Where the Women Are, Nutrition Edition

I really try not to pout too much when I see lists like the one below from Jimmy Moore’s 2012 survey on “most trusted resources for the information you received about health”:

After pouring through a couple hundred names that people shared, here were the top 10 who made the list in 2012:

1. Mark Sisson (30%)
2. Robb Wolf (23%)
3. Gary Taubes (21%)
4. Chris Kresser (15%)
5. Sean Croxton (10%)
6. Dr. Mike Eades (9%)
7. Dr. Robert Atkins/Atkins.com (8%%)
8. Dr. William Davis (7%)
9. Tom Naughton (7%)
10. Diane Sanfilippo (6%)

But seriously?  ONE woman?  ONE?  That’s it?????? Good grief.

The reasons for this imbalance are another blog post.  Instead, I chose to channel my energies into introducing some women who are leading the way—in their own way—in the world of nutrition.  If there appears to be a  “bias” in that most of these women–in one way or another–suggest that the current “grains are great” approach to nutrition is an unsound approach to good health, you might ask yourself how much that has to do with the prevailing bias within our current, and highly unsuccessful, nutrition paradigm.  These women are leaders, not followers.

To me, they are the Chers, Madonnas  and Dolly Partons of the nutrition world, although with a few exceptions, you may not recognize their names (which I know is part of the problem). Most have them have been around the block a time or two, and they know how the game is played—and rigged. They’ve succeed by being entirely who they are—tough-minded broads, compassionate caretakers, and reluctant warriors in the cause for good health for all.

Some of these women I’ve met, some I know well, some I’ve only admired from a safe distance afar. I wouldn’t expect all of these women to agree with—or even like—each other, or me, for that matter. Some of them may be appalled to find themselves on this list at all. Oh well. I don’t agree with all that each of them has to say, but I embrace the diversity and the chance to recognize some women I think have shown us how to have the huevos we need for the work ahead of us.

So—without further ado, and in alphabetical order (why not?)—here they are.

Judy Barnes Baker brought us this useful meme.

Judy Barnes Baker came this close to getting the American Diabetes Association to publish and endorse her reduced-carb cookbook. When that arrangement fell through, she got her cookbook published anyway and went on to publish another. Like Dana Carpender (see below), she’s been making life easier for those folks who want a low-carb approach to life.

Dana Carpender is a force of nature. She’s been holding the toast since 1996, and with her technogeek husband, Eric, has been able to bring us that message over the web since the dawn of the internet. Her book and cookbooks have been a lifeline for many trying to figure out exactly how to put into practice a way of eating that makes them feel healthy and happy. And boy, does she ever have a mouth on her. Sometimes I think it would be fun to lock her in a padded room with Frank Sacks and see who makes it out intact. I know where my money would be.

Laurie Cagnassola

Laurie Cagnassola, dog-lover extrodinaire, was, until recently, the Director of Nutrition and Metabolism Society, a leading low-carb oriented organization. She managed to gracefully meld the work she did with NMS with her own stance as a vegetarian. While Richard Feinman lambasted the entrenched interests in science and government out front, she worked tirelessly behind the scenes to build the fledgling reduced-carbohydrate nutrition community into a full-grown movement.  I expect we’ll hear more from her in the future.

Laura Dolson’s beautiful Low-Carb Pyramid

Laura Dolson has been writing about the food, science, and politics of low-carb nutrition for over a decade.  As a person who “walks the walk,” her posts on about.com are an informative and realistic guide to carbohydrate reduction.

Mary Dan Eades MD is the beautiful half (okay, the beautiful half on the right, for all you women out there drooling over her husband) of the royal (protein) power-couple of the carb-reduction world, Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades. They are the authors of multiple diet and lifestyle books beginning with Protein Power, which helped me navigate my own personal path to health many years ago. She may prefer to focus on singing, traveling, and grandkids now, but her voice is what gave the brilliant biochem wonkiness of Protein Power its warmth, humanity, and accessibility.

Jackie Eberstein RN was Dr. Robert Atkins right-hand RN for many years. She’s soft-spoken, with a backbone of steel and a heart of gold. She thought Atkins was “a quack” when she interviewed for the job. Thirty years later, she was still marveling at the improvement people could make in their health following his diet. But she’s no extremist. She taught me the importance of making sure calorie levels on a low-carb diet were appropriate. She’s got her hands full with her husband, Conrad, a charmer who can seriously rock a bow tie.

Mary G. Enig PhD is co-founder with Sally Fallon Morrell of the Weston A. Price foundation. Her work on fats led her to be one of the first voices raised in warning about the dangers of trans fats—and she’s been battling the seed oil industries attempts to silence and marginalize her work ever since.

Mary Gannon PhD, has—along with her research partner, Frank Nuttall—been working quietly on the low-biologically-available-glucose (inelegantly known as the LoBAG) diet for a decade now, although her work stretches back into the 70s. She is persistent in her efforts to understand the benefits of reduced carbohydrate and increased protein in helping to reverse the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

Zoe Harcombe has been researching obesity for a couple of decades now. A UK writer, researcher, and nutritionist, her book, The Obesity Epidemic, is giving readers on the other side of the pond a different perspective on nutrition.

hartke is online podcast

Kimberly Hartke puts the “life” in lifestyle changes as the publicist for the Weston A Price Foundation. She’s collected enough stories from being on the front lines of the nutrition revolution to write a book, which I am truly hoping she will do one day soon.

Weigh loss success story

Misty Humphrey’s warmth and humor permeate her writing and advice on diet and health.   If there was ever a way to screw up getting healthy Misty’s done it and she’s honest and funny as she tells her story and helps her readers avoid the same pitfalls.

Lierre Keith’s Vegetarian Myth is not just another story of someone who found that their favored way of eating didn’t work and—prestochango—transformed themselves and their health by discovering The Truth About Food. The power of her book lies in her examination of the beautiful myth that underlies vegetarian thinking—that we can somehow peacefully eat our way to personal and global health without any regard for ourselves as critters who—just like all other critters—must function within an ecosystem that is nothing but one expression of eat/be eaten after another. I like to put her book on the shelf next to Jonathan Safran Foer’s goofball Eating Animals, which amounts to little more than a literary snuggie for vegans (JSF considers the American Dietetic Association the very last word in science-based nutrition information <guffaw>). I expect The Vegetarian Myth to simply drain the ink off the pages of Eating Animals out of sheer proximity.

CarbSane’s Evelyn Kocur, shows us–and the rest of the world–what the focused energy of one cranky woman who thinks we’ve been fed a load of crap looks like. Although I’m not a fan of her style—after years of listening to my mother scream, even reading someone else’s raging makes me want to hide under the bed—I can nevertheless admire the no-holds-barred way she skips the warm fuzzies and goes straight for the jugular. I really wish–every now and then–that I could pull that off.  Even when she’s missed the target by a mile, I have to give her credit for sheer firepower.

Sally Fallon Morrell is the director and co-founder (along with Dr. Mary Enig) of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Sally Fallon Morrell is a mother of four and a force of nature who doesn’t mince words. She’s ticked off at least one person in the paleo movement with regard to her stance on saturated fat, but—as far as I can tell—he’s ended up changing his position on the subject; she hasn’t changed hers.

Patty Siri-Tarino, PhD, is lead author of the meta-analysis on the lack of association between saturated fat and heart disease that changed the nature of conversation about nutrition and prevention of chronic disease.

No pink fluffy weights for Krista Scott-Dixon

Krista Scott-Dixon is the first person I found on the internet who said lifting big heavy things is for women too. She taught me—and countless numbers of other women–how to squat and that feminist theory and nutrition do so go together. And she makes fart jokes. You could really just not bother reading anything else I write and just read her stuff. Case in point: a free e-book entitled, Fuck Calories. (As Krista says: Yes, this book has cuss words. Many of them. Deal with it. Hey, it’s free. You get what the fuck you pay for.) Could she get any cooler? She’s married to a rocket scientist.

Mary Vernon MD has been at the forefront of reduced-carbohydrate nutrition for many years as a leader at the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. This group has partnered with the Nutrition and Metabolism Society to encourage conversation within the scientific/academic/clinical setting about reduced-carbohydrate nutrition: its pros and cons; the science behind it; and its clinical application. When national nutrition policy eventually catches on, it will be due in no small part to the fact that Mary Vernon and ASBP have already been offering this nutrition option to patients for years.

Regina Wilshire is the inspiration for a folder on my desktop entitled, Regina Brilliance. She is full of common sense and uncommon smarts. Wife, mother, and tireless blogger, her Weight of the Evidence (now on facebook too) has been a resource for intelligent and insightful commentary on nutrition since 2005. In the midst of the PubMed duels we so often find ourselves wrapped up in, her posts on eating well on a food stamp budget bring a welcome reality check.

Daisy Zamora PhD fought battle after battle (a story she’s agreed to let me tell one day) to publish her groundbreaking research on why our one-size-fits-all diet may be especially devastating to the health of minorities. It is not difficult to imagine why the powers-that-be would not want this indictment of the failure of our dietary recommendations to be made public. But beyond being a quiet crusader for rethinking our current dietary paradigm, she recognizes the importance and centrality of food in our lives and health. You have no idea how rare it is in the world of academic nutrition experts to find someone who eats and cooks and talks about food—as opposed to nutrients in food—and, get this, appears to actually like the stuff!

Let me know who’s on your list, or who I should add.

Plus, if that’s not enough, I found that, in putting together this list, many of the women I admire in the field of nutrition are–gasp–Registered Dietitians. Since RDs catch so much crap from the rest of the alternative nutrition community about being mindless-Academy-of-Nutrition-and-Dietetics-robots, I thought I’d put together a list of RDs who have inspired me to continue to work towards better health for all, despite our own professional organization’s insistence on using USDA/HHS policy as if it is science and its wince-inducing reliance on both food and pharma funding.

Next up: Where the Women Are, RD edition.

44 thoughts on “Where the Women Are, Nutrition Edition

  1. Nancy Appleton
    Author of “Lick the Sugar Habit”

    Natasha Campbell-McBride
    GAPS diet

    Tara Dall, MD (lipidologist)


    Pam Killeen
    Wrote a big book on addiction.
    3/18/11 She’s interviewed by Carl Lanore and says “What doctors learn in medical is disease management. They don’t learn about getting people healthy.”
    Investigative reporter. Did a GREAT 2006 interview of Jerry Brunetti

    Cate Shanahan
    Wrote “Deep Nutrition”

    JJ Virgin
    Sister of Jonny Bowden

    Emily Deans, MD
    Psychiatrist – http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/

    1. Regina, You’ve been an inspiration to me since my clinic days with Eric Westman. You still are.

    1. Thanks for bringing her name to my attention. I’m notoriously clueless about new developments in the alternative nutrition community (ok, I’m just notoriously clueless in general). Good pick.

  2. I think “primal Body Primal Mind” Nora Gedgaugas should get a mention. I have read a lot of books on low carb and nutrition and this one really brought it all home. Ot made a difference FINALLY. Love her !

    1. You are so right, and it only my enduring cluelessness–and current preoccupation with other projects–that prevented her inclusion. When I update the list–and I promise I will–she’ll be on it. I’m overdue on my “Rising Stars” post, but there are sooooo many these day–which can only be a good thing. Bottom line, I hope Jimmy Moore’s post next year has a little more diversity!

    1. Thanks to you Judy, as one of the many women who inspired me to pursue this crazy idea that something really should be done about the current state of nutrition in America. I remember that conversation on the LC cruise & how nervous you were about pushing a reduced-carb message forward within the mainstream diabetes community & I remember thinking, “It is really that scary?” Now, a number of years later, I’m hear to say, “Um, YES!!!” It really is that scary–still.
      Those within the cozy confines of the paleo/primal cliques–a bacon-happy Lake Wobegon community if ever there was one–might not know how much hostility towards a new nutrition paradigm remains. If the sharp edges have softened a little since we met, it’s because you and women like you have done the diplomacy groundwork for the rest of us.

    1. Ah, yes, how could I forget?–Animal Pharm. I’ve been following her for a while now, but she slipped off my radar. Good catch.

      EB, you and Weight Maven, Tess – I think all qualify as “Rising Stars” although what I love most about the three of you is that you all have a certain amount of world-wise whateverness about you that I only managed to acquire with age. I have no idea how old any of you actually are, but it was only after I passed 40 that I stopped getting so worked up about stuff. When it dawned on me that I was finally at the age that all those grown-ups who pissed me off when I was younger were when they pissed me off, I figured it was my turn. Ironically, it was about the same time that everything stopped pissing me off so much and I learned to take myself and the rest of the world a lot less seriously.

  3. Great post Adele,
    I feel lucky to have met most of the women on the list. And you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced Mary Dan’s home cooking. I agree with Fred. Denise and Fred should be on the list.

    Lastly, you should be on the list!

    1. I am totally jealous! Mary Dan’s chili recipe has been a long-standing favorite at my house & got rave reviews from patients at the clinic. I had many of them say that the chili recipe “saved” them from giving up when they were getting started because it was so easy and so delicious.

      Ah, I am hardly a “grande dame” at this point. I hope my best work is yet to come . . .

        1. Heah it is: Chili – hold the beans

          3 lbs. ground meat (beef, pork, or turkey—your choice)
          1 large onion, chopped
          8 cloves garlic, minced
          28 oz. can no-sugar added diced tomatoes (try to find one with about 4 g of carbs for each ½ cup)
          1-1 ½ c. cold coffee
          2 Tablespoon chili powder
          1 tsp. oregano
          1 tsp. cumin
          1 tsp. paprika
          1 tsp. artificial sweetener
          1 Tablespoon vinegar

          Big skillet method: Brown ground meat and drain off excess grease, or some of it, or none of it–up to you. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add the rest of ingredients. Cook for a good long while, at least 20 minutes–the longer you cook it the better it tastes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add salt to taste just before serving.

          Crockpot method: Brown ground meat and drain off excess grease, or some of it, or none of it–as you see fit. Dump meat and all of the rest of the ingredients in a crockpot and turn on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. You can adjust seasonings as it cooks if you want; add salt to taste just before serving.

          I serve this with grated cheese and sour cream–some chopped onions or jalapenos are cool too, depending on who you’ll be kissing later.

          This makes great leftovers. Freeze the extras but don’t add salt until you defrost it again. This keeps the meat moister I think.

  4. A few more women (besides the ones that you and other commenters listed) that come to mind: Terry Wahls, Nora Gedgaudas, Amy Kubal

    And just an hour ago I came across the blog of Sarah Ballantyne (http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/09/how-long-does-it-take-the-gut-to-repair-after-gluten-exposure.html). Sarah has a Ph.D. in Medical Biophysics and performed medical research in the area of innate immunity and inflammation. After glancing through some of her blogs I’m sensing some star potential.

    1. Thanks for the additions. I can’t believe I forgot Nora Gedgaudas–yikes. Yes, Terry Wahls is terrific. Amy will have to go on the RD list and it sounds like Sarah is “Rising Star”. These are great additions.

  5. Thanks for the list – I will definitely be adding some of these fabulous women to my blogroll. I like and regularly read several of the male resources you list at the beginning – by no means am I cutting them off. But I’ve found that everyone – even the scientists – are informed by their own personal, anecdotal experiences, and it comes through in the choice of topics they write about and what they believe about those subjects. More than once when reading a male-centric website my brain made that needle-scratching-in-a-record-album full-stop, because the perspective seemed to have entirely forgotten that more than half the human race doesn’t usually have this-or-that particular experience. For instance, I appreciate that the Sissons are including more female perspective and female-specific health concerns on MDA, but at the same time it always seems like so much of an AFTERTHOUGHT, a sort of addendum to the stuff about the “real” people. I still find much of value on several of these sites, but I’m not quite a whole-hearted endorser because of that lack of inclusion.

    You know, that’s probably why a whole generation of women adored the dubiously-charming Richard Simmons. It was all about THEM; the women got the attention and the focus of his efforts, they weren’t a sideline.

    Looking forward to the RD post also.

    1. That’s a great point about Richard Simmons (yes, I am embarrassed to admit it, but I think he is adorable).

      I’m afraid what is even more frustrating–annoying,obnoxious, appalling, I just don’t have the right word–is that many of these male leaders of the nutrition world do not write and research their own material. Yeah, it might go on his blog or website with his name, sure he might “okay” it, but it was written by a hired writer–a really talented grad student maybe. How many of those writers are female? (You could take a look at grad school stats and make a guess.) You might guess that I have a few issue with that approach in general, but I have reason to believe it creates yet another “behind every good man there’s a good woman (or 5 or 6 of them)” dynamic.

      1. I actually have a lot of respect for Richard Simmons – wasn’t meaning to dis him. It’s easy to make fun of him, but he’s done a lot of good for thousands of people by encouragement, kindness, and humor, which are qualities I value in anyone.

        I hadn’t ever considered that people weren’t writing their own articles, but DUH, of course. Some of these sites are like gigantic magazines with new long posts every day. It can’t be just one person.

        One thing I *have* considered is that whenever someone is selling something – whether it’s a diet plan, an exercise program, a book, or hand-crocheted hats, they have a vested interest in its success. There is a huge range of motivations, from sincerely wanting to help others with something you believe in passionately, to making the fastest biggest buck possible. We have to use our judgement about where a particular writer/expert lies in that continuum, and of course we can’t really KNOW. So it’s wise to take everything with a least one grain of salt.

        Back in the day when I did countless exercise DVDs, I suddenly one day realized that all the step aerobics and grapevine right! sashay left! and lifting 5-pound dumbbells were NOT the workout the instructors did to achieve the bodies they had. It was just such a striking revelation – these people don’t actually DO they things they are preaching and teaching. Not everyone walks the walk.

        Uncoincidentally, I think that’s when I started lifting weights as my main form of exercise.

        1. I got you, but you have to admit, a fondness for Richard Simmons is a little bit hard to own up to, like (still) owning a pair of leg warmers 🙂 But he’s adorable, like Elton John in gym shorts!

          No it can’t be just one person, but the owners of the sites are more than happy to let readers labor under the little myth that it is. You’re right, we need to keep funding streams in mind–which we get very excited about when it comes to the food industry, but less vigilant about when it comes to nutrition information (esp the kind we agree with).

          “grapevine right! sashay left!”–LOL–I had Jazzercise flashbacks there for a moment. If you figured out for yourself that these instructors had to be doing something else besides what they were teaching in order to look the way they did, you’re a lot smarter than I am! It took a knee injury, Protein Power, and a lot of wasted time and money with no results for me to even consider that possibility.

  6. Thanks for posting this Adele.

    My vote here for Denise and Emily, both stalwarts in the pursuit of nutritional change.

    Don’t you think the list might have been less male-skewed if it had a focus that extended beyond the Low Carb/Paleo-Primal audience? I mean, I love Jimmy Moore for all he does for the community – and I think that is a lot, but any survey he does would have to be almost totally Low Carb focused, that is his bread and butter (if I can use that analogy here).

    1. That question made me really think. Yes, in “conventional” nutrition there are probably more women leaders; you just have to look at my university’s dept. of Nutrition roster, or the people on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Is this saying something about our ability to feel comfortable with leaders who are both unconventional and female, or the tendency of women to choose a more conventional path–even in public health leadership and academic settings–because, crap, isn’t it hard enough just being female? Or maybe we are looking at the roots of nutrition science & dietetics (home economics) and public health (a haven for white women wanting to “help).

      I guess I think with the low-fat paradigm being unequivocally lacking in proven benefits for women, that the women who are–visibly, publicly–addressing this should have a wider audience. But there’s probably a lot of other social factors at work. Who is feeding Gary Taubes’ kids, after all? His wife. He acknowledges this (nice guy that he is), but that’s a reality.

  7. Great post! I am about to start classes to earn my certification as a Nutrition Therapy Practitioner. I’m glad to see that several of the women mentioned above are on our required reading list!

      1. Absolutely! We’ll be reading Mary Dan Eades, Mary Enig, and Sally Fallon Morrell. I’ve also read a few of the others on my own, and now have more to add to the list!

    1. Can’t believe I forgot Stephanie Seneff. She’s remarkable for taking on some controversial nutrition issues which are outside her field of expertise, when she could just be resting on her MIT credentials. Thanks for adding her.

    1. I was going to add Emily Deans to my “Rising Stars” list, but I’m unfamiliar with the other women–thanks for bringing them to our attention.

  8. Great list Adele — However, conspicuously missing is our good friend Denise MInger — She has been instrumental in pretty much singlehandedly blowing the head off of the vegan monster. Her brilliance and humor make her accessible for everyone, and she gets through to the masses be they carnivore or vegan. She has earned, and deserves a predominant place on lists like this-

    Keep up the great posts!

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