When you hear the term Nutritional Therapist what immediately goes through your mind?
Is it something like this, ‘’Oh no, I hope she doesn’t ask me about my weight or what I had for breakfast. If she asks, I better not tell her what I really had, she won’t approve, and I’ll be embarrassed. I better say I had a plate of spinach and broccoli with a hardboiled egg and a gluten free cracker’’.
Some people just blurt out how they need to lose 3 stone and explain why they haven’t yet got around to starting ‘that diet’ yet – or something along those lines. Another lady I know said she was extremely conscious about what was in her shopping trolley when we bumped into each other in the supermarket.
Here’s the thing...... not all nutritional therapists are that virtuous. Yes, I admit there are quite a few who are, but that’s not me. Before I started studying nutrition, I ate just about anything. These days I am a little more discerning but by no means obsessive about it. Because of my training in Nutritional Science I am able to make informed choices.
When I started my degree studies, I thought all my lecturers and peers would be super healthy, lean and fit. As it turned out, that was not the case at all. Suffice to say, many had come to study food and nutrition due to some personal health condition or scare.
Personally, I have changed a lot of my old habits (which were not doing me any favours) and it’s not been easy. I still have a sweet tooth and can be prone to sometimes over-indulge in a yummy dessert, and chocolate is my go to if I’ve had a bad day….. I’m no Saint. However, I do now understand what that sugar hit will do to my physiology in the short term and the longer term health of my body and brain.
So, as I see it, it’s about making informed choices and that’s where many people struggle. The messages we continually hear is eat more vegetables, be active, stress less, nourish our gut bacteria, be kinder to ourselves and so on. It’s not necessarily that we haven’t heard but perhaps we haven’t listened, the message is constantly there but it’s gradually become just a background noise to be ignored. As a Nutritional Therapist getting the message over to a client who doesn’t really want to hear can be a challenge, if the person is not ready to really listen, the information remains superficial and they won’t relate it to their own circumstances. It is sad that too many people don’t look after themselves nutritionally and it will often take a health scare to jolt them into taking action..... often too late for some.
I know food choices and meal planning generally needs to fit in with busy lifestyles - kids, job, travel and so on, it just needs to be practical for them and often this is a sticking point. Nevertheless, it need not take a huge effort to change, I’d rather people add in more healthy food options one or two at a time, start off small. This is easier than asking them to immediately stop eating something they’ve eaten for years – that’s a scary prospect for many and rarely results in compliancy. Instead, those new foods can gradually replace the old, less healthy food choices and it doesn’t seem so much of a challenge. It really is all about timing and moderation – baby steps. Of course, there are often times when certain foods will need to be avoided immediately, this will depend on the background and complexity of each case.
It’s important for me to be able to empower people to make change where necessary and be proactive about their own health. When a person has a long term condition very often their signs and symptoms are just being managed by mainstream medicine which can be frustrating. I aim to fill that potential gap by offering a bit of extra support, this involves looking at diet and lifestyle choices, environment and genetic predisposition. Piecing all that together I am able to support and maintain change to better health.