May 04, 2010

One of the top questions I'm asked from prospective clients is, "What exactly do you do?" It's a great question, because what a nutritionist does isn't as straightforward as say an accountant or veterinarian. My best answer is this: I help you figure out where you are, where you want to be, and how to get there.

Many people are worried that I'm going to scold them, lecture them, or take away their favorite foods. There are some nutritionists like that, but I'm not one of them. I consider myself much more of a food coach, because my goal is to inform, inspire, counsel, and support my clients, and I want to see them succeed! Throughout my life, I never responded well to teachers, doctors or bosses who took a hard line and used an authoritarian approach. Even when I work with clients as a personal trainer, my style is much more about helping people understand their bodies and fall in love with being active; far from a boot camp approach!

That said, if you were to meet with me individually, here's what you could expect:

First I complete a thorough nutrition assessment, which includes information about your weight history, current and past medical history, family medical history, food allergies or intolerances, likes and dislikes, eating, sleeping and exercise habits, past weight loss attempts, emotional and social ties to food and much more.

Next we'll in person, sometimes at my office, sometimes in your home. We'll discuss your goals and I'll share my thoughts and feedback about your nutrition assessment. This gives us both the starting point and destination, essentially the "where you are now" and "where you want to end up."

Then we'll develop a game plan together for how to proceed. Some people prefer a formal, structured eating plan. Others do much better with a short list of changes that are specific and measurable, such as adding 2 cups of veggies at dinner and cutting the grains in half. I'll explain the reasoning behind the plan or changes, including exactly how they will affect your body and what you can expect.

After our initial visit, I ask most of my clients to communicate with me every day, either via email or phone. In my experience, daily support is critical. One full week between appointments is way too long to wait if you're struggling, have questions, or get off track. Each day I check in with you, my goal is to answer your questions and offer support, help you feel confident about what you're doing and why, verify that you're feeling well physically, and track your progress and results. Eventually I hope you'll get to the point where you don't need me anymore, because you've not only met your goals, but the changes you've made have become your new ‘normal' way of eating.

My approach has evolved over the 10+ years I've been working with people one-on-one, and one very important lesson I've learned is that I'm not the right practitioner for everyone.

If you're considering seeing a nutritionist, I highly recommend "interviewing" various candidates before you schedule an appointment. If you're looking for a militant food cop, you won't be happy with someone like me and vice versa. Ask a lot of questions and get to know a nutritionist's philosophies to be sure he or she is the best fit for your personality, expectations and goals. Like physicians and even hair stylists, not everyone in a given field takes the same approach or even believes in the same things.

Do you have any questions about nutrition counseling? Wondering how to find a nutritionist in your area? Here are two great resources:

American Dietetic Association (click on For the Public, then Find a Registered Dietitian)


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