When Nutrition Wasn’t Cool

Only 10 to 24 hours of a doctor’s five to eight years of medical school are devoted to food and nutrition, the very core of our health and the key to preventing many acute illnesses. Kathy King of Hickory Creek knew years ago, when she was just a freshman at Colorado State University, that a barely noticeable 10 to 24-hour nod to nutrition was ridiculous.

It was, however, also the time when western medicine concentrated far more on a prescription pad to treat the symptoms of illness rather than focus on what went into our bodies in an effort to prevent the root causes of those same illnesses. After all, eliminate the cause and the effect, or the symptom, will never be a problem.

It was actually King’s mom who suggested nutrition as a course of study for her daughter.

“She’d been in 4-H,” King said, “and she knew the importance of good food. She thought nutrition was practical, with a good mix of science and food that would allow me to pursue a variety of directions.” Neither mother nor daughter knew what an adventure the choice would set into motion; an adventure filled with “firsts” and commendable accomplishments over more than 50 years.

King graduated with a degree in nutrition and dietetics, serving her internship in Boston.

“It was my internship that opened up so many questions for me,” King recalled. “It seemed diseases were the only things we studied. The more I read, the more I asked myself why we didn’t study ways to prevent the illnesses from ever happening. Why did we wait until there was a diagnosis before we intervened? It just didn’t make sense to me.”

It was 1976 when King logged her first “first ever.”

“There was only one book about sports nutrition in the early 1970s,” King explained. “I decided to send questionnaires to Olympic participants. My goal was to find out how these people stayed well during 80 to 85% of their lives. I needed to learn what they did to remain healthy.”

Remember, King assumed this information gathering on her own. No one assigned those questionnaires to her as a project. For her, it was simply the way she lived life, then and now. Wasting time on figuring out how to go around a challenge is not how she operates. She prefers to meet it head-on because that offers the deepest learning experience.

“I took the information I gathered and pitched it to the Denver Broncos,” she said. “Teams back then weren’t geared to nutrition, body fat percentages, or aerobic capacity. Those areas were just emerging, and it was exciting.”

King was at the head of the line. Instead of confining her developing career to a clinic, she hung out her private shingle. She spoke. She traveled. She taught. She wrote. And, for three years, she was the only female and the only nutritionist to be part of an NFL team. Her name will forever hold the position of first nutrition consultant in professional football.

“I was president of the Colorado Dietetic Association in 1979,” King remembered. “I was chosen to travel around the country, speaking to other dietitians and teaching them how to open private practices.

“A colleague and I were at a convention in 1992 when a gentleman from Harper & Rowe walked up and asked if I would like to write a book! Just like that! I eventually self-published it, which led to other people approaching me about publishing their books. I later moved to Texas and established my own publishing company in Lake Dallas in 1991. I’ve been here ever since. I’ve always wanted to be an agent of change because I’ve never accepted the status quo, especially with medicine and with food. I’ve never believed in the ‘This is the way we’ve always done it’ philosophy.”

King contends we all need air, food, and water. “Our ancestors knew that,” she stressed, “but we’ve pulled away from so much of that old wisdom. There’s no difference between nutrition and medicine, but medicine has separated from nutrition and let pharmaceuticals take over. We need to return to the enjoyment, common sense, and camaraderie of food.”

King’s publishing in 2021 is different from 1991. Giants such as Amazon entered the picture, forcing her to rethink her role in order to remain viable.

“Today, we buy already published books and turn them into self-teaching courses for people who must have continuing education hours. We have expert writers who deep dive into the books’ content.

“We’re really at an exciting crossroads, where we’re seeing medicine become integrative as well as functional. We’re returning to some of that ancestral wisdom. Most importantly, we’re bringing back compassion within the medical field.”

Thanks to her mother’s advice, King’s life adventure continues full speed ahead.

photos courtesy of Kathy King

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