How Can a Dietitian Help?
Earlier this week, the Evans Health Lab in Toronto released what is quite possibly the best 15-minute video on healthy eating I’ve ever seen. Just minutes in, I was thinking to myself, “Oh great, now I’m out of a job!” but then at minute 11, he mentions the value of seeing a dietitian. If so much of healthy eating can be explained in a 15-minute video, how can a dietitian help?
Well, the Video Said…
The video cites a recent systematic review that found that more structure and social support were predictors of success in a commercial weight loss program.
While some might think dietitians give structure by giving you a meal plan or a set of “eat this, not that” sort of rules, most of the dietitians I know don’t do this because it can only makes matters worse by adding to your “been there, done that” diet heap. The way I help provide structure is by reviewing your nutrition and health goals with you, and together we can brainstorm the different steps you can take to get there. (One of those could be teaching you how to meal plan, not giving you one!) I can then help break down these steps into manageable, bite-size goals, and we can set up regular follow-up to see where you’re at.
In terms of social support, friends and family can sometimes be “saboteurs” – as a society, we often show our love and affection through food and treats, and it can be a tough habit to break. Even though their heads might know that you’re trying to eat healthier, their hearts just want to show that they love you, so sometimes they need a gentle reminder. On the other side of the coin, sometimes friends and family try to “help” by becoming “food police”, not knowing that questions like, “Are you supposed to be eating that?” are more harmful than helpful. As a neutral third-party, dietitians can provide non-judgmental social support and objective guidance on your eating habits. And if you know you are someone who needs that kick in the butt from someone else to help you move forward on your goals, then you need regular follow-ups with a dietitian!
Same Same, But Different
Most nutrition advice online is meant for the “average, healthy” person who is probably thinking about losing a few pounds, but not everyone is “average” or “healthy” – whether it’s high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, a food allergy or a combination of the above, dietitians are specially trained to help you manage those conditions, and more.
For those who are healthy, your lifestyle probably makes you anything but “average” – someone who is single will probably have different needs from someone who has a family to feed; someone who works shift work will have different needs from someone who works a 9-to-5; someone who is very active will have different needs from someone who sits all day; someone who loves to cook will have different needs from someone who can hardly boil water, and so on.
There are many paths to achieving good health, and while the general information is out there, a dietitian can help you with the specifics when it comes to reaching your goals.
Fight Nutrition Misinformation
We’re constantly bombarded with nutrition and food advice every day, whether it’s from popular media, health professionals, personal trainers, or friends and family – it’s pretty exhausting! As I mentioned in my previous blog post, dietitians can help you sort through all the noise and give you practical (and tasty!), evidence-based solutions that fit into your lifestyle.
Make Nutrition and Healthy Eating a Priority
“I know what I need to do, I just need to do it.” So, what’s keeping you from doing it? It all comes down to something else being more important to you than nutrition and healthy eating right now – and that’s OK! Who’s to blame you for choosing family, work, sleep or whatever over food? Making nutrition a priority is one of my top two secrets to healthy eating, because when something becomes important to you, you go out of your way to make it happen. When you’re ready, meeting with a dietitian can mean making a commitment to your eating habits and moving nutrition up a few notches on your totem pole of responsibilities, so you might be more likely to start making lifestyle change.