general message, you clearly haven't read Dr Fungs book or looked into him at all. Might want to do that before you continue to discredit a book you haven't even bothered to read, and for anyone who has actually bothered to read this book, you aren't convincing them to get another opinion, you are merely making yourself look quite silly to be honest. I'd suggest reading it and rewrite your article with information relating to the book not someone else's opinion on the book.
18/10/2020 07:08:28 pm
Exactly. Lol. Fung went to University of Toronto for his MD, and did residency at UCLA, two of the best schools in the world. By contrast, a dietitian certification is like getting a realtor license. The degrees are often unregulated in terms of the kind of accreditation that does in to regular institutes of higher education. Ben Sit is not a doctor of anything, and it is obvious he has very little medical knowledge at all. He studies for what, a couple months, a year maybe, learning from hacks how charged people to tell them what to eat. These people are usually people who sign up for a gym membership and get a free consultation. Far cry from a real doctor, let alone one trained at two of the best institutes in the world. I don't even know why I'm bothering to write this honestly. If anyone takes Ben Sit seriously about anything, I have a bridge to sell you. Or whatever they sell on infomercials these days.
5/10/2021 06:59:15 pm
Wait, you think that a Dietician is a certification? No sir. To become a Dietician in the U.S. it requires an accredited University Bachelor's degree in Dietetics or Nutrition Science with all dietetics specific coursework completed. This is followed by a one-year internship at a hospital, then an examination (test: written and multiple choice questions) before you can work as a Dietician.
25/5/2022 09:40:40 pm
I think that the person who is criticizing Dr.Fung should not be making comments about obesity and insulin resistance. He obviously doesn't know anything.
29/6/2021 04:40:23 pm
Yes, clearly hasn't read any of his books.
10/3/2022 02:50:06 pm
Dieticians are sources of a great deal of nonsensical bad advice particularly fats. They are notorious in my country for recommending low-fat foods which recent research has found to be partially responsible for obesity.
22/8/2017 06:32:07 am
Decent article but I think you need to study the effects of insulin a little more. Or support your disagreement with some facts. Opinion is just an opinion. Dr. Fung is backing up his theory with actual blood work which is objective evidence.
29/7/2022 03:44:53 pm
Dietitians are the worst. They are in charge of the meal plans in hospitals. You can’t heal well with the junk on their menus. At least Dr. Fung has studies to back him up.
18/11/2018 09:29:17 am
Dr. Fung has a clinic in Toronto ( for 20 years) where he treats people with kidney disease from diabetes and tens of thousands people in his online community. The results are awesome. People using keto, intermittent fasting and extended fasting are losing weight, getting off meds for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other "incurable" diseases following Dr. Fung's recommendations. We have doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and just regular folks learning how much following government guidelines for eating have messed us up. You can publish articles day and night saying how wrong he is, but he has the proof to back it up and understands so much more than you ever will unless you are willing to re-examine your beliefs.
2/12/2018 03:06:53 am
Normally, I would agree with your assertions about self styled 'nutrition experts' and fully concur with the need for a qualified dietician to assess dietary requirements.
10/2/2019 03:44:47 am
Just because one doctor was supposedly laughed at doesn't make all future doctors claims true. That's a logical fallacy.
13/2/2020 12:48:56 pm
He actually doesn't just say the calorie restriction doesn't work. He goes further and says in the short turn it works but not the long term.
14/11/2020 12:22:30 am
He says that short term almost all diets work but they have 90 to 99% of failure rate in long term (3-5-10 years) and most patients regain all weight back and more in 1-2 years.
14/3/2019 12:00:35 pm
I am so disappointed by this blog. Inflammatory language and nothing to support the claims made by the author.
3/1/2021 01:15:47 am
Could not agree more, what an absolutely wretched article, not much more than a rancid attack on a guy with more than 20 years of research/practise, backed by an enormous multitude of other specialists and registered Physicians. What about Dr. Ken Berry? Dr. Paul Mason? Dr. Annette Bosworth? Dr. Benjamin Bikman? Dr. Stephen Phinney - Professor of Medicine Emeritus?
22/4/2019 10:42:03 am
I agree with most of the comments here (especially Aimee). FIRST you must listen completely to Dr. Fung's message. He never said that nobody ever lost weight by a calorie deficit! What he says is that over time that approach just doesn't work and eat less calories and move more is bad advice; traditional dieting combined with exercise will (almost always) fail OVER TIME. When he talks about a chronic state of Hyperinsulinemia and how this promotes fat gain, he makes PERFECT sense. Trying to discredit him by saying he uses (an) 'insane “thermostat” analogy' is just misinformed on your part. Having listened to Dr. Fung at length it is easy for me to simply ignore your attempts to discredit him. In my opinion, Dr. Fung's message combined with your own doctors advice (and perhaps the advice of a Registered Dietician) are ALL worth your time.
6/12/2019 01:23:08 pm
I'm wondering what your thoughts are about the team of Registered Dieticians employed at the Toronto Metabolic Clinic. This is the clinic co-founded by Dr Fung for fasting and reversing diabetes. The doctors consult, but for any direction on diet and food one is referred to a Registered Dietician at the clinic and tgey pay anywhere from 90-130$ per session with those RDs.
10/1/2020 08:33:44 pm
It doesn't matter. It still is an effective way to lose weight and fasting really does get rid of hunger. I was deeply addicted to food and especially carbs. I felt hungry every few hours. I did IF for just one week and now I am no longer hungry and able to enjoy my food when I have food. Dr.Fung's advice wasn't a dietary advice. He doesn't tell you what to eat... he tells you WHEN to eat. It IS true that today, people eat too frequently. It is also true that most of us are fat. It is true that fasting is normal for humans and our bodies are built to handle this lol.
13/2/2020 05:04:41 am
4/3/2020 01:49:29 pm
The problem with getting dietary advice only from dietitians is that dietitians have often been wrong. At various times, dietitians have encouraged people to eat carbohydrates for weight loss and to replace butter with margarine. Until recently, they encouraged people with diabetes to eat carbohydrates.
27/4/2020 10:58:04 pm
Well I went to a dietician 2 years a go because im developing type2 diabetes. She was herself overweight, and ask me to eat 5 times a day with counting calories. Went back a few month i gained weight and my diabetes went worse...
8/4/2021 12:23:47 pm
Hi, did you see Dr Fung or just followed his directions from books and youtibd,?
29/5/2022 06:40:59 am
Thank you for this comment. I am in your position right now. Just got prescribed metformin and statins for my diabetes and high cholestrol.
7/3/2020 06:12:27 am
I am non-religious and non-nationalistic. Religions, cultural dietary norms etc. are irrelevant for me. When looking for nutritional advice, the only facts I want to know are what scientific studies say about which foods are healthy or not healthy.
10/5/2020 12:24:16 pm
Just not a good post. It seems as though you don’t fully understand how obesity happens. There are many experts that get there through there own learning and independent thinking. You’re off on this one as many other have pointed out.
25/5/2020 06:21:39 pm
Just an update, I lost 21kg, my diabetes is reversed... my HbA1C from 7.1% to 4.9%.
15/9/2020 09:55:07 pm
cool post great work!
18/10/2020 09:49:38 pm
Cool man, great job. I work out too. Proper jacked mate. Biceps to my forehead. It's sweet. Got a couple ribs taken out. Now I don't need to find love.
3/6/2020 09:13:25 pm
Great article. I agree that consulting a credentialed nutrition professional, such an RD, is key. However, there is another legitimate nutrition credential that you did not mention: the Certified Nutrition Specialist, or CNS. The American Nutrition Association defines a CNS as "a highly qualified nutritional professional with an advanced degree (graduate or doctorate) from a fully accredited university in nutrition plus 1,000 hours of a supervised internship and must pass the rigorous exam administered by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists." Just saying.
7/8/2020 11:38:03 am
I think you'd be best served to read the book before strawmanning Fung's claims. I aggree, MD's don't receive nearly enough education on nutrition, but that doesn't make them unqualified to read the literature. Not to mention, the vast majority of nutrition research is horribly flawed!
14/8/2020 03:11:00 am
LOL you criticized his book when it's clear you didn't read it. There's an entire chapter based on insulin resistance. Good job dope.
13/9/2020 09:26:41 pm
I’m actually thoroughly confused by this article. Where’s the actual science debunking Dr. Fung? I totally agree that all plans should be personalized but you’ve said nothing about science and even less to disprove any of the theories the book presents. It comes across as a “dietitian scorned” message to be frank - “don’t trust Dr. Fung because he’s not a dietician and because his advice is generalized”. If diets that dieticians have been pushing for decades actually worked, then a) we wouldn’t have obesity and b) we wouldn’t need dieticians. I’ve been looking hard trying to find some scientific arguments to counter Dr. Fung’s book but I can actually find very little. The arguments against usually fall into one of two categories: a) he’s not an expert and he’s only speaking from experience of treating kidney disease or b) all diets work because of calorie reduction (which isn’t even a main point of his book).
1/11/2020 02:04:35 am
Well Said. Dr Fung is most certainly charlatan who comments far outside of his feild or understanding and utilising good marketing to develop enough of a cult to sell books and courses. . Here is a review of his overall work from two much better qualified people (look them up) starting at 1.14.00 https://sigmanutrition.com/episode355/
20/11/2020 09:57:51 pm
Well, I went looking for critics of Dr Fung, and I found 'em. LOL
3/1/2021 01:17:14 am
What an absolutely wretched article, not much more than a rancid attack on a guy with more than 20 years of research/practise, backed by an enormous multitude of other specialists and registered Physicians. What about Dr. Ken Berry? Dr. Paul Mason? Dr. Annette Bosworth? Dr. Benjamin Bikman? Dr. Stephen Phinney - Professor of Medicine Emeritus?
2/9/2021 03:00:12 pm
28/1/2022 02:18:27 am
15/2/2022 02:25:53 am
The South Dakota Board of Medical Examiners ordered Dr. Annette Bosworth's medical license be revoked. https://www.healthgrades.com/media/english/pdf/sanctions/HGPYA1DE9F24FF9044C9A09102015.pdf
15/2/2022 03:05:20 am
@Scott What you did here is called 'Ad Hominem fallacy'
8/2/2021 09:30:52 pm
18/3/2021 08:06:14 pm
following his advice has cured 2 members of my family (mom and husband). No meds for 2plus years.
29/6/2021 02:07:46 pm
So Fung told them to starve themselves, they developed an irrational fear of carbohydrate and now they're part of the cult. Cool.
15/2/2021 11:32:51 am
You obviously didn't read or research anything on Jason Fung before writing this article.
2/9/2021 03:01:10 pm
I did research.
24/8/2022 04:12:01 am
How come you didn't mention this part from their review?
9/3/2021 11:54:23 pm
Medicine dictates nutritional advice.. Nutritionists like you are a scam. You call yourself president and refer to your clients as patients.. You are delusional and should be cancelled because you are pulling info from your own a.s.s instead to listening to what medical journals and studies say about the matter.. Go trick mid age ladies into some bogus diet and leave science to scientists.. Pathetic!
18/3/2021 08:04:48 pm
Testimonial are not proof, but my mom when told by her doctor that her diabetes progressed to the point where she needed insulin. She then decided to give Dr Fungs Obesity Code a read. After 3 months she was off all medications, including bloodpressure meds. It has been 2 years since she has taken any medications and she has normal blood sugar readings. As a nurse she knew how long it takes for the medical system and doctors to catch up with medical science.
14/5/2021 11:04:59 am
This really makes me feel better.
16/11/2021 09:22:55 am
So its been several months now is your husband still using Fung's method?
24/3/2021 12:02:04 pm
I actually think Fung's physiologic theories are completely sound. However, if you look at an example of what a 7-day diet looks like with his plan, it is absolutely unsustainable.
6/4/2021 12:39:28 pm
Keep eating your sugar and carbs then! (eye roll).
14/5/2021 10:30:01 am
Dietitians follow the Canada Food Guide. Need I say more?
14/5/2021 11:06:32 am
Hi did you subscribe to his program or just followed his advice thru videos?
17/11/2021 12:45:03 am
You can get lots of info here. They also offer a free trial.
anthony v hulse
18/12/2021 10:50:01 pm
Followed his program on the advice and with the supervision of my GP.
18/5/2021 02:51:59 pm
Jason Fung is amazing.
23/6/2021 04:24:02 pm
I went to see a registered dietician. I didn't even try what she suggested. I knew I couldn't do it. Dr Fung's method is much easier and I've lost 35 pounds so far. I could keep doing for ever if I had to. Whether Dr Fung is wing about some details or not, it's working for me and thousands of others... This article sounds like someone who is sour because he didn't get a bright idea like that....
11/8/2021 11:30:40 am
I like that Ben's main point is that you have to look at the whole individual. The science may look great and promising but in the end, intermittent fasting is not for everyone, just like low carbohydrate isn't for everyone, etc. I don't think that only dietitians are qualified to give nutrition advice, there are dietitians out there who also do harm. Many of the personalities that are drawn to this style of restrictive eating may either be in the middle of an eating disorder or probably already exhibiting eating disorder-like behaviors. If food can't fit into your life in an enjoyable way, what kind of life is that? Nutrition is an evolving science and people can argue until they are blue in the face, but in the end there is no one "right" way of eating.
12/8/2021 05:03:38 am
Why do people have to eat all day? It wasn't always like that. It leads to weight gain and other health problems. Fasting has many benefits, other than weight loss. It reverses diabetes, improves skin, boosts metabolism, corrects hormone levels, increases growth hormone, improves depression, anxiety etc. When eating, you don't have to be restrictive and count calories, etc. and food definitely fits into my life in "an enjoyable way" and without guilt. Why would you consider it being an eating disorder just because we don't eat all day long? I consider eating all the time, until you're obese and unhealthy, much more of an eating disorder...Maybe do a bit of research before making up your mind about intermittent fasting. It has been done for thousands of years...modern westerners are just afraid of it, because they don't know it.
18/9/2021 01:06:24 am
Seems like Jason Fung has a large group of fans out there -
10/10/2021 09:04:29 pm
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Cynthia Cretsinger, PA-C
10/11/2021 11:58:42 am
Ben you are spot on! Great article, thx!
16/11/2021 02:27:43 am
I needed to comment when I stumbled upon this utterly ridiculous article. You are debunking Dr Fung? Are you qualified to do so? Has helped thousands, literally thousands get off their diabetes (and often other) medications. I am pretty sure something he is doing is right for many (thousands) of people.
anthony v hulse
18/12/2021 10:50:55 pm
Dieticians are salesmen for the food lobby.
6/3/2022 12:36:52 pm
Thanks for this. It's astounding how much ire you attracted from people who treat this like a religious crusade. I don't have a dog in this fight, but it seems clear that science and medicine advance through evidence-based consensus, peer review, and publications in high quality venues. A lot of the comments here seem to ignore that.
7/3/2022 10:45:11 pm
Lots of studies have already been done on fasting. Dr Fung and others have listed many of them in their books. This "expert" just wants people to buy his expensive nutritional counselling packages instead of using fasting for free....
18/4/2022 11:16:24 am
I haven't read Dr. Fung's "The Obesity Code" book, but I have read his other book "The complete guide to fasting". At least on this one he does not advocates to any general type of diet, the only generic diet he proposes is to avoid processed food, added sugar, and stick with whole food. And he makes a great distinctions between diet (how to eat) and fasting (when to eat).
4/5/2022 02:24:18 am
Thanks for sharing this useful information! Hope that you will continue with the kind of stuff you are doing.
7/7/2022 12:20:48 pm
I do a lot eating nutritious food and also taking my cacao nibs drinks. Thank you for sharing your insights.
28/1/2023 12:14:39 pm
Well you certainly provoked many members of the *~Dr. Jason Fung~* Cult to lash out, lol.
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