Note to self.

I seem to recall using this title before.  Let’s face it, I’m either getting too old to remember everything or have too many things I need to remember and am running out of space.  Too bad I can’t just empty the trash and be rid of things I no longer need.

Anyway.

One of my professors just pointed out something I need to remember about health claims: the difference between “science-based” and “evidence-based”.  The former means something is plausible, a conclusion based on the possibility of efficacy based on in vitro studies, animal studies, or simply deduced from the pathophysiology.  We might consider this anecdotal.  But definitely not conclusive. The latter is based on repeated testing (preferably randomized, placebo-controlled trials) which has resulted in a consensus of the efficacy.  This is very important to consider when recommending anything for a client or patient, and the difference between simply Googling for answers and spending hours upon hours researching a product, treatment, or regimen.

Being in the fitness industry, I hear a lot of anecdotal recommendations.  I feel as though this industry is wrought with individuals who are always stepping beyond the threshold of what the scope of practice should be.  They mean well, but without proper research behind what they’re recommending, they could be doing more harm than good because health and wellness is not one size fits all.  One important concept I’ve learned, which even experts tend to rely, is to try and step away from a reductionist approach.  In other words, recognize that the human body is a complex interaction of systems which is affected by one’s environment, and therefore any recommendations should be taken on with a more holistic approach rather than a linear “cause and effect” that tends to coincide with reductionism.  Easier said than done when we always want answers.  After all, a single line is much easier to follow, even when meandering, than a giant web of possibilities.

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Endlessness.

Unbeknownst to me year ago when I was newbie to the MPH program, I opted for online classes to ease into grad school life.  I also did not know that there were no breaks between quarters.  When one ended, the next one would begin the following week.  This was even more of a challenge because I was still finishing prerequisites at the junior college, so I would not have had a spring break anyway.  In hindsight, I don’t know how I survived that craziness, though I credit blissful ignorance more than anything.  The 2015-2016 school year was indeed a blur.  I forgot many things which were unrelated to school.  I lost some friends.  And I just decided I needed to put on blinders, shake off the guilt, and keep going.

Fast forward a year and I’m a little wiser.  Research and writing don’t take me nearly as long and I somewhat know what professors expect.  I figured out my passion, though I also realized students in the Nutrition program are very different than students in the Public Health program.  The former makes me feel old and a little awkward, while the latter has an interesting mix of people from many different disciplines.

And despite the lack of a break a year ago, I find myself taking an online class once again, which overlaps the on campus classes, one which is about to end in a few days, and another which will start sometime mid-June.  I just need to get this stuff done so that my final year of grad school, with a research project/dissertation needed to complete my MS, and along with an internship needed to complete my MPH, isn’t a total bear.

I also realized, however, that most of the people pursuing both degrees work full time.  I do not, unfortunately, and my teaching schedule has whittled down to just 2 classes a week, 3 for the summer with the addition of a dance class on Sunday.  It’s given me more time to really focus on school, but I also find myself yearning for a hands-on challenge.  Hours sitting at the computer researching topic after topic has it’s ah-ha moments, of course.  But perhaps the art major in me needs to go out and create something, even if it’s extracting DNA from squished strawberries (Biochemistry, Spring Semester 2016).

So, on somewhat of a whim I decided to enroll in the culinary arts program at the junior college where I just recently completed my science prerequisites.  I figured, there is no set pace.  I can put it on hold if I foresee a session-from-hell.  I get to make stuff in a kitchen the proper way, and perhaps this will give me the necessary skills to teach others how to create healthy meals on a budget.  With a graduate degree in Nutrition, this ties in perfectly, for I’m not able to work as a registered dietitian unless I decide to go backwards to pursue that path (but would need to take Chemistry II and Organic Chemistry first… ugh… no).  Along with an MPH and my plans to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), I believe culinary skills will help with intervention designs, especially if my focus will be obesity prevention.

But as with everything I decide to jump into, we shall see.  This summer I’m taking two online classes:  Sanitation and Intro to Hospitality.  They’ll be a bit accelerated because a regular 16-week course is compressed into 8 weeks.  But I should be used to this by now since that is exactly what online graduate courses are like, which was another thing I figured out the hard way when I was a grad school newbie.

I think this will be a fun, no-pressure distraction during this final year of graduate studies.  I’m looking forward to distractions, in an academic sort of way anyway.