In the past week, though, I also had four separate conversations that included the question, "so what does a nutritionist do, anyway?"
It made me pause - and laugh - and realize this article was long overdue!
You see, the answer is not straight-forward. Sure I talk to people about what they eat. I tie that back to how they feel and help them find ways of using food to find better balance in their bodies. When talking with someone about their health challenges and goals, my mind is running metabolic pathways to hack the biochemistry (which is fueled by nutrients) that needs correcting to resolve the issues and help my client feel their best. I recommend food plans, share recipes, help put together menus and make supplement recommendations.
If you looked up the job description for a nutrition professional, this is essentially what you would find. And this is also where my approach diverges from that definition, conventional nutrition therapy and even from functional medicine (I have education in both approaches).
Here's the divergence:
I know that food is deeply personal. It is more than just calories and nutrients. Food is ritual. It's tradition, religion, culture. Food is comfort; a foe and a friend. We are as likely to choose food because of its cost, convenience and accessibility as we are to choose food because it's "good" for us, and our food choices also reflect our political, ethical and moral values. We have a lot of thoughts, beliefs and feelings about what our food choices say about us. Our self-image is wrapped up in what is on our plate and there's often a running tape of all the things we "should" and "should not" be eating.
So, let me say it again: food is personal.
We can't ignore that when using food to heal. Instead, it lays the foundation for my work with each client. Together, we explore the ways that relationship with food and their body. I integrate mind-body medicine into each treatment plan to build self-care tools in mindfulness and self-compassion that my clients take with them into holidays, birthdays, vacations and times of high stress. We work on cultivating and nurturing change from within with one delicious meal at a time. I don't ignore all that nerdy biochemistry that I love, but bring it alongside an examination of habits, imbedded messages, cultural traditions, food access, self-talk and other influencers that make sneaky contributions to dysfunction and disease.
This is what makes my job so fun! I love putting the pieces together for my clients and holding space for them to experience their health and relationship with food and their body differently.
Full truth: there are no quick fixes in this approach. No band-aides. No golden tickets. But in each of those 500 cases, there is movement. There is growth and change that leads to the kind of healing that is not only sustainable, but pleasurable.
I welcome you into that space with me whenever you're ready.