There seems to be so much pressure on folks to change. It usually starts with something like, "You really should..." You may either succumb to the well-meaning advice, or you may get defensive for a variety of reasons.
In fact, have you ever noticed how emotional a conversation about food, eating, exercise and weight can be? It seems that our beliefs about food and eating have become like a religion.
I was taught a long time ago that there are 3 philosophical conversations to avoid: politics, religion and money. I wonder if the field of nutrition needs to be added to this list. Usually it starts with a harmless comment like “I invest my money in XYZ fund” or “I’m following the XYZ diet” and before you know it you’re in a discussion battling completely different viewpoints hoping to finalize "who or What’s right?”
The truth with nutrition advice is that your choices about food, eating, exercise and weight are very personal.
When an individual, family or team approaches me for nutrition services, basically they are hoping to change a behavior. Perhaps they want to lose weight, decrease risk of disease, improve athletic performance or just feel better. But, in general, they believe they need to change something to achieve their desired goal (and have been offered many opinions of what that something is).
Unfortunately, we are all bombarded by a lot of nutrition information these days leading us to believe we need to change what we are doing because there is a “right” food or way to eat. We hear there are “good” vs “bad” foods; a “right” vs “wrong” diet; “healthy” vs “unhealthy” weight; and the list goes on. In general, our culture is full of this “black and white thinking” which may often be a lot of smoke and mirrors for promoting someone’s product, book, research, or blog. Unfortunately though, it gets really confusing when you are motivated to change, but aren't sure what to do.
My experience over the past 20 years in the field of nutrition has provided me with a lot of insight about feeding, eating, nutrients and the body, but ultimately I've learned that the best expert about your body and how you manage change is YOU.
I've read probably hundreds of studies and listened to many credible researchers who continue to work hard to understand what amount, what form and what combination of nutrients we need to achieve optimal health. Here's the deal: there are many things we know and many things we really don’t know or understand!
Ultimately, this research often provides impressive insight to guide nutrition recommendations. However, this data can also be incomplete, not plausible to human systems, and then unfortunately promoted through media headlines creating a lot of confusion.
And to add to the media confusion, just like many of my clients, I never seem to escape folks trying to convince me why their supplement or strategy to “be healthy”; “right”; "well researched."
Frankly, just like there are positives and negatives about different styles of managing money (that work in different ways for different people); the same can be said about one’s philosophy (or experience) with food, weight and overall wellness. There are many different approaches and beliefs about achieving optimal health and nutrition that work – and some that don’t work, depending on the individual.
So, what should you do if you are someone who believes you have plenty of nutrition information, but can't seem to apply it to your life? Or, no matter how careful you are, you still end up overeating? What if you've been given plenty of nutrition advice and can’t seem to follow it?
Making changes that will last a lifetime occurs in stages and often takes time. Be patient. Remember that change can sometimes be intimidating and/or difficult. But, it’s even more frustrating when the strategy you are using to change doesn't achieve the desired result! Perhaps it’s not about you “trying harder” but trying “something different.”
When you've made a decision to improve the quality of your life through nutrition consulting, you may need an approach that is very individualized and addresses not only what you eat, but also how you think and feel about food and your body. Most important, believe that you can change, that it doesn't have to be so uncomfortable, and ultimately you can achieve your goals.
And…trust yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else. Sometimes, it’s just about having the people and resources in your path that help you achieve the desired result.
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Val Schonberg is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian who specializes in weight management, sports nutrition, disease