Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Guest Post: Northern Ontario School of Medicine Gives Chocolate Bars to MDs

When RD Laurel Leconte reached out to me to tell me the tale of the chocolate bar that the Northern Ontario School of Medicine hands out to physician preceptors I knew I had to feature it on my blog and she graciously agreed to this guest posting. No doubt treats are part of life, but as it stands now we as a society are forced to go out of our way to avoid them, rather than out of our way to find them, and medical schools, of all places, ought not to be in the business of providing opportunities for treat avoidance.

Good morning Yoni,

I found this NOSM chocolate bar at a local family health team. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) trains physicians, physician assistants and dietetic interns (registered dietitian students). It provided these chocolate bars to physician preceptors presumably as a thank-you and invitation for the supervision physicians to call the university for support if required.

I was taken aback when I saw the NOSM chocolate bar. To me, it was yet another symbol of the ubiquitous culture of treats in our daily lives. The problem, as your blog convincingly demonstrates, is that “treats” like NOSM chocolate bars, are no longer “treats”. They are everyday occurrences in our society. Foods that were once considered “once in a while indulgences” are now daily, normalized foods. Normalized, daily foods become our “lifestyle.” Therefore this seemingly benign chocolate bar actually represents the negative food landscape that so many well-meaning parties are unknowingly contributing to.

Every time a school sports team sells chocolate bars as a fundraiser, or a skating club holds a bake sale table, or we as parents, use food as a reward, I feel we are contributing to this negative lifestyle which is the opposite of what most of us are hoping to cultivate.

Your blog has challenged some of us to “change the status quo” and identify these instances of unintentional contributions to unhealthy lifestyles. Many of your posts are controversial, as many people don’t share this point of view. I feel strongly that we do need to collectively find opportunities to improve our environment to make the healthy choices the “easy” choices.

Will power is not going to improve the western word’s rates of chronic disease. Many people will say that “treats” like NOSM chocolate bars, can be part of a healthy lifestyle. I wholeheartedly agree. The problem is that we seem to be bombarding ourselves with opportunities to overeat, eat inferior foods and avoid physical activity. We are going to have to continue to challenge the status quo if we want to stem to growing trends of chronic disease.

When I first sent this to you, I wanted to be anonymous because I felt like a hypocrite. I know that in my current personal professional roles, I am contributing to this negative lifestyle landscape in a number of ways. However, I realize that if I am going to continue to thrive in my current profession, I will need to develop a thicker skin and accept confrontation head-on. Your blog has inspired me to become a better advocate for changes I believe in, such as removing pop machines from hospitals, etcetera. In the words of Margaret Meade,
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Laurel LeConte, RD, CDE
Manager, Diabetes Education Program/ Nutrition and Foodservices
Manitoulin Health Centre

Laurel Leconte has been a jack-of-all-trades dietitian on Manitoulin Island for the past 8 ½ years. In her spare time she enjoys running, cooking and wearing disguises to the grocery store. She appreciates the broadened perspective that being a mother of small children brings to her dietetic practice. She would love to network with other dietitians working in similar practice situations.