I’m not even sure my husband really gets what I actually do, let alone the people hitting google in search of nutrition advice so thought it might be helpful to explain.
Historically, dietitians seem synonymous with diet plans – strict calculated plans telling you what to eat along with a wagging finger if you dare stray from it. At social events, people eat nervously around us, show horror when we tuck into a brownie and frequently ask us to ‘put them on a diet’.
The images of dietitians on google are quite frankly horrifying – we seem to have clipboards, stethoscopes round our necks and are surrounded by mounds of fruit. Oh lordy, I would not want to see her.
So who are dietitians? And what do we do if it’s not this?
Well firstly we have studied in a faculty of biomedical sciences so we like the science bit…
The science of nutrition is ever evolving – it’s a very young science compared to medicine with new research contributing new parts of the jigsaw puzzle all the time. There’s a huge amount we do know but people who make it out to be very black and white don’t know the half of it. The correct interpretation of research is key and combining results from different places to draw conclusions is helpful – one study will not hold the ‘secret’ (despite what the newspaper headline says).
Of course food can’t be tested in the same way as new drugs. It’s harder to blind people to what they’re being given (especially out of a lab in the real world). There are also a huge number of variables – from food-gene interactions, to the hundreds of hormones which govern appetite and metabolism. We also know how nutrients interact with each other at a cellular level is different to how they respond when you stick them in a test tube and watch them through safety specs. And of course when testing things on free living individuals there are other factors to consider such as everything else that influences our food choices, from our environments, to our upbringings to our moods.
The psychology of our food behaviours and choices is massive and behavioural science research and how it relates to what we put in our mouths is really interesting and evolving.
So come on, what do I do?
Well, firstly I bring the science to life and make it relevant for the individual. It’s not about broad public health recommendations or what the tabloid reckons we should ‘all’ do. It’s about you and what’s going to fit with you. Pulling together all of the factors which influence your food choices and of course your nutritional needs. If I assumed you were 2 dimensional I might be persuaded that an off the shelf diet plan taking the control out of your hands and dictating your every food decision might work.
But in reality life is more varied and often throws curve balls. I am interested in what’s sustainable and what facilitates you to have a happy, healthy relationship with food to give symptom improvement, or help you achieve that health or well-being goal.
Of course we talk food, and meal plans designed together can come to life with meal ideas, guidance on balance and portions, snack options, or a hunt through the online supermarket shelves to shed light on ideal choices for your shopping basket. I want you to feel empowered to make the right choices for you, not over whelmed by conflicting information and stuff that doesn’t make sense. It may be appropriate to talk body composition, or to delve deeper into your thoughts around food. Other professionals may come in handy if different expertise is required.
The role of blood tests
Yes, often these may form part of the picture and such tests may be carried out by your GP or at your own instigation through blood testing companies. It is important though to consider what is clinically relevant to test when assessing the value of blood tests.
The role of supplements
At times there may be a need for a particular supplement if your diet can not supply the necessary nutrient you need. But my priority is considering what is at the very core of your nutritional needs and how this can be achieved primarily through food, not to sell you supplements and big promises that aren’t stacked up with evidence.
The role of genetic testing
An exciting development in nutrigenomics – what do our genes indicate we should do differently diet wise? We’re some way off this being as specific and therefore as useful as it might first appear to be but that time will come. Meanwhile if a look beneath the surface is of interest to, it may help to form part of your motivation to make lifestyle changes.
So when working with you on a one to one basis think of me like a food coach – on your side and working holistically with you to get the best outcome. Besides dietitian sounds so strict and I have no idea what to do with a stethoscope!
P.s. This is what I do on a one to one basis. I do other stuff too, from workshops, to working with brands, to vlogging with my 4 year old. And today I filmed a programme for the BBC with Ainsley Harriott!