If It Works for Me, It Will Work for You (or will it….)
Hi friends, I’m feeling a bit ranty today, so I’ll do my best to get to the point, no promises 🙂
I usually post on Mondays, but I am a day late, what are you going to do about it! Currently, I am helping to run a Nutrition Challenge at my gym, so we had to get people ready to go yesterday and the day slipped away! I am so excited for the 40+ people at our gym about to take on our 5 Weeks to Food Fitness Challenge and will report back with the progress…
Now, I’m not one to say, go ahead, hop on every nutrition/macro/Whole30 challenge there is. But, there is a time and a place where a reset or a refocus is necessary. We get stuck in our ways and sometimes need a little push to get our health in order. There is no good day to start, so you just have to start, and sometimes it’s when your coach/dietitian tells you to.
This whole challenge got me thinking (uh oh) and I thought I would share these thoughts. While I am in no way discouraging any of you from sharing your nutrition tips, tricks or advice, I want to take a step back with you for a moment.
Everybody eats, So is everyone a Nutritionist?
Everybody eats, and so everybody is a nutritionist in some way, shape or form. That’s the good news. The bad news? Just because you eat and know what works best for you, does not make you an expert and know what is good for everyone else. The other good news is that if you share what works for you, you might help someone. The other bad (read: worse) news is that by giving someone advice (no matter how harmless it may seem) you may be making their nutrition and health mindset and journey worse-off.
Just as I would go to the mechanic to work get work done on my car, and my doctor for when I am sick and the hair salon when my hair is getting ratty, I would go to a dietitian to get my diet dialed in. I happen to know a lot of dietitians so it’s pretty easy for me when I need my nutrition checked on. No joke, I text at least once a week asking them what they think about X, Y or Z. AND I AM A DIETITIAN.
So why do we go to Google & Instagram for our nutrition advice?
Because it’s easy (and full of lies). It also, normally, tells us what we want (or think we want) to hear. We can justify our feelings, habits, and behaviors if we know the right words (or hashtags) to enter. If we don’t like the advice, or it doesn’t seem to be working for us, we can run to the next person and the next in search of the answer that best suits what we want to hear.
Now, dietitians are not the only nutrition experts. There are plenty of well-versed Health Coaches, Nutrition Coaches, Doctors and many practitioners I have not listed that are qualified to help you with your health & nutrition. And just like there are bad mechanics, and hair dresses that you don’t fancy, there are dietitians/health coaches/nutritionists, etc. that won’t be your cup of tea either. However, when you need diet advice, nutrition guidance, weight loss management, etc. you should turn to a real, live human being who has some experience in the matter.
Of course, I am biased, I get that. But, over the years I’ve overheard one too many people (read: “nutritionist”) offering up advice that was not what the listener needed (or wanted) to hear.
Do No Harm
On the first day of my Dietetic Internship (read 1200 unpaid supervised practice hours), they told us, if you remember nothing else, “Do No Harm.”. When I first heard that I thought, “DUH!” But over the years I never realized how true and incredibly challenging that one phrase is.
I have talked to many individuals over the years, and one thing runs true, they all have a story and a lot more than what meets the eye. People are strong, complex and emotional. They are covering old wounds and pushing through new struggles every day. This means that telling one person to drink 1 less cup of coffee may be mundane and the next person life-ending. Some have a history of eating disorder, others gut troubles and even others, food anxieties.
This means that by making fun of someone for how they eat or telling them to “eat this for breakfast” may send them spiraling out of control. Is that always the case? Of course not. But, your words around nutrition can make a bigger impact than you would think.
What to look for When Seeking Nutrition Advice
You have the power to choose who you work with when it comes to your health. This is such an awesome power to have, yet terrifying and confusing. Here are a few things to look for when seeking sound nutrition advice.
Background & Experience.
You are looking for someone who is qualified AND who has real-life experience in the field. There are many titles for nutritionists, but make sure it is one that fits what you need them for. Ideally, this individual also has done practical work in the field (i.e. they’ve counseled individuals one on one). An online certificate is great for personal education but lacks the practical experience that is so very valuable. Virtual learning is great, but in my opinion, not enough. It was not until I had to counsel people from all walks of life in the hospital that I realized the importance of my skills and training. Reading something on google might sound great, but talking to a professional who has dealt with others, knows the body in and out and has had to talk to people bawling their eyes out mid-session is priceless.
If the person is telling you what works for them, why they eat a certain way or their experience the WHOLE time, find someone new. The individual should be listening, asking appropriate questions and only once you have an established relationship should they be inserting their own experience. Why? Because if they are well versed in their field, they don’t need their health/nutrition journey to dictate what yours should look like.
Also, if you have a certain eating philosophy and they don’t take that into consideration (i.e. Paleo, Vegan, etc.) they probably aren’t the right person for you. For example, I eat meat, but I have many clients who do not. I have no problem with that as long as I am able to help them reach their nutrient goals.
Google will not hold you accountable. Nor will someone who is more concerned about their own looks, health, and nutrition than your own. Your nutrition coach should want you to succeed not for their own benefit but because they truly want your health and nutrition to improve. Even if your beliefs around food are different than theirs. They should know when to push, and when to back off. They should not judge you either.
Know Their Scope of Practice
This is one that makes us all have to take a nice slice of humble pie. When you are talking to a client or you are the client being talked to, there may come a time where the provider’s limits have been reached. For me, for example, when I meet someone with an active eating disorder I pass the buck.
Why? Because it is out of the scope of MY practice. Yes, I am a dietitian, licensed to give nutrition advice and medical nutritional therapy, but I do not feel I can provide that client the level of care and support they need. OUt of my scope of practice and referred to someone who is.
And guess what? THAT’S OKAY. It’s actually better than okay and should be applauded. If you feel like you are being fed lines, move on. If you feel you have a client who is more complicated than you can handle? Refer, refer, refer!
When to Not Give Nutrition Advice
This is for all my people who eat food, okay so everyone (dietitians included). Sometimes nutrition advice is NOT warranted OR it is not your place to do so. Why? Because food and nutrition run deeper than just what you ate for lunch today. It does. It is people’s culture, religion, faith, coping mechanism, joy, hope, and so much more. Sometimes saying nothing at all is more powerful than suggesting they try a pre-workout, a protein bar and to cut out gluten because it worked for you.
Now, you can still share your favorite recipes and what has worked for you. After all, I love hearing about what has worked for you! However, understand that everyone is so uniquely different. What worked for you, will not always work for someone else (and vice versa). It is okay to have a disclaimer to let others know if you are not comfortable (read: qualified) to dole out nutrition advice. You can let people know that you are strictly speaking from your own experience, and there is nothing wrong with sharing what works for YOU.
So go ahead, share your health story, I love it. But please remember the first rule of care “Do no harm”. And if you are seeking nutrition advice, do so from a qualified individual. Find one who is in it to help you, not to control their own nutrition & eating problems.