What does a Nutritional Therapist who ‘doesn’t do diets’ actually do?

by | January 11, 2011 | nutritional therapy

Recently I have been thinking a lot about the future of nutrition (‘Mmm yes, very interesting..’ I hear you cry!).  My view about this has changed an awful lot over the past few years and probably differs hugely from most other nutritionists around.  This is mainly due to what I have learned about intuitive eating and my discovery of the Beyond Chocolate approach; trusting your instincts, slowing down, eating food that satisfies and nourishes, stopping when you’re full because you know you can start again whenever you’re hungry.  (For more info, visit www.beyondchocolate.co.uk).
As a nutritional therapist, I have used therapeutic diets in the past with my clients.  That is, fairly austere diets that include (or exclude) specific foods and nutrients to bring about changes in the body.  They can work really well sometimes, but they are short lived – no one can eat like that long term.  And in fact lots of people couldn’t eat like that for the short term either.  And I just hated telling people they have to stop eating foods they really love!  So I don’t do that anymore.
So as a trained nutritional therapist, what does the future hold for my professional life if it’s not diet-based?
After pondering this issue, I think it comes down to three things: information, experimentation, and nutritional supplements.
I think information is key to make informed choices about what you put inside yourself.  For example, if a client comes to see me because they habitually feel bloated and suffer from heartburn after a tuna baguette, I give them information about how their stomach is working and what might be happening to their digestive system when they feel this discomfort.  Armed with the information, they can then much better understand what’s happening to them and why.  In this respect, my role is partly as an educator.
‘Experimentation’ involves taking responsibility for your health, researching and discovering what works for you.  Once armed with the information, it’s time to start trying different ways of eating and different foods to see what makes you feel better (and what doesn’t).  I always suggest to my clients that they experiment with anything I might recommend – it’s their body, they’ll know if it feels good or not.  Maybe you’ve been forcing yourself to have porridge for years, but you absolutely hate it (and it doesn’t seem to make a difference to how you feel anyway).  Time to stop and experiment!  Do you fancy food when you first wake up?  When is the first time you get hungry in the morning?  What would be your ideal breakfast?  There are always lots of things to learn about yourself.
And then there are nutritional supplements.  For some people this is a controversial area, but not for me – I have seen the amazing changes that well chosen supplements can bring about.  In some cases supplements can work better than drugs (see ‘Food is Better Medicine than Drugs’).  Taking supplements can sometimes be more practical than changing your diet, especially if you have an obvious deficiency of one or more nutrients; relying on food alone to rectify a deficiency or imbalance can be laborious and time consuming (or impossible).  If you have a specific health problem that you want to address using nutrition, choosing which supplements to take ideally needs professional input otherwise you might not see the benefit.  And this is where the nutritional therapists come in, pinpointing the most important nutrients that will give the most benefit in the shortest space of time.
And have I found that this approach works better than giving my clients a diet to follow?  Absolutely.