Health and Nutrition 101: Nutrition Chaos

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By Gina Cousineau

I love to hike, so I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to free guided hikes for all fitness levels with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy group at

While there are some awesome trail systems right here in our own backyard, I love the opportunity to meet new people and explore trails I never knew existed in my 37 years of living and hiking here.

On these hikes, it’s inevitable that I’ll be a culinary nutritionist, specializing in disease prevention, and the questions begin.

it happens that I love talk about all things food and fitness, so I welcome those conversations.

I start these meetings by listening very carefully to the questions/statements shared with me. Then I thoughtfully decide what my next move will be, oscillating between comments like these: Where did you hear that? What are your goals? Or why would you consider that?

At the top of the list of comments I hear is “What do you think of the keto diet?” “I fast intermittently” and “I have been told to avoid dairy and gluten.”

I often cut to the chase in an effort to educate and provide information on where the latest diet craze originated.

In the case of the “ketogenic diet”, it was a medical nutritional therapy designed by clinicians working with children with uncontrolled epilepsy, since the 1920s. As you can imagine, it was of a huge medical breakthrough, because every seizure potentially damages the brain, so it was necessary to take extreme measures.

These children were closely monitored and supplemented with nutrients they would inevitably miss on this high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet lacking in much-needed vitamins, minerals and fiber. It was not intended for the general population.

A lot of what I do in life is try to get people to question whether their latest approach to diet is reasonable. And for me, when we talk about consuming high amounts of fat, including “heart-damaging” saturated fat, as well as cutting out major food groups, i.e. the “keto” diet , I have to ask, “Why?

Unfortunately, nutritional strategy is usually driven by a desire to lose weight, not a desire to improve one’s health.

And while most new clients come to me with the primary goal of losing weight, within weeks of their education, I’d say most, if not all, buy into the desire to prevent, stop, and reverse the pathological processes with the aim of a long, healthy, independent and joyful life. And, surprisingly, the almighty scale follows suit.

Most of my clients are great dieters, meaning they’ve tried many, and some admit to being “on a diet” for most of their adult lives. When I ask about their success, they always say “the diet worked until I stopped it”. (Deep sigh from Mama G.)

With the influx of social media and internet access, opinions abound in the multi-billion dollar nutrition and health industry, so we need to be very careful who we allow to influence us. .

While bullying and brainwashing have been around since the beginning of mankind, the concept of “gaslighting” – causing people to question the validity of their own thoughts – is alive and viciously present today.

My hope with my readers is to give them “reasonable” health and wellness information; consider goals when it comes to health; understand that weight loss of just 5-10% can dramatically improve your health, but it should not be accompanied by a punitive and restrictive dietary approach; moving towards healthier food choices; gathering in the kitchen to cook and eat together; and get out and enjoy this beautiful place we live in.

Gina Cousineau is an interventional culinary nutritionist. With an extensive background – a BS in Dietetics and a Masters in Integrative and Functional Nutrition, in addition to being a trained chef and fitness professional – her goal is to help her clients’ health thrive using “the food as medicine”. She is offering a free four-week webinar series this month (all sessions recorded). Subscribe to or to participate.

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