What would you do if your health was restored by doing the opposite of everything you were taught? That is the question Michelle Hurn asks you in her book “The Dietician’s Dilemma,” and it is a question that far too few of us think about deeply.
Due to my experiments and a slight obsession with nutrition and science, I have read many books on various ways of eating, including notable books on vegan and keto diets.
However, Michelle’s book stands out for me. What does the book cover? Let’s have a look:
Foreword and "My Story"
As all good books do, this one begins with a foreword. After that, Michelle gives us insights into her struggles with a severe eating disorder, her life, struggles as a young athlete, and why she became a dietician. She also introduces us to her wife, who has been a part of Michelle’s journey for over eleven years now.
Chapters 1 – 5
Throughout the first five chapters, the book covers different diseases and how our food choices influence them. Michelle explains the science in an easy-to-understand way and weaves her experiences working with patients in clinical settings. The topics covered are:
- Chapter 1: diabetes,
- Chapter 2: mental illness
- Chapter 3: eating disorders
- Chapter 4: sarcopenia
- Chapter 5: heart disease
Through chapters one to five, Michelle does a great job explaining the connection between our food and our health. She details why eating a low-carb diet improves diabetes and how different eating habits can affect brain health. Why eating animal products is vital if you want to avoid the age-related weakening of muscles, and why eating saturated fat is not bad for your heart.
The author describes the science in an easy-to-understand way so that anyone new to the world of nutrition science or low-carb eating can easily follow her thoughts. She also gives various examples from her clinical practice that clearly show the benefits of eating a low-carb diet for certain diseases. Some of her patient examples are extremely disturbing and show our food system’s power over us.
Chapter 6: Where the F Did The Nutrition Guidelines Come From?
If you have been confused by the stark contrast between official nutritional guidelines and low-carb and keto proponents in the medical field, then this chapter will open your eyes.
And if you are entirely new to a low-carb way of eating and it’s your first time digging into the politics of nutrition, this chapter will make you shake your head in disbelief.
You will discover that the current nutritional guidelines were not formulated on scientific consensus. Instead, they have evolved through a mix of religious beliefs, corporate interests, and faulty research.
To explain why you shouldn’t turn to the official nutrition guidelines for advice on eating, the author goes back in time and describes how religious and homophobic beliefs were the drivers behind the first official guidelines that promoted low-fat, high carbohydrate eating.
If you think basing our recommendations for healthy eating on a woman’s “vision from God” is a good idea, you might not find this chapter disturbing at all. Otherwise, be prepared to have your mind blown.
Chapter 7: Plants Vs. Animals
“Eat more plants” is a commonly accepted idea to improve our health and the health of our planet.
Want to lose weight? Eat more plants. Want to reduce inflammation? Eat more plants. Want to save the earth with your eating choices? Well then, you guessed it, eat more plants.
But what if the opposite was true?
What if eating fewer plants, or no plants at all, would be best for your health? In this chapter, you learn why plants can negatively impact your health and how regenerative agriculture is a better way to sustainable agriculture than switching to a vegan diet.
Michelle explains the different anti-nutrients found in plants and gives examples of their harmful effects on the body.
And the arguments are not only hypothetical.
There is real-life evidence from patients and research done on humans, instead of petri-dish or mice, confirming how certain anti-nutrients are related to certain diseases.
The message is clear.
For some people, plants can be a non-problematic addition to their diet. Others, however, find that a diet that excludes plants works best for them. Especially those who are dealing with auto-immune issues or have a compromised gut seem to benefit immensely from an animal-only diet.
Chapter 8: Getting Started
This chapter serves as a guide on how to get started with a high-fat, animal-based diet. Michelle describes a 3-tier approach to this way of eating and evaluates the pros and cons of each.
I particularly love this chapter because the author does not come across dogmatic at all. Instead of giving rules, Michelle clearly states that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution regarding diet. She acknowledges that we are all different and that some people do well with more plant foods in their diets, while others feel best when their diet is exclusively animal-based.
I like that Michelle also acknowledges that this diet change can be hard emotionally and talks about mindset, being cautious about turning this lifestyle change into disordered eating, and how to deal with critics. She also gives tips on eating during travels and answers other frequently asked questions.
Chapter 9: See How She Runs
In the last chapter, Michelle comes back to her own story and describes how she rekindled her love for running and adapted her diet to fuel her athletic goals.
I found it interesting that Michelle didn’t run anymore when she started a ketogenic diet and believed that she couldn’t run well anymore eating an animal-based diet.
She describes how she felt during her first run on a ketogenic diet and how much easier it was than she thought.
Encouraged by her partner, she transitioned to running more again, enlisted the help of ultra-runner and low-carb eating advocate Zach Bitter, and successfully finished her first ultra-marathon race, placing 1st women.
Why "The Dietician's Dilemma" Is An Awesome Book
As already mentioned, I love how Michelle presents science in an easy-to-digest way. Besides, I enjoyed the variety of testimonials of people who transformed their health by following a carnivorous diet.
Unlike other books, where you have a few testimonials at the beginning or end of the book, “The Dietician’s Dilemma” is packed with stories from people who experienced the benefits of an animal-based diet firsthand.
The stories are varied and include all kinds of people with different health issues as well as athletes and medical professionals.
I also love that the focus is not on weight-loss, but on health and well-being. That includes mental health, and I am grateful that mental health aspects and how diet can influence our brain are included throughout various parts of the book.
I was blown away by the honest and vulnerable sharing of Michelle’s struggles with eating disorders and mental health. It was lovely to read how supportive her partner has been throughout her journey.
What I Didn't Like About The Book
What didn’t I like about the book? Well, not much. However, due to personal interest and history, I would have loved it if the author had included a chapter on inflammatory bowel diseases and how eating a ketogenic low-fiber diet can provide relief.
I also would have welcomed a deeper dive into the topic of mental health and more testimonials of people who improved their anxiety, depression, or ADHD through a ketogenic or carnivorous diet.
However, I understand that one impossibly can cover all topics in detail 😉
Who Should Read This Book?
If you are interested in a high-fat, low-carb diet and want an accessible introduction to the science, you should read this book.
If you are curious about how such a diet could impact your health and well-being, you should also read this book.
And if you are against low-carb diets and think they are a fad, you should absolutely read this book. It will give you a different viewpoint and hopefully open your mind to the possibility that many things you may think you know about nutrition and health could be wrong.