5 key questions for nutritionists
We've all heard of doctors being asked medical questions in social settings - "I've got this rash, let me show you". It's no different for a nutritionist.
You’re a Nutritionist; is that the same as a Dietitian?
No. Dietitians work with both healthy and sick people to assess, diagnose and treat nutritional problems at both the individual and population level. Nutritionists work in a variety of (less clinical) roles such as public health, health policy, private food companies, education, and research. Both are degree-qualified professions, but at the moment only dietitians are regulated by law. The Association for Nutrition are currently working hard to protect the title “Nutritionist” and ensure charlatans don’t disrepute our name.
So you must eat really well?
I’m no saint, and you will certainly have to fight me for the last chocolate in the box! However I do follow healthy eating principles, as they become ingrained. It is about balance; you can eat foods that are high in fat and/or sugar as long as it is within your calorie balance and you are also ensuring you consume enough of all the other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. I like to think that I am a “realistic Nutritionist”. I know it’s hard to eat perfectly 100% of the time, and that food should be enjoyed (especially with others at this time of year).
How can I lose weight?
The million dollar question! If I had a simple, straight-forward answer to this I would be rich! Before even thinking about what you should or shouldn’t eat there are a few factors to consider
- Are you really ready to try? You need to be motivated and able to focus on this with few other distractions. If you’ve got a big work project, you’re moving house or you’re also trying to quit smoking, now probably isn’t the best time. Wait a while; you can end up doing more harm than good by trying at the wrong time for you.
- Be honest with yourself. This obviously applies to what you’re eating/drinking and how active you are, but also how you’re feeling. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
- Monitor but don’t obsess. Food and physical activity diaries are useful and open people’s eyes to their habits. But don’t let the diaries start taking over your life! Similarly monitoring progress (e.g weighing, taking measurements) is good for motivation but shouldn’t be taken too frequently else they could have the opposite effect.
- You’re in it for the long term. Weight loss isn’t about a quick fix; it’s about changing habits. Healthy eating should become part of what you do without thinking about it.
But I’m a healthy weight, so I can eat what I want, right?
Eating isn’t just about our weight. It affects our mood, energy levels, and every aspect of our physical health. It therefore has a huge impact on our day-to-day lives, and what you are capable of achieving. You can’t tell by looking at someone what is happening on the inside. What you eat affects your risk of diseases such as heart disease, some cancers and osteoporosis.
I’m avoiding carbs. Is that right?
Thanks to diets such as Atkins and The Zone, carbohydrates have been given a bad name, and many people try to avoid carbohydrate-containing foods to lose weight or improve health. However, not all carbohydrates are evil! Obviously sugary foods such as sweets, fizzy drinks and chocolate contain a lot of sugar and little else of any nutritional value. White starchy products such as white bread, pasta and rice are highly processed. They also have a low nutritional value and behave in a similar way to sugar in the body. Unprocessed carbohydrates (often with a lower GI) as found in wholegrain starchy foods and fruit and vegetables are important for the body. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source, so will ensure your body and mind feel energised. These foods also contain a range of other important nutrients e.g fibre and B vitamins. So chose the right type of carbohydrate and ensure you don’t consume more than you need for your activity level.
Written by Laura Gandon