Please enjoy my take on some of the key things I’ve learned over my years consulting as a Registered Dietitian. For more details you can see my profile. I want all of you to know that I am embarking on a mission to more completely understand human nutrition.
In the years that I’ve been counseling clients in the nutrition and dietetics field, I’ve learned many things. Here is a sampling of some of my experience-based observations. Although, anecdotal, they are relevant and might be able to help you break a negative pattern and find your way to achieving your goals! Furthermore, there is growing evidence to support these observations. Anyway, here we go!
1) Medicine is for the sick!
You may or may not realize this but the bulk of nutrition research and education focuses on illness and how to treat and examines those populations. The strongest data are randomized controlled trials and these are pretty much exclusively conducted in ill/metabolically deranged individuals. So the data gained from this is useful for treatment, mitigation of side-effects and symptoms but tells us nothing of prevention. Unfortunately, media and some health professionals will concoct guidelines based on these studies for the general populace as prevention. Obviously, that’s like running east in the western hemisphere to watch the sun set!!
The simpler the nutrition plans/recommendations are the more likely that people will stick with it, which is what has to happen!!! Complicated diet plans that combine this food with that and eliminate specific combinations are completely ineffective mostly because they are usually very hard to follow long term as can be too detailed a focus on counting calories or other components.
3) Magic bullets & Super foods.
There is no one magic bullet or superfood. It’s true that some foods are higher in specific nutrients than others or are the richest available source of blank nutrient (maybe a cancer inhibiting compound), but you need to realize that these foods are marketed as quick fixes and they are definitely NOT that. Assuming that these super foods are all good, which they are definitely not (another blog post topic in and of itself), you need to start by cleaning up your overall nutrition. Then add the rich nutrient source food to your already solid nutrition plan. Think about it, if we add the best super food on the planet to the crappiest diet, what do you think your overall effect will be?
4) Duplicitous WHYs!
You need to understand why you are doing what you are doing in TWO WAYS!
a) The people who I’ve observed to succeed consistently had a compelling reason why they were making their lifestyle changes (i.e. meet my grandchildren, see my daughter graduate University, live to 130, etc…). It’s only critical that this matter a hell of a lot to YOU! It will keep you going if things get tough!
b) The people who I’ve observed to succeed also could consistently explain why they were doing each of the lifestyle changes they were making (i.e. people who ate <30% carbohydrates understood why this would help them burn fat; or people eating grass fed beef understand why this is beneficial to their bodies, etc…). This will give you the internal confidence to keep going as well in the face of the “tree cutters” in your life who like to give you the latest fad and seem to want to sabotage your progress.
5) Behave like a human!
You must understand human behavior to the extent that you understand your tendencies and will be able to overcome obstacles to your success. Honestly, your main obstacle to successful change is you! Although, friends & family often do not want to be left behind & can sabotage you, the most common source of frustration and sabotage to a person’s successful attainment of their fat loss goal is from within. Strive to understand yourself and then you will be able to handle your own objections much more effectively!
6) Processed foods (i.e. junk foods, flours, etc…) are addictive.
I certainly have observed more clients have trouble stopping their pastries and/or diet sodas vs. even those I’ve known who have quit smoking. Heroin is illegal, sugar and processed foods are not. Something is wrong here. Obviously, I don’t think we should legalize a harmful and addictive substance that can kill us, hmmmm…. Interesting to put that in writing, since junk foods are completely legal!!! Quite the joke if you ask me. Anyway, I suggest that we implicate food companies to be responsible for the health burden they have placed on the Westernized health systems across the globe! Until then, we MUST take control of our own choices and those of the people whose lives we touch!! Make the right ones and cut the crap out!
7) Artificial sweeteners.
There is always a new sweetener on the horizon. It’s always touted to be healthier vs. pre-existing ones. One example might be Stevia. I’ve heard all the justifications… it’s all natural, it’s from a plant. Hemlock is all natural and from a plant, try telling Socrates that was healthy (hint: he’s dead because of it). Interestingly, people will decry some sweeteners (i.e. Aspartame) and then praise other ones. I explain that they are all chemically altered sweeteners, and that any health benefits observed in any of these compounds were not observed in the chemically processed form but rather the the whole plant form (i.e. natives suc
king on the Stevia leaf had health benefits, powdered versions have no known health benefits). Anyway, I’m a realist, by necessity due to the clients I work with. I do use the harm reduction philosophy of Western medicine with respect to this topic, such that if a client is consuming sodas or high sugar drinks, I want them off those immediately, so artificial sweeteners are a means that clients can utilize to achieve the ends, which I would suggest is not using sweeteners at all! I certainly don’t recommend that people stay on them indefinitely, due to the potential harmful effects.
8) Counting calories.
Most clients came to me after repeatedly failing to achieve their fat loss goals using calorie counting or some derivation thereof. This doesn’t work long term. There is more and more evidence emerging that calories might not even matter in the absence of refined carbohydrate. That might remain to be seen, but what is certain is people don’t like counting calories, food companies know that people are hyper-focused on calories and as a result, people either go “off the wagon” repeatedly or they are goaded into consuming calorie-reduced foods that are completely processed and void of nutritional benefit and end up derailing folks because of their addictive properties.
9) Dietitians are experts in nutrition or at least they should be!
One of the things I’ve noticed over my years counseling clients is how quickly clients want to walk away when they realize that I am a Dietitian. They refer to prior bad experiences and useless education. Also, when I’m liasing with other health promoter (i.e. gym owners, trainers, etc…) there is a belief that we know disease but know nothing about general health and prevention. I agree that Dietitians are trained from a Western medical slant and that we are given info on disease treatment and secondary prevention, however, my experience is that most of the Dietitians I’ve met & remained close to from school and those I’ve met in the virtual world are all open-minded and know that there’s much more effective ways to counsel people with respect to nutritional guidelines than the generic economically driven food guides and pyramids. Granted we answer to colleges and can’t make outrageous claims, but I think our own complacency over the last 20-30 years or so has lead to this feeling of ineffectiveness from clients towards Dietitians. Therefore, it’s time for change. I endeavor to use this blog as well as my Master’s and my PhD (in progress) to continue to advance nutrition knowledge and ultimately answer the question… is there a nutrition and lifestyle plan that will increase my odds of success to achieve optimal fat loss? and if so, what is it? I have my ideas on this and am testing them currently and will ultimately reveal them slowly as time goes on. Please stay tunes.
Anyway, these are some of the key things I’ve learned in my 8+ years counseling people on fat loss and health management! I hope you find them useful.
Anyway, to conclude, I will leave you with these final thoughts by me, about me. I am like you. I work full time, have my own business to run, am pursuing a PhD in Human Nutrition and have a ever-growing relationship with my beautiful wife and together we have a gorgeous 1.5 year old daughter to nurture & raise!! These things… ALL. TAKE. TIME. Therefore, I’m endeavoring to research and share/teach what I most need to learn, the most efficient and doable system for complete nutrition and fitness strategies to get lean and be effective in my daily life! Even, if you’re not pursuing higher education or are single, I’m sure you can relate to the business of daily life. Whatever your days are filled with, if health, longevity and leanness are your goals, then you need to get it done and efficiently! That’s what I’m about!
Till next time…
Support YOUR goals, not those of the big food conglomerates!
Live every day to the MAX!
Dietitian Dan T