A Registered Dietitian’s Professional & Personal Journey to WFPB Nutrition
My name is Didem Varol. I’m a Registered Dietitian trained in Canada and now practicing between Canada and Turkey. I’d like to tell you about the profound transformation I’ve experienced after discovering whole food, plant-based nutrition.
It Started With One Book
Ever since I graduated from university in 2009, I’ve tried to keep up to date with what’s new in the world of nutrition. However, it was only in 2016 when I happened upon the book Whole by Dr. T. Colin Campbell that I realized how skewed my entire training and career were. As I devoured more books, papers, and documentaries relating to whole food, plant-based nutrition, I sank into more and more shock. Indeed, as Dr. Melanie Joy explains it, I learned and practiced “carnistic nutrition.” I never really questioned it because I naively assumed that universities were unbiased centers of knowledge from which we were shown the “proper” way to do things.
It’s disappointing that the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet were not emphasized in my training. Granted, some of the research wasn’t at the level that it is today, but we still had major studies that were simply not discussed or were underemphasized, such as The China Study or Dr. Dean Ornish’s heart disease reversal trials. Unfortunately, it can take 17 years for research to enter into practice.
It Led To So Much More
Once I got started, it didn’t take long for me to become interested in this exciting field of nutrition. I soon enrolled in the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program with the Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell, and then went on to become a Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Currently, I’m in the process of obtaining my Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner certification through the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.
When some people go plant-based, they have a massive health transformation. This wasn’t the case for me, as I didn’t have preexisting health or weight problems. However, for what it’s worth, I did experience improvements in my health and well-being.
I also changed my career, going from a Public Health Dietitian to starting my own private practice. I no longer wanted to “toe the party line” and reiterate outdated government-sponsored nutrition messages. To their credit, shortly after I left my position, the government of Canada released its most recent Food Guide, which has been commended worldwide for its plant-based focus.
Of course, with this newfound knowledge, it encouraged me to change my own diet. I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach. Despite being an off-and-on vegetarian for most of my life, I had a love affair with dairy that was challenging to break. However, it was not impossible, and soon enough, my taste buds and mindset changed so much that today it’s a nonissue.
When some people go plant-based, they have a massive health transformation. This wasn’t the case for me, as I didn’t have preexisting health or weight problems. However, for what it’s worth, I did experience improvements in my health and well-being, most notably:
- Debilitating menstrual pains ceased to exist. I no longer suffer every month.
- My skin had more radiance and less acne, especially around my menstrual cycle.
- I inadvertently lost 3-4 pounds when I didn’t want or need to. I soon realized I needed to eat more to maintain my weight, and this suited me just fine!
What the Future Holds
I now have a small private medical practice and I also spend a lot of time in my home country of Turkey. Veganism is still very much on the fringes there; many people have asked me if it’s a religion! There’s a lot of work to be done to educate people about the benefits of plant-based nutrition for human health, the environment, and for animals. I’m passionate about promoting a whole food, plant-based way of eating to anyone who is willing to listen! Rather than regretting why I didn’t discover and apply this sooner, I relish the fact that I am now living a life that is fully aligned with my values.
Wherever you are on your own health journey, I hope your “seed” will blossom just as mine did.
- Beyond Carnism. https://carnism.org/
- Monroe, C. L., Savel, R. H. Narrowing the 17-Year Research to Practice Gap. Am J Crit Care (2016) 25 (3): 194–196. https://aacnjournals.org/ajcconline/article/25/3/194/3121/Narrowing-the-17-Year-Research-to-Practice-Gap
- Canada’s Food Guide. https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
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