Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An 'insight' into childhood obesity

I'm watching tonight's 'Insight' program on SBS, and am finding it fascinating.

I wish I'd seen all of the episode (I was watching RSPCA rescue before I realised this program was on, and had been tearing up big time at a story about a kitten stuck in a car for two days that had been driven around and even crashed. Thankfully he was ok).

Anyway, back to Insight. I'm so impressed by what I've seen. I love that this show is bringing together industry members, academics, dietitians, 'normal' members of public, government, and the fabulous chef/fresh food activist Stephanie Alexander. The members of the food industry made me feel annoyed or skeptical a lot of the time, but it was good to hear what they had to say. I did feel that Jenny Brockie was quite tough on them, and that the right questions were asked within the time constraints of the show.

There was a lot of talk about various ways of listing nutritional information on packaging, which was fascinating - I liked the traffic light system they described because it's easy to understand and quick to read when you're facing a number of choices at a supermarket. However, it was Stephanie Alexander's comment that if you eat fresh, seasonal food then in her opinion, no food is bad whether it be a bit of real butter or some creme freche. Very interesting, as I like to think this but I do eat a lot of low fat processed foods since I started weight watchers.

The most impressive audience member, in my opinion, was Professor Boyd Swinburn from Deakin University. I'll be making a decision at the end of this year about whether to go to Deakin or Monash to study nutrition and dietetics, so it was interesting to see someone involved in the Deakin program in action. According to the Deakin website, "Professor Swinburn leads a research program in the area of obesity prevention, especially in childhood and adolescence", and he certainly seemed passionate and knowledgeable about this issue.

Apparently you can watch reruns online so I'll be doing that as soon as it's available and making some more detailed commentary about what various people on the show said.

The other fantastic aspect of the Insight website is that after each show, some of the guests are available to chat. I am doing this right now - I asked Clare Collins, a dietitian and consultant on the Biggest Loser - "Hi, I wanted to ask Clare how she got into dietetics, and what advice she'd have for someone wanting to get into this career themselves?" She hasn't answered me specifically yet, but she did write a message to someone else saying, "I love my profession! It is the only thing I wanted to do since age 14. Within Dietetics I have changed directions many times from working in hospitals, doing research, teaching university students, working with the media and consulting to TV show. There is a lot of science in dietetics and a lot of education but if you love working with people you will love it."

It's the ability to change direction within a career that really makes or breaks it for me, I think. I am the most changeable, indecisive person and I need to put myself into new environments and situations regularly to feel happy and stimulated. I hope that the fact that a dietitian can work in government, industry, private practice, hospitals, consultancy, research, teaching etc might mean that I can move around within my career as the years go by to stay challenged and interested.

*yay* since i wrote the above para, Clare Collins has replied to my question, saying: "when I did dietetics you used to have to do a science degree THEN another course BUT now you can go straight into a university course from year 12. It does help if you have done chemistry because you do a lot in the first 2 years of the course. My advice is that if you are keen to do it apply and go from there. Most jobs are still in ospitals helping people who have medical condition modify their food intake so they can improve their health but the areas where more jobs are becoming available is in working with different companies and in private practice." Thanks Clare! I'm glad to hear there's lots of chemistry involved in the dietetics courses as it's one of my favourite subjects at TAFE at the moment.

Phew! What a mammoth post. As I said, I'll write more when I've seen the full episode online :)

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