There is SO much conflicting information, myths and factually incorrect material out there when it comes to nutrition, it can be hard figuring out what is the healthiest way to eat – even for those with a solid understanding of nutrition! It can be helpful, particularly in a fickle area like nutrition, to have professional guidance.
Here are five things you should know…
- Nutritional science is complex
- Follow-up check ins are critical for behaviour change
- It goes beyond the food
- Personalised nutrition is different to general nutrition advice
- Your health is an investment, not an expense.
Nutritional science is complex. Nutritional science is still very much in its infancy. Chemistry science for example, has been around for more than ten times longer. Moreover, most nutrition related questions in science research are funded by interested parties, where big corporate companies can influence study design to show a desired outcome. What also makes nutritional science difficult to measure and analyse is that it is hard to isolate the effects of nutrition from all the other factors that affect your health. These are called confounding variables such as hormones, genetics, ethnicity, gender, food preferences, physical activity levels, and smoking, just to name a few. On top of this, most nutritional studies are observational, meaning it commonly involves subjects filling out questionnaires about their lifestyle and eating habits which is not the most accurate method as it must rely on someone’s memory. Also, with observational studies, you may see a correlation, say an increased red meat consumption, and heart disease, but that does not mean that one causes the other.
Follow-up check ins are critical for behaviour change. Changing behaviour is not easy, in fact it can be incredibly challenging, but nutritionists are able to help you decide on the right approach that is specific to you. They can help you identify and gauge effective interventions that will most likely elicit your desired change. They will be able to consider other constraints such as affordability, lifestyle, skills, educations and possibly your psychological barriers to change. Nutritionists should also be able to signpost their clients to more support, relevant extra material and most importantly help their clients understand why they might feel frustrated when clients do not see the changes they want to see at first, and how they can move forward - remember progress and behaviour change is not a linear journey! Relying on yourself and your own willpower will often result in giving up too soon, because motivation and willpower come and go, they are not constant. Therefore, having someone to help you work through resistance, challenges and setbacks can make all the difference.
It goes beyond food. Many people reach out to a nutritionist when they’re looking for help and advice around food and eating. Although, what nutritionists can help you with is immeasurably more! For example, we may cover sleep hygiene, stress levels, physical activity, planning, time management, goal setting, self-esteem, body confidence, mindful eating, mental health, and disease management. Nutritionists understand how intertwined nutrition and your overall wellbeing is with many other environmental lifestyle factors. We also understand that in some cases, focusing on your nutrition might not be the best thing for your health and focusing on something else first may be more appropriate before we even get to talking about nutrition! We will always work WITH you to figure that out. Please do reach out to a dietitian if your nutrition needs are more particular to a chronic condition or disease, as they may be a more suited specialist to your individual dietary needs which may not be within the nutritionist’s scope of practice.
Personalised nutrition is different to general nutrition advice. Nutritionists design personal plans, as opposed to blanket-approach nutrition advice obtained from the internet, diet books, nutrition fads, and from others’ experiences, that may or may not work for you. It’s hard to tell on your own if you are eating a balanced diet, but nutritionists can spot nutrient deficiencies and help you uncover what you may be lacking, which could be having a major impact on the way you feel. Working with a nutritionist can help you see what you can’t see on your own – you can’t see what you aren’t looking for. Sometimes we all need an outsider’s perspective to highlight things in a non-judgemental way. Nutrition coaching can introduce you to possibilities and habit shifts that you’ve never thought of - especially in areas where you may feel stuck, they can help you develop a healthy relationship with food and help manage feelings around food.
Your health is an investment, not an expense. As a Nutritionist myself, I am biased on this matter, but I’ve seen first-hand how 1-2-1 nutrition consulting can work wonders for people, from breaking weight-loss plateaus to improving athletic performance, digestive health, increasing energy levels, regulating sleep and mood, and transforming skin and hair. A good nutritionist will administer nutrition advice in a manner that encourages healthy eating behaviours, that consider body image, self-efficacy, confidence in your own food knowledge, cooking skills and understanding how food intake can support your lifestyle. Learning how to use food to help you feel good and perform at your best is a powerful skill that will serve you for life.
Written by Abby Attenborough,
Nutritionist (ANutr) and certified Personal Trainer