By Kim Martin, RD
The media love idealizing a new weight loss cure – a magic method to finally help you shed those stubborn kilograms. However these cure-alls seem to change on a weekly basis! One day X is the cure, and the next X is the culprit.
There are many things people forget when it comes to diet and nutrition, and it is partly the media’s fault. Diets get glorified for short-term success, and then demonized when long-term failure occurs. The strangest phenomenon of all, in my opinion, is that Dietitians are blamed for the failure. I have, however, not met even one Dietitian or nutritionist who desires to cause anyone ill health! It just isn’t in the job description.
So here are a few things I feel the general public should keep in mind:
1. Science is Dynamic
Any person who has pursued further education and has encountered scientific research will know that science is constantly changing and evolving. Dietitians, for example, are told that what they learn in their first year of their degree may be redundant by the time they complete their fourth and final year of studying. This goes to show that there is a constant flux between proving and disproving theories about health.
2. There are Good Dietitians and Bad Dietitians
You cannot judge a book by it’s cover – just as you cannot judge an individual by their title. My definition of a good dietitian is one who is up to date, progressive and able to adapt to meet the client’s needs and preferences. This means that they are familiar with new research and popular diet trends so that they can give appropriate and evidence-based advice. Good dietitians love a challenge and thrive when faced with a new trend and new dietary claim! Good dietitians also get to know you! The diet he/she will then give you will be based on your needs, your lifestyle, your health status, your preferences and your lifestyle demands (i.e. work, family etc).
Bad dietitians are then those who remember what they were taught in their first year of study, and stick to it. They use blanket phrases like “studies show” and “the evidence says” without being able to cite the research to support these claims. Also, they tend to avoid arguments and discussion about new trends and research. They give what I call “blanket advice”. This is advice that they give to everyone. They do this because it may have worked for a number of their clients beforehand, thus it seems logical to them to throw all people into one box. There is no ill-wishing here, but unfortunately there is a great chance this may not work for you.
Stay away from bad dietitians! They may not mean to do you harm, but in their ignorance this comes as a consequence.
3. You are Responsible for Your Own Health
Dietitians do not live with you whilst treating you. They cannot control your every thought and food choice. When dietary advice, given to you by a good dietitian, fails then the onus is on the individual first and foremost. If you don’t follow the dietary advice and then complain that your body is not changing the way you want it to, then that’s on you! Failures can, and do occur. A good dietitian will, in this case, be able to adapt the dietary advice again in order to make it more desirable and possible for you. In other words – dietitians just want to help you achieve your goals. It is up to you as the individual, to follow the recommendations given by the dietitian.
4. The Perfect Diet For You
Unfortunately for us, we’re a generation of the “quick-fix”, the fastest service, and the quickest results. When it comes to diet, we would rather believe in Dr Oz’s simple way out. This is easier than admitting we know it takes commitment and a mindset-change. The best diet for you can only be one that is designed, with a qualified health professional, specifically to suit your needs, preferences, health status and biological make-up.
5. What your Dietitian can Do For You
When you find a good dietitian, he/she can translate the latest diet and nutrition research into practical guidelines for you to navigate your way to good health. They can provide supportive counseling and are able to tailor-make a meal and diet plan. More importantly though, your dietitian is able to enhance your level of understanding regarding the way your body metabolizes and digests foods so that you can make wise choices.
If you want to begin making changes to your health, you need to see your diet as a lifestyle rather than a means to an end. Make a long-term commitment to achieve and maintain your health goals. For a full assessment of your current health status, a set of achievable goals, a diet and meal plan, and supportive counseling – find a good dietitian.