Doug Cook RD MHSc
DOUG COOK, RDN /
THE GUT BRAIN GUY
for something nutrishus
There have been a few recommendations to include Doug in the series and he’s a well-known name in Canadian circles, so I’m glad to feature him. He’s a self proclaimed rebel that doesn’t follow the herd and has found his passion in the field of dietetics. Like many in the series, he has a full-time job and works in his private practice on the side.
Why did you become a RD?
I pursued nutrition as a topic because I was very interested in nutrition’s role with health. I grew up in the kitchen with my mom and grandmother and learned to cook at an early age and enjoyed food and cooking. My grandmother used to share lots of nutritional nuggets along the way (that I later realized where talking points from Canada’s Food Guide).
She suggested I consider culinary school but I also had an inclination to ask questions, was/am very inquisitive and science came easily to me so I took the path to learning more about nutrition, so I went back to university.
I just wanted to learn all that I could about nutrition; I had never heard of the word dietitian but then all my classmates were talking about internship etc. I thought it would be interesting to work in a hospital and be, what I later learned was, a clinical dietitian. [I was hugely later disappointed but that’s another story]
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I currently work in mental health and addictions at the hospital but focus on gut, brain and mental health in private practice.
How would you explain what you do?
I guess I see myself as an expert in food and nutrition and identify first as a nutritionist. For me, being a dietitian is a particular focus/application of nutritional expertise and experience.
I would explain to others that I am an expert in food and nutrition. I use that expertise in different ways depending on whether that’s nutrition therapy for a health issue or nutrition communication and education.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
Like many, I wear many hats and probably am doing too much; trying to do it all as I pursue nutrition in ways that are in line with my values and passions (brand work, private practice, teaching other health professionals, writing etc.) which is why I do more than the work at the hospital which I don’t enjoy and which doesn’t feed my soul.
I put in full time hours at the hospital, and weekly, I squeeze in blogging for myself, writing for others, paid blogging, consulting, private practice, and social media, doing presentations or working on webinars. Not full steam but I always have things to do but still prioritize to have a social life, relax, travel, exercise and most important to me, regular sleep!
What has been your career path?
I started at St Michael’s hospital right after my internship and started grad school part-time. From there, I just jumped into the deep end. I reached out to anyone and everyone looking for opportunities to grow. Right away I started writing for a government’s website, contributing health articles and then threw my hat into private practice. Back then there wasn’t any social media and few RDs were doing media but I was doing some of that too: TV, radio and then landed a column in the Toronto Star for several years. During that time I was approached to co-author a book and it’s been pretty much that kind of approach. Since then I’ve co-authored several books (including Nutrition for Canadians for Dummies and 175 Best Superfood Blender Recipes), done lots of presentations at conferences and trade shows and more recently was a regional director for the Board of Dietitians of Canada.
To be honest it’s been a bit of a catch-all approach. Today I am focused on the hospital, private practice, and moving towards more professional education.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
Master’s of Health Science from the University of Toronto, and I have done some continuing education in Integrative and Functional Nutrition (for example, some with Next Level Functional Nutrition). (had my CDE but no longer).
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
I would like the profession to really be seen as credible experts and as credible sources of reliable and unbiased nutrition information. I feel there is an inevitable convergence of what were once authoritative positions and attitudes with the so-called alternative model. The profession would benefit from looking at what was once categorically dismissed through the lens of evidence.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
That we all work in weight loss or that we can automatically counsel in weight loss. That there’s a time and place for personalized meal plans but that’s not what we do. We do not work for the government nor are we legally obligated to promote governmental guidelines on nutrition. That I can do more than just ask what a patient’s preferred flavour of Boost or Ensure is or that I just do preferences when it comes to diet orders.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
That they have solid education and training and are in the best position to really critically appraise nutrition related issues.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
Pretty much what was stated above, that I’m an expert in weight loss, that I mostly do weight loss counselling, and give meal plans. If it’s a member of the public, they assume that I am aligned with food companies, governmental recommendations (like low fat milk, margarine not butter, etc) and that I’ll be closed minded to other health issues they’ve heard about like leaky gut or categorically dismiss supplements. Once I tell them I take a more integrative and functional approach they relax.
I feel the public see me, as an RD, as stiff, stuffy, and closed minded.
What do people think that you do for a living?
Meal plans and weight loss, still, after 20 years.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
I am a true believer that food and nutrition really can play a role in health and healing beyond the basics of what I call two dimensional nutrition (e.g. focusing on kcal, grams of fiber, fat, protein and sodium).
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
Solid clinical training if they’ve done a traditional hospital-based internship. There are other routes but not sure they help with critical skills like critiquing literature etc.
What is your favourite meal?
Rib-eye steak, fries cooked in duck fat.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
Educate yourselves as much as possible; don’t just rely on others whom you respect. Roll up your sleeves, literally and figuratively and do your homework. The profession does disservice if it just gives surface recommendations or repeating guidelines and calls that knowledge translation.
More about Doug:
Facebook: Doug Cook RD
LinkedIn: Doug Cook RDN MPH